I have no idea what the authorial intention of Simoun is supposed to be. It’s the story of a war taking place on an Earth-like world, where the pilots of the Simoun craft are pairs of virgin girls who have not yet chosen their adult sex. I don’t know the intention of this story. I find the ideas of the gender system fascinating, the implications intriguing. But the execution of it is … fetishized and slightly creepy. Was it supposed to be that way? Am I reading things in that I was not intended to?
In some sense it doesn’t matter. No artistic work survives contact with the audience.
I remember, watching A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was a teenager, the two lessons I got. First, you can always rely on yourself. Second, adults are never to be trusted. This is … not, perhaps, the message intended. At the least, I believe the message was meant to be descriptive of the way the world can sometimes be, not prescriptive of the way it ought to be.
I think about this when I watch my kids reading or watching something. I watch them watching a documentary about the Forbidden City, and I wonder what the hell they re making of all the bits about eunuchs. I watch them watch Pirates of the Caribbean, for the kajillionth time, and I wonder what messages they are taking from this fiction.
I took M to the Theater Nippon anime room at CONvergence this past weekend. We watched, together, random snippets of different anime shows. He loved them all. I don’t know if I should care about the more problematic aspects of the anime — the messages about women’s bodies as objects, for instance. Does he see that? Does he notice it at all? Or is he instead seeing that small people and children have great power, that perseverance and will enable you to do great things?
I know I watch things, read things, and see what I want to see. I have read all of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle three or four times. The story I am reading is about Eliza, with some bits about Jack. I vaguely remember there’s a lot to do with Daniel, when I am reminded of that fact. But the story I am reading is that of Eliza’s journey to conquer Europe in order to end slavery. The plot does not survive contact with the reader.