There is some thing brewing in the bowels of the University of Houston, Texas computer labs. It is night, and the rest of the room is in darkness, save the glowing light from a lone computer screen. In the chair, sits Rod M, in complete solitude and at peace with the world.

Sailor Hellblazer!
Rod is better known for his long Ranma fanfic works, such as "The More Things Change" and "The (sur)Real World", in addition to his collaboration with David Tai on the AMG crossovers "Dire Fates" and "Sailor Hellblazer." I caught up with him on one such a night and here's what he had to say about penguins, fanfics and the death of "Fushigi Yugi."

Q: "Full name please?"
Rod: "Rodney P. Malapitan."
Q: "Why don't you use your last name?"
Rod: "Several reasons."
Q: "Like?"
Rod: "1) It's long, very long, 2) I like to keep parts of my life segmented: my home life, my friends, my work, my writing hobby. Not using my last name goes a long way in dodging people doing a name search on 'Malapitan' and stumbling onto my writing. Yes, I'm a closet otaku."
Q: "So I take it you're not the first to be involved in messy character debates and sleeping with pictures of Ukyou, huh?"
He's really rather shy...Rod: "Ah... actually, I have no anime memorabilia in my room at all"
Q: "None at all? Nothing other than tapes?"
Rod: "Oh. Two t-shirts that are ambiguous enough to be generally ignored by the family: 'PROPERTY OF FURINKAN HIGH SCHOOL' grey t-shirt and a black 'NERV' t-shirt. That's about it."
Q: "Describe your writing desk/computer console. What do you use to help you get in the mood for writing?"
Rod: "I usually write on and off duty at the offices at work... if I can get a location nice, quiet, and secluded. Usually on a Mac, sometimes on a PC. I always, always, _always_ do my writing via a telnet session to a unix account, and I write in PICO."
Q: "What's on your desk?"
Rod: "On my desk... what, as I write? or at home? It's never the same desk twice...."
Q: "On your desk where you write."
Rod: "I'll usually have a drink handy, these days bottled water (the doctors made me quit coke), the cellphone'd be laid out too... and that's about all that'll be out. I work at the University of Houston [Texas] computer lab. I cover the lab that our dept. oversees, and right now that's about three different locations. The bonus of having multiple locales, is that I have the keys to the labs that aren't 24 hours open, and those places, after hours, are where I do my writing best."

"I wrote most of my stories after sunset. There's something about daylight hours that just kills me."
Q: "Non-caffeine diet?"
Rod: "No caffeine, yep."
Q: "Ditto for me."
Rod: "Sucks, don't it? But when you DO get that shot of Coke [Coca-Cola] in... it's like a drug rush."
Q: "So you prefer absolute solitude? Does that help you concentrate better?"
Rod: "I just cannot write in the presence of others. It bugs me too much."
Rod: "It's not so much concentration as it is relaxation."
Q: "Why fanfic? When did you get started?"
Rod: "Ah... well... I always wanted to be a writer... the first story I did was a stinging satire of my class that made me slightly unpopular."
Q: "Is it still in print?"
The real reason he likes 'SF'Rod: "Yep"
Rod: "I got introduced to anime, and fanfics, thanks to 'Street Fighter II', my other passion and joy. 'SF2' is, deeply, anime-esque: the shouting of moves, the art style, etc.
"Two things related to street fighter brought me to anime and fanfics: 1) 'The Street Fighter' anime movie-- EVERY 'Street Fighter' rat that was in the game made it to the showing when the anime club announced they were gonna show it. The auditorium was FULL."
Q: "Rat in the game?"
Rod: "Oh, I call the guys at the arcade 'the arcade rats'."
Rod: "2) Reading the newsgroup, I stumbled upon something called 'The Dream Tournament' by Mark Maestas and.... damn, can't [remember] the other guy. It was the original 'big fighting tourney crossover' fanfic, the first of its kind. [It] was written with wit and humor, and inspired me. [F]urther on, street fighter stories by Bethany Cox, who wrote better than most people I've read, even today."
"Anyway, that's how the idea of doing a fanfic got inside my head. I really wanted to write a street fighter fanfic first, but never got to it. In fact, I do have 2/3 of a street fighter fic done, I just never got around to releasing it... maybe one of these days ."
Q: "What side tracked you?"
Rod: "What sidetracked me? Ranma 1/2. When I looked further into fanfics, I noticed a lot of them were Ranma fics... watched the anime, became a fan, joined the mailing list, got impressed by the great fanfics out there and thought 'hey, I could do this.'"
Q: "Most people have cited 'Ranma' as the anime that 'starts' them."
Rod: "Most people, not me. Street fighter was my 'starter.'"
Q: "So, what was your first fanfic work?"
Rod: "'The More Things Change', Ranma 1/2. Sure, it's Ukyou & Ryouga, but I did it when it wasn't overdone so much, and I'd like to point out I never ever had those two ever becoming a couple."
Q: "It's perhaps the most ambitious thing I've seen. You attempt to a) get Ranma and Akane together, b) introduce a new character, and c) give Ryouga something else to do besides being Ranma's fall guy. How did you get inspired to start it?"
Rod: "How'd I get inspired to... hrm. Aheh, I forgot . I can tell you what influenced it, but as to what kicked it off? Bugger, I'm blank."
Q: "Okay, how long ago did you start it? And what influenced it?"
Rod: "Er.... 1993? Andrew Huang can tell you more accurately than me. What influenced it... well, I was still reeeally wild about 'Street Fighter,' hence the (looking back on it, it was) gratuitous cameos... also Jinnai from 'El Hazard' is, conceptually, the template for Ryo Muhoshin. Along with the Penguin. Yes, the Penguin, from the Batman comics."
Q: "The Penguin? Oh, the umbrellas."
Rod: "Growing up, I've always liked villains. I think it was a part of my anti-social streak. I idolized the Joker, and thought the Penguin was really nifty too. What other influences... oh yeah, Douglas Adams. Very much."
The template...Q: "Why the Penguin?"
Rod: "The idea of trick umbrellas as weapons was so nifty to me. My villain was going to need an umbrella, and since he was going to be a dark reflection of Ryouga, having an umbrella weapon as well seemed perfect."
Q: "And the UWSMA [Unorthodox Weapons Something Martial Arts]?"
Rod: "I needed a reason for Ryo and his siblings to all be using strange weaponry... from there, the idea just grew. I mean, to use an umbrella just because... it seemed lacking. So the UWSMA was born."
Q: "You've also written comics crossovers as well (Batman: The Animated Series and Hellblazer). What other comics do you like and/or read?"
Rod: "Comics... ah. Well, as you said, Batman books, Hellblazer... as well as 'The Books of Magic', 'The Flash', 'JLA', 'Young Justice', 'Robin', 'Starman' ... hrm, what else...? The manga versions of 'Ranma 1/2', 'Gunsmith Cats', 'Patlabor', 'Neon Genesis Evangelion'.... Absolutely no Marvel Comics. Not anymore."
Q: "Deterioration in story content?"
Rod: "It all feels so flat these days. Then again, the same is happening with Batman and that utterly ridiculous 'earthquake' saga. Utter crap. They should drop the 'events' and stick to the stories.
"Heh, that reminds me. David Tai always tells me I should read 'Transmetropolitain'.... sez I act exactly like the lead bastard in that one, 'Spider Jerusalem'. I've never bought one, but one of these days I might."
Q: "So, you're more of a story and writer fan than an artist fan?"
Rod: "Teah, more of a story guy. I can put up with bad art. Oh yeah, used to read 'Green Lantern.' Then Ron Marz sent the book to hell. So long as Kyle Rayner is Green Lantern, I won't be buying it again."
Q: "Over the years of fanfic writing, what kind of trends have you enjoyed and what kinds have you feared?"
Rod: "Enjoyed... hrm.... Its growing popularity, the expansion away from 'Ranma 1/2'... did you notice many of the old timers that started on "Ranma 1/2" have now expanded greatly, some like David [Tai] even dropping Ranma entirely? It seems to be a pattern. Even I'm following it."
"As for trends I hate... the brainless mega-crossover. '(sur)Real World' was, in a way, a protest against the ultra-epic-cross-dimensional-saving-reality-woo-wee-zap fanfics. You just can't slap a bunch of guys from a different universe together merely 'cause they're the stars of their shows and expect them to be qualified to save the universe. No, don't work. For every fic that has Ranma saving the world, a part of me notes that "in-canon" Ranma has never saved the world, much less the city. Ataru [from "Urusei Yatsura"], on the other hand, has saved the world once or twice already."
"People that insist on crossing stories over, even if the two stories dont' blend... that really kills me."
Q: "Like jamming a square peg into a round hole with a mallet?"
Rod: "Like 'Evangelion' and 'Ranma', for instance. If you're gonna write a fusion, fine, fusions give you a leeway. But if you're gonna do a crossover, there's so many conflicting issues between both series that it just doesn't work."
"One trend that I hate, despise, and loathe... though I know that I'm being unreasonable about it... Sailor Moon crossovers. Logically speaking, sailor moon blends better with most anime than Ranma does. I still hate it."
Trisha points pointedly to "Sailor Hellblazer."
Rod: "Heheh, yeah, that. My pride. That one... I wanted to poke fun at "Sailor Moon", the absurdity of [it all]. At the same time, I wanted to write a good story."
Q: "We know how you got started; they were joke scenes from 'Dire Fates.' But what kept you going? And how did you feel writing it, knowing you didn't like SM at all?"
Rod: "If you're gonna write on something, do it right, I say. So I actually took the time to get to know sailor moon FAR MORE THAN I WANTED TO. Why did I do it? Because I love poking fun at things, and that's what 'Sailor Hellblazer' was. It was poking fun at the whole magical girl deal. Satire, in a way."
Q: "Going back to your first writing work [your satire on your class]?"
Rod: "Yeeep. I love satire. I really do."
Q: "I've noticed that you don't do much drama or tragedy. Why not?"
Rod: "Hrm... good question.... The immediate answer is that I haven't thought of any proper plots. I don't think I could ever do flat-out drama. I'd tinge it with comedy. As for other reasons... I guess I just don't have it in me to pump out the drama/tragedy like a lot of the other big name writers do."
[At this time, Sean Gaffney has connected to the room.]
Q: "Okay... time to think about this one... If you could do anything really BAD to any character, who would it be and why?"
Rod: "Do anything really bad to a character.... Hrmmmmm.... Though you'd think I'd say 'kill sailor moon', I really don't have a clue."
Q: "Come on, be NASTY!"
Rod: "No, really, I'm rather surprisingly blank. Oh,waitasec.... Damn, what was that anime... there was this anime I HATED."
Sean: "Rayearth?"
Rod: "Everyone in it was stupid in one sense or another, in a very Fargo-esque way. I think I said, at the time, 'Okay, everyone in this flick deserves to die.' Damn, wish [Andrew] were here, he'd remember that one too. Oh, wait!" 'Fushigi Yugi!' They're all idiots! It'd be humane to just have them all shot."
Sean: "See, I couldn't answer that question, as I've done it. Miaka was brutally beaten to death in [Won't Get Fooled Again]."
Rod: "Well-deservedly-so."
Q: "What would you do to them, if given half the chance?"
Rod: "what would I do? Bullet to the head. One shot. The entire Fushigi Yugi cast. Everyone. Must. Die."
Q: "You mentioned other BNAs [Big Name Authors] who do drama/tragedy. Who do you read?"
Rod: "Who do I read? Wella... Grayson Towler, Mike Loader, John Biles, Alan Harnum, Lara Bartram, Madame Sebastian, 'Scriviner', Mark Doherty, Jeanne Hedge, Scott Jaimeson, Chris Jones, Matthew Lewis.... I'd say Gaffney, but he hasn't put out in a while." *poke*poke*
Sean: "Thank you, Rod...sort of. And we all know Dan writes so much more than I do."
Rod: "Oh yeah, mustn't forget 'Twoflower', Dan Root, and Chris Willmore."
Q: "Do you think there's any relevance between the fact that most of the authors you've cited use their full names, rather than pseudonyms?"
Rod: "I have no idea."
Q: "How do you feel about new writers? Are there any you look forward to?"
Rod: "The newest ones are Harnum and Towler... though this fella writing 'Girl Days' seems to be causing a stir. I've read it, it's not bad, we'll see how it goes. Other new writers... I haven't read any stories lately that were so good I bothered to remember the writer's name."
Sean: "Harnum's 'new'? He's been around over a year, ne?"
Rod: "That's as new as my tastes run. Stale, isn't it? You try naming someone that debuted within the last six months."
Q: "Do you still see yourself reading or writing fanfics ten years down the line?"
Rod: "Ten years.... heh, it's already been nearly five years since I've started. Who knows? Maybe."
Q: "What were you working on tonight before I interrupted you?"
...and the finished productRod: "'The Pursuit of Happiness.' Been stalled out on that one for a while, and I'm trying to get it moving again."
Q: "If you had to suggest one work (or one chapter) from another fanfic author, what would it be and why?"
Rod: "Hrm... now that one's tough. Plenty of good stories out there. 'Relentless' by Grayson Towler, I think, I'll just have to say, simply because Towler stays extremely true to Takahashi's characterizations, yet does so much more with it. A great balance of drama and humor, really, and all well within Takahashi's characterizations."
Q: "If you had to suggest one work (or one chapter) from yourself, what would it be and why?"
Rod: "No easy questions from you, eh?"
Q: "Nope."
Rod: "Let's see... what've I done... You know what? I can't decide. While I got my rep as a humorist, I've spread myself since then. If you look at one story of mine, you really don't get a good idea of what I do."
"The closest thing to it, I guess, would be 'Children of an Elder God', a story I'm co-writing with longtime writer John Biles. It's got humor, it's got drama, it's also an epic. Yeah, I think I'd have to say 'Children of an Elder God.'"
Q: "Finally, what sort of advice would you give to a fanfic writer who was just starting out writing comedy?"
Rod: "Read up on your favorite humor writers, see why they do what they do, and don't feel ashamed to imitate them a little. There's nothig new under the sun, even established writers like Stephen King and Douglas Adams imitate someone else's style to some degree. The trick is in taking that style and changing it enough to be your own."
Q: "Thanks for the time, Rod."
Rod: "Anytime, Trisha."

Author's Picks:

Relentless by Grayson Towler -- Happosai has gone amd made Ranma the official heir to the Anything Goes School! But what is his ulterior motive? And just what is that monster that's coming after Ranma? A continuing saga, you can find it at Grayson's homepage .
Children of an Elder God by John Biles and Rod M -- Don't ask me to explain Lovecraft and the Great Chlutu. All you really need to know is that it's a cross between the mythos created by H. P. Lovecraft and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Spotlight Picks:

O'Tendo by Rod M -- Written as a spam fic for St. Patrick's Day, this is an excellent showcase for Rod's comedic skills and timing.
Frozen Knights by Rod M -- One of Rod's more serious works, it focuses in on the Knight Sabers and their potential ties to Gotham City's Dark Knight. Guest starring Victor Fries.

All of Rod's works can be found linked to his M Productions page, but he hasn't updated any of his pages in eons. More recent works can be accessed by sending Rod some e-mail , along with any aoppropriate bribes.

For Further Research:
Trixie! The Anime Web Turnpike --Useful resource for all your anime websearching needs. Check out their large sections on fanfic and Street Fighter.

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