To Mecha is to Love (SgL interviews TE Waters)

TE Waters is the author of “Memory of AUSOS,” a weekly webisode about mecha and growing up.

This interview was conducted January 2011 by SgL of “Tales of the Big Bad Wolf,” who insisted Memory of Ausos was a conspiracy mecha-love story until this interview.

I recall reading somewhere that you had wanted to write “Memory of AUSOS” for at least a year or more.  First – What do you feel influenced you to first think about writing this kind of story?  Second – why an anime type “story arc” structure?  This (type of story) seems somewhat unusual for serial fiction.

This story actually came to me from three directions. I was initially inspired by a short, relatively obscure manga that I won’t name as I think it will give away a few major plot points. This manga actually had absolutely nothing to do with mecha, but I was struck by how the writer wove a bittersweet tale of friendship and regret into an intricate but very subtle political drama. Usually fantasy politics is melodramatic and labyrinthine — which is fun too, but in this particular work what really struck me was the atmosphere of quiet revelations and gently reassessed memories, and I decided that I wanted to write a story with a similar mood. (Which obviously didn’t work out quite the way I planned, but the core influence is still there if you know where to look.)

The second factor was pretty straightforward. I’ve always been a casual mecha fan, but one of the things I’d really like to see from the genre is more female pilots. So the story just kind of naturally revealed itself to me as a political drama involving mechs and a primarily female cast, simply because that’s the kind of story I enjoy consuming as a reader or a viewer.

Up until this point everything (characters, plot, basic background) pretty much just dropped into my lap, but I decided to shelve the idea for a few reasons: I was working on other projects at the time, I didn’t think a mecha novel would sell easily to a mainstream Western audience unless I framed it as military SF (which I occasionally enjoy reading but most certainly cannot write), and I felt that the mecha genre was heavily reliant on visuals (which I’m incapable of providing). I figured the story would be better suited to a medium other than plain text, so I didn’t bother trying to flesh things out further.

What ended up happening, though, is that eventually I realized the world the story took place in wasn’t as high tech as I had been thinking — not quite steampunk, but definitely not futuristic, either. And then I realized that it took place in the same world I had already been loosely developing for my other projects — but at a different point on the timeline. That’s when everything started falling into place: when I rooted the characters and the plot and the underlying mood in an actual context.

That said, I think the anime structure is in part a holdover from when the story was on my project back burner and I was still considering options like “stick figure webcomic” or “visual novel game” or “permanently benched”… XD Since I mostly associate mecha with anime, it seemed like a natural structure to experiment with. And after I decided to go with the web fiction format, I figured I ought to play on the whole “serial” aspect of the medium rather than structuring it more traditionally like a print novel, which has definitely affected the pacing and some other “directorial” choices I’ve had to make.

You’ve alluded to this (story) taking place in a much larger “world”.  Do you think you will be posting that stuff online or are you planning to write that separately and possibly as an ebook or print publication?

This is a tough question and is one I’ve been considering for a while. With the exception of one story that also falls into a nebulous “this doesn’t feel like a traditional novel” area and will likely be the next online project I tackle once AUSOS finishes, most of the other projects I have in mind aren’t really suited to a serial format. (And only one or two are more obviously related to AUSOS, which is actually pretty self-contained.) Depending on how much AUSOS ends up covering in the main series though, I may end up posting shorter side stories in the future.

As for my other projects, it’s always been a dream of mine to be published in print someday, and one of my goals this year is to finish one of my other projects and go on the agent hunt… But I’ve also been following the ebook revolution for a while. The publishing industry is in an interesting position at the moment, to say the least; I don’t think it’s a bad time to go indie as long as you know what you’re getting into. For me personally though, I have to finish writing first before I make any decisions. 😛

I wanted to ask you about your personal feelings about mecha. For example, do you feel that mecha would actually be something humans could be trusted to use?

In a related vein, what do you think the kind of mecha you portray in AUSOS would mean for our world right now ?

I think mecha are interesting — despite the futuristic/high-tech connotations I actually see them as a little old-fashioned, in a sense. I think most people agree that the traditional humanoid shape is in reality impractical for mechanized movement and wouldn’t serve much actual purpose in real life combat except maybe psychological intimidation. About the closest we’ll ever get to giant robots duking it out is probably some form of powered armor. But I think what mecha does (aside from “looking cool”) is that it brings a direct, more personal component into a modern conception of warfare. Mech battles remind me a bit of the fighter pilots from WWI/WWII, or to go further back, like medieval jousting. Or alternatively, in the case of mechs vs. non-mechs, they turn into monsters or heroes, very visible yet individual symbols of some greater element or force. Even at its grittiest, mecha maintains some aspect of that larger-than-life romanticism, whether in a positive or a negative sense. So I don’t know, I think putting a potentially powerful and highly destructive weapon into the hands of humanity is never a good idea, but at the same time, the almost humanized element inherent in mecha puts a slightly different spin on it.

As for the mecha in AUSOS… I think actually they would be fairly easy to take out by the standards of modern technology. XD But some of the other aspects of the tech involved would have wide implications in areas aside from warfare — if anyone could actually figure out the tech involved, that is. Hehe.

I think many people are coming to your work wondering if it’s just a “high school mech drama.” So let me ask you on their behalf, what genres do you think “Memory of AUSOS” will incorporate?  How would you prefer your readers to approach this story?
As a follow-up, what do you hope your readers will notice episode to episode and observe season to season? I’m very curious if the seasons are going to be about character development or worldbuilding, for example.

Hm. I think it is pretty much a high school mech drama. Make that a political high school mech drama? XD War and politics seem to keep cropping up in everything I write (most of my other projects are historical fantasies taking place in the aftermath and/or on the brink of war), but they tend to hover in the background while the characters and their relationships take the forefront. And this is a story very much about relationships, both human and not. But I do think it might be more productive as a reader to approach the story as historical fantasy with a focus on the intersections between culture and technology, rather than as pure science fiction, with the school aspect as just an incidental factor. (Though this isn’t nearly as closely based on real world history as my other work is.)

That said, I guess one of the things to pay attention to is the relationships between the adult characters, who number much fewer than the students and get much less “screen time”, so to speak, but are nonetheless key elements of the story. Also, to what is said and what isn’t — this is a story I think in which silence speaks volumes. And along similar lines, the things Intan notices and cares about are not necessarily the things most people in her situation would care about. But both are important.

I actually divided the seasons based on plot arcs, and these plot arcs do tend to coincide with major character arcs. My estimate is that most of the minor worldbuilding-related mysteries will be resolved by the end of the first season, while the second season will be heavily character driven despite revolving around one of the more important unsolved worldbuilding mysteries… but that may change as I write. The third and last season will be half the length of the first two and is pretty much an extended finale dealing with the fallout from the climax of the second season. But again, that may change if I end up discovering more plot to cover.

Okay, some easier questions now 🙂

Can I also ask about whether we will ever see the world outside this island? Or is this world solely the island? (Suspicious BigO fan here.)

LOL. Well, some of the characters are not native to the island, if that answers your question (or part of it, at least). But the scope of the story mostly doesn’t go beyond the island and its immediate vicinity, so no, I don’t think so.

And FINALLY…let’s talk about Mecha. First of all, Gundam? or Macross? Choose your side, and only one side!

Hmmmm. My earliest exposure to mecha in the traditional sense was Voltron, but my first exposure to the classic franchises was Gundam Wing, so I still have a soft spot for it to this day. At the same time, I haven’t actually watched huge chunks of either franchise — Gundam-wise I’ve watched only Wing and 00 in entirety, as well as the two episodes of Unicorn that are currently out. I’ve also watched/enjoyed but have not yet had the time to finish 08th MS Team and Turn A, and have seen bits of (but am not interested in finishing) SEED and G Gundam. So I’m pretty unfamiliar with classic Gundam (i.e. the UC universe) aside from what little I’ve read and watched so far. Macross, on the other hand, I’ve watched Frontier, Zero, Plus, and DYRL, which is probably enough to get a better sense of “what Macross is” though I’ve not watched the original either.

With that caveat in mind, I think I ultimately have to go with Macross. I absolutely adore Macross Frontier (with Zero coming close behind, I know I’m in the minority on this though XD) — I really like where Frontier takes the franchise, whereas Gundam 00 I liked parts of but ultimately found disappointing in execution (and though I’m optimistic about Unicorn so far, I’m reserving judgment on it for now). Although I do enjoy Gundam’s portrayal of space politics (it’s not always exactly nuanced, but I don’t exactly watch Gundam for the nuance), I think my problem with the franchise ultimately is that there are only so many ways you can say “war sucks” before the stories start getting repetitive. Macross, on the other hand, tends to cover a broader range of SF themes, and it treats the characters as an extension of a living world/history rather than as actors on a cardboard backdrop, which is sometimes how Gundam comes across. Also Macross music is awesome, ’nuff said.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: January 2011 collaboration: Up Close and maybe too personal *_* « creativewenches
  2. Trackback: S1| Ep4.5: Filler/Interlude « Memory of AUSOS
  3. Trackback: Suzy is tech-savvy? | Suzy's Box: The Journal of a Disturbed Girl
  4. Trackback: Chapter 5 « tales of the activated
  5. Trackback: Updates for the Lunar New Year « Memory of AUSOS

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