My Old Shame: A Commentary

“You first have to write shit before you can write gold.”

This is my mantra when dealing with any creative venture. It’s hardly an original sentiment, but I agree wholeheartedly with it. I try not to let myself get discouraged with failure, albeit with mixed results; some intentions tend not to translate well into certain avenues.

What follows is a commentary on one such failure of mine. As the title implies, it is something that I reluctantly share. I would suggest grabbing yourself a beer, because this is going to be a long one.

I had joined Fanfiction.net in early 2006, about two months before I turned 16, and while I don’t remember any specifics from then about why, I knew it would be the first real step towards sharing my brainchildren with the world.

Wasting no time, I began to work on my first story, a Yu-Gi-Oh! fanfic called, “Joey Wheeler, Revamped”. The impetus behind it was rooted in the fact that in the series, the character of Katsuya Jonouchi (name changed to Joey Wheeler in the 4Kids English dub of the anime) is a player of the Duel Monsters trading card game, who primarily uses an archetype that relies on coin flips and die rolls – in other words, a Gamble Deck.

The card game was de-fictionalized by Konami so that we in real life can play what the characters play, and so I immersed myself in it during my teenage years. Like Jonouchi/Joey, I had very limited resources and could not afford whole box sets, and so I relied on lots and lots of trading. But as I gradually accrued more cards (and thus options), I also grew ever wiser to the game, and I became devoted to learning the complete ins and outs of the game’s mechanics. By the time I began writing the story, I was the go-to guy in my circle of duelists concerning rules disputes. Given all of that, I decided to incorporate my knowledge of the real-life game into the story.

Apparently, common sense seems to be at an astounding premium in the shonen genre as a whole, Yu-Gi-Oh! being no exception; no characters existed in canon that would just play the game without incessant monologueing, or withholding (supposedly) common knowledge, like the effects of the cards in play, until it became relevant – and usually when it was too late for the opponent to have done anything about it, unless they invoked the old crowd-pleaser, Deus ex Machina. Jesus, that got under my skin after a while!

I then went about creating an original character (OC), who would bring a more realistic tone to the Yugi-verse, and introducing the canon characters to the real-life styles of play. His name was Vince Shana, a half-Japanese, half-Italian-American who drove a blue Lamborghini Murciélago, had a girlfriend named Hinata who looked like a palette swap of canon character Anzu Mazaki (Téa Gardner in the dub), was well-liked by the high school class to which he’d recently transferred, could slap the pretty homeroom teacher’s ass and get away with it – Refuge in Audacity, maybe? – and ran a Chaos Sorcerer deck, which, following the banning of its two stronger older brothers (“Chaos Emperor Dragon – Envoy of the End” in September 2004, and “Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning” in September 2005), was popular at the time in reality.

In other words, a textbook Marty Stu who stunk of numerous Author Appeals. I guess in trying to write in realism, I did it through a totally unrealistic character.

The few reviews I had gotten were surprisingly positive, however. Looking back, I realize that they were from a couple of people who didn’t yet have a firm grasp on how well-written a story should read like. While it did provide me a small ego boost, I’m still kind of stoked that I managed to avoid getting flames. Talk about dodging the bullet, especially when no one else seems to care.

The first chapter, uploaded on May 8, introduced the OC, and began with Joey waking up from an intense “dream duel”. The first big faux pas was me not knowing how the Japanese school year worked; Joey had a calendar in his room on the month of April, and had marked “Spring Break” in the days after the current day, a Friday. While Japan does have some sort of spring break, it’s not because it’s based around Easter or university term dates. Rather, it spans from the end of the current school year in March, to the new school year beginning on April 1. Also, students in Japan attend school on Saturday, but for only half the day. Joey then meets canon antihero Seto Kaiba on the way to school, and exchanges words with him that in fact does read like canon. A car horn blares in the distance, and around the corner comes a pearlescent blue Lamborghini Murciélago. Already, this makes little sense even by Yu-Gi-Oh! standards, but the driver reveals himself to be Vince Shana, the winner of the Duel Monsters U.S. national championship, and a new transfer into their high school. Kaiba is somehow familiar with him, they exchange words, and Vince tells him off by calling Kaiba a “snicker-licker”. That’s definitely a term never to be used in serious conversation – and I found out just as I type this, it actually means a white girl who, for lack of a satisfactory sugarcoat, sucks black dick. And there, I thought it was just another way of saying “scat-muncher”. Since they have the same destination, Vince offers Joey a ride to the school. Joey accepts, and ends the first chapter.

The second chapter is just conversation between the two before school begins, and they talk about the gamut of things from Duel Monsters, to sports, to Chun Li. Vince talks about a recent escapade with Hinata which ended in only naked cuddling, eliciting a somewhat jealous reaction from Joey. Vince then appeals to Joey’s sense of taking challenges by introducing him to the “metagame“, a term which I’m positive I kept using incorrectly throughout the whole story. Thus ends the second chapter.

The third chapter brought in the remaining main canon characters, Yugi Muto (name unchanged in the dub, but pronounced Moto), Anzu Mazaki, and Hiroto Honda (Tristan Taylor). Another OC was the homeroom teacher, Megumi Watanabe; her character description was just me being lazy and outright saying that she was a palette swap of Tifa Lockhart from Final Fantasy VII. Catcalls to her were common, and she had often threatened the expulsion of offending students, but never followed through. Wow, sounds real strong, right? She then introduces the new transfer student, at which point the class collectively groans, and wonders how many transfer students did the principal consider were enough. But Vince enters, makes a flawless introduction, and gives the class a total 180 on their opinion of him, then he subtly slaps Megumi on the ass, which goes completely unanswered. After introducing himself further to Yugi and the main group, he explains that he got the Lamborghini from his oldest cousin, who works at the actual company in Italy. Joey suddenly realizes that he needs to duel Vince in order to know him better; both of them schedule it for the lunch break. While Joey puts up a decent fight, reducing Vince’s Life Points to almost half, Vince takes the trash out on Joey with cards like “Airknight Parshath” and “Chaos Sorcerer“, exploiting strategies and gimmicks that no one in canon ever even touched upon. Joey is impressed by Vince’s skill, and accepts his invitation, thus ending the third chapter.

Now during 2006, my computer, which ran the Linux kernel, was plagued with slowdowns and crashing issues, and I basically consider it a miracle that I’d managed to get three chapters done within only a couple of months. When I uploaded the third chapter in late June, after I had helped my stepfather with a drywall job from that morning, I declared that I would put the story on indefinite hiatus due to my computer’s bitchiness. Then in September, when I started my junior year of high school, the computer decided to completely die on me, and so I was forced to write the fourth chapter entirely by hand. When I was finished, I gave my friend Phillip, known on the site as xWindScarx10 (and whom I had introduced to fanfiction in the first place), access to my account so he could upload it for me. I still feel grateful to him for doing that.

The fourth chapter consisted of Kaiba hearing about Vince’s victory, and then deciding he would duel him. Vince schedules it for the next morning, and Kaiba places it outside his theme park, Kaibaland. Overnight, Kaiba looks up more details on Vince, and tries to adjust his strategy – all while listening to an Aphex Twin song. (More author appeal.) In his apartment, Vince gets out of bed before dawn to take a piss. Hinata calls, and gives more banal backstory between the two. Cut to Kaibaland at dawn, Vince shows up late, to Kaiba’s irritation, then they begin the duel. It ends on a cliffhanger after the effect of a “Cyber Jar” resolves.

Fast forward to early 2009. Things had developed quite a bit; having moved from Virginia to New Jersey at the end of August 2008, so did my Yu-Gi-Oh! interest begin to wane considerably. I had gotten a new computer that Christmas, and internet access a few days after. My first order of business: resolve the two-year old cliffhanger. At that point, it was just a matter of closure for me.

The fifth and final chapter, uploaded on February 9, picked up right where the last chapter left off. Kaiba had planned to use his trademark “Blue-Eyes White Dragon” cards against Vince, in a very resource-intensive way. By the time he gets out his heaviest hitters, he then has no cards in his hand for any contingency plan, and is now relying on his monsters’ raw power and protective effects from a “King Dragun” monster he had summoned earlier. Vince employs strategies designed specifically to counter Kaiba’s style of play, and ultimately wins the duel without having lost any Life Points. The huge mistake? Kaiba’s wildly fluctuating expressions each time a card was played from either side. In the middle of this, Hinata makes her first actual appearance, alongside a new OC named Tim Wrigley. They are flying a helicopter towards the airport, for a reason which I cannot even remember.

I did attempt to begin a sixth chapter soon after, but nothing “good” could materialize. What might have happened was that the group of protagonists gets invited to a “Duel Monsters World Tour”, and there would be some elements of professional wrestling interspersed throughout – mainly, the sense of a huge entertainment gala like WrestleMania.

Ultimately, on May 8, 2009, three years to the day of its original posting, I took the story down. All the original documents were never copied; the first three chapters were lost with the old computer, the notebook on which I wrote the fourth is most likely ruined and/or in a garbage dump somewhere, and the fifth and sixth were deleted permanently not long before.

Good. Fucking. Riddance.