Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Direction chapter two notes

As a physicist myself, I drew a lot on personal experience to help craft the physics department at Tokyo. Regrettably, I could not interview a real graduate of Tokyo’s physics program. I did do a good deal of research to get some details right. Tokyo has an Institute of Solid State Physics, but it’s quite a ways from the main campus, so I ruled out having Hisao spend time there. It was much easier just to put him in a lab here.

Physicists in the States can be very eccentric, and Professor Tanaka reflects that with his casual, unflappable nature. He also thinks Hisao will naturally get what’s going on more or less on the fly. This is part of why he can so easily throw Hisao into the fire to gain experience hands-on.

All of the description of the AFM should be relatively faithful to its operation. It’s a very cool piece of technology and only a small part of a solid state physicist’s toolkit.

Overall, the first scene is important because it helps complete the triad of issues going on in the story: Hisao’s own career, matters between Sumi and Ryou and how that affects Hisao’s friendship with Sumi, and finally Rin.

Rin herself has been living a relatively isolated existence. I struggled with how to portray her here—should she move on? Should she still be stuck in a rut? Ultimately, I settled on a combination of the two. Her professional life is fairly good, even if her reasons for painting have changed by necessity, but her personal life is somewhat stunted, so she quickly gravitates back toward Hisao and the hope he was able to show her the other night.

I also wanted to make a point of how she is somewhat different in manner—more restrained, especially when she senses herself going on a deep tangent. Her observations about the sidewalk are indeed a hidden way of asking about herself: is she broken? Even if she’s managed to glue the broken pieces together, is she functional? Is she the same?

It’s through Adachi that Hisao is able to gain more direct insight into Rin. Adachi is very fond of her, treating her almost like a (grand)daughter, but there is still this undeniable distance that can’t be overcome. And as Hisao says, he’s never seen Rin with anyone else, her story about her old boyfriend notwithstanding.

I do wonder—is it inherently unequal that Rin isn’t able to move on fully while Hisao does in many ways? Is it realistic, given Rin’s inability to relate to people? Both?

The most important thing to Rin is having someone know how she feels. Adachi gives Hisao the insight of years to help him find out how she felt once, and he’s able to relate. I considered having him recount this story to the reader only, which would make it unfold more or less in real time, rather than in dialogue to Rin, but the words he uses with Rin are important, and I didn’t want to gloss over that. That he recounts Mutou’s speech to such a degree does strain credibility, but I couldn’t bring myself to paraphrase it either.

In some ways, the symbolism to use around Rin is too easy to use. Oranges and butterflies. I think, in retrospect, I should’ve found some other object for Rin to enjoy or identify with, but I can’t think of such a thing that would be appropriate.

I’ve skipped over the Sumi storyline for a bit, so let me get back to that. To this point, we haven’t actually seen much of Ryou except that he doesn’t dress up and typically says little during their collective meals. Still, I thought the implication of him losing his temper was more powerful than seeing it first-hand. This is more about Sumi’s reaction than what Ryou does himself.

Initially, I had conceived of Ryou as a traditionalist person, one who would’ve resented the strong role that Sumi was taking in the world, but I realized that wouldn’t make sense. Why marry a physicist at all if you didn’t expect her to be forward-thinking? So I scaled it back a bit and reimagined him more as being traditional about displays of affection but resenting more some other things, which will be clear more in chapter three. As it happened, that meant that Ryou became more and more like Hisao—he had the path of ahead of him blocked, and he finds himself increasingly discontented with the situation he’s in and the kind of person he is. This is a great mirror to Hisao’s dissatisfaction with being “disabled” in the game, and this sympathetic angle ended up reshaping the course of the story, at least for that storyline.

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