Tangent Knights 1: Caprice of Fate Annotations

This document explains background, scientific concepts, allusions, in-jokes, and the like in Tangent Knights 1: Caprice of Fate. Be aware that this document contains spoilers for the whole of the audio novel. I would strongly recommend not reading it until one has completed the novel, since many of the notes contain spoilers for things not revealed until later.

For general reference about Japanese tokusatsu series, I recommend:

Kamen Rider Wiki: https://kamenrider.fandom.com/wiki/Kamen_Rider_Wiki

RangerWiki (Super Sentai/Power Rangers): https://powerrangers.fandom.com/wiki/RangerWiki

Metal Heroes Wiki: https://metalheroes.fandom.com/wiki/Metal_Heroes_Wiki

Ultraman Wiki: https://ultra.fandom.com/wiki/Ultraman_Wiki

Numerous tokusatsu series are in official US release with English subtitles at the following sites:

ShoutFactory TokuSHOUTsu:

Series: https://www.shoutfactorytv.com/tv/tokushoutsu

Films: https://www.shoutfactorytv.com/film/tokushoutsu

Toei Tokusatsu World Official (only some episodes subtitled): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7pddu3yyzkzFEiXfQLex3w

Ultraman Official by Tsuburaya Productions: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5PBnSG7C0WXp5gjd4bzKtw


The illustration here is loosely based on my description of Caprice’s Unbound Mode, introduced in the final act. I envisioned something sleeker and more elegant, with additional armor pieces around the lower torso. But it can be taken as an amalgam of the boxier original armor (the Base Mode) and the more refined Unbound Mode. 


Yao/Karaman prologue 

02:28: “While technically a United States territory”: I initially thought of New Avalon as an independent city-state, but eventually I realized it was simpler to make it part of the US, given story points like the baseball game. 

Daniel & Malika fight Intersects 

Several Kamen Rider series have had the Secondary Riders already empowered before the Main Rider gets his armor, e.g. Ryuki and Zi-O. In Super Sentai, the leading Red Ranger is often the last team member recruited. It was useful here to open with a scene of armored action before Cory was empowered, and to introduce the monsters up front. 

Daniel Vajra and Malika Ramos are loosely inspired by two of Caprice’s team members from my original “Knights” comics premise (see main discussion page), Alexander Ishida/Paladin and Sophia Moudaris/Sage. I’d already cribbed the Paladin name for Only Superhuman, and Sage is the code name of an X-Men character, so I ditched those names. I decided to change their given names and ethnicities too, but the names Alexander and Sophia both coincidentally ended up getting recycled for the two main scientist characters.  

To some extent, Daniel and Malika were also influenced by the Secondary Riders Vulcan and Valkyrie from Kamen Rider Zero-One, the current series while I developed TK, and the only KR series as of this writing to have a regular female Rider throughout its run. Since I was doing a trilogy, I wanted to have three central protagonists, with each novel centering on (and being named for) a different one. 

While Daniel’s angry persona owes a lot to Zero-One’s Isamu Fuwa/Kamen Rider Vulcan, I based him primarily on two Sentai Red Rangers, Matoi/GoRed from GoGoFive and Keiichiro/Patren 1gou from Lupinranger vs. Patranger. Both are comically hotheaded, but their anger is directed at suffering or injustice, so it comes from a place of deep compassion – something I appreciated and wished to emulate. 

Malika’s cool, intellectual persona draws largely from my original Sage character, but I also had a couple of my favorite mentally gifted female Rangers in mind: Kasumi/MomoNinger from Ninninger, a stoic, hyper-competent genius with a relaxed, dry wit, and Jasmine/DekaYellow from Dekaranger, an “esper” (psychic) with a serene personality and a deadpan sense of humor. I based Malika’s name on Jasmine’s rarely-used real (character) name, Marika Reimon; indeed, “Marika” and “Malika” are identical in Japanese. 

Cory at The Grounds Table

A surprising number of Kamen Rider seasons have featured coffee shops or restaurants as their leads’ primary hangouts or places of employment, so naturally Cory had to work at a coffee shop. The foam that Cory piles up on Kelly’s coffee is an in-joke reference to the coffee-making habits of Naomi from the fan-favorite Kamen Rider Den-O, a season with an exceptional fixation on coffee.

12:15: The background news update says, “On Realm Fifty-Seven, the Council of Khans has elected Fatima Stavropolous as the new Khatun of Europe.” A khatun is a female khan, the title of a ruler from Central Asian nomadic cultures such as the Mongols. I presume Realm Fifty-Seven is an Earth where the Mongols successfully conquered Europe, with its modern nations and institutions being descended from their political and social structure much as they are in Central Asia.

As scripted, the news update went on to say, “On Realm Thirty-eight, the government of Anowara’kowa reiterated its refusal to normalize tangent relations with any version of North America not under indigenous rule.” Anowara’kowa (Turtle Island) is a name that some indigenous peoples use for North America or Earth, based on a creation myth. No doubt Realm Thirty-Eight is one where the Americas were never conquered by Eurasians.

12:55: As Cory notes, the opening scenes took place on the 75th anniversary of the premiere of Kamen Rider, or April 3, 2046. I originally planned on setting it on the 100th anniversary (2071), but I decided that Cory’s fandom would make more sense if she lived closer to the present.

13:28:Kamen Sutra”: Cory is riffing on the Kama Sutra, the classic Hindu erotic text.

In the original manuscript, the coffee shop scene was followed by the start of a subplot involving Cory meeting and dating a young aspiring comic-book artist, which ended up being entirely deleted when the novel ran long. The first scene here would have included exposition about Cory’s embrace of martial arts as an attempt to connect to her late father’s heritage, and would also have demonstrated how easily distractible she is. All of this is covered elsewhere in dialogue, though.

Physics lecture

15:10: Alex Reading’s lecture is as grounded in real quantum physics as I can make it, allowing for the fiction of the scenario. Joseph Polchinski’s nonlinear quantum theories are discussed here: https://www.npl.washington.edu/AV/altvw48.html

“Observational realm” or “macrorealm” is a real quantum physics term for what we call a parallel universe or alternate timeline in vernacular. It’s a nice coincidence that the word “realm” also fits the whole Arthurian/Knight vibe of the series. (So no, I didn’t base it on the Quantum Realm from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)

16:15: Some discussion of Hilbert space can be found here, though it gets pretty technical: http://www.faculty.umb.edu/gary_zabel/Courses/Parallel%20Universes/Texts/Quantum%20Decoherence.htm

16:35: Alex implies here that the UK did not leave the European Union — a subtle hint that Cory’s Earth is not ours. As we’ll see later, the realmship crash took place “nearly a decade” before Morgan found it in 2024, so we can assume this world diverged from our history no later than 2015.

17:35: I talked about quantum Darwinism on my blog back in 2010: https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/quantum-darwinism/

18:48: The Cathars were a medieval Christian sect teaching that the body and the material world were creations of evil and that people could not achieve redemption until they renounced the physical and freed their angelic souls from their bodies. This could easily be twisted into a death cult, and indeed it was sometimes claimed that its members actively sought to hasten their deaths when the time drew near.

20:00: John G. Cramer explains his transactional interpretation of quantum theory, allowing information from the future to affect quantum events in the present, in this essay: https://www.npl.washington.edu/AV/altvw16.html

Argument with Morgan

20:55: The hologram stage is based on the prototype I discussed on my blog here: https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/2019/11/13/midair-holograms-who-knew/ In that system, there is only one reflective bead being moved at high speed to create the image, but I modified it with a cloud of microbeads.

21:52: Zordon was the Wizard of Oz-like floating head that mentored the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. This is one of Cory’s rare Power Rangers nods; most of her references are to the original Super Sentai and other Japanese franchises.

23:55: Though I named Eiji Kagami in honor of one of my favorite Riders, Eiji Hino/Kamen Rider OOO (pronounced “O’s” or Ouzu), I’ve belatedly realized that it’s even more appropriate as a nod to Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects artist who’s known as the father of tokusatsu, as he co-created Godzilla and created Ultraman.

Cory and Nalah

25:24: Kimberly is a nod to Amy Jo Johnson’s character on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers — to this day, my favorite of the American Pink Rangers.

26:10: “A physicist and an engineer at the same time?” I’m not a fan of the trope of the universal scientific expert character, but I kind of needed Alex to be that here, so I tried to handwave it.

Cory arrives at lab

Erika Drake/Dragonfly is an amalgam of a couple of characters from my old comic book ideas, one heroic and one villainous. Her flying suit is presumably a refinement on the prototypes that exist today; see https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/205584-flying-over-dubai-and-other-places-with-jetpacks.

Lab battle

35:25: I didn’t want the Knights’ transformation devices to be belts, since that would make the Kamen Rider parallels too blatant. While a handful of Riders have had wrist-mounted henshin drivers (as they’re usually called), they’re more standard for Sentai/Ranger teams. (In Sentai, the devices are generally called by the English word “changers,” while the wrist-mounted ones are often called “braces.”) Matrix bracers are larger, wider armbands than those, something like a high-tech version of Wonder Woman’s bracelets.

36:35: Ferrofluids are something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5APHa7vscoI&t=156s

38:00: Branton Tseng’s surname is Chinese for “Cauldron” (甑). Presumably he based his code name on his surname, but I did it the other way around. I originally called him Branton Shen, but I kept misreading “Shen said” in the manuscript as “She said,” and I was afraid the audiobook adaptor might have the same problem (since I didn’t adopt script format until Book 2). So I changed it to a more distinctive name.

I normally try to avoid improbably appropriate or punny character names in my fiction, but since it’s a standard trope of tokusatsu, I embraced it here. Corazón Kagami, as we’ll see, means “Mirror of the Heart” in two languages. Daniel Vajra (Tempest) is named for the mace of the storm god Indra. Malika Ramos’s surname means “branched,” which suits her dual nature, though it’s entirely coincidental; as mentioned above, I picked it purely for the sound. It’s an equally lucky coincidence that Morgan Herrera’s surname means “blacksmith.” Her first name evokes Morgan Le Fay, and may also mean “sea-born,” making it doubly appropriate. (The character in my original comics premise was named Morgan Raye, and the original Caprice was Cory Carrera. When I decided to make them mother and daughter — probably inspired by the relationship between Misora and her father in Kamen Rider Build — I split the difference and got “Herrera.”) The name of Cory’s loyal friend Nalah Imani means “Gift of Faith” in Swahili. Erika Drake is named for a dragon, of course.

39:20: “backlit by the sparks and fire”: It’s a recurring Sentai/Rangers trope for a random explosion to go off behind the team to punctuate their henshin, so I tried to evoke that here as best I could.

47:00: Most toku heroes have trademark catchphrases, so of course Caprice needed one of her own. I thought it might take a while for her to come up with one, but I ended up having her discover her catchphrase “I will follow my own heart” right off the bat. (This is somewhat reminiscent of two Rider catchphrases in Kamen Rider Ghost: Specter’s “I’ll show you my way of life!” and Necrom’s “Listen to the call of your heart.” Also Kamen Rider Saber’s “I will decide how this story ends.”)

Naturally Cory had to work in an “I will not forgive,” translating the Japanese yurusanai, a common heroic declaration. It’s not an entirely accurate translation, since the phrase means “I won’t let you” as much as “I won’t forgive you,” with a hint of “I won’t give up/back down” to boot. That’s why it’s such a stock phrase for heroes confronting their enemies, and fangirl Cory would thus feel obligated to use it in her first superhero speech.

52:15: “This never happened to the Pink Ranger!”: It’s always the case in toku that long-haired women (or men) somehow have their hair miraculously absorbed into their helmets when they transform, no matter how they’re wearing it at the time. The same goes for their clothes; whatever they wear, no matter how loose, will be replaced by the tight-fitting armor and then return when they de-morph. For TK, I went for a more realistic deconstruction to poke fun at the trope.

Medical check

53:48: I never got around to coming up with a cool name for Cory’s bike; it was more fun just to stick with “Baby.” I initially planned to have Alex trick it out into a superbike, but never found room in the story.

54:50: “Fight to protect life”: Many tokusatsu theme songs contain variations on the phrase inochi o mamoru tame, “in order to protect life.”

56:00: “I’m like a Shōwa Rider”: The Shōwa period of the Japanese calendar was the reign of Emperor Hirohito, ending with his death in 1989. However, it’s conventional to extend it to all 20th-century Kamen Rider productions (the last of which were three feature films in 1992-4), since they fell during the lifetime of Kamen Rider/Super Sentai creator Shotaro Ishinomori. All Shōwa Riders were kaizou ningen, “remodeled humans” or cyborgs, empowered through surgery or some other form of body alteration, whereas most Riders of the subsequent Heisei (2000-2019) and Reiwa (2019-present) periods of the franchise get their power from their armor alone, like Daniel and Malika, or like the majority of Sentai teams.

56:35: “freaking out about how my life is ruined…”: Though this is a common Western superhero trope, Cory is probably thinking of Takeshi Hongo, the original Kamen Rider, who had a lot of angst about how his cyborg nature doomed him to a lonely life, at least until they toned down the horror elements for kids and made it a more lightweight show.

Cory is an example of what TV Tropes calls an Ascended Fanboy/girl, an uber-fan of superheroes becoming a real-life superhero and drawing on their fannish knowledge for guidance. This makes her a lot like Marvel Comics’ Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, who may have been an unconscious influence on my portrayal of Cory, or like Fred from Big Hero 6. There are two such characters in Sentai, both created by writer Naruhisa Arakawa: Gai Ikari in the 35th-anniversary season Gokaiger, the Sixth Ranger whose detailed fannish knowledge of the previous 34 Sentais proves invaluable to the Gokaigers’ mission to recover their lost powers; and Nobuo Akagi in Toei’s self-parody series Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger, a Sentai uber-fan in “real life” (it’s complicated) who gets to become a Red Ranger in a sort of virtual reality governed by the Sentai tropes he knows by heart.

58:12: “What you didn’t absorb got scattered”: I originally thought Cory would absorb the entire mass of phase metal, but I decided that was excessive and changed it to most of it, with the rest being scattered and apparently rendered useless. As seen later, this decision would add a whole new dimension that I hadn’t considered before. It’s one of a number of discoveries made along the way that greatly enriched the trilogy.

Jamil Underwood is a character I went back and added as an afterthought, when I realized I would need to set up someone Morgan could use as a scapegoat at the end.

Alex explains it all

1:00:05: Hakase is Japanese for “Professor.” Cory is more fluent in Spanish than Japanese, due to being raised mainly by Morgan, but she occasionally uses Japanese words as affectations.

1:00:20: “I got the gist”: Cory is alluding to one of Kamen Rider Decade’s catchphrases, “I have the gist of it.”

1:03:00: Vacuum energy is a real concept, a theoretically limitless power source.

1:04:00: For more on programmable matter, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmable_matter.

1:05:43: Most of the physics concepts here are basically legit, but the out-of-phase “hammerspace” where the armor rests when not in use is more fanciful. Changing an object’s quantum phase should put it in a different timeline/realm altogether, so it’s something of a cheat to have it hovering in limbo “between” realms. But that was a necessary contrivance for the premise.

Henshin practice

1:08:15: “Go!” is the henshin call of the Gorengers, the original Super Sentai team. “For the honor of…” is a nod to She-Ra’s “For the honor of Greyskull!” The original She-Ra was unconnected to anime, but the recent remake, which Cory would more likely be familiar with, was very much influenced by Japanese magical-girl anime. In the manuscript, Cory tried Sailor Moon’s henshin call “Make up!” as well, but it didn’t survive the editing process.

1:09:35: It took some thought to figure out how the materialization of the boots would work. Later, in Book 2, I came up with a different explanation for how it works for Matrix armor.

1:13:00: “The joy in your eyes right now”: Rider and Ranger helmets almost always have heavily tinted or opaque visors to hide the faces of the stunt performers/suit actors within; indeed, the performers are often working blind in close-up shots. I made a point of having the Knights’ eyes or faces visible to differentiate them from their inspirations.


Warehouse fight

0:10: The M-BER drones are my version of the sentou-in/foot soldiers, the multitudes of identical faceless grunts that Sentai/Ranger teams and 20th-century Kamen Riders (and some 21st-century ones) would fight en masse before taking on and destroying the monster-of-the-week. Thus, they are fairly weak and disposable, easy to destroy. The acronym fits with the overall fire-based theme of Catchfire creations.

0:58: “Matrix” isn’t a very original name for an organization, but I based the novel’s terminology on quantum physics and mathematics, in this case a density matrix, a mathematical tool describing the quantum state of a physical system.

1:05: Warehouse fight scenes are a perennial staple of tokusatsu shows, so this scene was an homage to that.

3:20: I originally planned to use female pronouns for Echo, because they occupied a female body. But I realized it would help differentiate Echo from Malika if I used they/them for Echo; plus it would give me a chance to practice using non-binary pronouns in my writing. It wasn’t long before it felt natural.

The seed of the Echo character comes from my Cyborg Corps comics concept (see main discussion page), which included one “reverse” cyborg, an AI brain in a living (artificially grown) human body. I somehow ended up reworking this into a human with an AI “passenger” and merged it with my “Sage” character. I was influenced by characters such as Kamen Rider Den-O, who is possessed by various incorporeal partners called Imagin, as well as the various Ultra Warriors of Ultraman, most of whom are humans bonded to aliens that share their bodies and come out when needed. (Cory will remark on these similarities later on.) There’s also an influence from Kamen Rider W (or Double), where Shoutarou and Philip link minds to jointly control the former’s Rider armor, and Kamen Rider Drive, whose henshin belt contains an AI copy of its murdered inventor’s mind.

4:43: “It could turn out to be a very fortunate accident…”: This is foreshadowing a revelation that will come out in Book 2. I’ve never written a whole trilogy in one go before; it’s fun to plant seeds when you know where the story is going!

6:40: The first two monsters fought by the original Kamen Rider were Kumo Otoko and Komori Otoko — quite literally, Spider Man and Bat Man. Thus, it’s traditional for many Kamen Riders’ first two monsters-of-the-week to be spider- and bat-themed. Intelligent, human-sized spiders were too implausible for me, but flying foxes are unusually intelligent as bats go, so I went with evolved bats as the first marquee-fight monsters, referring to them as “spidery shapes” to get the other homage in there.

6:55: Daniel’s perception of the Chimori as “bat-apes” is inaccurate; they aren’t related to apes in any way, but are simply Pteropus bats evolved to fill the equivalent niche that anthropoids inhabited on our Earth. They merely seem apelike to Daniel because of their size, bipedalism, and forward-facing eyes.

8:48: “Electric shock pellets”: I originally planned for Dragonfly to have a flamethrower, but I realized that flamethrower flames don’t actually travel very far and would thus be of little use from an attacker in the sky, not to mention quite dangerous for a flier with the wind in her face. The shock pellets were the most reasonable compromise.


The haircut scene is one of my favorite accidental discoveries in this trilogy. I wanted Cory’s helmet to cut off her hair simply to deconstruct the transformation trope, but having Morgan trim it for Cory provided a lovely scene of mother-daughter bonding that strengthens their connection and makes their eventual estrangement more poignant.

14:34:Sé que no eres un arma, cariño”: “I know you’re not a weapon, dear.” I wrote the line in English, but I realized in revisions that Cory and Morgan would probably speak a fair amount of Spanish when alone together. I couldn’t have them do it too much, since you can’t have subtitles in an audiobook, so I tried to use it whenever the meaning was clear from context and from the sound of the words, and to save it for moments of strong emotion or emphasis.

Cory tells Nalah

23:05: “Space Sheriff”: A reference to the Uchuu Keiji (Space Sheriff or Space Cop) trilogy that opened Toei’s Metal Heroes franchise, a less well-known sibling series of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai. Cory is thinking specifically of the first Space Sheriff, Gavan, who had heavy silver armor a bit like RoboCop’s.

23:40: “I’m more your civilian hero operating-out-of-a-restaurant type than your paramilitary organization type”: Restaurant or coffee shop-based heroes include Kamen Riders Kuuga, Ryuki, Den-O, OOO, and Build, and Sentais such as Abaranger and Lupinranger. Most early Sentais were military or paramilitary, but traditionally used restaurants as fronts for their secret bases. Most Ultraman heroes work for military monster-fighting organizations. Kamen Riders working for paramilitary organizations are rare, but there are examples in Kabuto and Revice, while a number of Riders have worked for corporations or foundations of various sorts, or belonged to traditional organizations like Hibiki’s Takeshi (sort of a family-run demon exterminator business) and Saber’s mystical Sword of Logos.

24:33: “Way too Ultraman”: This is a dig at the strange tendency of Ultraman shows to have their heroes keep their identities secret from their teammates in monster-fighting organizations, even though it would be far simpler just to tell them, and arguably a dereliction of duty not to. (Also, their teammates never figure it out prior to the finale, despite the hosts always disappearing when Ultraman shows up, and often transforming in plain sight.)

Morgan confronts Akuma

In my original “Knights” comic premise, Morgan Raye got her technology from a captive alien from a super-hot planet (hence “Catchfire”), whom she called Ifrit, after what I believed at the time to be an Arabic fire demon. A hot-planet alien didn’t fit the parallel-worlds theme, so I made him a deep-sea cephalopod with “fiery” bioluminescence, and changed his name to Akuma to fit the Japanese influence.

Cory with Enid

I hadn’t consciously realized it, but Cory’s dynamic with Enid here is much like that of Yusuke Godai/Kamen Rider Kuuga with Kazari, the owner of the coffee shop where he worked. There as well, Yusuke always spoke openly and casually about being Kuuga, but Kazari never took it seriously. It’s surprising that I went there, since I wasn’t fond of that series. Yusuke was an annoyingly one-note character whose entire personality consisted of a goofy grin and a thumbs-up gesture. I modeled Cory on a number of more recent Rider and Sentai leads who are similarly cheerful and light on the surface, but who have more engaging nuance and depth in ways that Yusuke never did.

Henshin pose debut

39:00: Most tokusatsu heroes have their own unique poses for transforming. The Japanese phrase actually uses the English loan word “pose” — “henshin pouzu.” It’s a little inaccurate, since “pose” implies a stationary posture while a henshin pose is a series of movements like a karate kata.

I used to think henshin poses were just showmanship, but when writing TK, I came to realize, as Cory did, that they’re probably derived from martial arts traditions and the use of practiced movements and calls to focus energy. The original Kamen Riders were cyborgs with inbuilt transforming ability, so it stood to reason that they needed to focus internally to activate their transformations, as Cory does.

“Phase in!” is meant to evoke the Kamen Riders’ “Henshin!” call while still being distinctive. While henshin is the generic word for transformation (literally “change body”), it’s generally only used by Kamen Riders as their standard call; different toku heroes and teams use their own characteristic phrases. (Although the usual Power Rangers phrase, “It’s morphin time,” is a reasonably accurate translation of Henshin da!, sometimes used by Sentai leaders to instruct their teams to transform.)

40:15: I based Alex’s point about the connection of thought and movement largely on this article: https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-brain-maps-out-ideas-and-memories-like-spaces-20190114/

40:55: Caprice’s henshin pose is derived from the katas of the Shotokan karate school, as found here: https://blackbeltwiki.com/meaning-of-shotokan-karatekata My consultant Keith R.A. DeCandido, a karate instructor as well as a fellow author and good friend, helped me refine the ideas behind it. By coincidence, Caprice’s pose has commonalities with that of Skyrider, the eighth Shōwa-era Kamen Rider, whose series I hadn’t yet seen when I developed this.

43:00: Cory (and I) based Tangent Knight nomenclature on the common pattern of a generic name followed by an individual name, e.g. Kamen Rider Kuuga/Agito/Ryuki/etc., or Ultraman Ace/Taro/Leo/etc. “The Catchfire system” evokes the term “Rider system” for Kamen Riders’ henshin technologies.

43:44: “Call me Caprice when I’m armored”: This was common in Shōwa-era series; even teammates would refer to each other by code names while in armor. It’s also handy for a prose or audio narrative to remind the reader/listener whether the character is in civilian or superhero mode.

Tseng and Morgan in office

46:20: I was briefly tempted at this point to hint that Morgan had consciously arranged Cory’s “accident” as part of some deeper scheme, but that was too melodramatic and contrived even by toku standards, and more evil than I wanted Morgan to be. I also couldn’t figure out how she could’ve made it work, given all the elements of chance involved. So I had her make it clear that it was an outcome she hadn’t desired but was quick to take advantage of.

Daniel vs. Fireforce

50:13: Powerhouse, like Dragonfly, is an amalgam of character names and elements from my old rejected comics ideas. In retrospect, I regret that I when I cribbed the name “Powerhouse” from my notes, I overlooked the fact that it was meant to be the name of a house-sized battle robot. That would have been perfect for this.

54:20: I love the character beat of Daniel breaking free of Powerhouse’s grip while dangling over the ocean, with no plan for how to get out of it once he falls. It marvelously underlines how impulsive and reckless Daniel is.

55:35: Daniel’s overstating rhe power of Caprice’s punch. She was able to knock him out of henshin because his armor had already taken numerous previous hits, weakening it enough that her blow overwhelmed it. Still, it establishes that Daniel’s impressed by Cory despite seeing her as an adversary.

Cory meets Fireforce

55:55: The passing mention of The Grounds Table here is a relic of a deleted scene, Cory’s second meeting with her romantic interest, in which they arranged their first date.

57:00: Fireforce draws heavily on the Ultraman franchise. The command center is based on the typical command center design of UM monster-fighting teams in Heisei-era series like Ultraman Tiga, Dyna, and Cosmos, the series I was most familiar with at the time I wrote this.

58:00: By the same token, I based the Fireforce elite team on the typical composition of Heisei Ultraman teams. You’ve got the team captain nicknamed “Cap” (Cauldron), the stalwart deputy commander (Sunbow), the female ace pilot (Dragonfly), the macho tough guy (Powerhouse), the cute young tech/communications officer (Spark), the comic relief scientist (Alex, though he’s not as heavyset as they usually are), and the new recruit who transforms into the title superhero (Caprice).

I also drew on a looser analogy with Sentai teams, particularly the ones with an elemental theme (mainly just Magiranger and Shinkenger). By this analogy, Cauldron is the Red Ranger based on fire, Dragonfly is the Pink Ranger based on air, Powerhouse is the Green (or Yellow) Ranger based on earth, etc. This is how I devised Sunbow and Spark, who were not based on my older comics ideas. Kadir Azim’s mellow personality was inspired by a water-themed Blue Ranger, though I dropped the water connection and gave him the code name Sunbow to stay consistent with the Fireforce naming theme (although a sunbow is created by fine water droplets in the air, so I guess it still fits). The fifth team member thus became Spark, corresponding to a lightning-themed Yellow Ranger, and in reference to the common “Sparks” nickname for a military communications or technical officer. In this paradigm, Alex is the Sentai’s mentor or comic-relief mascot, and Caprice is the Sixth Ranger who joins later and has special powers (and more often than not wears gold or silver armor).

When I created Spark/Shakti Desai simply to fill out the team roster, I had no idea what an important character she would turn out to be, not only here but in Books 2 & 3 as well.

More appropriate character names: Kadir Azim means “Mighty Protector” in Arabic, and Shakti is Hindi or Sanskrit for “power,” as well as a pun on “shock.” (Desai means “landlord”; I chose it only for the sound. But on reflection, it fits her mastery of the digital domain.) Karl Hausen is simply named for his code name, Powerhouse.

Sparring in training room

1:06:45: When I got to this point, I realized I needed to elaborate on Caprice’s powers. I based her largely on Shōwa Kamen Riders, who usually relied on martial arts rather than weapons (with the exception of Kamen Rider X, whose weapon I’ll mention later). This contrasted with the Matrix Knights and their plasma guns, more reminiscent of Heisei-era Riders or Sentai members. But I decided she needed some kind of energy attack, and a little research turned up the Quantum Null Energy Condition, as discussed here: https://scitechdaily.com/quantum-vacuum-negative-energy-repulsive-gravity/ A repulsive gravity force suited my needs perfectly, since it let me do the fantasy-action trope of blasting people through the air without seriously hurting them. It also gave me a pithy name, “null energy,” though as Alex points out, it’s technically inaccurate.

1:09:00: “Ki” is the Japanese form of the word “chi” from Chinese martial arts and mysticism, the putative spiritual energy that martial arts serve to focus and direct.

1:13:20: Senpai (pronounced “sem-pye”) is a Japanese term of address to a senior member or predecessor in an organization, such as an older student or a superior within a company. Tokusatsu heroes generally address their predecessors from previous seasons as senpai. A junior is addressed as kouhai.

1:15:55: The finisher move is called a todome in Japanese. Hissatsu, a lethal blow, can also be used.

Painting the armor

1:17:55: “Null Shield”: I really should’ve called this a Null Barrier, since the Japanese use the English loan word “barrier” (baria) to refer to a force field. But by the time I realized that, it was too late.

1:19:00: Opening Day for baseball is usually the first Monday in April, but since the novel began on the first Tuesday in April 2046, I had to fudge it. It’s not unprecedented for Opening Day to come later for various reasons, but I didn’t want to go into detail, as my knowledge of sports is very limited. Originally I was just going to use a random baseball game, but when I realized it was within a plausible window for Opening Day, it seemed best to make it a bigger event.

1:19:50: Momorenger/Peggy Matsuyama was the Pink Ranger of the first Sentai team, Himitsu Sentai Gorenger. (Or Goranger, though it was spelled “Gorenger” on the English signage on their team vehicles.) She was a remarkably strong female lead for 1975 — a confident, fearless warrior, statuesquely beautiful but rarely objectified, more than capable of holding her own in a solo fight, and never portrayed as weak or emotionally fragile. (One episode did have her male teammates dismissing her detection of an unseen monster as a woman’s hysteria, but she proved them wrong.) She was the team’s demolition expert, throwing explosive earrings while the others used bladed or blunt-force weapons, and was responsible for their finisher weapon that blew up the monsters, so she was the deadliest, most indispensable member of the team. Lisa Komaki played her with considerable poise, confidence, and elegance, reminding me of a cross between Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman and Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel.

At the time I wrote Cory’s assertion that Peggy was “the biggest badass” of all the Pinks, I hadn’t yet seen every early Sentai season. Now I have, and I stand by that assessment. A handful of later Pinks score high on the badass meter (e.g. Dynaman’s Rei, Boukenger’s Sakura, or Lupinranger vs. Patranger’s Tsukasa), but none quite surpass Peggy in that respect, certainly not when you factor in the context of her times.

This scene originally contained the resolution of the cut-for-time subplot of Cory’s failed romance. Cory told Nalah that the guy was scared off when her skin turned silver while they were in bed together — though her admission that she was Morgan Herrera’s daughter was the final deal-breaker. It was a fun dialogue exchange, but maybe a little too racy for a book aimed at ages 13-up.


Fireforce Intersect briefing

1:40: “Ooh, is there an evil criminal organization making monsters to take over the world?”: Cory is referencing the standard villains of Shōwa-era Rider and Sentai series.

3:35: Tokusatsu monsters usually have distinctive, often punny names, so I had to have that here. It wasn’t easy to come up with good ones, and some of my own thought process is reflected in the dialogue.

I don’t believe Bigfoot/Sasquatch is real, but there were similar extinct anthropoids in Earth’s past, such as Gigantopithecus. I’m assuming that Cysquatches are descended from something of that sort.

4:50: For more on Terror Birds, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phorusrhacidae.

Nalah and friends at stadium

8:50: “Slash” is a term for fanfiction depicting same-sex relationships, particularly between characters canonically depicted as heterosexual. It originated in Star Trek fanfiction in reference to “Kirk/Spock” or “K/S” stories. It’s unclear from Miguel’s statement whether Cory’s fanfiction depicts a relationship between the giant robots’ operators or the robots themselves. Knowing Cory, it could well be both.

9:10: I originally gave Scott a flighty and vain girlfriend, then realized that a group of four baseball fans would more likely be majority-male. However, I then decided to subvert that by keeping the exact same feminine characterization, making Philip an homage to the androgynous or genderfluid characters who appear in a number of tokusatsu series — usually bishonen (“pretty boys”) with effeminate appearances, often wearing cosmetics and hair decorations, but there have been a few more overtly genderfluid characters (and actors), such as Kamen Rider Bravo in Kamen Rider Gaim or the donut stand owner in Kamen Rider Wizard (who was portrayed as a cross-dressing man, but whose performer later came out as a trans woman). I named Philip for two bishonen characters from a couple of my favorite Kamen Rider series, Philip (Masaki Suda) from Kamen Rider W and Ankh (Ryosuke Miura) from Kamen Rider OOO.

9:30: Scott Cawthorne is named for the character of Scott Truman (Eka Darville) and actor Milo Cawthorne, both from Power Rangers RPM, my favorite series in the PR franchise. His nickname “musclehead” is one translation of Kamen Rider Build’s insulting nickname for his partner Kamen Rider Cross-Z, kinniku-baka (literally “muscle-idiot”).

Cory rolls out

11:45: The garage scene originally followed Cory out onto the street, where she did her henshin while standing upright on her moving bike’s footrests, a stunt often performed by Kamen Rider V3 and other early Riders, only to lose balance and almost fall off. It was cut for time.

Nalah on the steps

As with the earlier warehouse fight, I’m homaging the frequent use of stadium exteriors (and sometimes interiors) as action locations in Kamen Rider and Super Sentai. The Saitama Super Arena and Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium are two of the most frequently used locations. New Avalon Stadium’s layout is an amalgam of those and whatever stadiums I could find photos and maps of online. In better days, I might have gone to an actual local stadium to research the layout, but the pandemic precluded it.

13:45: The sequence with Nalah and the Matrix Knights on the stairs is inspired by the iconic staircase at the Saitama Super Arena, featured here: https://tokusatsunetwork.com/2019/11/tokusatsu-filming-locations/#SaitamaSuperArena

Enter Caprice

18:35: “Caprice felt like she was channeling seventy-five years’ worth of heroes”: This is dating from the premiere of Kamen Rider. Ultraman debuted five years earlier, but Ultra Warriors are generally nonverbal, so they don’t contribute to the tradition of big hero speeches.

18:55: Cory is emulating the Japanese tradition of announcing oneself before battle, often with an identifying phrase preceding one’s name. “I will defeat you!” translates the common battle cry “Ore ga taosu!” It can also mean “I will kill you,” but Cory isn’t that violent.

Matrix Knights vs. Horrorbeak

21:48: I didn’t have any particular reason for Malika’s specialty being kung fu. I just wanted something distinct from Cory’s karate. It also has a reputation for being a serene, spiritual discipline, in keeping with Malika’s calm personality.

Caprice vs. Cysquatch

25:07: Caprice’s “Time to finish this” is a fairly literal translation of Todome da!, a common exclamation before a finisher move.

27:25: “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”: Caprice is quoting/translating Momotaros’s battle cry from Kamen Rider Den-O, “Ikuze ikuze ikuze!”

Matrix in the concourse

29:48: Daniel is driven by urami, a common Japanese character motivation meaning a grudge or vendetta. The sense of urami is that it’s a burden you carry until you manage to disperse it, generally by exacting retribution.

Battle continues outside stadium

31:48: It doesn’t come through well in the final version, but Caprice’s reference to the Kumanoid’s “really good opposable thumbs” is an acknowledgment of how well it kept its grip on the sword when she tried to dislodge it. The main reason I gave the Kumanoid swords was so I could highlight its thumbs. This was meant to be a nod to a concept I’ve read somewhere about how humans would be totally screwed if bears ever evolved opposable thumbs. I can’t find a source for it, though.

32:13: “Maybe don’t wait to use the finisher this time?” was supposed to be Erika’s line. In retrospect, I should have written Book 1 in script format to begin with, to make the dialogue attributions clearer, but I wasn’t yet familiar with GraphicAudio’s script format.

33:48: “Powerhouse exited, pursuing a bear”: A play on the infamous stage direction from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Act III, Scene 3, “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Technically, Powerhouse is entering the building, but he’s exiting the drama’s current scene.

34:35: Identifying the monster’s weak point is indeed a common problem-solving method in toku; it’s even referred to by the English phrase “weak point” (wiiku pointo).

34:40: “Dragonfly looked the Panzilla up and down”: This is supposed to be Caprice with the Panzilla, while Dragonfly focuses on the Chimori. My fault for ambiguously writing “She looked…” in the original manuscript.

Battle in the stands

37:00: Cory’s provisional “Gold Knight” and “Bronze Knight” designations for Malika and Daniel are based on Sentai/Ranger naming conventions.

38:10: At this point, after Cauldron pursues Ramos, Caprice moves through a gate from the indoor concourse and out into the stadium stands themselves. The transition is unclear in the final version.

43:45: The Nullifier Blast move is based on a real “chi ball” focusing technique in martial arts, and it also evokes a number of Ultraman finisher moves.

44:40: I’m not quite sure how an antigravity surge could have snapped one of the swords. I suppose it was just driven against the concrete at the right angle and with enough force that it bent and snapped the blade. It’s a reach, but it demonstrates the devastating force of the Nullifier Blast.

44:55: “A blinding light from her right”: It should be her left. For some reason, this sequence ended up with most of the adaptation glitches in the book.

46:00: I didn’t want Caprice to be a killer, but I had to work in the ubiquitous trope of the monster exploding at the end of the battle. Making it a self-destruct, and emphasizing how much more horrible it was in reality than in fantasy, let me use and subvert the trope at the same time.

46:25: As I wrote it, Cory vomited rather than passing out.

49:50: “A different gate that led directly outside”: This doesn’t fit the stadium design I envisioned, but I guess it’s necessary for a clearer separation between Matrix’s and Fireforce’s retreats.

50:05: Cory’s speech at the end here is important for her arc through the trilogy. It also reflects a common motivation of Riders and Sentai heroes, the wish to find a way to end the fighting. These shows like to have it both ways, embracing the fighting and action while painting it as something the heroes regret being forced to do.

Daniel and Echo in infirmary

55:00: It’s a bit contradictory that Daniel feels un-self-conscious about his state of undress with Echo, given that Malika is still perceiving things while Echo is in control. But Daniel’s not the most analytical guy around.

Meeting in Morgan’s office

1:02:15: “I’m almost twenty-one”: Tokusatsu leads are generally young adults in their early twenties, or occasionally high schoolers. Cory’s birthday will be in Book 2.

1:05:00: My outline had Erika taking over Fireforce when Cauldron was suspended, but then I created Sunbow as the team’s deputy commander. Reconciling the discrepancy was the reason I had Sunbow injured in the stadium battle.

Grounds Table discussions; Matrix confronts Cory

This scene originally opened with more business for Cory’s friends, but it had to be deleted for time. It was fairly insubstantial, but I regret that so much of the material for Cory’s friends was lost in editing, as I wanted to establish a supporting cast I could use as civilian viewpoint characters in the subsequent books.

1:12:05: “The woman Cory knew only as the Gold Knight”: Daniel did call her “Ramos” in Cory’s earshot, but it was in the middle of battle, so Cory may not have registered it.

1:15:20: Cory calling the bracers “changers” is a nod to Super Sentai terminology.


Underwood alerts Morgan

Recall that in the background of the previous scene, Mr. Wu was pushing the Catchfire line about giving Fireforce more authority. Here we see that’s because he’s a Catchfire plant that Morgan had spying on Cory. This was not my intent when I established the character in passing in the first Grounds Table scene, but it was convenient to reuse him for the purpose.

Matrix Headquarters

2:35: Matrix HQ’s circular, glass-walled design is inspired by Ryouma Sengoku’s office in Kamen Rider Gaim, actually the Marble Hall at the Hitachi Civic Center in Hitachi, Japan.

4:40: “I just kind of took it for granted that’s how monsters attack”: Sometimes it frustrates me how tokusatsu villains only send one monster per week rather than attacking en masse, so I poked fun at it here. It’s a very contrived device, so I made it so that the contrivance was the point.

5:25: “some evil game where they compete to kill humans”: Cory is referencing both Kamen Rider Kuuga, in which the villainous Gurongi competed for status through a game whose object was to kill as many humans as possible, and Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger, whose villains, the Deathgaliens, were competing in a “Blood Game” to wreak mayhem and destruction purely for the amusement of their sadistic leader.

6:55: “Police Demilitarization Act”: Cory’s realm is a fairly optimistic future, so I posit that the heavy militarization and increasing authoritarianism of U.S. police departments has been reversed and reformed by Cory’s time. I only hope our own realm follows suit.

7:00-8:30: The names of the victims are mostly Power Rangers actor and character homages. Patricia Cruz: Patricia Ja Lee and Tracy Lynn Cruz from Power Rangers in Space. Caleb Blake: Caleb Bendit of Power Rangers Ninja Steel and Blake Foster of Power Rangers Turbo (probably paired because they played two of the most annoying characters in the franchise). The reporter Deborah Cornell is named for the character Cassidy Cornell, a reporter in Dino Thunder, and Time Force’s Deborah Estelle Phillips, whose (male) Mirai Sentai Timeranger counterpart had a romance with a reporter. Police lieutenant Monica Cahill: Monica Louwerens (Lightspeed Rescue) and Erin Cahill (Time Force), whose characters both worked for rescue or crimefighting organizations.

11:20: “I need a reason to help people?” Cory is quoting a sentiment I’ve heard from more than one tokusatsu lead, most recently from Jyuuru of Mashin Sentai Kiramager. I’m a little tired of heroes who need some angsty reason to decide to do good, and find myself increasingly drawn to the old-fashioned idea that using your abilities to help people should be the natural default.

Cory is right that the majority of the most intelligent animals on Earth — humans and other great apes, dolphins and whales, elephants, corvid birds — are highly social species. Complex social interaction creates a need for complex communication, memory, and the ability to imagine others’ points of view and predict their future actions, all factors in intelligent thought. There are exceptions to this, though, notably the cephalopods (octopus, squid, cuttlefish), which are largely non-social but highly intelligent. This contrast will be touched on later in the novel.

I loved writing Caprice as the kind of hero I enjoy in tokusatsu — characters who seem superficially quite simple, naive, and silly, but who have an unexpected philosophical depth to their optimism and the eloquence to convey it to others.

14:25: Chandika is a Hindu goddess of justice, also known as Chandi.

16:20: The Fireforce kill switches come from my unused Cyborg Corps premise. In that concept, the main characters were cyborgs intended to serve an authoritarian regime on pain of death. They would have defeated their kill codes at the start of the series and gone rogue, some becoming extralegal superheroes, others supervillains. The idea also echoes Shōwa-era Kamen Rider organizations like Shocker, which created the Riders to be their mind-controlled slaves, only for the Riders to escape before they could be brainwashed to serve evil. Caprice’s arc is a parallel to this.

20:42: “Your mother’s inventions created the necessity”: In the manuscript, Cory laughed at Echo’s wordplay.

20:50: Interpol agents are a common character type in Japanese (and Western) adventure fiction, including Kazuya Taki, the Rider’s main ally in the original Kamen Rider, and Inspector Zenigata from the anime Lupin the Third. In reality, Interpol is only a clearing house for information between different nations’ law enforcement agencies, but the intrepid Interpol agent is a handy fictional type.

Matrix gym

25:58: Cory’s leotard choices favor the colors of Red (leading) and Pink (female) Rangers. Although some male Kamen Riders have had pink in their costumes, mainly Kamen Rider Revi (and arguably Decade, though he would insist it’s magenta).

27:18: “They say it’s when you fight with someone that you see their true heart”: This is somewhat inspired by the philosophy of Kamen Rider Fourze. He was a high school student with the seemingly naive goal of befriending everyone he met, but he valued friendships more when they were won by overcoming conflict and getting to a person’s true self.

Still, having Cory take this view is largely an excuse for another action scene after the long exposition scene, since tokusatsu rarely waits long between action sequences. At its best, though, it uses fights as a vehicle to advance character conflicts and philosophical debates. Kamen Rider Build, the show that made me a KR fan, was particularly good at this, and I tried to emulate its approach.

33:30: “So the two of you are a single Tangent Knight, huh?” Cory is riffing on Shotaro and Philip’s catchphrase from Kamen Rider W, “The two of us are a single Kamen Rider” (or “…a single detective”).

38:25: I originally had Caprice kick Daniel’s gun into his forehead, but I realized that making it his chin would let me address the lack of full-face coverage and set up Tempest and Gemini’s later armor upgrade.

38:40: Tokusatsu characters almost always wear full-face masks to obscure the stunt performers’ faces. Two notable exceptions were both Shōwa-era Rider sidekicks: Riderman, introduced in the final ten episodes of Kamen Rider V3, and Tackle, the female sidekick in the first half of Kamen Rider Stronger. Due to gender bias, Riderman is counted as an official Kamen Rider while Tackle is not. (Well, there were plans to upgrade Tackle to full Rider status, but the series was cancelled before it could happen.)

Staff meeting

39:40: As I mentioned before, Sophia Moudaris was my original name for the character that became Malika. I didn’t use it because I felt its meaning was too on the nose; “Sophia” is Greek for “wisdom,” and “Moudaris” is Arabic for “teacher.” By the time I got to this point, though, I’d embraced coincidentally meaningful character names, and when I realized Matrix needed its own scientist, it was simplest to recycle the rejected name, though I softened it to “Sophie.”

46:20: The Phase Staff is somewhat influenced by Kamen Rider X’s Ridol weapon, which could turn into a stick, whip, pole-arm, or rope. I initially planned to have it morph into multiple alternate forms, but that didn’t prove necessary.

Since tokusatsu shows are largely about selling toys, the acquisition of new weapons and armor variants or upgrades (they use the English phrase “power-up,” or pawa-apu) is a recurring beat, often on a weekly basis. At best, though, those power-ups are earned through the characters’ achievements or epiphanies. I tried to emulate that pattern, having every armor upgrade symbolize a character growth milestone. I found that having those goalposts to steer toward was very helpful to the plotting process.

In this paradigm, Cory’s initial empowerment as Caprice was earned by her pursuit of reconciliation with her mother and her willingness to risk herself to protect Morgan. The Phase Staff, a power-up created by Cory and Matrix working together, is the payoff for their choice to trust one another and cooperate, a symbol of the bond forming between them.

Fireforce attack

50:30: The M-BER sound design is somewhat inspired by Boston Dynamics’ “Spot” robot, since I envisioned them as sort of a bipedal descendant of that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-PdPtqw78k

51:34: “The kid wanted him to be Tempest? Fine.”: This was necessary since I switched to Daniel’s internal monologue but still wanted to keep the convention of using Knight code names in narration while the characters were armored. So Daniel needed a reason to embrace thinking of himself as Tempest. It also shows that he’s starting to soften toward Cory and her way of thinking.

Cory wakes in lab

58:25:¿Dónde estoy?”: “Where am I?”, of course. Cory defaulting to Spanish while semi-conscious suggests it may be her first language, or at least one she learned simultaneously with English and defaults to with Morgan.

The realmship

1:07:45: In the manuscript, Morgan used the same “Recognize Herrera” voice access code she used in Akuma’s habitat, with the password being La Amistad, after the historic slave ship whose captives revolted and seized control of it, much like what happened with the realmship. I’m not sure why it was cut.

1:10:00: Mizar Dynamics is named for another of my unused comic book characters, a superhero named Mizar, who was actually one of the inspirations for Alex Reading. He was an Anglo-Indian scientist hero named “Ravi” Ravindran, but I thought that would be too reminiscent of Ravi from iZombie, so I changed it.

1:22:45: “An intramural arms race”: Morgan’s plan here evokes a frequent Kamen Rider trope, the hero being manipulated to fight by the person or organization behind the monsters, as a way of getting them to increase their power, building toward some ultimate goal. It can be a clever way to justify the contrivance of the constant weekly battles and the regular toy-mandated power-ups, though it’s maybe a bit of an overused trope at this point.

The trope of the hero being empowered by the same force behind the villains goes back to the very beginning of Kamen Rider and has been a persistent tradition throughout, though not in every case.

1:29:00: “Sacrificing others… that’s unforgivable.” Invoking yurusanai again, as well as Japanese grammatical structure which puts it at the end of the sentence.


Morgan revisits Akuma

1:12: Though an akuma can be a fire demon, the word is more generally used to mean any demon or evil spirit, or as an epithet for an evil person, a fiend. After Christianity came to Japan, it became a synonym for the Devil. The word consists of aku (悪), “evil,” plus ma (魔), “demon” (or “sorcery”).

Cory and Alex in lab

2:45: In my manuscript, I gave Cory a dream sequence remixing Tangent Knight characters and elements into a parody of a Super Sentai/Power Rangers giant robot battle, with Cauldron the Kumanoid being blown up by the Null Cannon, then being resurrected as a giant by Dragonfly, requiring Caprice to summon the five Tangent Steeds that combined into the giant robot DaiKishi (Great Knight) Tangent King (with Alex and Nalah filling out the 5-person team). Midway through the dream, it modulated into an Ultraman pastiche with Cory as the giant KishiGirl Caprice, with Officer Reading asking, “Has anyone seen Officer Kagami? She always misses this part.” It was great fun to write and I hated losing it. But it, too, had to be cut for length.

11:38: Cory calling Alex “Tangent Knight Alex” is a callback to the lost dream sequence.

There’s another cut scene after this, with Nalah seeking out Cory at The Grounds Table and commiserating with Enid. I tried to emulate the self-aware metatextuality and permeable fourth wall of tokusatsu, with Cory and Enid musing that they were just supporting characters in Cory’s adventure show. They had a “you don’t suppose [we’re fictional]” moment, then Enid scoffed at the idea, pointing out that the actors in tokusatsu were all quite beautiful, whereas “Me? I’ve got a face for audiobooks.”

Raid on Fireforce begins

I modeled this climactic battle on some of the bigger season, story arc, or movie finales in KR and SS, with an escalating series of climaxes and surprise reversals, to make it as epic as possible.

12:30: I had no particular reason to set the climax on Friday the 13th; it just happened to fall there. Whenever I write a novel, I always keep a list of scenes and their dates, to avoid the kind of chronological mixup I almost made in my debut novel Star Trek: Ex Machina, where I wrote two subplots out of sync and had two days elapse in one between what were initially written as two consecutive scenes in another. For TK, I kept an even more detailed list, tracking not only the date but the hour of each scene. This was necessary because these are the first novels I’ve ever written that take place entirely on Earth (well, Earths) rather than in space or other worlds, so the passage of time and the Earthly calendar were more influential than they usually are in my work. This turned out to affect some of my story choices in Books 2 & 3.

Cory watches from balcony

17:03: “Having someone to protect makes you stronger”: This is a line I’ve heard in several Sentai and Rider series, a recurring theme that I like quite a bit.

Matrix vs. Fireforce

24:00: Tempest calls back Caprice’s “I meant to do that!” from the first fight, symbolizing his acceptance of her. But in this case, he did literally mean to do that. Maybe.

24:40: I hadn’t originally intended for Spark to have much of a role in combat, aside from being able to deliver electric shocks. Giving her the ability to direct combat drones with her mind made her a far more powerful player than I expected.

Matrix Knights spot Cory

27:15: Tempest’s crystal rising up to fire the Overload Beam is the result of Echo’s earlier modifications.

28:05: Cauldron’s disruptor harness is an example of what’s known in Kamen Rider as an Attachment Form, in Super Sentai as a Super Ranger mode, and in Power Rangers as a Battlizer (pretty much the earliest and the most elaborate form), an upgrade consisting of an attachment or outer layer atop the standard armor rather than a new armor design.

Cory confronts Morgan

32:15: Cory’s mention earlier in the novel of the big dramatic hero speeches with swelling music were meant to set up this scene. It turned out pretty close to what I had in mind.

The void

While most of the homages in TK are to live-action tokusatsu, Cory’s void experience was influenced more by the “bio-merging” sequences in Digimon Tamers (aka season 3 of Digimon: Digital Monsters in the English dub).

36:50: Power-up as personal milestone: The Phase Staff that symbolized the forging of trust and friendship between Cory, Daniel, and Malika is the lifeline that enables Caprice to overcome Morgan’s repression and unlock her true power at last. This wasn’t planned when I introduced the staff, but it came together beautifully when I realized the staff would be free of the shutdown code and could be used to cleanse the armor.

Caprice Unbound

40:38: Cory tearing off her hospital gown homages the fanciful “quick-change” trope in tokusatsu and anime where a character magically changes costume by dramatically whipping off one outfit to reveal another. In TK’s more realistic universe, all she exposes is her nude body, which leads into the cheesecakey anime trope of “magical-girl” or other female henshins where the woman becomes effectively (but non-graphically) nude during the costume change, often with her skin glowing to obscure her anatomy. (This is occasionally seen in live action as well, for instance with Reika Shindai’s henshin into Kamen Rider Sabella in Kamen Rider Saber.)

I always planned for Cory to do an elaborate magical-girl henshin with one of her power-up forms to symbolize her growing power and control, but I expected it to be in Book 2 or 3. Instead, it felt right to do it here.

42:05: Heart-shaped visors are common for Pink Rangers going back to the original Momorenger, as Cory mentioned before.

43:02: When I wrote the manuscript in prose form, I didn’t think about how Echo’s internal monologue in Malika’s head would sound. Director Richard Rohan realized it would have to be processed differently somehow to distinguish it from Echo speaking through Malika. Due to GraphicAudio’s script format conventions, Echo speaking through Malika was tagged in the script as “MALIKA: (channeling Echo),” but Echo’s internal lines here were tagged as “ECHO:” instead.

47:20: Characters changing sides is a common trope in Japanese fiction, which (it seems to me, at least) is often less about good and evil in the Western sense and more about people determinedly pursuing their conflicting goals and priorities. This is less the case in Super Sentai, which tends to have straightforward heroes and villains (although Sixth Rangers often start out adversarial before joining the team), but it’s standard for different Kamen Riders to be initially at odds or have clashing agendas before they end up on the same side. (This is mainly a 21st-century trope, but it goes clear back to Riderman, the Secondary Rider in the second KR series, Kamen Rider V3.) In TK, we’ve seen this first with Caprice switching allegiances from Catchfire to Matrix, and now Dragonfly follows, though she isn’t a Tangent Knight (at least, not yet).

50:25: I initially planned for more Fireforce members to defect, but once I settled on a five-member core team and took Sunbow out of the picture, that left Spark as the only other plausible candidate. But I realized her defection would make things too unbalanced in the good guys’ favor. So once again, Spark became an even richer, more interesting character than I’d anticipated, an excellent example of that Japanese trope of adversaries who are not really evil but simply dedicated to opposing goals, and respecting each other’s integrity in their pursuits even while remaining at odds.

It also let me work in some foreshadowing about the greater threat Morgan believes she’s protecting the world against, as setup for the sequels.

53:30: “This is my domain”: Not a toku allusion, but a paraphrase of the title narration of Filmation Associates’ 1976 Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, one of my favorite childhood cartoons: “This is my domain, and I protect those who come here.”


Intersect battle

0:50: The Neanderthal Intersect came about when I realized I was missing a tokusatsu character type: a monster general serving the archvillain, in addition to a human general like Cauldron. I was unable to give the Neanderthal a substantial role here, but he emerges more as a character (and gains a name) in Books 2 & 3.

2:24:Lo siento”: “I’m sorry.”

5:21: “How you’ve clocked up your mental processing”: A nod to Kamen Rider Kabuto, whose Riders could “clock up” to superspeed, making for some striking action sequences of fights in environments that were nearly frozen in time.

7:15: Character milestone: Tempest and Gemini’s armor power-up, given to them by Caprice, symbolizes them coming together as a team at last.

8:30: The symbol for the Gemini constellation is ♊︎. For examples of the shape of a vajra, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vajra

9:40: “Rising Mode”: It’s a nice coincidence that both “Tempest Rising” and “Gemini Rising” are meaningful phrases in their own ways. The “Rising” label has been used as a prefix for Kamen Rider Kuuga’s upgrade forms, as well as Kamen Rider Zero-One’s Rising Hopper form. I generally tried to avoid reusing specific toku form names, but it was hard to avoid, as there have been so many. And “Rising” just worked so perfectly here.

10:00: “Tangent Knights together” is evocative of the Gorengers’ roll call-finishing catchphrase, Gonin sorotte… Gorenger! (“The five of us together are… Gorenger!”)

The Intersects just standing and watching, rather than attacking, may be implausible, though I tried to justify it as caution and uncertainty, sizing up the enemy before rushing in. Anyway, it’s a perennial trope, especially in Sentai, where it’s traditional for the heroes to give an elaborate roll call after transforming, often preceded by individual catchphrases and martial-arts katas/posing; see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9tQkcUNjXg. (This is rarely done in Power Rangers, but Power Rangers Dino Fury does it.) Usually, the villains just stand there and watch the whole pageant, often making some snidely impatient remark when it finally ends. Sentai is very self-aware and willing to poke fun at its own absurdity.

11:45: Science says that Neanderthals probably sounded like Monty Python pepperpots (loud, screechy falsettos): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o589CAu73UM That was too goofy for our purposes, so director Rick Rohan changed it to something that could be taken more seriously. I was imagining something like a gruffer Malcolm McDowell, say, but Rick ended up going for more of a basso. (The casting is actually a remarkably good fit for his later characterization, considering that he was cast before I’d even written Books 2 & 3.) For what it’s worth, this particular Intersect species has had 40,000 years to evolve from the Neanderthals of prehistory and has probably undergone changes in its vocal tract anatomy. That’s also how they can pronounce vowel sounds that Neanderthals were probably incapable of; see https://www.pbs.org/video/neanderthal-vocalization-ebk5q5/.

Phase Axe

17:00: Caprice is, of course, riffing on Yogi Bear’s catchphrase, “I’m smarter than the average bear.” I trust I don’t need to explain the Goldilocks reference.

I don’t know what it is about the Kumanoids, which I intended to be deeply menacing, that made me ride so heavily on bear puns. I guess it’s just that there are so many bear references in pop culture and literature. The deleted dream sequence with Cauldron as a Kumanoid had even more, in the spirit of cheesy Ranger/Sentai battle puns, such as “This is un-bear-able!” and (when he grew giant) “Time to bear up! Way up!”

18:30: Okay, so if every Knight power-up symbolizes a character milestone, what do Cauldron’s armor and the Phase Axe symbolize? Basically it’s payoff for his book-long craving for phase metal power and his resentment (urami again) toward Cory for stealing it from him. The Phase Axe, created by Morgan, is the escalation, the result of Tseng persuading Morgan to cross the moral event horizon and give up on letting her daughter live.

Really, though, it’s not as important for villains to earn their power-ups as it is for heroes. You want to make things challenging for the heroes, so they have to earn their advantages, but a villain can gain an advantage merely as a way to complicate things for the good guys. Cauldron’s phase armor and disruptor are the obstacles that Tempest and Gemini have to face, and the Phase Axe is the climactic obstacle that Caprice has to face, the symbol of all Tseng’s murderous rage toward her, embodied in a weapon powerful enough to defeat her armor.

22:00: When Cauldron told Caprice about her father, I really had to resist the urge to have her cry “No! That’s not true! That’s impossible!” A Star Wars nod would’ve been off-brand for Cory, and too frivolous for such an emotional moment.

But now we understand Morgan’s line back in the motorcycle scene that Eiji would quite literally have been lost without her.

I really hope the revelation about human Intersects works as the kind of M. Night Shyamalan-style surprise twist that was hiding in plain sight the whole time, obvious in retrospect but unconsidered until it’s pointed out.

The team confronts Cauldron

24:00: There has to be a point in a big tokusatsu battle where the heroes are beaten down and crawling weakly on the ground, at the mercy of the boasting villain, before they rally their strength and prevail.

24:38: “You were never trapped like the rest of us”: There’s a contradiction here, since when Cory interfaced with the Catchfire system, she detected shutdown codes for five others besides herself. So what was she sensing, if Cauldron had no shutdown code? Maybe it was a false code built into the system in case anyone went looking, though that’s a bit convoluted. Maybe it was Meera Vajra’s shutdown code lingering in the software. Or maybe it was just the writer trying to hide the big twist.

Breakdown Blast

29:00: Naturally, the defeat of the Big Bad requires a new, exceptionally powerful finisher attack. The total destruction of Cauldron’s armor seemed like a suitable victory, since his desire for the power of phase armor is what drove him throughout the story.

Note, however, that the Phase Axe is merely lost, not destroyed…

Morgan and Tseng with Akuma

33:45: “You have not let me see another of your kind in the living flesh”: A creepy line, since it implies Morgan may have brought corpses for Akuma to study.

35:40ff: I’ve always appreciated the nuance of the villains in Japanese fiction, how often they turn out to have empathetic motives and redeeming qualities. I discovered that as a child when Space Battleship Yamato came to US shores as Star Blazers, whose second season featured the first-season villain Desslok (originally Deslar) becoming an uneasy ally to the heroes against a common foe — quite different from the American cartoons I usually saw, where the villains were simplistically, immutably evil. So after going through the whole book painting Cauldron as a pure villain, I liked revealing this new insight that would change the audience’s view of him, while setting up his further development as the series continues.

Grounds Table wrap-up

39:32: “Alex is my main support guy”: “Support” (sapouto) is another English loan word the Japanese seem to use a lot in a specific context, which Cory mimics.

40:10: Cauldron’s recovered phase crystal is a loose end. I neglected to follow up on what Matrix ultimately did with it. Maybe it doesn’t matter, though, as long as they got it back.

Cory seeks answers at Matrix

43:04: “Perhaps you could convert them into nunchuks?”: I did initially consider doing this, until I found out that the halves of a 5-foot bo staff would be way too long to work as nunchaku.

43:20: So will Dragonfly become a Tangent Knight? Remember, armors and power-ups have to be earned at dramatically appropriate junctures. Stay tuned.

47:08: Cory calling Daniel “big brother” is a nod to the Japanese practice of young people referring to moderately older people as nii-san (big brother) or nee-san (big sister), even when they’re unrelated.

Not in New Avalon anymore

49:30: In my original trilogy concept (see general story notes), the heroine was teleported to a parallel world immediately after she was fused with the phase metal, for that was its main power there. She found herself naked and silver-skinned in an unfamiliar city and had to figure out what was going on, since in that version, the existence of the multiverse was not publicly known on her world. Here, I wanted to keep the first novel strictly on one Earth and then expand the scope to parallel worlds in the second, partly to help differentiate TK from the universe of “What Slender Threads,” and partly to emulate the escalating story structure of Kamen Rider series like Gaim, Build, and Zero-One, which made a good template for a trilogy, letting me expand the scope and shift the focus of each novel and make them distinct from each other.

50:40: The flying city is yet another idea recycled from my unused comics. More about it in book 2.

I was trying to emulate a common type of cliffhanger ending in some modern toku shows, where the characters stare at some startling revelation and yell, “Ehhhh??” In retrospect, I wish that, instead of “Whaaa?”, I’d had Cory say a drawn-out “¿Qué??” in Spanish. It would’ve sounded more like what I was emulating, and been in character too. Oh, well.

The novel ends on Monday, April 16, so the whole story so far has taken just under two weeks.

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