The Settings With No Foundation

The urge to make so-called “Fixfics” is strong among many fanfiction authors. They range from well thought-out trimming of the excesses to destroying the themes of the canon work in favor of cheap wish fulfillment. Take a guess which is more common.

That being said, I’ve both seen and hoped to write multiple fixfics. It’s tough, and depends a lot on the setting. One of the reasons why people gravitated to the Familiar of Zero setting is that it had a unique concept and strong foundation (fantasy set in a Renaissance setting, detailed enough background) and squandered it on silly antics. That was a good setting for a fixfic. There are bad ones too.

Some settings aren’t just adverse to fanfics overall, but especially to fixfics. Exactly what clicked when I was struggling to come up with a plausible fixfic of the infamous The Big One, remembered I was having similar struggles with the equally infamous Gate anime, and saw how oddly similar the settings were for a technothrilller with only one awkward supernatural element and a fantasy.

Both are horrifically nationalist works. Both go a step farther than the common patriotic thriller and work extra-hard to keep their nations from facing the slightest actual threat. And, most crucially, both have horrible worldbuilding that’s either uninspired, in the service of said “prevent conflict ASAP”, or both.

This makes fixfics tough. An author has to change a lot to make it more plausible/interesting, but that begs the question of why they wouldn’t just go the full length and write an original story unencumbered by all the baggage the existing setting has?

 

Gate First Cour Review

So, the first block of the Gate anime I previously talked about is done. Forget the implausibility of it-how is it from an artistic perspective?

Even given the low standards (I’m not expecting anything beyond a shamelessly nationalist adventure story), it’s-mediocre at best. The biggest problem by far is the very frequent changes in tone. Multiple times within the same episode, the story goes from gory gruesome dark war to silly anime antics to its politics and back again. The latest episode, for instance, starts with dozens being burned to death by a dragon, follows one of the surviving elves as she melodramatically searches for the JSDF to help, has the princess who loves sleazy comics receiving a batch of ‘art books’, and has the JSDF soldiers complaining about how they can’t move to where the dragon is because it’ll just “give the opposition party ammunition”.

If this was done well, I might have been more tolerant of it, but for the most part, it isn’t.

The politics were also annoying. I actually don’t mean the politics on the other side of the gate (Reading Baen and similar books has mithridatized me towards far-right politics), but rather the laughable attempt at dramatizing it from the Empire’s view. My reaction, which has held up, was-“Why is there even a faction that still thinks they can win at all when they’ve just been on the receiving end of something that makes the Gulf War look like Borodino in comparison?”

There are a few mitigating factors beyond just the setting. The animation isn’t bad at all, and since it’s been adapted from something (adapted from a manga which was adapted from a novel), almost everything was in the original source material (which doesn’t excuse the problems, but explains them as not being entirely the anime producer’s fault).

Recommendation:

Watch a bit for the novelty, and see if you like it more than I did.

Gate: Thus The Blogger Analyzed

Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There is an extremely silly book-turned-manga-turned-anime. The actual show is a mess of outright goofiness and battles that are as melodramatic as they are one-sided.

The synopsis of the plot thus far goes like this-Gate opens in Tokyo, and out steps a pseudo-Roman fantasy army that pillages and murders-until they get machine-gunned. The JSDF then builds a dome around the gate, and sends a scouting unit led by a goofball nerd who somehow passed Ranger School. You get wizard-girls, elves, and as of the last episode, catgirls, bunny-girls, and medusa-girls. And that after an unironic use of blasting Wagner from helicopters while machine-gunning hapless opponents. Oh, and a princess named Pina Colada. No joke.

Mounting a political and economic critique of such a setup seems as easy an overkill as the actual fighting, but that didn’t stop countless observers (including me) on my favorite forum of Spacebattles from giving a try.

-Japan immediately and officially annexes the entire world on the other side of the gate.

-Then they brag about how rich they’re going to get off the resources there.

-No one else is allowed through the gate.

-China and the US want to go through the gate, and the former wants to settle a third (!) of its population on the other side.

Either the JSDF would back down or see what happens when you pit a gain of totally undeveloped and completely theoretical resource deposits against the damage to one of the world’s most trade-dependent economies. But even if they and not Japan backs down, the “Special Region” could easily turn into a political and economic nightmare even without it.

1: Economics.

-Even if you know the resources exist, getting them is a huge problem. You have to find them, which means extensive surveys. Then you have to build the infrastructure, then you have to deal with the bottleneck of one small gate. This will take years and years and years, and that’s assuming that the costs make it viable at all. (As in, if it’s not just cheaper to import them from other countries on Earth)

Considering that there’s so little else of value there, the raw materials are going to make the Special Region sink or swim. And logically, it’d sink, given all the bottlenecks.

And then there’s the opportunity costs. See, you’ve shackled your country to one so much less advanced that there’s very little precedent. The (not exactly trouble-free) reunification of Germany, with similar technology, only with differences of efficiency, is not comparable. Even a reintegration of much more divergent Korea would be a piece of cake compared to absorbing an entire world or even a much less advanced country. At least North Korea has paved roads, for one.

And this is the best-case scenario, which assumes everyone is completely docile. In any instance with the slightest plausbility, they wouldn’t be.

2: Politics.

Where do I even start?

Ok, first let’s ignore the dubious Sino-American fetish for the gate. The biggest political problem is that the way to endear yourselves to the local population is not to openly view the whole world as nothing but a resources dispenser (which is precisely what the leaders on the other side think about the Special Region). The second-biggest political problem is that by introducing a touch of modernity, you’re going to trigger something beyond your control.

Sure, the people won’t mind if the only paved roads you build are the ones from the mines to the gate. Suure. And they especially won’t want to emigrate to the other side. Sure, you won’t want to go to this world of riches and miracles on the other side, you’ll just keep dirt-farming while the neo-coprosperityists strip-mine that mountain over there.

How many humans (and others) are in the Special Region? I ventured a guess.

-If the Empire has an “average” population density, and is roughly the size of Germany (based off its Holy Roman Empire inspiration), multiple demographics calculators give it a population of around 10.5 million people. But given its more shiny, high-fantasy feel (and ability to send ahistorically large armies), the population could increase to 15 million under the best-case scenario..

-If it’s the size of Turkey (Eastern Roman Empire), population varies from 26 million to 39 million.

So in the lower case, it’s 7 percent of the population of Japan (about 127 million). In the higher case, it’s 30%. I’m being low-end here and only counting the people of that one explored area. Using theorized world population for the 1200-era Middle Ages (350 million baseline, if I multiply it by one and a half its 525 million), that’s 2.7 and 4.1 times the population.

And going to one of the most infamously homogenous countries in the world. Uh-huh. No issues there.