After a viral tweet caused a 2019 sci-fi book to jump to the number six spot on the Amazon bestseller list, everyone involved was shocked. Not only were the authors confused (yet grateful!), but the young artist, whose previous social-media presence was mostly retweeting anime fanart, was also stunned.
Here’s the tweet:
“A lot of this was spurred out of my passion for both good anime and good literature,” said the author of that fateful tweet—@maskofbun, aka “Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood”—in a direct message exchange with io9. They had finished This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, in the early hours of the morning after staying up very late, and they “just needed to talk about it to someone. I had previously made tweets to my followers about other non-Trigun media I liked and got moderate traction, like the afterword from Hibari No Asa, so I felt comfortable sharing more stuff.” (For those not in the know, Trigun is an anime/manga series featuring a character named Nicholas D. Wolfwood.) In fact, the tweet “didn’t even blow up the first day! It took like 2 days and suddenly my mentions were only about that tweet!”
When Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood—a young artist who asked to be referred to as “Bun” or “Mr. Bigolas” in order to preserve their anonymity—went viral because they tweeted about how much they loved a sci-fi book that I also desperately loved, I knew I had to talk to them. They were excited, extremely positive, and approached the whole thing with a sense of humor, clearly poking fun at the whole situation, despite their earnest, deep love for what they were talking about.
When asked what they loved about Time War, Bun said, “I think what I really liked about the book was not only the tenderness that Red and Blue had, but also the carnality and violence that came with loving each other. One of my favorite quotes was: ‘I want to be a body for you. I want to chase you, find you, I want to be eluded and teased and adored; I want to be defeated and victorious—I want you to cut me, sharpen me. I want to drink tea beside you in ten years or a thousand.’ Love in Time War is not always kind, but also torturous. Something that consumes both participants across multiple timelines.”
Bun continued. “I like when love is all-consuming like that. Holding you is not enough. I need to devour you … I find I enjoy these depictions of romance more than ones that are overly tender and flowery, especially in WLW relationships [an acronym for Women Loving Women relationships that can include lesbian and sapphic depictions of love]—where often both girls are reduced to soft, innocent creatures who can only hold hands. WLW relationships can be extremely intense, and I adore seeing it in fiction.”
As I attempted to explain to a few colleagues what exactly was happening on Twitter, and specifically in my DMs, one of them told me to stop and parse out literally every word for her. The incomprehensibilities of fandom, the sheer unhinged nature of what the fuck had happened on Twitter, was simply beyond immediate normal human comprehension. I hate to say it—who am I kidding, I love it here—but I’m a fandom weirdo, a science fiction nerd, and a part-time anime weeb. When I say “A fan of the manga and anime Trigun, using a name relating how big one of the main character’s fictional dick is, and who ships the slash pairing known in Trigun circles as ‘Vashwood’ (a portmanteau of Vash the Stampede and Nicholas Wolfwood, the latter of which inspired their user name), tweeted about This is How You Lose the Time War with such intensity that it went viral and helped push Time War to the top of Amazon’s best seller charts for fiction,” I realize how less online-damaged folks can only make sense of any three sequential words of that sentence at a time.
So why does this matter? The short story is this: a fan tweeted about a book and went viral, helping elevate the book to Amazon’s best-seller list. They were so earnest, so unhinged, so fantastically passionate that they inspired other people to buy the book. Then, more people began to tweet their love for This is How You Lose the Time War—which was critically acclaimed and had a great run when it was first published in 2019—and more people bought the book. Despite the heaps of data research out there that says Twitter doesn’t sell books… this time, it sold the fucking book.
“Fandom is powerful mostly because of collective enthusiasm,” Bun said. “It can be a very dangerous but also very fun thing, depending on how you use it. I think the energy that’s created when tons of likeminded people meet up is incredible!” The impact of Bun’s tweet is hard to understate. Other authors are making Trigun summoning circles in hopes of finding their own Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood.
Bun was “overjoyed that somehow tweeting about about anime characters putting their tongues in each other’s mouths actually amounted to something? I am just so, so happy I was able to give the well-deserved publicity to only Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, but also to Trigun Stampede.”
There’s also an aspect of this where Bun appealed directly to fandom and meme accounts. In order to emphasize how much Bun enjoyed this book, they tweeted: “*grabs you personally by the throat* you will do this. for me. you will go to the counter at barnes and noble. you will buy this. i will be greatly rewarded.”
It’s this kind of unhinged fandom talk—an overzealous overselling of the things that people love—that Twitter is built to respond to. Marketing can get as effusive as it wants, but it will not, cannot compare to the sheer feral reaction a fan will have toward something that they truly, deeply love. And word of mouth, as many authors will tell you, is everything. BookTok should be quaking.
When asked for other speculative media they enjoyed, Bun recommended Oshi no Ko. “The first episode was incredible, and I’m curious to see how it will play out!” They are also effusive about audio drama The Silt Verses. “It centers around a world where deities are exploited for capitalistic gain. For example, you want your fast food place to sell more chicken sandwiches? Make a sacrifice to the Utterer of A Thousand Clucks! Now your business has its own successful (and possibly violent) patron!”
Bun explained that “the story revolves around Carpenter, a disciple of the Trawler-man, who is considered an ‘illegal’ backwater god, and her journey with Faulkner, a devout believer who’s still green around the gills. This is a must, MUST listen for anyone who likes the genre of ‘New Weird’ that Time War belongs to.”
New Weird has been gaining popularity as a subgenre of speculative novels. It’s also called slipstream, and some of the most called-upon examples include Annihilation author Jeff VanderMeer’s work, Perdido Street Station by China Miéville, and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Time War checks a lot of New Weird’s boxes, while also leaning into Romance, a distinction that sets it apart from a lot of other books in the genre.
When it comes to Trigun, Bun was happy to share what they love about the manga, anime, and now, new show Trigun Stampede. “I love, firstly, that we have several medias—Badlands Rumble, Trigun Maxmimum, Trigun (1998), and Trigun Stampede—to constantly discuss and pick apart. The discussion on [Twitter] is always incredible, and I love how many interpretations people can take from a single scene or line. The manga especially is filled to the brim with details we keep missing. I just love talking about it with everyone, really, and I hope good media like this always gets more attention. The highlight is definitely constantly talking about how much I want to fold Vash in half like a lawn-chair, though. He’s just the best! I can’t get enough of him!”
When asked if there were any details that they wouldn’t mind sharing with the world, they said that they are “in the process of trying to become a [comics] artist… but I don’t think I’m fully ready to advertise myself just yet, but please, please stay tuned! One day I’m going to be the greatest artist in the world, just watch.” I didn’t press for more; Bun is 22 (according to their Twitter bio) and they’ve had a tweet go very very viral—attracting the attention of Simon & Schuster, Crunchyroll, and even Yoshihiro Watanabe, the producer of Trigun Stampede. They want people to “always remember that this world is made of Love and Peace!” (The main character of Trigun, Vash the Stampede, is a pacifist—sort of—who often says “love and peace.”)
Regardless of whether or not Bun/Mr. Bigolas is having a bit of fun at my expense (I don’t mind, Twitter is lawless, and this was a fun interview), it’s clear they care about Trigun a great, great deal. When asked about their favorite lines, they first said that there are “so many of them” and most of them are “very silly,” but their favorite quote is from Trigun Maximum, when Vash says: “Only the victims of violence can describe its essence. Only those who have suffered can spit out words of truth that will stop the fighting.”
Bun is desperate to have this manga reprinted, and hopes to use their newfound viral fame help make this happen. “It’s still relevant to this day,” Bun said. “[Trigun Maximum] deals with topics such as environmentalism, systematic violence, and the morality of pacifism in a world that rejects it. It’s an incredible manga that’s not just a battle seinen. Please give it a read! And thanks so much!”
You heard them.
This is How You Lose the Time War is, at the time of this article’s publication, at number six on Amazon’s bestsellers list, behind Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go and a 2023 Pulizer Prize winner, Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingslover.
The original manga, Trigun Maxmimum, is available from Dark Horse Comics; the original anime, Trigun (1998) is available on Hulu and Crunchyroll; Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2010) is available to stream on Hulu; and the new series, Trigun Stampede, is on Crunchyroll and Hulu.
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