The Vicereine Wants Her Rings Back

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A knock sounded at the door. There was instant silence. Jessica felt her muscles tense. Talitha’s grip on her arm tightened. The bearded man got to his feet quietly and knocked twice. Two knocks answered. He removed the barricades. Enken entered with two women wearing dark shawls. They quietly gathered the two children Jessica had rescued and led them away.

“We have to hurry. Time is short.” Enken invited the girls to follow him. They all hurried to the front door where he hesitated and then ducked suddenly. “Too late!”

“What? What’s out there?” Jessica whispered urgently. The light of angrily burning torch fires danced outside the dirt-smeared windows.

“The owner of your ring.”

“Which one?” Jessica asked.

Enken’s face blanched when he saw Talitha’s ring and the gleaming emerald setting.

“I did not think it possible!” Enken whispered, gazing at his hands as if trying to come up with some reasoning for the unexpected. Jessica leaned forward on her knees and placed her hands on the floor. She moved close and looked him in the eye.

“Are you going to tell us what’s going on?”

“Nobody knew what happened to the other rings. They were only legend!”

“Well now they’re jewelry! Who is out there? Why are you hiding? What is so special about these rings?”

“I stole it.” Enken said with a sheepish grin. “I thought I could use Dawnsong against our enemies. And the Vicereine wants it back. Seems I can’t hide from her for long.”

“Why didn’t you just use it yourself?” Jessica asked insistently.

“It’s too small for me.” Another sheepish grin.

Jessica’s expression told Enken she was not amused.

“Who is the Vicereine?” Talitha asked.

Another shout followed by a cry of pain sounded from outside. Jessica and Talitha lifted themselves up with tense fingers just high enough to peer out the house’s front windows. The grounds of the outer keep were bathed in shadows. The torches were still burning with a brilliant hot orange light, but their flames seemed choked by encroaching darkness. A figure stood at the entrance where the two guards used to be.

She wore a dusty tattered robe and a threadbare cowl. Locks of long gray hair were visible across her shoulders. Around her waist were iron chains anchored by bleached skulls. Slung across her back was a malevolent-looking scythe with some kind of black fluid dripping from its blade. On her shoulder was a tiny black horned owl.

Confronting her in the moonlight were two men. One was armed with a knife. The other had a formidable looking club. Jessica’s heart almost stopped when she saw the woman’s eyes glowing red from under her cowl. Chilled air seeped under the door. Talitha saw frost floating over the ground outside. It scattered the moonlight across the water and bloodstains.

The man with the knife advanced a few steps. Talitha was almost sure she heard him growl a threat of some kind. Jessica gripped the windowsill tightly as his body spasmed. The shadowy woman squinted. A moment later his knife seemed to take on a life of its own. It turned in his hands and suddenly the man was staggering and fighting his own weapon. His arms trembled desperately as he put every ounce of strength into keeping the razor-like blade away from his belly. His comrade looked on in horror as the man staggered once again. The knife was inches from his body. The woman stood motionless as the man stabbed himself up to the knife’s hilt. His body slumped in the mud, impaled.

The other man backed away. Icy particles in the air swirled around him. Still the woman did not move. Jessica heard an otherwordly shriek. The two girls looked up into the darkness. Talitha gasped, her face white in the moonlight. A winged fiend that looked very much like a gigantic vampire bat dove towards its hapless victim. The man turned to run, but the creature swept across the ground and was upon him in an instant. It wrapped its wings around his face and drove foot-long fangs into his neck and shoulder. His body absorbed the spectral black wings and wicked claws. The creature sank into his skin, leaving only the man’s desiccated ashen body frozen on its knees, head thrown back in a motionless scream that nobody would ever hear.

The woman casually produced a gnarled walking stick and advanced into the outer keep’s courtyard. She looked stooped and moved laboriously. Nevertheless, Jessica realized she would be at the door in moments.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have stolen that ring.” Enken sounded like a teenager home long after curfew.

“It’s a good thing you’re cute,” Jessica said.

“Why?”

“Because if you weren’t, I would pinch you so hard right now.”

Get your copy of W. Scott’s LadyStar: Dawnsong today!

The Spruance and the Constellation Attack!

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Petty Officer Isabelle MacAllen activated the Spruance’s dorsal autosystems. A rather significant portion of the vessel’s circuitry suddenly came to life as the battle computer drew power from the vessel’s main reactor assembly and activated the cruiser’s defensive weaponry. What Isabelle didn’t know was the communications system she had just verified was using the Perseus command net to activate autosystems in all the other vessels at the same time. Formerly quiescent circuitry, processors, battle software and weapons aboard six other vessels responded. Isabelle watched it all happen on the main viewscreen in a series of attractive overlays around the edges of the display.

“What’s happening?” she asked, confused by what she was seeing.

“You just told the ship to get out its big club and go hit the bad guys with it.”

A brilliant flash of light filled the Spruance bridge. Then another. And then a third. The angry white bursts of weapons fire reflected from the face and eyes of Petty Officer MacAllen as she sat motionless at the pilot’s station, watching in open-mouthed awe as the Task Force’s datalinked battle computers she had just ordered to open fire launched a defensive strike at the incoming enemy formation.

From aboard the nearby destroyer Constellation, the scene was no less impressive. Spruance’s main batteries thundered away, firing in skillfully echeloned sequence. Thousands of miles distant, the first wave of proximity bursts shook the enemy formation to its core. Ten megaton blasts slammed battle screens and disrupted communications. Moments later, the Sarn battlecruiser Venom opened up with its rapid-fire disruptor batteries as it broke range.

Spruance shook like it had been caught in an avalanche.

“Fasten your shock harness, Isabelle.”

Aboard the Constellation, Lieutenant Commander Ray Flynn had been issuing orders quickly and efficiently since the first detonation, and now he was about to answer the Sarn fleet’s challenge with everything his fairly substantial vessel had to offer.

“Report!”

“We have three full spreads of wide-spectrum weapons standing by!” shouted Tactical Officer Ria Cooper from her multi-level advanced combat station. Around her glowed curved displays featuring sliding status updates on all twelve of her vessel’s missile batteries. As the prototype and namesake for its class, the DSS Constellation was the most “broken in” of Skywatch’s missile fleet. Its weapons systems had been studied, improved and optimized to the point where her engineering staff, tactical officers and crew knew more about space missile combat than any other group of 100 people in the known universe.

Constellation was the only Perseus vessel with the “globe” configuration and design for its tactical station. The operator was surrounded by displays which were fixed on a freely rotating frame which allowed them to “spin” around the operator. This only operated in two dimensions, of course, as upsetting a bridge officer’s sense of which way is “up” had been tried and failed several times. The configuration itself was spherical, with the tactical officer seated on a magnetically suspended shock frame and able to read displays below floor level, at eye level and above as well.

What this configuration did make possible was the hyper-efficient control of all of Constellation’s missile batteries and most importantly, their timing. There was simply no such thing as an idle weapon aboard the Constellation. If a rack was capable of firing, it had already fired. If it needed to reload, it was already reloading. If the scanner systems were tracking missiles and one or more detonated, they were replaced by fresh warheads within fractions of a second of the firing order.

Then came the spectrum. DSS Constellation had always been capable of configuring missile tracking systems to do just about anything their technology was capable of and several things it was officially incapable of. She could fire track-on-motion, track-on-signature, track-on-radiation, track-on-signal and track-on-targeting warheads. She could set her weapons to go dormant for several minutes and then wake up and attack again. She could configure missiles to track on each other so they couldn’t be jammed. Missiles could be set to attack from as many approach vectors as there were weapons to fill them. There were rumors her tactical section once programmed a missile barrage to look as if it had malfunctioned, turned around in space and began attacking its own ship, only to have it turn back on the enemy at a most inconvenient moment.

Constellation was also capable of conducting positively lethal planetary bombardments with its “Ironwing” class ultra-dense kinetic warbirds. These were essentially 1000-ton nano-particle constructed iron molecule lattices formed into shapes that could be fired from a Constellation class missile rack and equipped with a short-duration anti-orbital rocket. They were rated to impact a planet with Earth-like gravity at roughly 1% of light speed and even without a warhead could cause an impact detonation in the 1000 megaton range.

The Perseus missile ship’s opposite number was the Battle Frigate Ajax, which was able to defend against enemy missiles with very nearly the same deadly efficiency as the larger destroyer. The two vessels operating in concert were like a veteran quarterback and wide receiver. In fact, more than a few of the Perseus crew members referred to the two ships colloquially as “Law and Order.”

“Confirm incoming sequence telemetry with Spruance.”

“Aye. We have active missile slots one through sixty. Spruance is cycling weapons autosystems aboard Revenge, Exeter and Minstrel.”

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“Very well. Lock autosystems response codes in echelon order and stand by for a firing solution. Signals, open a hailing frequency to the lead Sarn vessel and engage automatic translation and records computers.” Commander Flynn settled back in his large and intimidating-looking command chair and waited for the inbound signals to clear up the image on the Constellation bridge main viewer.

“We have a bearings match and waveform lock on the battlecruiser, sir.”

“Hailing frequency open, captain and you are patched in.”

“Attention unidentified vessel. This is Lieutenant Commander Raymond Flynn of the Skywatch Destroyer Constellation. We have you under our weapons. You are ordered to surrender your vessel and prepare to be boarded.”

It’s only here for a limited time! Get your copy of Shane Black’s Praetorian Courage today!

It’s the PLuto is a PLanet Event!

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Theodore Jefferson’s The Incredible Untold Story of Sailor Moon is on sale in February for a limited time, and he is calling all the Lexicon Hollow Authors to assemble! Founding members W. Scott, author of LadyStar, Kin Kan Musical Universe and Fat Guys on Tricycles with Bazookas, Lily Carwyn, author of the 19-title First Kiss Romances Series, and Shane Black, author of the Bandit Jacks Sci-Fi series are all contributing their top titles to make this our biggest book giveaway yet!

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Right now, if you buy the Incredible Untold Story of Sailor Moon EPUB edition from the Palace in the Sky Bookstore at up to 30% off the cover price, you’ll get W. Scott’s Kin Kan Musical Universe Book One (a $5.99 value) absolutely FREE!

Better Stories

The LadyStar series celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2015. Since the day Jessica Halloran appeared in her first adventure, nearly 300,000 readers have found heroes in the pages of our books and comics.

All LadyStar fans can find someone to root for. Our readers experience friendship and teamwork right alongside their favorite character and they can experience what it is like to achieve victory through courage, sisterhood and just a little bit of magic.

Visit our bookstore, and experience what we have built together over the last 15 years. LadyStar has been a video game, a manga series, an industry-leading webcomic, a critically-acclaimed book series, a dramatic audiocast and an animated television show. Our characters endure because they have something to say that largely absent in today’s fantasy. In Jessica Halloran’s world, anything is possible.

I would like to personally invite you to take a look at what we’ve accomplished. If like me, you believe better books are a worthy goal, and that we can aspire to better stories and better role models, I think you’ll find LadyStar to be a unique world you can return to again and again.

What Are You Selling, Exactly?

The following is an excerpt from Theodore Jefferson’s Million Dollar Artist Book One.

This is the most important chapter in Book One, because it will probably change your ideas about what the real value of your business is. Again, this is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer. This is king to king advice. I’m not a barbarian.

Back in the mid-1980s, a man named Bill Gates sold an operating system called DOS to IBM. But instead of selling the whole thing outright he said “I will give you a license to sell my operating system on your computers, but I want to continue to own it.”

Bill Gates is now worth $76 billion. He founded a company called Microsoft. The operating system he sold to IBM became Windows.

Microsoft took advantage of copyright law to sell IBM something called a “license.” A license is permission to use your property.

When you draw a stick figure on a piece of paper, you have done something called “fixing a work in tangible form.” This means you put a drawing on paper, which is a tangible object. At the moment that happens, under the United States Copyright Act of 1976, a copyright in that work vests in you. That means you now own a piece of intellectual property, or IP. The same IP we discussed in Chapter Two-A. You own the copyright on that stick figure.

With that copyright, you now have certain exclusive rights. Exclusive means that those rights only belong to you. Nobody else can legally exercise those rights without your permission. Among those rights are: 1) The right to make a copy of the work. 2) The right to sell it or distribute it. 3) The right to publicly perform or display the work. Those rights all belong to you exclusively. Nobody else can make copies of your stick figure, sell your stick figure or publicly display your stick figure without your permission. If they do, they could be “infringing” on your copyright. That means they are unfairly competing with you and the market for your work.

Your stick figure might be the character some author wants to use on the cover of their book. In order to use the stick figure, that author will need the right to sell and distribute and to publicly perform your work. There are two ways that author can get that permission.

One, they can just buy the stick figure from you. They hand you twenty bucks and you hand them the stick figure and off they go. (There is paperwork required too, but we’ll get to that) This is known as a “transfer.” It’s just like selling your car. You sign it over and the buyer is now the owner of the car. With a copyrighted work, a transfer makes the buyer the new copyright owner. That means now they have all those exclusive rights that only they can use. You no longer have those rights, because you sold your work to them.

The other way that author can get permission from you is to buy the right to sell and distribute and publicly perform the work. This is called “licensing” your work. You are asking the author to pay you for permission to use your work in their book. Now, instead of the author becoming the new copyright owner, they become a licensee. You are still the copyright owner. You still have all the exclusive rights. The book author only has permission to exercise some of your rights and to get that permission they paid you.

The first step to building a Million Dollar Artist is for you to understand that selling and licensing artwork are two entirely different things. You must ensure that the maximum value is extracted from each creative you produce. If you sell it for a hundred dollars, you might be missing the chance to license it to ten different people for a hundred dollars each and make a thousand dollars instead.

Either way, you spent the same amount of time and used the same amount of materials to produce that creative. How much you get paid for that time depends on what price you get for your work. If it took you ten hours to produce that creative, and you sell it for a hundred dollars, you got paid ten dollars an hour.

But if you license it for a thousand dollars, you earned a hundred dollars an hour, and you still own it! Every time you license it after that, your hourly rate goes up!

Now this is not to say that selling art is always a bad thing. You just have to be aware of the value of the copyright itself vs. the value of the permission to use that art for some other purpose. With ownership of the copyright, that book author we discussed could go out and license your work to other book authors and make the thousand dollars for themselves!

In almost every case, it is better to license the work and keep the copyright. In those cases where a transfer makes sense, make sure the purchase price adequately compensates you for the loss of all the potential licensing revenue from that creative. Otherwise you are underpricing your services and that is a very effective way of attracting big armies of green guys to your castle gates.

Toonami and the Silver Age

The following is an excerpt from Theodore Jefferson’s book The Incredible Untold Story of Sailor Moon.

Don’t Miss the PLuto is a PLanet Event!

incredible-untold-story-2Gather ’round. I’m going to tell you a story of ancient times when the geeks of the world had to discover their animated television shows using strange technologies and great patience.

Television signals used to be transmitted on the same electromagnetic spectrum as radio. Channels were actually “frequencies.” Television sets were just big radio receivers designed to pick up those frequencies on certain pre-determined channel numbers and display whatever was transmitted on the screen. Televisions were big mobile phones. They even operated in roughly the same broadcast bands.

One of the problems with early television was a lot of companies wanted to build TV stations and broadcast their own programming, but there wasn’t enough room on the electromagnetic spectrum to fit the channels. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which was in charge of licensing television broadcasts, had only opened up frequencies in the VHF or “Very High Frequency” band.

But there was a second band called UHF or “Ultra High Frequency” that had roughly half the range of VHF and was only included on some TV sets. This was where everyone except the big networks had to go if they wanted to broadcast a television signal. It was the band for “independent” television stations.

UHF didn’t do very well until the All-Channel Receiver Act of 1964 mandated that every television set had to be manufactured with the ability to receive television broadcasts on all channels, including both VHF and UHF. Now at least those UHF stations could be certain their signal would be received by every new television.

PBS, foreign language channels like the precursor to Univision, various religious channels and other independent broadcasters sprang up all over the country. In 1970, a guy named Ted Turner acquired Atlanta, Georgia channel 17, which eventually found its way to satellite and became TBS, the “Superstation.” Fox Television was formed by assembling a number of disparate UHF stations into a fourth commercial network.

On the UHF band there was a station in Southern California called KBSC Channel 52. “This is Kaiser Broadcasting, KBSC-TV channel 52, Corona-Los Angeles.” They started their day at three in the afternoon and ran until midnight. The shows they chose to broadcast may very well have given birth to geekdom in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan television market.

Their headline show was Speed Racer.

They also had “The Underdog Show” which was a series of short cartoons. Underdog episodes bracketed a 30-minute show including intervening shorts starring Tenessee Tuxedo, Commander McBragg, Go-Go Gophers and various other characters produced by Gamma Productions. Channel 52 also had Kimba the White Lion, Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, Felix the Cat, Ultraman, Gigantor and Giant Robot.

If you are wondering why video games, animation, comic books and weird television shows have taken over entertainment, it’s because everyone in charge of the entertainment business now in 2014 grew up watching channels like KBSC Channel 52. When they got older, they all took up Dungeons and Dragons.

It is also where every single one of them discovered anime.

I know it’s hard to imagine, but this was a time when there was no such thing as an anime convention. There was no Star Wars. There wasn’t even recordable television. The VHS video recorder was years away. There was an Internet, but there were about 19 people with access to it and 18 of them were college professors. There was literally nowhere else in the world except Japan where a kid from Southern California could see anime.

But once they discovered it, they discovered something about cartoons they hadn’t previously realized was even possible. Cartoons weren’t just funny. They were cool. The Mach Five was a revelation to the average ten-year-old boy. A car with super-powers? Sold. They didn’t even care what the show was about any more. All they wanted to do was get to the next episode so they could see what else Speed Racer’s car could do. After all, there were seven buttons on that steering wheel!

Speed Racer also had a unique animation style. Viewers in America got it at once. They understood what the animators were trying to get across, and they responded by desperately wanting to become obsessive Speed Racer fans. This vaulted them into being fans of just about everything else from Japan, including all those great toys that were too expensive for their parents to even consider buying. That stopped none of them from wishing they could own the die-cast painted steel Mach Five with real rubber tires that was about the size of the average radio-controlled cars soon to be marketed to those same boys. Oh sure, it would cost $300 and have to be shipped on a cargo boat from some faraway land, but they didn’t care. It was the Mach Five!

What followed was rather predictable. Godzilla became a household name. Johnny Socko and UNICORN were sudden superstars. Everyone who grew up watching Channel 52 remembers the giant eye and the rolling iron ball with arms and legs from Giant Robot. Underdog was awesome. They watched the same nine episodes of Little Rascals for months. Why, they even became fans of roller derby, even though nobody seemed to be able to explain the rules. Nobody cared. It was on Channel 52. It was cool because it’s the same channel Speed Racer was on.

KBSC Channel 52 Corona-Los Angeles was the original Toonami.

Fast forward twenty years. It’s not broadcast television any more. Now it’s all about cable, and there was a fast-growing little channel called Cartoon Network getting ready to knock cable television on its ear.

In 1986, Turner Broadcasting (remember Ted Turner buying that UHF station in Atlanta?) bought the MGM Film Library. Included with it was a collection of cartoons like Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and Popeye. Later, Turner Entertainment bought Hanna-Barbera and added Scooby Doo, the Flintstones, Yogi Bear and The Jetsons. They suddenly found themselves owning one of the largest animated television libraries in the country with 8500 hours of programming. So what did they do with it? Simple. They started a cable channel with nothing but cartoons.

Cartoon Network was by no means the only channel interested in capturing the ever-profitable children’s broadcast market. Nickelodeon had several successful shows of their own, including Doug, Ren and Stimpy and Rugrats. They would later go on to bring a certain sponge to animation, but that’s another chapter. The Disney Channel and the Family Channel had also thrown their hats in the ring. It was going to be a short, expensive and rather angry competition, but the late 1990s was shaping up to be the battle of the cartoons.

Except that one of the competitors had an insight and an historical perspective the others lacked.

Events in the early 1990s and the deal that brought Sailor Moon to the United States and the English-language television market had placed anime squarely on the radar screens of those who were taking the time to pay attention. By 1996, Sailor Moon’s syndication deal had run its course and the fortunes of the show were beginning to lag behind others of its type. What DIC and Program Exchange didn’t realize at the time was the transition of the television industry was about to give them an opportunity they couldn’t possibly have envisioned when the first plans to broadcast Sailor Moon in English-speaking territories were drawn up.

Cartoon Network’s first completely “ridiculous” idea was Space Ghost Coast to Coast. This was essentially the first YouTube parody. It featured a bunch of repurposed superhero animation footage intercut with live “guests.” It was snarky and silly and a gigantic hit with exactly the wrong audience: adults.

Turner Broadcasting was not a company terribly interested in the status quo. Ted Turner had always been a maverick, and his tendency to do things that didn’t make any sense to his colleagues or the rest of the industry was well known. He was the first to bring the world 24-hour news coverage. He was also the first to bring the world 24-hour cartoons. Some might argue one had more than its share of influence on the other, but nobody can argue with the success of either approach.

A note was made on someone’s desk in someone’s important notebook that maybe they ought to do a little thinking about this whole “cartoons for adults” thing. It didn’t take very long.

Cartoon Network Studios was the source of the What a Cartoon! show. It was 1995. The idea behind What a Cartoon! was to invite independent animators to put something new and interesting forward. Cartoon Network had actually taken a first step towards putting creative people in charge of being creative. “Lunacy!” shouted the other stations and companies. “Only executives and rich people are capable of entertaining the masses!” Well, said Cartoon Network, we’ll just have to see about that.

The first show they came up with was Dexter’s Laboratory. It was rapidly followed by Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken and later shows like Courage, the Cowardly Dog and The Powerpuff Girls. All of them were later combined to form Cartoon Cartoons. They would go on to make animation a prime time ratings powerhouse.

Cartoon Cartoons were an industry-changing milestone. The reason was the creators of these shows were able to synthesize animation entertaining for children with writing entertaining to their parents. This was a wild idea that would have been absolutely impossible to even discuss if Cartoon Network had been trying to program a broadcast network. But, cable television wasn’t regulated by the FCC, so they could get away with things broadcast networks couldn’t even touch.

Using this synthesis model, the first punch Cartoon Network threw basically knocked their competition cold. The reason was they weren’t trying to come up with programming for kids. They were trying to come up with programming for whoever would watch it. This forced them to think in ways that weren’t familiar to traditional animation production companies. That’s why they were able to create shows about flying five-year-old girls beating up villainous monkeys.

But more than this was the fact there was a unique energy to it all. Fans of one show were very often fans of several shows for roughly the same reasons. When an episode of “Dial M for Monkey” came on, a viewer could almost sense the echoes of the Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory in it. All of the shows benefitted from this effect. Johnny Bravo and Courage even saw increased interest. It gave these new upstart shows a sensibility and an edge that other animation seemed to lack. It was almost as if the creators of the shows understood their audiences. Well, it turns out they did understand their audiences much better than anyone thought.

With the success of these original shows and the growth of the network as a result, Cartoon Network had already caused a huge shift in the entire business of animated entertainment. Then, in 1997, at almost exactly the same moment Sailor Moon’s syndication deal had lost most of its energy, Cartoon Network aired a block of programming called Toonami.

Sailor Moon’s history in the 1990s was one of timing. The character set off a merchandising explosion in Japan at precisely the right moment to change the course of the American comic industry (and, as it turns out, everything else in entertainment), the show came to the United States at exactly the right moment to serve as the vanguard for the anime movement of the late 90s and early 21st century, and now, it was running out of syndicated mojo at exactly the right moment for Cartoon Network to say “hey, what if we put some anime shows in a new action block on our network in the afternoons?”

Every entertainment industry veteran knows their business is all about timing. As Bill Moyers pointed out in Empire of Dreams, a documentary of the making of the original Star Wars Trilogy, (paraphrasing) “If you bring Star Wars out too early, it’s Buck Rogers. If you bring it out too late, it doesn’t capture our imaginations. But if you bring it out right when the (Vietnam) war is ending, when the old stories have died. Suddenly, it’s a new world.”

Cartoons and animation have always prospered when their timing is right. In the 1970s and 1980s, the best cartoons were always on at about three o’ clock in the afternoon, when all the kids were getting home from school. That, or Saturday morning, when all the kids were eating breakfast. This was the golden age of the children’s television trifecta: breakfast cereal, cartoons and toy commercials.

Remember KBSC started its programming day at 3PM. That wasn’t a mistake. They knew their audience.

These observations were not lost on Cartoon Network. The idea of running cartoons 24-hours-a-day was incredibly silly from an advertising standpoint. Nobody is going to run a toy commercial at 11:30PM when every single kid in America is asleep. But they all knew a toy commercial broadcast eight hours earlier was a wheelbarrow full of solid 24-karat gold coins with pictures of money stamped on them.

Cartoon Network had taken two swipes at the “action afternoon block” concept before. It started as the “Power Zone” which was version two of “Super Adventures” which debuted when the network signed on in 1992.

In 1997, the Toonami lineup was pretty grim. Voltron, Jonny Quest and the Thundercats were scheduled alongside a witches brew of weird repurposed leftovers called Cartoon Roulette. The show was hosted by Moltar, a villain from the original Space Ghost show.

One year later, they discovered anime. More importantly, they put it on the air at 4PM nationwide. Leading the block was one Sailor Moon aka Usagi Tsukino and her 82-episode two-season show that until then had been obscured by unfortunate syndication scheduling. Anchoring the other half of the two hour lineup was Dragon Ball, an anime series consisting of about 18,000 episodes which was essentially Sailor Moon for boys.

Remember that first punch when Cartoon Network knocked all their competition cold? This time, they took an iron fist the size of Mount Rushmore and smashed the competition flat.

Once again, Cartoon Network was about to benefit from advantageous timing. While they were assembling the pieces of Toonami into a legendary weapon, Time Warner, the company that had purchased Turner Broadcasting (and Cartoon Network) in 1996 had been experimenting with its own kids programming block called Kids WB. It didn’t work out as well as Cartoon Network’s version, but it did feature a little show called Pokemon. The first broadcast of Pokemon in the U.S. was September 8, 1998, only a few months into Sailor Moon’s run on Toonami.

What Pokemon did was bring a marketing angle into the world of U.S. adapted anime that was simply brilliant. There was a collectible card game, video games and merchandise of every kind. The frenzy among the exact market sought by shows like Sailor Moon and the rest of the Toonami block created a positive feedback loop that resembled one of Dragon Ball’s five-episode power-ups. Pokemon was about pets, which appealed to girls. The pets fought each other, which appealed to boys. It had an “evil genius level 12” marketing plan, which was collectible pets. And it was a TV show, video game and merchandising campaign all at once. Pokemon swept the land like a push broom.

By 2003, Pokemon was worth more than the gross domestic product of Denmark. Thirty billion dollars. It took five years. Any fan of Pokemon looking for more anime to watch didn’t have to go far. Cartoon Network had coincidentally just started scheduling anime five days a week in the Toonami block.

The results were immediate, but not just because Pokemon was making a lot of money. Everything converged around Sailor Moon at exactly the right moment.

Sailor Moon had an unparalleled Internet presence, which meant anyone who “found” the show could find volumes of information about it.

Sailor Moon was also a top 100 Usenet group.

Sailor Moon was on at the exact center of kids prime time: 4PM weekdays nationwide.

Sailor Moon was on what was about to become the number one cable channel in the United States.

Add to these the fact it was the show that had spearheaded a ten-figure merchandising blitz in Japan, and you had the perfect set of circumstances for a breakout hit.

These events should not be too quickly overlooked, because they demonstrate something unique about the entertainment business. Toonami was Sailor Moon’s “Silver Age.” The Golden Age was its original run in Japan. In the space of one year, Sailor Moon had gone from a largely failed syndicated show to one of the anchors of the most dynamic programming block in all of children’s television. It was the second act to end all second acts. Toonami gave the show the visibility it needed, and Cartoon Network’s reach gave it clout.

Once again, the old adage about timing had been proven beyond all doubt. In 1997, it would have been very easy for the average executive to dismiss Sailor Moon as tried and failed. By early 1999, the show had over 100 million fans worldwide.

Then the ratings were measured, and the results floored everyone. Even Cartoon Network. By 1998, 82 episodes of Sailor Moon had been dubbed. This included the original 65-episode syndication package produced by DIC and the 17 episode balance of the second season.

During its run on Toonami, between 1998 and 1999, the 82-episode run was broadcast seven times. That means anyone who watched the show from the first Toonami episode to the last ended up watching the first and second seasons of the show seven times each.

Not once during that 560-plus episode run did the ratings drop below a 0.5. That means at least a half-million U.S. households sat through the same series of 82 episodes seven times. This was Star Trek level dedication that nobody was expecting, especially from an anime show most people had never heard of.

It proved there was a loyal fanbase in the United States that logically could not have come from Cartoon Network itself. These were fans that were already there and were already invested. Even if the television world didn’t understand it, the results were clear and could not be waved aside or dismissed. Half a million households. It was a tiny fraction of the audience that populated the Internet.

The 21st century was right around the corner, and Sailor Moon was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

Theodore Jefferson’s Nancy Drew Retrospective: Our Most Shared Article Ever

Back in April, our very own Theodore Jefferson wrote an article for The Mary Sue commemorating the 85th anniversary of Nancy Drew. It has now been shared more than 208,000 times on Facebook and has garnered almost 900 tweets.

Seems there’s still a lot of fans of the original lady detective out there.

Musical Stories: Jessica Halloran’s First Day of High School


kin-kan-one-1000Jessica walked through the glass doorway. The air was cool and the room had a faint “new” scent. The entryway floor was made of white and gray tiles, and carpeted hallways led in both directions. On the far wall was a huge trophy case as tall as the ceiling. Jessica peered inside.

Her wide blue eyes looked over silver and gold trophies and plaques. The highest two shelves of awards were too high for her to see, but there were four shelves below those.

The proud arrangements of achievement covered the wall. Green and gold ribbons flowed from each. Jessica moved sideways along the glass case as she read each the engraved plaques: First Place Band, Founder’s Day Sweepstakes Award, Best Showmanship, Battle of the Bands Open Division State Champion, Conservatory Trustees Award, Holiday Band Championship, Grand Marshal’s Award, Pageantry and Musicianship Award, Best Show Band, Host Honor Musicians National Merit Scholarship. Some were three and four feet tall!

In the center of the display was a polished wood and gold-engraved plaque. The face of a lion was emblazoned in its center. It read “Tree Shores High School Golden Lions Marching Band and Drill Team” across the top. Underneath the logo were the words “Scholarship, Musicianship, Excellence.”

“Wow…” Jessica exhaled in awe. Some of the awards had a picture of that year’s band. Every picture had at least three dozen gold sousaphone bells towering over the back row of formations of what looked like hundreds of musicians.

There’s more people in those bands than in my whole junior high school! Jessica thought. I hope I’m good enough to play in the band here. She looked down each of the halls, but didn’t see any people.

I must be really late by now. Seeing no other signs with directions to the band room, Jessica decided to try the hallway to her right. She walked past several classrooms, but they all had numbers above 100. She reached the end of the hallway and turned to the left, beginning to hurry as she looked for room 74.

As she neared the end of the hallway, she saw that one of the doors was open! Maybe someone was here!

Get the story of the Greatest Showcase Band in the Land at the Palace in the Sky Bookstore today!

What are Gold Monarchs?

Official LadyStar Bookstore Gold Monarchs are a bookstore-only currency you get free with every purchase! They can be redeemed for discounts, free books, special offers and exclusive bookstore-member-only goodies! You accumulate them in your Official LadyStar Bookstore account and you can redeem them in your shopping cart any time you like for nearly every purchase.

Be sure to check each book for its Gold Monarchs Reward (red font) listed just beneath the “Product Code,” and also check each book for its price in Gold Monarchs listed just under the price (in a small gray font). If you purchase the book (or download it free) you get the Gold Monarchs Reward automatically. If you want to use them to buy a book, you will need enough to pay the price in Gold Monarchs.

Also don’t forget that any book that is listed as Teko’s Daily Treasure earns you double the Gold Monarchs Reward if you purchase it on that day! Daily Treasures also often have a special price!

You will receive an e-mail notification each time you are awarded new Gold Monarchs, and you can keep track of how many you have earned on your bookstore member page. Be sure to watch for your awards, as they will tell you when you have earned enough to get a special reward!

See you at the bookstore!