The Difficulties of Writing Captain N Fan Fiction

This commentary was written on Saturday, January 11, 2003, from 9:00 AM to 12:44 PM and at 2:28 PM and 3:17 PM.

When I first started writing Captain N fan fiction (in 1991 or 1992), I really had no idea of the problems that I was facing. Of course, I was a pretty bad writer back then.

After dabbling with one-shot stories in screenplay format (on paper, on my sister's computer in Chicago, and on computers at school), I finally got my own computer in mid-1995, and I got on the Internet in September of 1996. I came across The Mega Man Home Page and Mandi Paugh's online book series, "Mega Man--The Series". This inspired me to write my own series of Captain N books for her to read.

I had written a bit about my problems with writing Captain N fanfics in The Captain N New Fanfic FAQ, Version 1.0. I'm going to go into more detail in this commentary.

So, there I was, in 1996, writing "The Ultimate Game Master". It was to be a direct continuation of the cartoon series, taking place immediately after the "final" episode, "Battle of the Baseball Know-It-Alls". I later found out that it was actually the next-to-the-last episode. In fact, I was writing this story under a lot of assumptions that turned out to be incorrect: which episode was the final one, the cartoon series and the comic books occur in the same universe, etc. I went on to write "The Wounded", which was inspired by a scene in one of Mandi's books. I started working on a novelization of "Kevin in Videoland". I made up a book list similar to Mandi's.

Then I came across Rick Moya's website, The [Un]Official California Dreams Home Page, and everything changed. Rick was starting a fan-made Season 6 of "California Dreams". I signed up to write an episode. I thought the idea was so cool that I just had to do it myself for Captain N. So, I converted my "book" stories to a "miniseries" and called it The "CHANGES" Miniseries. When I created my site, The [Un]Official Captain N Home Page, I put up a section with a form for people to sign up to write episodes for a fan-made Season 4 of Captain N. It didn't bother me that I had no Nintendo systems beyond an NES. I would let other writers write episodes based on those games.

I didn't realize it at the time, but the fanfic continuation was doomed from the start. I had started writing it under the assumption that Videoland was created by gamemakers on Earth. I went back and revised it to say that Videoland was linked to Earth by an "umbilical cord", and, whenever a new video game comes out on Earth, Videoland is automatically altered to include it. I revised it again to say that Videoland is a completely separate universe, independent of Earth, but yet coincidentally seems to follow the video games that are made on Earth. It doesn't help that early copies of the miniseries are still available on Webster's site. It also didn't help that the cartoon series itself never addressed the issue.

There was another big problem with the fanfic continuation. The cartoon series was full of plotholes. I was aware of only a few of them when I started writing the continuation. I had no idea of how weak the canon source material was. Events contradicted each other, and very little backstory had been established. We knew next to nothing about the characters. I spent a lot of time trying to patch up the plotholes by fanwanking explanations for things. Also, the N Team in the cartoon series were complete idiots, often slacking off, making completely illogical decisions, being irresponsible, and sometimes being downright mean. I gave Lana a weapon and toughened her up, so she wouldn't be such a wimp. I brought in one-shot characters from the cartoon series and made them main characters, so the average intelligence of the N Team would be increased. I was unsatisfied with how Mother Brain was defeated in the cartoon series, so I brought her back, so Kevin could finish her off properly. This is what the "Changes" miniseries consisted mostly of - fixes, fill-ins, and improvements to the cartoon series. I should have realized at the time that a cartoon series with that many problems wasn't worth creating a fanfic continuation for. In a California Dreams song, Heidi Noelle Lenhart sings "You can't build castles on quicksand. You can't build bridges on thin air. You can't paper over the cracks of a broken heart and pretend it's not there." I should have considered these lyrics and applied them to Captain N. Unfortunately, I just didn't know any better. I actually believed that the cartoon series was salvagable.

So, I created Season 4. But here, I made another big mistake. The cartoon series had a main villain that the N Team had to deal with - Mother Brain. They battled her or her minions in almost every episode. However, I didn't give the N Team a main villain bent on conquering Videoland in Season 4. Yeah, there were recurring villains, such as Dr. Wily and the Koopas, but it was mostly a new villain every week. I should have seen the problem with this in Season 3 of the cartoon series, in which Mother Brain appears in only one episode. I didn't see it, and so the fanfic continuation lacked focus. The N Team was formed to fight Mother Brain. Kevin was brought to Videoland to defeat Mother Brain. Without Mother Brain (or a similar threat), the N Team had no reason for existing (each video world had local heroes to deal with local baddies), and Kevin had no reason to remain in Videoland.

Basically, there was no justification for any of it. It was just "Let's hang out at home and goof off until someone calls us for help!", which, when you think about it, is the same thing that the cartoon series did. Like I said, there was no justification for any of it.

To add to this problem, I made the seasons too long. Seasons 1 and 2 of the cartoon series had 13 episodes each. Season 4 had 27. I should have made it only 13 episodes long. I then wrote "Apocalypse: A Captain N Movie". It was based on Mega Man 6 but with the added twist that Videoland might be destroyed by a video game that's created on Earth. But since I had already settled on the theory that Videoland was independent of Earth, I almost completely ignored this plot in favor of novelizing Mega Man 6. The result was lackluster. After the movie, Season 5 started, and that ended up being 26 episodes long. By this time, a lot of Captain N fans became upset at me for the increasingly mature themes in my fanfics. Season 6 consisted of 12 episodes. By this time, the fanfic continuation consisted of 65 episodes, enough to be syndicated by itself, yet it advanced the series' timeframe only up to 1995. If I had allowed each season to be only 13 episodes long, Season 8 would have ended by this time, and the timeframe would have been advanced up to 1997. Instead, the fanfic continuation that went online from early 1998 to mid-1999 consisted mostly of filler.

Also, I had chosen to write a lot of Earth-based episodes. They had little (sometimes nothing) to do with video games. This bothered the fans, but I wanted to explore Kevin's life on Earth, of which we learned so little in the cartoon series.

In 1999, Season 7 started. It was to be a 16-episode story arc with a much-needed main villain, Brain Child. Unfortunately, the other three writers quit, and my hard drive crashed after episode 2 went up, so I shortened the season down to only 10 episodes. That was still too much, so I threw in a lot of filler, such as sexual situations and a Bible Study class. This really upset the fans. Since the writers had quit before Season 7 started going online, I should have just written it as a movie and gotten it over with. After my last day of school for the semester in December, I wouldn't have Internet access, so I wanted to finish up Season 7 and get it online, so that I could start 2000 with Season 8. I didn't spell-check the episodes and made no revisions. I finally got rid of Simon, Mega Man, Kid Icarus, Duke, and Gameboy. I also got rid of Romeo and Julius. This decreased the oversized N Team back down to just 6 members. I was prepared to create an awesome Season 8, but most of the die-hard Captain N fans had left already.

It didn't help that, during all this time, almost every fan was creating his or her own fanfic continuation of Captain N. There were multiple Season 4s alone.

Season 8 stretched from January to December of 2000 but resulted in only 12 episodes and is still unfinished. I created two spin-off series, "Dazzle" and "The N64 Team", to try to keep my own interest in Captain N alive. They failed. In 2002, I wrote a story called "Power, Wisdom, Courage", which ended the continuation and wiped out the continuity.

The Captain N fanfic continuation failed due to being based on a faulty cartoon series, a bunch of filler, lack of a main villain, fans misunderstanding copyright law and demanding that I remove their fanfics from my site, Captain N "purists" that objected to any mature content, my lack of a Super NES or a Nintendo 64, too many competing Captain N fanfic continuations going on at once, and my declining interest in Captain N in favor of other animated series.

So, what should I have done differently? If I had known more about the comic books back then, I would have based the fanfic continuation off of that, rather than the cartoon series, writing 2 short stories and 2 longer stories every month. But I didn't know very much about the comic books back then, so that wasn't even a possibility.

Heidi Noelle Lenhart goes on to sing "You gotta let the storm break, baby! You gotta let the rain fall all around. And when the tears run dry, maybe then you can try to start all over again." That's what I'm doing now. I'm preparing a new fanfic continuation based on the comic book series.

But I should have applied Heidi's words to Captain N back then. The best thing that I could have done was to create a new Captain N series from scratch, using Kevin and Lana as the main characters, and just ignore the cartoon series. I could have started it in 1985 or 1986, created a more accurate version of Videoland, added whoever I wanted to the N Team, etc. But I didn't.

So, my advice to all Captain N fan fiction writers is to ignore the cartoon series. It never happened. Just use Kevin and Lana and create your own video game universe.

Even if you freed Mother Brain and her lackeys from the Cellar of Baseball World (which could be done through some deus ex machina or another) and kept her as the main threat, you should ask yourself one question: Is it really worth your time to write more of the same types of stories that we saw in the cartoon series?