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Sixty Years of Japanese Pacifism:
The Transformers' Binaltech

Geek level +3, scholar level +1.

In the summer of 2005, I wrote a review of the Binaltech Overdrive here at the Archive and started it with an offhand, throwaway phrase: “these are sixty years of Japanese pacifism.” I liked that phrase, so I would use it whenever I would show off my fancy new toy to the people I visit to pass time between classes.  As it so happens, one of my professors snapped her fingers and told me to run with it and develop it into an actual, documented research paper, since our school’s humanities department was apparently pacing behind the industrial and business departments in terms of extra-curricular student activities.

Being the nerd that I am, I fell for it and did a research paper for fun. And it was fun! I checked out a couple of books on Japanese history from the library, ordered a Transformers book (Alvarez’s unofficial guide) to have a print source to document for the toy histories, and started writing. I was also wary of how far it might actually go, and made sure it was proofed by my English, history and sociology professors to make sure from as many angles as possible that I wasn’t full of shit, which is of course my eternal self-critique.

The basic idea of the paper is that Binaltechs are the perfect synergy of Japanese warrior ethic and modern consumerism since they can literally change from warriors into commercial products to conquer the West. The whole thing is worded pretty carefully to convey that point to both a general audience and ornery Transformers fans who would want to argue every example for the sake of being contrary. :-P

When I was finished, it turned out to be good enough to publish in the University’s undergraduate bulletin. Moreover, it also got accepted to the 27th International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts to be presented orally in the spring. And it was presented, I might add.

For me, the whole debacle was a bit surreal. I had a less-than-stellar career in high school, especially in English, due to being bored with whole process, not to mention that in the years between high school and the university my social anxiety degenerated into phobic proportions.

[flyer]

This coup has been quite redeeming, both academically (relative to high school: I’ve done exceedingly well since I’ve reentered the education system in college) and for my own confidence. Not only have I overcome my overwhelmingly introverted nature, but I’ve also leaped and bounded academically to the point that I have a published article I can now staple to the forehead of the troll that I had for Junior English back in high school.

Thanks within the fandom go to Torsten (Nevermore) and Denyer for helping proof and critique the paper at various phases. Amazingly enough, in the Transformers’ fandom I’ve managed to stay tight-lipped about the whole debacle since its inception. A small part of the reason for this was to not jinx anything, but mostly I just wanted to have everything come to fruition and run its course so that, by the time I was ready to present it, it would be a done deal.

So! A running total of all the cool stuff that I did by fusing a hobby with a skill:

1) Wrote a unique and well-thought-out research paper for fun.

2) Published said paper while still an undergraduate.

3) Had said paper accepted to an international academic conference.

4) Said academic conference only had special reserves for graduate students; my paper had to compete against PhDs.

5) Got $500 from my university to travel to the conference in Ft. Lauderdale during spring break.

6) Lectured PhDs about Transformers.

7) Made my Transformer collecting academic.

8) And, of course, I managed to wedge Waspinator and Inferno into a scholarly journal.

Anyway, scans of the conference schedule, my English department’s newsletter, and a PDF of the article itself are to the right. 

If anything, it really strengthens my ethos not just as an English tutor at school, but also a toy reviewer.  Enjoy!

—Clay

 
 
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