Posts Tagged “fanfictional ramblings”

Giving a little push.

Possibly the most pathetic sort of blog post is the one that promises future blog posts, without actually containing any substance in itself.

The whole Kyonko thing is, incredibly, still going on. Perhaps not as feverishly as before, but various new fanmade material are being put out in various languages, although primarily Japanese and English. In that time, I've heard all sorts of criticisms about this phenomenon. The most common appear to be the usual screed against fanfiction, fanworks, and fan interpretations in general, claiming that by altering the canon, we are somehow blaspheming against the creator's vision. It's the sort of thing that I can't really counter: I don't agree with that viewpoint, but I can't come up with any sort of reason apart from "just because I disagree". If I tried to pass that off as a valid excuse to change other people's minds, I'd get rightly reamed in debate.

Other arguments against The Genderbending of Haruhi Suzumiya include a more specific distaste for altering the characters' genders, both in the physical and sociological sense. And then there are the simultaneous complaints that we are altering the canon too much, and not altering it enough.

The AnimeSuki thread about the phenomenon is still in existence, although the focus has shifted thanks to the project leaders losing interest in a straight novel conversion. My careful withdrawal from what they are doing right now is something that will have to wait for another post, since I'd rather not end up having to retract what I say in favour of something only marginally more accurate to my meaning.

Which isn't to say that I'm completely out of it, of course. I'm just not working on the Current Hot Project; small little fanfictional efforts are still within the realm of possibility. This is, unfortunately, not going very well, mainly because I appear to have lost the ability to characterize.

To be honest, most of my previous efforts were based on my usual shorthand-simplification method of writing fanfiction: reduce the character to their bold strokes outline, assign them an easily-remembered voice and tone, and things generally work out from there. By this system, Kyonko is the world as written by a tsundere, trying to be cool and aloof like the typical teenager, but protesting against Haruki's antics a little too much. Haruki Suzumiya, for his part, always shouts! Using exclamation marks! He's very excitable! And impatient! He also complains about the shortcomings of others! Repeatedly!

For Mitsuuru Asahina, I took the much-maligned personality of the Generic Spineless Non-Perverted Harem Comedy Male Lead, and gave it to him more or less unchanged, since it seemed appropriate. Itsuko Koizumi gets to copy-and-paste from Wikipedia. Yuuki Nagato is fairly easy to write: any time he has dialogue, I strip it out. Yuuki communicates by staring: "yes" becomes a stare, "no" becomes a stare, "pass the salt" becomes a stare… somehow Kyonko always knows what it means. (Cf Discworld's Librarian, ie "ook".)

I may be exaggerating for effect, but likely far less than you might think. I've been told that I characterize well, which always makes me feel guilty, but I suspect that coming up with subtly-nuanced and complex characters is mostly for the author's benefit, since readers will only remember the vague generalities anyway. (I'm not saying that it's not necessary to come up with complex characters, but that's another blog post in itself.)

The current problem I'm facing (apart from having little motivation to work on the actual novel rewrites, thus keeping myself to fanfiction) is that I kind of need to explain some mind-numbingly complicated theory, which allows me both Itsuko and Yuuki as mouthpieces, but it is highly improbable that Kyonko will let them infodump without snarky commentary. The theory (about multiverses, largely obtained from several science fiction books of varying hardness) is difficult enough to understand without the reader getting distracted by pained attempts at humour. And yet walls of text are also unwelcome, leaving me with the version of writers' block whereby I know what I want to write, but I don't know how to write it.

I have newfound respect for Tanigawa Nagaru for being able to explain stuff like Euler's planar graph formula in a coherent and entertaining manner, even through a layer (or two) of translation.

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Especially if it comes with the girl.

I need to start balancing out my reading habits.

If I were to be categorized into a broad fan archetype, I'd most certainly be in the "fanfiction writer" class, albeit dabbling into "blogger" (quite obviously). I've been thinking about it for over a decade now, about as long as I've been an anime fan (actually rather longer, since I started writing non-anime fanfics), and I still can't figure out if my writing of fanfics can be considered to be by choice. Blogging is most certainly a choice: I have lots of things to say about various stuff related to anime, but actually taking the time to type it all out is something that is a conscious decision. In fact, my actual posting schedule (the two-posts-per-week turning up both on Saturday at the last possible moment) might indicate that it's become a sort of self-imposed obligation, a challenge to see how long I can keep this charade up.

Writing stories is another matter: I am forever struck by the impression that if I don't write out the plot ideas that swirl around in my skull, my head will explode. It will be messy.

Currently I'm hammering out yet another story that involves Magical Girls. I've started and abandoned this genre so many times that it's more like I'm waiting for an extended period of maybe a year or so where I can really get to work on just writing, without all the bothersome Real Life stuff getting in the way. Maybe after I've written my mandatory million words of crap in this genre, I can start turning out something of actual substance and value.

The problem I'm facing now is not the old one of cultural bias. I figure that I may as well write everything with Westernized names, and call it "localization". Any complaints that I should have used Japanese names and cultural situations I shall weave together into a banner of I Told You So.

Rather, I am having difficulties in thinking in prose.

Manga, or at least the manga that I read, has an interesting visual flow: the situation is presented to us by means of the panel layouts and their contents, with the text reserved for dialogue and offhand explanations when absolutely necessary. The bigger text boxes and balloons seem to be largely for infodumps, which complement the action on the page. Compare this to many modern Western superhero comics (I have to qualify all of that because invariably someone will probably come up with something beyond my experience), where the panels contain the characters in some dramatic pose or other, while the page is filled with text. The characters just kind of stand there, letting the exposition flow around them. The same amount of dialogue in a single comic book panel will likely be spread out through several much smaller panels in manga; I suspect that the black-and-white nature of most manga has something to do with this.

In any case, I find myself thinking of this story in terms of manga. Here, we have a beat panel, to set up a gag about how the viewpoint character is tailed by his rather odd girlfriend. (Yes, it may be considered a wish-fulfilment story. So it goes.) There, we have a jumpy sort rant about soemthing or other, while another deadpan character does something nonchalant and decidedly bizarre in the background. It's not easy to translate imagery like this into prose, where just about anything that is pointed out in the text should have a reason for being there. Hanging a great big neon sign saying "HERE IS THE JOKE, LAUGH AT THIS" kind of kills the humour.

But since I've run out of shelf space to buy more books, and I've read most of the local library's selection already (not that they have that large a selection), my fiction reading material these days is limited to scanlations and such, which take up little physical space. (I do buy the manga if I like them; I'm waiting for the next Negima Del Rey release, for example.) This may be the source of the problem.

To attempt to correct this, I've been digging out all my old books from dusty boxes to figure out why they're in dusty boxes instead of on my shelves. A cursory reading often reminds me why, as with E. E. "Doc" Smith's Triplanetary:

While not essentially bloodthirsty — that is, not loving bloodshed for its own sweet sake — they were no more averse to blood-letting than they were in favour of it. Any amount of killing which would or which might advance an Eddorian towards his goal was commendable; useless slaughter was frowned upon, not because it was slaughter, but because it was useless — and this inefficient.

And, instead of the multiplicity of goals sought by the various entities of any race of Civilization, each and every Eddorian had only one. The same one: power. Power! P-O-W-E-R!!

I realize that styles have changed over the decades and the Lensman saga is a classic, but it's kind of hard to read something as overblown as that and maintain dramatic tension. Then again, another Dramatic option I seem to have unearthed is Tolkien's Silmarillion, which would probably finish off what's left of my writing style.

Strangely, my current habit of thinking in manga panels does not help me with GamerS: for a gag to be pulled off, the scenes need to be set exactly, with little deviation. Since I am working with pre-existing images, I find that my ad-libbing abilities have been getting the workout more than anything planned. All the GamerS jokes, funny or otherwise, are almost always conceived of about ten to fifteen minutes after I browse through the screenshot collection. So much for planning.

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Kino no Tabi poster.

Previous posts on this blog have mentioned my belief in the simplification of characters required for them to be considered "realistic". A more recent post on the Tsundere archetype has made me aware of some underlying principle, hidden in the mists of Cannot Be Bothered To Research This Academically. (Hobby blog, remember.)

There is a scene in Evangelion (one of the earlier episodes) where Touji and Kensuke show rather more insight than they do later in the series, at Shinji's complaint that Misato is a slob at home. The gist of it is that Misato is comfortable enough around Shinji to show him her more embarrassing habits. This was the first thing which came to mind when I read the comments on my posts on tsundere characters, and the point about them showing Another Side to the viewpoint character was brought up. There is the sense of trust placed into the protagonist, a heady feeling. A resonance is struck: we all have our public personas, perhaps more than one depending on the circles we go around, and a private one, which we only show towards family and the closest of friends. Perhaps there are layers even deeper, a truly private self which we show to nobody but ourselves.

Watching the commentary of other fans on the characters we observe, there appears to be this desire for everyone to have at least two personalities: bonus points if the private one justifiably leads to the public, dissimilar though they may seem at first. A perpetually cheerful, genki, happy character who brightens the lives of all around her will probably be labelled as "boring", if not worse epithets, unless she is also revealed to have a "hidden side", something tragic or otherwise not happy in her personal life. While this is not the only backstory we may assign to her, it does seem to be the most common and easily-conjured. For some reason, the other way around (happy home life, tragic public persona) is not as believable, save in comedy.

Tragedy appears to draw our interest, as soap operas have profited from. A depressing public persona with an equally depressing private life will likely have more fans than happiness both ways. I forget which Russian author it was who started a story (a famous one, even) with a line about how every happy family is happy in the same way, but unhappy ones are unique in their specific unhappiness. I think it's an overgeneralization for poetic value, but the point has been made.

Yet, too much tragedy, too heavy-handedly, and we say that the show has achieved Emo. This is a term that, up until very recently, I have not heard of before; the root of "emotion" is easily inferred, but the apparent definition, as seen on the Internet, of being too sad for realism I have to guess from usage rather than any reasonably professional dictionary.

I would personally draw the imaginary line of Too Much Angst at the point where it becomes annoying, where the character's options for conversation or even life choices revolve around it. After that point, it starts to feel like the creator is just piling on the horrible stuff wantonly, for no reason other than to make the character more "sympathetic". It feels gratuitous, tacked-on, and, more to the point, unrealistic.

But this point of line-drawing varies between viewers. Perhaps I just have a low tolerance for this stuff, since I consider myself to have a happy life in general, certainly not wanting for anything essential, as is obvious from my ability not only to acquire entertainment options at all, much less from Japan, but also to ramble on about it on a blog. Watching the lives of others less fortunate is not exactly distasteful, but seeing into their private lives, the lives they are obviously keeping hidden with their cheerful facades, feels a bit… I don't know. Voyeuristic, somehow.

This could be why I like watching comedies: the Hidden Sides of a character tends to lie in their interests and hobbies, which are embarrassing to proclaim in public, but Not Really That Bad, for the sake of ratings. Since the medium in discussion here is anime, there are a surprising number of cases of covert fans, be it of anime, gaming, or the stereotypical female interests of cosplay and yaoi. (I know that they are common interests among people whom I know to be fans, but since I know they are fans, they're not exactly hiding it. Also, over-generalization is discouraged.)

And yet, Character Simplification comes into play here too. Two sides to the personality, and no more; these sides may have nuances and variations, but they can be distilled into just those two sides. I suspect that main characters can get away with more, but they had better be significant to the story.

Which is probably the reason for the simplification: as an example, a character who is a loli of the maidenly, pure type can also turn out to be a highly-trained assassin. But then she is also the illegitimate child and potential heiress to a fortune, who relieves stress by secluding herself in her room, and is capable of the highest tiers of snarky comments. She also has eyes of a different colour, is extremely forgetful, wields a scythe, wears cat ears… after a certain point, we as viewers simply stop caring. It's all fluff, extra words tacked onto the character description, all for someone who appears for maybe half an episode.

Incidentally, if you were wondering, the above character was created entirely according to the dice. I love that game.

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Nanoha prepares to fire.

One bit of advice most frequently heard among blog comments, generally in the vicinity of blog posts about blogging itself, is to Write What You Want, and from there Write What You Know. Which may be all well and good, but this runs smack into the adage of Knowing Your Audience: if your Audience doesn't Know what You Know, then whatever has been Written is likely to go unRead.

Then again, I never promised anything other than two pings on your chosen RSS feed per week, whether or not these pings are of any use. So it goes.

If forced to identify myself in the overall hierarchy of fandom, I would place my name firmly in the nebulous mass of the fanfic writers. Considering the reputation fanfic has among the other parts of fandom, and the derision that fanfic writers themselves (I do not say "ourselves" because I've never done it personally; I am in the subsection of lazy fanfic writers, far too lazy to bother commenting on other people's fanfics) heap upon fanfics which do not meet some arbitrary standard of plot, it is perhaps not surprising that I am quite comfortable by now with my reputation for having no taste whatsoever.

Even worse, I happily commit the sin of creating new characters for use in my own fanfics. These are labelled "original characters", which I suspect provides for a nice shorthand label of "OC", like "AU" or "gen". This is odd, since these characters are not exactly original, save in the sense that they are not native to the canon.

Some of the time, this is because I needed a personality type that is not available in the series itself: Card Captor Sakura was lacking in the deadpan Spineless Harem Comedy Character type, which led to ten-year old Ichiro Onosaka and his unrequited crush on Tomoyo Daidouji. Mostly, however, I just thought that it would be so cool to be a character in that world, and so I create Significant or Powered characters to live vicariously through. Self-inserts, essentially, except with different names, personalities, and pretty much everything except wish-fulfilment.

Such characters, and their authors, are often claimed to be the scum of the Internet, implying that we are worse than 4chan, which has to be an incredible achievement in its own right. It is seen to be in bad taste; since I am a primary fan of Moe Fanservice Anime, though, I have no shame.

And then there are the Mary Sues. This term has been bandied about the Internet for so long that it should need no explanation, but since I'd rather not simply assume, we shall work on the definition that a Mary Sue is a character who is so powerful, so perfect, and so well-loved, that she (or he, for that matter; such are called Marty Stus, or Gary Stus, or some such) overshadows the canon characters. The astute reader may immediately spot the problem with this definition (namely, the sheer subjectivity of every important term), which is probably why the term "Mary Sue" has been argued about for as long as it has existed in the fandom consciousness.

As an example, let me show you them introduce to you one of my favourite original characters to write, a Mary Sue from the marginally-post-StrikerS era of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, Lumina Celeste.

Read the rest of this entry »

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From Koihime Musou.

I'd link to a Mary Sue Litmus Test, but considering the sheer variety of these out there, I doubt that any one of them is truly representative of all the rest. Considering how much they've been copied-and-pasted, I suspect that while there may be an original (for the Gargoyles fandom, I believe) and several generic ones, they all strive for some strange Platonic ideal that can be viewed, however dimly, only by taking these in aggregate. Some questions are fandom-specific, and some are not. Even those that appear out of place may need to be asked anyway, to account for the stories where the main character is a fan of some contemporary pop or rock group while simultaneously being a native of some fantastic time, be it in the far future or distant past.

I should probably mention here that I don't actually have anything visceral against the Mary Sue. I believe that all the accusations thereof can be boiled down to simple Bad Writing, which is too general a thing to be confined to a single cause. Besides, I used to be a member of the Mary Sue Appreciation Society (RIP Kielle), primarily for the reason that writing, or at least amateur writing, should be fun, and if a Sue is involved, so be it.

Anyway. The main reason I brought up the Litmus Test is that their degree of usefulness can be determined by reversing the purpose, and testing the tests themselves. The example character to put through the questions is not some canon or well-accepted character, but yourself. As in, your Real Life self.

If you've existed for a sufficient period of time (late teens or so) and had a somewhat varied life, chances are you'll score at least in the "Danger" section, and very likely in the "Outright Mary Sue" category. The (un)luckier of us might even reach "Uber-Sue", the highest goal that may be achieved. The points come from surprising places: for example, if I discount my scattershot knowledge of Japanese (as well as my efforts at Klingon), I am still relatively fluent in three languages (English, Mandarin Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia), which is apparently a Sue trait, despite also being part of my cultural heritage. In fact, simply being Asian (the tests seldom distinguish between East Asian or South Asian or whatever) is worth Sue points. Considering the overall population of the world, this has always struck me as odd.

On an intriguing tangent, anime fanfiction fandom in general reverses this: in a standard Japanese setting, a "foreign" character (often labelled "gaijin", or "outside person"/"outsider", which is one of the many Japanese terms made popular in Anglophone communities by anime fandom, despite the more appropriate "gaikokujin", or "person from another country") has the same connotations as "Asian" characters in more Western fandoms. Exotic, different, special… basically a "look at me!" attention-grabber, which is, at base, the point of a Mary Sue.

I've always held that the Litmus Tests are originally meant to be jokes. Unfortunately, I've met both creators and takers of the tests who treat them with the utmost seriousness, so apparently I am mistaken.

The point of all of the above ramblings is that as an audience, we tend to have strange definitions of "realism" when it comes to characters. I submit that we do not, as such, want "realistic characters". Instead, we want simplified versions of what we believe to be realistic characters. (Yes, I know about exceptions. I'll get to them in a much later post.)

A passage in The Science of Discworld II alludes to the idea that while we place our own freedom of will pretty importantly, socially we don't expect anyone else to have any. This can be seen in the phrases "not himself" and "out of character", which we often apply when a character is acting in an unexpected manner, and our reactions and expectations of the reasons behind those actions. We're happiest, the book notes, when the explanation turns out to remove the element of free will from the situation (doing it under duress, or doing it for a bet, or whatever). Of course, the question I'm interested in is not that we don't expect others to have free will, but whether we have free will in the first place, especially if we do have it, but our choices are constrained by what other expect us to act like, or just our own mental and moral boundaries.

Therefore, an actual "real" person would be far too complicated to present to the viewer. This is partly a limitation of the sense of narrative which a work of fiction has to establish: yes, I can speak three languages, but that is not always relevant to whatever story I might self-insert myself in. A viewer expects not to see a person, but a bundle of character traits mushed together, the same way we see everyone else around us.

And the average viewer will probably have some character traits they like, and some they don't. Thus, the more "complex" (ie the more character traits they have) a character, the more likely that one of these undesirable traits will sneak inside. Sometimes these are excusable, or easily overlooked in favour of the more welcome traits, and so they get filed away under "bad, but trivial, habits", or some such. After all, we do the same in Real Life every time we meet someone new.

A "realistic" character is thus someone who presents to us the right number and type of character traits, that we may assign them some convenient mental labels in the same way we do in Real Life. The difference is that the Real Life version tends to have more, while the character can be a mere hollow shell in comparison. There is, after all, no need for further expansion of the character, without going into irrelevancies: we know quite a lot about Nanoha's character, for example, but we don't know much about her opinions (if any) on the Hanshin Tigers. Mind you, our beliefs intertwine and affect each other to a large degree, so Nanoha's views on, say, the global economy may be influenced by her general political views, and knowing those would help us write her "in character", even in non-political situations.

So take a bundle of character traits, and make that bundle bigger. Add in more traits, more aspects, more personality parts… and you'll find yourself ticking off plenty of Mary Sue traits in a Litmus Test. Whereas if you have just a few character traits in that bundle, the character is accused of being "bland" and "cookie-cutter". Their bundle-ness becomes more pronounced and obvious, rather than hidden behind the mask of being a character.

This isn't a one-dimensional sliding scale, or any scale of any sort. The Mary Sue is unwelcome not so much because they can do everything (to exaggerate the position), but because they do everything, or at least the major stuff. It's possible to have an Uber-Sue according to the Litmus Tests and have a bland, cookie-cutter character who doesn't register on the narrative at all; if the character doesn't get a chance to exhibit all that competence, there's no spotlight to hog.

It's an interesting balance, different for every character and every viewer. This is why some characters can seem like two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs to some fans, and also well-defined, realistic epitomes of what a character should be designed as to others. If all else fails, there is always the equally human tendency to project our desires and hopes onto a relatively blank slate, writing narratives in our heads for what an ill-described character should be like. Frequently-encountered tropes help with this: recall Konata's insistence that the twintail hairstyle is a common feature of tsundere characters, and vice versa.

Or, of course, I could just be talking out of my arse.

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From Otoboku.

I know that I'm supposed to be working on all sorts of posts right now, but after hammering away at my NaNoWriMo for the whole month, and especially this past week, I've been too drained to think of much of anything. (No, really. You try writing ten thousand words of story in one day and see what that leaves your brain as.)

The problem I face, however, is that now that I don't have to work on the specific story for NaNoWriMo, I am assaulted by plot ideas for other stories, fanfics of various familiar series. The primary one I'd like to start on is yet another Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha original character tale, which sends me back to my old nemeses of Poor Canon Logic and Vague Background Information. Somewhat more relaxing is a random idea I had for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, or rather its genderbent version, which will probably not survive more than a single scene without collapsing under its own triviality.

People keep asking me why I write fanfics. The answer I always give is that it's an addiction: rather than being addicted to nicotine or caffeine or the Internet, I pretty much have to write. It's that, or my head asplode.

I am spending my downtime browsing the various HCGs I've collected over the years, and carefully removing all the H parts. Possibly this defeats the purpose somewhat, but I like the artstyle for some of the games, and it saves me from having to trawl imageboards for suitable pictures every time I want to talk about something not directed at a specific anime.

It's another sign of how my view of the world is off-center, I suppose. I like pics of cute anime girls (or at least cute anime people who look like girls), and seeing them in various ero-scenes just feels more than a little tacky.

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Subaru hearts Teana.

Being that I completely forgot to mention it in my last post, I actually meant to lead up to a rambling of sorts on the feasibility of importing various cultural norms from the 97th Non-Administered World into the Midchilda setting of post-StrikerS Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha.

The gist of the matter is that going by Hard Science, there is no reason whatsoever for our holidays and traditions to turn up in any recognizable form for the native denizens of Midchilda. And yet, from the squishy softness of the sci-fi of MSLN, it somehow seems plausible for the characters to be celebrating Christmas or some such, albeit possibly by another name.

And seeing as this is, at base, an anime made in Japan for predominantly Japanese consumers, the holidays featured would be Japanese ones, as well as Japanese interpretations of international occasions. The canon has not, to my knowledge, dealt with this in any depth as such; there's the post-A's O-Hanami in the Sound Stage (third one, I think), which involves mainly the Uminari City set of people, the Wolkenritter (who've probably gone native), and the crew of the Arthra (who might conceivably have picked up on Lindy's slightly warped Japanophilia). Tanabata will probably be given a pass, since it'll be fairly obvious to all that the stars on Midchilda will probably not look the same as on Earth.

Yet, the possibilities for fanfiction are tempting. We could use Nanoha's knowledge of her own culture to introduce Vivio to the joys of Hinamatsuri; Subaru and Ginga could have picked it up from Genya, and Caro from Fate (who, in turn, probably learned of it from Lindy or the Takamachis). Christmas-analogues are so common among the softer edge of speculative fiction, especially those marketed at a mass enough audience, that it is within the realm of Keeping To The Spirit of the Nanoha-verse to include something like it, particularly as Christmas is seen as a primarily romantic holiday in Japan. The religious aspects might be interpreted through the Church of the Sankt Kaiser, which could lead to some awkwardness on the part of Vivio.

All of this (and the previous post) was actually inspired from something which I took for granted when writing anime fanfics: Valentine's Day. The complex interplay of Will She Or Won't She, shading into Is She Or Isn't She, revolving around the one emotion which makes it all indispensible: hope. On a less dramatic note, there's always the puppy love image (although with the Three Years Later of the SSX sound stage, the dynamics have gotten more… interesting) of Caro and her handmade chocolates presented shyly to a furiously-blushing Erio. Of course, if we're willing to break the mood with some comedy, Lutecia could be standing by with her own handmade chocolates, Ensuing in Hilarity.

Which is still quite tame, compared to the potential of my favourite StrikerS duo.

Teana: Just so we're clear, this is obligation chocolate, and nothing more! Obligation chocolate! There's no deep or hidden meaning in this, okay?!
Subaru: ^_____^

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Vivio in a familiar uniform.

The Time-Space Administration Bureau of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha oversees at least 97 "non-administrated" worlds, since Earth is number 97. The title of "non-administered" is distinct from "uninhabited", so we can assume that all of these worlds have some sort of population. The number of "administered" worlds is unknown, but is probably more than one. Depending on how accurately certain sources have been translated, the highest number I know of offhand is either 12 or 61.

Judging by events in the series, the Prime Directive is loosely enforced in the case of the non-administered worlds, and there is no injunction against revealing the existence of the TSAB when necessary.

Due to MSLN's position on the scale of sci-fi hardness at a general consistency of ketchup, we have yet to have any problems with language barriers, much less culture shock.

It's a bit hard to decide the traits for a brand new character who's supposed to seem a bit "foreign". Foreign to where? Japanese elementary school children can converse perfectly well with magical artefacts speaking in English, and do battle complete with banter with magically-constructed beings from several thousand years ago, who wield weapons speaking in German. Later, all of them head to an alien world where everyone speaks Japanese. We may postulate the existence of translator microbes, or some sort of magical equivalent, but That Way Lies Madness, where the soft sci-fi of MSLN runs head-on into the hard sci-fi tendencies of fandom.

For the sake of our collective sanity, we'll leave out of our considerations the creator in-joke of naming almost every significant character after a motor vehicle or associated aspect. This does provide for some odd mental images when I see an ad for the Nissan Teana.

The core media of MSLN is the anime, and it clearly eschews physical, sociological, and anthropological barriers in order to tell a Cool Story. Later, the extra materials of the Sound Stages, the manga, the DVD informational booklets, and random creator interviews attempt to explain away the inconsistencies after the fact, but these usually raise more questions than they answer.

Thus far, I've had to completely discard two entire fanfic uberplots due to canonical incompatibilities that have, in the anime, all the emphasis of a passing mention, or a single medium-sized manga panel. (Indeed, the first attempt was shot down because of a single manga panel, which I had hitherto not seen before.) Altering the plot is inconceivable, quite literally; an odd quirk in the way I formulate stories means that these uberplots are extruded whole, a complete work requiring only filler text to be presented as a finished item. On the upside, everything is tightly-plotted, and the guns of Anton Chekhov sound off in perfect time. On the downside, it's all a house of cards, and I don't think that I should continue the bizarre metaphors any longer than necessary.

All of this has given me a sort of blase attitude towards writing MSLN fanfic. While I try to scrutinize every aspect of my Card Captor Sakura fanfics for inconsistencies, the ever-changing canon explanations for How Things Work in the Nanoha-verse has led me to fall back upon the default answer of "Because". I shall have Vivio and several friends attempt a school project, botch it horribly, and then try to hide the results from Grown-Ups, at least until Nanoha-mama comes home and wonders why Zafira has grown thirty times his usual size. Is Vivio even able to do this? Isn't she supervised closely by the authorities? Would her accidental mischief be allowed to go that far? What of the laws of conservation of mass? I'm certainly open to suggestions, but as long as I can present a given quantity of fun, regardless of what readers think afterwards, then I consider my mission well and truly accomplished.

And yes, I have been criticized for this already. Not my stories, but my belief in just letting things be. The slippery slope is brought up quite often, as well as accusations that I have completely done away with Common Sense. I have yet to truly grok why the debating techniques used are so… antagonistic.

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Vivio Takamachi takes on the family business.

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha has a weird place in my List Of Anime I Like. Every time someone asks me about my Top Ten (or Five or Three) anime, number one will obviously be Card Captor Sakura, and number two will be The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, since both of them made me see the world in a whole new way. (For non-anime fandoms, this also applies to Discworld.) After that, things get kind of fuzzy; I like a lot of anime, but not so much that I'd stridently defend them against all comers the way I do for my top two. For the most part, I might be sorry if they didn't exist (say, for Princess Tutu), but for all I acknowledge their quality and enjoyability factor, they didn't completely reshape my world the way CCS and TMoHS did. There'll always be something else, at least for me.

By all rights, MSLN should be the same way. Which is why I'm not entirely sure why I place it as my number three anime of all time (counting all three seasons together), but it seems right, somehow.

There are several possible reasons for this. Off the top of my head, I recently got into an argument with another MSLN fan, which would have been extended if I hadn't decided to cut it short with an Agree To Disagree clause. (I didn't feel like dealing with that person's antagonistic and confrontational debating technique. I understand that it's How They Are, but I also reserve the right to not like it.) The gist of it was that he could not comprehend why I preferred the magical girl aspects of the show, while I could not explain why I did. I've heard several independent opinions on this multi-genre appeal of MSLN, in that there's Something For Everyone, and I believe that there's some aspect of this in play here: the person I was arguing with likes MSLN because, to him, it was very little like the magical girl series he disliked, and he hopes that future seasons or productions would remove the remaining magical girl aspects he found annoying. For me, I like MSLN because despite all the cross-genre reputation, it still has magical girl aspects at heart, and I hold out my own personal hope that these will never depart from the series.

One of us is obviously and logically going to be disappointed.

And it is something in that magical girl aspect of MSLN which snagged me with a hook for fanfictional ideas, which makes it prominent among the anime I've watched: only two other anime have made me write this many stories for them, and MSLN has surpassed CCS in terms of the number of story concepts I've come up with. (The champion, if you're wondering, is still Ranma 1/2.)

A part of it could be due to the bad parts of the show. I generally write fanfic when I get either one of two reactions to watching something: "This is awesome!" and "This could have been awesome, but it's not. I can do better than this!" The Nanoha-verse is full of Cool Ideas, and regardless of how the canon characters and their adventures are protrayed, the Cool Ideas remain.

There's also my start in writing fanfiction for ReBoot. A mage and her Intelligent Device is not that much different from a Guardian and his Keytool, and the idea of freelance (or close enough to it, at least) troubleshooters with Special Powers that go around Protecting People is a strangely compelling one. Superheroes with a loose organization and official approval, of sorts.

This setup makes it friendly for original characters, unlike TMoHS, where the SOS Brigade is fairly well-formed already and any recurring additions will just seem like an intrusion, or CCS, which already has a complete uberplot, necessitating major fanfic-only characters to exist in prequels, sequels, or another continuity. And interaction with the canon cast can be dictated as simply "the TSAB told you to", which does away with the usual plot contortions to get the new character in the same general area as the canon cast, much less meeting them.

The net result is a bit like my view of Spore: if pressed, I can't say that it's good. In fact, it's a little bit shallow, and there's not a whole lot of substance in there which stands up to close scrutiny. But that doesn't stop me from spending six hours a day playing around with the universe in question.

This is likely to be but the first post in a series. So it goes.

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From that Nanoha StrikerS Lucky Star parody.

It requires a bit of discipline, or at least a healthy amount of guilt, in order to stick to even the vaguest schedule for blogging. Best-laid plans and all that, however, expecially when one is laid low by Real Life and illness, thus reducing the available time for Deep Thoughts about anime. I could regurgitate yet another Nanoha GamerS comic, or a quick one-liner with regards to some new facet of the Summer Season in the 2008th Year of our Lord and Saviour Sephiroth the Pretty, but that feels a bit like cheating. So I'll shift one square to something in the general proximity of anime in general, even if it is not exactly blogging about anime as much as blogging about stuff related to anime.

In this case, anime fanfiction. Yes, again.

I'm still working on several pieces of fanfiction at the same time, in an astonishing display of multitasking that probably would be more impressive if it weren't about sock-puppeting fictional characters owned by other people into some semblance of plot and drama. One of these stories is, as has been mentioned before (and which I am too lazy to link to), something set in the universe, nay, multiverse of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, post-season three. I have a large and unfeasibly detailed timeline of events which spans one thousand and five hundred years, albeit clustered with specific dates in the periods where the stories actually take place. The cast stretches to, if not thousands, then at least Far Too Many to be comfortably introduced without the reader feeling like they've stumbled onto a Baby Picture conversation. (You know the type.)

This is considered par for the ficwriting course for me. What struck me hard enough to trigger a seed of blog post inspiration, and this is not very hard at all, was the assertion that since I have so many original characters, this was no longer a work of fanfiction, but original fiction instead.

I can, with some effort, understand the claim: after all, for the most part, fanfic readers wish to read about the canon characters, rather than the diseased creations of an amateur author's fevered imagination. What they want the canon characters to do is best left for another discussion, especially since I'm trying to keep this blog at least somewhat family-friendly. The gist is that since the canon characters take something of a backseat to the action in the fanfic, it is no longer worthy of that "fanfic" label. What it is to be called now is anyone's guess.

And yet, I cannot quite tell the story I wish to tell without both using the world of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, as well as relegating the canon characters to the sidelines, at the same time. This is not for lack of trying, but just that the story requires several character types who do not appear in a major capacity in the canon. In fact, the only one who qualifies is Yuuno, who was carefully set aside to the relegation bench from a large part of StrikerS, possibly due to possession of a Y chromosome.

The Nanoha-verse is large, varied, intriguing, and almost criminally unexplored. There is a great deal of background information in the setting that we simply Do Not Know, a limitation which apparently Seven Arcs share as well, considering how bizarre some of their explanations have been. (How many moons are there over Midchilda?) And the large majority of the canon character show absolutely no sign of interest in exploring these mysteries, preferring instead to blow things up. I have created my original characters almost by necessity, for lack of anyone else to act as the Watson to Yuuno's Sherlock.

If anyone else has any better idea on how to proceed, I'm certainly open to suggestions. Or, to be honest, I will be once I get over this accursed virus.

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