Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fanfic Retrospective - The Apocalyptic Battle

When we first began the Rebuild of Delta Invasion, there was one big obstacle that nearly sunk the project at launch, being the lack of any "raw" copies of Delta Invasion itself. As near as could be determined, the archived copies of our original MSTings were the only source of the fic remaining, the author having disowned the fic over a decade ago. The result was that, while they were adequate for the task at hand, there was always the chance of old errors creeping in, or confusion over what was fic versus riff.

In order to counter this, we went to work on finding a source for the originals. And, while this quest was successful, it also yielded an unexpected development. Previously, we had assumed that Delta Invasion represented one end of Tom Dyron's career, and that Gates of Oblivion was the other. We had no idea that anything lay between the two.

Instead, what we found changed everything.

Nothing on the internet ever goes away

Attempts to Google Delta Invasion through the title and other keywords hadn't given us the result that we were after. (How we located the archived versions of the fic is another story) What it did yield, however, was something quite unexpected. It turned out that Delta Invasion and Gates of Oblivion were merely the tip of the iceberg that was Tom Dyron's oeuvre, a tiny portion of what was actually out there, lying largely forgotten and unknown.

Diving through old Angelfire and Tripod pages (yes, those are still a thing), we discovered a whole world of badfic hidden in among the broken links and cruel mockeries of HTML. What we found seemed to be a repository of some massive internet RP of days gone by. It was a mess, half functional and half lost, with character profiles, team rosters, crappy artwork and so much more. And in the midst of all this was a story, one apparently based on the nonsense RP world we had discovered.

That fic was The Apocalyptic Battle.

The horrible secret of space

Even at a first inspection, Apocalyptic Battle became a "we must do this" fic. The fact that one of its authors was Tom Dyron was enough in and of itself, but actually reading the fic gave us so much more. There's no question about it; this fic was bad from the get go, and was clearly giving us lots to work with. An early comment while skimming it sold it in many ways, as one chapter was described as "The ultimate battle, in a purely Axe Cop sense of the term"

At an early stage, we made the decision that this should be a "special event" series, largely due to its nature as being Delta-related. Rather than going with an alternate cast, however, we came up with the idea of replacing the Voice. To us it made sense; the voice was seen as a lightweight, ineffectual bad guy, not the sort that would unleash the cosmic horror that was this fic. Instead, we created "Voice 2.0", a more openly malicious and cruel antagonist who would enjoy what they were unleashing.

During development, the fic development the nickname of 'the horrible secret of space', both due to its origins and its 'lost work' nature. That stuck, and the name was used throughout writing and even crept into the host segments. The bumpers at the start and finish of the fic alluded to that, suggesting that Voice 2.0, or something they knew, was the titular secret.

The initial plan called for five three-chapter 'episodes'. Fortunately, sanity prevailed, and the result was seven episodes of two chapters each, plus the epilogue. And, at fifteen chapters,  Apocalyptic Battle is the longest fic we've completely MSTed so far.

Dyron War: aftermath

I'm not going to lie here, at times the fic became painful to behold. In retrospect, breaking chapters 9 to 12 into one per episode probably would have helped a lot, and made the going a lot easier. Given that each of them consisted of massive blocks of the same things happening in an endless loop, they collectively were hard to get through and made for the riffer's least favorite episodes.

Picking a favorite chapter isn't as easy. Unlike Delta Invasion, there were no supremely goody episodes that made us laugh at their sheer ridiculousness. While there were some moments (chiefly Matt-related), all in all, it lacked Delta's Inadvertent sense of fun. And, of course, chapter 15 is just plain WTF country.

All up, in many ways it feels less like a story and more like the authors self-indulging in their own private world for the sake of it. In many ways, comparisons to Undocumented Features are inevitable, and I agree with them. Both were born of an authorial in-joke and both are about them getting their own private world out there to bask in its self-important awesomeness. The big difference is that Apocalyptic Battle has none of UFs charm, wit, sophistication, literacy, warmth, humour, self-depreciation, approachability, accessibility, desire to explain things to the audience or Fury the Wonder Dog (yay Fury!). It does have all of the homoerotic undertones, however.

Will we do the other Dyron fics? Possibly. One of the reasons we went for Apocalyptic Battle was simply that it was the most complete of the fics we found. Its possible that theres a lot more out there, but getting them together is going to be a nightmare of broken links, old web-pages that cause modern browsers to melt, terrible HTML and other such internet pit-traps. Getting a full run of one of them together is going to be a challenge, even before seeing if its usable.

Of course, if any of those involved with this fic are out there and would like to drop us a line or donate material, wed love to hear from you. Because in the end, finding lost works is fun, after all.

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