Ocean Container Locations
The Ocean Container was written at and inspired by a number of locations. These include Kyoto, Japan: specifically Kawa Café, Media Café Popeye Shijokawaramachi, and First Cabin Karasuma—a capsule hotel. In British Columbia, Canada, where the vast majority of the novel was written, locations include Harrison, Mill Bay, Nelson, Squamish, Ucluelet, and Vancouver. If I want to be specific, I can indicate an afternoon at The Vienna Café in Nelson, a regular house-sitting gig I had in Mill Bay, and a large number of writing sessions at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library. When there was an occasion to vouch for my novel’s relevance to Vancouver, I wrote the following:
The Ocean Container’s unnamed protagonist is an environmental campaigner labeled an “economic terrorist” by a government determined to pursue a carbon economy at all cost. He is not always an entirely sympathetic character, but his sacrifice recognizes the risks taken by many an environmental activist in Vancouver’s history: from the founders of Greenpeace, to those who have been arrested opposing the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.
For The Ocean Container’s protagonist, such activism results in exile to a compound for the unemployed, were he inhabits an out-of-circulation shipping container. Such circumstances are directly informed by Vancouver’s homeless crisis, and it is no accident the protagonist refers to his refuge as an “internment”, recalling the removal of Japanese Canadians from Vancouver in World War 2.
The Japanese Canadian internment is not, however, the only event to define Japanese culture in Vancouver’s history. Vancouver’s shared cultural interests with Japan—particularly in the arts, which The Ocean Container also explores—are well documented particularly from the second half of the 20th Century. Often these art-world connections have been expressions of empathy between (or at least depiction of) outsiders and radicals on both sides of the Pacific. Such expressions have ranged from the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson, to the butoh iconoclasm of Kokoro Dance, to this year’s collaboration between Japanese noise musician Keiji Haino and the Vancouver-based post-metal group Sumac. While in the homeless compound, The Ocean Container’s protagonist likewise encounters a visiting troupe of Japanese artists, including some butoh artists who perform an homage to a certain novel by Abe Kobo—another Japanese radical—whose recurring confinement trope The Ocean Container likewise reveres.
Other instances of “outsider” culture in The Ocean Container—beyond those related to Japan—are in the form of various marginalized characters including a clairvoyant, a goth, and a washed up rocker. And the book includes references to the punk and industrial music that was a subcultural soundtrack for the Vancouver of the 80s and 90s.