There are a couple things one takes for granted in the anime fic writing world. One, Blade will always defend Pantyhose Tarou. Two, John Biles is always working on a Sailor Moon crossover. Most importantly, however is number Three: it's all Mike Loader's fault.
After all, he was part of the inspiration behind "Sailor Hellblazer" and "Kasumi the Biker Slut". He's the one who gave Akane a backbone and married Soun and Kodachi. Along the way, Mike's collaborations with other authors have produced several worthy works, including "Bliss" with Lara Bartram, an episode of "Daigakusei no Ukyou" with RpM and the ever present "Ill Met By Starlight" with Susan Doenime. It is perhaps because of Mike Loader's presence that the standards for anime fic writing have been raised to new heights.
Just blame Mike Loader. I know I do.

Q: Ready?
<Trisha grins at Mike grinningly>
Mike: Shoot.
Q: You've traveled all over the world. You've been shot at while working as a journalist in Las Vegas. You can speak fluent German. So why do you write fanfic?
Mike: Well, mostly because respected journalism is hell on your writing skills. I first joined the FFML [Fan Fic Mailing List] after the demise of a humor fiction list back in '96... the quality of the fanfics was, frankly, higher than any other public writing list I could find. And it's very relaxing to write. Without it, AP [Associated Press] style would crush my muse like a bug.
Q: Which humor fiction list was that?
Mike (right) and me in Henderson, Las Vegas, circa 1996 Mike: It was called 'Death to Linguini'. Lord knows why it was called that. The Rats first got their internet start there, and I got to get the hang of working in electrons instead of paper. Interesting place, long dead due to a shoddy hard drive on some server.
Q: Let's go back in time, shall we? The Instituit Rats: Seamus, Giles and Mahon. You don't use them anymore online. How did your stories about the Rats begin? What was the Instituit and how did you find yourself there?
Mike: The Goethe Institut, and I was there to pick up German. The original, real life Rats were mates of mine in Tubingen and Trier. I adapted 'em (with permission) for a set of short stories, which got a run in an amateur fiction magazine called "The Penspinner". They got a decent reception.... 13 in all... and my first fanfic was a crossover with 'em, just to bridge the gap.
Q: That would be "We Don't Do Okonomiyaki", right? What ever possessed you to write it?
Mike: Laziness, pure and simple. <grin> I wanted a piece that I could submit both to the FFML and the Penspinner. Wrote it in 4 hours, and had it ripped to shreds by the editor. The FFML seemed to like it, though.
Back then I was working from ignorance. Ukyou didn't appear because I knew nothing about her. few episodes of the anime and a lot of fanfic was my basis.
Q: Why didn't your Penspinner editor like it?
Mike: He didn't like it because half of it was a fanfic. Don't blame him, either. Was still worth a shot. <wink>
Q: So here's the big question. How did you get into anime?
Mike: I still wonder that myself. To be honest, it happened at about the same time I started writing fanfic. A few friends of mine showed me Lodoss, which I kinda liked, and Ranma, which first appalled, then amused, and finally hooked me. A few weeks later I found the FFML while looking for a replacement writing list. I'm guessing that, without the added lure of fanfic writing, I'd have lost interest in anime in a year or less, or never would have gotten into it at all.
Q: So you consider yourself a writer first and an anime fan second?
Mike: Very much so.
Q: Do you thihnk your life experiences and your experiences as a journalist perhaps givve you an "edge" over the other fanfic writers?
Mike: The opposite. Most journalists are great observers, unbiased reporters, accurate relayers, and lousy writers. It's a field that demands precision, not accuracy... if anything, part of why I write fanfic is to keep it from killing my muse. I think my personal edge is the fact that I've been reading everything I could get my hands on since age four - real books, not comics or TV.
Life experiences, on the other hand... definitely. I think everyone draws their writing from what they've lived or dreamed, and it shows.
Q: What are the many things you have done over the years? I remember you saying sojmething about taking a tank to Russia once?
Mike: Well... not to and it wasn't a tank. <wink> As for what I've done... I've traveled through most of Europe and a bit of Asia, been to castles, concentration camps, and underground hill forts. I've been to the opera in Germany, the theatre in London, and a music hall in Paris. I've walked through Flanders' fields, and picked the horrors of 1916 out of the grass. I've dug for, and found, Roman pottery and metal implements. I've poled a boat down a river near the Black Forest. I've lived places when no-one's native tounge was the same as mine. I've interviewed people who were being bombed by American warplanes at the time, people who had just been arrested, and what seems like a thousand people who didn't want to talk to me. I've been at ground zero at a shuttle fuel explosion and a anthrax raid by the FBI. And I've eaten the best damn barbecue in the world.
Q: Where was the barbecue?
Mike: Kansas City. It's a tossup between Zarda's and Arthur Bryant's.... the succulent beef and sausage combo of Zarda's vsx the piquaint sauce and masterpiece ribs of Bryant's....
Q: How in the world did you ever manage to do all that stuff?
Mike: Lived overseas for over a year, mostly.
Q: So why'd you come back?
Mike: Well, I went with the family. When the family came back, so did I.
Q: Why journalism? Why not become a full time writer? It seems to suit your muse more.
Mike:: It sure does. But writing is a sideline, not a living - unless you're both good and established, you can't make enough money to live off of. Lord knows I'd love to make my money by writing fiction, but until I hit a few bestsellers...
Q: Is that why you trend towards the more "dramatic" fanfics like IMBS [Ill Met by Starlight] and "Smoke and Mirrors"?
Mike: Hmm... I don't know that I tend towards the dramatic. My works are a pretty even split; something like 46% comedy, 48% drama, and the rest a mix of both. My darker works usually come from an idea or concept that sticks in my head and won't leave... and, frequently, to prove a point.
Q: Let's talk about your comedies, then. "Nameless" (which people keep forgetting has been named) and the "Nameless Sequel". What kind of story were you thinking about when you wrote it?
Mike: The first Nameless was just my half-assed attempt at a actual fanfic. It had a lot of comedy, a bit of melodrama which I'd now like to hack out, a somewhat demented plotline, and a fairly slapdash direction. I just wrote, and let it go where it would... you can get away with that when every other line makes folks laugh. Sequel, on the other hand, had a lot more structure. With sequel, the idea was to throw as many subplots as I could into the air, juggle them, interweave them, and finally bring them all together.
Q: Must have been quite a task. How many subplots were there? And how did you manage to give the right amount of time to each?
Mike: If I recall correctly, there were something like 24. I mostly kept em moving by instinct... which failed, on occasion, since you can see stuck in the story's beginning a few hooks that I either forgot or never worked in.
Q: What are some things you started that you never got around to finishing?
Mike: Hrm... well, you'll notice that in the second scene, I believe, Ranma shows himself to be possibly the world's worst shogi player. There was supposed to be a martial arts shogi match later... but I never found a good way to fit it in, and it wasn't that great a concept. So it stayed as a throwaway joke.
Q: Are you going to write a Nameless Sequel Sequel? 'Cause you can't leave Kodachi married to Soun...
Mike: I can't? <grin> The sequel to the sequel will be written... eventually. I still have to sort out the direction and ideas for it.
Q: You're too busy with LOS [Last One Standing], I take it? It seems as if LOS is the natural extension to go after IMBS.
Mike: Very much so. LOS is an exploration, partly, of concepts raised in IMBS but never closely examined.
Q: It's hard to say which character you like more: Akane, Kasumi or Nabiki. All three have been given rather decent roles in your fics. Why the Tendo sisters?
The Force is strong in her family Mike: I suppose it's because each of them is such a puzzle, psychologically. Kasumi is a blank slate - WHY is she like that, and what is she really thinking? That's why I wrote "Smoke and Mirrors", to answer that. IMBS highlighted Akane and Nabiki... the interaction between the two, and their strengths and weaknesses. I like to think that I showed them at their best and worst. LOS, obviously, is focused on parts of Akane we don't see much.
Q: I should say so. While I was writing "Nabiki in ComaLand" [a side story to IMBS], you had mentioned something about the characters in IMBS, and what the lacked?
Poster design by -M- Productions Mike: All of the characters in IMBS were, in some way, blinded by something. Akane by love and need to feel needed, Nabiki by fear, the Hibiki's by hate, Shampoo by necessity, Ukyou by attraction and need for resolution, and Ranma by himself.
Q: Do all of your characters have such intricate characterization? Even the silly ones?
Mike: Not all of em. The silly ones are usually a lot less complex. But the essense of drama is complex, real characters.
Q: What was the funnest thing for you to write?
Mike: IMBS or AFH [A Faint Hope]. Susan and Lara are a blast to co-write with, especially when both of us are 'on'. That said, I'm also having a lot of fun with LOS right now.
Q: What's it like working with them? How do you deal with a co-author?
Mike: Well, for the most part we bounce ideas off each other, then fight about what happens. <grin> Generally we parcel the writing up into scenes, and each do the ones we call dibs on.
Q: Which stuff did you write in IMBS? And AFH? And Bliss?
Mike: The IMBS stuff is too mixed up to really name specifics. <grin> The AFH stuff.... I wrote a lot of Kasumi and Akane, and the few Ukyou scenes, and a buncha other stuff. In Bliss, I wrote the Transport scene, the ant swarm, the wild dogs, the plague and destruction of the island, and the initial return to civilization. Everything after we meet Kuno's new [girlfriend] is mostly Lara.
Q: I can see why she'd get the good Kunou bits. <grin>
Mike: Well, she is the expert. <grin>
Q: What are some things you wanted to do in either Bliss or IMBS that didn't make the cut?
Mike: Bliss didn't really have anything that didn't make it. If anything, it was the opposite - how were we going to fill up two whole years?! <grin> IMBS's vision and scope evolved and mutated like a fruitfly colony in a nuclear reactor. Things cut included Nodoka showing up, Kodachi showing up, Akane leading the resistance vs. Ranma, and any number of other things. We had no fewer than three different endings that we were working towards, and only picked the one we were gonna use about halfway through the series.
Q: What was the worst ending you think?
Mike: Probably the one in which Ranma dies halfway through, and Akane more or less snaps violently and takes his place. It had a certain vicious poetry to it, but really left all the questions about Ranma's goodness, evilness, love, hate, etc unanswered in a very unsatisfactory manner. I've never liked Lady or Tiger ending much; seems a nasty sort of trick to play on the reader.
Poster design by -M- Productions
LOS is my attempt to do something that I don't think has really been done before with a character. [T]here have been a lot of stories portraying Akane as... not very nice. <grin> Bitter End [by Zen] comes to mind as the penultimate example. But all of them, IMHO, were handicapped by a few things. First, the writer at best didn't like the character - and it's my believe that it's almost impossible to convincingly write a character you hate. Second, the sort of negative image she got was a bitchy, whiny, selfish sort - or just a mentally ill type, like in Bitter End. The nastiness of Akane in these fics is almost unintentional; that's just how she is, just because. She doesn't mean to.
Q: So this is your way of showing a balanced, well-written Akane?
Mike: I set out to take a character I like, and, while remaining true to her characterization and personality, turn her into a truly evil person. A villian, if I believed in such things. When we first meet IMBS's Ranma, he's already fallen. In LOS, we get to watch the fall as it happens.
[A]s of Canto Four, she's killed two people. Both in sort-of self defence, but it's wearing down her resistance to killing. And the pressure she's under, combined with increasing alienation and power, isn't helping.
Q: You mentioned that you've read a lot of things. What sort of things have influenced your writing?
Mike: Roger Zelazny. James Michner. Terry Pratchett. David Eddings. James Clavell. Those five are probably my biggest literary influences.
Q: Zelazny and Pratchett I can see. Explain Michner.
Mike: I love his ability to bring settings to life, and to evenhandedly show both sides of a conflict as being neither right or wrong, good or evil. I very much admire that in serious fiction. IMBS, for example, had no 'good side' or 'bad side' - there was conflict, and good and evil aplenty, but each of the two factions was, to a degree, doing the right thing. I don't believe in black and white fights.
Q: Is this something you bring over into your editorial writing?
Mike: Not really. In my editorials, I'm always carrying the banner of Truth and Justice. <wink> Though I try to steer the audience to that conclusion rather than proclaiming it outright.
Q: What kind of fics do you like to write the most?
Mike: Hmmm... hard question. I think it's sort of like asking someone whether they prefer cold or hot food - it depends on when you ask them. I'm probably proudest of my dramatic works, but that's partially because humor is a lot easier for me to write.
Q: So I guess with the current LOS run you're doing, it's drama, right?
Mike: LOS is drama. On the other hand, my two other current projects are humor. Right now... hrm... LOS, a Sekrit Project, a Rurouni Kenshin fanfic with John Biles named "Call of Kyoto", and a episode of [Daigakusei no Ranma] with Alan Harnum.
Q: What is "Call of Kyoto" going to be about?
Poster design by ABDC Productions Mike: Call of Kyoto is a somewhat skewed retelling of the Second-Season Kyoto Arc. I won't give too much away, but let's just say that the Kenshin Gumi and the Jupon Gatana may find themselves on the same side....
Q: And your DnR episode? You've done a lot of DnU with a John Woo style. Is DnR going to be the same way?
Mike: Probably not. <grin> My two DnU episodes were enough Woo for a while. Although Woo's been a tremendous influence in my writing style; you can see his mark in most of the fight scenes I write.
Q: [When I spoke to Ryan Mathews, he] said he liked writing action scenes, that they turned out very well. Which kinds of scene do you think you write the best?
Mike: Another hard question. <grin> I'm probably at my strongest in dialogue scenes; both in the verbal fencing of the humorous pieces and the veiled threats and emotions of the dramatic ones. I enjoy writing fight scenes a lot, but I also like reflective bits. On second thought, I'm really not sure what I do best. <grin>
Q: Side quesiton: is it true that you and Alan [Harnum] are the sons of John Biles?
Mike: <laugh> Not really. For that to be true, John would have had to have been sexually active at about age 5, which is somewhat beyound even the Old Man of Anime Fanfiction.
Mike: Do you think you work better with a coauthor? Or solo?
Mike: No idea. <grin> I think a lot of it depends on the co-author. And on how coordinated we are.
Q: Of the fanfic authors you've worked with, who would you say was the easiest to work with? Who did you click with the most?
Mike: I think I 'clicked' the most with Susan about a third of the way into IMBS. Lara is very seldom easy to work with, but I've found that this is usually a good thing, since it means I can't bully the plotline to just my vision of things. For the record, I'm not terribly easy to work with either. <grin>
Q: What work of your own would you recommend to readers?
Mike: All of it. <grin> But "Nameless", "A Faint Hope", IMBS, and LOS spring to mind as four of my best efforts.
Q: Because they showcase a little bit of each writing style?
Mike: More because they're simply good and popular, and I'm prouder of em than of many of the rest.
Q: Here's the tougher question: what stuff by other fic authors would you recommend?
Mike: RpM's "The Pursuit of Happiness", to start with. And just about everything on Transpacific. And then the stuff on my link page.
Q: Every thing that is linked?
Mike: Well, pretty much everything.
Q: Thank you so much for your time.
Mike: That'll be $23.50, dear, and see that I get me cut of the royalties.
Q: <laugh> Will do.


Author's Picks:

The Pursuit of Happiness by Rod M-- I know it seems as if the picks are incestuous; can I help it if some of my subjects have the same taste I do? Rod was the Spotlight Author for June and this is a good reason why. Linked to his -M- Productions page.
Lara Bartram's fanfics-- Quoth Mike: "I ain't choosing one. <grin> Best viewed as a whole anyway." Lara writes very intricate stories dealing with mainly the Ranma 1/2 universe, with an almost unhealthy amount devoted to Kunou Tatewaki. Her site is in a state of transition, but here's the link anyway.
Pastpresent by Susan Doenime-- Ever wonder what Genma Saotome was like before he married Nodoka? Well, according to Susan, he wasn't even a Saotome. This series is still in progress, and I am very proud to be one of its prereaders.
MASN by Joe Kohle-- Yes, this sucker's immense. And it's stalled, too. And it's a Geocities page. Go read it anyway.
Matt Trotter's series-- Again, from Mike: "Fix yer damn grammar, Matt. <grin> Real funny." In addition, this page is in wonderful plain text format, so it lets you focus more on the excellent writing. (No, I'm not saying this because my own fanfic site is in text format).

Spotlight Picks:

Ill Met by Starlight by Susan Doenime and Mike Loader-- If there's anything you read based off of this interview, I hope it is this one. IMBS won several awards in The Best of Ranma awards, including Best Miniseries of 1998. The world of Ranma fics will never be the same.
We Don't Do Okonomiyaki by Mike Loader-- Even before there was a Subreality Cafe, there was the Blau Teufel. Based off of real life experiences experienced in a pub near the Goethe Institut in Germany, this story blends perfectly the worlds of the Mundane and the Fictive. Now if only he'd transcribe the rest of the Rats series....
A Faint Hope by Lara Bartram and Mike Loader-- [cribbed from Mike's description] Follow the exploits of that other group running about the Empire a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Normally, I'd direct you to the HTML, but Lara's page is in flux at the moment, so here's the text version.
Untitled by Mike Loader-- One day, I found this in my mail box. It's not finished, and it's not titled, but it had me rolling in my chair nonetheless. He asked for suggestions for what to do next. I suggested a bar fight... what else would Fidel Castro, John Kennedy and Ernest Hemingway do together?
Anime Pie by Mike Loader-- Normally, I'd put this in the Just for Kicks section (and I will once September's over) but this is just too funny to pass up. Anime fic fans, see how many references you can catch.

Assorted Links:

Transpacific Fanfiction!-- Your one stop shop for all your Mike Loader needs! Shared with Susan Doenime and Alan Harnum, this site is the repository for all of Mike's fics mentioned in the interview.
The University Daily Kansan-- Yes, he's a journalism student, and you can find his opinions here on this page, the online presence for the Daily Kansan.
Mike's most recent Opinion column-- Ignore the picture and read the text. Any column that ends with:
That covers about half of the GOP candidates. In the next installment, we will cover Pat Buchanan and why he is fluffier than Hitler.
deserves some attention.

The following two sites were very helpful in creating my poster for "Call of Kyoto", linked to the Anime Web Turnpike:
the Shishio Makoto pic comes from Kuni Tori and the Himura Kenshin pic comes from Dawn's Ruroni Kenshin Page. Thanks, guys! I'll let you know when the poster goes up!

Lastly, you can send e-mail to Mike Loader at mike@thekeep.org

Back to Main Page