Short Story – A Novel Approach to Negotiation

Watching a lot of Macross has made me really reconsider how I would tell a first contact story. I think it is now quite possible to write a very optimistic story on the subject that is not about conquest or subjugation (or even assimilation), but which offers the promise of peace and understanding.

As a result, I wrote this – about the meeting of two starship captains who don’t know exactly how one is supposed to discuss terms with an empire of unknown size and strength, but don’t want to be the one to fire the first shot.

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“How Far to Paradise” (Macross Delta Episode 10)

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I mentioned in a previous article how the development of Messer’s character in Macross Delta was interesting and troubling in equal measure, how he was depicted as a poor mentor and yet also an interesting self-destructive figure. That episode 10 continued his story was to its credit; the ideas hinted at in episode 9 were the sort of plot points that could not be handwaved away or pushed to the back. However, the episode also introduced another plot development that – as so many of Delta‘s developments do – left me with an interesting mixture of concern and intrigue.

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No Messer, You Are The Demons

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I am increasingly of the opinion that Macross Delta is using past franchise entries as a kind of visual language to communicate a first impression of a scene, and then developing the ideas; a visual cue can create contextual (or metatextual) associations in a contextually-aware audience, and then the text itself can build tension through subversion or development of the concepts. For the moment the visual cues are largely those of Macross Plus; I mentioned in my previous article the way Mikumo’s song routines evoked Sharon Apple and Messer’s troubled past was framed in a tamer version of Guld’s flashbacks. This continues into episode 9, a focus episode for Messer which goes more fully both into the mechanism of Var and his issues with piloting.

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Idol Talk (Macross Delta Episode 8)

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If episode 7 of Macross Delta promised – and provided – several key answers, episode 8 provided little more. It was more focused on showing the determination and development of the characters – their newly-formed relationships put under strain when face-to-face with the enemy and presented with an intractable ideology. Episode 7 offered a chance to see through Windermere’s ideology both in practical and emotive terms; one saw both their rage and its effects, and it was difficult to reconcile this with their stated intentions. Mecha anime, I would venture, works on catharsis as a reward for conflict (which is part of its inability to adequately engage with the morality of war; it presents villains against whom armed force is inevitable and right). The payoff for seeing bad people prosper is the hero demolishing them – and this episode of Delta is a good example. Its first half is Hayate, Messer and Mirage taunted, beaten and provoked – then its second half is them fighting back.

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How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Dimension Bomb

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While relatively little happens in episode 7 of Macross Delta compared to other episodes, as it is primarily setup and exposition for the first in a continued storyline across multiple episodes, it offers much food for thought in terms of speculation and interpretation of what is known. The nature of the grand conspiracy is beginning to become clear, and this feels like a series which unlike, say, Rahxephon will wear its answers relatively plainly on its sleeve. The heroes proactively seek intelligence, find some and are captured by the enemy; SDF Macross did this (leading to very good rescue sequences both in series and film versions).

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Short Story – The Hall of Armour

My relationship with the “grimdark” is troubled; I dislike the conflation of pragmatism and necessary evil with realism, the belief that something gains value in its pessimism about human nature. On the other hand I greatly like explorations of villainy, entrenched evil and indeed the maintenance of an “evil empire” of the sort genre fiction loves. Not, per se, a world where there is no good and goodness is doomed to fail – but a world where there is evil, and people live it by choice or by inability to escape.

I have recently been reading the Locke Lamora novels; they depict a truly grotesque world of the excess of the rich from the perspective of a criminal determined to bring them down. Ordinarily the excesses of, say, the second novel’s Amusement Wars (a gladiatorial games de trop) would have been the thing to turn me away from the novels – but rather than being presented as some logical gritty endpoint giving credibility to the world they are shown as a sick, contemptible display of excess.

Setting this in the context of other “dark” media I have enjoyed far more than I expected to – the lore of the Dark Souls games and the unashamedly trashy steampunk zombie slasher Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress drove me to try and write my own depiction of some hopeless world ruled by a perverse logic. I applied it to super-robot fiction, by means of the “serious” pragmatism of the hardline ace squadron. In my previous story Achelois I covered similar ground in a science-fiction setting, so this is in many ways another take on the idea of a look within the paranoid, unpleasant life of a super-robot villain group.

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“Every Kill is a New Burden” – Macross Delta Takes On the Difficult Episode

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Episode 6 of Macross Delta is one of the “difficult episodes” of robot anime in many ways, one of the points where a series must make its moral compass plain and present its heroes and villains (not simply the antagonist army to be fought but the relatable and repellant characters on both sides.) It is an episode, ostensibly, about the crisis of confidence of the soldier’s first kill. This is, obviously, a vast and challenging topic explored in more depth and nuance in fiction not intended to present an exciting adventure about idols and robots – for a more serious discussion of the morality of war and the crises of moral confidence faced by soldiers go anywhere but a Macross series (or indeed robot anime in general).

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Short Story – Equal Opportunity Dystopia

This story is heavily inspired by my recent reading of the background to the wargame Infinity, which is a very enjoyable science-fiction setting full of readily-embraced cyberpunk tradition and cliche. It has its villainous factions, which are evoked here, but something I generally like in dystopian fiction is settings where the abuse of the rules is not something the elite get away with too easily; if a dystopia is to be authoritarian, I would want it to be one where the control is absolute and dispassionate.

This is rather what I like about Judge Dredd.

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Who is Fighting Who, and Why, in Macross Delta?

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Five episodes into Macross Delta and I still have some reservations about its protagonist, but these are being challenged continually; my distaste is currently that he remains a very arrogant and almost petulant figure – as shown in his tirade to end episode 5, an almost Tomino-esque nonsense about how he wants to singlehandedly end the war against Windermere to once again be free to do as he pleases. The tone of it annoyed me, but in consideration it revealed less of a problem with Hayate himself (who excels as a character earlier in the episode) but with the whole story of Chaos and the Delta Squadron. Macross Delta has yet to really provide much of a good reason to relate to Delta Squadron as the military focus characters beyond they are the ones the camera focuses on.

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Kiznaiver: Not All Media Is Made For Me

Four episodes into Kiznaiver it seems a show exceptionally well-pitched for a target audience I am not a part of; it is a series which has a very strongly put across moral message universal in its importance, but expressed in a way that does not satisfy me. The premise is simple and potentially interesting; a group of misfit children, claimed to embody a “new seven deadly sins”, are abducted and given an experimental treatment whereby they all share each others’ pain; whenever one is hurt, they all feel it. From here a conspiracy plot builds, regarding who has done this and why.

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