Of all the gentlemen that comprise Eyrie Productions, the most visible is the man known as MegaZone. He moderates the fanfic panels at Anime Expo. He ran the Usenet anime fanfic newsgroup. He is part of the heart and soul that makes up Eyrie Productions. In fact, if it were not for MegaZone (or Zoner) Eyrie Productions may have turned out very different, indeed.

Q: First of all, how did you get into anime?
MegaZone: Well, I got into anime when I picked up a copy of Robotech Art 1. There is a section in the back about anime and that's when I first became aware of anime as a separate thing.
Retroactively I'd enjoyed "Starblazers" quite a bit when young, and "Battle of the Planets" (BotP) when even younger... Starblazers I can still enjoy, BotP makes me cringe now. I hope someone someday brings over the original "Gatchaman" and does a good job on it.
And, of course, "Robotech" was a big deal for me - which is why I was buying that art book. <grin>
Q: What did you like about Robotech? Who were your favorite characters?
MegaZone: The animation was of a generally higher quality that most of the stuff on US TV. It has continuity - unlike most other animated shows which were purely episodic, except for the occasional multi-parter. People DIE. I mean, that was incredible. We have G.I. Joe with bombs and planes being blown up and all that shit - yet no one ever dies. They have precognitive ejection seats - they punch out just before the explosion. That was always stupid. Even in live action we had the A-Team doing rock and roll with automatic weapons and people didn't even get hit, let alone die. And then we have Robotech where even a main heroic character can die. I thought that was incredible - it showed a lot more intelligence than other shows and more respect for the audience.
Rick and Roy, the hotties of Robotech
Rick Hunter was probably my favorite character, although Max and Myria might qualify too. It has been so long it is hard to remember which characters I really dug the most.
Q: Second, how did you get into fanfic?
MegaZone: While I wrote some fiction on my own some years before college I would never admit to any of it being mine. BAD.
Q: What kind of stuff did you used to write?
MegaZone: Crap. I wrote utter crap. Generally with some wanna-be sci-fi angle. It isn't even worth mentioning. Probably the worst stuff I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot.
"Undocumented Features 1" was really my first project. Pretty simple really. Two years before Gryphon came to WPI his friend Joe "Thag" Martin was at WPI. We were frosh together and I got him into anime via my burgeoning collection. Thag told Gryphon that he needed to look me up when he got to WPI. So he did, and he got hooked on anime in the same way. WPI also had an anime art FTP archive started by a Dave Shea, but he graduated my freshman year I think. Anyway, I'd started collecting things and passing them to him to archive, and over time I took over the archive and became the maintainer when he left. When the first fanfic appeared - "Big Bang", "The Ballad of Lord Robin", "Experiment-101e" - I created a space in the archive for them. Hence the first Internet anime fanfic archive was created. (This later became the archive for RAAC [rec.arts.anime.creative] and it lives on today in that form.)
Ok, we'll come back to this thread... ReRob was also a frosh my frosh year, and we'd seen each other on and off. I don't think we really got to know each other much until or sophomore years though. We moved in the same circles of friends. It was our sophomore year that he wrote a fun little tale called "The Wizard of WACCC" - WACCC was the computing center at WPI. This only existed in hardcopy until recently, but a friend of ours OCR'd it and we have it electronically now. We really should put it up on www.eyrie-productions.com...
Anyway, the HoloDECStation 31000 was created by ReRob for that story, as well as some of the other elements used in the original UF. (WPI's main UNIX workstations at the time were DECStation 3100s.) I'm not sure when Gryph read Wiz, but when he came to WPI it was my 3rd year and ReRob was one of my apartmentmates. ReRob was also into anime a bit (hard not to be with me always watching it I guess) and more so into Robotech.
Gryphon got the idea to write a [Dirty Pair] story. I think at the time he'd seen some untranslated tapes of DP OAVs and TV that I have, seen some fan scripts online (I also kept those in my archive), and several .gifs that were in my archive.
For his first pass he decided to do something light using WPI, and I think that's how ReRob got involved - using things from the Wizard.
They got stuck on some things and asked me to give them a hand with some conceptualization and characterization. So I trudged up to Gryphon's dorm room with them and looked at what they had, and started making suggestions. Before I knew it I was like "No, not like that... Oh, let me type." And I started writing.
Boldly going where no fanfic writer has gone before...
And that's how I got sucked into UF, and what became Eyrie Productions.
And how Gryphon became my best friend.
Q: What was it like when the first UF stories came out?
MegaZone: Different.
Q: Could you be a little more specific?
MegaZone: Well - different. It is hard to describe it. Everything was different. No web, commercial anime had just started appearing in the US, there was just rec.arts.anime... AnimeCon 91 had just happened, A-Kon had been running for what, 2 years, but we hadn't heard of it yet since it was still very small. If you wanted to watch something you generally had raw Japanese and some script done by a fan, usually someone doing it as a learning exercise so it wasn't exactly professional quality. (Michael House is the major exception that I recall, he did some great scripts and went pro later.) Or perhaps no even scripts but a summary. And sometimes not even that - you just had to try and figure it out.
Fansubs were rare. There just weren't as many people doing them, least not that I ever found, and [these] "distributors" didn't exist. And, again, this is before the web so people didn't have websites with their wares.
If you wanted to find something it was FTP, Gopher, and Archie. I don't know if you date back to that point, but they weren't the most user-friendly tools ever created - though I managed to be quite proficient with them. Use anything enough and you can get good at it. Fortunately, in a way, there were so few anime FTP sites that one could search them all manually if you had to.
The online community was MUCH tighter, because there were far fewer people. This is again before AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve, etc. connected to the Internet. So it was mainly college people - students, faculty, etc, and the handful of people working for companies that were connected to the net for research and the like. I think the first couple of commercial ISPs (The World, world.std.com is the first commercial ISP) were running. But the 'net was still fairly homogenous - lots of techie types, because why would a non- techie bother? There was no e-commerce, no websites, no MP3s, etc. Email was still pretty much a shell command thing. Yes, primitive by today's standards. <grin>
So the environment into which UF was released was markedly different from the environment today. It isn't easy to describe just how and why, but the changes in demographics and technology also triggered a change in the culture.
Q: Once UF was over, what made you decide to continue writing together?
MegaZone: UF isn't over; it will probably never be over unless we're dead or just get totally sick of writing. If you mean why did we write more after UF1 - well, for me there were a few reasons. Q: Is this the same "nasty crap" referred to in UF2?
MegaZone: Um, some of it. Pretty much anything that my character refers to Pre-UF is true. I'd not always put it the same way today as I did then. But I also never put everything into writing in the stories.
Q: What, in your opinion, is a "gweep"?
MegaZone: [From the Jargon Dictionary]
gweep     /gweep/     [WPI] 1. v. To hack, usually at night. At WPI, from 1975 onwards, one who gweeped could often be found at the College Computing Center punching cards or crashing the PDP-10 or, later, the DEC-20. A correspondent who was there at the time opines that the term was originally onomatopoetic, describing the keyclick sound of the Datapoint terminals long connected to the PDP-10. The term has survived the demise of those technologies, however, and was still alive in early 1999. "I'm going to go gweep for a while. See you in the morning." "I gweep from 8 PM till 3 AM during the week." 2. n. One who habitually gweeps in sense 1; a hacker. "He's a hard-core gweep, mumbles code in his sleep."
In some cases, more particularly members of GweepCo: http://www.gweep.net
Q: If you still had the time/energy to change some of the stuff you've written, what would you change and why?
MegaZone: Christ, don't go there...
UF1 - the tone used in UF1 bugs the hell out of me now, has for a while, because I think it clashes with what we eventually did with the universe. If I'd've known we were going to make an ongoing series out of it, I would have done a lot differently I think.
The original "Hopelessly Lost" stories are weak in parts. I like them to be sure, and am happy that we're working on HL again, but some of the foundations could stand to be replaced I think.
If all hardsuits broke when you wore them, no wonder the guys designed their own!
But hey, I think most writers are their own worst critics. Good ones anyway. Frankly most of the stuff I wrote in past years I look at now and wish I'd done something differently.
Q: What do you read on a regular basis, both fanfiction and non-fan fiction?
MegaZone: I don't read fanfiction. Aside from Eyrie fiction I don't think I've read any fanfic in a few years. I just don't have the time I used to. I have a stack of real books sitting in my room that I still want to read, and when I do have time I'd rather work on my own fic.
Plus I really got kinda burned out on fanfic when I was moderating RAAS.
Frankly most fanfic isn't very good. And I really, really think Ranma is crap - so all the Ranma fanfic totally turned me off. I can't stand Ranma or "Urusei Yatsura" in the original form, and the fanfic I saw was generally terrible. (What is it about Ranma that makes everyone think they can pump out fic? I mean, I know the show is so brain dead, but still...)
Non-fanfiction - well, mostly non-fiction. Most of my reading tends to be technical books for work, or for play - I'm a geek. So I buy a lot of O'Reilly books. I also read a lot of magazines - Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian, Air & Space / Smithsonian, Aviation Week, MIT's Technology Review, Science and Invention, Flight Journal, Wired, and various trade rags like Inter@active Week, Info World, Web Techniques, etc I really do quite a bit of reading, just not a lot of books. <wink>
I'm reading a book on the history of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules both for fun (I'm an aviation fan) and as research since my character in Warrior's Legacy flies one. I have another book on the C-130 after that.
For fiction I read Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, Stephen Coonts, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson... I picked up "The Cryptonomicon" by Stephenson but haven't gotten to it, same with the latest Clancy paperback. Sometimes a friend, like Gryphon, will toss a book my way saying I should read it. The 'World War' series (or was that Worlds War? shrug) was great, "Exegesis" by Astro Teller kicks all the ass.
Q: Again, in your opinion, what work of your own do you consider to be the best?
MegaZone: I think I'm happiest with the work I've done on Neon Exodus Evangelion {NXE). But then, that's the most recent work I've done really. It is hard to be objective; the UF Exile story "Heartbreak" has always been special to me, but that's probably because of real world ties involved in the writing of the story.
Q: How hard or easy was it for you to write it?
MegaZone: Oh, that was easy to write. It isn't very long, and, frankly, the writing in it really isn't my best. It was writing primarily in anger and frustration.
Short version--I fell for a woman at a summer job I had, but she ended up going with another guy who worked there who I felt was kinda smarmy. He rubbed my nose in it a little (he knew I was after her too) and I got pissed off. The names of the woman in the story and the lead male villain are anagrams of their real names. Since I had to work with them (ironically I quit not long after for other reasons--didn't care for the job) I didn't want to cause a confrontation that would make life harder at work, so I vented by writing a story where I not only get the girl, but kill them both. shrug It worked, I felt better. And I liked the emotional tone in the story that resulted. Though, looking back on it, it is a bit forced in places to fit the plot points I went in seeking to write.
Q: What work of others in Eyrie do you consider to be the best?
MegaZone: I think Gryphon is the best writer in the group, hands down. And he keeps it all together really.
Q: Are any other fanfics out there by other authors you like, which of those works do you consider to be the best?
MegaZone: Actually my exception to not reading much fanfic is that I periodically check on what Ryan Matthews and Larry Mann (outside of Eyrie) are up to.
I think those first three - Ryan's "Big Bang" and "Ballad of Lord Robin", and Larry's "Experiment 101e" - are still up there as some of the best.
Q: Going onto RAAC... what was it like in the early days of the RAAC archive and how did it compare to the "modern" version (just before you quit as moderator in 1996)?
MegaZone: Well, comparing it to just before I quit - it was just larger. When I ran it, it was always an FTP archive. I resigned just as the web was really starting to catch on, so I'd've ended up with a web interface, as it has now, but at the time it was FTP. (By web I mean HTTP of course, I know it isn't accurate but I've been corrupted I guess - "web" is really supposed to encompass FTP, HTTP, Telnet, etc.) But I set the architecture down very early on. At first it was flat--one directory for fiction. But that does not scale as more stories appear, so I set up a hierarchy for series, and sub-hierarchies for longer stories. My rule of thumb was always "3"--if a series got three fics, it got a directory. If a particular fic got three volumes, it got a subdirectory. Similar rules of thumb are in place today.
I originally did use [a period] for a delimiter, but I decided I didn't like that between all the words, and started using [the period] to delimit hierarchies and [a dash] for words. Say there was a story based in Ranma, part of a series called "Life at the Pools", and this story was "Swim Ranma!" (Ok, I'm being silly.)
I'd originally have called it something like:
ranma.life.pools.swim.ranma
But I changed to:
ranma.life-pools.swim-ranma
Which makes more sense structurally, the periods delimit hierarchy. It is a Ranma story, part of the "Life at the Pools" series, and it is called "Swim Ranma". (I'd drop "unimportant" words to keep the file names from being too long.)
Organizationally it didn't change much--it just kept growing with more stories and directories being added.
Q: What are you currently working on right now?
MegaZone: NXE movie. Warrior's Legacy 5 is kinda waiting on me, and Hopelessly Lost 5 definitely is. I also have a UF exile story called "Crash and Burn" that I have been noodling on for like five years. I really, really like it, but Ben seems to hate it more and more. But this is one I really mean to finish someday because I have to, it isn't something I can drop. And he should understand that if anyone can. It is one of those things that isn't going to leave me alone until I find a way to finish it and release it. Twilight is kinda on hold pending some connected material.
Q: Is there anything you haven't done in terms of fanfic or writing that you've always wanted to do, but never got around to it?
MegaZone: I have a UF Exile arc for my character that first popped into my head in the summer of 1994. I wrote some of it then, but it SUCKED. It came off like some poor knock-off of The Crow. Probably because I'd watched the movie a lot and had the soundtrack with me (I was in France that summer). So I deleted it. But it is another one of those things that has been bouncing around my head ever since, very slowly falling into place. The problem is, I'm not very prolific. Writing isn't all that easy for me most of the time. So I'm a lot slower than Ben, and I can't just sit down and write like he does. If I'm not in the right frame of mind, then I'm not in the right frame of mind and that's that. I've never been able to force myself to get my head into a story if I wasn't ready, and when I've forced myself to write things when I wasn't fully in the headspace I don't think I've done my best. I've had to do that because of the NXE release schedule a few times. Ben seems to write all the time, I can't. Since I have commitments on stories I share with others - NXE, WL, HL - I don't know if I'll have the time to work on that story arc. Since when I do get into the mood where I can write I feel the pressure to write for one of those, since other people are waiting on me. So my own work stays on the shelf. That's one of the things that has kept "Crash and Burn" from being finished. I tried to work on it recently, but had to work on NXE. That WILL be finished, if only because it is well along. But I'm kind of reluctant to start what is, in my mind, a three story arc, when I don't know if I'll ever be able to finish it.
Can you picture MegaZone with his face painted like this?
This is part of the reason I have always pushed to finish HL and turn off the lights. Ben can keep a number of universes alive in his head - I can't cope with as many. Two or three is about my limit for really keeping on top of things. UF is always one of those, so if I'm working on NXE it is hard to say keep WL and HL and GW perking. So I'd like to finish what we planned for HL, and then I can close that universe in my mind. I'm looking forward to NXE being over too, for the same reason. At this point I'd rather not start any more open ended universes. WL has planned closure, but it is years away at our current pace so it may as well be open ended for now.
We're talking about a BGC2040 universe, which I really like so far (the concept we have - and no, I won't discuss it at all at this point) but I'm a little torn by it, since it is starting something else. I think we need to finish HL FIRST at the very least. Having two alternate BGC universes would be too much for me.
Q: Going onto the fanfic panels you moderate. Why do you feel there's a need for fanfic panels?
MegaZone: Well, primarily they are fun. It is nice to meet your audience and hear from them directly from time to time. A lot more personal than email.
And there are people looking to get into fanfic and it gives them a chance to address a panel of writers and hear their advice and the kinds of things they go through. Even as a fairly well established fanfic author, it is interesting to hear from other authors on the panel.
There are also the people who are just curious and want to ask questions about why we do something, or what the inspiration was, etc.
I don't think I'd call it a need--people can do without them. Food and water are needs. I think it is more a desire to have them, a want. It is a social gathering between artists and audience, a chance to interact and find out that most of the authors are really just like the people on the other side of the table.
Q: I talked to a couple female fanfic writers who expounded on why they write fanfic. Why do you write fanfic?
MegaZone: Believe it or not, despite all the hard work it can be, for the fun. I enjoy it, and like working with the others in Eyrie. It is a social thing. There is also a personal sense of accomplishment when you have created a story. It is nice to be able to put "The End" on something--even figuratively and to be satisfied with what you see.
I could stop writing without it being too upsetting. Sometimes I've had to because I've been so busy. But I'd want to close the open projects first, I can't stand leaving things unfinished unless I plan to finish them at some point.
Q: What anime series have you seen that you would never want to see Eyrie get a hold of and tweak?
MegaZone: There are no sacred cows. To me everything and anything is fair game. The only reason I wouldn't want to work on a series personally is because I don't like it. Ranma is high on my list, I can't stand it, yuck. UY is right up there too. You aren't likely to see a lot of Takahashi stuff in our works. Then there are the anime that are just plain bad-"Sins of the Sisters", "Violence Jack", etc. If it sucks we're not likely to use it. <grin>
On the other hand, the more I like a series the more tempted I am to use things from it. Though some series don't lend themselves to it as readily. I really dig "Serial Experiments Lain", but so far I have no ideas for using it. Maybe down the road...
Sometimes we just use it as in-jokes, someone will be named Lain. Or maybe I'll have someone going off for an evening to watch the Battle Athletes competition, etc. Little things like that.
Q: As you probably already know, DJ Croft, from your "Neon Exodus Evangelion" was voted Worst New Character in the 1999 Chicken Ball Awards. What is your personal reply to that?
MegaZone: First of all, as Redneck pointed out, DJ wasn't even eligible for the voting. He first appeared in public prior to their cutoff date for the voting.
I wasn't part of the email exchange between Ben and the Chicken Ball people, but he says he was asked if they could use DJ and if he wanted to write a segment, and he said no. In that case the use of DJ is completely inappropriate. If you ask someone and they say no, then you have no excuse for proceeding anyway. If you are going to do that, don't bother asking. It is an insult to be asked and then to be ignored because you didn't give the answer they wanted.
Personally I never cared for this kind silly award, so I tend to ignore them. "Voting" on USEnet is a farce; I learned about the CB awards because I saw a post from someone campaigning to get votes for DJ. How balanced is that? People are out telling others to vote, whether or not they've read the story. That's not going to skew the results at all, right? So the claims of "This is what the masses voted therefore it is sacred" is just so much bullshit.
You get a couple of vocal people to herd the sheep and you can tip most any vote. I've done it. I've watched others do it. It isn't hard.
On top of everything else, it was a poor effort. I read over the awards and felt they were poorly written. It wasn't even a good satire. If you are going to do something like that I think there should at least be some real effort put into it. It looked like a slap-dash rush job to me, pieces that didn't fit, lack of a single narrative tone, etc.
No one has to like everything, and that's fine. But this kind of poor excuse for an attempt at humor is just lame. At least many of the people who do MSTs make a real effort to make them funny and keep the MST spirit.
Q: If you had to give some advice to people who are just starting out in fanfic, what would it be?
MegaZone: Spellcheck. Spellcheck. Spellcheck. (Ironically I don't spellcheck most of my email, so I may have typos in this message--but I do for fic.) You may not catch everything, but it is an improvement.
Proofread your work. Give it time to settle then go back and proofread it. I mean really read it - no skimming. Proofreading is dull and tedious, but any good author will do it. Again, you're going to miss things, but you will catch some.
Try to have others proof your work too. Working in a writing group makes that so much easier, but even if you write alone take advantage of the FFML or other resources, or solicit for your own personal proof readers - bug friends or something - and have them check your work. And be prepared to accept their input, it only works when you listen. Other people are more likely to catch something since you know what you meant to write, even if you wrote something else. Or perhaps that clever turn of phrase you are so proud of is just confusing to anyone else who isn't in on what you were thinking.
Learn to format. 80 columns, max. There will be disagreements on style. Personally in a story I hate space between paragraphs. Paragraphs should be indented. Space left for scene breaks. Two spaces between sentences.
Some people like block format - no indents, space between each paragraph. But pick something decent and stick with it.
Listen to criticism. Yeah, ignore the assholes, the "You suck! Why don't you die!" crowd. But at least listen to people when they comment on format, style, etc. That doesn't mean do what they say. Many, many people write to us trying to get us to change a story to be more like what they want, and we don't do that. They can write their own story for that. But we do read what people send us, and it has caused us to tweak things when we can see their point.
And practice. Your first fic probably isn't going to be stellar. It takes time to develop your own style and to get comfortable with it. That will come with more writing and experience.
[And] BTW, as a trivial fact, last week I legally changed my name to MegaZone.




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