September sees the emergence of two works of popular fiction, by two masters of their respective genres, that each touch on the Japanese and Japanese American experience in World War II. Both will bear watching.
First, you are invited to join a Facebook book discussion group I will be helping to lead Oct. 2 on the power of fiction to address Japanese American history and either uphold or distort it. We’ll find out which upon publication Sept. 9 of the new novel from the master of noir, James Ellroy.
PERFIDIA, meaning betrayal, is believed to show how race hatred grew in the 21 days after Pearl Harbor. Ellroy knows this WW2 L.A. material cold, and he brings back the perfect crooked cop, Dudley Smith, from one of my favorites, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. I’ll be joined by Edgar Award-winning mystery writer Naomi Hirahara, author of MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE and the acclaimed Mas Arai series. This is an open group so join now and then check in on Facebook on Thursday, October 2, from 6 PM to 9 PM Pacific time.
Later this month a pilot begins filming in Seattle for a proposed TV series based on an alternate history novel by science-fiction pioneer Phillip K. Dick. THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE imagines it is 1962 and Japan occupies the West Coast, years after a successful takeover in WW2. Instead of Japanese Americans collaborating with the U.S. government in their own incarceration, in this story resistance fighters flee the puppet “Pacific States of America” to a safe zone in the Midwest — a kind of Fair Play Committee in reverse — while Germany makes moves on the Japanese-held territory.
The pilot is a Ridley Scott production that has bounced from BBC One to SyFy and landed at Amazon Prime. The producers are casting about for local Japanese and Japanese Americans to serve as extras for 15 days of filming in and around Seattle in September and October. Through happenstance I was able to meet with one of the producers, who expressed her sensitivity to the wartime images the show will present (see above).
One thing about alternate histories: in a world where President-elect Franklin Roosevelt is assassinated in 1933 before he can take office, where the isolationists who follow him fail to enter WW2, where the attack on Pearl Harbor was decisive, and where the U.S. surrenders to the Axis Powers in 1947, who’s to say there was anyone to put us in camp! Still, this is one we will have to keep an eye on over the coming months.