I came up with the idea of another one-shot collection sometime in January 2015. I began discussing this idea with Destructivedisk on Facebook not long after, asking him if it was a good idea and getting advice on the collection's title. In the previous two years, I had done one-shot collections (The Brady Patrick Collection in 2013; The Black and White Collection in 2014). It only felt right to continue the trend with another collection in 2015. However, my early thoughts were that this collection would be different from the others in several key ways. For one, it would be modeled off of a music album. I got this idea after listening through Weezer's Blue Album around this time, noting how thematically tight it was. I realized then that I wanted my one-shot collection to be a collection of loosely-connected stories, thematically speaking. The Blue Album is one of the greatest albums of all time, and it was not my first consideration for the album to use for this collection. I originally considered albums from Radiohead, Radical Face, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sigur Ros, and even The Beatles. Eventually, I settled on the Blue Album for two reasons: one, it was the most thematically tight album out of all the ones I considered; also, it has a summer vibe to it that I wanted to tap into here. This one-shot collection was meant to be completed by the time of Summer 2015, to be my summer foray into Dragon Ball fan fictions. So that's why I chose Blue.
The next obstacle was picking a name for the collection. I literally looked over every lyric of every song in the Blue Album and then presented Destructivedisk with a small list of my favorite ones to be used as the title. They were as follows:
Things Were Better Then
It's Over Now
I'm Carrying The Wheel
This Is How We Feel
Once But Never Again
Turning Further Everyday
I'm Still Afloat
Where I Belong
Where The Wind is Blowing
On This Road We'll Never Die
Only In Dreams
So It Seems
But When We Wake
It's All Been Erased
Ultimately, DD advised me to use "It's All Been Erased". I considered his advice seriously, but in the end, I went with "Things Were Better Then", and I'm glad I did. Looking over that old list now, I think it is head-and-shoulders better than all of the other choices. By this point, I had come up with a list of characters for each "song". Since there were ten songs on the Blue Album, there would be ten one-shots, each one corresponding to one of the album's songs. The lists I came up with were numerous, and I won't be posting all of them here, but I will give a few snapshots as to the progression I used. Below is an early list without any of the ten songs narrowed down to one character:
MNIJ - Kid Goku, Bardock, Kid Vegeta, Gohan, Goten, Trunks, Future Trunks
NOE - Master Roshi, Yamcha, Krillin, Vegeta, Frieza, Cooler
TWHTALMH - Yamcha, Krillin, Vegeta, Tien, Ginyu
BH - Android 19, Nappa, Goku, Android 17
UTSS - Mr. Satan, Cell, Piccolo, Tapion, Gogeta, Android 16,
SWA - Krillin, Bulla, Master Roshi, General Blue, Future Trunks, Korin
SIAS - Toma, Korin, Dodoria, Zarbon, Future Trunks, Piccolo, Tien, Kid Vegeta, Goku
ITG - Gohan, Zarbon, Vegeta, Majin Buu, Dr. Gero, Dende
Holiday - Appule, Frieza, Yajirobe, Future Trunks, General Blue, Raditz, Bulma, Korin, Cui, Zarbon, Bulla
OID - Mr. Satan, Chiaotzu, Krillin, Yamcha, Bardock, King Vegeta, Frieza, King Cold, Korin, Master Roshi, Cell, Android 17, Tien, Goku, Tarble, Bulma
Note that while each song has several finalists, many of the first characters listed for each song ended up being the ones I used. After that list, I made another one in the below picture, making sure to narrow down each one-shot to much fewer characters:
As can be seen in that picture, I hadn't quite gotten to the final list yet. The names with checks next to them were ones I was sure were correct; the ones with Xs were ones I wasn't sure about yet. I later narrowed it down even further in another page in my notebook, shown in the below picture:
By this picture, I had narrowed down the one-shots mostly to how they ended up being. The fifth, seventh, and eighth stories were redone in terms of character, however. But the majority of the one-shots were set in stone by this point. You'll notice that the above picture lists each story's name. Very few of those names carried over. Only stories 1, 2, and 4 have their final names in the above list. This shows how my process of naming stories can often be long and have very different names over the time of me trying to find that final name. Glory had its name from the earliest try at coming up with a name, though. You'll also notice in the above picture that I also had colors for each one-shot. This was an important aspect of the Blue Collection. Each story would have a single color thematically tied to it. The above list is a mostly finalized version of that (the colors were chosen based off of the single color evoked by each of the Blue Album songs). An earlier list of those colors can be seen below:
I'll talk about the evolution of the colors chosen for each song in each of the TWBT's one-shot anthologies. For Glory, I had it narrowed down to white and yellow early on. I ended up going with white, as I thought song six was more of a yellow song and "My Name is Jonas" did conjure up an image of white in my mind when it played. This worked well with Kid Goku, of course, as white is a symbol of purity, and he was certainly a "pure" character in Glory.
So now onto Glory. By late February, I had come up with much of what I wanted to do with this one-shot collection. I had most of the names, characters, and story ideas already thought up. Kid Goku was up first. Something to note is that I had never written a story about Goku as the main character before Glory. He is in several of my other stories (Dragon Ball Z: In Requiem and Dragon Ball Z: The Forgotten, for example), but he's not the protagonist in any of them. I found it really crazy (as did DD) that it took until my 45th completed story to write about Goku specifically. Even here in Glory, I write about Kid Goku, which is more atypical than writing about his adult Dragon Ball Z self. I didn't have much of an idea for this story when I named it, knowing that it would be about Goku's reaction to finding his grandfather dead, but not really knowing the specifics of it or how I should make Goku react. That resulted in me writing this story in a very spontaneous way; I didn't have as much of a plan going into it as I did with other TWBT stories.
I wrote Glory on February 22, 2015 as part of a deal with Destructivedisk - I would write Glory and he would write an anthology of Four. Of course, he went to bed and didn't fulfill his side of the deal that day, as he is wont to do (a promise by DD is worth less than a mothball). I kept my word and wrote the story that night. I remember not spending that much time writing it on google docs; I began writing it at 7:31 pm and finished it at 9:32 pm of the same day. So it took me just over two hours to write. I listened to "My Name is Jonas" on repeat the entire time I wrote this story. The big headache of Glory was making the below template with the picture and the track listing. I modeled that after the track listing template on Wikipedia used for songs. The color of the template is the same color as the cover of Weezer's Blue Album. In terms of the story, I will address some thematic and symbolic considerations below, but one thing I want to mention here is that all stories reference their colors in multiple ways, and all stories reference the clouds and the sky in unique ways. For these early TWBT stories, I opened the stories with a reference to the sky, but in the later stories, I referenced the sky and clouds at different points. In Glory, indeed, I reference the sky twice in two separate scenes. All TWBT one-shots have two scenes, separated by a line in the text. I did not actively consider that in Glory or perhaps even Burning Man, but I did make sure that all of my TWBT one-shots would have only two scenes by the time of Bonetown Blues at the latest.
|Things Were Better Then|
|Written:||February 22, 2015|
|Released:||February 22, 2015|
|Theme song:||My Name is Jonas|
|Things Were Better Then track listing|
"Glory" • "Burning Man"
This story's theme is My Name is Jonas.
The sun was high in the cloudless azure sky, a lonely beacon shining its warmth down on all the Earth. Where the day was brightest, two monkeys knelt on a tree branch overlooking a ravine, gnawing at fruit and whooping loudly. Below them, a boy slept where the rocks met the river, oblivious to the rushing water lapping at his jet black hair. The monkeys did not seem to notice him; they played together and sang together and enjoyed the warm day until one decided to steal the fruit of the other.
Gleefully, the trickster monkey took a bite out of the flesh of the peach, juice running down his wrinkled face. He whooped and bared his teeth at the other, perhaps gloating, perhaps in jest. Either way, that riled up the other monkey, causing him reach up to a nearby vine and pluck another perfectly ripe peach. Then did he throw at the other monkey, who, expecting as much, dove forward and wrapped his tail around the branch to prevent himself from falling. There he hung, like an aweless ornament for his companion to gawk at.
Meanwhile, the fruit sailed through the air unwatched and unaccounted for. It was by luck then that the soft little thing squashed against the sleeping boy’s cheek, splattering its pink-orange flesh across his blank face. He awoke with a startled gasp and sat up, feeling the sticky substance on his skin. Frowning, he looked up to the nearby tree where he saw the two monkeys engaged in their game.
“Hey! Which one of you threw this?” The boy asked, holding up the broken skin of what had once been something edible.
The monkeys stopped what they were doing and perched themselves on a branch to stare at the young boy. Silent and foreboding were their eyes, and they dared not move a muscle. They had been found out and they would risk no more while in the company of an Other. The boy shook his head, annoyed and impatient, and stood up to leave. That was when he noticed he was naked. His tail twisted in confusion.
“Huh? What happened to my clothes?” the boy asked no one in particular. He looked around him and found himself to be in the heart of a jungle, no signs of society in sight. Ahead was a large waterfall, gushing from a hundred foot cliff covered in moss and vines. The water that streamed down flowed fast and white, and the boy decided wiped his peach-covered face off in it. “I wonder how I got out here,” the boy spoke again once he was done. He had no recollection of how or why he had gotten there and it didn’t seem like the monkeys were going to tell him.
After wiping his face, the boy patted his belly and felt it growl in protest. “Boy, I’m hungry…” he began, “Hey! Wanna throw me another fruit, eh? Please?!” he asked the monkeys. One of them whooped expressionlessly, but did not move. “Have it your way,” the boy shrugged, unconcerned.
The boy dropped into a half-squat and then sprang forward with tremendous speed and height to the tree. He sailed past his two onlookers to a higher part of the tree, where the fruit was riper and more numerous. There, he found the perfect looking peach and took a bite.
Wrapping his tail around a high branch, the boy mimicked the monkeys and spun down to greet them upside down. “Heheheh! Look, what I found!” he laughed, showing them his prize. The boy took another bite, closing his eyes and savoring the sweetness of the fruit before laughing boyishly again.
He dropped down from upper branch and sat next to the nearest monkey. The boy continued to eat his fruit as he sat in the shade of that great tree watching endless amounts water careen over a broken log at the top of the waterfall. He sighed in contentment and then held out a hand to the two monkeys sitting next to him and said, “Hi, my name is Goku. Nice to meet you.”
The monkey nearest Goku, a white-furred ancient thing, put his hands over his eyes upon hearing the boy’s name, and the younger, brown-furred one put his hands over his ears. There was a horror, indescribable and unavoidable, that came to them when they heard that name, and they knew it had spoiled that beautiful, serene day like an overripe peach in the mouth of a king.
A dead leaf was falling from a half-destroyed tree when Goku returned home. The sun was not so high in the sky anymore, and the day was not so warm. The boy with the monkey tail stood aghast at what he beheld. What he had once called home was now a wreck - trees were ruined, uprooted and cracked to pieces; the soil was thrown about and deep craters pocketed the ground like the scars on the face of a teenage boy. Ahead of Goku was the house he had grown up in - only, it was no longer a house. The once-noble establishment had been reduced to a pile of rubble, its roof caved in and its walls broken and fallen, as if it had become a timeworn ruin.
Goku dropped a half-eaten peach and ran. “Grandpa! Grandpa!” he shouted, terror in his throat.
The boy made his way through the splintered forest to the house. There was no sign of his grandfather, and the more he shouted, the more Goku grew scared. His grandfather was never far from the house - never did he go off without telling Goku or taking him along. There was something wrong, the boy knew, something very wrong.
He reached the house and ran inside, past the broken door into the small enclosure where they had lived once, so happily and without a care in the world. There, Goku found his grandfather Gohan.
The sun was peeking through the caved-in roof and shining its light on the fallen man, whose body was crushed along with the home. It was a grisly sight - his body and mustache were coated in blood, bones poked out from his skin like rocks in the sand, and his face was thrown back, a look of horror and sadness etched on his snow-toned skin. His eyes were wide and white - they saw everything and nothing.
When Goku caught but a glimpse of him, the boy let out a scream and fell to his knees, burying his eyes in his palms. His chest heaved as he hyperventilated, tears flowing down his cheeks like waterfalls. “No, no!” he cried, his voice high and afraid. “Grandpa! What do I do? Tell me what to do! Aaaah!!” He looked up and absorbed the wretched scene in its entirety and froze. Seeing his grandfather’s corpse so broken and bloody sent Goku into a state of shock that prevented him from crying out again. His lip trembled, his eyes blinked a thousand times a second. He could not unsee it. But he was too horrified to scream.
Then, the life returned to Goku, and he tried to run out of there - but in his haste, the boy tripped over a broken piece of the floor and fell against the nearest wall. The house that was no longer a house shook as if there was an earthquake, and the roof caved in further. As Goku looked up again, dread in his tear-filled eyes, he saw the glint of something rolling in his grandfather’s lap. He stood up and walked forward, cautiously and almost unwillingly to see what it was. He held his hands over his eyes so that he would not see his grandfather as he was. When he reached the corpse, Goku gulped and saw that it was none other than Grandpa Gohan’s prized memento - a little orange ball with four stars on it. Without looking at the body, the boy grabbed the small orange ball and ran out of the house. Once outside, he fell to the ground and promptly vomited.
The sun was setting. The light was fading from the day when Goku sat up again. He pressed the cold ball to his forehead and slammed his eyes closed, trying to remember what his grandfather looked like, but instead seeing only the hideous corpse. For a moment, Goku sat there, quiet and still, and then the tears came hot and fresh and he was bawling again. He fell to the ground sobbing.
“Grandpa!” he screamed into the dirt. “Grandpa!” He rolled over to his back and hugged the ball close to his chest as he stared up into the sky. “I-it was the monster… the one that comes out during a full moon,” Goku sniffled. “G-grandpa warned me about it… Why did it have to attack him?!”
He stared into the little orange ball once again and sniffled. At once, a memory from many years prior came to Goku like a bolt of lightning. He closed his eyes to remember it more clearly. We were eating dinner. I asked Grandpa what that ball was. He laughed and pointed to it, saying he found it years ago. I asked him what he kept it for. He was quiet for a long time. Then, he said it was a memento - where his spirit would live on after he died. I laughed and asked him if he had one for me. But Grandpa told me to stop asking so many questions and eat my dinner before it got cold.
A laugh escaped Goku’s mouth involuntarily. A smile crept onto his face that he couldn’t remove. “Grandpa was funny like that.” Goku looked down at the ball again. “Grandpa? Is your spirit in there?” He shook the ball lightly. “Huh? I guess… I guess you can’t talk if you’re a ball.”
He sighed and looked back at the sky. It was darkening quickly as the sun continued to fade from sight. A few stars were barely visible on the edge of sight. Goku saw a single wispy cloud drift by overhead in the otherwise empty sky. He held the ball up to the air and stared at it intently.
“Yknow Grandpa,” Goku spoke after a while, “this isn’t so bad. You haven’t gone anywhere. You’re still here. And now the monster won’t be able to get you ever again.”
The boy smiled half-heartedly and hugged the ball tightly. He stayed there as the day became night, trying to remember his grandfather as he had been, not as he now was. Behind Goku, though the boy could not see them, the two monkeys sat silently on the branches of a trampled tree, watching and eating peaches, the sweet juices running down their chins without end.
- I named this story "Glory" after the Radical Face song of the same name. As to how that song relates to this story, it reference's Goku's power in the Great Ape form, the glory of his Saiyan nature which he doesn't realize or want to realize in this story. It's an ironic title, because the glory of his power kills his grandfather and puts Goku in a very dark place in this story.
- Why did I name this story after that Radical Face song? The reason is very important to me; Glory has lyrics that say: "And the sky is wrecked, full of rotting clouds/From chimneys' mouths spewing smoke around". Another song by Radical Face, A Pound of Flesh has lyrics that say: "I see your faces in the clouds that scar the night". I noticed with these two songs that Radical Face has a theme with describing the sky and the clouds in unique and evocative ways. Those lyrics in particular affected me greatly as a writer. I wanted to be able to write lines as beautiful and melancholy as those. So for Things Were Better Then, I knew I was going to have some thematic and symbolic things that tied all of the ten one-shots together. One of the symbols would be the sky and clouds. They would not be the same in every story - indeed, they would be described as different in each story for specific reasons. The clouds and sky represent something about each character in each story. It is a common symbol in that the sky and clouds represent this for all of the ten protagonists, but they represent different things; each sky looks different, after all. Even in Glory, the sky changes how it looks as the story goes on.
- The scene with the monkeys came out of nowhere. When I sat down to write this story I had no idea I was going to write about them until I began writing about them.
- The monkeys obviously reference Goku's Saiyan heritage, poking some fun at that while also having some more serious ironic undertones.
- The monkeys' happiness also represents Goku's carefree personality.
- The fruit the monkeys are eating are peaches. There were a few references with this. For one, the peach represents innocence in Things Were Better Then, akin to how it does so in A Song of Ice and Fire. You'll notice that peaches appear in several other TWBT stories for specific reasons. Them symbolizing innocence cannot be underestimated. Also, the monkeys eating peaches from a peach tree deep in the mountain wilderness references An Kyŏn's painting, Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land. There is certainly a dream-like quality in the opening scene of this story, with how the monkeys act, and with Goku beginning the scene by being asleep and dreaming innocently.
- Having the peach juice run down the monkey's face shows how much ecstasy he is in and references that oft-used description from A Song of Ice and Fire.
- I specifically had the peach - a symbol of innocence - hit Goku and wake him from his blissful dreaming. There are thematic reasons for that, but I won't elaborate on them; it's up to the reader to guess at those.
- Goku being treated as an Other is interesting, considering he's pretty much like a monkey. I use the concept of the Other from Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex in this story. Obviously, it's not in the same context - Goku is not a female to the monkeys' maleness. But thematically, the alienation Goku experiences is similar and derived from my experience of reading de Beauvoir's text. The monkeys' personality shift when Goku wakes up is no accident.
- Goku's nakedness implies his innocence further, like the blank, cloudless sky had earlier. All of this implies the "whiteness" of this story, the thematic color of Glory.
- Notice that the river is flowing so fast that it looks white - the color tied to this story.
- Goku's mannerisms and dialogue are based off of how he acted in the first chapter of the Dragon Ball manga. I re-read that chapter (where he met Bulma) before writing this story. This is an example of me doing some necessary research before writing a story to make sure it can be the best and most accurate it can possibly be. The best writers do this; lazy, poor writers would have not done this kind of research and would have paid the price for it with the quality of their story.
- The fruit being riper higher up and further away from the monkeys is very telling.
- The ancient monkey is white-furred to further highlight this story's thematic color. I actually had to look it up on google to see if old monkeys had white fur; once that was confirmed, I made sure to make one of the monkeys have white fur for thematic reasons.
- Goku's blissful happiness in this first section serves to contrast what happens in the second section and also shows how idealistic carefree happiness can be. Goku has no obligations at this point, no stress; he's living an idealized life. It contrasts with his later life, where he has to constantly worry about protecting the Earth. This story is small in scope on purpose. The smallness, the simpleness of Goku's life appears as something to strive for despite being so "simple".
- The horror that the monkeys experience upon hearing Goku's name references Goku's Great Ape transformation the night before. It also is a bit ironic, as Goku's name would not usually cause such a reaction, since he's a hero in the Dragon Ball universe. But this story takes place before he becomes a hero.
- Obviously, the monkeys reference "see no evil" and "hear no evil" at the of the first section. That leaves Goku to either be "say no evil" or "do no evil". By saying his name and causing the reaction in the monkeys, he's said evil; by doing the Great Ape rampage the night before, he's done evil. However, in both instances, both evils were inadvertent, and Goku didn't realize he had done either one.
- Goku being ostracized by the monkeys is like being ostracized by his own people, referencing the Saiyans.
- The last line of the first scene references King Renly from A Song of Ice and Fire.
- The leaf symbolizes the death of something, as fallen leaves are always dead things.
- The sun not being so high in the sky and the day being not so warm are physical realities, showing that time has passed. It also shows that the innocence bursting from the words of the previous scene is no longer present, hinting again at Grandpa Gohan's death.
- The peach that Goku drops is half-eaten for a specific reason. It shows how Goku's innocence is destroyed in that moment.
- Having Kid Goku find his grandfather was one of the hardest things I've ever written. It's extremely heartbreaking, but it's also difficult to write from a technical standpoint. It's hard to guess how Goku would have acted upon seeing his grandfather. Still, I think I handled it in a realistic and unique way.
- Grandpa Gohan is pale because he is dead, but this also references the thematic color of this story. His eyes being wide and white also references this.
- The way the Four Star Dragon Ball just falls into Grandpa Gohan's lap is richly symbolic. For me personally, I love this scene, as it serves as a grand epilogue to Ain't No Hero, my other story about Grandpa Gohan.
- Goku says "Tell me what to do!" to reference "My Name is Jonas", the Blue Album song this story is tied to. That line is a line from MNIJ. All of the Things Were Better Then one-shots have at least one lyric from the song they are tied to in their text. With the exception of the lyric used in Suicide Missionary, the one used in Glory was the hardest one for me to come up with, as "My Name is Jonas" has lyrics that are very difficult to actually use in text.
- I had Goku vomit because it was the best way to show just how horrified he was. It's also him throwing up the half-eaten peach, symbolically expelling the innocence from his body in violent maneuver.
- Goku's grief outside the house is something I'm very proud of. I think I did a good job of giving him some character development in the wake of his grandfather's death.
- Notably, Goku blames the "monster" for killing his grandfather. I needed to do this, as Goku doesn't realize it was him who accidentally killed Gohan until the Saiyan Saga of Dragon Ball Z.
- The first scene was written with an omniscient narrator. The second scene was written from Goku's point of view in third person. Doing the two scenes like that is rarely done in literature, as far as I'm aware, especially in such a short story.
- Goku's turn from grief to contentment was very hard for me to write. I had to do it because Goku thinks that Grandpa Gohan is in the Dragon Ball during the events of Dragon Ball. The italicized memory was done to serve that end.
- The cloud drifting across the sky at the end of the second scene symbolizes Goku's slight maturity, which is slightly ironic in itself, as him thinking Gohan is in the Dragon Ball is a ridiculous coping mechanism. It's also a single blot of darkness on Goku's innocent mind - the first of many in his long life.
- Goku thinking Gohan is in the ball is all to help him deal with his grief. I won't explain specifically what I was going for with that theme, but it is certainly important to the overall understanding of Glory. Goku coping also ends this story on a positive note, which is somewhat rare in a collection called "Things Were Better Then". But this story also highlights the name of the collection extremely well. Things were better before Goku knew that his grandfather was dead. Now he has to carry that weight for the rest of his life; now there will be at least one cloud in the sky. This story highlights an important turn in Goku's life, which is a major point of Things Were Better Then. The one-shot collection highlights ends and beginnings - a new chapter in a character's life, or an end to a chapter in their life. For Goku, this is both an ending and a beginning. Still, things were better before all of Glory happened.
- The song "My Name is Jonas" relates to this story as it is bursting with the energy of Goku's old life and him coping with some hard events. MNIJ is the same thing for its writer, Rivers Cuomo, who wrote the song about hardships in his own life.
I am very happy with how Glory turned out. On the surface, it is a very simple story, but I crafted it with many underlying complexities that should require several readings to fully grasp. I think I did a really good job with the symbols and themes and portrayed Goku well. I liked the scene with the Four Star Dragon Ball and Goku's turn from grief to coping. Overall, it's a very solid short story to kick off Things Were Better Then, in my opinion. It will likely be my only story about Goku, though, as I don't find him a very interesting character, particularly after the events of this story. Overall, I'd give Glory an A+.
<---- Part 43
Part 45 ---->