Bent-con (it's like Comic Con – only gayer) was bigger and better than last year. I only got to see one day, and it was still jam packed with fun. There were even more booths with indie comics, film and book vendors. And there were really cool panels that go behind the scenes in all these geek oriented, creative industries. It took a little longer to have long, drawn out conversations with these great vendors, but it was still possible to do so. Do you want to find work as an artist? There were people to hook up with. Do you want to know how to get your own book published? There were people to answer that. There were even people who could talk to you about where to pitch that screenplay. For Fujoshi, there were lots of beautiful artwork of any type of male beauty (from lithe young bodies to the biggest bears) in all states of undress everywhere! There was even a stage with beautiful men to draw. They weren't as naked as the art that was available for sale, but they were very pleasant to see nonetheless.
My goal for this year's convention was to introduce gays and lesbians to Yaoi. I had a couple of encounters with both groups during this year's Yaoicon. I was a bit taken aback by a pair of gay men who had come to Long Beach to check out the convention dismissing Yaoi as fetish based porn. Meanwhile, the lesbians who spoke to us were puzzled over other lesbians who were obsessed with the genre. I wasn't sure if I could disuade the one opion or explain the obsession, but I was certain that I could talk about the evolving nature of yaoi and the direction I felt the genre was heading. To that end, I ran a panel called Yaoi 101 where I covered the initial types of yaoi were stories with no plot or point (the original definition of the word) to manga and anime series like Junjou Romantica that had complex character arcs and were increasingly dealing with the realities faced by gay men in Japanes society. Ironically, shortly before the convention it was announced that Yokozawa Takafumi no Baai, the spinoff to Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi, was going to have it's own anime series http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2012-11-29/sekai-ichi-hatsukoi/yokozawa-takafumi-has-anime-in-the-works . This series deals with a homosexual relationship between co-workers. One of them is a widower with a young daughter. These mangas and animes have had the best character arcs and the highest emotional and professional stakes ever seen in yaoi. They are proving to be very popular with a growing audience. By fortunate happenstance, I spoke after a panel run by Lyn Jensen on the early history of yaoi. The genre was well represented.
Women Make Queer Genre was my other panel and one that I was blessed to moderate for a second time. Pioneer indie comic artist, Wendy Pini, and Iconic TV show writer and producer, Jane Espenson, were the speakers once again. They talked about how they came to write gay characters in their work and the kind of reception that departure from the mainstream attracted. Jane Espenson had been trying to write a gay character on Battlestar Galactica since her arrival on the writing staff. Finally, she was able to reveal that Felix Gaeta http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Gaeta was gay in literally the final scenes shot of the series. “If not now, when?” she had argued. Ironically, the grief she got over writing a gay character was for taking so long to do it. Wendy Pini has already written an epic gay romance that takes place in a world where sexual orientation was a non-issue. Wendy Pini's Masque of the Red Death presents powerful and comples characters who just happen to be gay. Still, Jane's statement gave her pause about Elfquest, the legendary indie comic series that she created with her husband, Richard Pini. In the wake of that panel Wendy decided to write a same sex romance for the current series that 'will have a lot of drama but will also have a happy ending.' This already compelling panel broke major news on the US comic scene!
You can see more of my Bent-con photos here: http://www.sybpressyaoi.com/p/bent-con-2012-photos.html
I can't wait to see what next year's Bent-con brings! I hope to see a lot more Yaoi fans. This convention really appreciates all that is Bishonen, and it really loves Cosplay!
Manga Review: Hoshi no Yakata or Palace of the Stars by Tori Maia
This manga was highly recommended by some attendees at my panel on BDSM at Yaoi-con. I was complaining mightily about how badly the BDSM lifestyle is done in most yaoi. These attendees promised me that I would really like it and that it was amazing. That is a tall order to fill with me. And this is not just because I'm snarky or prone to nit picking. I understand that this is fiction. I get that works like these are meant to be looked on as fantasy. My experience has been different.
Because I talk publicly about being a Dominatrix, I hear from a lot of people who seem to have trouble separating fact from fantasy. And these aren't just net friends. I have personal acquaintances who think that the writings of the Marquis Du Sade were an instructional manual! For the record, they were fictional work that brutally satirized the social mores of that time. I've had to advise many a reader that they might not want to jump into a hard core S&M scene with someone that they barely know from the internet. I nearly ended a friendship with a long time friend that I knew was not interested in being anyone's sub, because he insisted that there was some way that he could be comfortable with those scenes. The woman in question was smoking hot. He did not find a way to be comfortable, but he didn't stop until he ended up in the ER. I cannot give bad BDSM a pass because it's fiction.
Hoshi no Yakata is an anthology series that centers around the employees and clients of an upscale BDSM brothel. Overall, I found the first volume interesting. I disagree with the negative reviews that claim there are no pots and no characters. That is not fair and not true. It may be hard to notice the characters in the middle of all those whips and chains and dildos...so many dildos of ever size and shape. I do wonder why they used that many dildos when everyone is male. But I digress. I'll get back to why the dildos are a problem later.
The first story, Kneel Down and Kiss my Boots, was an impressive start. In it, the Number One Dom is startled to realize that he has fallen in love with a client and that that love is not returned. During their last session together, the Dom cannot help but give some much needed advice to the client to pass along to his lover on how to play hard in scenes without causing injury. The scene was really hot. There was a nice character arc for the Dom, and the information was quite good. Things go down hill rapidly after that for me. There is the mysterious Master encouraging a trainee Dom to kill his boyfriend, so that he could be a great employee. Really?! If he can kill a man he professes to love, why is it not likely that he will kill a client who is simply annoying? What kind of business model is that?
After the brilliant information in the first story, we move on to making Dom's available as subs at a special price from special clients. NO!! Doms may do that in their personal lives with their lovers, but that is a bad idea for a pro. What if I'm a client of that Dom who I view as the pinnacle of power – the only one who could take me down, and I see said Dom crawling by on a leash held by someone who looks like a child (I'll get into that later)? That would be my last visit to that bordello. And as I am really vexed by that plot, I get the Master himself being drugged by his Number One (BAD) and being worked over by their most submissive of subs (WORSE). To have such a strong beginning followed by these egregious transgressions was jarring. It became difficult for me to read through to the end of the volume.
These are not nits. Let's look at this as a business. Even high end bordellos that are allegedly above the law will not cross any line that will endanger their guests or their employees. Drugs would be verboten. Using them on the boss would get an employee fired at the least. They may get beaten to death by a guy who encourages employees to snuff their boyfriends. And then we have clients and employees that look like children. That is incredibly dangerous for a place that trades in discretion. One disgruntled client or employee could bring down authorities on a place that has children about. I'm painfully aware that the drugging of sex partners and shota and incest are a part of yaoi (oh, I forgot to mention that there was incest in one of the scenes). That doesn't mean that it isn't lazy writing.
Now, in the category of nit picking, there is the look of the characters. This is beyond Bishonen. I really couldn't tell that they were men or girls for the most part. That took me out of the pleasure, because I like to look at males that are pretty but very clearly males. And then there is the constantly being in fetish gear even in off hours. Real pros don't do that. They need to get out of their 'Dom space' or 'sub space' every so often for their own sanity. And I think a reader can tell who the Doms are even in civvies on in nothing at all. It's in the way they stand or their expression. I had a server at a bar on his knees when I was in frumpy clothes fresh from the farmers market. I even had a little push cart of vegetables. I raised a brow at him rather than reaching for my martini. He got on his knees to bring the glass closer – as he should have.
I'm not sure if I'll read all five volumes. I'll have to be persuaded that the other stories are more like the first.