labingi: (Default)
2017-05-14 08:07 pm
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Blessings Be on Robert Burns

Here was I feeling angry and self-righteous when Robbie Burns reminded me of this:

Then gently scan your brother man,
Still gentler sister woman;
Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang,
To step aside is human;
One point must still be greatly dark,--
The moving Why they do it;
And just as lamely can ye mark,
How far perhaps they rue it.

Who made the heart, 'tis He alone
Decidedly can try us;
He knows each chord, its various tone,
Each spring, its various bias:
Then at the balance, let's be mute,
We never can adjust it;
What's done we party may compute,
But not know what's resisted.


And I am rightly schooled. Thank you, Rab.
labingi: (Default)
2017-04-06 09:59 am
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When I hate being American (most of the time actually...)

Medicaid renewal hell has just opened for the year. I've just spent 2 hours doing my preliminary renewal application for myself and my kids, assembling about 10 pages of supporting financial documents, and starting a "paper trail" (detailing on what date I did exactly what in this application process) against the next several months of ensuing tug-of-war as the Oregon Health Plan repeatedly mails me to say my coverage has been cancelled because they never received the documents I sent them several times. (Bright spot: their forms are actually better this year and fewer documents are asked for, so maybe that won't happen for the third year running.)

This year I'm actually near the income cutoff for coverage (though maybe not once deductions are figured). (The cutoff for being poor enough to qualify is around $26,000 for a family of 3.) We'll see how they compute things. However, even if we keep our coverage this year, this will be a problem if I ever manage to have a career that pays a livable income. My employer has few health insurance slots and only for people who always work over half time--and I have yet to work a year there where I've been offered over half time for a whole year. The marketplace will be expensive. My partner currently has no insurance through his work (a contract position likely to end in 3 months), so he can't cover us on employer-based insurance. (He has ACA insurance now.) And this is the status quo: who knows what the Republicans might do.

Really, really tired of most Democrats not even mentioning Medicare for All. No wonder it's not part of that national conversation.
labingi: (Default)
2017-03-29 02:18 pm
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Belated Review of Logan: Loved It!

Logan does what big, established franchise films should: it uses its built-in budget and audience to do high quality, authentic storytelling rather than safe-bet replication of the usual action-hero(es) formula. Imagine: the entire movie—employing 15,000 people, the end credits tell us—has not one youthful action hero-protagonist at the height of (or discovering) his powers. Instead, it has a run-down guy who looks fifty, a guy in his nineties, and a kid. My God, it's a breath of fresh air.

Logan is a story about getting old. And superhero movie though it is, its exploration of aging could hardly be more down to earth. It has introduced me to an entirely new experience: personally identifying with Wolverine! He's in a position that many of us are in, myself included: feeling the wear and tear of age sapping our physical strength and energy at the very time we find ourselves caught between caring for aged parents and raising still young and needy children. We find ourselves Aeneas, carrying our father on our backs, holding our son by the hand, and hoping to survive whatever ordeal a difficult world has thrust us into.Read more... )
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2017-03-25 08:26 am
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Happy Downfall of Sauron Day 2017!

Happy Downfall of Sauron Day! I'm off to California (sans kids), so I will have 9 hours in the car to think about the downfall of Sauron but no time to write about it. Wishing you a fannishly happy day!
labingi: (Default)
2017-03-10 04:04 pm
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My Film, The Hour before Morning on Vimeo Update

I have set The Hour before Morning to requiring a password for viewing on Vimeo. If you want the password, just ask me. Reasons for this: I want to better control the content. We worked ever so hard on this film, but it's a first feature for many of us (first of any kind for me) and looks it, and I don't think it best reflects the talents of the people who put so much into it. It has some amazing scenes, however, and I would like to be able to excerpt them for fan-like videos, book trailers--and I welcome anyone who worked on it to do likewise for a reel or other purposes, but I think it will tantalize better in pieces, where its best parts can shine. And if people care to see the whole thing, well, they can ask for the password.
labingi: (Default)
2017-03-09 02:19 pm
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State of the Writing

I've been in a writing slump the past 2-3 weeks--and it has less to do with intrinsic interest in writing than just overwhelm and tiredness in life, especially getting toward the end of the teaching term. Around last week, I decided to try something novel and just rest up when I'm not having to watch my kids or do my day job. I took a nap. I have been reading more. It's lovely.

And yet, though I haven't been writing much, my muse started talking to me this morning, and I got down some good notes on a novel I'm not actively working on right now. It's the prequel to the novel I finished a draft of last year, The Sins of the Mind Readers. My mom finally finished reading said draft and remarked to me that "it's not entirely successful." And you know when your mom thinks your work is not entirely successful, you'd better pay attention. Thing about Sins is it may never be successful. It's a big, ambitious look at the human heart in a sort of literary fiction vein but as science fiction, which is a weird line to cross. However, the one thing I can do to greatly improve it is write the damn prequel because at least 65% of what's tripping everybody up is that they can't understand the plot and too many characters are "off stage," and that's because it's really a sequel to another story.

So I need to write the prequel--and I had some cool revelations about it today. This story--I'll call it Ghanior's story for the main character because I don't have a good title yet--is one I started at 16, and it suffers from some teenage assumptions. For one thing, I sort of assumed that my main character would just be able to leave his home planet and take extremely powerful technology to another nation and no one would really stop him because, hey, he's not a slave. It has been dawning on me in revisiting this story that he couldn't get offworld without breaking major, major laws--hard-won laws that go back to the end of my first novel, Perdita. He would be in so much freaking trouble. So my main revelation is what to do about this, and I had an idea I think is reasonably clever to actually open this book with maybe 50 pages on these machinations, basically becoming a plot between protagonist Ghanior and a few others to get him illegally off-planet with this tech. I think it will not only answer the logical problems but be pretty good, tense storytelling if I do it right. It also fits pretty well with Ghanior's overall character trajectory. He pops up in Sins about 40 years later and really has a history of playing fast and loose with law, so this would be a good genesis for that characteristic.

So I'm feeling pretty good despite little writing happening. I did revise my short story "Oxymorons" for my writers group. It's one of my only things not set in my Continuation universe. It's a fairly near future, climate change story set on the moon.
labingi: (Default)
2017-02-08 08:53 am
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Favorite Fictional Couples

Goodreads has just asked authors to weigh in on favorite fictional couples. I love the question and am crossposting my answer here:

Naoe and Kagetora from Mizuna Kuwabara’s boys love light novel series Mirage of Blaze, which is about samurai spirits vying for control of modern day Japan while our plucky group of heroes (also samurai spirits) attempt to thwart them. Uesugi Kagetora, adopted son of Uesugi Kenshin, is the field commander of these defenders of modern Japan (and by extension the world). Naoe is his vassal and bodyguard. (Like most of the characters, both are historical figures.) The two of them have had a love-hate relationship—with both feeling generous doses of the love and the hate—for 400 years.

Why are they my favorite?

Well, Mirage and its main couple just blow everything else out of the water. This is no criticism of any other love story. Mirage is just so huge, weird, and no-holds-barred that it explodes the mind and senses. Naoe and Kagetora have the intense, obsessive, ugly-yet-compelling passion of Wuthering Heights’s Catherine and Heathcliff (who would also be high on my list) but at a length of several hundred more pages with a commensurate depth of psychology, philosophy, and character development. They are an investigation of (and sometime challenge to) Buddhist concepts of attachment and detachment. They are an exploration of trauma and its ramifications throughout life. They are an illustration of the horror of being trapped in destructive patterns and the possibility of growth out of them. They are an intense exercise in self-examination, self-flagellation, a study in how human relationships go wrong (and can be rescued). They are the insanity of intense, prolonged overextension (in this case, the overextension of living for 400 years without proper reincarnation/purification). They do not exist on an isolated story island consisting only of each other but rather widely affect and are affected by other loved ones, family, friends, enemies, strangers, the world. They signify that forgiveness and redemption are always available. They challenge us (and each other) to love brokenness and to find healing. Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
2017-02-07 09:00 pm
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Linkspam of Proactive Things, Mostly for the Climate

Crappy day. In addition to the Trump Administration's daily attempts to end the world as human civilization has known it, my best friend's brother-in-law unexpectedly died. I'm going to respond to all this by taking a leaf out of [personal profile] umadoshi's book and doing an inspiring linkspam (though short by her standards).

How to search for a socially responsible credit card. (Word to the wise: It ain't Credo/Working Assets. They sold out to Bank of America a long time ago.)

CarbonNeutralNow.org: the United Nations' program allowing individuals and businesses to purchase carbon offsets, supporting green projects in the developing world. Bloody awesome!

Carbon Offset Program in the Philippines. I attended a meeting featuring a speaker who had been on-site observing this reforestation program. It seems legit.

Green-e Energy: helping individuals and businesses buy into green energy. I never knew this existed till today and haven't fully vetted it, but I see no immediate complaints through the BBB or just posted online. My first impression is it's legit.

Top 25 Retail Electricity Providers in the US: not solely geared toward green energy, but this list does include the company's green energy options as well as regions served and other info.

Donate directly to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: now more than ever, they need it.
labingi: (Default)
2017-01-28 09:10 am
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Maybe consider joining Go-Write-2017?

I have joined the new DW community [community profile] go_write_2017, and I think it's a great idea: a general community for writers to support each other by posting updates on their work, having general writing discussions, etc. (I think it is not for actually posting work, but it could be a good place to find beta readers.) Membership is currently open but will close early in the year to encourage a nuclear community of involved people who can get to know and support each other.

The community is pretty quiet now, but I really hope it takes off. It's a sort of online writing community I've been looking for, so if the same is true for you, maybe think about joining? I'd love to see you there!
labingi: (Default)
2017-01-12 08:23 pm

Belated Jump into SNOWFLAKE Meme

Jumping into Day 11 with apologies for not doing the whole thing in order. I just don't have time to do the whole thing properly.

Day 11
In your own space, talk about a creator. Show us why you think they are amazing. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


I think this means fan creator? I want to extol several.

The amazing [livejournal.com profile] astrogirl2 is the one who introduced me to LJ-style fandom in 2004. I came across her site somehow in searching for Blake's 7 fandom and was captivated by the wonderful community (doing B7 and Farscape RPGs at the time). Astrogirl herself--still posting regularly on LJ and still with quite a following--has always been such an intelligent, balanced, caring, engaged fandom presence, as well as a dashed good fan fic writer. (Alas, we are no longer in the same fandoms, but my admiration remains.)

Apart from Astrogirl, I want to use this space to praise some of the amazing people who have brought Mirage of Blaze fandom into English because I have been revisiting Mirage with much enthusiasm lately.

One of the first Mirage fans I ever encountered was [personal profile] petronia, first on her website, later through LJ. I long considered her--and pretty much still consider her--a celebrity I am rather shy about talking to. As far as Mirage goes, it does not get better than her humorous summaries. Across the years, I find I would usually rather read her account of Kotarou being mistaken for [Spoiler] than read the original. She captures very much the tone of Mirage itself when it self-satirizes with just a nance more meta and comedy. Utterly delightful.

The most professional-like of the many wonderful people who have taken a stab at translating the 40 volume epic of Mirage is Asphodel. Check out her amazing site of Mirage and other translations, complete with giant glossary and numerous hyperlinked footnotes. She is still at it! She has been at it for ten years or more now. The going is slow. (This is not her day job.) But the product she posts is always exceptional.

Also an excellent and voluminous translator is [personal profile] quaint_twilight. She is no longer active on LJ or DW, which I totally understand but makes me sad. I miss her wonderful translations and her enthusiastic fan presence, and I applaud her for keeping her account active so that we can continue to access the fruits of all her hard work on Mirage.

Other folks who have put in many long hours of translating work include [livejournal.com profile] 99me, [livejournal.com profile] tasha_poisonous, and [livejournal.com profile] demitas, as well as many others who have translated some wonderful bits in English and other languages--and round about 10 years ago, a whole host of people doing amazing multi-page meta. I can't name everyone, but I appreciate it all.

As for traditionally published creators, hands down the most influential in my life over the past eight-ish years or so is Yasuhiro Nightow. I must admit, I don't really relate to his latest work, Kekkai Sensen (3B), but both of his two major earlier works, Trigun and Gungrave, have been not only big fandoms of mine but have transformed my life. Each has been a means of profound revelation about myself, my patterns, and how I can better address my life. I am extremely grateful for that. It's a rare and precious gift.
labingi: (Default)
2017-01-09 09:23 pm
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Long Overdue Essay on Mirage of Blaze and Trigun as Interrogators of Philosophies

Trigun and Mirage of Blaze are two stories I hold to be very great. Both come packaged in popular media forms (manga and light novel respectively) that connote light entertainment, not high literature. Yet both are among the most philosophically challenging texts I have read. Indeed, the two stories are engaged in philosophically analogous projects: while Trigun is a profound interrogation of Christian philosophy, Mirage is a profound interrogation of Buddhist philosophy. (Major spoilers for both follow.)Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
2017-01-04 03:56 pm
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Updated DW Settings

FYI, I've just changed my default security level from "access list" back to "public." I find I like the privacy of sharing to my access list, especially since I don't really hide who I am in RL (I'm under this name and my real name on Ao3, for example), so a lot of entries will probably still be access list only--and I will still friend/add liberally. But folks looking here will start to see more public entries too.
labingi: (Default)
2014-03-27 02:58 pm
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Happy Belated Downfall of Sauron Day

It is a measure of my complete scatteredness that I completely missed Downfall of Sauron Day this year. I attribute that to three things:

1) It's usually closely associated in my mind with my spring trip home to California, which got cancelled this year for my adoption, then put back on at the last minute due to adoption delays, so I did get to Cali, but not for DS Day and in a last-minute rush.

2) The adoption: pretty much everything in my life since January has been measured in adoption timelines and bureaucratic delays. I've been on about 3-week watch to travel to Haiti for about 3 months now, and it does drive out most else.

3) Film scheduling: this has been taking up a lot of my brain power and has driven out other dates.

Anyway, I have nothing brilliant to say to DS Day this year. I really need to reread The Lord of the Rings. It's been way too long. And going into my second full year of intense reading frustration, it's probably a good time to go back and revisit a dependably good book.
labingi: (Default)
2014-03-24 10:42 pm
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Reclaiming Derivative Fiction

With the heightened visibility of fan fiction in recent years, conceptions of what constitutes professional-caliber fiction have been in flux, and derviative fiction (based on pre-existing works) has been slowly regaining legitimacy. I want to share my new enthusiasm for the richer, truer world that opens up for all participants in narrative when we accept the artistic legitimacy of retelling stories.

The Copyright Model

Our culture's dominant view of what constitutes quality narrative still draws its lines based on copyright. Under this model, professional writers write “original fiction”; i.e. works dissimilar enough from preexisting copyrighted works that the writer (or publisher) can claim copyright over them. Published writers who extrapolate stories in public domain are sometimes highly respected but sometimes placed on a lower tier than "original" writers. At a lower status, but still professionals, are authorized writers of works within others' copyrighted universes, such as official tie-in novels. Low status and traditionally derided are fan fiction writers, who write unauthorized derivative works.

The dividing line for professionalism in this model is how much the writer gets paid. Original and authorized authors make money through traditional publishing (and, more rarely, self-publishing); unauthorized fan fic writers are legally barred from profiting on copyrighted works. Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
2014-02-20 06:05 pm
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The Love That Does Not Know How to Speak Its Name?

Reading over summaries of anime on Soul-Anime, I came across a fascinating summary of Gungrave, one of my favorites. I don’t know if this was written by one person or edited after the fact, but it feels like a quintessential example of what I think of as the “non-narratable,” that is, a story that is so outside our cultural conceptions of what’s possible that we lack the concepts to speak about it or really understand it. (I gleaned this term from narratology, but some quick reading up suggests my use has diverged from the more standard use.)

Here’s the summary:

Brandon Heat, a silent and passive man, is living a laid back life with his friends. He's got his eyes on Maria, but her uncle forbids their relationship. After the brutal murder of his friends and Maria's father, Brandon is on the run together with the only friend he has left—Harry McDowell. When he finds out custody over Maria has been taken by Millennion, the largest mafia syndicate in town, he and Harry decide to join the syndicate. He goes through many hardships after joining the syndicate but he is willing to risk everything as long as he can be close to Maria. The plot is more about the relationship between Brandon and Harry not as much about Brandon and Maria as the current plot is describing.
--From Soul-Anime

There are some factual errors here: Brandon and Harry do not decide to join Millennion directly because Maria is with Millennion. Harry decides to join because he is ambitious and sees it as a path to power. Brandon does join, in part, because Maria is there but also because Harry is joining. The story, as the last line notes, is more about Brandon and Harry than Brandon and Maria. Indeed, it is cardinally the story of the fall and reconciliation in Brandon and Harry’s friendship.

This writer knew that; they say in black and white that it’s more about Harry and Brandon. And yet the summary describes the story as about Brandon and Maria.Read more... )
labingi: (r2dvd)
2014-02-09 10:22 pm
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Steven Moffat, Meet That Sexist Pig: A Cautionary Tale

Yet Another Post on Sexism in Moffat's Shows

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Steven Moffat is the Ben Steed of his generation. For those not up on their BBC TV writers of thirty-plus years ago, Ben Steed was a writer for Blake’s 7 (among other things), now widely remembered in Blake’s 7 fandom as that sexist pig. This is a shame for the late Steed: in many respects he was a good writer, but he allowed his bigotry to distort the virtues of his stories, leaving a sour taste in the mouth of many fans across the decades. Steven Moffat seems committed to an updated version of the same trajectory, and it’s a shame for him too because he, too, is a good writer, but that fact is increasingly being obscured by the sexism* of his shows.

The Lessons of History )
labingi: (Default)
2014-02-09 08:48 pm
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X-Men Fic: Reflections on the Life and Meaning of David Haller

(Probably my last fic before my kids arrive from Haiti and there is no fic time for years!)

Fandom: X-Men, Movieverse with comics insertions

Summary: Reflections on the life Charles and Gabrielle's mentally ill son, David, through the relationships among Charles, Erik, and Gabrielle. Set during the first X-Men movie, around the year 2000.

Notes: This story is a hybrid of various canons and my own ideas. David is my own version: readers of the Legion stories will note right away that my conception of his life and powers is quite different. However, I've tried to be consistent within the fanon of my own fic, which is why Moira shows up late to Muir Island: she would have been going back to school when David was first placed there. I feel I should subtitle this fic, "People Have Lunch."

"The Calling or the Whale": Read at Ao3
labingi: (Default)
2013-12-19 04:45 pm
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This Is Not a Review of The Hobbit

This is not a review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but I’ll share some impressions for context. Though it kept me entertained, I didn’t think it was very good. The story felt padded; the implausible action scenes lacked tension; the moralizing was often forced. But for all that, I’m glad the movie was made because it means that the narrative of Middle-earth is still alive.

Storytelling belongs to the public consciousness. All the copyright laws in the world cannot stop that being true. It is human nature to imitate: it is how we learn to talk, to dress, to be polite, to live in society. It is embedded in human nature to take in stories and breathe them out again. This is not to say there is no place for copyright. As long as we live in a nominally free market society, artists must be able to make money from their work for art to flourish, and copyright (ideally) gives them control over distribution of their work to prevent market saturation and grant them remuneration. But if copying must be restricted, the creation of art itself is naturally free: the mind flies to it as it flies to love, and no prison nor prison sentence can stop it.

One common complaint about derivative works is that they are often bad quality. And this is true. (It’s true of original works just as much.) I would argue that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, despite a great deal of talent and effort, is bad quality in many ways. It’s a legal, licensed work, but aside from giving it a big budget, that doesn’t affect whether it’s good or bad art. Likewise, some still claim fan fiction has dubious legality, but that has no bearing on whether it is brilliant or painful to read. Art is speech, and democratic society has long understood that respecting freedom of speech exposes us to reams of stupid speech. That is a very small price to pay for the freedom to share thought and learn and grow as individuals and cultures. Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
2013-12-08 06:13 pm
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Story Recs Please

It's that time again, when I get really frustrated with my inability to find anything to fan over and ask for your help. It's worked in the past, bringing me such great recs as Banana Fish and Trigun in recent memory. So please, help me, please! Here's some info on my tastes:

* I'm looking for a story that has at least two very well-developed characters (ideally more or less equally well developed) who spark off each other in an interesting way that is a major part of the story. It needn't be romantic. It should involve some sort of interesting tension/contrast. Both characters should care about something besides just each other. (Mirage of Blaze note: yes, Naoe does care about things other than Kagetora; for example, he cares about his own ego.)

* Genre: sci fi, fantasy, historical, mythical are my favorites, followed by non-Anglophone/foreign cultures, with least interest in contemporary Anglophone texts (though I may go anywhere for a really great story). Basically, I like to get beyond the daily external world I run errands in.

* Medium: any really, though I'm rather in reading mood just now. Movies tend to be a bit short for the necessary character development, but you never know.

* Women: I truly love it when I find a story with a good female character I can invest in... but this is so rare that I tend to have a knee-jerk wariness about male/female pairings. (I don't know that I have a single female/female pairing high on my personal fannish list, but there's a first time for everything. I would have had one with The Innkeeper's Song, except...)

Random stuff I've liked in the past: I've been subsisting on renewed Les Mis love this past year (it's great but I need something new). Japanese stuff includes Mirage of Blaze, Trigun, Blade of the Immortal, Gungrave, Banana Fish. Space opera TV shows: Blake's 7, Babylon 5, Crusade. Other: The Lord of the Rings, The Brothers Karamazov, The Left Hand of Darkness, Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, the Iliad, X-Men.

Help appreciated!
labingi: (riki)
2013-11-08 07:13 pm
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Anime Review: Akira

(I will now surprise no one by writing about Akira again.)

Akira (1988) is timeless. If you’re okay with violent anime, watch it. If you saw it a long time ago (and are okay with violent anime), watch it again. You may be very pleased at how well Katsuhiro Otomo’s twenty-five-year-old anime film, loosely based on his lengthy manga, stands up both as a story and work of cinematic art.

Akira is a near-future dystopian drama set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo run by corrupt a government, a nefarious military-scientific complex, and—nearer the ground—by teen motorcycle gangs. The story centers on teen bikers, Kaneda and Tetsuo. Kaneda is the flashy, badass gang leader, Tetsuo the runt of the pack, who, we can guess, is only included in the gang because he’s Kaneda’s best friend. This power dynamic changes, however, when Tetsuo is abducted by the sinister Akira project, concerned with channeling massive energy through children. Tetsuo becomes the latest in a line of young test subjects, including the eponymous Akira, to have their lives and health devastated in exchange for superpowers. To save Tetsuo, Kaneda joins a band of revolutionaries and infiltrates the top secret Akira installation, only to discover that the friend he set out to rescue is no longer the boy he knew…

Read the rest at The Geek Girl Project.