It’s Friday night and you’re sitting across the table from a dude, looking them directly in the eyes and you shuffle your cards one more time for good luck. You place your prized deck on the table and slide it carefully over to the dude who cuts the deck and hands it back. The first few cards of your sixty-card deck are drawn and you fiddle with your twenty-sided die till you are staring at the biggest number on it. You are playing Magic: The Gathering.
When writing, random knowledge that I have gathered over the years has a way of popping up. I find that it has a way of making my stories more realistic when I can put in information that I know, but may not be common knowledge. So we’re continuing a series here on OKPotato where we will talk about random references that you might learn something new from and be inspired to write into your stories. (Please let us know if any of these random references make it to your stories in the comments below!) See the previous installment on Hypothermia here.
Created by Richard Garfield and first published by Wizards of the Coast in 1993, Magic: The Gathering was the first trading card game to be produced. Many have spawned in it’s wake, but as the original and one of the best known, it continues to thrive to this day.
The game play is a battle between players called “planeswalkers” who cast spells using mana to win. There are three ways to win: To reduce your opponent’s life from 20 to zero or lower, to “mill” or cause opposing players to draw or dispose of all the cards in their deck, or for all opponents to forfeit the game.
Here on OKP, we occasionally discuss our namesake and Okinawan background, (most recently with a guest post from Hoshi highlighting a recipe for Haupia Beni Imo Pie), but the past few days have been an impetus for a much bigger post.
Every Labor Day weekend, the Hawaii United Okinawan Association hosts their annual Okinawan Festival in Honolulu. This year was their 33rd year of celebrating uchinanchu (native Okinawan) culture with food, exhibitions, dance, and other performances. It also marks the first time OKP has had a chance to discuss the festival and what it means to us (well, me).
Up until about high school, the only thing I associated with my Okinawan heritage was people poking fun at the fact that I had visibly thicker arm hair than most. I still don’t know what’s up with this association, but it probably has something to do with Othering indigenous Okinawans from mainland Japanese genetics. I got used to hiding my arms and legs. I let myself be drawn to the more easily accessible Japanese culture that belonged to so many of my other peers.
Part of this lay in the fact that I didn’t even know what Okinawan culture entailed. I ate certain foods, but I think that was par for the course. It wasn’t like the dolls my family put out for Girls’ Day, the koinobori carp flags Dad let fly from the roof for Boys’ Day, or the ozoni we ate for New Year’s, among so many other little Japanese traditions that were made so commonplace in my life.
In high school, however, everything changed when a group of my friends, including Chebk, volunteered to host exchange students from Okinawa for a few weeks. I befriended some of the students in this time and, the following year, I went on a return exchange trip to Okinawa where I was hosted by a family for two weeks and toured the island with the rest of the Hawaii group. Chebk also went and, though I’m not sure we technically bonded, she did help me carry things and turned up in enough of my pictures to make it look OKP would one day be a thing.
First, let’s start off by saying that Cheri is being magnanimous in the introduction of this two parter. (For Pt. 1 and Why Sci-Fi/Fantasy is Hard, click here.) Since her first forays into the genre, she, in her voracious reading ways, has since surpassed me in every aspect of SFF including classics and everything she ‘claimed’ was hard to get into.
It started with an innocent little argument. Cheri stated with gusto and importance that, “Sci-fi is hard to get into.” I replied, in my quick way, with a Socratic question to break down her argument.
“Why?” asked I.
And then she thought. And then we decided to do a series of posts about it. So I am here to explain the reasons why Sci-fi and Fantasy are the best things ever and are better than any other genre. Something that I am extremely passionate about.
Reading SFF is EASY because there is an oversimplification and over explaining of things.
Ah, the hated exposition is, for once, praised for exactly what it is: an infodump.
For the past couple months, Cheri and I have been working on a non-writing secret project with a group we’re part of called Cosuteki (blog found here).
First, we decided we wanted to go to our first local sci-fi, videogame, and comics convention because we heard that Jayne (Adam Baldwin) and Simon (Sean Maher) from the TV series Firefly (no, we will never be over it and also, no, Serenity the movie did not happen) were going to be at there. A few of us are big fans of the show and the rest are big fans of videogames in general (and Cheri and I are very much into sci-fi as you already know).
One of the main problems I’ve been running into when writing my novel is staying motivated enough to write it. Here are a few things that I do to keep me interested.
1. Re-read the beginning: When I get stuck far enough into the novel, there is a good chance that I’ve forgotten the minute details that I had written in to the beginning. Re-reading it from the beginning is a great way for me to remember some things that I had intended to address and maybe hadn’t gotten to and things that I need to remember to keep in (forgotten swords anywhere? or bags?). Also, there tend to be small hints that I write in for the future that I forget about; things that I foreshadowed then completely forgot about or even unintentional foreshadowing that I catch after re-reading. With the new insight you gain from writing forward and knowing what is coming next, sometimes you can see what will happen next if you had been stuck previously.
This doesn’t work for some authors who, when they read the beginning, get stuck so be cautious of what kind of writer you are.
Becoming a writer is something I never thought I could do because it was somehow always out of reach; unachievable. Why? Because my friends were writers creating works of arts with words and I scribbled ideas down on paper, telling stories as I would to my friends (not the right way to write).
Anyway, a few months ago, in my naivete, I submitted one of my works into a writer’s workshop at a sci-fi/fantasy convention. The days leading up to the meeting were full of second thoughts and trepidations, but, boy, did I learn a lot.
Most of what the professionals told us were general tips, but to someone new to writing, it was like a whole new world opening up. To hear authors talking about their trade was very informative and exciting because that is their lifestyle, it is what they do for a living. They talk about this piece that they’re working on, and also the next one, and the next.
One question that came up frequently was about their daily writing processes. There were many different answers. One author would write two thousand words a day, everyday. Another felt lucky to get through one chapter in a day. But the main point was that all of them had to write everyday. They don’t wait for inspiration to strike and for every word to be perfect; that’s what editing is for.
Months into our blog later, Cheri and I talked it over and have belatedly decided to finally explain our blog name to our viewers. OkPotato stands for Okinawan Potato which is that purple potato that we have posted everywhere. Cheri and I are both half Okinawan and half Japanese and live in Hawaii where culture plays a big part in everyone’s life; it’s how we know who we are and how other people perceive us so it is a point of pride for us to claim that we have two very rich heritages to draw from.
In Hawaii, we are very close to our cultural roots. We are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of immigrants who were brought to Hawaii to harvest the many sugar plantations on the islands. Within the plantation, often those of the same country were grouped together in housing and in work groups, but eventually the workers found a way to co-exist (or just exist) in the mixing pot that is our isolated islands.
I grew up immersed in the cultures of Okinawa and Japan (often perceived as being the same place, but I was raised with the definitive knowledge that these places are not the same; more on this later). The foods I ate were mainly Japanese because of my mother. Every year, there were village picnics for those who came from Okinawa where such gatherings are very important. We celebrated important birthdays according to the Japanese and Okinawan traditions. We also had spiritual celebrations, though no one believes in them explicitly, it’s more of a cultural event that was adhered to out of respect for our elders. Even the rules that we learned were influenced by traditional values and what our parents had thought.