DAY FORTY-TWO: Reflections, Part 3

If you visit ROBOTECH.COM's episode guide, you'll notice there are some entries that are monumentally epic-length, entries that go on, and on, and on, and you just wonder why in the hell someone would write an episode summary that takes longer to read than the episode takes to watch. Well, that would be because someone back in the first half of the decade past thought all those little details were important. That someone was a damn fool college student named ... well, it was me. They wouldn't be so bad if not for that skinny column layout the site has going on. I did a lot of odd jobs for Harmony Gold early on in ROBOTECH.COM's life -- I did a fistful of those overlong episode summaries, I did a bunch of screen grabs of characters on the phone so they could use them to promote their customer service line for the ROBOTECH.COM store, I eventually did a lot of work on the bibliography when they rolled that out, and, in one of the dumbest moves I've ever made, I spent three days straight watching and rewatching ROBOTECH THE MOVIE: THE UNTOLD STORY so that I could transcribe the whole damn movie, because for some reason they didn't have a script for it anywhere in the office.

I haven't been able to watch ROBOTECH THE MOVIE since then. I don't think it's any great loss. I used to think it wasn't good, but it wasn't bad either. After that long, torturous, sleep-deprived experience, I take that position back. It's really, really bad, and I never want to see it ever again.

signed by series director Noboru Ishiguro. I totally cut in line in a major way to get this autograph
on the last day of AnimeExpo 2006. I have no regrets about it.

The big stuff I've gotten to do, of course, was the work on THE ART OF ROBOTECH: THE SHADOW CHRONICLES book, the chronological notes in the back of the three-in-one ROBOTECH MASTERS and NEW GENERATION novels, and I guess the article that appeared in PROTOCULTURE ADDICTS #94. The work on the SHADOW CHRONICLES artbook was an interesting collaborative effort; I spent a lot of that process basically going, "I think that turn of phrase mischaracterizes these events from the TV series, it went more like such-and-such-a-thing." The only passage I can name off the top of my head that I absolutely know I wrote is the short write-up of the Sentinels themselves. The one thing I know was omitted from that paragraph was the term "the Local Group," a term Daley, Luceno, Mason, Ulm, and the Waltrips all used to throw around throughout their SENTINELS work. Otherwise, that's all mine. Most of the rest of my contributions were turns of phrase and games of bad continuity whack-a-mole; if you're thumbing through the book sometimes and you think to yourself, "That sounds like something out of the Roboblog," then you probably just read five or six words out of there that are mine. They're all over the place in there.

Those little continuity notes in the back of the second & third generation ROBOTECH three-in-ones were originally going to be a wholesale rewrite of those novels. It's funny, I'd doom-and-gloomed about the possibility some months prior, and then the question was popped to me, "Say, how would you like to revise the novels to mesh with modern continuity?" I thought about it for a second and then went, "Well, if anyone's gonna do it, I'd rather it be me." So I accepted. I spent at least two weeks going from my job at the local elementary schools straight to a coffee shop a few blocks from my house, sitting down with my copies of the mid-1990s ROBOTECH MASTERS three-in-one volume and THE INVID INVASION, METAMORPHOSIS, and SYMPHONY OF LIGHT and stacks of index cards. I then went through the books and found everything -- and I mean EVERYTHING -- that didn't jibe with modern established ROBOTECH continuity. I'm talking stuff ranging from the bizarre misrepresentations of Logans throughout the MASTERS novels to bits like Dr. Zand killing Dr. Miles Cochrane, since Cochrane is alive and well in PRELUDE TO THE SHADOW CHRONICLES. I jotted every last little thing down, and e-mailed all the work, annotated with page numbers, back to Harmony Gold. I think I was most of the way through INVID INVASION when I got an almost panic-stricken voicemail from Tommy Yune on my cell phone, telling me to stop, that there was no room in the budget to make new plates for the new editions of the books, so they would have to go with the books as they were, and all that work would have to be boiled down to maybe a page or two in the back.

So I did that, and my name's still in the back of the books, but for two weeks I honestly thought I'd go down in history as the third "part" of Jack McKinney. That would have been cool.

Now that I think about it, the article wasn't the next major thing I did; the next major thing I did was get the ball rolling on getting THE SHADOW CHRONICLES to St. Louis. THE SHADOW CHRONICLES was making the film festival circuit, and I was frustrated that it was bouncing around the edges of the country but not hitting the midwest. I asked Kevin McKeever if there was anything that could be done about this, and he said to get a hold of some film festivals and request it. So I spent a couple of days doing research and finding film festivals that were going on for the remainder of 2006 across the midwest. I contacted five or six festivals, and St. Louis was the big one that bit. I put them in touch with Kevin, and the rest is history -- and is memorialized on the DVD case, on top of that. Take it out, look on the back, and there it is: "Official Selection, St. Louis Film Festival."

The PROTOCULTURE ADDICTS article was the first bit of ROBOTECH-related material I really took on after getting fed up with fandom politics at AnimeExpo 2007. I wasn't in a happy place and I think that colored my communications with the PROTOCULTURE ADDICTS staff, but on the other hand, it was a case where I wanted to see something done right, so I offered to do it myself. I just reread that piece a few nights ago, and despite the formatting errors and a couple of writing flubs, I'm proud of it. I think it offers a nice primer on how ROBOTECH began, where it had been, and where Harmony Gold was hoping it would go circa 2007. 

The last ROBOTECH works my name appeared in were the SHADOW CHRONICLES RPG book and the new ROBOTECH MASTERS RPG book. My only contribution to the SHADOW CHRONICLES book were a few notes I typed out after skimming most of the manuscript while I was home sick from work, while the MASTERS book I read a draft of in its entirety at the Applebee's here in Wausau over five or six cups of coffee and scrawled all kinds of notes in the margins. I have no idea if my thoughts influenced anything that was done in that book, but I don't even really care -- it's a nice little book, and my name's in it, so that's cool.

These experiences have been some of the most bizarre of my life; I'm not an intensely clever guy, I'm not an engineer or mathematician, or a crazy-brilliant artist, or a published sci-fi author. I'm just a guy who likes ROBOTECH a lot -- probably too much. I've spent my entire life living somewhere in the midwest, working low-paying hourly jobs to get by. And yet, somehow I've made a few marks on this B-level 80's animation franchise I love. I've made myself into a bit player in its twenty-five year history. How about that, ladies and gentlemen? How about that ...

TOMORROW: I'm spending the whole day in airports. It's gonna suck. I'm glad I brought a few books with me. Oh, and I'm telling you what the blogging schedule's gonna be for the foreseeable future.

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  • I was also there at the St. Louis Premier for the Shadow Chronicles. I got to meet Yune and even ask him a question at the panel after the movie. I asked if there were any future plans to release any more comics and he said something alone the line “just wait”. I have no idea what he meant unless he was talking about releasing some graphic novels of books I already owned some several years later.

    By Blogger mikesza, at 19 September, 2010 11:23  

  • I have a copy of "The Art of The Shadow Chronicles" and of the issue of Protoculture Addicts with your article in it, but if the Robotech novel omnibuses had indeed been rewritten (and I'd heard about that, I suppose), I would very likely have bought them too... The thought of revising the novels doesn't seem to bother me too much, although I am sort of wondering how the Masters novels would have turned out, given the whole "we'll explain Dana's bubbleheadedness by having her be the target of a mad scientist, whose elaborate scheme will crop up and then fall apart by itself at the last second!" subplot...

    Still, along those lines I have to admit that not that long after I had joined the old Robotech Mailing List and fallen in with its "we only appreciate the original series!" people, I tried to make up for only having one episode of the series on tape by picking up a black calligraphy marker and drawing lines through everything in my copies of the novels I could identify as a "McKinneyism" at that point... which I'm rather more ambiguous about having done nowadays. Still, I can still see what's under the black lines if I look at them. Maybe it would have been different if I'd had more of the series to go back to, and seen the novels as "an alternative take" rather than "the best substitute for the series" from the start.

    By Blogger Keith Palmer, at 19 September, 2010 17:30  

  • mikesza:

    I think I bothered Tommy Yune several times a year from 2004 through 2008 about the possibility of new Robotech comics. We got Prelude -- which, to some extent, I still like, though I have to wonder how much of that is a sort of prejudicial goodwill towards the Waltrips, and how much of that was me being the kind of Robotech fan who would look at that and suddenly feel the urge to open a blog and get to work deciphering it -- but, um, yeah, since then, nothing. I kept on telling him some kind of intermezzo follow-up to Shadow Chronicles would be a good idea, or an adventure of Maia Sterling during the years of fighting Invid in the former Robotech Masters' empire -- money in the bank, kids. But what do I know, I'm an hourly wage slave in the Midwest and he's Mr. Big Shot traipsing across the country on a magical mystery tour (the mystery being what HG is doing besides sending Tommy Yune all over the country). Obviously keeping the license at DC/WildStorm where they don't need it and don't want to do anything with it is better than, say, going with a smaller company that might have a passion for it and might want to do things with it. (But then, this isn't anything I haven't said before a thousand times, on the blog and on my YouTube channel years ago.)

    By Blogger Captain JLS, at 20 September, 2010 00:03  

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