TWTW – AndromedaHawking

A depiction of Drom

AndromedaHawking – or known as Andromeda, or Drom for short – is the VA for two important – but currently rarely appearing characters to the Project Absentia/Daytime Drama mythos. She voices the mysterious known as B’hordou, and voices Sanya’s main rival and antagonist – Dominika Dorogayova, who is going to be an antagonist in what will become Daytime Drama 2. Both these characters will be more important and appear as the mythos expands. Andromeda also helps with shaping these characters, showing her understanding of what makes them tick.

I sat down with Andromeda and asked her about her time at Waffle Iron Studios.

Sanya: How did you come into contact with me and Waffle Iron Studios?

Drom: I remember we first got to know each other back in mid-2018 through Eri’s little hangout server on Discord. The three of us got together fairly regularly to chill out and watch Steven Universe on Rabbit, with plenty of cursed memes to go along with it. We talked on and off about the work going on at Waffle Iron Studios, but I didn’t properly join the team as a VA until last February.

Sanya: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Drom: I’m a college-age lass based in northern California. I’m a very creativity-oriented person, from writing to acting to composing, and I have a killer memory for historical trivia and movie quotes. I’m a very big fan of puzzles, connect-the-dots, DIY furniture, and I do all my handwriting in pen. Even math problems. Especially math problems.

Sanya: Where’d you come with the name “AndromedaHawking”?

Drom: That’s actually something I don’t think I’ve ever shared the backstory on with anyone. It dates back to 2016: I took my first stab at writing an original story that summer, a cyberpunk drama set in 2084 where androids are fighting for civil rights (which sounded much more original before Detroit: Become Human came on the scene). The top producers of androids in this story, a company called Hawking/Turing, kickstart the plot when they unveil the first androids designed to be sentient, named Perseus and Andromeda Hawking. When I figured out my gender identity in 2017, I thought “Andromeda Hawking” would be a great screen name to start the transition with. Four years later, it’s serving me well.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies or interests?

Drom: Oh yes. I’ve gone through several phases over the years, so I’ve got no shortage of niche trinkets and activities. At the moment, I’d say most of my free time is spent doing worldbuilding for my writing, or making election maps. I also compose music from time to time, mostly experimenting with different styles and sounds.

Sanya: I’ve been asking everyone this – but how’s lockdown treating you?

Drom: Lockdown has been exhausting. I’m grateful the worst passed me by, and I don’t regret committing to it, but it is absolutely a warning sign when you begin to get nostalgic about eating by yourself in a crowded school cafeteria. I’m fully vaccinated now, thankfully, so I’m eager to start being around other people again without being worried about anyone catching the ‘rona.

Sanya: What’s your process/equipment for recording?

Drom: I use a Blue Yeti mic and record my lines on Logic Pro. Usually I record in my room, but since I live on a busy intersection my best hours for uninterrupted recording are usually limited to late at night. I read through the lines a couple times to warm up and get into character, so by the time I feel ready to record I can go through the lines in one or two takes. Sometimes I add an EQ to make my voice sound a bit more feminine, but usually I just pass along the unedited WAV to Metal Neon for mixing. I finally found out about Audacity’s awesome room tone filter, so going forward I know how to trim that out.

Old design for B'hordou, rendered by SanyaWaffles
B’hordou in their prototype state – a Steven Universe OC called Bordeaux Pearl
B'hordou concept sketch
Concept art clip for B’hordou as they’re going to appear in Project Absentia

Sanya: So, B’hordou is an important character in the lore despite how she hasn’t shown up much – at least not in name. What’s it like voicing a mysterious figure beyond the depths?

Drom: It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always loved characters who you know very little about at the beginning, but over time you learn just how central to the story they are. Voicing B’hordou and getting to play the shadowy figure is a blast, even though there isn’t much of them early on. It’s so damn exciting to be able to hint at a greater mystery with only a few lines.

Sanya: You shaped a ton of B’hordou lore and character details. Like you going for an androgynous Irish accent based on my request, you came up with some in jokes, like them not being able to say Cool Whip or, when they were a SU fancharacter, White Diamond.

Drom: That’s very flattering of you to say. Fleshing out the details on who/what B’hordou is and coming up with memorable quirks like that is one of my favourite parts of character creation. Many of them were spur-of-the-moment ideas or quick jokes, so it makes me happy to see those get incorporated into the character.

Sanya: B’hordou is the oldest original character in the mythos who isn’t Sanya, yet they rarely appear – in Scoot Hard DX they don’t even appear in the main levels, but rather a secret level. We’re going to change that. With that in mind – what would you like to personally see from B’hordou as Project Absentia and the Daytime Drama mythos grows?

Drom: Personally, I’d like to see their effect on the story start to become more apparent. Starting out, you can go light on detail and generate the aura of power and mystery without needing much to back it up, but as the story builds and the lore starts coming together, it’s important to steadily add more information on who they are and what they do. There’s a lot of ways to do that well, and depending on where they make their full entrance, you can continue having limited cameos and have their influence revealed through other characters until it’s time to take the stage.

Dominika Dorogayova render by SanyaWaffles
Dominika Dorogayova, drawn by SanyaWaffles
Dominika drawn by RodScorpion
Dominika Dorogayova, drawn by RodScorpion as part of an art trade

Sanya: So, Dominika Dorogayova… is probably a character that I think you can get into character ever a lot more. She’s kind of like if the Joker had hot hate sex with Vegeta from Dragonball Z, and they had a child, and that child grew up and at puberty fell into a vat of liquefied Spironolactone and somehow got superpowers because of that. She is the embodiment of androgyny and furious anger. What do you think of her?

Drom: Dominika is a very special kind of person. I know that if I ever actually interacted with her, I’d loathe every second of it, but as a character in the story, she’s just so much fun to work with. I think part of that is because compared to most of the antagonists, she’s aggressively out of sync. Instead of leaning into the more suave, galaxy-brain attitude that world domination plans tend to come with, she’s just… ass-blastingly crude and straightforward. She’s not concerned about her image, she’s just here to get what she wants and break as much shit as possible on the way. Seriously. The only reason she’s still not banned at Wendy’s is because she buys so much of their food that it pays for all the property damage and emotional trauma she causes.

Dominika avatar with her pride flags in the background
Dominika avatar with the Intersex and NB flags in the background.

Sanya: How does it feel to voice characters who are canonically non-binary (and one of them being intersex)?

Drom: I really enjoy it! I’m still in the very early stages of my transition, and voicing non-binary/intersex characters means I can use my natural voice without the discomfort of “playing a guy” and also get a chance to work on sounding more feminine. I also really love that there’s so many characters that identify with so many different parts of the LGBTQ+ community. Having nearly everyone as representation means it’s not even necessary to make a big to-do about how ~woke~ it is because there’s a trans person or something—it’s so normal there’s no need to point it out! Getting to be part of that is an awesome feeling.

Sanya: I think my favorite thing about Dominika is the in-jokes we come up with. One you recently did was “They told me Pride Month was a time to celebrate my identity, so I told the Wendy’s cashier I’ve committed thirty war crimes in twenty-two states and still haven’t been brought to justice”. That is peak Dominika. Her gender is literally being a war criminal and a mad bomber.

Drom: Vegans hate her. Cis men fear her. Wendy’s workers… tolerate her…

Sanya: Dominika, like every other character, is some flavor of queer. However, these characters are of various moral gray areas. I’ve seen the argument that LGBTQ+ villains and shady morality is bad for representation. I disagree, as them being bad in most cases has nothing to do with them being LGBTQ+. What do you think of this?

Drom: I’m with you on that. I think it’s important to have LGBTQ+ characters appear in any role, heroic or villainous. It’s demeaning to imply that sexuality or gender are in any way related to morality. Letting both good guys and bad guys be LGBTQ+ means we don’t have to argue about that anymore.

Sanya: On the subject of problematic content – it is often a point of controversy, even if it’s portrayed as something that’s not meant to be emulated. An example of this is the fact in Duke Nukem 3D, the main character – Duke Nukem – can kill unarmed, often sexually provocative, female NPCs in an over the top fashion – but the game doesn’t reward you, it punishes you by spawning more enemies, and sometimes making Duke cringe and go “damn it!”. I personally think it’s stupid to police such things and it harms the creative process. There’s aspects of Dominika that are definitely NOT meant to be emulated, like her tendency to just blow shit up or drop-kick people she doesn’t like. What do you think?

Drom: Problematic content has the same problem as satire: if it’s not written in big bold letters at the top that you made to illustrate why it’s wrong or bad, someone will inevitably miss the subtext and think you’re supporting it. Sometimes creators send the wrong message with their work, but content is a two-way street; it’s not the creator’s fault if you think it’s wrong to portray something no matter what. The world is messy and no two people interact with it the same way. Shit, I’ve written stuff that made me, the person writing it, wildly uncomfortable, because that was the intended reaction. Sometimes I write really dark and ugly scenes to cope with stuff. If you’ve done your part and made your message as clear as you can, you should not be held responsible if someone repeatedly fails pick up on that.

Dominika, Sasha and Sanya in their Aysburg soldier getups
Dominika, Sasha and Sanya in their Aysburg Soldier uniforms. The Aysburgs are based on a Saiyans if you couldn’t tell.

Sanya: One thing I like about Dominika is her ability to swear in Russian. We chose Russian because it’s a language you know a little bit and fits her Eastern European Soviet aesthetic.

Drom: Yep. It may not be super original, but it’s something that adds some personality. Plus, considering her constant, unbridled rage, it only makes sense that she’d look beyond English for ways to tell someone “Go fuck yourself.”

Sanya: What’s your favorite Russian expletive?

Drom: Подонок—“Podonok”, roughly translates to “bastard” in the sense of “you scum”

Sketch of Dominika by Rodscorpion
Sketch of Dominika by RodScorpion. Probably after a vegan harassed her. Or seeing Amogus.

Sanya: Waffle Iron Studios has a tendency to have a ton of in-jokes. What’s your favorite in-joke?

Drom: *(posts pic of white rectangle on red circle)* “get outta my head”

Sanya: So, you’re one of the few friends I know who follows political trends and can somehow not go insane and is fascinated with mapping – be it based on real politics or your own worldbuilding. Without getting into partisan politics, explain to us your fascination with such a thing.

Drom: Making political maps is my emotional support hobby. It’s a great way to take something as complex and divisive as political issues and try to understand how someone’s circumstances influence their beliefs. Plus, you can compare the present with the past and see how things changed, and make predictions about where the future might go. Understanding the background of who supports what, and why, makes it easier to talk about the issues beyond “I’m right and they’re wrong.”

Sanya: Want to share anything specifically you’re working on?

Drom: I’m hoping to get enough material together in the next few months to start a YouTube channel. There are a few people who make great historical map animations (Ollie Bye, Emperortigerstar) and I’d like to try applying that to elections and referenda. The goal would be to find a way to present those maps without the comments section going nuclear on itself.

Sanya: What’s it like being the only Mac user on the team? (not counting Tom, he mains a Linux laptop)

Drom: It’s a little bit of a pain, but since I’m not involved with playtesting or coding it doesn’t affect my ability to do my voice work. It is possible to set up GZDoom and play the beta builds for myself, but boomer shooters aren’t really my kind of game, so I prefer watching others stream it on the dev server. Plus, generally speaking, trying to get primarily PC-based things to work on a Mac can be very tedious, but that’s a limitation that is not specific to WIS stuff.

Sanya: The Motherload of In The Keep described us as “very Egalitarian”. For those reading this, this means “everyone is on equal footing”. I agree with him on that, as I strive to make sure everyone at WIS is on equal footing. What do you think of that goal?

Drom: I’m very much a fan of it. Working on a project with multiple people is always going to have moments of contention, but it’s much easier to work together when everyone feels like they’re treated with equal respect. It’s not easy to sustain that beyond a certain number of people, but I believe that making the effort to keep the team on equal footing goes a long way towards helping everyone collaborate.

Sanya: Mental health is important to take care of. Many people here, myself included, have been on a road to recovery so to speak. Do you have anything on the subject of mental health you want to share or talk about?

Drom: I’ve recently gotten back on the road to recovery after a pretty miserable 2020, and I’ve been kind of shocked to realise how deeply being that sick can affect you. I knew I was clearly in a bad place, but I didn’t notice how much of that was actually because I was reinforcing those feelings. It’s a hard lesson to teach someone, unfortunately, because there’s no way to convey the change in perspective they need with words. Still, it’s worth trying, so I’ll say it the way I think I might have understood best: You might be stuck in a downward spiral because you’re actually so depressed you’re reinforcing it at every opportunity. Try to catch yourself when you get upset over small things. Recognise that being that upset is actually more of a problem than the actual issue. Learn to notice that behaviour, and consciously choose to defy it, as much as you’re able. Train yourself to stop beating yourself up over the tiniest inconveniences, and over time you’ll realise how much energy you were spending holding yourself back. You deserve better from you.

Sanya: I know we’ve had our rough spots over the years, but you’ve grown a great deal. I’m glad to know you, and I’m glad you can be not just a part of the team, but a cool friend. Thanks for being cool, Andromeda.

Drom: Thank you for being cool too, Sanya. It’s been a pleasure working with you on this and I’m proud of how far we’ve gotten together.

Sanya: Anything else you want to add?

Drom: Wendy’s should still exist in a socialist utopia. Debate me.

We’ll see more of Drom’s voicework as the time goes on and the characters she plays appear. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t dream of revealing that Dominika is Sanya’s sibling… wait.