numb3r_5ev3n: Jerry Cornelius (Default)
[personal profile] numb3r_5ev3n
Continuing from a previous post, this will be a somewhat rambling attempt to piece together my reasoning for the ships I had back in the day, as well as the evolving plot of the fic in general.

The true purpose of this is to ascertain exactly what was going on in my head, and to chart the growth of my writing and my thought processes.

First, some personal history: October 1993. Our school's computer science teacher, who was also the sponsor of the writing club, gave me a VHS copy of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eighth Dimension. I was immediately hooked, and showed it to my peer group at the time. We all fell out over what were already horrendously dated styles, and the specter of Jeff Goldblum in western wear(!) but we were won over by the film's clever, irreverent story and characters, as well as it's refusal to be categorized as a conventional science fiction, action/adventure, or comedy film, as it falls into all of these categories.

X Files also premiered right around this time.

1994. After watching Buckaroo Banzai nearly every Friday evening for six months, I asked the computer science teacher if The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai: Against The World Crime League had ever been made, or if there were any plans for it to be released. She said no, it hadn't, but gave us two fanzines of a fanfic she had in her possession, called Buckaroo Banzai And The Penny Paradox, by Leni R. Sommer and Peggy Spaudling. Printed fanzines - which were the only way to read fanfic before the widespread use of the internet. Holy shit, kids these days don't know how easy they have it.

My friends and I read and discussed the two 'zines at length. Against The World Crime League be damned, this was our sequel.

And we didn't know there was a novelization, or what other media there was in existence, if any. This was fully a year before any of us had anything like regular internet access (1994!) and it would be two years before Ernest Cline's (yes that Ernest Cline) nearly universally-accepted fan sequel was written. A dilemma which today could easily be solved by a google search, or a quick trip to Wikipedia or IMDB was left in a state of limbo for years. So we just adopted everything in The Penny Paradox as canon until proven otherwise (or "fanon" as it is typically referred to these days.)

Therefore, my Buckaroo Banzai fanfic was, in actuality, a continuation of The Penny Paradox.

And it got caught up in all of the baggage of my teen angst, and collected expectations of what I wanted my life to be like based on what I'd read in books by Madeline L'Engle, and Mercedes Lackey, and Wendy and Richard Pini, and Neil Gaiman, and just got stranger from there.

I. The World Crime League: Hanoi Xan, Lo Pep, and other major players.

(OR: "My fave is problematic.")

If Buckaroo Banzai can be considered an "expy" of Doc Savage, then his nemesis "Hanoi" Xan was none other than Fu Manchu himself, with the serial numbers filed off, assisted in his villainy by his faithful lieutenant Lo Pep. Yes, it turns out that John Whorfin was originally intended to be a one-off villain, a minor player in the larger scheme of things...and despite the fact that Buckaroo himself is half Asian, the story would have been dropped into yet another Yellow Peril narrative if it had continued as planned.

(Never mind the fact that our hero, who is half Japanese, is played by Peter Weller. It was 1984 and people were not really that conscious about whitewashing in film yet. In many ways, they still aren't. I still love this franchise. Anyhoo...)

A rumor which has persisted since the 1980s is that W.D. Richter salvaged what would have been Buckaroo Banzai Against The World Crime League, and recycled it when he was called to rewrite the script for Big Trouble In Little China.

Pun names aside, the problematic nature of the "Big Bads" in the Buckaroo Banzai mythos has been pointed out by none other than John Lithgow himself, here in this interview with Kevin Smith. (Watch the whole thing. I'll wait. The relevant bit is here.) Indeed, according to what has apparently been said by Earl Mac Rauch and W.D. Richter, it was always intended for John Lithgow and Christopher Lloyd to return as Hanoi Xan and his henchman, Lo Pep. Yeahhhhhh.

We were completely unaware of this at the time. Reading The Penny Paradox, our peer group got the idea that Hanoi Xan was an M. Bison-like military dictator endowed with sinister psychic abilities, and an unhealthy obsession with Buckaroo's love life. Nowhere in the Penny Paradox narrative does it actually come out and state the former (though the latter is fairly anviliciously implied.) This was just what we were able to extrapolate from the little info we had access to.

And with "Hanoi" being part of his moniker, we assumed Buckaroo was dealing with a holdover from the Vietnam War. And this is where my politics played a huge part of where the original version of my fic ended up. Spoiler alert: it was always going to be an angry screed against the Military Industrial Complex, Cold War politics and American post-WWII imperialism. Yes, I was that woke about it at sixteen.

No matter how atrocious and dastardly Xan's crimes were, and how noble and above-board Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers and Blue Blaze Irregulars were, there was always going to be the acknowledgement that the mechanizations of the US's own Military Industrial complex were at least partially to blame for Xan's ire against the West, whether or not he would have become a supervillain anyway.

And because Buckaroo is an American hero, he and his comrades were always going to end up taking on some of the responsibility and the karmic backlash stemming from American Government's activities in such places as Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Middle East, whether they deserved it or not. Because those activities ended up creating terrorists like Hanoi Xan was presented to be - and like Osama Bin Laden ended up being, in actual real life.

At the time, I imagined Hanoi Xan and Lo Pep to have emerged from the conflagration which had engulfed Vietnam - the firebombing, the massacres, and the chemical warfare - the effects of which can still be seen today. I envisioned villains who probably had a legitimate bone to pick with the West. And even though this original vision of Xan and Lo Pep was later Jossed when I finally got my hands on the Buckaroo Banzai novelization, I still held on to this aspect of the storyline, though I adapted it to fit the existing canon as I came to understand it.

I eventually realized that any attempt to write Xan and Lo Pep in my own fanfic would require delicate handling due to the potentially problematic/racially insensitive subject matter - or the question of whether they should be written at all. (My attempt circa 2001-2002 was like a bunch of Hong Kong action film tropes badly bolted onto the existing narrative, and it was terrible.)

I could attempt something like the MCU did later, with The Mandarin in Iron Man III - or I could confront the problematic themes head-on, and attempt to subvert the living hell out of them. This was ultimately the path I chose - and my foray into the X Files fandom was what ultimately gave me the inspiration and the tools to do it.

To Be Continued.

Date: 2016-04-25 10:48 pm (UTC)
solarbird: (banzai institute)
From: [personal profile] solarbird
And where might one find The Penny Paradox? Because searching online is not easily successful.
Edited Date: 2016-04-25 10:48 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-04-26 12:48 am (UTC)
ext_64269: Smith.By Dave Gibbons (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Agent With Style ( was is apparently still selling them for $18 for the first volume, and $21 for the second volume. (Or, uh, can I PM you?)
Edited Date: 2016-04-26 12:49 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-04-26 01:33 am (UTC)
solarbird: (banzai institute)
From: [personal profile] solarbird
PMing is certainly a thing that can happen.


numb3r_5ev3n: Jerry Cornelius (Default)

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