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Schmitz, James H. - The Witches of Karres

I recently talked smillaraaq into reading this old favorite of mine, so it seemed like a good time to re-read it myself. This cheerful, comic space opera from the 1960s has no ax to grind and no pretenses of presenting anything but a cracking good time. However, it's strangely modern in its near-disregard of the sex-role stereotyping of its era. Most notably, our square-chinned young male protagonist spends most of the story depending on the skills, common sense, and knowledge of an 11-year-old girl - whose mother is also presented as a force to be respected.

Gallant but impecunious young Captain Pausert of the planetary Republic of Nikkeldepain (a place that sounds as though it's run by the descendants of Michael Bloomberg's arm of the GOP) has been given one last chance to redeem himself financially in the eyes of both his government and his secret fiancee's father. He's been given an aged starship and a cargo of leftover bits and pieces to sell, and turned loose on a trading mission. Things are going splendidly when he hits the planet of Porlumma, part of a classic space opera Empire where slavery is is legal, and encounters three enslaved young sisters - Maleen, Goth, and the Leewit (yes, the Leewit), ages 14, 11, and 6 - in need of rescuing. Good-hearted Pausert does so, at considerable cost and personal risk (slavery is illegal on Nikkeldepain), and even volunteers to take the girls back to their mysterious home planet, Karres.

He probably should have thought harder about the fact that the owners of the girls are only too happy to sell them off.

Soon Pausert is on the lam, wanted on his home planet and in the Empire, traveling to the far side of the galaxy with Goth as his advisor and becoming involved in interstellar politics on a grand scale. He learns (and we do too) about the ill-omened Chaladoor, a huge, forbidding section of space traversed only by the bold and the foolhardy; Uldune, an entire planet of successful interstellar crooks; Worm World, a noxious place inhabited by the Nuri Worms, whose activities turn the skies of planets yellow and cause their inhabitants to run screaming mad; the dread Agandar, a pirate lord of all-too-serious competence; psychic entities called vatches, which think that they are dreaming the lives of more corporeal beings; Sheem robots; Moander who Speaks with a Thousand Voices; the Megair Cannibals; grik-dogs; and much much more. It's a heady, frothy concoction that still manages to build to a genuinely scary climax that leaves the reader glad for the eventual happy ending.

It's the perfect companion to a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of cookies on a cold winter day. Read it. It will make you smile, as it has for me on every re-read since I was Goth's age.


The Witches of Karres (review)

I tried to pay particular attention to the whole sex role thing this time, and I'm still convinced that Schmitz was amazingly, modernly liberal about this. It's not that his female characters never use stereotypical female behavior - notably, both the wicked ship outfitter Sunnat and the Imperial double agent Hulik do Eldel certainly do so - but that's the point: these women are using their feminine wiles, deliberately. Schmitz never presents this as the default, unavoidable mode of female behavior. Goth is never less than a full partner, and when Pausert and crew are fleeing across the planet of the red sun, it's Hulik who manages to be useful and resourceful, and the experienced male spacedog Vezzarn who chickens out and betrays the party. And although Pausert is the one who figures out how to exploit the energies of the giant vatch, the strange creature has already been traumatized by Toll, the mother of the three juvenile witches.

This is not lofty, skillful worldbuilding. Schmitz clearly never worries about how exactly the normal interstellar drives of this universe function, what's the basis for the ecology for any of the various planets, why the sky looks yellow whenever the Nuris show up, or anything like that. People still drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, and when Hulik needs an analogy for the size of the Sheem robot, she references a horse. Some of the technology described has gone the way of all things already: star charts are in some form that supports scribbling in the margins, vault doors are still opened with keys, and computers don't seem to exist. None of it really matters much: the plot rollicks along in a way that makes worrying about these details feel like mere ass-hattery, and the writing is snappy and sparkles with deadpan humor. Here, for example, Pausert seeks some reassurance that their new business contacts won't rip them off:

"[W]hat makes you think we won't get robbed blind there?"

"They're not crooks that way - at least not often. The Daal goes for the skinning-alive thing," Goth explained. "You get robbed, you squawk. Then somebody gets skinned. It's pretty safe!"

It did sound like the Daal had hit on a dependable method to give his planet a reputation for solid integrity in business deals.

I suppose I should be worrying about how many innocent people are inadvertently skinned alive by the Daal's government each year, not to mention whether anyone plans to do anything about the Empire's deplorable practice of slavery. But the Witches have moved their planet again - using the Sheewash Drive: "The one you have to do it with yourself," to quote the irrespressible Leewit. They're fighting the Nuris amidst the dead suns of the Tark Nembi Cluster, and I've got to get back in time to see the Venture arrive with the Synergizer.

To quite Dave Langford's review in Ansible: "Abandon moral uplift, all ye who enter here."


ETA: This post has turned into a hu-u-u-uge spam magnet for some reason, so I am turning off the ability to comment.


Mar. 3rd, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
However, it's strangely modern in its near-disregard of the sex-role stereotyping of its era

And for that matter, I can think of plenty of more contempoary writers that still fall down in comparison!

The bit that I found particularly noteworthy was where Hulik reported seeing a monster on the ship; when the search turned up no evidence but she insisted on taking precautions anyway, there was not one sniffy word about her reactions being typical female hysteria...and of course she's vindicated later, there was something there! And later on after planetfall, she's the one who keeps a level head in the face of grave physical danger, while a gruff older male character is the one who panics and runs...

Apparently there was a sequel by Mercedes Lackey and a couple of collaborators four years ago...have you seen it, is it any good?
Mar. 4th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)

I've been terrified to try The Wizard of Karres because the original WoK means so much to me. I respect Mercedes Lackey for what her work has meant to gay geeky teens, but I don't think much of her as a writer, and the fact that it's a three-person collaboration does not fill me with confidence. I suppose if I can convince myself that it's basically a novel-length piece of fanfic, I might be able to eventually give it a shot ... .

Mar. 4th, 2008 06:33 am (UTC)
*nod* I've only ever read one ML and I don't think it was one of her more typical works at all -- it was an early-1900s San Francisco setting and started out playing more like a historical romance, with the penniless but bright orphaned young lady getting a too-good-to-be-true job as secretary to a wealthy eccentric. It winds up being a sort of Beauty and the Beast retelling, though, her employer's a sorceror caught up in a magical war -- entertaining enough, although not to the point where I felt any urge to rush out to look for more. Most of her more typical high-fantasy and YA stuff sounds like I'd have eaten it up with a spoon if I'd found it as a child, but it's probably a bit too twee and overwrought for me to deal with now.

Speaking of genre fic recs, have you read any of Joan Vinge's "Cat" books? I picked those up on freeradical9's suggestion, that world is the basis for her "Psion" SF Saiyuki AU -- the protagonist is so painfully much like the scrappy-survivor street kid side of Gojyo, only even more ill-used...
Mar. 5th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)

I know we have one of the Vinge Cat books around, and I must have read it, but I'm not recalling that much of it. I probably ought to dig it out again.

Vinge is one of those writers I want to love, but there's just something slightly lame about her that makes me cringe. Have you read The Snow Queen?

Mar. 5th, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC)
I don't think I ever read TSQ, or if I did it was so long ago it's utterly fled my mind.

Of the Cat books, the second one, Catspaw is the best. I've got a spare copy of the first book now...I loved them enough after finishing the series that I went ahead and bought a recently-published anniversary edition because it included a short side story that wasn't in the original printing. Supposedly she's got a fourth book in the works -- I'm really hoping that pans out and there's finally a happy ending of sorts, because that poor boy's been through the wringer time and again.

(Getting all three titles at once via BookMooch, each from different publishers, cover artists, etc, also points up a rather odd case of cover whitewashing. Look up the different covers Psion, Catspaw, and Dreamfall have had over the years...now, how many of those show a character that you'd expect to see repeatedly described as having "dark" or "brown" skin and curly white-blond hair? (The messy spikes on Catspaw at least fit the text, where it's mentioned that he's briefly styled his hair like that -- but by Dreamfall he's wearing it long enough that at one point it's combed out and pinned into a topknot, but the cover's still showing short-and-spiky...and a complexion even paler than mine...)
Mar. 6th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)

See, I guess I don't have the temperament to be a real cover artist because if it were me, the first thing I would do would be to page through the book for all the descriptions I could find of the significant characters, and then thrash my brain trying to make sure I included as many identifying characteristics as I could. But I guess that's not how the real cover artists do it!!!


I think that's why so many C.J. Cherryh fans worship Michael Whelan - on his Cherryh covers, he's obviously paid close attention to her descriptions. (But he's not above using himself as a model when he fit the description of a character ... on the cover for The Pride of Chanur, he used himself as Tully - the human in the middle.)

Mar. 6th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC)
The funny thing about it is it's not even a case like A Wizard of Earthsea where Le Guin very carefully and deliberately takes her time in letting you realize that Ged is not white. The Cat books do not have an awful lot of deeply detailed physical description of the protagonist, since they're written in the first person and Cat is not exactly the sort to spend hours in front of a mirror brooding about his looks! But in each book (and the one short story) she manages to find a way to slip in a rundown of the most basic details -- dark skin, pale curly hair, slit-pupilled green eyes -- somewhere close to the beginning; you never have to read more than two or three chapters into the book to find it. And yet somehow all the artists manage to get the eyes and the haircolor right, but the skintone and hair texture mentioned in the same paragraph as those details is so very, very far off. It's a puzzlement.

I'm generally a big fan of Whelan, but his cover here for Dreamfall is in some ways the worst offender here. Taken in isolation, I like it the best of any of the cover art for this series just as a painting with no connection to anything; the colors and composition and facial expression really catch my eye. But as a depiction of the book and the character...it's a very mixed bag. He's got a lot of details there -- the wreckage, the dream-reef, the tattered clothing and visibly bandaged injuries -- that show he's paid a lot of attention to the scene being shown; Cat is actually even more bloodied and bruised than shown there, but I can see downplaying that sort of gore when it's not a horror title. But even if you want to excuse the too-short hairstyle as the curls being straightened out and spiked with product the way he did in the previous book...Cat's still shown as so white he nearly seems albino! And out of all the books, this one is probably the one where it's hardest to ignore that Cat has brown skin; he's half-alien, on a planet where the human corporations have basically disposessed and ghettoized the native aliens, and so there are repeated mentions that the Hydrans all have dark, brown, "spice-colored" skin with golden or reddish undertones that aren't seen in humans, and more emphasis than usual that despite his mixed heritage, Cat's looks are pure Hydran and the humans around him are very aware of it. I can sort of see missing the hair length as that's not something that's noted in as much detail as the color of his skin, hair, and eyes -- blink in the wrong spot where he's being disguised with traditional Hydran clothing and hairstyle, and it'd be easy enough to not realize that his hair can't possibly be this short. But I'm a little boggled at missing all the skintone cues.

His cover for Catspaw, on the other hand, does a lot better with the details; Cat's still too pale there, but the shorter spiky hairdo this time is actually straight out of the text, as are the databand on his wrist and the earring; and for my tastes it does the best job of all the different cover paintings of capturing that blend of old-before-his-time streetsmart wariness and painfully youthful vulnerability. It's not obviously from any particular scene, or perhaps I should say it could fit a number of different scenes, but other than the too-pale complexion it feels the most like the vision of Cat in my head. (And I've got a very, very vivid picture, despite or perhaps because of Vinge only giving the most basic details -- other than the feline slit pupils, he could be my girl Rosa's long-lost littermate.)
Mar. 6th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)

I'm gonna need to watch my step ... I've walked into it twice with you this week! I hadn't realized that was a Whelan cover, but I should have recognized the style!

> facepalm <

So why, when he was so careful with details of the black-skinned atevi on Cherryh's "Foreigner" covers, was he so stupid about Cat?

I will say, BTW, that on the cover you like, it looks like it's partially the light bleaching him out, and that his actual skin tone seems quite a bit darker.

Mar. 6th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)
Well, if it makes you feel any better, I pegged Dreamfall as a Whelan cover the second I picked it up, but I didn't realize Catspaw was him as well until I went to look it up for that last comment and suddenly noticed that familiar little signature on the data-screen behind Cat! Somehow that one didn't ping for me as his style the way the later book did...and it probably didn't help any that Cat looks so different on the two books that some bit in the back of my mind had trouble imagining they could be by the same artist. There's not a huge gap in story time between them to justify huge changes, either -- he's in his late teens in Catspaw and early twenties in Dreamfall, although the text is a bit ambiguous as to how much he might appear to look his actual age. His early life was extremely rough and could very well have left him looking a bit prematurely aged, but at the same time his Hydran blood leaves him a bit shorter and finer-boned than average for human males, so that all might make him look a bit younger too...

The weird lighting on both of those covers does wash things out some and make it hard to judge the true skintone under all the weird lighting effects, but the relative lack of contrast between hair and skin in both makes it hard for me to imagine that his skintone, whatever undertone it might have in more normal lighting, is anything close to what I'd call "dark"...

But still, those are two of the best covers this lot's managed. This later edition of Psion doesn't just wash out his skin tone, but gives him straight hair too! The first edition, aside from all the dated late-70s styling, is the only one to show a skintone I'd actually consider dark, but turning the curly hair into a full-out afro makes me a little twitchy; while there's nothing in the text to blatantly support or contradict that hairstyle, I can't shake a nagging little voice wondering if someone in cover design might have been thinking "hmmm, homeless drug-using uneducated slum-dwelling petty criminal with dark skin...yeah, he's black!" And the latest edition, well, I'm just not terribly crazy about that as a painting, and in my mind he's darker than that, but at least this time he has both curls and a skintone that's at least a few shades darker than his hair...

(Or am I just working from a totally different scale here? When I hear "dark" or "brown" I do not think of a shade like a caucasian with an olive complexion or a bit of a tan, which is about as far as most of these covers go...I'm thinking someone with coloring at least as deep as my mother at a bare minimum, skintone that'd fail the brown paper bag test.)
Mar. 10th, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)

That earlier Psion cover seems to have disappeared entirely - I get a whole 'nother page at that URL.

I will say that the classical English language term "dark" - as in describing a person who isn't "fair" - usually just meant "dark-haired, and of darker-than-milky-white complexion." Petrova, one of the three heroines of the children's classic Ballet Shoes, was described as dark - she was of Russian descent, had sallow skin, and "hair the color of a jay's wing." And again, in classic English usage, a Caucasian person who goes out into the sun for a while can get "brown." So the illustrators may have just received the wrong idea, especially if they were given nothing but what the publishers thought were suitable extracts from which to work. I wish they'd have authors work more closely with the cover artists.

Personally, if I say someone is brown-skinned, it's brown. What happens to my pale peachy skin when I get some sun is "tanned" (or to get squishy, "sun-kissed"). (Kougaiji is brown, but Gojyo isn't, for example.)

Mar. 10th, 2008 08:32 pm (UTC)
Well, phooey on vanishing pages. But I've done some scans for a future writeup - here's the 1982 paperback cover -- and here's a new one I just found, a 1996 omnibus of the first two books where the cover model looks more like the Vampire Lestat than Cat!

And yes, I'm well aware of the relativism of dark/brown in classic English texts -- I'd interpret those descriptions differently if they were in something like T.H. White or Enid Blyton. But the society in the Cat books is very clearly multiracial -- the only character whose ethnicity is clearly stated is a slightly anvilly North American Indian in the third book, but there are enough descriptions of skintone, hair, eyes, surnames with recognizable ethnic/national associations, to make it clear that this isn't an all-white future.

I haven't combed through the books yet to get all of the physical descriptions, but if my memory serves correctly "brown" is the word that's used most for Cat, "dark" only shows once or twice. Hydrans skin tones are compared to "nutmeg", "golden", "burnished brass", or "spice", and Cat looks Hydran so it seems a safe bet that his skin's a similar medium warm brown with golden or reddish undertones.

I did already go through just to see how early on in the text you get a physical description, and in the first book in particular it's not a case where it sneaks up on you -- it's on the first page! The prologue of Psion, which is the only bit where we ever see him in a third-person POV, has this bit when Contract Labor are looking for fresh meat in the slums and homing in on Cat trying to sleep in an alley:

Dirt grayed his worn clothes, the pale curls of his hair, the warm brown of his skin.

That's the fourth paragraph of the book. Two paragraphs later we get the first mention of his eyes, the one feature the artists all seem to latch on to:

His eyes came open slowly, intensely green eyes with long slitted pupils like a cat's.

In the second book, his appearance is described only a short ways in to the first chapter -- page 17, after a few earlier passing mentions of his slit-pupilled eyes and "halfbreed's face" that "wasn't put together right by human standards", we get a closer look when he's being grilled by some Corporate Security types:

My own face appeared suddenly in the air behind him: a little younger, a lot thinner, hair curly and white-blond, skin brown, eyes green and slit-pupilled.

It takes a little longer to get that level of detail in the third book; you don't get that full of a look until partway through chapter two. Once again, though, in the pages leading up to this there are passing mentions of his slit-pupilled green eyes and Hydran appearance, coming along with our first good look at some of the unmixed Hydrans that he so closely resembles. And surprise surprise, the hair length thing that was also off on the cover of Dreamfall is mentioned here, long before the other passage I'd remembered where the length was implied in how his hair was getting restyled:

I stared at the double image of my face, the file-match side by side with the realtime image, looking at them the way I knew the guards would look at them. Seeing my hair, so pale in the artificial light that it was almost blue. I'd let it grow until it reached my shoulders, pinned it back with a clip at the base of my neck, the way most students of the Floating University had worn theirs. The gold stud through the hole in my ear tonight was about as conservative as I could make it, like my clothes. The light turned my skin an odd shadow-color, but it was no odder than the colors the guards' skins had turned in the light.

But then again, Dreamfall's cover is one of the few that gets the hair color right -- it's repeatedly described as pale, white-blond, lighter than even the very light blonde of some pale human characters -- but most of the covers show deeper golden blonde shades instead of a true whitish platinum. But the shorter spiky style here is one he only wears during Catspaw...
Mar. 10th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)

Hey, I'm as puzzled as you are. I found the one where he's being grilled on Amazon, and I'd've at a minimum drawn his skin tones like the very most toasted blond-haired surfer boy, but more likely he'd have ended up with coloring similar to one of our mid-toned African-American staffers with a blond dye job (not as fashionable as it was a couple of years ago, but I still see it sometimes). I'm just trying to be the shrink for the artists, here, and figure out where their heads were at ... .

Mar. 10th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
*nods* Having grown up around surfers from all ethnic backgrounds -- family friends and kids I went to school with were in the back of my mind when I gave Rosa brown skin and light blonde hair. Some of my Asian/Pacific Islander classmates were out at the beach so often that their dark hair was bleached lighter than mine from the sun, and one of my older calabash cousins was sort of your archetypal California-style surfer boy -- blue-eyed blond, pretty much pure Irish-American stock, with his hair dramatically lightenened and his skin a deep golden tan from spending pretty much every weekend out on the water. (He also spoke fluent Japanese -- his family were military, stationed overseas during the post-WWII occupation; he was their youngest child, born in Japan, so he grew up bilingual, and kept it up in school when they moved to Hawai'i. This led to many amusing scenes around tourists who never expected a gaijin who looked like he'd stepped out of a Beach Boys song to understand what they were saying about him...there'd be much blushing and giggling when he thanked them for the compliments about his appearance in flawless Japanese.)
Mar. 10th, 2008 09:53 pm (UTC)

About the covers: Huh. That first one looks like a Leo and Diane Dillon cover! And in that case, they probably were pleased to have a character that could plausibly be African-looking.

Other Dillon covers:

  • Abhorsen by Garth Nix
  • World's End by Joan Vinge (and that lends even more weight to the idea that your example is by the Dillons ... they also did a famous cover for The Snow Queen, which I have as a poster over my computer - maybe you recall it ... )
  • Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin
Mar. 10th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
Just checked my copy...unfortunately there's no art credits anywhere to be found, and I can't spot any hint of a signature or initials anywhwere on the cover itself. It's a 1982 printing under the "Laurel-Leaf" imprint of Dell, if they did a lot of work for particular publishers...

I need to reread the first one now that I have the anniversary reprint; it seems that the earlier printings were rather heavily bowdlerized to make it more YA-friendly, which might explain part of why Psion seemed a lot more disjointed and shallow than the other two books.
Mar. 11th, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)

Lord, I hate it when they do that to books. Some years ago, a dear friend who knew me well got me a fancy new edition of National Velvet to replace my rapidly disintegrating Scholastic paperback. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Velvet and her sisters (especially the eldest and most beautiful, Edwina) cussed. I mean, Velvet calls 'Dwina a bitch at one point (it was richly deserved, too). And in the context of how Velvet pulled off her masquerade as a male jockey, they omitted the following line, which I found really odd: "'A boy and a girl, they're that much alike that you've gotter have the pants off them to see ...'"

Mar. 12th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
need to reread the first one now that I have the anniversary reprint; it seems that the earlier printings were rather heavily bowdlerized to make it more YA-friendly, which might explain part of why Psion seemed a lot more disjointed and shallow than the other two books.

There are noticeable differences not only in language, but in plot-content. It's bizarre. I originally discovered Psion when I was in middle school, at which point it read fine as a YA, but I much prefer the original (reprinted) version, even with the cover issues.
Mar. 12th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)
*nods* I've only just started in on the uncensored reprint, so I haven't hit any major discrepancies yet -- but judging from the introduction, I'm guessing they cut out a lot of the sexual references? (Oh, how the YA market has changed in the last twenty years...) That was one of the huge shifts I noticed between the first and second books -- in Catspaw it's shown openly that Mikah is gay, Cat's had experiences with both men and women and at times turned tricks to survive back in Oldcity, and so forth, but in Psion there are only the most discreetly indirect hints of any of this, and his yearning for Jule is strangely chaste for a red-blooded and utterly non-sheltered teenage boy...

(Metropolis icon love, btw!)
Mar. 12th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC)
but judging from the introduction, I'm guessing they cut out a lot of the sexual references?

Yeah. I would have to re-read the YA version to make sure, but I remember reading the original text for the first time and thinking, "So this is where the characters' sex lives went . . ."

(Metropolis icon love, btw!)

Thank you! matociquala made it for me.
Mar. 12th, 2008 03:46 am (UTC)
And now Lord Peter! *swoons happily* Another series I've been pimping very hard to Cho and others recently...ah, synchronicity.

Speaking of Metropolis, have you seen the music video for Ari Gold's Where The Music Takes You? It's Fritz Lang imagery turned into a cartoon gay disco anthem, complete with dancing twink robots...utterly charming.
Mar. 12th, 2008 03:48 am (UTC)
*swoons happily*

Hey, you just combined Saiyuki and Tom Lehrer. You win points for that.

It's Fritz Lang imagery turned into a cartoon gay disco anthem, complete with dancing twink robots...utterly charming.

. . . I think I have to see that.
Mar. 12th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)

smilla needs to win some kind of award for that icon ... I first bonded with her over that!

Mar. 12th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
I'm endlessly amused at how much attention that one gets -- it wasn't even a deliberate case of spot-the-reference trolling, it just seemed a rather apt quote for a little truth-in-advertising icon! What can I say, my inner child is a cheerfully perverse ero-kappa. XD
Mar. 12th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)

Did you see Neil Gaiman's movie MirrorMask? It had a scene rather like that ... I'll never be able to feel the same way about the old Carpenters chestnut "Close to You" again. (Looks like you should able to find it on YouTube if you haven't seen the movie - unsurprisingly, YouTube is blocked here, so I can't recommend a specific clip.)

Mar. 13th, 2008 08:38 am (UTC)
Nope, missed that when it was in the theaters and I'm very very slow about bothering to rent things. This sequence? How very Dave McKean...
Mar. 14th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)

Well, McKean was the co-creator! The official site is very cool.

Mar. 10th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
And funny you should mention the Gojyo/Kougaiji comparison -- in Minekura's own color art she usually draws Gojyo with the same general complexion as the rest of the ikkou while Kou and Lirin are distinctly more tan...but I've seen artbook pieces where for whatever reason of artistic license, Kou and Lirin are lighter than usual. Meanwhile in the anime, for some reason they gave Gojyo (and Kenren, in the Gaiden flashback episodes) the same sort of tan complexion...perhaps to play up the Gojyo/Kou/Doku connection, and then by extension to make the Gojyo/Kenren parallel clearer? (The anime also redid Kenren's hair from black to red...and just to add to the confusion, Minekura has since done the occasional redheaded Kenren artbook pics.)

So even though the covers and artbooks really don't support it, the earlier immersion in the anime means that in my head, Gojyo tends to be a little more tanned than the rest of the guys. I mostly handwave it away by telling myself that he's far more likely to strip down and wander about scantily-clad or shirtless than the rest, so of course he's gotten a bit more sun and it should show...never mind that they're all spending hours in an open jeep every day so you'd think everybody would be at least tanned on their faces and hands, if not chronically sunburnt...I'm sure it's just that mother-hen Hakkai nags everybody not to forget the sunblock in the morning. *chuckle*

(And at least you're able to tan! I'm one of those folks who pretty much burns under a strong light bulb, which seems a particularly cruel genetic joke. I've tried, believe me, it just doesn't happen; my skin has only three states, the baseline pale, the slightly sallower pale that comes with small amounts of sun, and cooked lobster.)
Mar. 10th, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)

Yeah, but I've never seen Doku drawn as anything but whiter than white ... I figured that was the purebred Kappa in him (fresh-watery, and all that - like frog and fish bellies), and anything darker in Gojyo's skin came from an Asiatic human mother.

Well, that explains all those fics that are talking about his tanned hands and golden skin ... I wondered, because in most of the color art I've seen, he didn't look anymore tanned or golden than anyone else!

(It's like in SDK - Yukimura's eyes always look hazel-ish in the early manga color art, and later on, someone makes a very big deal about his eyes being "golden" and "sparkling like gold." But in the anime, they ended up ... blue. WTF??? Which ticked me off, because otherwise, Yukimura is an Asian near-twin to my long-running RP character Keldarek, who was also 5 ft 6", black-haired to just past the shoulders, with unusual hazel eyes (Kelo's were slightly ringed), gorgeous, and smart-mouthed. No way he could have blue eyes!)

Oh, I can burn as well, if I don't take it very easy at first. And since I'm not spending hours at the pool in the summer anymore, it's always "at first." But as a child, with gradual sun exposure, I turned medium-toast brown and got blond-tawny streaks in my hair.

Mar. 10th, 2008 11:06 pm (UTC)
Yep, in the anime Gojyo has a very distinct golden tan, while Hakkai and Sanzo are comparatively pale. (When the colorists are being particularly attentive, you can even see that while they try to show both Sanzo and Hakkai having very fair complexions, Sanzo's skin is rather paler and more pink-tinged.) Goku also has a slightly deeper complexion than the other two, if a shade lighter than Gojyo, which again sort of makes sense to me as he's a more active outdoorsy sort, and like Gojyo seems like he'd generally be more relaxed about running about shirtless.

Anime-Kenren has pretty much the same complexion as Gojyo (and along with the recolored hair, the anime versions of Kenren and Tenpou also have the same red/green eyes as their later reincarnations, instead of the violet shades used on the most recent Gaiden covers.) And carrying on with the parallels, in the Homura-tachi Zenon also is more tan than the other kami.

For the Kou-tachi, the anime has Kou and Lirin with fairly deep tan complexions, but they also give Doku a bit of a tan to match Gojyo's; the Sha boys are maybe just a shade lighter than Kou. I can't quickly find a good screencap showing all of them on screen at the same time, but this AMV shows how the animators are giving Gojyo and Jien/Doku the same tone; their mom's shown as very pale.

It's kind of interesting to see all this divergence between the anime/manga skintones -- usually it's hair and eyes that get tweaked wildly in animated adaptations. But here other than the little detail of the Ten/Ken Gaiden eyecolors and the unfortunate fuchsia-for-red swap in the first season of the anime, they've stayed relatively faithful to the character designs...

And I'm grinning at your SDK/RPG overlap, as part of why I'm so ticked at seeing Cat done so far off from the description is that he really could be my Nobilis girl's big brother, a very close cousin at the least -- she was also a bit shorter than average and slightly built and a bit underfed-looking, with a warm caramel complexion and shoulder-length pale blonde curls. Other than the lack of feline pupils, the biggest difference in appearance would be her hair was more of a pale yellow instead of platinum, and her eyes were a lighter gold-green shade rather than Cat's deep grass-green.

Taking it very easy doesn't work for me -- I used to pretty much live at the beach on weekends, and did actually make a serious attempt to tan when I was in my teens and fed up with being so pasty...it just doesn't work. The "darkest" I can manage is just a slightly warmer, slightly deeper ivory, it's just one foundation shade darker than my usual makeup; past that point I stop "tanning" and burn. It always seemed so unfair, when folks like my mom could just spend one good afternoon in the garden and her already deep complexion would darken by several shades to a glowing warm brown, and she almost never burned... *pouts*
Mar. 12th, 2008 06:08 pm (UTC)

My brother-in-law tans very, very deeply. In high school (yes, we've known him that long), he used to work summers as a groundsman at one of the country clubs in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area, and he got well into the Indian subcontinent range of complexions.

The Young Lady also tans fairly well, which is odd, given her seeming English Rose complexion. I have no idea how the Mr. tans - he hates being out in the sun and avoids it at all costs. When we persuade him to go to the beach with us at Cape Cod in the summer, he hides in the sunbuster the whole time!

Mar. 12th, 2008 01:49 am (UTC)
If you have never read Schmitz's The Universe Against Her (1964), I have very fond memories of its teenage protagonist Telzey Amberdon and her relationship with large invisible cats. And on that note I also recommend Vinge's Psion, Catspaw, Dreamfall, although they read (like Doris Egan's Ivory books) like an open-ended series that someone abruptly put the kibosh on. There's a novella, "Psiren," that takes place between the first two novels, but I've never seen anything post-Dreamfall.
Mar. 12th, 2008 02:47 am (UTC)
The intro in the 20th-anniversary reprint of Psion says she's got plots in mind for three or four more Cat books. Apparently Vinge has had chronic health issues -- fibromyalgia and the aftereffects of a car accident -- that have put her writing on hold for the last few years, so she's probably got a lot of backburnered plotbunnies to catch up on now.

I've got a few more JHS books in transit to me right now -- A Tale of Two Clocks and Agent of Vega. Just added TUAH to the wishlist, thanks for the rec!
Mar. 12th, 2008 03:24 am (UTC)
The intro in the 20th-anniversary reprint of Psion says she's got plots in mind for three or four more Cat books.

Thanks! I didn't even realize the anniversary reprint existed; I discovered (and later acquired) "Psiren" in her collection Phoenix in the Ashes (1985).

Apparently Vinge has had chronic health issues -- fibromyalgia and the aftereffects of a car accident -- that have put her writing on hold for the last few years, so she's probably got a lot of backburnered plotbunnies to catch up on now.

Yikes. I am glad she's recovering.
Mar. 12th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
I only just picked up the anniversary edition a week or two ago -- I'd snagged the earlier editions from BookMooch last year, loved them enough that I went hunting to see if there were any more Cat stories, and picked up this reprint just for the sake of getting the novella, not realizing at the time the main text was also changed -- I'm looking forward to seeing if it makes for a more satisfying read than the rather disjointed YA version.
Mar. 12th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)

I read Novice, the first of the big cat stories (about Telzey and her first revelation that her companion Tick-Tock, a/k/a TT, was something more than "just" an animal) in the lovely collection Tomorrow's Children at about the age of 11. That introduced me to a number of great authors, including Zenna Henderson, Fritz Leiber, and Clifford Simak. I didn't like the rest of the Telzey stories as much, and couldn't get into many of his other stories at all, which made me very sad!

I'll have to see if I can figure out which of the Cat books we have already. We have to clear out a lot of stuff in our basement anyway, and that's where the rec room and its Big Bookcase o' misc. SF&F is (fancy hardbacks of SF&F also live in the living room, and my favorites live upstairs in the little special bookcase in our bedroom).


Mar. 13th, 2008 08:33 am (UTC)
I'm halfway through the un-Bowdlerized version of Psion...ye gods, what a huge, huge difference, whoever gutted the first edition of that book should be taken out and shot! If the book you turn up is a version of Psion published before 1996, Do Not Bother -- ditch it and get the real version, it's ever so much better.
Mar. 13th, 2008 10:47 am (UTC)
Hmmmm. Now I'm really, really starting to wonder if this might be part of why TWOK felt strangely familiar when I didn't recognize any of the characters or plot twists; this talk of intelligent, giant invisible cats seems naggingly familiar, like something I think I might have back in third grade or so -- I distinctly remember a bit where I was walking home from school, which helps me pin down the timeframe, and was livening up the dull walk by imagining I had a giant invisible cat walking alongside me! I don't remember where I got the idea from, but anthologies of 60s SF were definitely in the libraries and finding their way into my hands by that point...
Mar. 14th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)

Ahhh, perhaps! Yes, teenaged Telzey is a law student staying with her ditzy aunt, who introduces Telzey to a slimy guy who turns out to be interested in TT in all the wrong ways. The resolution of the problem is fun and unexpected. Any of that sounds familiar?

Mar. 14th, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)
Not particularly -- but "giant, intelligent, invisible cat" really doesn't feel like the sort of thing I'd have cooked up completely on my own, and little details in that memory are telling me that if there was outside influence, it would have been something read before third grade at the absolute latest. And my mind at that age, especially something only read once or twice in a library, definitely would have latched on to "cool magical animal" over any of the more realistic human details. :)
Mar. 14th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)

(I'm gonna e-mail you directly from my home account about the Irregulars game - I don't know if we want to have had some shared adventures before getting dumped at the conbini or what ... . I'm going home now!)

Mar. 14th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
I'm about to run out on some errands (gotta pick up copies of Antique Bakery!) but will be back in a couple hours. And if you do IRC or any sort of IM chat, I run Pidgin so I can use pretty much any protocol you prefer...

(Waiting on more info for Shinrin to decide which direction to take my modsoul character, my basic idea here is just cognitive dissonance of the creepy/cute, crossgender, etc. variety, but other than that I don't yet have any strong opinions on the finer details...)
Mar. 15th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC)

Hmmm ... I've never used any of those things ... I just configured iChat on this box, which can work with AIM. But Firefox doesn't understand ... still, I have my iChat open, and I added smillaraaq on AIM as a buddy ... it says you are offline.

(We have Communicator at work for interoffice stuff - that's the only time I've used anytning like this.)

Mar. 15th, 2008 03:56 am (UTC)
Just one problem -- on AIM I'm smillaaraq (note spelling, as Magrat might say). There was already some other Peter Hoeg fan here using the same spelling as my journal. ;)

(I'd add you, but I don't know what your handle is!)
Mar. 15th, 2008 05:09 am (UTC)

Well, I copied the name you had in your LJ profile ... I tried it again just now, copying the name you had here, and it said I already had that one ... so I guess I got it right.

I'm not sure what the handle is! I tried to sign in everyting with chomiji, but the computer name was already filled in with the Mac name, which is Karl and Ruth Pitt.

I'm going to feed the buns and go to bed ... the taffy fiction got better once angst started happening, and I've read a bunch of it.

Mar. 15th, 2008 06:28 am (UTC)
Hee, just had to make sure -- people tend to have trouble with all the vowels in that, no matter which spelling is being used.

And I see you're getting to the bits I was talking about earlier, where the emotional angle sort of creeps up on the boys while they're distracted with all the smut! Mmmm, angsty smutty braincandy. ;)


cho-vatar - sun &amp; buns

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