WORLD VIEW: Evolving with Alicia Ashby

By Steven Savage
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This is going to be a bit different from my usual columns - instead of me talking to the audience, I'm interviewing an author who has built a strong continuity-driven fiction series. This will be an irregular feature, exploring the ideas and concepts of unique individuals and how they created their worlds.

Imagine a world of living biotechnology, a secret criminal conspiracy, and two enemies-turned-friends who discover the world and each other are not what they thought. The powers of nature, the balance of man and his environment, all spiral towards a terrifying conclusion as ignorance, greed, love, and heroism combine . . .

In Pokemon: Evolution.

Yes, Pokemon - Pokemon turned into Hong Kong Film Noir twelve years down the road. This isn't a standard fanfiction: it's an extrapolated look at a world while trying to keep true to the themes of the original tales and game. Its a developed possible-future story with culture, characters, and causality. With such a tight continuity, I figured an interview with its main creator and writer, Alicia Ashby, would be invaluable.

If you want to find the stories, you can find them here at fanfiction.net by searching for the title "Pokemon: Evolution", its author (under her nom de plume of "Lynxara") or following these links (if fanfiction.net hasn't rearranged its database)

Evolution #1
Evolution #2
Evolution #3
Evolution #4
Evolution #5
Evolution #6

Or visit Evolution's home site:



And now, on to the the interview.

<StevenSavage> Well, let's start from the top. Pokemon: Evolution is a complete world, a look at Pokemon twelve years into the future in a very detailed setting. How did this idea start?

<Alicia> Well, the idea had profoundly humble beginnings. It started when my co-writer, DamienK, wanted to run a metaconcept of a canon character in an IRC roleplay channel I frequented.

<Alicia> So, he made a list of 16 anime characters he'd like to play. He went strictly for character who he thought were unpopular or 'second string'. A lot of folks like, say, Ah My Goddess' Keiichi Morisato were on the list.

<Alicia> Unfortunately, I can't get more specifics... but Gary Oak was on there, too, as Damien had gotten to really like the character's concept from the videogame and anime.

<StevenSavage> And from there?

<Alicia> Anyway, Damien also made a list of 16 very 'odd' occupations... things like sentai hero, bounty hunter... and, well, one was 'hitman'.

<Alicia> His plan was to use a scheme of coin-flipping based on binary numbers to match a character to an odd occupation.

<StevenSavage> And the end result?

<Alicia> After deciding that 'Megumi Morisato' and 'sentai hero' was completely unworkable, he flipped again and got 'Gary Oak' and 'hitman'.

<Alicia> The end result was Adauchi.

<StevenSavage> Isn't that Gary's name from the original animated series?

<Alicia> No. Gary's original name was 'Shigeru'. 'Adauchi' is Japanese for 'vengeance', and we refer to him like for a very particular and spoiler-laden story reason.

<StevenSavage> I won't pry for the sake of future readers.

<Alicia> I become a part of this when Damien plays Adauchi a few times, likes the concept, but finds the power level of the roleplay is too high to do much with an ordinary human. He asks me about making a companion character for him.

<StevenSavage> And that character is?

<Alicia> That would be Satoshi. The design came to me very quickly, as did the bare concept of what Evolution's world would be. Damien had only sketchy notes for how Gary and turned out the way he did, and part of why he asked me to get involved was to help flesh out the world and see what other things might have changed.

<StevenSavage> And Satoshi, is, essentially, Ash, the hero of Pokemon, evolved as it were?

<Alicia> Precisely. He also seemed, out of all the canon cast to choose from, the one who would be most interesting to bounce off of Damien's idea.

<StevenSavage> So the two archnemeses, in your concept, were now companions.

<Alicia> By necessity. Ash started out as something of an NPC 'guide' character. For the fanfic, we had fewer character and more control of the plot, so Ash become more of a true protagonist there.

<Alicia> Appropriately enough, Evo's story changed and grew over time.

<StevenSavage> So you started as role-play, and that became the fanfic. How did this come about? And what was it like to play such characters who, originally, were antagonists?

<Alicia> The characters had an enormous amount of chemistry with each other stemming from their history as antagonists.

<StevenSavage> Sort of the classic old-movie concept of you need to be able to dislike someone to like them?

<Alicia> Somewhat like that, though not quite.

<StevenSavage> Go on, please.

<Alicia> We were playing mostly from anime canon, and the anime canon paints Gary much more as a self-centered jerk than as a real antagonist.

<Alicia> Particularly towards the end of the first season, he's portrayed as simply being a 'competitor' of Ash's rather than someone who's out to harm him in some way.

<StevenSavage> Thus less hatred, more . . . jerk.

<Alicia> Precisely. They were more two little boys who wanted the same toy and couldn't share, in my opinion. And that played into their relationship as adults... on one hand, they sympathize with each other, but on the other, they often irritate each other immensely.

<StevenSavage> So with the relationship and the characters established, how did this bloom into the current storyline?

<Alicia> Well, when we finished the Evolution campaigns, we decided that some of the events there were interesting enough to warrant being shared with other readers.

<StevenSavage> So you brought your storyline to a close, your RPG, and then made them into stories?

<Alicia> Right. The current projected plot of the fanfic will almost blend all our RPG storylines into one that sort of sums up the entire worldsetting and everything we're saying about it, and about other things, too.

<StevenSavage> Ah, so the fiction uses as well as extends on your roleplaying experiences. A "directors cut" of the world, in a way?

<Alicia> That would be the best way to describe it, yeah. The fanfic has more depth than the roleplays did, and that's intentional.

<StevenSavage> Now, Pokemon:Evolution could be described as a kind of Hong Kong Film Noir Future-Imperfect take on Pokemon. How do you get from a boy and his Pikachu to that?

<Alicia> Well, the original videogame was much, much darker than the anime that most folks got familiar with.

<StevenSavage> and aren't the magna more serious as well?

<Alicia> Well, with the exception of Magical Pokemon Journey, yes.

<Alicia> Even the anime flirted with 'dark' concepts from time to time, particularly in the movies, but generally stayed away from doing anything too serious. Which didn't make for bad TV at all.

<StevenSavage> So in a way, you fused the different continuties: show, game, and magna?

<Alicia> I borrowed bits and pieces from many of the different continuities to try and produce a 'whole' world, yes.

<Alicia> And they are *very* different continuities-- they all contradict each other severely at many points.

<StevenSavage> How did you accomplish this then? From the humor of the show to the bodycount of the magna? What helped you tie it all together?

<Alicia> Well, the manga hardly have 'bodycount'. This is still a story about children and mostly for children, so it's not ever very dark (though occasionally violent).

<Alicia> The defining factor of all the storyworlds is that they're ultimately about how pokemon and humans should relate. At their best, the stories become fables for how a person should live in harmony with the earth and other living things.

<StevenSavage> And how did that guide you in creating this new, future continuity?

<Alicia> Well, the essential premise of Evolution is that everything's gone wrong. Humans are no longer living in harmony with pokemon, and as a result, abused pokemon are becoming vicious and angry.

<Alicia> Sort of a 'wrath of nature' result, if you don't mind me being excessively grandiose.

<StevenSavage> In short, playtime is over. And the cute creatures aren't happy.

<Alicia> Yes. There's a lot of promise in Pokemon's worldsetting for serious dramatic storytelling of many kinds, I think... ranging from romance to high melodrama.

<Alicia> In my case, I decided to explore its potential as the setting for an action-packed anime serial, something like a very good OAV series or television series.

<StevenSavage> A bit like the mature anime like, say, Outlaw Star?

<Alicia> But with depth and characterization, too, as the very best action anime always have. Outlaw Star is a very good example. So is the original Bubblegum Crisis 2032 or Vision of Escaflowne.

<StevenSavage> Despite extrapolating, merging, and theorizing, you've taken great pains to stay true to the roots of your story.

<Alicia> I think fanfiction becomes pointless when you change the intrinsic meaning and 'core' of the source material.

<Alicia> If you're going to do that, you might as well just take out the canon names and make it into something you could publish yourself. It'll likely make your story better, too.

<StevenSavage> So in a way, you've not only created an extrapolation of Pokemon but almost a story that could have been made into an anime itself.

<Alicia> I think that's the ultimate goal of any author who bothers try write a very long fanfiction - what they'd really want is for it to be animated alongside the original stories that inspired them.

<Alicia> I'd love to see Evo animated. Barring that, I'll see how much justice I can do the idea in text.

<StevenSavage> And is that also a way to keep your focus?

<Alicia> It can be, though it's important to remember that your audience will experience the story as prose. You need to make sure you're conveying your ideas in a way that's appropriate to the medium.

<StevenSavage> Was it hard, conveying these ideas in text? Did you find ways to make it easier or is it a chore?

<Alicia> It's not really a chore. I just sat down, wrote my story in a way that seemed natural, and then had pre-readers look it over to see if I'd managed to convey what I wanted to.

<StevenSavage> You seem to be incredibly in touch with the material.

<StevenSavage> Is that the result of RPGing, good writing, or both?

<Alicia> I think it's a result of thinking about the cartoons too much. Being a fangirl will do that to you. :)

<StevenSavage> So you know your source, essentially.

<Alicia> I tried to learn as much about it as I could. That's why I read so many manga and watched the show whenever I had the chance.

<Alicia> But I also wanted to make sure I reflected an extension of the original series as accurately as I could-- I didn't want to pour too much "wish fulfillment" or personal bias. I wanted to write about what the concept actually was, independent from what I'd like it to be.

<StevenSavage> So, we've heard some of your experiences and principles. What advice can you give fanfiction authors from your experiences?

<Alicia> Write a fanfic with respect in mind. Respect for the readers, respect for the original concepts, and respect for the characters. Taking "revenge" for things about the canon that bothered you may be satisfying, but it won't make for a good story.

<Alicia> And if you do want to change things, or interpret things about the canon differently, that's just fine... but make sure you explain yourself and what you're doing in terms of what was in the canon, and most of all-- make sure it's a good story!

<StevenSavage> And what advice would you give writers in general, based on your experiences?

<Alicia> Always keep trying to get better, and never be afraid to listen to comments or criticisms from an editor or pre-reader that you trust. They won't see the story the same way you will, and they can help pick up mistakes that you might miss.

<StevenSavage> Finally, are there any particular fanfics or stories and authors whose works you can recommend reading?

<Alicia> Gosh, there's a lot of good fanfic out there. I'd just recommend to dig around for stories and be willing to give new things a chance.

<StevenSavage> Well, Alicia, thanks for the interview. Any closing words for our audience?

<Alicia> Besides a shameless plug? Nope, don't think so. ^^

<StevenSavage> Heh. Thanks for your time!

<Alicia> Thanks for talking to me, Steve.


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