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The Sweet Yaoi Action You Can Expect From Me

August 13, 2006 | | Comments 5 |

Some things I’ve been reading lately have gotten me thinking about “The One True Yaoi.”

Recently, Tina Anderson got some heat for not writing what one yaoi fan considered authentic Boys’ Love works. And an interview excerpt (EDIT: scroll down for the August 9th post) over at Comics 212 demonstrated the lines even creators (perhaps especially creators) try to draw between yaoi and “homosexual” works (prompting me to write a comment that received a very kind mention over at the excellent MangaBlog.) [Edit: And now Christopher Butcher himself over at Comics 212 has weighed in with a very interesting and thorough take on this. Very cool. Please check it out.] (EDIT 2: This would be the August 18, 2006 post which you now have to scroll down for on this page as well.)

I’ve talked about my motivation some in “Why Yaoi?” but I wanted to tell you the story behind why I’m making these books and what you can expect in them.

When I was a teenager, I was a big movie fan. In particular, I loved sci-fi and action films — and if you could combine them as James Cameron did in Aliens, I was in heaven. I suppose there were a lot of other boys who were interested in those kinds of films, but growing up as a gay boy, I was craving something more, something that nobody seemed to be interested in providing — action heroes who liked other guys.

Now, in the 80s and early 90s, there were beginning to be a number of images of gay characters in mainstream films, but at best, they were comic relief, more typically they were portrayed as either bad guys or victims (or in the case of Miller’s Crossing, repeatedly both.) Nobody, it seemed, believed that gay guys could actually be the heroes.

Of course, there were a lot of messages I got while growing up gay that told me that I was not as worthy as the girl-seeking guys — the fact that the word “gay” could be blithely used by all my classmates for anything negative being high on that list — but the one I felt I could actually do something about was this lack of heroes on screen.

I was already writing fairly regularly by my mid-teens — short stories and theater plays, a couple of which even got produced in my home state of Vermont — but I knew that being a writer wasn’t going to be good enough. I needed to be the one who had the true power to shape the message of the film — the director. So, I dedicated my life to developing the skills and experience to make the films I wanted so desperately to see as a young man. (And now you have my filmmaker origin story. ;-) )

But as I got older and more experienced, it became very clear to me that realizing my visions in film was going to take years and years of development. I’ve worked on a number of low-budget independent movies, including my own — so I knew that was an option — but ultimately, they weren’t the kind of stories I wanted to tell. I wanted to make a big-budget sci-fi/fantasy action movie where the guys kiss at the end (and perhaps in the middle, too!). Yet I knew that even in this post-Brokeback Mountain age we live in, raising millions of dollars from investors for a boy-on-boy blockbuster would be nearly impossible.

Of course, I could have just rewritten my scripts as conventional prose novels — and I did consider this — but in the end, I’m a visual storyteller. From the moment I saw actors breathing life into one of my plays onstage at the tender age of 16, there was no turning back. I didn’t want to merely describe to people what I saw in my head — I wanted to show them.

So for a long time, I despaired of ever getting a chance to tell these stories the way I wanted to. I still wrote them, mind you — but I knew that unless lightning struck, they would never be more than Sisyphusean exercises, shared only among those close to me.

But a few years ago, a new friend — LB — rekindled an old passion: anime. And as I watched classic Ranma 1/2 and Oh, My Goddess, I started to realize that there might be another satisfying way to tell these expensive stories — with drawn art where the only limits are those of imagination. I did some research on producing an animated film and discovered it would be nearly a costly as a live-action movie. Yet I knew I was on to something. And then, as I was reading some fine online literature, it hit me — why not tell these stories as graphic novels?

I was already a fan of such American classics as Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Miracleman, so I knew the form could be used to tell some amazing stories. And my developing exposure to anime, manga and yes, slash-fiction, let me know there might in fact be a market for the kind of stories I wanted to tell.

What kind of stories are those? Character-based action-romances with strong plots but where the ultimate focus was on the relationships. I knew it was a strange combination — thrilling fantasy-action and sweet, warm-and-fuzzy guy-on-guy romance — but as I became more familiar with yaoi, I realized I had finally found a home for the stories I wanted to tell.

And for the same reasons that it wasn’t enough for me to just be the writer of the films I made, I’m passionate about being the publisher of these books as well. This is my opportunity to realize a life-long dream and I’m going to create the kind of books I’ve always wanted to read. And that means publishing a full-color graphic novel on nice, coated paper with fun action, sweet romance and writing intended for a mature audience — and by “mature,” I mean for those looking for developed, three-dimensional characters and plotting that does not insult your intelligence. (And for the first Yaoi 911™ book, we are creating a collection of five comic “short stories” where some cute guys try their best to rescue the guys they love. You can see art for the first of those comics here.)

Will the yaoi community consider our work “true yaoi”? I don’t know. While women are drawing many of the stories, obviously I’m not a woman and I’m writing and publishing them. The guys in our stories are going to look like guys, not androgynous bishonen — and not necessarily impossibly beautiful guys either. (Cute yes; impossibly beautiful, not so much.) And while every relationship has power dynamics, I’m not likely to follow the traditional seme/uke conventions found in classic yaoi works — frankly, I think more complex, less hetero-traditional relationships are more interesting. Perhaps for some, those choices alone will mean three strikes and I’m out of the whole yaoi game.

But reading other yaoi works — by women and for women — gives me hope. I know they are “meant” for women, but I really connect with a lot of those stories, both published and fan fiction. No, I’m not going to make any special effort to follow yaoi conventions — other than trying to appeal to the female audience I feel so connected to. Instead I am going to tell you stories that I’ve been wanting to tell you all my life. And I’m going to do it with passion and heart and with every intention of making you, my reader, smile, laugh and hopefully fall in love with my characters a little. As I, myself, have fallen in love with the characters of other yaoi creators.

Will the fans consider it “true yaoi”? Who knows — but I do promise you that I will do everything in my power to tell really fun and interesting guy-on-guy romance stories. After all, you are helping me realize a life-long dream — the least I can do is show you a good time. :-)


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Filed Under: PublishingWritingYaoi 911Yaoi in General

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About the Author: Filmmaker by day, yaoi creator by night, Alex has dedicated himself to helping cute guys fight evil and find love.

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  1. Skreamings says:

    Bravo! It's funny how you can think you know a person so well and yet you can learn things about them in their blog. This was really insightful as to why you are doing this. Something that never really came up in our many lunchtime discussions. I look forward to seeing your dreams come true on the pages of your books.

  2. Thanks, Patrick. Good to see you here. :-)

    And I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Check in in a few days — I should have some more pages up from "A Shot in the Dark"…

  3. soltian says:

    Hey, this is Soltian from over at Y-Gallery. You know, I clicked the link to your essay out of curiosity and was amazed at how much I identified with what you're saying. I'm a girl myself, but I really identify with the idea of creating and developing stories, involving three-dimensional and well-developed characters (stories that "don't insult your intelligence" was a good way to put it), that just happen to involve homosexuality. I really like the idea of homosexuality being integrated into a story as if it were just as normal and natural as heterosexuality. Not ignored, not blown up, just there.

    I'm a comic artist myself and the story I'm working on focuses on just that kind of theme. The story is fantasy/sci-fi and the main focus is a romance between the two main male characters. The story involves a lot of heterosexuality and female supporting roles as well, the main focus just happens to be a homosexual relationship.

    Glad I could read your essay on this, keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks, Soltian — great to see you here! And I'm glad that you were able to identify with what I was saying. :-)

    Yep, like you, I've longed for a more balanced, less sensationalist take on gay characters, particularly the "heroes." And I think one of the exciting things about an appreciation of yaoi is that it can bring together two people who on the surface might seem very different. You're a girl, I'm a gay guy and yet we can both tell each other stories and through them understand and appreciate each other that much better.

    And I wish you great success with your story — it definitely sounds right up my alley. Please keep me posted!

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