Loneliness in a crowd

An interesting BBC News article on the loneliness that pervades despite a crowded Japan, and how some people deal with it:

Loneliness is a problem faced by many people on these crowded islands. But the Japanese are prone to believe that, in the right circumstances, money can turn a stranger into a friend… at least for a couple of hours.

Read the whole article by clicking here.

Thanks for the link, Katie.


Recently, Elizabeth Hand reviewed my new novel-in-stories and ferreted out a lot of influential material I’d been looking at and reading while I lived in Japan and wrote the book.  One film that she didn’t mention but was influential on the book nonetheless, particularly in its dreaminess and it’s own film-in-stories type of structure, was Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, which, when I was living overseas, the writer Midori Snyder recommended to me.  And it was a wonderful recommendation.  Like the film (and book by Lafcadio Hearn) Kwaidan, which retells Japanese ghost stories and strange tales from a Western perspective, Kurosawa’s film looks at Japanese folklore and strange surreal occurrences from the filmmaker’s own subconscious perspective (of course made conscious in the film itself).  At the beginning of each story segment in Dreams, a line of Japanese appears.  In the English subtitles the translation states, “Once I had a dream,” but in my own translation of the line, it says, “I saw this sort of dream.”  

Below are four segments of the first of the “dreams” in the film, about a young boy who witnesses a kitsune (fox spirits, pronounced key-tsu-nay) wedding procession, even though he’s been warned to not go looking for them, as they’re very private creatures and grow angry when disturbed.  It’s beautifully filmed, and was one of the first encounters I’d had with kitsune folklore.  It remains one of my favorites.

Straight from the Underground, by Nitro Microphone Underground

I think I was only in Japan for a few weeks before I found myself venturing out to media stores alone, trying to figure out what was all around me. So much of what we in America know of Japan isn’t contemporary Japan. Most books present Japan at various stages of its history, and seem to always have a geisha featured in them. Same with movies, except for Lost in Translation, which I watched last night when I wanted to ‘visit’ Tokyo again for a couple of hours. This trend is also one that we follow with Japanese music. Before I went to Japan, I thought it was all bamboo flutes and three-stringed bone harps (or some other fantastically old instruments). What I found when I got there, though, was a music scene (and many other kinds of scenes) that felt much more global and diverse than what we have here (or at least what we have making itself to a wide audience). I was absolutely floored to hear, for example, this group, The Nitro Microphone Underground, rapping in Japanese.

Meanwhile, back in Japan

But before I go, my Japanese mom sent pictures of the new issue of Hayakawa SF in Japan, which features stories by Barth Anderson, Ekaterina Sedia, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Holly Phillips, Alan Deniro, and myself. Here are pics of the magazine, and also the illustrations for Alan’s story, Tetrarchs (originally published in Strange Horizons), and my story, The Guardian of the Egg (originally published in Salon Fantastique and then reprinted here, too, at The Journal of Mythic Arts).  Art the illustrations way cool?  If you’re in Japan, get a copy and let me know what you think of the issue.  僕は早川SFが大好き!


After a night spent reading my journal from when I started it back in 2002 up until I came home from Japan in 2006, I can officially say that a.) I’m glad I’m no longer a twenty-something, b.) I’m SO glad I went to Japan and grew the hell up (well, at least a little) and c.) I miss Japan like a phantom limb.

The Love We Share Without Knowing

I mentioned in a post the other day that I had more good news to share, and today it was announced.  My second novel will be coming out from Bantam Dell again.  Very excited, and very very happy that I’m working once again with Juliet Ulman, the editor who worked with me on One for Sorrow.

From Publisher’s Marketplace:

ONE FOR SORROW author Christopher Barzak’s THE LOVE WE SHARE WITHOUT KNOWING, pitched as Murakami meets Dan Chaon, set in Japan, in which the lives of several strangers — including a Japanese suicide club survivor, an American teacher of English whose lover was killed in 9/11, and a man mysteriously struck blind — are gently linked and interwoven by love and loss and fate, to Juliet Ulman at Bantam Dell, by Chris Schelling at Ralph M. Vicinanza (NA).

Time Travel

Today in class one of my freshman writing students raised his hand to ask me a question and started his sentence by calling me Mr. Chris.  For one brief moment, I was in a classroom of Japanese junior high kids.  Then I blinked and asked him to repeat his question.