Episode 64: Japanese Science Fiction with William O. Gardner

Thanks for joining us this week, How Do You Like it So Far? crew!  It’s day thirty-fifty-ten of the quarantine, right?  Who knows at this point, but we do know that we’re getting cabin fever and sorely missing the studio.  Though, we are thankful for our health and loved ones right now.  We know it is a privilege to be able to stay indoors and are grateful every single day.  As we close out the year, we look at how science fiction may help us process the current moment and make sense of the world around us (read: global pandemic is like something out of the movies!).  This week, Colin and Henry welcome William O. Gardner, a Professor of Japanese at Swarthmore College whose work has looked at the response of Japanese popular culture to real world disasters such as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Garder, who is releasing a new book called The Metabolist Imagination: Visions of the City in Postwar Japanese Architecture and Science Fiction, puts together architecture and science fiction.  He dives deep into the origins of architects in post-WWII Japan called The Metabolists.  He asserts that they evolved the rules of modern Japanese architecture and visioned their city spaces as organic beings that can grow, decay. and adapt to their surroundings.  He explains that architecture to them is a process of change and many of the buildings that emerged after WWII were forward-thinking conceptions of an adaptable and flexible living environment after the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Gardner even reads a portion out of his book which hits home on what is happening right now!  Many of the environments they made are somewhat relatable to how we are living right now.  He also discusses how the visions of our “new normal” of deserted streets and people wearing masks is the embodiment of the tropes of apocalyptic speculative fiction.  Listen in as Gardner dives deep into how some Japanese Anime, Manga and book authors created scarily prescient visions of the future.  He also gives us some recommendations on what he’s reading right now!  Check out the notes section for those. 

Here are some of the references from this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Movies Mentioned in this Episode:
NetworkI’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Godzilla (1954) – Iconic apocalyptic narrative out of Japan

Books Mentioned in this Episode:
Komatsu SakyoJapan Sinks, Japan Sinks Sequel (2006), Virus: The Day of Resurrection 
American depictions of outbreaks — The Andromeda Strain and Contagion

Celebration of Healthcare Workers (8pm everyday in LA)

Brazil protesting on pots and pans what the government is doing

Earth Abides – old radio drama from Escape

Twitter videos of nature reasserting itselfBears wandering around

Drone footage of no one out on the streets – apocalyptic science fiction

Firebombing that leveled Tokyo and Osaka

Atomic Bombs that levels Nagasaki and Hiroshima

The MetabolistsManifesto in 1960

Capsule → structural form that Metabolists were drawn to
Kisho Kurokawa
Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo
Cyborg architecture that can be plugged into a network

Susan Sontag’s essay “Imagination of Disaster

Japanese Anime, Mangas, and Animated Films Mentioned in this Episode: 
Otomo KatsuhiroAkira (1988)
Otomo predicted the coming Olympics to the year
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Princess Mononoke
Shinkai MakotoYour Name, Weathering with You, Voices of a Distant Star, A Place Promised in Our Early Years
Hayao Miyazaki Spirited Away

Just “cancel it” related to Akira and the Olympics

Studio Ghibli — “the best anime for coronavirus lockdown days”

Sekai kei

Azuma Hiroki

Hugo Gernsback 

Gardner’s Recommendations:
Shinkai Makoto — Weathering with You
Liu Cixin — Three-Body Trilogy
Eugene Vodolazkin – Laurus

How Do You Like it So Far? episode with Sangita Shresthova

Instructions to participate in the global story-telling initiative

Share your thoughts via Twitter with Henry and Colin and also through email at an[email protected]!

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