The Twister of Imagination:
An Interview with Mariko Ohara

Larry McCaffery, Sinda Gregory, Mari Kotani, and Takayuki Tatsumi

Mariko Ohara was born in Osaka in 1959. Long an admirer of the SF works of A. E. van Vogt and Cordwainer Smith, as a student at Sacred Heart University she published a novella, Hitori de Aruite Itta Neko (The Cat Who Walked Alone), which won second prize in the sixth Hayakawa SF Contest of 1980. Haiburiddo Chairudo (Hybrid Child), her story of a multiracial child who merges with objects won the Seiun (Nebula) Award at the 1991 Japan SF convention, and her Sensou Wo Enjita Kamigami Tachi (Gods Prosecuting War) won the 1994 Japan SF Award for best science fiction work of the year. Ohara is the offer of numerous other works of fiction, including Taimu Riipa (Time Leaper, 1993), which concerns a Japanese businessman who travels thirty years into the future; and Kyuuketsuki Efemera (Ephemera the Vampire), which follows the adventures of an immortal female vampire. In 1997, Ohara turned to the wide-screen baroque with her Arukaikku Suteitsu (Archaic States), in which galaxies battle in the twenty-eighth century.

In addition to fiction, Ohara also writes for comics, video games, and radio, and her "Saiko Saundo Mashin" (Psycho Sound Machine, 1998), based on of her short stories, won the Galaxy Award for best radio drama.

Aside from creative work, Ohara has co-edited three volumes of the SF Baka Bon series (Collected Slapstick SF Stories, 1996-) with her husband, Keigo Misaki. She has also published essays on her Internet experience in "Nettowaakaa Eno Michi" (The Way of the Networker, 1994). President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan from 1999-2001, she currently reviews science fiction and fantasy for a major Japanese newspaper and chairs the nomination committee of the Japan SF Award.

"Mental Female" was originally published in 1988. (Hisayo Ogushi)

Sinda Gregory: First of all, I am wondering what you studied in school; perhaps more specifically, why you started writing SF. Your background?

Mariko Ohara: I started writing fiction when I was ten years old. One of my early stories was about personified animals, for example, the werewolf. Then, I moved on to yaoi fiction, like K/S fiction. It was at the age of around sixteen that I first started to write SF. Anyway, the reason for all of this was very simple. I started writing fiction because I was strongly conscious of myself being a natural born liar. I incorporated my lies into the form of novels; otherwise fiction would have always invaded my life, hurting me and people around me.

SG: But you could have written other things--realistic fiction, further developing your habit of telling lies. Were you attracted by just something about the otherworldliness of SF? Was it because it was so removed from the normal life of a young girl? Was it the exotic quality of SF that attracted you?

MO: Yes, I think so. It seemed to me that the present real world, this side of reality was wrong, even though most people believe in it. At first, such incongruity was not very clear to me--it seemed as ambiguous as something in a fog. Science fiction, however, enlightened me on the fact that there is no universal value, and that we should see the present world relatively.

Larry McCaffery: I am interested in the kinds of SF that you have read and have been influenced by. As a young woman, were you mainly reading SF, and if so, what type? Was it hard SF, was it Japanese, was it translations of American works?

MO: I decided to become an SF writer after I read some of the works written by A. E. van Vogt and Alfred Bester.

LM: Bester is my favorite.

MO: Yes, I noticed that because you have referred to him in you latest book, Avant-Pop. Anyway, my favorite subgenre SF is "wide-screen baroque," a term coined probably by Brian Aldiss in his Billion Year Spree. I think it came out in his last chapter when he was talking about van Vogt, Bester and Vonnegut, and referring to their works as being typical of a "wide-screen baroque" type of fiction.

LM: Could you redefine the term?

MO: "Wide-screen baroque" is a kind of B-movie/space-opera in which highly metaphysical issues are discussed--a hodgepodge of the pop and the avant-garde. For example, Samuel Delany's Empire Star or Barrington Bayley's The Garments of Caean are a typical wide-screen baroque. Every time you flip a page, there is something different, a surprise. It is a page-turner, a fun house. In a short story, I put in something new in every ten pages or so. Even in a wide-screen baroque novels, for example in its 350 pages of text, you should do the same thing as you would in a short story. This is what I am doing in the series called Archaic States serially written for Hayakawa's SF magazine. It is somewhat like a reappropriation of the short-story technique into the novel writing.

SG: You have said that you used to write K/S fiction. You were doing this as a young woman, and this seems to me very radical. Being a young woman, you were already dealing with sexual issues. Did you have a sense of this being forbidden, transgressive?

MO: I didn't have any hesitations in writing sexual fictions even in my teens, because I discovered my own world when I found the paper on which I composed the sentences. That is the world I can construct in whatever I wish. So I tried not to restrain my emotion, or desire. Of course my writings didn't hurt anybody, since I seldom showed my works to others.

SG: Not that it was gay, but that it was sexual.

LM: And also, why write about gay relationships rather than heterosexual relationships?

MO: Reading Mari Kotani's Techno-Gynesis, the winner of the Japan SF Award in 1994, I was very surprised to know that yaoi culture exists outside Japan. But at the same time, it convinced me very much. As for me, I started writing yaoi, not as an imitation of others, but as a narrative (in those days, we called this kind of fiction simply the homosexual novel) necessary for the description of sexual love in my imagination. Probably I was not able to enjoy the conventional pornography, which had been made for men; I feel impatient with its patriarchal form. This is why I could not help but produce a new style of sexual love. And I was not the only one who thought this way. It is the female imperative that produced yaoi fiction in Japan and other countries simultaneously.

There is, however, a sharp distinction between yaoi and gay fiction although it is possible to read yaoi as gay novels. We, women writers, write yaoi for ourselves, hoping it will be consumed by mostly women readers. To tell the truth, now I am not really interested in yaoi--or rather, I lost my interest in ordinary pornography itself. We cannot fantasize about sex as freely as before. For, as yaoi became a quite successful genre in terms of popularity and commercialism, it lost its avant-garde flavor. I had once expected that yaoi would have led us to the new form of sexual love, surpassing the boundary of sex.

LM: What is the fascination of women for writing this type of fiction?

MO: It's the same fascination that we feel toward SF. Reading SF, you transform yourself into robots, see the Earth as an alien, or establish relationships with aliens. We can be the opposite sex. Yaoi and SF have basically the same possibility in which we enjoy limitless freedom.

LM: We've interviewed Joanna Russ, Le Guin, Octavia Butler and several other American SF women writers. Russ in particular said that she felt it was very interesting that woman SF writers so frequently identify with the alien, the other. That was one of the reasons she thought there was a lot of interesting SF being written in the last twenty or thirty years by women. However, when men created these alien-encounter formulas, the alien was something to be conquered, something horrifying, something that should be destroyed. But in women's SF, it was different. Her suspicion was that women writers frequently identify with the alien and this goes all the way back to Frankenstein.

A lot of American SF writers that I've interviewed have said that, later on in their lives, they realized that they were drawn to SF, specifically the alien-encounter convention because they identified with the alien.

Takayuki Tatsumi: Ms. Ohara has a deep affection for Japanese monsters, namely Godzilla, Gamera, Mothra, or Gaos and so forth.

Mari Kotani: That is also related to the animal novels that she used to write when she was young.

MO: First it was the monsters. Animals came on later.

SG: Why the wolf?

MO: I was only ten years old then, so I don't remember the reason clearly. But I really liked wolves, which seemed to symbolize of the wildness, being independent of human society. Tigers were also my favorite. I liked the dinosaurs, especially tyrannosaurs. You see how I was into the monster films and animal novels. I think it is because I didn't have to be aware of the sexual differences in those genres.

And also, I was crazy for a Disney movie, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I felt deep sympathy with Captain Nemo, who was so angry with society that he constructed his own world under the sea. Every night, in taking a bath, I played with a plastic model of the Nautilus--well, maybe I didn't like human being at all!

LM: When did you start thinking about the use of vampire, and combining vampire and SF? What was it about the vampire metaphor that attracted you?

MO: To me, the prototype of the vampire is a Japanese monster, Gaos. Gaos, a bird monster, is nocturnal and bloodsucking--actually it is so big that it eats the whole of a human body. Anyway, Gaos is strongly attracted to blood. In addition, it emits a laser beam which cuts even steel. What is more, we see Gaos's strong life force since it recovers from any damage in only one night. Gaos is a mythic monster from alternative universe. It lives by sucking the blood of human beings, and demands the blood as natural providence. In this sense, this monster is not an evil by its nature. Gaos, who never lost the fight against its sworn enemy, Gamera, was finally captured by a trap of the artificial blood and then launched into space.

However, I can never believe that the monster was dead. My novel, Ephemera the Vampire, is conceived as the story of Gaos expelled from the Earth. Gaos comes back in the form of innumerable raindrops of blood pouring onto the Earth. Then its blood gets mixed with that of the earthmen, to make new human beings. As Mr. McCaffery said, when we encounter the other, we will either conquer the other as a masculinist, or get assimilated with the other as a femininist. However, this binary opposition is really at stake when we realize that assimilation can be another form of conquest. I use this assimilation as a strategy. Perhaps we can call this assimilation marriage. And in this case, the vampire is at work as a perfect metaphor.

In addition, the images of heresies converge on the vampire. I spent my teens in a private Catholic school like a nun, and I can say I bring up the vampire as a kind of rebel against such a strictly ruled life.

MK: If you ask me which one is more scary, I would definitely say the assimilation strategy is. Sort of like a brainwash without even realizing.

Since the 1970s saw the rise of gender theories, the figure of vampire does not seem unfamiliar to us the Japanese audience. Once assimilated within Japanese culture, vampire is someone very familiar superficially but alien essentially. Vampire was first translated as "kyuketsu-ki" in Japanese, literally meaning "Bloodsucking Ogre." Although we have not had the Japanese equivalent of anti-Christian bloodsucker, it is possible to establish an analogy between the western vampire and the Japanese cannibalistic ogre called "Oni" (corresponding to "ki" or "Kyuketsu-ki"). Such a Japanese assimilation of foreign cultural products will convince us that we have persistently translated the unfamiliar things into familiar ones, by means of rediscovering analogies between western and Japanese cultures.

Moreover, it is not only vampire but also femininity that was imported into Japan in its modernization period. Certainly, to us contemporary Japanese the notion of femininity has long seemed self-evident, deeply structuring our gender politics. But, in fact it is one of the western concepts that has gradually been assimilated into Japanese culture, as Japanese modernization developed. In retrospect, while the western discourses of femininity and vampiric monstrosity were constructed in the nineteenth century by the demands of modernization, they have been naturalized in the twentieth century. I think a similar process of naturalization happened in the Japanese assimilation of foreign cultural products. Although the notion of femininity was a foreign product alien to the Japanese primarily, it is the very notion that has been politically naturalized in our national culture, and without which modern or postmodern Japanese sexuality would have never been constructed. Contemporary Japanese women are all hybrid children, all cyborgs. Thus, Ms. Ohara's Ephemera leads us to find the cultural status of vampire basically analogous with that of femininity. Both the notions of vampire and femininity are at work in Japan as cultural bloodsucking ogres.

MO: I totally agree with Mari. Assimilation is much more horrible--but by the same token, it is much more interesting. It is more complicated, ingenious and erotic, compared with the plain conquest. I really think that assimilation is more efficient as a strategy.

TT: Apocalypse Now is a perfect fable of cultural imperialism. The male logic trying to pierce, trying to conquer and dominate. But the people who seem to be dominated construct a kind of cultural swamp. So however hard they try to dominate the underdeveloped country, they are confronted with a bottomless swamp, which is impossible to pierce, to dominate. The soldiers are already brainwashed. There lies the most essential paradox. This swamp can be compared to some notions represented by women whose strategies are assimilation. Donna Haraway called this kind of postcolonialist logic a "jungle baroque." This swamp is at work just like the vampire.

MO: Yes, Apocalypse Now was indeed a great movie. It reminds me of Japanese horror manga, Kissho-Ten'nyo (Goddess Kissho) by Akimi Yoshida. Here, love is reconsidered like a black hole. . . . Even love can be a strategy for protecting ourselves or invading the other.

LM: Mari, your essay on Mariko's fiction makes some interesting points about western imperialism and gender, its importation of feminism and so forth.

MK: Yes. So would there be a relationship between Butler's Oankari and the vampire described in Ms. Ohara works?

LM: Butler was trying to find a form, a metaphor that would allow her to imagine gender relationships in a different way. You can say this also about Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. Trying to imagine a postpatriarchal . . . a way that is not based on the usual power relationships and assumptions. For example, in The Left Hand of Darkness, you are trying to imagine a culture in which the binary opposition between men and women doesn't exist. And likewise I think that is what Butler was trying to do, too. Partly as a means of suggesting ways of reconfiguring gender and power relationships in our culture, suggesting the needs for new thinking.

SG: Let's talk about "Mental Female." I have a question that seems to be a real problem, which is the ambivalence towards the women in "Mental Female." On a personal level, fiction aside, I suspect that you have a strong sense of women's power, all the positive things about women. But in your book, the woman is the nightmare, the terror, something that wants to love you, but you flee from. I know this is rather complicated from a philosophical point of view, but I was wondering if you could talk about this ambivalence towards the woman. The woman is, on the one hand, from your own perspective, positive, but then there is this woman that is a weapon of patriarchy.

Of course, all men and women have ambivalence towards the mother. That is a psychological truth. But for women, it becomes more complicated because we are the mother.

MO: I lack talent for becoming a good mother.

SG: But the mother is the woman. In this story the woman is the terror, the evil, something that comes after you. And yet that is what you are, I am, and Mari is. Do you just divorce yourself from that, that is not an issue?

MO: Very lately, I contributed an essay on maternal fascism entitled "The Queen of the year 2777" to the journal New Feminism Review. In general, the myth still exists that motherhood is something great, excellent. The mother figure in myself, however, is really nightmarish, a kind of destroyer silently invading others with a weapon called love, rather than kindness and generosity. All the women including Ms. Gregory and I have destructive motherhood, which plunders and kills someone's heart with "generosity." So I envision the destroyer aspect of my internal mother figure vividly.

Do you remember the movie Solaris by Tarcovski? The sea in Solaris represents maternalism which is at once creative and destructive. We don't know whether the sea has consciousness or not. Or, in the first place, nobody knows what it is--the mysterious sea in Solaris was very horrible. Because in creating something, you have to destroy and bring out "change" which can be considered, in a way, as being evil. Thus, creation is always the same as destruction. And we cannot deny that raising children has this kind of aspect.

LM: As Mari has said in her essay, the vampire figure in your works seems to operate as a sign of femininity. Can you talk a little bit about this notion, this ambiguity of the vampire as a sign of femininity.

MO: The construction of Japanese femininity or womanhood can easily be compared to the vampire.

TT: This is like the "OBATARIANs." Most Japanese middle-aged women are housewives and are, as you already know, "OBASANs." Some are even worse, even vulgar, and they are called "OBATARIANs," which is a derogatory term that shows contempt towards this type of woman. But they did devote much to the construction of the modernistic family, or the ideology of "increase and multiply."

MO: Yes. Well, Japanese womanhood represented by OBASAN is really like a vampire because they are the ones in control of the family finances, they rear the children who may be considered, in this sense, as a captivity, they suck up everything from their own husbands and after they retire, they just throw them away. Usually these husbands are called "huge junk" by the OBASANs . . . except that they are bringing money from their companies. Of course, the husbands who entrust their own aims of life to their companies are also problematic.

SG: Sure. First you consume the department stores, and then you go home and you consume your children.

LM: Just to return briefly to "Mental Female" . . . this question has to do with your process of writing. What gives you the inspiration? For example, in the case of "Mental Female," do you recall what the initial impulse was for that story? What got it going initially?

MO: Well, I just don't remember.

LM: Well, how about a more general question? Some writers say a character appears first, others say a plot ideas come first. Some say it's a theme, some say it's just a metaphor. Then what is it that sparks your imagination? Or is there no consistency?

MO: When I started writing "Mental Female" in the mid-eighties, Japan was thought to be rich and wealthy, it was the heyday of the bubble economy. So in terms of the bubble economy, the story was a speculative experiment. My topic was quite simple--if we can retain this kind of society of abundance forever, what will happen to us? I suppose this was what sparked me. In retrospect, I animated the society of abundance, that is, if this kind of society were a person, this person must be very generous, treating everyone in an overly generous way.

SG: I guess he or she would step over the boundary. In "Mental Female," the "She" says "Don't just watch one TV, watch a hundred TVs." It is like a baby that sits there and is being fed too much. That is the part of the horror of the story.

MO: This society of abundance with transcendental high technology is like an enchanted island.

SG: In the story, this overabundance seems to try to get people to be dependent and removed from their desires. Wolf Boy and Sheila don't want all these televisions. They want to be left alone to experience their own passion and sexuality. This seems to suggest that all of this abundance is keeping people from being human.

MO: I've written a short story titled "The Archeology of War" and . . .

TT: She was given the Japan Science Fiction Award, the American equivalent of Nebula, for The Gods Who Acted the Wars, in which this "The Archeology of War" is included.

MO: Yes, and in that story, again, I set up an overabundant society where people are wired to cyberspace and they are doing all kinds of creative activities with the power of high technology. However, techno-magic abundance makes people childish, and information accelerated by technological progress (like watching 100 TV screens at a time--too much information!) ruins us seriously. Then people get cocooned to protect their own sensitivity. How can we avoid developing childish society? This is one of the problems the present advanced countries confront now, since childishness leads us to the completely opposite side of humanity.

In "The Archeology of War," hypercapitalistic cultural strategy renders creative activities more and more competitive, and finally brings up a great war which involves the whole galaxy. And in this context, any form of creation must be closely intertwined with the logic of war, that is, the logic of destruction. Again, we have to speculate on the analogy between creation and destruction. What I described here, nonetheless, is that creation with destruction is a sort of illness. Indeed we need some kind of creation without excessive destruction. In other words, if we would avoid childishness and heal our trauma, it is indispensable to naturalize the act of creation and appreciate all the things in the world.

SG: Does Alfred G. Usano have anything to do with Alfred Bester?

MO: It's a coincidence.

LM: Does "Usano" have a meaning in Japanese?

MO: Maybe it just sounded sexy.

SG: It was interesting for me because the cult leader who is very rich and lays around the swimming pool, etc. is very much like American cult leaders.

MO: Well, we have the AUM Shinrikyo. What interests me most is that in some cases, the love romance between believers made them decide to withdraw from AUM. It reminds me of the way the Wolf Boy and Sheila, in "Mental Female," who had been enjoying the game of love, escaped from their own reality.

SG: That is what I thought about when I read this. You cannot help thinking of it, at this point.

LM: A specific question for American readers--one of the points that Mari is raising in this essay is that your vampire novels are novels about the assimilation in Japan of western notions of feminism. Mari says that it is an investigation of the ways of western notions of feminism being imported to Japan and consumed. To what extent do you see your work being specifically about feminism, about this kind of assimilation in Japan?

For example, that early description of the destructive mother--that figure did exist in Japan a thousand years ago. So, to what extent has western feminism specifically affected your writing?

MO: I am not familiar with the difference between western and Japanese feminism, but my article about the difference between western and Japanese fashion that was written for Sankei Shimbun ("Western Fashion and the Culture of Japanese Harmony") is related with your question. I like the clothes designed by Japanese male designers such as Issey Miyake or Yoji Yamamoto, whereas my favorite western designers are mostly female or aged male. I suppose the clothes designed by Japanese were accepted widely not only because their fashion is quite fresh to the eyes of westerns, but also because the most consumers of clothes are female. Their fashion seems to them traditional clothes of unknown countries, which have nurtured their respective tradition and culture. Besides, their clothes are for both sexes regardless of age.

I strongly agree with Ms. Kazuko Saegusa, who explains her disagreement with Beauvoir and criticizes The Second Sex in The Possibility of Women's Philosophy. I don't want to counter men with a power for a power based on an-eye-for-an-eye, nor to be masculine any longer. Moreover, it is meaningless to me to be evaluated by the standard of the present society. In "A Bear in Mt. Nametoko," Kenji Miyazawa described a hunter who reveals his own sense of respect, gratitude and humiliation to the bear he is going to kill. In other words, there is no distinction between animals and human beings: men can be animals so can animals be men. This animistic sensitivity must be quite familiar to Japanese. If we appropriate this animism, then the idea of "human rights" cannot be effective any longer; it is difficult to admit that people have privileges only because we are born human beings. It seems to me arrogant to think that human being alone is privileged to exploit the world. The perception of "the respect to the world and harmony" might come from feminism, since ecology represents one of the features in the theory of feminism. Or, it might have been hiding deeply within Japanese culture in which I grew up. Of course I also feel that Japanese "harmony" and female "generosity" have repressed serious problems within themselves.

SG: I am curious about the notion of the woman as destroyer, as the nightmare, the controller, the terror. It seems antithetical to feminist principles of the woman as the creator and nurturer. This might not be a very good question but . . . it seems like it is the opposite of the feminist position on women as nurturer. Here it is woman as evil.

LM: So in that sense, do you consider what you are doing as being something like staking out a position as a postfeminist?

MO: Many feminists have pointed that out to me, calling me a radical, postfeminist. Of course, they consider maternity as something good. But it seems to me that it is high time we transgress that existing cause of feminism which looks for approaches to postfeminism. However, since I am a writer, not an activist, I will take different steps from that of hard-core feminists.

SG: Personally, I think the problem with some of the elements of feminism is that it denies a woman the whole spectrum, because women are not just good. They are good and bad, just like the men are good and bad. However, a lot of the feminist rhetoric denies women their destructive side, for understandable reasons. Politically, psychologically, I understand why that is. I'm very interested in what you are saying here about reinserting the notion of the destroyer as well as the creator in the woman. To take out the destroyer is to distort.

TT: The preposition for the "maternity = good" notion has long been a fantasy.

SG: Well, at least it gives life. That is why I think what Ms. Ohara does is very interesting. It seems to try to put the balance back. But on the other hand, just as you cannot deny that maternity is a destroyer, you cannot deny that maternity is a life-giver.

LM: Likewise, in the beginning of feminism, you set up a very simple, understandable opposition, and one of the things it involves is patriarchy . . . patriarchy is the source of problems, it is associated with order, destruction and a kind of rationalism, a desire for order. And all these things feminists attack. They argue that patriarchy is the source of all these problems.

It seems that in postfeminism, though, it is much more complicated, because patriarchy isn't the source. For example, the desire for order. In the old days, you heard so many feminists arguing that it was men that want order and just try to control everything. But in fact, that is not the way it is. So in other words, the desire for order is not of a male origin, it is a human thing.

TT: The same can be said about the mother . . .

SG: The mother has to desire for order. But let's go back to the role of the mother in Japanese culture. It seems to me that the reason why the mother becomes the vampire is because the mother has no place outside the home. In other words, does a larger structure that is patriarchal force the woman in the home to become the vampire?

TT: Well, maybe you can say that there is a kind of conspiracy of patriarchy at work.

MO: Every human being has the will to power, the will to dominance. Once confined into the house, the outlets of the mother's dominance will be her children. It is very natural.

LM: Very much like Rikki Ducornet. A lot of her works are about the relationship between mother and children. Dominance, power issues, gender issues and the way that power is exhorted over children by the mother and the father.

MO: Well, in my case, I am aware of, and have hidden within myself the seriously destructive "mother." I know that if I should have a child, I would be extremely dominant, exerting dominance over my own children, becoming another matriarchal fascist. So my strategy for avoiding this tragedy is to write fiction.

SG: For you, writing is the alternative. But if you don't have any alternative, you turn into that vampire.

MO: Therefore I turn my will to dominance is at work in the field of fiction writing. I want to stress that what we need when we feel our desire to control something is the sense of "respect" or "appreciation." While I am writing the novels, I am nothing but a "worshiper of beauty" and I feel extremely happy sometimes. In this sense, the works are superior to me as a writer. The novels are never under my control only because I am an omnipotent author, but instead they let me notice a lot of things while I write. The old works always tell me something new every time I read them. Raising children is like writing works. I don't want to regard children as inferior to me, but to appreciate them as a superior existence. If you cannot respect or appreciate, then you should give up raising children. To tell the truth, I do want to have a child to inherit my genes.

SG: Well, one of my students missed class one day and afterwards, she came to tell me why. She said she had sold one of her eggs for $5,000. Of course, the money is irrelevant. The fact is, genetically, somebody else is going to use her egg. So that is one possibility.

TT: Artificial insemination . . .

SG: Yes, she donated an egg.

MO: Even in a situation like that, I know that I would exhibit my will for power in one way or another. I am a helplessly meddlesome person.

SG: For my student, it was a way to get money. Very simple.

LM: There are two more things that we would like to ask. One has to do with the style of "Mental Female." I haven't been able to read your other works, but at least, as for this book, the style. . . it was very disjointed, there is a fragmentation. To what extent do you think your writing has been influenced by other media, like television or the movies. Have these had an effect on your approach to style?

MO: Of course, television was there since I was born. I have been greatly influenced by visual effects of television and film. But I do want my works to be different from movies. I use words and I have a reason for it. I like to experiment with language. For example I love puns. I'm aware of the visual impact in my works but at the same time, I enjoy literary and linguistic experiments. There are certain things that can be done only through fiction. That is what I want to explore. I don't want my works to be an imitation of the visual media.

On the other hand, I am a radical neophilia. I have set up a homepage on the Internet. I have also written a script for a Nintendo television-game. I am also ambitious to incorporate hypertextual methods.

LM: Okay, the last and rather standard question. Are there any other contemporary writers, either Japanese or not, either SF writers or non-SF writers that you especially admire or feel affinities with?

MO: As far as SF authors are concerned, I like Goro Masaki. Other favorite writers of mine are Kazuko Saegusa, Yoriko Shono and Rieko Matsuura.

MK: Finally, as a way of supporting the answer that was given to the question asking about Ohara background, I should point out that her specialty in university was psychology. She graduated from Sacred Heart University, which is a Catholic school.

MO: Yes, but first, there was "me"--that is, the identity of myself came first, and only later did I become assimilated into psychology, or Christianity. This logic is applicable to my obsession with monsters, K/S fiction, SF, personal computers, Internet and other things I have been fascinated with.

TT: Yoriko Shono also said the same thing. She said her own identity and subjectivity came first . . . it was the one and only standard.

LM: Have you ever been tempted to write non-SF or nongenre work?MO: What I have long been conscious of is the notion of avant-garde. To me, SF is the greatest form of avant-garde. Recently, however, I feel like writing standard, hard-core SF novels without gaudy gadgets. I want my novels to be read not only by SF fans but also by other kinds of reader. But of course, since I am a SF writer basically, I cannot live without the twister of imagination.

Transcribed by Reiko Tochigi and Hisayo Ogushi;
translated by Takayuki Tatsumi