Friday, 28 January 2011

A belated project finally bears fruit!

Quite a while ago, I mentioned that I was working on a project that would greatly increase the amount of posts on this blog. At that time, I thought I'd be ready by November 2009. As you can see, this was off by more than a year!

However, the time has now come! After scaling back my ambitions down a little bit, I managed to get things ready to start publishing all those posts I've been keeping secret, and I will start next week! So what is it all about? Well, to explain it, I'm going to have to go back in time quite a bit. Please bear with me here.

As I've mentioned before, I love manga and anime. That love started in the 80's, as I was lucky enough to live in the first country to massively import Japanese animation series, and it carried on through the 90's (and still exists today), where I became enamoured with Sailor Moon. This series, that would redefine the entire Magical Girl genre, lasted 18 manga volumes, 5 anime seasons, 3 feature films, countless musicals and even a live-action version! That's an enormous amount of content. However, by the end of the 90's in France, most of that content (at least what existed at that time) had become unavailable: the series had stopped being aired on TV before the end of the 4th season (and the fifth one would never be dubbed) and only one film had found its way to France. Only the manga was being released (slowly), but that was not quite enough to satisfy my thirst for more material.

Luckily, by 1997 I had for the first time in my life access to a computer with an Internet connection (at that time, Internet at home was a luxury, and a slow one at that!), and one of the first things I did was to look for info on Sailor Moon. That's how I discovered a vibrant fan community, both in French and in English. Most importantly, I discovered the fanfic phenomenon. Sailor Moon had (and actually still has) a very prolific fanfic community, and I spent a lot of time reading those amateur stories featuring my favourite characters. Most stories were of dreadful quality, but there were a few pearls shining among the drab.

All this reading, as well as corresponding with a particular fanfic writer, kind of woke up my writing bug (I used to write short stories). I wanted to write something, something in the style of Sailor Moon and the Magical Girl style it had created. However, I didn't want to write just another Sailor Moon fanfic, for two reasons. Firstly, I didn't feel like I could do justice to the characters created by the mangaka Naoko Takeuchi. And secondly, I wanted to write something I could call entirely my own. It would be influenced by Sailor Moon, but it would be an homage rather than a copy. It would be episodic fiction, would take some of the formula created by this series, but would otherwise be an original work.

So I started to think about what to write, the characters, the setting, the story. But I was blocked, until I had a breakthrough: what if Sailor Moon had been a boy instead of a girl? That was it! I would write a Magical Boy story, with the same elements as Sailor Moon, but with a boy as the main character. Then, I needed a motif: just like Sailor Moon had the planets, I needed some kind of basis (using the planets as well would have been too close for comfort). This time, the breakthrough came after a rainy morning, when a rainbow appeared in the sky. My main character's alter-ego and powers would be based on the rainbow, and his companions would be based on colours! Names for the characters came easily: the word rainbow is an obvious compound. So my main character would be Rain Bow, and his companions Red Bow, Green Bow, Yellow Bow, etc. The overarching theme of my story also came from this rainbow motif: rainbows have always been symbols of hope for me, so hope would be the main theme. Another theme was copied straight from Sailor Moon. While its main theme is romantic love (it's the love between Usagi and Mamoru that allows her to use her powers at their maximum level), a secondary but important theme is the power of friendship. That fitted perfectly in the story I wanted to write.

With all those elements and a few others, I started planning my story. I just needed one more thing: a title. I finally thought up an English one: Rainbow Fighters. In French, it became: Rainbow Fighters : Les Combattants de l'Arc-en-Ciel. And with this in hand, I started writing. And I wrote, a lot. I published all those episodes on my old website (they are still available for those who can search the web!). I wrote very fast at first (sometimes one episode per week). But slowly, life started eating away at my free time, and by 2001, I was obliged to take a rest from writing. I left my characters and my readers with a very uncomfortable cliffhanger, but I just didn't have the time nor the energy to carry on. I was originally planning for the hiatus to last for a few months at most, but the months quickly became years...

Then in 2008 I started thinking back at the story I had been writing. At that time I was trying to find a solution to increase the frequency of my posting on this blog. That's when I realised that the blog format was perfect for episodic fiction. And I'd always wanted to resume writing this Rainbow Fighters series, so I'd be killing two birds with one stone by publishing this story to my blog!

However, after spending some time re-reading what I had written, I realised I couldn't post my episodes as is: between the typos, the grammatical mistakes and the weird writing style, I needed to re-edit them first. So that's what I've been doing: re-editing each episode from the first one, getting them ready to post on this blog. While I was doing that, I started thinking about adding more material than just text, so I started creating some graphical material. Also, I decided I wanted a new title for the story, something that was closer to anime titles, something in Japanese, something that I could make into a logo (like the one on this page).

And I've done it! So it is with pride that I present you with the series that will from now on be published on this blog:

This reads as Kibou Niji Rengou Reinbō Faitāzu, or in English Rainbow Brotherhood of Hope: Rainbow Fighters. On this blog, I will normally write the title as Kibou Niji Rengou Rainbow Fighters, although I might sometimes use the short form Rainbow Fighters.

Kibou Niji Rengou Rainbow Fighters tells the story of Angel, an average 15-year-old French high-school student living in Paris. His world is turned on its head when he meets Niko, a speaking multicoloured bird, who tells him he is Rain Bow, the messenger of hope, a warrior with the mission to protect the Earth from the attacks of evil monsters. Suddenly, Angel must fight monsters, search for his companions, and discover the true goal of his enemies.

Kibou Niji Rengou Rainbow Fighters episodes will be published at the rate of one per week. New episodes will always be published on Fridays at noon Amsterdam time (GMT+1 in winter, GMT+2 in summer). If you are interested in reading them, there are a few things you need to know first:

  • Although this post is in English, the series itself is written in French. That's just how I originally wrote it, and given how long the re-editing already took, I just would never have been able to translate them as well. So this series is and will always be written in French. However, I try to keep the language I use relatively simple, so anyone with a high-school level of French should be able to read it, and Google Translate shouldn't make too much of a mess of it. And if you are interested in translated Kibou Niji Rengou Rainbow Fighters in English (or in any other language), please read on: I have a special message for you.
  • The series takes place (or at least starts) in 1999. It's never mentioned anywhere really, but that's when I originally wrote it, so the context is that of the year 1999. I thought about modernising the story so that it would fit the current day, but the world has changed so much in the last 12 years that I couldn't do that without rewriting big parts of the plot and the context, and it would have postponed the publishing almost indefinitely. So I decided to leave the story as is, however dated it is. See it as a "historical drama"! Nevertheless, the world has changed enough in the last 12 years that I think a small primer on the year 1999 is necessary, especially for those who were too young to remember much of the last millennium. Those are only a few pointers, but they should give you a feel for the differences between 1999 and 2011:
    • In 1999, the Internet was nowhere as ubiquitous as it is today. While schools, companies and governments had access to the Web, most homes hadn't. And when they had, it was slow! The browser of choice was Netscape 4, and webpages were mostly text and a few images. Videos and music were too big to stream via Internet. Wireless Internet was still a dream. Even Google didn't exist yet! (Altavista was the main search engine)
    • Mobile phones were a toy for successful businessmen constantly on the move, and nobody else. And they were phones only! They had no camera, and smartphones didn't exist at all. Very technological-minded people had PDAs, and a few PDAs could be used as phones (the ancestors of the smartphone), but those were very expensive.
    • Music was still mostly sold on CDs. MP3s did exist already, but only to play music on computers. MP3 players didn't exist yet (the iPod would appear in 2001). DVDs players were still too expensive for mass consumption, so although the DVD already existed films were still mostly sold in videotape format.
    • Digital cameras were rare and expensive items, used only by some professionals. Most photos were still made with traditional cameras, using photographic film.
    • Computers were much slower than they are today. The first 1GHz processor (a Pentium III) would only appear near the end of the year. A 10GB hard drive was a luxury, as were CD burners. Flash drives hadn't been commercialised yet, and SD cards didn't exist. People were starting to worry a lot about the Y2K bug.
    • Bill Clinton was still president of the USA. The Kosovo War, which would mark the disintegration of the country of Yugoslavia, was starting.
    • The Matrix was released in theatres.
  • If you know the Sailor Moon storyline (especially that of the anime), you will notice similarities with the plot of Rainbow Fighters. Some of them I introduced on purpose. Others forced themselves onto me, with the story going in a certain direction and refusing to budge whatever I tried to do. As I wrote above, this story is an homage to Sailor Moon, that started with me wondering what it would have been like if Sailor Moon had been a boy. So it was only natural that I would reuse some elements of the plot, although I changed them enough that the story can be considered original. There's nothing wrong with that: original fiction always draws on earlier sources (West Side Story is basically just a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, after all. And even Romeo and Juliet draws a lot from earlier sources, like Tristan and Isolde). And that includes Sailor Moon itself!
  • You may also notice some similarities with other, more recent Magical Girl series, especially the Pretty Cure metaseries. In this case, I can claim prior art: the storyline of Kibou Niji Rengou Rainbow Fighters has been relatively fixed since 1999 (even the parts I haven't written yet!). Anyway, stories written in a similar genre will often use similar elements.

If you don't want to miss a single episode of Kibou Niji Rengou Rainbow Fighters, the best way is to use a news aggregator, like Google Reader or Firefox, and subscribe to my feed. You can also follow my blog via Google Friend Connect (see the "Follow" button on the sidebar). If you're only interested in Rainbow Fighters and don't care about my other posts, you can also use one of those special feeds:

The first one should always work, but use the second one as an alternative if your aggregator has problems with the first one.

The episodes will be released as normal blog posts. In other words, comments are allowed, and even encouraged. Don't hesitate to tell me what you thought about the week's episode! Also, like the rest of this blog, they are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Netherlands License. This means that you are welcome to copy the episodes verbatim, as long as you correctly attribute them to me (and a message to me would be welcome, as well as a link back to this blog. But those are not mandatory). Derivative works are not allowed under this license. This does not mean that I don't allow any derivative work (on the contrary, I'd love it if people liked Rainbow Fighters enough to want to draw its characters and/or animate their transformation sequences! Eh, was that too obvious a hint?), but that if you want to create something based on this story and/or its characters, you have to ask for my permission first. And I'm more than likely to give it.

Translations of Kibou Niji Rengou Rainbow Fighters in other languages fall under this "No Derivative Works" rule as well. However, my goal is to reach as many readers as possible with my story, so it is in my best interest to make translating it as easy as possible for anyone interested. So I hereby grant everyone the right to translate Rainbow Fighters into any language they want, and publish the translations. I only have a few conditions associated with it:

  • Please contact me before you start publishing the translation. I have already created canonical translations for some elements in various languages, and I want those to be used. Please refrain from publishing until we have discussed a little and I've given you the green light.
  • The translated episodes must be published in the same order as the original episodes, and no episode may be skipped. This may sound like common sense, but I just want this to be clear up front.
  • The translated episodes must be published under the same license as the original ones (i.e. the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 license), although you needn't use the Netherlands version of it. Just use the national version that fits with the country you live in. Also, my name must appear as the writer of the original version, as well as a link to this blog.

If you agree to those conditions, I have no problem with you translating my story in whatever language for which you feel up to the task!

Well, that's it! Enough introduction, I'll see you next Friday, for the first episode of Kibou Niji Rengou Rainbow Fighters. It will be easy to recognise, as the logo of the series will appear on top of it:

So brush up on your French, and I hope you'll enjoy the ride! See you next week, à la semaine prochaine !