Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: April 2015

Doors of imagination

Young-Hee & the Pullocho is a “portal fantasy” — meaning a story in which the fantasy element is accessed from our boring world via a doorway, like the wardrobe in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. That meant I needed to come up with a portal. So how to get Young-hee into my magical world?

Fortunately, Korea is a country with no shortage of strange doors. Like this one I passed while on a walk today, on the right of the photo, just sitting there on the side of the hill. No steps. No signs (unless you count the graffiti underneath it).

Door in Seoul wall

Why is it there? Who uses it? Could there be a magical world lurking behind it? I have no answers. But I love wondering about it.

Wall door closeup

Genuine K-pop

Hard to believe it’s been a year already since K-Pop Now came out (thanks once again to all to bought it and/or read it). On one hand, it’s amazing how much has changed already in the world of K-pop — new groups, people leaving old groups, etc. But at the same time, I think the last year has been a bit static, without anything transformative really going on.

K-Pop Now wasn’t the most academic book ever, nor was it the most in-depth (it was fairly short with a lot of images). But I tried to give a sense of what K-pop is, why fans love it, and the spirit of the K-pop age.

One line from the book, though, I wish I had been clearer about:

“K-pop is overwhelmingly genuine. When a singer loves, he loves completely.  When he misses his love, it is a deep, soul-crushing ache”

Now, clearly the industrial nature of the K-pop business doesn’t really nurture singer-songwriters, people who spill their souls and reveal their deepest truths. But I wasn’t talking about the industry that makes the music; I was talking about the sentiments expressed by K-pop singers. The industry and the structure of the industry might be cynical and full of artifice, however the emotions and ideas of the songs are not.

Does that make sense? I might compare it to professional wrestling.  Professional wrestling isn’t “real”, but the reason people like it is because of the force of the emotions expressed by the wrestlers. It seems genuine.

It’s kind of an adolescent way of viewing the world and emotion. A grown-up, disillusioned view of love might be more like Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” or Radiohead’s “Creep” (okay, not really “grown-up”, but certainly more jaded). K-pop is more like an opera aria, and the feelings expressed by most K-pop songs are more straightforward and pure. Personally, I find the artifice of honesty a fascinating subject in all creative areas.


Pullocho now available as an e-book

Some happy news, for those of you who prefer your books electronic and your trees to continue standing — Young-hee and the Pullocho is now available at Amazon as an e-book, too. Like the paperback, it will ship on May 12.

No signs of the e-book version at Barnes & Noble, Indigo, or other stores, but I assume it will soon appear in all the major e-book formats on all the major websites.

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