Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
|Bamboo: You know what is surreal to me, is listening to a yaoi fan fic writer scream, “Why?” at that situation, when so many times, I'll read a fan fic and I think, “Why?”|
|Natalie: There are things that make me go, “Why.” I actually discovered the depths of my squick just recently. Very little squicks me in fan fic. I will read stuff and think, “Why would you do that? Oh God, that is really gross.” But it won't give me that kind of skin-crawling repulsion that some people have for something. I recently found an Avatar fan fic, and I'll tell you what the fan fic is. It's Unlce Iroh and his nephew Zuko. I will not touch that. I will not go there. But everyone has their things.|
|Bamboo: Do you think that if the boys weren't androgynous, would yaoi still be popular? If you had two really beefy dudes…|
|Robin: Like with big beards.|
|Bamboo: Maybe the Brawny guy with Mr. Clean. Would that happen?|
|Casey: Oh, there are some things you should see.|
|Natalie: Some people would do that. I think it's a bit odd of a fanbase, potentially, but there are people I've seen on fan fic forums and so forth saying, “We want more fics of these guys who don't look like these little twig-thin teenage girls. We want to see a brawny guy getting it on,” and there are people who will write that.|
|Casey: There actually was an anthology, I don't remember what year it was, probably circa 2001-2002-2003, called Kinniku Otoko, which that means “muscle man,” and it was a boys' love anthology that was all muscle men. It overlapped a lot with gay fans. Like, gay manga and the stuff actually for gay men. The Kinniku Otoko anthologies were very interesting because most of the creators were boys' love authors or yaoi doujin writers, whatever the case may be. There was definitely this overlap and this interest in the non-androgynous male. And over time, the books have become more popular with the gay community in Japan. But in the beginning, it almost felt like this borderland between boys' love and gay manga.|
|Bamboo: Are there girls who read that?|
|Casey: There absolutely are. And there are girls who create it, because a lot of the authors were female.|
|Robin: Every girl likes a different type of guy. There's got to be something of everything, I'm sure. What I'm kind of most disturbed by are the pairing of really old figures with a really young figure, like Snape and Harry like from Harry Potter. Those…ehhhh…|
|Bamboo: You could read so much into that. Like, what is the relationship with your father that you have to write something like that. *laugh* Natalie, can I ask you a somewhat controversial question about fan fiction? You always hear a lot of haters saying, “Well, if you're such a good writer, why don't you write your own stories?” What is your response to that?|
Natalie: I haven't actually gotten much in the way of trolling for that. I've had people say, “Oh, if you've written anything the original, I'd love to read it,” but I guess I've been lucky enough to avoid being trolled. It's tough because I actually have some original ideas moving around in the back of my mind that would be good to write someday, but I don't have the fire for them that I have at the moment for the fan fic ideas. I'd rather be working on something that I have that fire for than, “Ugh, I really hate working on this every second.” And also with fan fic, you have a sort of instant gratification. You have a ready-made audience as long as you remain reasonably in character. Even if you're not in character, there will be people who will love it. You post it on the internet, and an hour later, you get responses.
It is hard to go from that atmosphere to trying to work on something original for publishing, because you go a long time working on stuff that you don't get feedback for, unless you have a really good writing group you are working with where people share each others' work. Unless you have that, you really don't get feedback, and you are kind of out there. You have to find a publisher for it, which is not always easy, and it has to get out into the world, and it takes a long time for a book to get published. Not as long as it used to, but still longer than it does on the internet.
It's sort of a more drawn-out process, and in a way, it's a less intimate process with your fandom. If you do make it professionally, then you have the question of “how do you relate to your fans?” Some author would say, “Don't touch my work at all, don't have anything to do with it.” Some people will say, “Well, do want you want, but I can't read any of your stuff. Don't talk to me about your fan fics.” I like bouncing ideas off people. With my new fandom, I'm planning on posting things like, “I'm thinking about writing about this,” or, “I think this is interesting.” I'm trying to get a more interactive thing going on.
|Bamboo: What is your new fandom?|
|Natalie: My new fandom is Avatar. So, slightly tangential to anime, but it's my new thing at the moment.|
|Casey: I think a lot of what you're seeing in Natalie's response definitely plays into why yaoi is popular in the first place, because there is this community of readers and writers, and they give each other energy, and they motivate each other. So you see this acceleration and they build up this momentum when it's a community, and a lot of people, I think, go to fandom not because they want to see two characters together, so much as the companionship that they get with the other fans.|
|Natalie: I think I've found the reason why I've been struggling with my writing and my fannish activities. It's that everything is really scattered these days with Live Journal. There are so many communities. I like to keep in touch with my old communities and new communities with the new shows that I'm into, and if I add every single one to my friends list, my friends list will be 500 people long. It used to be that there'd be one mailing list for a show. Everyone was on the mailing list, and all the fics were there. Everything was gathered there. I found it was more community-oriented, in a way. You knew people better. The communities are almost too big for me, and I struggled with that for years, trying to interact in a way that is not me, and refreshing my friends page every 5 seconds to see who is new.|
|Bamboo: I have a nasty confession to make. When I was in junior high, I wrote a fan fiction with my best friend. Sadly, I have to say it was a self-insertion fan fic and it was Fushigi Yuugi. I ended up with Tamahome and she ended up with Yuriko. That was really back in the day. I mean, come on, I think secretly, deep down inside, a lot of girls have thought about being with Tamahome.|
|Robin: Hell yeah.|
|Bamboo: But as I grew older, I realized that that was a big taboo and self-insertion fan fics were supposedly the worst thing in the world. What makes that not okay in the fan community? As opposed to, say, slashing together random characters?|
Natalie: Well, it sort of depends on what part of the community you're in. You have sort of an arbitrary divide between those who are really fans, and those who are ficcers. The fans are more like, “I love these characters; let's get together with these characters and have a good time.” And the ficcers are like, “Let's polish the craft of writing.” It's a very arbitrary division, but there are people who are more into storyline and more into fidelity to the original source and trying to capture the characters, and there are people who are just, “Ohmygosh, this is so much fun, let's get together with my best friend and have zany times with Weiss Kreuz!” It really depends on what you are really into. You really get into trouble when these two groups collide and they really don't understand. You really have two different world views that are colliding there.
Personally, I am on the side of the ficcers. I'm very much into the polishing of the writing. I can't read stuff that's too fluffy or too out of character or zany, and my tolerance has gone down over the years. There's stuff I used to read back in the day in CLAMP fandom that I loved. I look back now and think, “Oh my god!, I liked that?” I guess what I'm trying to say here is that the fans bring more of themselves into it, while you always bring more of yourself into your writing to a certain extent, because you are bringing forth the characters through you. For the people who don't do self inserts, they value that distance more. It's more of a craft in that way.
You can look at it as someone building a cathedral. Maybe the patron is paying them and maybe they'll put themselves in some corner, but they're not going to be in the stained glass window, like where Jesus is supposed to be. That's just not going to happen, given that it's not appropriate. And there are people who feel it's not appropriate to put yourself in the world. That's not what people are looking for.
Transcribed by Keith LaPointe
That was the first half of our discussion-- tune in next week for the conclusion! Thanks for reading!
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history