How pretentious can you get, writing an afterword to a bunch of fanfics, right? Well, my word count tops 50,000. I was startled to learn that (according to the Wikipedia) that's a frikkin' novel. As Keanu would say, "whoa!" How'd that happen? Anyway, I think that entitles me to indulge in an afterword.
Feel free to skip this. Just a few thank-yous and a lot of nattering about the stories' origins. Totally unnecessary, because the tales ought to just speak for themselves. But if a peek behind the scenes is something you enjoy, come join me backstage.
First thing's first: thanks to Keiichi Sigsawa for creating Kino's Journey. Credit due to the writers whose wonderful creations have appeared in the series: ABe Yoshitoshi, Stephen King, Nathanial Hawthorne, Aeschylus, Robert E. Howard, Isuna Hasekura and Ryukishi07. Special thanks to those readers who left reviews and kind words. I would have quit long ago without you. These stories are for you.
Credit due for the late-twentieth century classics Christine is so fond of. "Dead Man's Curve" composed by Jan Berry, Dean Torrence and Roger Christian. "The Great Gig in the Sky" and "Run Like Hell" composed by Roger Waters and David Gilmour. "Little Bitty Pretty One" by Bobby Day and "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian.
Even though "Green Land" is the first chapter of the Kino's Journey – Dead Man's Curve series, "Pure Land" was the first Kino story I wrote.
This whole mess started when I joined a Haibane Renmei fansite called the Old Home Bulletin Board. Many there had written fanfics (some posted here, in fact) and I felt jealous. I wanted to write a story for the haibane.
I decided the only way for me to capture what I felt and still feel about ABe Yoshitoshi's beatific series was to have a visitor appear in the magical walled city of Guri to speak on my behalf. I was settling in to create this traveler when Kino whopped me from behind and said, "'traveler?' Hey! What about me?"
Before you decide I'm crazy, let me explain that characters can seem very real to a writer. They take on lives of their own. It's not that we can't tell what's real from what's unreal... it's that we're in deep and vital contact with the unreal world, I suspect much the same way a mathematician's in contact with the world of numbers or a chess master with the world of the chessboard.
So Kino careened into my story and gave it enormous momentum! But just as she changed Kana, pushing the haibane to her Day of Flight, so did Guri change Kino. And I found Kino just fascinating to work with. She had interesting quirks to explore, a fine story-engine in the form of Hermes, and I'd set up a fun internal conflict between her much-remarked-upon stoicism and her awakening emotional life. She wanted to tell me another story, and I dutifully took dictation.
"Green Land" came next. A friend of mine had commented once that he no longer enjoyed traveling, because everywhere he visited seemed the same. That's a dreadful thing, how awful when Bangladesh looks like Bangkok looks like Burbank! A person like Kino could exist as recently as a hundred years ago, but not now. The resulting story's heavy handed, a bit "anvilicious" as the tropes website would say. I care about those economic and cultural issues, so the writing came easily and the story fit into the Kino's Journey framework. Please support your local small businesses and local culture over mega-franchises.
At this point I felt I was on to something, and actively put the fishing hooks out for more Kino stories. My favorite format is the interlinked short story series, like Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, or Kino's Journey itself for that matter.
I'd been reading Issac Asimov's Guide to the Bible, and I appreciated his explanation of the use of repetition in Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poets repeat themselves, and restate their point with new words. My head ringing with this lovely music (as translated into Elizabethan English of course,) I found myself writing a pastiche involving Kino. This was totally new for me; normally I'm a laughably incompetent poet.
Kino continued to blossom. She'd been altered by her time in Guri and with the tribe, and felt ready to connect in something more than the superficial, noncommittal way of her television series. I like this growth in her character, it felt natural to me... though Sigsawa-san might have a conniption, destroying the detached sterility of his true-neutral character.
Each story somehow held the seeds for the next, like a Babushka doll. "Pure Land" left Kino ready to settle down for a while to build authentic relationships. "Land of the People" had her sacrifice herself and perhaps suffer enslavement. Logically, the next story would tell of her misfortunes under the slavers of Koth-Shem, of whom I knew exactly nothing when I was finishing "Land of the People."
...except that I had pictured the raiders as something out of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories. That proved to be the key. Conan himself appears as a statue and Kino's enslaved by a stand-in for Red Sonja.
I served in the US military and had ambivalent feelings about what I found there. "Land of Freedom" allowed me to explore those feelings. So it's a personal tale, with Corina speaking for my past self and Kino for the present me. The Bible again shows its influence with Corina tempting Kino thrice.
Hermes promised to tell his story. I'd planted the seeds for this miniature Bhagavad Gita when the tribe mentions a former rider named Arjuna. With "Little Vehicle" I saw the chance to turn the Kino-Hermes relationship on its head. In the original series, Hermes seems a naive artificial intelligence serving worldly, dismissive Kino. By revealing Hermes as the diety, he transformed into a wise old master who'd protected and guided young Kino all along. I like this inversion. It definitely shook up the status quo, yet the story remains the same - Kino's on a journey to enlightenment and Hermes' purpose is to carry her there. I'm pleased that under my pen their friendship blossomed. It's odd now, rereading Sigsawa's original work (in translation) how cold and lonesome his Kino seems by comparison.
Again, Sigsawa-san probably wouldn't approve. The high technology of his world placed Kino more into the realm of science fiction than fantasy. But I'm more influenced by, say, Gaiman than Clarke. This story's a bit slow, what Jerome Stern would call a "bathtub story." But after all the action of "Freedom" and with what's coming up, the breather feels right to me.
I arranged a brief cameo by two well-known anime dieties to welcome Hermes into their club – Horo of Spice and Wolf and little Hanyuu of the brilliant When the Cicadas Cry. I had a feeling they might be useful later. Interestingly, both also have close mortal friends: Lawrence and Rika.
Kino briefly performed the part of a flirtatious female at the end of "Freedom." The moment raised all sorts of questions about her sexual identity, and this hidden aspect of her personality beckoned. I wanted to tell of Kino's return to her hometown, but what to do when she does? I also wanted to tell of her falling in love, also not going anywhere. Fortunately I'd just seen the film version of V for Vendetta, and was very impressed by the "Valerie" sequence. The obvious answer was to fuse these stories... which made a very unhappy ending inevitable. Gia, not yet even named, was doomed from the start. In defense of this hideworn plot I modeled the story upon one of my favorite Hawthorne tales, "The Birthmark," thus I named my sacrificial lamb "Georgiana," her father's "Nathan," and the graveyard is "Hathorne's Rest." I guess a writer's mind is a sausage grinder - every experience and every story just gets mashed into something new.
The plot of "Reprise" is embarrassingly stock: protagonist falls in love with doomed love interest who promptly gets stuffed into Gail Simone's famous refrigerator. I know that's hardly original, but I was mainly interested in prying into Kino's romantic life. Kino herself resisted, as if there really is a Kino out there somewhere and she resents my pantsing her. The poor girl's affronted dignity became a story point.
Gia's parents... oh, I went round and round with one of my loyal readers who shares the Christian antipathy toward homosexuality. My reader didn't contest that Kino is logically butch, but disagreed that homosexuality is a "forgivable foible." Gia's parents are, if you read between the lines, Christian fundamentalists. It was the most efficient way to explain their action. Kino, being Asian, has no experience with them. They send out feelers to see if Kino was one of them. Because she's not, they quickly figured out why their daughter liked this stranger so much. Kino inadvertantly set this sad story in motion, and knows it.
Because "Reprise" grew into a horror story, I set the tone with a horror celebrity cameo. I'd toyed with creating an antagonist for Kino and Hermes, what TV Tropes calls an "evil counterpart." Hermes had by this time grown in my mind into a potent supernatural force. I know of only one fictional entity qualified to serve as his antithesis - Stephen King's Christine.
"Threnody," pitted Kino and Hermes against the demon car. Keying on the name "Fury" I gave Christine two friends and unleashed the classical Erinyes on our poor heroes. I'm fond of Aeschylus' Oresteia, and a reread revealed to my joy that Hermes helped Athena and Apollo protect Orestes from the Furies. Since I had Horo and Hanyuu already established and ready to fill their places, everything fit together and balanced neatly.
I actually wrote a section in which Kino concludes her return to her home town by euthanizing Gia. The scene reads well, but on rereading King's novel, the notion occurred to me of Gia and Christine prowling the highways together like horrid shadows of Kino and Hermes, It was too deliciously dark to resist.
I want to emphasize how little of this was planned in advance. These were all happy accidents... sort of. Whenever things looked useful I squirreled 'em away. For example, Kino keeps one of Kana's feathers, and I thought someday Kana might intervene as a guardian angel. It never happened, but that feather remains at the ready in Kino's pocket.
I could feel myself winding down, so what better way to finish than by breaking the fourth wall and letting poor, long suffering Kino confront her tormentor? "The Vast Wasteland" let me take the soapbox to discuss current issues of commerce, unions and artistic integrity in a lighthearted way, and end the series on a happy, humorous note.
That's how these stories happened to me. Looking back on them, I'm pleased that I could take Kino through a tour of her own emotions. In Sigsawa's original she's closed off and inaccessable; here we see her emotional life bursting with vitality. Beneath her mask Kino blushes, laughs, fumes and wails, she fights and fails to keep her distance. Here Kino knows, as Howard so enviably wrote of his own traveler, "gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth."
Let me conclude by saying I've learned a new respect for this much-reviled medium called "fanfiction." Here I've enjoyed total creative control, I've written purely for the sake of art and I didn't even need to worry about copyrights. I hadn't realized how much money-matters can interfere with the pure joy of writing. This Fanfiction site is a terrific little sandbox; thanks for letting me play. Since you're reading this, I'm very glad you enjoyed Kino's Journey - Dead Man's Curve. I still check in now and again, so please write reviews. Avoid spoilers please, thanks.
"The Blue Footed Booby"
That was a happy accident,
but there're always plenty of happy accidents.
Green Land: One of the classic examples of an "invasive species," kudzu was foolishly imported to the US from Japan in the early twentieth century. Free of Japan's colder climate, it's now called "the weed that ate the South." It grows very rapidly, is very hard to kill and chokes out all competing plants.
Here it becomes a symbol for junky franchises like Taco Bell or Wal-Mart, businesses that choke out local competition and make small towns all look alike.
Pure Land: This tale picks up directly after the prologue to "A Peaceful Land" from the TV series. There the skies in fact feature an unexplained aurora.
Pure Land Buddhism is a branch of Buddhism that believes in a kind of purgatory named Shamballa (known in the West as Shangri-La). There the faithful are reborn from lotus blossoms and instructed by an enlightened teacher.
According to ABe Yoshitoshi, the gatekeeper was originally going to play a larger role in Haibane Renmei but was finally reduced to a background character. I have named him and his dog "Wulf and Guy" in honor of Victor Hugo's "Ursus and Homo" from The Laughing Man.
Hermes is a Brough Superior, a British hand-crafted racing motorcycle built in the early twentieth century.
"Reki" usually had a cigarette dangling from her mouth, and the image of a chain-smoking angel is understandably startling. My personal inside joke is that she was smoking not tobacco but ganja.
Kino gets bathed a lot here. More civilized societies than ours help heal war veterans and even those who witness bloodshed via ritual ablution. Rakka plays the role of a shaman, helping Kino wash away the horrors of Veldelval.
In the anime Kino has many times asserted her independence, and brushed aside others' affections because they would weigh her down and interfere with her journey. In one sense she is a Buddhist monk seeking freedom from entanglement with the material world... but in another she's a traumatized child with severe intimacy issues. These wounds must heal if she's to achieve enlightenment.
Kana once memorably terrorized Rakka with a breakneck bike ride. Hermes unknowingly hands Kana her karmic cummupance.
Birds play important symbolic roles in both series. For Kino, they personify her wanderlust; for the haibane they serve as psychopomps. Here a crow guides Kana's eyes to the Western Woods and her ultimate ascension, uniting the symbols.
In my personal interpretation of Haibane Renmei, Guri is but one of many nests on The World Tree, and Kino therefore descends along a branch. This World Tree plays a pivotal role in most major faiths: the Tree of Knowledge, the Cross, the Bodhi Tree and the Kaballic Tree of Life just for starters.
A Tale of the People/Little Vehicle: "Arjuna" was the protagonist of the Hindu Bagavad Gita. On the way to a great battle in his war chariot, Arjuna collapses in despair. His charioteer reveals himself to be the god Krishna in disguise, and discusses the nature of reality and Arjuna's place in it.
Since Hermes' role in Kino's Journey is to carry Kino toward enlightenment, I offer that Hermes' material form was actually taken from that selfsame war chariot, and has been reforged many times over the millenia. He is what the Shinto faith names a Shintai, an inanimate object housing a god.
When they encountered the Egyptians, the Romans noticed many telling similarities between Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth. He became Thoth-Hermes the Thrice Great, or Hermes Trismegistus. I incorporated Krishna as the implied third.
"Little Vehicle" refers to a school of Buddhism. Mainstream Buddhism is called Mahayana, or great vehicle. If enlightenment may be pictured as a journey across a wide river, Buddhist monasteries may be seen as big ferryboats. But solitary practitioners also exist and are said to practice Hinayana, little-vehicle-Buddhism. These are canoes, and Hermes firmly qualifies as a personification of Hinayana practices.
Hermes quotes a Buddhist koan, a riddle designed to free the mind of rational logic and illustrate Buddhist transcendent thought. After some consideration I believe I understand this one. Life is like a cup of coffee. Drink your fill, then it's time to wash your cup (yourself) clean and put your cup (yourself) away. Kino is not quite ready to end her travels so she does not yet understand the koan.
Land of Freedom: Horo of Spice and Wolf makes her first appearence in her usual apple cart. Hanyuu of When the Cicadas Cry will join her later.
The book Kino remembers reading was Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban's A Manual of Siegecraft and Fortification.
"Captain Forester" is a tip of the hat to C.S. Forester, author of the Horatio Hornblower novels.
Reprise: Kino's sexual orientation as a lesbian or perhaps even a transsexual is quietly hinted at in the series. In particular, it's implied that Nimya was bisexual and had a fling with Kino.
I understand that some Christian Evangelical organizations actually run camps where they attempt to "fix" the sexual orientation of children who are growing up homosexual. Sigsawa can relate: Kino's hometown unveils the forces enforcing conformity in Japan.
I always felt that Kino behaves out of character in the "Coliseum" story. She never seeks a fight and she's not some pistol-weilding superhero. Grief over Gia makes her exploit a little more understandable.
I believe I may have solved the riddle of Kino's original name. Naming girls after flowers is very common in Japan, and most fans assume her name was "Sakura" because of Kino's reaction to hearing the younger Sakura's name. I contend that simply being named after a flower after so many other similarities would suffice.
"Sakura" refers to the cherry blossom, which grows and falls from trees. But Kino's flower is not a tree, but some sort of ground creeper. The five-petaled flower appears to be red chickweed, or in Japanese "rurihakobe." I wonder if Keiichi Sigsawa is aware that in English literature, this flower became famous in Baroness Orkzy's The Scarlet Pimpernel?
Shortened to "Ruri," which means Lapis Lazuli, young Kino could then be teased by being called "urei," gloomy. Until Sigsawa-san actually answers, and I doubt he shall, this is my best guess.
Threnody: In Aeschylus' play The Eumenides, queen Clytemnestra murders her husband Agamemnon so that her lover Aegisthus can ascend the throne. Her son Orestes kills them both, but in his blood-guilt becomes the target of the vengeful Erinyes, "the angry ones." Athena, Apollo and Hermes (the titular kindly ones) intervene and fend off the harpies.
History repeats itself with Hermes leading Horo and Hanyuu in Kino's defense.
Stephen King wrote his Christine as an evil artifact that seduced and utterly corrupted her drivers Roland LeBay and Arnold Cunningham (though who corrupted whom is open to interpretation). Making her a Fury neatly explains the source of Christine's power and apparent immortality. Poor lobotomized Gia had no defense against the car's fell influence.
In the film version, John Carpenter even gives Christine a pounding theme-song that corresponds to the Furies' "fearful threnody."
Mr. King owns Bangor's oldies station, W-KIT.
The Great Wasteland: Your humble author works in Los Angeles in television and film and has strong feelings about the Industry's current state. The encroachment of "product placement," the unfortunate cut-throat relationship of the unions and general slovenliness of the writing bothers me. Although I even take a few jabs at Keiichi Sigsawa, foreign films and anime offer a welcome respite from American film and television.
The shows Kino stumbles across are Kimba the White Lion/The Lion King, Aliens/Star Trek: First Contact, Battle Royale/The Hunger Games, and The New Gods/Star Wars. Each demonstrate that in the US, copyright laws exist in name only. At least here on Fanfic I can give free advertising to writers and musicians whose work I swipe; here I'm allowed not to lie.
Kino Flo lights are banks of florescent tubes of a spectrum useful for photography.
Hollywood's Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have been at each others' throats for the past decade. They recently merged. Proposed US laws regulating Internet copyright infringement, "SOPA" and "PIPA," appear to be in moritorium after an enormous backlash.
"Internet Rule #34": there is pornography of it. No exceptions.
Theodore Sturgeon's Law teaches us, "nothing is ever absolutely so." According to legend he once countered a choleric critic's, "ninety five percent of science fiction is crud" with "ninety five percent of everything is crud. The remaining five percent is worth dying for." This certainly applies to anime and fanfiction. Elsa Maxwell first said, "No one ever went broke in Hollywood underestimating the intelligence of the public." Newton Minow said in a speech, "I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you - and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland."
The final comments are of course aimed at fanfiction in general, which though by definition amateur, offers a purer form of art in that the authors work not for profit but for art's sake.