Here’s another Neko Machi Days story, with an illustration by Sue-chan. This one is based on the two times I visited my sister Rachel and her husband Chuck when they lived in Albuquerque, NM, and Violet and Will are pretty close to what they’re like in real life. The big difference is that where Rachel is younger than me, I made Violet a bit older than Kitty, basically so that it made more sense for Kitty to be just out of high school while Violet is married and out of their parents’ house. Violet made one very brief appearance in the old Neko Machi, so it was kinda fun to bring her back finally.
Spewing impressions of my visits to ABQ was pretty easy, but it took me quite a while to find this story’s soul. Where Neko Machi has been about something, it’s been about growing up, so at its very core this story became about Kitty reaching a milestone of adulthood. I had originally planned to set it after the events of the major story arc of Neko Machi’s new incarnation (the stuff we’re currently building up to), but instead I put it before, during the summer between Kitty and company graduating from high school and starting at NMCC. (Which means it happens a few months after the Golden Panda story by the way.)
From here I’m planning to start on a series of stories that adapt and embellish the events in the comic so far. A lot of the comic has been gag strips that don’t really make a story per se, so each one should be pretty fresh even if you’re already really familiar with the comic.
The other day I went to San Jose City College with a camera. In Neko Machi the characters are attending Neko Machi City College, and when I type the names so close together it’s not hard to see that NMCC is basically SJCC with more nekomimi around. It was incredible how much the campus had changed since I last attended (though I had my B.A., M.A., and a couple years of regular work between now and back then), and I think literally about 2/3 of the buildings had been replaced. As a result there are lots of shiny new buildings with less janky facilities, and coming back after so many years it seems like things have been rearranged totally at random. What used to be the student union is now the cosmetology building, and the new Student Center is this huge, silvery building on the opposite side of campus. A lot of the buildings that have survived have been repurposed too, though the old GE buildings are still the GE buildings. I may have to make time to go back on a weekday though, since most everything is locked up on weekends.
I got plenty of pictures, and I’m hoping that whenever piggy is able to start drawing Neko Machi again they’ll help her get a better feel for the NMCC campus. What I did not expect from my trip was inspiration, but it has me wanting to work more on the Neko Machi prose stories I’d been failing to write. People sometimes say that in a given movie the city is like another character, which is just the kind of thing that teeters between deeply insightful and rather silly. Writing slice of life stuff is not easy at all, and the one piece of Neko Machi prose I finished satisfactorily is the prose version of the next chapter. It’s set in downtown San Jose/Neko Machi, to the point where I could draw a map of where the characters go during the story, and I took plenty of pictures there too. There are a couple of pivotal elements to the plot of said story that I wouldn’t have thought of without referring to things that exist in real life. Walking around SJCC made me want to tell stories there. Where I saw a staircase or a hallway I found myself wanting Kitty and Sylvia to have conversations there. When I saw vending machines I wanted Kitty and Tom to bump into each other there.
Right now I’m working on the short story I started on some time ago about Kitty visiting her older sister Violet in Albuquerque. My sister Rachel lived there for a few years, and I found it to be a really amazing city with its own very distinct personality. New Mexico has its own distinct cuisine, derived from Mexican food but a bit different, especially for its use of red and green chiles that are hard to grow elsewhere and don’t keep well. The sky is an endless blue, and there are a million little things that are wholly unlike San Jose. The travelogue part of the story has been easy to write, but it’s taken me a good deal longer to figure out what the actual story is. It takes place in between the old and new incarnations of Neko Machi, after Kitty graduated from high school and before she started at NMCC, so the story is becoming sort of a meditation on growing up.
In college I minored in creative writing, and in doing so I took two semesters of poetry writing. I wouldn’t call myself a great poet by any means, but given enough time I can at least write in meter and rhyme. I don’t often feel moved to write poems, but every now and then it’s like I see a poem happen in front of me and I have to try to write it down. There are moments of heightened awareness, moments when you see what’s right there in front of you instead of staring into the brain’s endless shadow play of past and future and maybe. I think a writer–or any kind of creative person–needs to see those moments in order to better capture the human experience, and I think that’s where Neko Machi really needs to outgrow 4-koma gag strips.
At this point I really have no idea when Piggy will be able to spare enough time to properly work on Neko Machi. It’s not for lack of desire to do so, but she’s been swamped with some pretty amazing projects (like Triage) that are keeping her busy and giving her something closer to the pay she deserves. In the meantime I’m going to try to write and post a series of prose stories, the “Neko Machi Days” thing I’d always meant to do (though I need to be less distracted/consumed by my other writing project), which’ll help me keep up with writing about catgirls, and give you guys some new content to enjoy.
Neko Machi’s hiatus has gone on a bit longer than I’d like, but as much as I love doing this comic there are other things that will always have to take precedence. I’m really looking forward to what we have planned for the future of Neko Machi, but life has just been crazy for me and especially for Piggy, so I just can’t set a date. In the meantime, aside from reassuring you that we’re not dead, I wanted to tell our readers about what we’ve been up to (aside from stuff like writing a list of 700 Catgirl Names and starting a Daily Catgirl Tumblr). I’ve also been writing for Neko Machi of course, and writing with this new approach has actually been a lot of fun.
Golden Sky Stories
Back in 2008 I published a translated Japanese tabletop RPG called Maid: The Role-Playing Game, which was an amazing (if exhausting) experience. Now I and my longtime friend Mike Stevens are publishing another game called Golden Sky Stories by the same brilliant designer. Where Maid RPG is comedic insanity and a brutal satire of the whole maid thing that was sweeping Japanese geekdom at the time, GSS is a wonderfully heartwarming, unique game with more of a My Neighbor Totoro kind of vibe. In it you play henge, animals with just a bit of magical power, including the ability to temporarily take human form (though it’s easier for them to leave their ears and tail showing). We’ll be doing a Kickstarter fundraising drive to raise money for the first print run soon. And yes, you can play a cat. :3
We’re All Star Children
Piggy has a few different OCs of various kinds, but the one that always seems to stand out (enough that I got her a custom plushie as a gift a while back) is Rose Marie, the sullen little demon girl. Star Children is the story of Rose Marie that she’s been wanting to do for ages. Other projects have been keeping her from updating it as much as she’d like, but it looks like a really amazing, ambitious project.
With a W For No Good Reason
The new and improved Neko Machi is going to be a little more story-oriented and less of an outlet for putting stuff from my everyday life into comic form, and on a whim I decided to start doing this scribbly, spontaneous little comic (Tasha’s Comic was a key inspiration). I pretty much just do it whenever I feel like it, which is why I was doing it 7 days a week for a bit and have kind of… stopped for now. If for some reason you’d like a window into my real life, do feel free to check it out.
- A while back I hit on the idea of making a tabletop-style RPG contained in a smartphone app, which won the Brain Full of Games contest. I decided to revive my 4-koma manga inspired slice of life schoolgirl RPG, Raspberry Heaven, as the first RPG app I want to do.
- Another project that’s been dragging on too long is Nekomimi Land, a novella about a guy who gets turned into a catgirl and taken to a dystopian fairyland of catgirls. I was always worried about finding a publisher for it, but with recent advances in self-publishing I’ve decided to finish it and self-publish.
- I’ve been working on an RPG for 90s comedy anime fantasy style shenanigans a la Slayers and Dragon Half, called Dragon World. You’ll need Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World to play it, but I’ve been having a lot of fun playing it with my friends so far.