The trilogy has become a tetralogy, the most badass collection of works in existence.
When I wrote Scattering Ashes nearly four years ago, I had anticipated it being my final fanfic. Yet four more times over the past few years I have succumbed to the urge to write more for the Jimmy Neutron fandom. Here are my thoughts on my most recent stories. I aimed for my most recent work to be my swan song, but with me? Who knows.
“I feel things are about to change for the better.”
Written from September 23, 2015 – October 10, 2015
This was my first fanfic which dealt with an alternate universe as opposed to a continuation of the original JN canon. Even though The Final Battle veered wildly away from the cartoon into a galactic war, it still took place after the movie and show. Yet Trading Lives imagined what the seventh episode of Jimmy Neutron would have been like if Jimmy and Cindy had worked together after swapping bodies instead of merely fighting.
This story started out closely following the beginning of the episode Trading Faces. The same dialogue from the initial scene in Ms. Fowl’s classroom was interspersed with some original lines, but it truly deviated once Nick asked “Cindy” why she hung up on him. In the show, Jimmy takes this as another opportunity to torture his rival. In my version, Jimmy realizes that ruining Cindy’s crush is a step too far and gives Nick a benign answer. This leads to Jimmy and Cindy calling a truce while they inhabit each other’s bodies. This ceasefire gradually morphs into a mutual respect before culminating in true friendship.
I really, really enjoyed writing this story. As I’ve noted before, I’m a huge fan of emotional connections over purely physical ones. Jimmy and Cindy don’t kiss or even hold hands in this story, but they discuss their darkest secrets/thoughts and truly connect with each other. While I have come to agree with several reviewers that Jimmy and Cindy seemed too mature, I still love the emotion behind their intimate conversations. Jimmy helps Cindy realize that her mother is proud of her, and Cindy assures Jimmy that he’s not a selfish or bad person. (This story espoused the backstory in our Jimmy Neutron scripts that Jimmy was initially quite egotistial and narcissistic prior to befriending Sheen and Carl.) While I’d delved into the kids’ psyches before with stories such as Run and Hide and Last Call, I think this fic is my deepest look at who Jimmy and Cindy really are and what drives them.
This story would constantly swing back to Jimmy and Cindy’s prison discussion on Yolkus; I still feel that this is the most emotional and precious moment they ever shared. While I’ve expressed this many times on my blog, I’m glad that I finally was able to climb aboard my soapbox and shout that point at my fanfic audience. I made my argument via Jimmy’s journal entry, which was the easiest part of the story to write. Those twelve paragraphs just flowed onto the page.
I know some readers thought the ending of this fic was underwhelming, and I agree that it was probably the most subtle finale I’ve ever penned. It’s basically just Jimmy and Cindy agreeing to see each other tomorrow. But there are a couple very tiny things in that final section which seemed huge to me but may not have been clear to the readers.
First, that ending section was the only time in the book that Jimmy and Cindy used each other’s first names. Second, when Cindy says that she’ll see James tomorrow, tomorrow is a Saturday. That means she’s not saying she’ll see him at school; it’s an offer to hang out with him on the weekend. That’s why Jimmy smiles.
I can definitely respect if readers think the ending still needed more, and I absolutely could have done more to make the latter point clearer. But for me personally, this is one of my favorite endings from my fanfics.
Final Verdict: James and Cindy should have had less mature conversations, and I can understand why some readers didn’t love the ending. But I still really love this fic and think most J/C fans would enjoy it.
“Because if you saw what I’ve seen, you could never look at me the same way again.”
Written on August 25, 2016
When Cindy asks Jimmy if he thinks there are parallel universes, he finds the answer. Seeing so many different worlds, ranging from the ridiculous to the horrifying, shatters him. Or, in one alternate reality, it doesn’t.
This story means a lot to me because it was many years in the making. Back in my original fanfic days (2005 – 2006) I had an idea for a “Matrix” inspired story. I figured that Jimmy would realize all of reality was a lie and I would somehow tie several of my previous stories into it. The idea was never fully realized, but I started thinking about it again in the summer of 2016.
At that point I had the urge to write another piece of fanfiction, and I really wanted it to be my final one (as I always say). I thought the perfect way to end my career would be tying many of my previous stories together. Since they could not occupy the same universe, the only option was to reference many ultimate universes. Hence came this idea.
Once I realized that I wanted Jimmy to explore parallel realities, the rest of the story’s outline came together rather easily. It was a natural path for Jimmy and Cindy to explore; as Cindy said, Jimmy had moved forward and back along the timeline. So why not try sideways? Since so many of mine and the fandom’s stories were depressing, the idea of this adventure breaking James’ spirit came easily. As for the second chapter, where Jimmy doesn’t explore the parallel universe theory and therefore doesn’t lose his mind? Well, I’d had a well-deserved reputation for being overly violent/pessimistic early on in my career. So I didn’t want my finale to end on such a heartbreaking note. So in one universe James is broken, but in the other he and Cindy take another step forward in their relationship instead.
I decided to include other author’s stories in addition to my own for one simple and frank reason; I didn’t have enough well-written stories to pad out the number of alternate universes I needed. So I tied in stories from five other authors as well. I decided to rewrite excerpts from these stories ; it didn’t seem write to just copy and paste. Rewriting sections of other authors’ amazing stories was probably my favorite part of this fic. My favorite scenes were Cindy standing over James’ grave in Catalyst and expanding on Dictator Jimmy wiping out Earth in The Other Side of Tomorrow. I loved how both stories provided glimpses into how dangerous James’ intellect could become if he lost his humanity.
You all should know that this story was initially even more confusing than it already is. In its current form, there are three mixed sections of the first chapter. The regularly typed section is the present-day story. The italicized segments show flashbacks to why Jimmy was exploring the alternate universes. The bolded portions are different alternate universes. They’re all interspersed, so it’s essentially impossible to know exactly what’s going on until you’re at least a quarter of the way through the story. Originally, however, I had planned on putting the italicized flashbacks out of order. I thought this fit with the chaotic nature of the piece, but I ultimately decided that was unnecessary and would make the story a confusing mess.
One last bit of trivia is that this is one of the few stories since Stealing my Heart where Ike Burke doesn’t make an appearance. (The others are Run and Hide and Fireflies.) I thought of shoving him in but there was no natural opening for the baritone-voiced chain smoker, so I reluctantly shelved him.
Final Verdict: This is one of my favorite fics, definitely in the top three. I hope people enjoy it and check out the other authors’ stories that helped it come into being.
“To Jimmy Neutron, time was merely a flimsy ball of yarn cobbled together by an old spinster. And he was about to untangle it.”
Written from October 6, 2017 – December 15, 2017
On the last day of school before Christmas Vacation, Cindy kisses Jimmy. Using his Temporal Dethreader, he watches the day in reverse, tracking good deed after good deed to see what sparked the kiss.
I started brainstorming this fic by trying to think of a Christmas-themed tale. The idea of Cindy kissing Jimmy under the mistletoe came quickly. This was followed by the idea of each member of the JN gang helping another, causing a chain of events which led to the kiss. I figured since we would be traveling backwards in time as the story went on, there should be some sort of chaos in the school whose genesis was slowly revealed. Thus developed the idea of Sheen and Ike breaking a pipe, leading to a flood, which combined with Carl adjusting the school’s heat led to a new biodome in the basement.
I really enjoyed having each chapter focus on two characters (with the exception of Libby’s chapter “Two Pillars” and the Epilogue). This enabled me to really focus on certain relationships within the JN gang. Carl and Cindy’s chapter in particular was fun to write because those two rarely even spoke directly in the cartoon.
It was a blast to through in a ton of random, hilarious details about Retroville Middle School. An overly philosophic eight grader, a band of LARPers obsessed with the 1930s, a secrete saloon in the woodshop, an alcoholic teacher captivated by Juggalo music; there’s just something satisfying about a school that stretches the limits of reality. And of course, I loved throwing in the sentient rats from Farley Drexel’s Make a Move. (If you haven’t read that fic yet, give it a shot. It’s unfinished, but still a comedic powerhouse.)
Nerf guns were initially mentioned briefly in chapter two, as Carl and Ike finished a “Stealing My Heart” type adventure. I’ve always had a passion for these foam weapons, and their role in the story kept multiplying. I couldn’t stop myself from having a little action scene with them in Libby’s chapter. Sheen’s chapter was originally just a simple conversation with Ike on the roof, so I knew I needed something to spice that dialogue up. Having the two fool around at a homemade Nerf firing range seemed to do the trick. I toyed with having an epilogue where the school devolved into a Nerf war or showing a pure action flashback to Carl and Ike’s raid on the principal’s office, but I felt that Nerf thing was getting out of control and pulling the story away from its emotional core.
Some readers very fairly thought chapters six and seven strayed too far from the JN gang. These chapters focus on Ike and Ms. Wolf; the big five characters barely make an appearance. This was another example of me purely writing for myself. Yet I really enjoyed delving deeper into Ike’s psyche. After him being present in eight other stories, it felt time to give him some more backstory than Stealing My Heart offered. As for Ms. Wolf, she’d made appearances in three other stories (Stealing my Heart, The Lost Chapters, and A Trip to Loch Ness) and it also felt right to give her some more depth. And also kill some dinosaurs.
I originally planned on ending this story with Ms. Wolf’s chapter. I had wanted to finish on a hopeful note; all of these had not only helped each other but inspired an alcoholic teacher to become better. Yet after agreeing the criticism of the story losing its focus on the JN gang, I realized it was best to move the focus back on them. So I quickly came up with the idea of an epilogue where Jimmy and Libby discuss his new relationship with Cindy, as well as having Ms. Wolf clarify how the school had gotten destroyed.
Final Verdict: Even though this story strayed too far from the show’s main characters, I still love it. I think it’s a funny and heartwarming fic that most fans of the show will enjoy, as long as they’re willing to fully embrace an absurd middle school and a couple original characters.
“Every kid she’d betrayed, every friend she’d let die, every tear she’d shed and bit of her soul that she’d let chip away was for this. It was to survive the next fifteen minutes and make all her suffering mean something.”
Written from September 9, 2018 – September 22, 2018
After fifth grade graduation, Principal Willoughby announces a school-wide Nerf War. Only the victor will get the spoils – no summer reading. Alliances are formed and broken as the school devolves into chaos in a desperate bid for The Prize.
I know I say this a lot, but I loved writing this story. I’ve always loved action and humor, and this story was the first time I truly combined the two since Stealing My Heart. I got major Pushing Through vibes when writing these action scenes; it was indescribably amazing and cathartic to write the JN gang in gunfights once more. As a pleasant plus, this time there was no risk of death or serious injury.
This story also quenched the Nerf thirst that The Old Spinster had sparked. All of the Nerf guns are actual weapons; I always had the Nerf wikia always open on a separate tab while writing this story. I think I may have messed up on the details of one blaster, but overall this story is basically a huge advertisement for these toys.
This story was heavily inspired by the series of paintball episodes from Community, and there’s a little joke in the first chapter about Dean Pelton and Principal Willoughby being the same character (obviously a reference to this post from my blog). I was initially worried about this story being too similar to those episodes of Community, but I think I was able to make them different enough (only the idea of a school-wide war for a fabled “The Prize” was borrowed).
The other major source of inspiration was the band “Lord Huron.” I’ve fallen in love with their music over the past year. Their song “Wait by the River” was especially influential, as it helped me come up with the idea of the peaceful basement settlement and the Angie/Cindy scene in chapter three.
The Old Spinster definitely provided some inspiration for this story in two ways. The first is obviously the Nerf guns. I had wanted to show Carl and Ike fighting Principal Kowalsky’s student guards to adjust the thermostat in The Old Spinster. While I decided against that move, I was obviously able to show a lot of battle scenes in The Prize. The second idea that spiraled from The Old Spinster was creating a school that pushed past the boundaries of reality. Showing The River and The Graveyard in chapter three was a great writing exercise for me; I rarely stop trying to strive for realism in my stories.
Aside from Run and Hide and Fireflies, this is one of my few stories that place Cindy as the lead character. It was a great treat and writing exercise to tell this story from Cindy’s point of view. I loved showing her as Jimmy’s protector. I think the major weakness in this story is not giving Jimmy enough to do; surely he could have used his brainpower some more in these fights. Yet even though I could have handled his character better in the battles, I do like the idea of him just being over his head and relying on Cindy to lead and protect him.
Despite the fact that I’d previously written stories where the gang gets into actual gunfights during an interplanetary war, it was this story that made me feel physically ill about what I was putting the characters through. When I was writing chapters three and four, I got nauseous thinking about how tired and defeated Cindy was. She was cold, hungry, had a concussion, and was forced to just keep pushing onwards through chaotic scene after chaotic scene. I really felt for Cindy during this story and it was a blast to write for her.
Aside from not giving Jimmy enough to do, I think the other major weakness in this story is that it could have been slightly longer. I wish there was a major battle between two opposing groups of students. Chapter one only had a taste of action. Chapter two had a decent battle scene, but it was over fairly quickly and was only four students against five. I love the Graveyard scene; it might be the most terrifying horror scene I’ve written despite the lack of actual danger. And while there were some quick fights when the gang routed The River settlement, they were on a small scale. The melee in chapter four was large and chaotic, but it wasn’t a protracted large battle. It was just pure chaos. I wish I had written just one large gunfight between two armies.
But my favorite action moment of this story, and indeed it rivals the taking of The Justice in Pushing Through, is Cindy’s final charge in chapter four. I listened to 3:37 – 4:06 of Gravemind from the Halo 3 original soundtrack on a loop while writing it. That 650 word scene is just glorious to me. Out of all my stories, I finally let Cindy shine as the utter badass she truly is. Inspired by a moment in Tellale’s The Walking Dead season one finale where Lee crosses a herd of walkers, I just had Cindy tear her way through every obstacle in her path with sheer determination and skill. I love that out of approximately sixty people in the gymnasium, Cindy took out nine herself in that scene. (Seven on the gymnasium floor, Tom, and the kid grappling with Jimmy.)
And lastly, just as with the Community paintball episodes, there had to be an emotional component to this story. As Dan Harmon said, it would otherwise just be people shooting at each other. This story takes place in the same universe as Last Call. Just before the shooting started, Jimmy had confessed to Cindy that he was glad to be her friend and begged her that that would stay the same. So throughout the night, she did all she could to protect Jimmy. At the end of the night, Jimmy knows how much she’s struggled to keep him safe and is more than willing to let her keep The Prize. And after she accidentally admits she loves him, he’s willing to take the plunge and admit it right back.
I originally planned on ending chapter five after the kids part ways outside The Candy Bar. But I felt there should be a little more to the story, so I added the three “mid-credits” scenes. It was fun to play around with the end of this story like it was a movie. While the first two scenes amused me (especially Ms. Wolf hating people saying “Knock, knock,” without actually knocking), I most enjoyed showing the kids relaxing at Brittany’s pool party. Just something about Betty and Cindy having a calm conversation while watching their friends relax seemed the perfect way to end this piece.
Final Verdict: It could have been slightly longer, but this was one of the funnest stories for me to write. It’s one of my favorites and I hope everyone enjoys it.