Past and Future
Okay, here's an entry I've been promising myself that I'd write sooner or later. The history of Sailor Moon 4200 — and a bit about its future.
(It's fantastically presumptuous of me to think that anyone will actually care about this. But then, this whole blog is fantastically presumptuous in the first place, so I may as well be hung for a sheep as for a goat.)
Let's see. The initial idea for the story came while I was still writing my second-ever fanfic, a Ranma ½ story called "Autumn and Spring". (A story which, not to be egotistical or anything, was voted a "best story of month" award, and came in fifth place for the year.)
The basic idea was very simple: What if Crystal Tokyo didn't last as long as everyone seems to think it will? Or, as the SM4200 home page has it: "Nobody ever dreamed that the Crystal Millennium would fall so soon ..."
Think about it ... the usual premise is that, once Crystal Tokyo is founded (and apart from the Black Moon incident), it's all happily-ever-after for the SM crew. Well, what if it wasn't?
Almost immediately, I had a mental image of a distant future, where Crystal Tokyo has fallen; and now, centuries later, it's time for everything to start all over again. That mental image, as it turned out, was ... pretty much completely unlike the story turned out. (As I recall, it was a very rustic, countryside setting, studded with buildings that looked vaguely like bee-hives. I don't really know why. That was the picture in my head, though.)
Anyway, I realised almost immediately that the senshi of this new era would be a mix of old ones, reborn yet again, and some new faces. I didn't think about that; it just seemed an obvious necessity, to tie it back to the original.
A word about Bendis. I wanted two moon cats, and one of them was going to be an original; the other a new face, young, inexperienced, and of mixed blood. (Bendis's ancestry was hinted at, right back in the prelude.) I picked the female to be the new one simply because I thought it'd be more fun to write a young, inexperienced female moon cat than a young, inexperienced male one. In retrospect I'm not sure why that'd be the case, but that was my thinking. And that was why Luna died and Artemis survived. Sad but true.
("Bendis" was a Thracian moon goddess, usually associated by the Greeks with Artemis. In early chapters I kept on having characters puzzled by the name, in the hope that readers would ask me what it meant. But nobody ever did.)
Anway. Once "Autumn and Spring" was finished, I wrote the prelude chapter, pretty much without planning anything. (This is a technique I often use when starting a new story: beginning with a vague idea of what the story is about and where it's headed, just start writing. Then stop and plan the story out. I find it helpful in that the initial writing firms out the picture of a world in my head, and it's easier to plot things out with that in place.)
The prelude, by the way, came in two flavours. "Autumn and Spring" had been a fairly grim story, and I wanted SM4200 to be lighter. So I decided that the best way to ensure this would be to write it in script format.
Yes, that's what I said. Script format.
There was a certain logic in this. It's quite difficult to get tense and angsty in script format, I find. In fact, much later when I actually did write stories in script format, I found this a major headache when I actually needed the story to get darker.
In any case, I wrote most of the prelude in script format. The ending refused to come together properly, so I tried rewriting it in prose. That worked better, and prose it's been ever since (the "Queen Serenity" interlude excepted). I still have the original script prelude, though; I may post it someday as an omake.
And then, with the prelude posted on the FFML and everything, I plotted the whole story out. I started a "world guide" file with notes on the main characters, who the big baddie was, what happened during the Fall, and so forth. This was very sparse at first, but after a couple of days I had a reasonable idea of the back-story, at least. Most of the new characters started out as just names; details were generally slow to emerge. (I didn't realise that Suzue was a member of the Church of Serenity, which is absolutely key to her character, until I was about to begin the chapter in which she appears.)
Some interesting points emerged by pure serendipity. I picked the year 4200 as, well, a handy round number. And the year of the Fall, 3478, was simply random. So, when I came to write chapter 9 and worked out how old Queen Serenity would be at the time, I was as surprised as anyone to realise that she'd be turning 1500. And even more surprised to realise that Itsuko, in the year 4200, is 2222 years old.
As for plotting the story itself ... I had a good idea of how the story would end; it was just a matter of filling in details. I decided that 21 chapters seemed like a reasonable length, so I simply wrote the numbers 1 to 21 down on a bit of paper, and started writing in plot points as they occurred to me, shuffling them around until they made sense. My complete initial outline consisted of one to three lines per chapter.
As an example, this is the original outline for chapter 7: "Introduce Suzue, who becomes Uranus." And chapter 8: "Iku becomes Mars. Miyo’s secret revealed to her family; she is disowned and moves into the Olympus." And chapter 9: "First combined meeting of all Senshi. Itsuko reveals herself to everyone. Itsuko tries to train Iku." (The last bit got shunted forward to chapter 10, obviously.)
Naturally, as the story progressed the outline grew denser. A lot of sub-plots in current chapters were never dreamed of at the outset; and as points emerge, they get integrated into the whole. The outline as it exists today is a considerably more detailed document, full of notes for upcoming scenes, and sometimes, fully-written dialogue. It's still sparse in points (I have only 4 sentences of notes for chapter 17) but will only get more complete as I go. And the ending I originally planned is still on track; the details have changed, but the substance remains.
As for the future ... well, the basic plot-line is all laid down. I have detailed notes on the very last scene of chapter 21. And the coda is fully written (it's a short segment that takes place 20 years or so after the main story).
I'll get there ... in the end.