Ash Seeketh Ember: The Balance Between Fiction and Non-Fiction

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This isn’t the final layout of chapters but should be pretty close.

Writing what amounts to an extended article on the lore of Dark Souls III had been a fun endeavour. Like the articles I’d write for magazines, this one has begun with an outline and copious notes from names to kanji and pieces of dialogue. The chapter titles, for the most part, are all taken from titles or phrases used in dialogue; not puns but close.

My beautiful, virgin YouTube history is now full of videos; walkthroughs, let’s plays, random dialogue, the endings. I’ve got a list of sources as long as Dion’s tail. Sources are the bit you never see in articles, despite every journalist having either a mental or physical list. Sources are important because they validate what you’re saying. Think about it in a scholarly context where you’re not allowed, academically, to have an original idea. Everything you say, every idea, must be cited and attributed to someone, a book or a person and the final slog is normally an epic list of books and other media. Though, because I was a swot who hated that task, always did them as I went. The same applies here … I’m noting who I use and for what.

Writing Ashes is a little different because I’m allowed to engaged in wild speculation but I’m still keen to keep this grounded, to cite wherever possible, which in my case means item descriptions and dialogue serve as my primary sources. Each chapter behinds with a quote which sums it up and I’m trying to keep my personal theories to the end, a la Redgrave and Aegon (who I admit to being an unabashed fan of).

if you want a scale: VaatiVidya is over on the left (mainly because he does lore videos but also caused quite a plagiarism stink last year), Redgrave is just right of middle (and I love how he looks at the little things others might not notice) and Aegon is on the other side, firmly in the scholar camp because he’s doing, I believe, his Ph.D.

I’m aiming to be in the middle of the latter two because it’s a nice comfortable spot that allows me to remain a journalist and a one-time scholar but also lets me exercise my writer’s brain and dream a little, connecting the dots as Miyazaki-san once did as a boy, unable to read the books he borrowed from the library.

Though I’m in the middle of re-drafting “Infinity Girl and the Shadow” this weekend, I’m still actively trying to make my way though the game’s second half. I believe the English embargo drops on the 8th, though this seems to have been retconned to the 11th. The embargo doesn’t include me though I’m aware it involved streamers getting early access providing they didn’t stream past the Abyss Watchers. Except the entire game is now online, thanks to the Japanese PC build. With English dialogue.

This is fantastic for me, for my project, and as I’ve never signed an NDA relating to the game I can write all I want. Part of me, the ex-journalist, almost wants to abide by the embargo out of politeness except this project was never intended to be out before the game’s western release. Two weeks is a good span to work with, plus an extra week to get some extra lore-based stuff I know will be going up from my favourite streamers, the ones who like to dig like

Part of me, the ex-journalist, almost wants to abide by the embargo out of politeness except this project was never intended to be out before the game’s western release. Two weeks is a good span to work with, plus an extra week to get some extra lore-based stuff I know will be going up from my favourite streamers, the ones who like to dig like FiGhTiNCoWbOy and EpicNameBro. Plus I also want to get my hands on something ‘official’, in this case the Prima Strategy Guide for some of the spellings I’m not sure on and the lesser enemies’ names which FromSoft never ever include in their games.

So, yeah, expect this maybe a week after launch. Ish.

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The Liner Notes: “Infinity Girl and the Shadow”


This actually started out from a very specific question relating to a rewatch of Sailor Moon Crystal (apologies for the anime screengrabs) and re-reading the manga in Japanese to help make my language skills not so rusty. Sailor Moon was how I learned Japanese, because I was eighteen and magical girls were cool. Plus the manga’s simple language and furigana helped, as did the size. I used to work in a kitchen and had an apron with two pockets. I’d keep the English Tokyopop translation (hahahahah!) in my left and the original Japanese edition in my right.

Yes the translation was crap but the idea basically survived and it did help (now I’ve switched to Japanese computer game streams, Dark Souls and Bloodborne, mostly). The early 2000’s were, however, a much more analogue age and there were two Japanese books stores in London that would accept my Student Loan money to feed my burgeoning addiction.

But, anyway, back to the question. Excuse the long, rambling, fangirlish and roundabout way we get to it.

Usagi (the main character) was Princess Serenity in a past life, heir to the moon kingdom known as the Silver Millennium, who fell in love with the heir to the Earth, Endymion (yes it is based on the Greek myth of moon deity, Selene, and human shepherd, Endymion). With the second arc, we’re introduced to her future self Neo-Queen Serenity, monarch of Earth who kicks arse and is awesome. I adore both princess and queen forms of Usagi’s alter-ego but NQS literally performs miracles and has all the grace, age and power Usagi lacks.

Within the mythology of the manga, Usagi gets her throne because of her past life (though this makes little logical sense as she’s reincarnated as a human, Tsukino Usagi, not a White Moon princess). As part of the storyline Usagi, Sailor Venus and Chibiusa—who has the full and surprising name of Usagi Small Lady Serenity, ChibiUsa literally meaning ‘Little Usa(gi)’—travel to the future, 3oth Century Crystal Tokyo.

There Usagi is informed that she became Queen after giving birth to ChibiUsa around the age of 22. ChibiUsa is like 904 years old and all the humans of Earth are now functionally immortal upon reaching adulthood because of a mystical crystal which serves as the series’ McGuffin/awesome-looking magical power source.

Unsurprisingly Usagi is like ‘OMG I got to have SEX with Mamoru!!!!!!!!’ (Her reincarnated, destined-to-be husband).

My question was not ‘Cool, Usagi got to be Queen’ but how. I mean like, literally.

Did she have ChibiUsa and then declare, to her civilian family (who are never mentioned outside of 20th century Tokyo) that she was now ruler of the planet? Was there a coup? Did the other senshi forcibly help her take over? Did the UN just go: ‘Sure random Tokyo woman, go nuts, the Earth is all yours’. Did she use the Silver Crystal and perform miracles/brainwashed the planet’s population? Did all the Japanese TV/newspaper coverage and the Guardians’ wins against Queen Beryl, Metalia, the Black Moon Clan, Wiseman and Black Lady, Pharaoh 90 and Mistress 9, the Dead Moon Circus and Sailor Galaxia, finally teach all of Earth’s governments that Sailor Moon’s ultimate self could keep the Earth safe?

(Though, in the manga, NQS admits she lost most of her power as a Guardian when she ascended the throne.)

How has rankled me. I’d love to think given NQS’s benevolence and her posse of planetary guardians, plus cats, that it was a peaceful transition but the writer in me much prefers some kind of coup d’etat. Not bloodshed but not compliance either.


So I started writing my own magical girl story about a Latina girl in a US school who becomes the saviour of a planet (complete with merchandising and hard-core PTSD). Tara Morreno is a kid in high school who also happens to be an old enough soul that the Fates have co-opted her into serving as saviour of the planet against a succession of more powerful foes.

Except this is a story in the vein of Madoka Magica, not Sailor Moon, meaning when Tara turns up to school with bruises and a black eye, her best friend Esme thinks she’s being beaten by a family member, her dead-beat father who left when she was small.

She certainly doesn’t think her best friend is fighting against a Dementor-like monster that is leeching the life from a parallel dimension in order to digest the Earth in chunks. Esme has her own role to play in the story because Tara is also, in her civilian life, a gay teen who has deep, unspoken feelings for her best friend. Esme is the one thing that keeps Tara going even when she’s so close to walking away from her life as Infinity Girl or dying in the middle of battle because she’s just not strong enough.

And that’s where I kinda forgot the question and this story became about Tara and Esme, being a magical girl where those wounds leave a mark. This is definitely an origin story and the start of a series of tales focusing on Tara’s adventures and the various creatures trying to take over the planet.

This is going to be fun.

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