The old woman and the little girl made an attractive picture, huddled together as they were over a worn and dented storage case brought down from the attic of the family home.
"Grandmama, what's this?"
"I don't know, honey. Let me see," the child's great-grandmother replied as she reached for the old-style magazine that had been removed from the chest. The silver-haired woman paged swiftly through the dog-eared volume, coming to a sudden stop about a third of the way though. "Well, I'll be..." she muttered under her breath.
"What is it, Grandmama?" the youngster at her side repeated impatiently.
"Well Ingrid, this is a magazine interview, from a long time ago," she answered slowly, eyes scanning the pages intently. "About another lifetime," followed softly under her breath, too softly for the girl to hear.
"Oh, cool!" the girl enthused. "Read it to me? Please?" she demanded as she climbed into the lap of her family matriarch.
The woman looked up sharply, trying to stifle the impish grin threatening to spread across her face. "You should be able to read it for yourself. Aren't you learning English in that school of yours?" she teased, all the while settling her great-granddaughter more comfortably in her lap.
"Aw, Grandmama, I just started and it's so hard! Why can't everybody speak easy languages, like Swedish or Japanese?"
"You should ask your mother or father to help you, then." At the downcast look on the child's face, she relented. "All right. Here's what it says--"
"Read it in Swedish, Grandmama," the girl ordered.
"I'll do no such thing, young lady. You need the practice, so I'll read it in English. Now then. It says..."
Music-Media / September 2080
In this issue, Music-Media's 10 Questions are answered by one of the music industry's most surprising success stories of the century. Thirty-five years ago, a little known singer in MegaTokyo purchased an abandoned garage and converted it into a recording studio. From those humble beginnings, AI Unlimited has grown into a highly diversified multinational entertainment conglomerate, with annual earnings surpassing the GNP of some countries.
The driving force behind this phenomenal achievement lies within one woman. It was her over-riding vision that led to AI's place as one of the top five corporate giants in the world today. Now approaching seventy, Priscilla Asagiri-Olafsson, President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of AI Unlimited, recently announced she will be stepping away from the day-to-day operation of AI at the end of the year. Never one to talk publicly about her private life, she nevertheless agreed to this interview about her life and the founding of AI, her first interview of any kind in fifteen years.
an interview with Priscilla Asagiri-Olafsson
Music-Media's Peter Fontana recently met with Ms. Asagiri-Olafsson at her modest, almost spartan, apartment in the hills overlooking Tokyo Bay. A child of the apocalyptic streets of MegaTokyo in the 20's, turned multi-media mogul of the 80's, she is also well-known for her continuing support of charitable organizations, such as her own foundation for the rights of children, Shining Knights.
After an exchange of greetings, Ms. Asagiri was asked what it was like growing up in MegaTokyo in the years after the Second Great Kanto Earthquake (2025).
PA: It was pretty bad. I lost my entire family in that quake. Well, I wasn't the only one, thousands of kids were orphaned that day. The city was almost flattened. What I remember most was how hard it was to breathe. All the smoke from the fires, and all the dust and other things in the air from building collapses. Of course, the city government was gone, and things were just too overwhelming for the police or fire departments to cope. Assuming they had anything left to do their jobs with. By the time the national government got help in, the gangs had almost taken over. Total chaos. It was years before the police were able to put the gangs under some sort of control. (pause) Of course, that's all said with the benefit of hindsight. All I knew at the time was that I wanted my parents and couldn't have them.
PF: And this terrible experience led you into music?
PA: Like most of the kids, I ended up in a very overcrowded orphanage. At first there were so many of us, and so little in the way of facilities, that we lived in tent camps. Each group of tents had a counselor of sorts assigned to it, one person for about thirty of us. The counselors were responsible for us, seeing that we stayed out of trouble and didn't get in the way while recovery was going on.
In the beginning, all of us were so shell-shocked that we just sat around all day and did nothing but cry. After some time, we started getting into fights with each other. Can you imagine, thousands of kids going through all this grief, and no constructive outlet for any of it? Now, can you imagine an entire city doing the same? They were very edgy times.
Anyway, the counselor for my group came in with the relief force, and she brought a guitar with her. Whenever she wasn't chasing us down for one thing or another, she would sit outside her tent and play. I'd learned to play the piano a little, because my mother wanted me to, but I'd never known anybody who could play the guitar. I was fascinated, and she knew so many songs... Whenever she found the time to play, I was right there. I guess she became my idol, because I just followed her around and tried to do things for her. Then one day she showed me how to play a couple chords, and then a simple song, and I was hooked.
PF: So how does a twelve year old guitar newbie become an eighteen year old retrothrasher?
PA: Practice. (laughs) One thing about an orphanage: you mix with kids with upbringings just slightly different from your own. My parents had liked traditional music. The kids I hung with were into more modern sounds. One kid got me interested in the metal bands and grunge bands from back in the last century.
Once I left the orphanage I got involved with a group of people who were into thrash, and they helped me put a band together, and I started trying my hand at a bit of songwriting. We were pretty successful on the club circuit, and came close to signing a couple times, but... (shrugs)
PF: Stories say Priss and the Replicants were never signed because of political reasons.
PA: Actually, we were signed at one point, but the company wasn't really serious about it and it ended up leading to the Reps break-up.
As for politics, I was pretty outspoken on some things in my younger days. And there were rumors at the time that we were being actively blackballed by a conglomerate because of my opinions. This was a different company from the one that eventually signed and dumped us, by the way. Anyway, at first we didn't care about the blackballing. Later, though, it caused some problems in the band, and we lost quite a few people. Who wants to play when it's strictly dead-end?
PF: Did you ever find out who was doing this and why?
PA: Yes. (pauses) Next question.
PF: (pause) All right. You were seriously injured during the last major boomer rampage of the 2040's. Being injured by a boomer must have been quite a shock to you.
PA: Well, that was the chance you took living in MegaTokyo in those days. The only reason I survived was that I was with friends who were able to keep the shock and blood loss under control until I could be taken to proper medical attention. A couple of my other friends were killed that night, so I think I came out of it all right.
PF: You broke up your band and founded AI within months of your injury. Were the three related?
PA: Yes, but not quite how you might think.
We'd been talking about permanently breaking up Paper Unicorn for several months. It was pretty obvious we weren't going to get anywhere either, and I wanted to try some new things by then. I'd been testing the waters a little as a solo for a few years as well, and had gotten some nibbles, including an ill-conceived attempt to turn me into an idol singer shortly after the Priss and the Replicants broke up back in '34... (laughs) ...but nothing ever really came of it.
When my legs were amputated, I had a long period of rehabilitation ahead so I could learn how to get along with the prosthetics. Since I wouldn't be able to perform for a few months, we decided that it was as good a time as any to go our separate ways. The guys in Unicorn picked up a new singer and kept at it, and after I got AI going they were one of the first groups we signed. They did quite well for us too.
So here I was, trying to decide what I wanted to do with myself. One of the things I had been considering was trying to start my own label to record on. I had some money stashed away, and had some friends who were willing to make a risky investment. Another friend was retiring, and sold me his automotive repair garage as a place to set up shop. After some pretty major renovations to the facility, AI was in business.
PF: What was the make-or-break event for AI?
PA: We'd been doing OK, getting by as a small label for a few years. We had several new artists in the catalog, but nobody who had really broken through. A couple of majors were sniffing around, thinking of us as a target for acquisition, and I was considering taking the first reasonable offer made.
One day, word came from San Francisco that Vision wanted to talk with us. She'd been making films for a few years and had let her recording career go to concentrate on that. But she'd decided it was time to try to make a comeback.This was a make or break deal for us, so two of our Directors flew over to try to work something out. One had been a friend of Vision's family for several years, and the other had had some... informal business dealings with Vision's family in the past.
Two corporate Directors to perform simple negotiations may have been a bit of overkill, but we felt that we needed to show some measure of respect for what she was trying to do for us. It worked out well too. A week later, we had Vision under contract, and managed to help her revitalize her career. The work we did with her made our reputation in the industry, and we never looked back.
The only downside to this was the plane our representatives were returning on crashed in the Pacific. There were no survivors. The company managed to recover from the loss eventually, but those of us who knew them as friends still miss them.
PF: What will you be doing after your retirement?
PA: Oh, I'm not retiring, just cutting back a little. Poul and I will be going back to Sweden for a while, and then we have other plans. (smiles) And we'd both like more time to enjoy our grandchildren while they are young. Our oldest son, L.D., will be taking over as President and CEO of AI, but I'm staying on as Chairman of the Board. And I'm not relinquishing any of my other corporate responsibilities, so I'll still be around.
PF: In conclusion, I'd like to ask a simple question. What do you consider to be the most important thing to happen to you in your life?
Oh, man... the old woman mused, not showing any sign of her discomfort to her great-granddaughter, that little prick wasted all my time asking about stuff that'd been talked about and written about and had films made about, and all of a sudden he had to ask about that? It's not like he knew the truth, but still...
The most important thing that ever happened to me, and I still can't talk about it to anyone. Well, not exactly true, Nene's still around. Then again, she wasn't there.
I wonder what would have happened if Sylia hadn't run me off the road that night? If I'd pulled my gun instead of that knife? If I'd taken a different road toward Genom Tower? How long had she been watching me, anyway? It couldn't have been all that long, but she never said, just gave me one of those looks that made me feel about 3 years old whenever I asked.
Linna got the same deal. Sylia was just there when she was at a really low point, made an offer, and Linna grabbed at it.
Oh Linna, why did that damn plane have to go down? You were having so much fun, and then a $2 seal has to blow out at 45,000 feet and ruin everything. Shit! I don't know if I'll ever forgive you for dying on me like that...
It's kind of funny, though. The first time I saw Vision's "Say Yes" video I was sure someone had been talking. It was almost like what happened to me, and you had been close to Reika's sister... what was her name? Arlene?
The most important thing...
He'd just died, and the cops were blowing it off. Funny, how the cop at the scene ended up as a fanboy of mine and a major thorn in the side. Still, we both knew how to play the game, and we had some good times. Poor Leon... what a way to go. Did they ever find all the pieces?
I guess I had a death wish back then; I sure wouldn't have survived what I planned. I probably wouldn't have gotten past the first security checkpoint. When I saw that red Benz pull up behind me I thought it was them. When I ran... Who knew a four-wheel street machine could move that fast. That thing rode right up on my ass, and I lost it. No excuse... I shouldn't have. I guess I had other things on my mind.
Thank God the Benz didn't run me over. With the headlights in my eyes, the only hint I had that anyone was coming for me was the sound of the wing hatch opening. And when I did see something, it's this fashion model coming toward me from the driver's side.
And then she stopped, and smirked at me, and... well... I just reacted. You never did blame me for doing it, did you Sylia? You never even said anything about it ever again. You just did something, and next I knew I was face down on the hood of the Benz, and you had my knife, my gun, and my holdout. And then you ask if I'm OK, say I'm not going to get away with it, and ask if I would go with you for some coffee.
Jesus, Sylia, as smart as you were, you could be so naive about some things. I could have had you seven ways from Sunday then. I still have no idea why I went with you. Maybe I just wanted my stuff back. Maybe I was hurting too much from the wreck, and needed a ride. Maybe you just made me curious. You sure seemed to know what I was up to, and I guess I needed to find out about that. I needed to find out who you were working for, and how you knew.
And later, you made this unbelievable offer... I thought you were nuts. I decided that if you came through on your promise to help me get mine, I could use you and then get rid of you. I've no idea why you trusted me, that I wouldn't pull something. I never realized I'd still be doing field work for you fourteen years later. Still be your friend.
I don't know if I'll ever forgive Linna for dying, but Sylia, I know I'll never forgive you... And I'll never forgive myself either. You didn't even want to go on that goddamned trip.
Well, it's taken me long enough to decide, but maybe you weren't as naive about some things as I thought. You sure took me in. In more ways than one.
God, I miss you.
PA: (pauses) The most important? Why, my family, of course.
PF: Thank you for your time, and for consenting to this interview.
PA: You're very welcome.
The sudden silence was broken by a child's voice. "Is that the end, Grandmama?"
"That's all there is, sweetie," she replied as she closed the fragile paper pages and returned the issue to its place in the chest. She sat quietly for a moment, then looked down into the child's face, into the brown eyes with reddish highlights, so much like her own.
"What does it mean, 'enjoy your grandchildren?'" Ingrid asked. "Do you enjoy me? I'm a grandchildren!"
"No, little one," Priss answered, cuddling the little girl close. "You're a GREAT grandchild. And I enjoy you very, very much."
Firstly, while Peter Fontana may have an interview with Priscilla Asagiri-Olafsson in another 83 years, I wrote this one in 1997.Why write this? I've given several reasons in answer to that question. I guess I felt a little sorry for Priss -- really awful things always seem to happen to her in fics, and I'm as guilty of that as everyone else (I mean, here I am, trying to be nice to her, and I still manage to make her a double amputee). I guess this is my attempt at giving her some sort of a future, at making her a success in life.Firstly, while Peter Fontana may have an interview with Priscilla Asagiri-Olafsson in another 83 years, I wrote this one, back in 1997.Why write this? I've given several reasons in answer to that question. I guess I felt a little sorry for Priss -- really awful things always seem to happen to her in fics, and I'm as guilty of that as everyone else (I mean, here I am, trying to be nice to her, and I manage to make her a double amputee). I guess this is my attempt at giving her some sort of a future, at making her a success in life.
Any questions/comments are welcome.