Narrative

The Next Big Thing – J.M. Frey

The Next Big Thing: Where Authors talk about what they’re doing next!

I was tagged by Ruthanne Reid, the author of the phenominal The Sundered.

1)What is the working title of your book?

Right now? “Untitled Meta Thing” – that’s the file name, at least.  It’s a book about writing books and telling stories (and what sorts of things happen when the characters you start telling the stories about start becoming self aware) so it is, at least in some sense, a metanovel. Beyond that I have no idea what it’ll be called, which is odd, because usually I know the title from the very beginning. I am a little weirded out about it, but I’m looking forward to brainstorming it with my betas once the book is finished.

I’m toying with just calling it “The Meta” but maybe that’s just a bit too self-indulgent-grad-school?

2)Where did the idea come from for the book?

Partially it came from a dream I had about a weird dictator that I decided I had to try to explore, partially it came from my own personal fear of surgery and knives (doesn’t that just make you want to read it?), and partially from my indefatigable love of how stories are told, and why they’re told that way. I spend a lot of time reading books about books, texts about how narratives are constructed and why people tell stories. The history of storytelling, that sort of thing. So, whenever I get a new idea, I always run it through that research, figure out how I can play with expectations and what sort of story I can tell with the idea that I’ve got.

 

3)What genre does your book fall under?

This one is the closest to Fantasy I’ve ever done. I’m going for incorporating a lot of those High Fantasy tropes and traditions – the medieval setting, the non-human party members, the swords and the sorcery – but I’m also going to try to mix in the traditional story-logic of Fairy Tales and Aesop’s Fables.

But, as ever, it does fit in with my personal style of writing: Literary-Fiction-Sprinkled-With-Genre-Stuff. I am always more focused more on the character story and the human reaction than the adventure itself when I write.

 

4)Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’d love to see Mark Gatiss as the lead. My character is a skinny, tall, patently non-heroic hero, and I love the grace and poise with which Gatiss moves and speaks. And I also love how whole heartedly he commits to characters, especially the quirky aspects. It’s his portrayal of both Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock) and Raty (Wind In The Willows) – as well as the way he moves his hands and head in television interviews – that has influenced the way my lead character moves and speaks. It would be really neat to see him close the circle of inspiration and actually portray the character I’m basing on his performances.

 

5)What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In a world where epic heroes actually exist, the forgotten younger brother of a literal living legend is about to get his chance to show the world what he’s got.

(I don’t like that at all! It’s too action-film! What about the part where he realizes that he’s a character in a book and learns how to use that influence his own agency? Bah! I always find this one-sentence thing too hard! I’m too verbose.)

 

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Hopefully my agent will like the book and decide to want to shop it. We’ve been back-and-forth-ing about what we think the follow up to the book (and potential trilogy) he’s shopping now, and I think this will be a nice one-off book to do that. We have another one in the works, too, but I sort of realized that it’s a mega mountain of research and while I really want to still write that other one, I want to have something done now, in case we need to pull the first book for revisions. That way he has something else to being to shop while I’m revising.

 

7)How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Welp, it’s not done yet. I’ve been trying to do about 4000 words a day, with the hopes of being done in Mid September so I can edit it while I’m on a personal trip. It’s just passed the 25k mark. Cheer me on, folks!

 

8)What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Bookweird by Paul Glenon and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke are the two books that jump to mind immediately, but they’re middle grade and young adult, respectively, and I’m writing an adult market book. It’s probably closer to The World Beyond Sky by Kent Stetson, or The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, or the plays Goodnight Desdemona (Goodmorning, Juliet) by Anne-Marie MacDonald, or Six Characters In Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello, or any and all renditions of Don Quixote.

They are all stories about storytelling that tell you a story while teaching you about stories.

 

9)Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Oh, didn’t we do this question already? Well, I’ll add that this is the first book that I haven’t really told many people about first. Usually I tell the story, verbally, to some friends and family, and tweak it in the telling, until I know where the interesting stuff lies and where I should pursue it. This time I just sat down and started writing. It’s a bit scary, because I never just start without talking to someone else first, but it’s sort of liberating, too, because I have no idea where it’s going next, beyond the ending I’ve already chosen. So, nobody’s really inspired this book, not yet, not unless you count all those abovementioned authors and playwrights, and the people who wrote text books about the history of storytelling… and Mark Gatiss!

 

10)What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think people will like it because it’s all about those characters in books that nobody spends any time with – the hero’s little brother, the Sheriff of the Shire who is a plot device and nothing more, the prophetess and the villain’s subordinate. The whole book is about the people books usually ignore, and that’s the most fun for me. I get to take stereotypical backgrounders and flesh them out; I get to tell the part of the story that’s rarely told.

JM FreyThe Next Big Thing – J.M. Frey
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Words for Writers: Refilling the Creative Well

Almost exactly 365 days after my agent called to offer me representation (Good Friday, 2011), he sent out the first submission package for the novel I queried him with. It’s been two weeks since then, with a little bit of feedback from publishers, but nothing substantial, and I’ve nearly gotten over my willies over the fact that there are editors out there at major publishing houses who might be reading my manuscript right now.

When Authors are on submission, the advice they get from the agents, support circles, advice blogs, and writer buddies is nearly always the same thing:  “Start a new project to keep you distracted.”

Excellent advice to my mind. It allows you to fall in love with new characters, and a new world, and helps you unclench your fingers from around the one that’s now out in the real world, all grown up and out of your control.

I want to follow that advice; to the point where I sent my agent the pitches and/or synopsis for five other possible projects. I am waiting to hear which he thinks would be the best next step. But while I’m waiting for his reply, I ought to be reading.

And I’m not.

This is a bit of a problem, I think.

I want to read. I know I should be reading. I know I should be diving into the world of the genre/age range that I am working in and roll around in the glorious prose, let the soft sweet prickly ends of letters cling to my skin and my hair, let its words whisper past my ears, let its character tenderly pluck my heart strings, let its worlds dazzle my eyes and steal my breath.

But I can’t. I’m scared.

I’m afraid that I’ll read a YA Adventure book and it will be better than mine. It will be steampunkier and more creative, that the world will be more awesome than mine, the MC more likeable and badass, the plot more engaging, the prose more vivid, the villain more shiver-inducing. I am afraid that it will make me throw up my hands and say, “I quit!”

I am afraid that I’ll read a book like mine and decide that there’s no place for mine in the world, because they’ve already done everything I wanted to do, and did it better. I am afraid that I will read a book nothing at all like mine and get resentful and worried that I’m not writing books of that quality in that genre instead.

I was genuinely heartbroken when I saw the first trailer for “Lost in Austen”,  because I had been about 1/3rd of the way through writing a novel with the exact same premise. I punched the wall so hard I left a mark on the plaster, and I mourned the loss of those characters and that world for days.  I was able to salvage some of the characters and scenes for another novel I wrote in the era, but ultimately the new book still feels a little like the puppy your dad buys you after your old dog is put down – wonderful, energetic, loving, but not the same. I really like this book, and am really proud of it, and would really like to sell it to a publisher… but I still can’t help but think of Lost in Austen every time I re-read it.

So, to alleviate this fear I’ve been turning a lot to fanfiction.

Partially, (and I will admit that this is totally shallow,) this is because these are stories that cannot, in any way, compete with my books. These are not professional works written for profit, and these are not works filled with original characters and worlds that might end up being objectively ‘better’ than mine. I am already familiar with the worlds and characters, so I can’t resent them.  I can simply turn off my analytical brain and enjoy the story for the story’s sake, because I have nothing to fear from it.

When I start a new book, I also get slightly anxious that I won’t like the characters or the setting.  I had to stop reading Emma because the titular heroine drove me bonkers. I know that she gets better, that’s the point of the novel, but I didn’t have the patience or enough affection for Emma as she was to want to stick it out long enough. Twice in the last year I’ve begun YA books and left them unfinished because I wasn’t feeling engaged.

One of the joys of reading fanfiction is that I already know I love the characters and worlds. The fandom settles over me like a warm sweater, the jumper from university that I’ve had for ten years, whose little whorls and pulls and pilled pile I know intimately; I know who these people are, I know where and when they are, and I understand the shorthand of place and setting. Even when the story is an AU or a crossover, the core of the story and the characters remains the same, and that is a comfort. It is home cooking, Mom’s favourite dishes, and I know I will enjoy the meal and not be stuck trying to figure out which fork I’m supposed to be using at the fancy new restaurant. I feel safe reading these stories, and the anxiety of not like the setting or the characters is absent.

The third reason I read so much fanfiction is that I find the writing incredibly fresh. Most of the writers are not professionals. They don’t do this for a living. They don’t have word counts to hit every day, and editing deadlines, and editors/agents/marketing teams guiding their projects. I’m not implying that professional writing is stale or formulaic, only that the modes and motivations of creation inevitably must inform the creation.

Fanfiction writers are truly free to write whatever they want, at whatever pace they want. And the way that some of these writers – either because they know the rules and choose to deliberately break them, or because they don’t know the rules and they are breaking them without knowing it and creating something new and glorious – assemble narratives is stunning.

Sure, there’s really abysmal fanfiction out there, and the bad is bad. But there is also some really incredible fanfiction, and the good stuff is fantastic.

Mix in the flexibility of the internet as a medium of conveying the story, and, gosh, wow. I think one of the most gorgeous transmedia multi-layered narratives I ever experienced is “Missed the Saturday Dance” by Zoetrope (Stargate Atlantis).   I love it when authors can string me along like taffy for weeks, months, years while making me anticipate the next chapter of their works in progress. I love the thrill of seeing a new chapter come up online, and the horror of being left at an intense cliffhanger.

Sure, there are tropes and stereotypes, idioms and metaphors and phrases that are recycled within the fanfiction of a specific fandom, but that also happens within the genres/age range groups of published novels as well.  But more often than not, I find myself jotting down phrases, or tricks used to convey character, or ways of displaying dialogue, or ways of playing with the page.

I begin to intensely enjoy the play aspect of fanfiction.

Playing with format, with character, with setting, with narrative, with logic, with the rules. I love how fanfiction can focus on minutiae; how a writer can devote 100 or 100,000 on a character study, how conventions and expectations can be inverted, subverted, and reverted.

I become invigorated. I want to try out some of the things I’ve learned, apply them to my words-on-a-page format of my novels and see if I can make it work. I want to play within the worlds in my head.

And this leads into the creative-well filling of the title of this post.  I often refer to my creativity in water metaphors and symbolism. Words flow down my arms, through my fingers, around the keyboard and onto the digital page. Ideas and characters percolate and boil in my brain until the kettle whistles and all the froth of heat and water becomes a perfectly directed cone of steam, a tight idea ready to be written down. Characters and settings slosh between my ears, and occasionally formulate shards of ice that poke into my brain and stab me with an excellent idea.

At the end of a novel, I feel drained. My metaphorical water table of creativity is so low that even crawling across the desert to drink at my bookshelf oasis is hard work. I lose all ambition to read, I get insecure and my confidence-membrane dries out and cracks. I feel like I will never not be parched again.

I know I should reach for the big gallon jugs of water that are the books of my professional colleagues, but the water bottles of the unique fanfiction writers are so much more appealing, and much easier to heft. I don’t want to work, I want to play.

And then, slowly, as my well begins to refill, I find the strength have confidence in my projects and to be recovered enough to try out new novels. Inevitably I enjoy them and wonder why I was being so silly, fearing to read the books, fearing that I would compare them with mine and find mine lacking. Nobody’s novels will ever be like mine, because nobody else is me. Even if we worked from the exact same character list and pitch, my version of a novel would never exactly match, say, Suzanne Collins’, or Lesley Livingston’s, or Adrienne Kress’.

Or Random Nexus, Velvet Mace, or Sheafrotherdon, for that matter. (Though, holy heck, wouldn’t that be a fun thing to try on Archive of Our Own?)

There is nothing to compare, and nothing to fear, because there is no such thing as “a better novel than mine.” Books and stories are different from one another, not “better” or “worse.”

I become even more hydrated, confident in my own work and adoring, celebrating the work of my professional colleagues, splashing amid the fanfiction, and taking in great gulps of inspiration.

It often takes a while for my well to refill. I read for a month or more, and write nothing. I’ve given myself April off of writing – purposefully holding back so that when I do sit down at the computer on May 1st, the stone walls of my well ought to be overflowing, the kettle just beginning the whistle, and the ice shards poking out all over in my gray matter.

The cycle starts again. I imagine my creativity like those posters in your primary school classroom with the mountains and the rainclouds and the lakes, an endless water cycle. The whole ecosystem is needed, necessary, and sometimes there are dry spells. But sometimes, when the weather is lined up just right, there are also floods.

 

Reminder: J.M. Frey is giving away eBooks of TRIPTYCH or THE DARK SIDE OF THE GLASS on her Tumblr to fancrafters (fanfiction, fanart, cosplay, etc.) until April 30th. Read about the give away here.

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For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: Refilling the Creative Well
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Words for Writers: Unhooking, Tough Choices, and Raising Your Manuscript Up Right

So today, I want to talk a bit about tough choices.

I’m sure you’ve heard the metaphor before, but writing a book is a lot like giving birth. Things gestate, come together, split apart, subdivide in your mind from concepts to characters, from outlines into plots into scenes. You must go through the neck-wrist-back-ache of several thousand hours of keyboard-assisted labour.  And then, after months of carrying this writhing, living, wonderful thing around inside of you, suddenly there is a tiny, perfect creature in your hands, staring at the world with wide-eyed wonder and enchanting everyone you show it to.

Only this little thing, as much as you love it, as much as you think it’s incredible, is totally dependent on you raising it up right. Editing, revising, considering critique – this is like teaching your baby manuscript how to eat solid food, to sleep through the night, how to walk on its own.  When it can stand alone, when it can answer any question put to it intelligently and listen to it when you tell it to do something, then it’s time to pack your MS off to college to succeed or fail with agents in the query process on its own merit. As much as you want to stand behind your baby’s shoulder and take the pop quizzes for it, it has to make the grade alone.

And when your MS has graduated, when it’s off in the real world on submission to publishers, it is job seeking. Its marks from college, the letter of support from its professors and its slick pitch are a CV that has to stand in for the candidate before the publisher ever sees the book. And when the book gets the job, when it gets picked up, it enters the publisher’s editing process, the job training. When it’s ready, when it’s mature and representing it’s employer in the work force, published and on the shelves, you can be proud. You raised your little manuscript right and it is out there right now, courting the perfect reader, curling up with him or her in a cozy coffee shop, spawning adorable little thought-lings in his or her minds, seeding the next generation of book-parents, happily going about the gloriously intimate business of making you a grandparent.

Sometimes, though, your manuscript might have a terrible twos, or a teenaged rebellion. It might drop out of college, tell you it hates you, and resist all attempts at corrective behavior. And what do you do when your manuscript just isn’t cooperating?

Several years ago, when I was in university, my grandfather was quite ill, I’d had a horrible row with my friends, I was being emotionally bullied by someone in my program, and I was feeling cripplingly insecure, I did the one thing I never thought I would have to do – I went to see a shrink.

My family was all quite well adjusted, there was no history of mental illness in my immediate gene pool, and I had a good support network at school. Why, I always wondered, would I ever need to see a psychotherapist?

I am glad I did though. She helped me get my head back on straight, was a neutral party when I told her about my problems who didn’t leap to defend other friends when I complained, and taught me how to grieve – something I don’t think we’re very good at in this century.

But the most important thing she ever taught me was how to “unhook”.

Imagine, she said, that your body is covered with fishhooks. Some only dig into your skin a little – those are the people you know from work, the acquaintances that you don’t mind seeing at the pub but would never call to hang out otherwise. The little people dangling like charms off the end of the hook are quite light. Then there are medium sized hooks – these are your closer friends, your pie-in-the-sky fantasies, your distant family, yoru career aspirations.  They’re a bit heavier, but that’s okay, you can bear them easily. Now imagine big hooks, fat hooks, dug far into your flesh.  Some of them are light, they don’t hurt you… in fact, their pull and tug is reassuring, pleasureable. Those are your family, your best friends, the creative project you adore, the dreams you cherish. But there are other giant hooks, and they’re too heavy. They rip your skin. They hurt. They make you bleed. Those are the people who exhaust and frustrate you, the ones who cling and demand and want you to fix all their problems FOR them, the ones who don’t care how much pain they’re causing. Those are the dead dreams and the dead-end job.

Now, she said. Close your eyes. Pick up the biggest, most painful hook that is dragging at you, ripping into your core. Carefully wriggle it out of your skin. Drop it to the floor. Let it go. Let that person go. Let that annoyance, that aggravation vanish. And here, my dear, is the most important thing for you to remember – don’t ever add more hooks to your skin than you can bare. Adding more hooks will never make the heavy ones feel light.  It is better to strip away than to add.

Better to strip away than to add.

This is important advice that I have held on to. That therapist was a lifeline in a hellish part of my youth, and her advice remains with me today. I am very cautious about who and what I let hook into my skin, who I let pull and who I cherish when I see the charm dangling from the line. And I’ve learned to be ruthless about who and what I unhook.

I nearly unhooked this whole manuscript.  I had worked so hard at raising it up right, but it was being obstinate, loud and angry. My manuscript had become an obese, screaming teenager.  It was behaving a lot like this:

And I’ve tried everything. Bribes. More scenes, more character development, more conflict. I made my main character’s best friend turn bitchy, added an entire new race of beings, layered urban legends and fairy tales onto the world. I paid attention to it and lavished love on it, and it slapped me. I did everything I could, and while it was making the manuscript rounder, thicker, plumper… it wasn’t  making it grow up.

I was indulging it instead of fixing it.

Filled with worry, I had a long conversation with Evan, my agent, and every piece of advice, every suggestion he offered made me more miserable. It was all good, it was all right advice, and if my manuscript had been inclined towards corrective behavior, it might have worked.  But even applying these edits, I couldn’t seem to get my fat, lazy manuscript to start playing outdoors and eating his vegetables. It was all Moreness advice.

I was really ready to unhook it and let go. Evan convinced me not to with a very nice list of what he did like in the book, what was working, and it helped me see the positive, wonderful side of my manuscript, made me remember the chubby, laughing baby under the churlish teen.

And, a few days later, I realized that what the manuscript needed was not More, but Less.

I remembered my therapist’s advice – unhook.

But what had to go? Or worse, who? What wasn’t so vital to the story that the story wouldn’t suffer when it was taken away?

I couldn’t choose. Which element? Which character? Which chapter and all the  following scenes connected to it? My heart broke.

Then I remembered that Evan had confessed that he was less than enamored of one of my characters, especially with his role and dialogue patterns in this book.

I liked this character. He was smart-mouthed, a good shot, and trying to explain his existance was the impetus for a lot of the worldbuilding I’d done.  He was fun to write and great to make the reader mistrust. But, in the end, I realized, he was an indulgence.

He was taking the role of hero away from my MC, doing the things that she should be doing. He was taking the role of the villain away, too, being threatening when fear of the villain should have been paramount, instead of worry about him.

He was, in every sense, in the way of the plot.

Nothing could happen around him because he would prevent/solve the problem before my MC could or my villain arrived. He was a black hole – he sucked up the momentum, the motivation, adn the reasoning in my world, and he was sucking up my time and energy and focus, too.

I still like this character. But, for the MS to thrive and mature, he had to be unhooked.

And that was one of the toughest choices I have had to make. It feels a little bit like killing a kitten. It feels a lot like betraying the friend on whom this character was based. It is terrifying and it hurts.  I mean, what if the whole plot disintegrates without him there to hold up part of the frame? What if cutting him out destroys the fun in the novel, and it becomes too serious for itself? What if taking him away makes the whole novel crumble?

But unhooking the burden of this character and his motivations from the manuscript has made both the MS and I stand a little straighter, walk a little lighter, smile a little more. Because, even though it took hours and hours of talking through motivations and action points and scenes with an author friend… the plot is better. The characters’ motivations are clearer. My hero is a hero.

It’s like… a pyramid that had one too many sides. The structure was actually made weaker by having too many supporting struts, sharing out the weight between them, allowing for cracks.

Now, the villain has matured and grown into his own, spreading like squid-ink into the places that this character has vacated – an honest, ever-present threat, now. The heroine has something tangible to fight against.  The stakes have been raised, and all the Moreness that I added to complicate/explain/fill out the manuscript can be pared back, turned around, and slimmed down. My best friend character doesn’t have to be bitchy anymore, because with this extra character gone, my MC has reason to stay her friend. My MC will have to do the stalking, fighting, and shooting for herself. She will have to defend her choices, and angst over the hard ones, instead of someone letting her do it all for her.

In short, my baby manuscript is growing up.

And the character that I cut? He’s hanging out in the wings, waiting for his turn to take the stage. Because the truth is, he was getting just a little cramped, all jammed into that manuscript, cheek-by-jowl and doing very little. He strolled on out of there happy as you please.  He’s got breathing room now. He’s pushing his shoulders back and grinning his white grin at me, glittering tarnished-penny eyes saying, silently, Oh yes. You and I both know that I was meant for the sequel, anyway.  There wasn’t enough room to maneuver over there. Let me have my space here.

His hooks are still in my skin, but it doesn’t hurt anymore, because he’s finally hanging in the right place. And he is watching, plotting, planning, as another baby manuscript starts to gestate in my mind, waiting for the right moment for that world to be complete enough for him to step inside and become a part of it.

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For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: Unhooking, Tough Choices, and Raising Your Manuscript Up Right
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The Power of Sacrifice and the Price of Being the Hero

Yesterday, unable to get my brain to calm down before heading out to a rehearsal, I was looking at fan art pictures of SailorMoon. I will admit I still love that series, love that love is the greatest weapon in the universe, love the adorable outfits that no living human being will ever be able to carry off (physics says “no!”) simply for their beauty and frivolity.

Going back and looking at the things that had inspired me in my childhood helps me to reconnect with the emotional, visceral feelings I had when I first loved them. I rewatch Forever Knight, and SailorMoon, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek to remind myself why I love story telling and what it meant to be a kid enamored with a narrative for the first time, not just the pretty bright colours on the television and the flashbang of distraction. I reread Peter and Wendy, The Tale of the Body Thief, and the Howl’s Moving Castle books for the same reason. It wasn’t reading a story because the teacher told me I had to read a book, but because I loved the story and wanted to feel that same surge of connection over and over again.

When my writer brain won’t shut off, I go and watch music videos or clips on YouTube, or peruse fanfiction and fan art of childhood shows, in order to unplug and just revel in comfort consumption.

(I sound like an addict going back to her drug of choice. I guess I am.)

The image that really struck me was this one, by SpaceWeaver:

 

SailorMoon FanArt by SpaceWeaver (found on DeviantArt)

As I often do, I paused to tweet about it. I said:

@scifrey: I think what I liked best about #SailorMoon was this: the more powerful Usagi/Serena got, the less human she looked. Emphasized her alienness

 

Now, I was talking about how inhuman Usagi/Serena got – the emphasis of the fact that she is, actually, not from Earth. She was reborn after the destruction of the Moon Kingdom into a human vessel, they all were, but the human flesh that she wears seems to barely be able to contain the power of her Star Seed, the Silver Crystal, and the vast powers she possesses as the Princess of the Moon.

 

At the start of the series she is happy go lucky, oblivious to what is hibernating inside of her, and totally human. As the series progresses and she unlocks more and more of her “true” self, i.e. her powers, she becomes more wraith-like, less intimately connected to her friends and family, less of a human and more of an abstract concept of compassion and love.

 

The “Serena-ness” of her was burned away and replaced by a serene, human-shaped creature who loved passionately but who forgot how much she enjoyed teasing her little brother.

 

I actually always felt sorry for her human family – how would they deal with the fact that their sister/daughter was not really human at all, had this double life replete with so much sorrow, and that in the end everyone knew that she was destined to die, to give up all that she is, with no thanks for it from the world she has sacrificed so much to protect? That she engages so fully with a life that is past – a melencoly thing in itself because she is living with the dead – and all but divorces herself from her human friends and family. 

 

Anything that is not “Sailor Business” or people who are not heroes/villains eventually fall away, cease to be a motivating factor in Serena/Usagi’s life and that, I think, is the saddest thing about the show of all. That she becomes alienated from the very people she has sworn to protect.

 

Though, by the end, she’s not SailorMoon to be a superhero and save the people of Tokyo/the Earth, is she? She’s become the lynchpin in a struggle for power encompassing the whole galaxy, and Earth becomes little more than a staging ground for their wars, humans not much more than cannon fodder and energy sources. That’s sad, too.

 

And that is some damn gorgeous storytelling.

 

And then this happened:

@AdamShaftoe: Same sort of thing happened in Tekkaman Blade – The more D-Boy/Tekkaman tapped his power, the more of his sense of self was lost

 

@scifrey: Never thought of that. You’re right. Same thing again in Eva – the more the kids around Shinji succumbed the less human they became

 

@scifrey: Is this a predominant theme in anime? Correlation between tapping into a supernatural power, sometimes bestowed scientifically…

 

@scifrey:…and the loss of humanity? Are there any Japanese myths or legends where this is the moral/theme? Theme of fear of power?

 

@scifrey: Lots of examples springing to mind – “X”, “Tokyo Babylon”, “Inu Yasha”, “Naruto”, “Bleach” Power is a force for good, or evil.

 

@scifrey: Seems the pattern says it doesn’t matter that the one gaining power is good or bad. Humanity is in jeopardy regardless.

 

@scifrey:  Even the loss of humanity isn’t positioned as good or evil. It just it. However, it does come tinged with melancholy.

 

@scifrey: Like it’s sad that the person has evolved away from more intimate emotion and a vibrant personality, only has abstract emotion.

 

@scifrey: Sure EternalSailorMoon has compassion for humankind and love for her family/friends, but she seems dimished in her “real” life.

 

@scifrey: And we’re positioned to hate Seichirou in “Tokyo Babylon”, but can’t help pity him his inability to feel beyond lust and hate.

 

@Adamshaftoe: Anime writers don’t seem content to let people do good but to show that heroism requires more and more self-sacrifice

@Adamshaftoe: I think it’s an interesting take on Superhero mythology, skipping the Uncle Ben BS for something more tangible.

@scifrey: YES

@AdamShaftoe: D-Boy/Tekkaman is left in a lobotomised cripple not from the combat of his final battle but from his final transformation.

 

@AdamShaftoe: Of course in his case this ultimate sacrifice comes after watching his brother and mentor murder his twin sister and…

 

@scifrey: Same thing happens in both “Tokyo Babylon” and “X” – mentor/brother/lover kills sister/lover to emotionally cripple the hero.

 

@AdamShaftoe: … eventually fighting them to the death to save the Earth. First he gives up his family, then his sanity, then his body.

 

@AdamShaftoe: And I’m not even touching the biopolitcal aspect of the Radamians colonizing child D-Boy via the TekSet system.

 

@AdamShaftoe: If we really wanted to melt our brains we could chart this phenomenon through Neon Genesis Evangelion.

 

@scifrey: It’s def. there.

 

@AdamShaftoe: Wow, impromptu twitter discussion of the heroic sacrifice in anime with @scifrey #awesome

 

@scifrey: Yes, I love this stuff…!

 

@AdamShaftoe: Though I think NGE takes it a step farther with Shinji/Gendo’s transhuman agenda.

 

@scifrey: I think one of the more fascinating visual cues that this process is happening is the removal of pupil in the character design

 

@AdamShaftoe: In the sense that the hero is fully formed without a “Yoda” to guide them through their powers? #animechat

 

@scifrey: And in having no mentor, they somehow fail to retain their humanity and become little more than an abstract emotion embodied?

The conversation petered out there, but feel free to continue in the comments!

(Dude, I am an aca-geek and proud of it!)

JM FreyThe Power of Sacrifice and the Price of Being the Hero
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Words for Writers: The Balance Between Science-telling and Story-telling

The first of a series of guest posts I will be doing over at AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, is up.

In this post, I talk about the division among fans between Hard and Soft SF and ask why we all can’t just get along.

Read it here.

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For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: The Balance Between Science-telling and Story-telling
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