This time, I've translated Sigsawa's afterword. It's surprisingly sensible, and interesting to boot. And with that, Kino's Journey 12 is finished. What were your favourite stories in this volume?
Download the pdf here.
epub here. Much thanks to Blueshirt!
Epilogue - In Happiness - a
Kino and Hermes were visiting a very scientifically advanced country.
Skyscrapers towered over every stretch of land, and automated vehicles silently drove through the floating streets.
"…You mean, a 'city of the future a kid might imagine'?"
"Yeah, that's it!"
"That was hard to figure out… But it seems pretty appropriate."
Kino and Hermes rode through the city, loudly spouting exhaust behind them. And soon,
"Here it is."
They arrived at a large building.
It was a white building with no windows. It looked like a large warehouse, or some sort of a domed stadium. Security cameras and automated security systems equipped with persuaders looked down at them intimidatingly.
"Kino, Hermes! Welcome to the Centre. We've been waiting for you."
A door opened, and a man stepped out to greet them. Kino and Hermes greeted him back, and were led into the building.
Kino pushed Hermes along as they walked down a wide hallway.
"How much have you been told so far?" The man asked.
"I've only heard that there was an excellent facility called the Centre, which is responsible for helping people live longer lives, and that I should pay it a visit." Kino answered.
"I see! Then I suppose it would be easiest to show you everything." The man said. He stopped at a door marked 'Authorized Personnel Only', and entered a code into a numeric keypad.
The door slid open. Beyond it was something resembling a suspended gallery. The hallway, made entirely of reinforced glass, stretched from one end of the building to the other from near the top of its interior.
Kino and Hermes followed the man through the corridor.
Dim orange lights were illuminating the area. At the very bottom of the building were countless bottles packed together like sardines.
They looked rather small from Kino and Hermes' vantage point, but they were in fact large enough to fit a person inside.
In fact, each bottle did indeed contain a person.
Men, women, children, and elders of all ages floated in the bottles, completely naked and hooked up to tubes and electrodes. Once in a while one of their limbs would move.
"Magnificent, don't you agree?" The man asked. Hermes agreed excitedly.
"I understand what is in this building. But what-no, who are they?" Kino asked.
"They are our Spares."
"That's correct. Take, for example, that revolver you're carrying." The man pointed at the holster at Kino's right side. "The cylinder is used to hold gunpowder and ammunition, correct? And what would happen if you used it so much that cracks began to form on it?"
"It's time for a switch!"
Answering the question was not Kino, but Hermes. Kino agreed.
"Of course. I would be scared that it might explode when I open fire. And since I can't make repairs to the cylinder, I carry around extras in case I need to exchange it."
The man nodded satisfactorily.
"Naturally. In much the same way, think of this place as a safeguard for our people's spare parts. People's bodies, like persuaders, can break down due to accident, illness, or age. When such a thing happens, we transplant parts from this place into their bodies."
"Does that mean that the people here were brought in to become parts for the citizens?"
The man shook his head.
"Not at all. That would be considered kidnapping."
"They have been born for this very purpose."
"There is an unspoken rule in this country that states that each couple is allowed to have no more than two children. Any more than that, and it would make things difficult for us in the long term. We would not be able to handle the population growth. But it is not outright forbidden to raise three or more children. And some people, in fact, do so." The man explained. "However, even if they do not plan to raise three or more children, most couples have three, four children. I'm sure you understand why."
"…So they could be stored as Spares here…"
"Exactly! Every citizen in this country has a sibling of sorts here. After all, transplants and transfusions between blood relatives have a much lower risk of rejection. And what rejections do occur can be more easily suppressed than otherwise. It's similar to taking parts to use for your persuader from another persuader of a similar model."
"Most of such siblings are brought here at birth. They are raised in these bottles, though of course they have no mental capacity. We provide them with nutrition essential for growth, and use electrical signals to stimulate their muscles. We maintain their bodies in top condition so that they could be used at any time. Have at look at number 987 over there."
Kino looked at the bottle marked with the number. The middle-aged man floating there was missing his legs from his thighs down.
"His legs were transplanted to his older brother, who lost his own in an accident. I coordinated the transplant myself. The older brother has made a full recovery and is able to walk again. Now, if I could turn your attention to number 323…"
There was no one inside the bottle of that number. Empty tubes floated gently in the water.
"Her older sister just passed away of old age this morning. Her role was finished, so she has been removed, naturally."
"What happens in cases like this? Do you just toss them out somewhere?" Hermes asked.
"Not at all. Spares are cremated and buried together."
The tour came to an end.
"Kino, Hermes. If possible, please explain this wonderful system of ours to other countries you visit in the future. We would be happy to share our technology with the rest of the world!There would be nothing more satisfying than bringing happiness to others." The man said as he said goodbye.
Kino and Hermes thanked the man and left the Centre. They started along the long, smooth street stretching out before them.
Hello, everyone. This is Sigsawa, the writer of this book.
You! Are you disappointed that this afterword started out looking so plain? Yes, I'm talking to you!
Not to worry, dear reader. This may look like an ordinary afterword, but there will be nothing ordinary about its length. Just to warn you, this Afterword is several pages long. That's about as long as some short stories. Is it really all right to use up so much space? Well, I guess it must be, since the editorial department said it is. I can't stop now!
In any case, there are no spoilers for the book in this afterword. You can rest easy and read this before starting on the book itself. This is the Sigsawa Quality.
Kino's Journey has finally reached its twelfth volume.
I have no words to describe this feeling of accomplishment. The number twelve holds a special significance in my heart.
This might seem a bit random, but I always considered multiples of three a conclusive number for a series of stories. Kino's Journey had volumes 1~3, 4~6, and 7~9. Movies like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Mobile Suit Gundam were all completed within three films. My other works, [Allison] and [Lilia and Treize] also ended in multiples of three for that same reason.
And that was why when I wrote Kino's Journey 3 (Published January 2001, for your information), I thought that I would end things there. I was incredibly happy to have been able to come so far with a work that was originally just a submission.
That was why the last story in that volume was titled [A Finished Tale]. It was quite a conclusive name.
But thanks to your warm reception, my books sold very well, and the editorial department gave me the green light to keep writing more. Actually, it was more like they asked me to. In fact, it was more like 'Hurry up and write more'. Anyway, the editorial department's attitude encouraged me to continue.
"Then it's up to volume 6 I go! In other words, Season 2!" (Volume 6 was published in August 2002.)
"I can write more?! Then volume 9 it is! Three times three! This is beautiful!" (Volume 9 was published in October 2005.)
Time passed, and I've reached the fourth stop with volume 12.
In other words, this is the end of Kino's Journey! The final volume!
I'd like to keep writing as much as I can from now on.
And just now, when I typed out the word "final volume" and converted it to kanji, I received the characters for "re-imprisoned" instead(1). That was quite a shock. What a terrifying thought.
In any case, I have no idea how much further I can take this story, but now that I've come this far, I'd like to keep trying as much as possible. I still haven't gotten to the Stock Market Arc, either. Gakuen Kino ended up coming out first… (See volume 4's afterword for details.)
Now, I'd like to talk about the work that goes into making Kino's Journey.
I've written something similar to this in volume 11, but to be frank, this is something like a 'normal afterword'.
I think I just realized that I've been thirsting for a normal afterword for a while now. Although I guess I'm reaping what I sowed.
In volume 11, I discussed things about the title, typos, jargon, character/weapon names, belongings, and fan work. This time, I'll be talking about something different so it doesn't overlap.
That is--the process of completing one book.
This Dengeki Bunko book you're reading is made through a very long process and passes through many hands along the way. I'd like to talk about my part in that process--a timeline I usually work by.
There are two things you should keep in mind before reading.
First, the following process may differ greatly between individual authors, departments, and publishing companies.
Second, I've intentionally left out things relating to the illustration process. I'm very sorry about that.
Step 1: Handing in a plot outline
I am a professional author who lives off royalties, so I have to write books. If I don't get royalties, I can't feed myself. So let's start things off.
First, I create a plot outline of the next piece I want to write and hand it in to my editor. That's where it all starts. In terms of a regular office, think of it as a project proposal.
Of course, I could just as well write an entire volume's worth of stories and have my editor read it then, but if the story is rejected, it will mean I have wasted an enormous amount of time.
No author would do something like that unless they could write a book in the blink of an eye or have a backlog of books they've written. But in my case, I never do that. I don't want to end up with regrets like "I should have used that time to write another story".
There's no given format in which an author has to convey the plot outlines. In other words, all I have to do is make sure my editor understands what I'm trying to say. I could walk into the editorial office and say, "I want to write a story like this!", or I could type one out and email it to my editor. Sometimes I hand in multiple plot outlines at once.
The summaries themselves have no set format, either.
It's possible to simply say, "A story with this kind of feel", or go into lengthy detail about characterization and plot points.
Personally, I don't start writing out a story until I've decided on an ending for it, so I always hand in the latter type.
It's beneficial for both the author and the publishing company for a work to become a multi-volume series. Sometimes I come up with stories that can be neatly finished in one volume, but in most cases, I also think of ways I can continue the story in a serialized format.
If I'm working on an already existing project like [Kino's Journey] or [Meg and Sellon], I send in an outline describing only the contents of the story.
And once the editorial department gives me the go-ahead, I begin writing.
This is around the point where we decide on my deadline for this story and the publishing date. After all, if an author had forever to write a story, he'd never get anything done.
Deadlines are what keep authors moving forward.
Step 2: Writing
I begin writing.
This is probably the most self-explanatory part of the process.
An author who has a plot outline works along it (sometimes making corrections and alterations), and others weave complicated stories on the spot.
Of course, it's almost unheard of for an author to just write a story as fast as he can type. It's a long, long battle with your own self.
To all you authors in the world (including myself), don't give up! May the grace of the God of Novels be with you always.
Yes, I'm done! On to the next step.
Step 3: Editorial pass and meeting with the editor
Even when I've finished writing, at this stage it's all still in the rough draft stage. These drafts are called 'first drafts', and I hand them in to the editorial department for their approval.
I'm very nervous during the time between handing in the draft and getting an answer back. If they tell me, "Boring. Rejected!", then I can feel my eyes go dim.
But if that happened at this stage, I couldn't continue this afterword. So let's assume the first draft was received with the empowering magic words "It's great!".
But that doesn't mean "Then you're all set! Thanks for your work on the story!". If anyone receives an answer like that, I would give them my utmost respect. Please teach me your secret.
Normally, the editorial department gives me questions and points out corrections that have to be made.
These could range from honest mistakes to awkward phrasing to things like "I don't understand what happened here", "The characterization could have been better", "Please add/remove this scene", or "Please cut down on your obsessive firearms expositions".
Then comes the meeting. I discuss the story with my editor, and sometimes we go all-out and toss around ideas, making a list of things to fix.
I've heard that authors who live far away tend to have their meetings over the phone, but I personally prefer to have my meetings in person, so I go to the editorial department myself.
When it comes to longer stories and stories that have received a lot of comments about things to fix, one meeting can take hours. For example, we could start at 3 in the afternoon and finish at 9 in the evening.
Before, I used to print out my manuscripts and make notes on them with a red pen, but these days I usually take my laptop along and make edits on the spot. The reason is simple--I sometimes can't read my own red writing.
This new draft is labelled the 'second draft'. I make corrections and reread the story at the same time, fixing up sentences, adding in scenes, or taking them out.
Sometimes I re-submit this second draft for another editorial pass and go through a third draft, but if the deadline is just ahead, that's not always an option.
After all, normally by this time I would have long missed the deadline we set for me at the beginning.
Step 4: Completion
Along with the words "reprint" (the books are selling so well we're printing more copies) and "royalties", this is one of the most beautiful words that could ever exist in an author's life. That much is certain.
In other words, this is the process of sending in the manuscript to be printed.
Each time I enter this stage, I breathe a sigh of relief.
I don't need to be afraid of looking at clocks and calendars anymore. I don't jump when the phone starts ringing. It's a time when an author regains his humanity.
For your information, I've experienced this stage twenty-seven times, including with this very volume. But each time I reach this stage, I treat myself to delicious food. Usually that means conveyor belt sushi. After all, it doesn't look quite as sad even if you're eating alone.
As another aside, I usually end up catching a cold after this stage and lying in bed sick for two days. Maybe my body's just allowing itself to relax again. Or maybe it's the sushi. (I certainly hope not.)
Step 5: First proof printing, copy editing, author's revisions
First proof printing:
The manuscript is sent to the printing house, and printed out on sheets of A4-sized paper, in the same layout and format as the Dengeki Bunko volumes. This version is called the "first proof".
The first proof is photocopied, and sent to me under the name "photocopy of first proof". And as the author, I read it over again and dedicate myself to making edits. (This manuscript is also called an "author's revision copy".)
And as I read the manuscript again, I reread sentences I thought were perfectly fine when I first wrote them, but then realize are extremely awkward.
"Who the hell wrote this? Oh, wait. It was me."
I shake my head in confusion each time and make my red pen edits.
While I'm working on my own revisions, the original first proof is sent to the copy editor, the person responsible for checking my writing.
At this point, I've reread the story (and wrote it, to boot), and the editorial department has read it again and again, but there are always mistakes that slip by somehow. In fact, there are many of them. Bucketfuls, in fact.
The copy editor literally combs through each and every sentence to discover these errors.
They don't stop at typos, omissions, incorrect character readings, misused idioms, or incorrect use of kanji. They even find mistakes in the content of the story (for example, the wrong number of people being indicated, or using the wrong first person pronoun). After this, the first proof is sent back to the editorial department.
Honest mistakes aren't much of a problem, but I have to answer to questions that come up at this stage. This is why I visit the editorial office with my copy of the first proof, with the corrections all made.
Then we review the revised first proof and check it over, going over each point with either "leave this part as it is" or "let's fix it up". Normally we just write "As is (leave it as it is)" or "OK (OK, please make the correction)".
After that, my work is done! Not.
Step 6: Second revision, author's revisions, revision check
Then we go through the whole process again, making sure to look very closely.
The second revision is simply a check to make sure that the first proof has been revised properly.
And as it was earlier, I'm given a copy of the second revision. I go over it on my own one more time, find awkward phrases again, and despair just a tiny bit.
For your information, I found a huge mistake in this very book during this dangerous phase. I get chills just thinking about it.
I had made a typo on just one character--a number.
The mistaken version still made sense in context, so the editorial department and the copy editor didn't note this down. But if I hadn't noticed this mistake, the entire story would have been changed. What would I have done if I hadn't spotted it?
(And the fact that I can write about this incident in this afterword means--yes. I pushed back my deadline to the limit and am treading on very thin ice. I'm sorry…)
As with the first proof, the copy editor checks this proof again. It's only natural that there are fewer corrections to be made in this process, but sometimes we get even more notices at this phase than before.
I go back to the editorial department to answer those questions. I can leave them as is or make corrections.
And after this, my work is finally done.
There's a printing process after this called the "Blueprinting" phase, but this stage has almost nothing to do with me.
And that is the process by which my stories take form.
Now that I look at it written down like this, it doesn't feel that complicated at all.
Well, I guess I shouldn't lie. Even by the time I had over ten books under my belt, I still didn't have a good understanding of what second revisions or author's revisions were supposed to be. I just wrote when the editorial department told me to, and I went in to the editorial department whenever they gave me a call. I guess things all work out in the end. Heh.
And this is how these books are made, but there's something I shouldn't leave out.
That would be the fact that I am always being supported by my illustrator Kouhaku Kuroboshi-san, the employees of Ascii Media Works, everyone at the printing house, the workers who ship the books, and people who sell them, and dozens, if not hundreds of others.
Kouhaku Kuroboshi-san and I are the ones doing the creative work, but this book could never have come to bookstores without the people who undertake the process of creating this product.
I'd like to extend my thanks to every one of them once again.
My terribly long afterword is finally over. After this, I'll be moving on to my next story--my twenty-eighth book.
What to write next?
What in my head should I form into a story next?
All these thoughts I have before I take the first step make me feel warm inside. This must be what it means to be an author.
I'll go through these steps again, and meet you in the next afterword.
Sigsawa, signing off.
October 10, 2008
(1) The words "final volume" and "re-imprisoned" are spelled with the same phonetic characters.