May. 31st, 2009

starlady: (justice)
One future planned Mechademia theme is actually "criminalities." I expect we'll get a lot of articles about shôjo (because girlhood in a male-oriented society is a crime), but maybe we'll get some essays tackling the recent trial of Christopher Handley, manga collector, in Iowa. To recap: in 2006, U.S. Customs opened one of Handley's packages from Japan and found a lolicon volume (I'm personally still not sure which one) depicting, well, explicit lolicon, which is child sexual abuse from a certain perspective. The D.A. went after Handley, and he pled guilty in a plea bargain about two weeks ago.

I should make it clear that there is absolutely no allowance to be made for people who actually sexually abuse children, but there's a very wide gap between Handley and actual sex criminals. Handley pleading guilty sets a very dangerous precedent that could very well be used to further roll back First Amendment protections in this country--while we pride ourselves in principle on our First Amendment rights, we are actually less free in our speech than many other countries, and this case is one more example of that. Personally I find the equation of possession of lolicon manga with "obscenity" or with an actual crime of some kind to be very, very suspect and equally perilous. The concept of obscenity itself seems to me to be a convenient euphemism for "speech those in power don't like." And if anyone is going to have free speech in actuality, everyone needs to have free speech in reality, and that goes double for unpopular speech.

I actually know one of the people who was retained by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund as a manga expert on Handley's behalf; Wired quotes her very briefly in its short piece on the case. If nothing else, this case should make it clear that the context of manga in America is vastly different from its native context in Japan: in the specific case of lolicon, for instance, Japan very much embraces a strict divide between the consumption of images depicting illegal acts and the commission of illegal acts themselves that America has never really embraced. Anecdotally, people will insist that the Japanese approach allows people to fulfill their fantasies without actually crossing the line into actual violence, and from what I know crime statistics certainly present a compelling argument for this idea (although I also know that crime in Japan is woefully under-reported, under-investigated, and under-prosecuted from an American perspective). But America (and this may have something to do with Christian approaches to sin) is quite different, and though manga may travel across borders, societal attitudes are much less fungible.

Apparently the D.A. is planning to throw the book at Handley; he faces up to 15 years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, three years' probation, and will spend the rest of his life on a sex offender registry, all without ever having actually committed a crime other than buying a dirty comic book. Handley clearly ought to petition the judge to assign him different counsel, since even from the other side of the country I can tell that his lawyers are unsophisticated idiot hacks: this case is being used to make the D.A.'s name, and now that he has a guilty plea, he has no incentive to go easy on Handley. I also very much want to know just what it was that made Customs decide to open Handley's mail.

In conclusion, I urge people to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in any way they can. Since this was such an easy win for the D.A., I very much doubt that this will be the last such case.

starlady: (sora)
Bull, Emma ([ profile] coffeeem). War for the Oaks. New York: Tor Books, 2001 and 2009. (1987.)
Territory. New York: Tor Books, 2007.

I can't really pretend to have come to these books with a completely open mind, but I have to admit that I enjoyed them both very much, so much so that I was slightly surprised.

War for the Oaks is arguably the text that established the "metropolitan fantasy" subgenre which people such as China Miéville and Charles de Lint have made so famous. Properly, of course, this subgenre really should be known as "urban fantasy," since it is explicitly fantasy of (an) urban space and place, whether that city is real, unreal, or somewhere in between, but "urban fantasy" is what paranormal urban romance has taken as its own label, so "metropolitan fantasy" it is, at least as far as I'm concerned (and yes, I did just make that name up, I think).

War for the Oaks )

Territory.  )


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