As an editor replied to an email of mine today: “this whole end of the world thing sort of mucked up my schedule.” More generally, it’s been hard to write. Even before the pandemic captured our attention I had been struggling to understand why I write. Why write about anything when the world is ending? It can seem pointless right now, aside from providing a distraction to the vacant outside world, but why write even when the world is a little less bad than it currently is?
You asked what messages got me into mecha. So I thought about why I play/watch/read mecha. I’ve been doing a lot of that. I watched all three Rebuilds of Evangelion (courtesy of the now closed county library), started Shadow of the Tomb Raider, caught up on Youtube, read a bunch of games crit, played some great indies, recorded a podcast(!?), relistened to all of Waypoint’s Eva series, and colonized an island. I don’t ask why I read, watch, play, consume, as often as why I write.
What’s most helpful to me, because it’s the most disorienting, is finding the same conversations we have in other places and times. I can remember the first time I heard Team Dresch because… well, because it was last year, but also because these people I didn’t know existed talked, argued, lived, created, and questioned, all the same as me, before me. Queer people are often told we don’t have a history, that we’re either a new thing or else our elders all eradicated by the the AIDS crisis. I used to believe that. It takes so long to understand the scale, diversity, and historicity of queer counter cultures that even after years of being out I didn’t know about 90’s riot grrrl. I didn’t know there were, if not answers, others. We have a history, but we have to remember it.
What sold me on mecha as a genre (in the post-Austin Walker, post-Eva-on-Netflix state that it’s in) is the promise that mecha has always been about queerness and disability, that it is never not about bodies. That I could look back to the 80s and find something there that brought up for me what Heaven Will Be Mine did in 2018. As I watch backwards, I’ve seen those things. Gundam’s new-types, Evangelion’s incomprehensible threat to humanity, Ghost in the Shell’s sexy transhumanism, Patlabor’s morality of peace and war.
Making Heaven Will Be Mine during late capitalism, forever war, global slave trade, and global warming, Bee et al. ask: what happens after collapse? They tell, to me, a story of the AIDS Epidemic. And mecha is always about bodies, so HWBM’s use of mechs brings attention to the way bodies on the margins transform, how they feel differently. And how they’re discarded, how borders are created, how margins are codified, how policing is enforced.
But HWBM is also about how those bodies fight, how they hope. Not for themselves, but for each other. That their plan will work, that the others’ will guide them, that together they can shape whichever end-of-the-world you chose. They won’t settle on hoping for the future. No. They want, after all their fighting, an ending. A better ending.
That’s why I keep playing, reading, and watching. But it’s also why I keep writing. It’s the only way I could understand the game so, and it’s the only way I could make sense of your question. Words changed discursively with my thoughts until, six pages in, my prose unraveled and I understood what line I untangled. I cried about it before drafting that essay, but it’s so much simpler in 331 words. It took me a month of scrapped ideas and drafts to get here (the crying was unrelated this time), to write through another ending.
So Violet, darling, what does this ending bring up for you?
LT in the flesh,
P.S. Pilots should remain in their mechs at all times to practice social distancing and proper combat procedure, Saturn.