Saturday, October 27, 2012

Song of Achilles Review -- Yaoi Fiction by a Major Publisher?!

The Song of Achilles by
 Madeline Miller  

The legend begins...
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

I am publishing a review of this book not just because it is a fantastic read. I devoured all 600 some odd pages in a day! It was that engrossing. I am also making the effort to publish a review, because it should be praised and noted that such a book was published and promoted by a major publishing house at all. At the heart of this re-imagining of Homer's Iliad is a homoerotic love story. If you really want to draw a fine point on it, The Song of Achilles is basically fanfiction and slash at that! This is in no way a slam from me. I wrote slash fiction for many years for fun and as writing exercises. I still write it when certain needs arise. Beyond that, there are dozens of writers and small presses publishing homoerotic fiction in every genre in a niche arena, because of lack of interest from the major publishers and hostility from much of the Romance community.

The Song of Achilles is beautifully written. Though the character lived in another time and is thought of as more myth than man, Miller makes Patroclus so empathetic that it is easy to slip into his shoes and see through his eyes. In many ways, Patroclus is more heroic than Achilles. He faces everything the legendary warrior faces without all of his physical strength and without the graces from the gods. Through him, the reader takes that epic journey of Achilles' rise to near godhood and his fall into legend. But this journey feels real as do all the emotion felt by these young men. Their love is portrayed as something that is not only natural it is also the most logical thing to happen. Achilles has the burden of his mother's and the god's expectations from his first breath. There are few could keep his closest counsel. Patroclus had once been a prince and heir to a throne of his own. Who better to be a companion to a future king and god? Friendship grows over time and depends naturally into an intense love that can withstand all that their world and the heavens above could visit upon it.

The love between Achilles and Patroclus is also very earthly in the fulfillment of their desires. This novel is sexually sophisticated. Sex fuels even the most lofty ambitions amongst this cast of kings and queens and demi-gods. The couplings are beautifully written to reflect each character and the nature of the relationship. Patroclus revels in his enjoyment of Achilles' beauty while the intensity of Achilles' regard makes Patroclus feel beautiful, wanted and loved. Even when they come together without time or preamble, these sex scenes are lyrical and moving.

Though I was familiar with the Illiad and have seen many versions of Achilles' story on big screens and small, I was surprised by how Miller told this version and deeply moved by the end. But I will not spoil things here. I cannot say that the book is perfect. There is an issue with the point of view that vexed me because it was easily corrected. But that small issue is not enough to keep me from highly recommending the book. I also urge those who already read this genre to read the book. Then, write to the publisher and let that company know that you'd like to see more like this. And make it clear that there are a lot of titles in this genre out there worthy of the national stage. Maybe this book can start a most welcome trend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Paddles, Panels and Yaoi-con 2012

Room mascots.
This year, Yaoi-con was in the Los Angeles area at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach. This was very exciting for me as it was a fairly simple commute on public transit from my house. I wrote a blog about that several weeks ago. I took my own advice and went practically door to door for a couple of bucks. The other big change this year was that convention was run by Digital Manga. I will leave comparing the fan run, San Francisco conventions to others. This was only my second Yaoi-con ever. Last year, my husband and I stuck close to the room as that was my first real trip anywhere since before I was diagnosed with cancer. I was still getting my sea legs beneath me. Thus, I can't really comment on a difference between the two conventions. I thought the hotel was a nice bit of luxury without being crazy expensive. I really liked that it was a short walk from every kind of store and restaurant a traveler could imagine. That was a pleasant change that saved us a ton of money on food. At first, I thought the convention should have been in Downtown LA near Little Tokyo, but I realized that the parking would have been even more expensive along with everything else. The other problem with my reporting on the convention as a whole is it seems like every time there was a main event in a ballroom, I was having a panel or trying to grab some food before or after a panel. This is my long winded way of saying that the views here are highly subjective. If anyone out there wants to share their Yaoi-con photos or experiences, I'll be glad to post them here.

There were too many cool Cosplay photos to post here. You can find them and the references from which the costumes came (for my readers who do not know the titles) here:


Yes, I was the one with the hand carved, Hello Kitty paddle at the BDSM panel. One of my colleagues from filmmaking, Sunshine Lliteras, has a very creative and slightly twisted friend who makes these incredible works of art. This was one of the pounds of props that I brought to the BDSM panel. It was nice to see all the old toys today. It's been some time since I used them. They added many pounds to the luggage that we took to the convention, but there was a very good reason why I need them. The depictions of the BDSM lifestyle in most media, as I told the panel, bear as much resemblance to reality as CSI: Miami bears a resemblance to law enforcement. The toys I brought to the panel – even the Hello Kitty paddle – can hurt like hell. In the wrong hands, their use can cause debilitating or even life threatening injury. The point of my talk was that I understand that this is fantasy, but some readers or viewers may still want to try out some of those scenarios on a partner. The panel covered the difference between a Seme/uke relationship and a Dominant/submissive relationship. They often look similar, but there is a key difference. Mainly, it comes down to consent. I covered stories where the ukes were ties up and sometimes even spanked. Wild Boyfriend, a manga title I localized as an editor, is full of tied up ukes who are usually drugged as well. In only one case was there consent and a negotiation of roles – the first story. Both happen quite quickly and in the midst of some crazy action, but both elements essential to a BDSM arrangement were there. The audience seemed to be with me on that point. They also seemed to like my take on Sensitive Pornograph – one of my favorite examples of real BDSM in yaoi. The only resistance I met – and I fully expected – was my take on Ai No Kusabi. I was hugely unhappy with the ending of the original anime. I consoled myself by reading the entire series of light novels, hoping to find many beautifully described scenes of seduction and surrender. I did not find that. In my opinion, Iason and Riki's relationship was Stockholm Syndrome, not BDSM. After all, I got so annoyed at that series that I wrote Ensnared. I cover that in copious detail in the blog, Flame Wars,The Forever War and Ai no Kusabi. I was not chased down the corridors of the hotel with torches and pitch forks. In fact, I got hugs after the panel. I've never had that happen before. It was very, very nice.

The other panels went pretty well. I think I was most nervous about Digital Manga Guild panel as I was representing far more than my own interests. I hope that I was able to convey how much fun we have working through the challenges each title presents. I really hope I made it clear just how much support we get from Digital Manga and the other teams. Localizing often doesn't feel like work to me. And most of all, I hope it's clear that we have the approval of the mangaka and the Japanese publisher in this effort. Even if the audience doesn't join DMG, they will know that buying licensed and localized titles is the best way to support the artists and keep them working. I was overjoyed to find that there was a fan who loves our team's book and wanted to know how to search for only those titles or for other teams she liked. Later on, others who attended that panel told me that they followed our books. That was a hug of another kind. That was thrilling and gratifying. The panel I was least happy about was Anywhere, Anytime, Anyhow. The idea sprang from twitter discussions with other teams on the strange stuff they encounter in their books. I had hoped to get examples from the other teams to share in the panel. The problem was that I may have made the call for examples too close to the convention. I didn't get enough responses in time. All I had was my own titles and I had largely talked about those. I was disappointed, but the audience was very sweet. One fan came up afterward to ask about places where those new to yaoi could come and chat. I'm now toying with the idea of a Facebook page for reviews and discussions and perhaps a Google+ hang out. I'd like to do it, but I'll need some help to administer it. If I can get some volunteers, I'll do it.

Aside from my own panels, I kibitz on the Bent-con  to help raise awareness of how much geeky fun that  event is. I think it's a great convention, because of its size. I was able to mingle with the special guests last year in a way that would be impossible at an even like Comic Con. I really enjoyed talking to the filmmakers these about features or shorts they were debuting at the convention. No one would want a Q&A taken up with the find of film shoot minutia we tend to like to talk about with other producers. There are some really cook vendors there as well, Bent-con is a gay comic convention, but it is very welcoming to everyone. I was glad to see them at Yaoi-con.

Hamlet Machine and Starfighter Webcomic

My one bit of fangirl fun was to see the amazingly talented and very sweet Hamlet Machine. She did a panel this year at Yaoi-con on her art and on her sci-fi yaoi webcomic, Starfighter. I discovered Starfighter while I was recovering from cancer surgery. I was immediately hooked by the stark yet powerful drawing style and on the story of the gentle and intelligent navigator, Abel and his brutal and emotionally complex gunner, Cain. The story is a sophisticated dance of Seme and uke, Dominant and submissive and intrigue and suspense. I was surprised that Hamlet Machine was also inspired by Ai no Kusabi when she created Starfighter. I'm also humbled and amazed that she thinks well of me. I'm still giddy from our last encounter! And I can't wait for her next pages!

Manga Update
Our Localizing team, Heaven's Blade now has a Facebook group! To keep up with our next titles, come on by and join:

Next time there will be a discussion about insane Semes. Also, I'll review a homoerotic novel that not only was published by a mainstream publisher but also was critically acclaimed!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Yaoi-con Coverage Sneak Peek!

This box of horrors is just a fraction of the fun had at Yaoi-con this past weekend. The full coverage blog will go live on Wednesday, Oct 16th! There are photos and insights galore!

Sign up for the newsletter to be sure not to miss it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Doujinshi: Space Cruiser Yamato -- Diplomacy

Of course, this is all Jon's fault. He was watching a subtitled version of Final Yamato online while I was lounging on the sofa recuperating from the first cancer surgery. I happened to glance over during the climax of the film and found myself transfixed and deeply puzzled. There was Leader Dessler, once sworn enemy of the Yamato not only coming to the ship's rescue in its most dire hour, but also lovingly sniffing and caressing a flower left behind in tribute by Kodai when he and the Yamato crew thought the Leader had been killed. Dessler addressed Kodai alone – no one else seemed to be relevant. He put his ship between Kodai's and those who sought his demise. It was epic...and kind of sexy.

Jon noticed my eyebrow had gone up. He said there was no way Kodai would ever hook up with Dessler. He had Yuki, his longtime girlfriend. In fact, he married her at the end of the film. My eyebrow remained up. I was in need of a challenging writing exercise. At that point in my treatment, I was reading a lot but doing no writing beyond my blog. It was merely an exercise, but it produced Mercy Mission, a story I was quite proud of. I wrote a second story in my grand seduction scheme called State Visit. That was very amusing and, Jon thought, quite touching.

I would have left it at that. But then, I went to Yaoi-con last year. I did a panel there on rape and con-con in yaoi fiction (I'm against it – vehemently). One of the attendees asked in frustration over my stance how a writer could get together two strong male characters without one of them using force. I told her that it's called seduction. A skilled lover can make anything sound reasonable if there is an attraction between the characters. Since all Yaoi posits that there is always an attraction, there is always an opening for seduction. Jon mentioned my tinkering with Space Cruiser Yamato as a case in point. I decided then that I should finish the trilogy and put it online before I'm asked about it at the upcoming Yaoi-con.

Without further ado, I give you Space Cruiser Yamato – Diplomacy, a Doujinshi. Considering the source material, I can't really call it slash. Though given that there are bestsellers that are, in fact, fanfiction, I am calling this a re-imagining. Haper-Collins, I await your call and fat advance check.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Yaoi-con 2012 Preview

Go to: for information.
Next weekend, October 12-14, I will be at Yaoi-con! I am very excited to be getting my Bishonen fix in my own back yard. This year, Yaoi-con will be at The Westin Long Beach 333 East Ocean Blvd
Long Beach, CA 9080. There are some fantastic industry guests that include the mighty Hamlet Machine from Starfighter Web Comic, Jo Chen from Guilt/Pleasure , Alex Woolfson from Yaoi911 and Artifice and the great guys from Bent-con The Guest of Honor is Uki Ogasawara , mangaka of the Yaoi classic, Black Sun.

Panels, Panels, Panels

I have three and most likely four at Yaoi-con this year. I am pleased to be representing localizers from the Digital Manga Guild (DMG) on a panel called Localizing for the Digital Manga Guild for Fun and Profit. The Guild needs many more translators, editors and letterers for its growing catalog of licensed titles. I'm going to make a strong case for joining up. I will have a fun power point presentation and hopefully a lively Q&A session toward the end.

Yes, he is. But that's the least of his issues.
Of course, if it's me, there must be some BDSM. My first panel of the convention is Exploring Dark Fantasy: BDSM in Yaoi. That will involve a scary fun power point presentation and props that are even scarier. Those props haven't been used in a convention since the one where I collared and palled a naughty Klingon and had Battlestar Galatica's Richard Hatch on his knees. That was a fun one. Where was I? I will take the bdsm presented in various manga and light novels on its on terms. However, I will be drawing a distinction between what the mangaka and authors describe and what is reality in the lifestyle, including how rare it is that actual consent is given from the uke or submissive (nope, not letting that go). And I will get a little bit literary on everyone with a discussion of what it means that so many major authors and mangaka choose bdsm as a theme rather than a vanilla gay relationship.

The third panel stems from an amusing aspect of many manga the localizers have completed. It is unusual when vanilla sex in a bedroom at night happens between Seme and uke. The Panel Anywhere, Anytime, Anyhow explores the many places and strange implements involved in Yaoi hook ups. Have a mentioned the bud vase with water AND a flower??? And don't get me started on the school Nurse's Office! There will be a power point presentation of some of the manga pages for illustration.

The fourth panel that I may be a part of is the Bent-con panel. It is a really cool convention that covers anything an attendee would find at a comic-con only gayer! All geeks are welcome. I will be talking about the incredible panels I attended there and the amazing people in the industry fans got to have near one on one contact with. This year's convention will be even better!

I really hope that my gentle readers in the Southland and beyond can visit. Tickets are still available at the door. Aside from my panels, there are so many wonderful industry and attendee panels. Beyond that, there is merchandise for every yaoi fandom out there. There are people in astonishing cosplay outfits. And there is a great feeling of connection that comes from finding out that you aren't by yourself in this niche. Last year was my first Yaoi-con ever. I felt such a great vibe there in general and from the folks at Digital Manga in particular, that I joined the guild. That has been a great experience for me personally and professionally. I am beyond excited that the company is running the convention.

For those who can't make it, I will be doing videos based on the power point presentations. But I hope you can make it!

Book Updates
As I posted in my last blog, there is a three chapter preview of A Soldier's Destiny available on this site. Click on the link at the top of the menu on the right called A Soldier's Destiny Preview Chapters. Meanwhile, The next installment of Ensnared is in my brain and wanting to get out. I'm hoping to have excepts of that by the end of the year when we release A Soldier's Destiny. Thank you for all the notes of encouragement. I'm even thankful for the notes yelling at me to write faster.

The next blog will be all about Yaoi-con. My Hubs and I have a new camera, so we'll get lots of photos of everything. I hope to give full coverage like a news feature. It's been some years since I've covered anything as a reporter, but I thought I'd give it a try.

For my next regular blog – Insane Semes and Why We Love Them.