Magicademy: Author's Note and FAQ
"There should be something amusing here."
I never expected this series to amount to a whole lot, to gain a small fanbase, or anything like that. Hell, I only posted it online after some friends said I should. So, yes. If you've read everything that comes before this, whether you just found the story or have been following since the first post, thank you, I appreciate it more than I can say.
As for the rest of this, it's mostly my long-winded thoughts about the series, what went into it and what came out of it, and whatever else I feel like rambling about. Feel free not to read it, I'll never know; you might want to skip down to the FAQ if there's something you've been dying to know.
Magicademy started when I was in college, of course. A lot of Jacob's surprise at the new environment and his learning how to do things in a very different world comes directly from my own experiences. After living at home for 17 years, there's something about being at college that you just plain don't get anywhere else - all of the freedoms of being an adult with none of the responsibilities. At least, that's how it was for me, your results may vary.
So where exactly did the story come from? A few places. First, I was horribly addicted to a fantasy-based online game my freshman year, and at one point, I started wondering what it'd be like to go to school with some of the races from the game. A while later, when I accidentally typed 'roommate' as 'roommage' in an e-mail, that was the first real spark for the series. Oddly enough, Aidis was the first character I came up with, the roommage himself.
After that, it was about a year before I finally started writing the thing. I did a lot of planning for a version that was a lot more fantasy-based. There were halflings instead of nekati, Jacob's parents were alive, and Elisa was eventually going to be Jacob's love interest.
Yeah, I can't see it now either.
I never got more than two stories into that version - the first and third, actually. The first one was mostly the same, and the third had Jacob discovering that he's a natural-born. I didn't do more because I didn't know what was going to happen next, I didn't have enough to work with, and I didn't have more than two pages of the second story. Then, something major happened in my life.
My friend Kevin showed up one night and brought me to the college's anime club.
About three years and well over a hundred hours' worth of anime later, I started re-planning Magicademy, figuring it'd be fun to make it an anime series in print. I made a bunch of new notes on the characters, reworked a whole lot of things in the world, and tossed out the halflings for the nekati. (Hey, cat-people have been around in anime for a long time, so it seemed like a good idea.) I killed off Jacob's parents, partly because it would make his background more interesting and partly for a reason that deserves its own paragraph.
The ideas that surround interracial (or inter-species, depending on what term you want to use) relations have always been at the heart of Magicademy. In the first stories I wrote, I was really heavy-handed about that sort of thing - Jacob's dad wasn't happy at all about him living with an elf, frowned at being helped by dwarves when they got to the dorms, that sort of thing. It wasn't very subtle. The last thing I wanted to do was be preachy, especially with something that was such an obvious reflection of issues here in the real world. So I took a lighter route with it, having Jacob learn to deal with living among the other races when he'd not been around them much before. I think it worked out all right. When I came up with Dhaiiski, I knew that she and Jacob would be together eventually, so helping him move past his issues was one of my goals for the first major arc of the series.
Heh. Like a series without any overwhelming storyline has anything that can be called an 'arc'. . . .
I started writing Magicademy 'for real' after I graduated college, as I had an hour-long lunch break at my job and writing seemed like a great way to pass the time. That, and I had this sense that if I didn't just sit down and get started, I'd never get to it. I think I still have those notebooks somewhere.
Like I said, I never thought anything would come of this series. I'd intended it to just be something I shared with my friends, something we could all get a good laugh out of and have fun discussing the possibilities. AMU is patterned directly off of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and ND also bears a distinct resemblance to Isla Vista - affectionately known as I.V. - the college town right next to the campus. Granted, UCSB doesn't have multilayered architecture or bridges connecting the different buildings, but I liked those visuals too much to leave them out. And the Crystal Ball coffee shop is only a few steps removed from Java Jones, I.V.'s best coffee place and general hang-out spot. I don't drink coffee, but I spent hours there with my friends over the years. I really miss their hot cider sometimes.
My friends have been a great help with the series - giving me ideas, pointing out things I'd missed, and occasionally putting up with not-quite-done versions of the stories as I tried to get things right. One of them (I'll not list her name 'cause I don't know if she'd want me to) is entirely responsible for part 15, as she reminded me that every good anime has a gratuitous hot springs scene. Okay, not every good one, but still.
'Twas another friend who got me going on the series again. I'd stalled at the start of the "Bad Things Happen" storyline, as that was originally going to be the start of a long-running storyline that would take the series through to its ending at part 26. The problem with giving Magicademy a plot like that was, well, aren't they supposed to be in college? What kind of threat could come up which could only be solved by a group of college kids? And how would they still pass their classes? It just plain didn't work, and wasn't really fitting with the concept of the series. I ended up making House Arcane into a fraternity and sorority instead of some secret society, and had a lot more fun with it that way. As my friend said, college is enough of a plot.
As for the duels, I admit it, they're completely inspired by and borderline ripped-off from the anime 'Revolutionary Girl Utena.' The series is one of my favorites and I'd recommend it to just about anyone - the early episodes are very girly, but after that the show becomes so twisted it's actually sprained. Bloody beautiful series with depth and symbolism I've not seen in any other anime. Aidis's speech before his first duel is the infamous "chick speech" from that series.
And now that it's over . . . I never expected to finish Magicademy. Well over a year passed between when I finished parts 16 and 17. But now that it's done, I'm really, really happy with how it came out. I've had a lot of fun with the series, that's one thing that never went away. Sure, it took longer to get done than I'd originally planned, but I haven't heard anyone complaining about that.
Will there be more? Short answer: I don't know.
Long answer: seeing as how this was only ever meant to be fun for myself and my friends, I'd never really thought about doing more with the series. I've tossed around the idea of a summer-type 'road trip' story with part of the cast, but I think a story like that would have to have some kind of plot, which separates it from every road trip I've ever taken. So we'll see. There's more that I'd like to do with the series, but that's all I'm going to say about that.
If anything more does come of Magicademy, I'll post it here. Until then. . . .
Thank you again, everyone, for reading this, for posting your reviews and telling other people about it, for making me realize I'd done something that people were really enjoying. As an aspiring writer with a few trees' worth of rejection letters, y'all have really kept me going and kept me from losing faith in my own work. And being compared to Harry Potter utterly floored me, I never thought I'd get that. Bwa ha ha! But seriously. Every single "update soon!" left me with a big grin on my face; there's nothing quite like knowing people are enthused about reading your work. And I didn't even think it was possible to write something this long without getting flamed, but it's never happened - just some constructive criticism, which I'm very grateful for. (And thanks for the typo corrections too.)
And now . . . a bit of self-indulgence and a bit of question-answering, all at once. Some of these questions have come up in IM or e-mail - I'm sorry if I was less than great about replying to things like that or even being online, but sometimes I get really damn shy about talking to people I've not met. Eh heh heh. Anyway, on with the second part of the show. . . .
Frequently Asked Questions
"No, Will does not bathe with his tongue."
Are you a guy or a girl? And what kind of name is MusedMoose?
I'm a guy, though the hair does confuse some people. 'Moose' is the nickname I got from fencing club at UCSB - long story, but it's oddly appropriate for me. 'Mused' is a verb.
Can I post this story on my website/on a forum/somewhere else?
Thanks, but please don't. With the internet being what it is, I'd hate for someone to find this on a different site, think it's fair game, and start claiming that it's theirs or something like that. If you want to link, please do; the best way would be to link it to my profile page so a new reader can get the description of the story and my author-type bit. Fanart's also welcome, if I can say that without sounding egotistical; just post a link in a review and I'll tell you what I think if there's a way to get in touch with you.
Where do you get your ideas?
How'd you come up with these characters?
Okay, this will take a while...
Jacob Coffman: started out a lot like me, but that didn't last very long - the fact that he takes science classes on purpose was the first major separation. I wanted Jacob to be someone new readers could relate to, someone who's found himself somewhere completely new and has a whole lot of adjusting to do. As for the natural-born thing, that comes from a lot of my earliest writings, and I really liked the idea of having these unique individuals due to the Change.
Aidis Mulahey: if Jacob's the heart of the series, Aidis is the funnybone. He's based a lot on one of my best friends from high school, mostly with the smartass comments and perpetual stubble. I also wanted to have someone who used magik a lot right from the beginning, both for the readers and for Jacob. The small flying carpet was another idea I had while walking around on campus. As for his 'robes,' well, there's just something about the classics.
Elisa Steffani: last-named for one of my best friends in junior high. Why's she English? I love accents, simple as that. Oddly enough, she's been one of the easiest characters to write, and I think there's a lot more to her than we'll ever know. For example, I've no idea why she gets along with dwarves as well as she does, but I think it works for her.
Cassida Lucidity: I don't think that's her real last name, more like what the elven word translates to. I came up with twilight elves purely because I loved the look but I didn't want to do a drow rip-off. (I'd originally called them night elves, but then WarCraft III came out. . . .) Once Cassida proved herself to be willing to bend, break, or ignore the rules, she became great to work with. I regret not doing more with her as the story went on; I can only imagine what she's gotten herself into when I wasn't looking. Should have done more with her band, too.
Dhaiiski Banobreberiel: name comes from "dai suki," which, as you'll learn if you watch enough anime, roughly translates to "I love you." I tried to keep her from being the stereotypical catgirl, making sure she was there to do more than just purr and be affectionate. She's fun to write, but like Cassida, I regret not doing more with her as the series went on. I think I lost touch with her a little at some parts, but I think I got it back toward the end.
Timorfildor "Tim" Windwalker: I think he'd be horrified to know that his origins lie entirely in the Monty Python joke. At first, he was just around as Aidis's roommate and to help Jacob deal with the natural-born thing, but once Cassida came around and all that, I got to learn more about him. None of his family's conservative ways or the like was in my original plans, so learning about him has been really interesting for me.
Ariawyn Starshadow: I admit it: I'm a sucker for romance-type things involving old-style arranged marriages that end up working out. However, Aria's shown herself to be the only person in the series who can actually change Tim's mind, so I'm glad she's around. She's got the 'casual elven grace' thing going on, which is always fun to write.
Brgdaernhaen "Ulf" Doganligan: there's a reason we never learn his real name in the series. I really, really regret not having Ulf around more. Looking back over my notes, I know I could have done more with his non-traditional ways and problems with his brothers. But I was always glad to write him when he was around, even if he didn't serve a role much other than 'token dwarf.'
William "Will" Owens: actually has an origin story. My roommate freshman year got nicknamed 'the ghost' because he was hardly ever around. So at first, Jacob was going to have a ghost roommate - an actual disembodied spirit. Then I came up with the idea of having the spirit go into something else, and eventually got Will as we know him. I think he's been in the panther body long enough to have gained some of the utter dignity that cats seem to have - some of them, anyway - which is why he talks the way he does.
Liz Anderson: the only character I created along the way. I wanted to have another natural-born show up at AMU, as it makes sense there'd be more if they're around Jacob's age. Her abrasiveness came naturally, but she was fun to work with - an antagonist who wasn't really an 'enemy.' I like how she mellowed with time and teaching, and I can only imagine what the place she'll be sharing with Jacob and Aidis will be like.
I've noticed some inconsistencies with Jacob's magik. . . .
Funny, so has he. That's the thing about natural-borns - just because they have inherent magik doesn't mean they know how to use all of it, or that they'd always use it in the same way. Fortunately, they can learn. But Jacob will always be purple.
So what's the deal with Modesto?
I've never been there, but it's a town in Northern California. One of my friends from UCSB was from there, and she'd often say "Sorry, I'm from Modesto" when she screwed up in any way. It seemed like a good place for Jacob to be from, and when another friend visited there, I was able to get a description for the 'Winter Break' storyline. No offense meant to anyone who's actually from there. It was either there or Fresno. . . .
Can you put me/my friend/my character in the story?
Sorry, nope. I usually try to avoid putting actual people in my stories, it leads to far too many problems. Granted, I have given many of my friends cameos, but those were little more than using their names, for the most part. (One of the fun things is that two of the guys in the martial arts class are friends I lived with over my last two years of college, and two other people in that class are those guys' D&D characters.) The single exception to this was Dan, from the sixth story. Dan was an electrical engineering major, and when I asked if I could put him in the story, he said "Hell yes!" Dan is just as crazy as I wrote him, probably more, and I'm fully convinced that one day he'll invent something that will either save the world or destroy it. Maybe both.
What's the deal with the quotes after the story titles?
I dunno, it just seemed like something funny to do. They're either what I was thinking when I started the story, or somewhat descriptive of what's going to happen. The one for part 31 definitely reflects my thoughts on it.
What happens if you give a nekati catnip?
I asked Jacob that once; he just glared at me until I went away.
And that's it. Thank you again for reading, I can't say that enough. If anything more ever happens with Magicademy, I'll make sure you know.
This is Moose, signing off.