In Chapter Q: Under the Thumb Professor Akayama returns to her water world to tell Nemo what she’s doing with his planet. With “a lot of statistics” she will conjure Earth’s vaporized population. I’ll share more details next week, but for now, let’s discuss how this reflects on the rest of the story.
Akayama DanJay has two halves. In the Akayama half, a giant anime space-robot fights a cosmic horror at light-speed while reconstructing Earth. In the DanJay half, human simulacra bumble around Earth’s reconstruction unaware of their cosmogonic origin. Dan, Jay, Faith, Beatrice, Leo, and everyone else in the ‘real’ world are actually placeholders in a machine-learning process generating Earth’s original population.
I wrote the DanJay half first for two reasons: one, I’m making stuff up as I go; two, I thought it was a better reading experience to have the Akayama half as a big reveal. To be fair to myself, I still think it’s fun to watch Jay puzzle over a mysterious desert and eventually eat a centipede in search of answers. Nevertheless, with the benefit of hindsight, a theoretical final draft might look a little more like this:
We’d start with Princess Lucia’s piloting exam. Then we’d skip twenty years to Lucille meeting ZAB. ZAB would show Lucille how her parents died. At the end of the first chapter, we’d go BACK twenty years to Akayama’s fall to her Hurricane Planet. From there we follow Akayama until the reconstruction of Earth.
As soon as Earth’s reconstruction begins, we’d zoom in on Dan being immolated in a furnace. We’d follow Dan/Jillian/Jay until Jay watches an episode of anime with Faith. In this ordering, the episode would no longer be a detour from the main story, but a RETURN to the main story. The episode would show the ongoing battle between Lucille’s Galaxy Zephyr and the Hurricane, keeping tensions high.
After the episode we’d return to following DanJay. When Jay visits the afterlife, there would be a sense of irony: Jay has no idea what’s happening, but the reader would know exactly why smoking centipede sends him to a desert. Akayama, under the name Nakayama, meaning “inside the Mountain,” introduces herself as the Heart of the Mountain, presumably because after twenty years imprisonment she’s lost the finer points of human interaction. The reader would know why Akayama is a giant bird-thing, but Jay would still see her as a monster.
From there, we’d keep following DanJay while occasionally watching anime to showcase how the two halves of the story interact with one another.
Rearranging the sections of Akayama DanJay like this would take some rewriting and editing. If I change which anime episode the characters are watching in any section, I’d need to edit the dialog before and after. Jay will have to watch more anime, as well, to keep the reader updated on the fight between Commander Lucille and the Hurricane. But this would be worth it, because characters in DanJay‘s half are generally reactive, not proactive, and couching their story in universal conflict helps validate that passivity by contrasting it with action. DanJay‘s half lacks tension until the reader understands the nature of their world as subsidiary to a giant anime space-robot fight, but currently this reveal occurs too late in the narrative.
I didn’t realize this, of course, because I understood the nature of their world since the beginning (or, at least, I had rough plans). Therefore the order of sections on akayamadanjay.com was a natural order for writing, even if it’s not the optimal order for reading. A difficult aspect of writing is stepping back to look at work with fresh eyes, and understanding how a natural writing order must be warped into a natural reading order.
Anyway, thanks for reading. I’m having lots of fun.