The sniffles weren't too far away. Tadashi paused to listen again, allowing all other noises drown away. The fun type were children laughed, adults conversed in groups, and the teenagers amassed, broke apart then swarmed together again oohhing and ahhing over the different booths.
And each other. Tadashi sighed. Okay, maybe his concentration needed a little more work. He'd forgotten how hard this age was. Thirteen. The lack of focus, the hormones all over the place, and why did his hair have to grown in like that by his crotch this time around? No, not what he was supposed to be worrying about. Not even close.
Dag had run off. That was why Tadashi needed to focus on the sniffles. He knew that quiet crying anywhere, or more specifically, whom it belonged to.
The young boy he'd chosen to protect now that Per had grown up. His duty. His old persona had reached a ripe old age and it had been time to retire even before Dag had been born. The how's were a little more complicated than they used to be. Humans. They lived so long now. They also had too many means in which to document everything.
However, they had managed to put in place his brother Etsou and his wife, Hikaru, had a child but a sickly one. She traveled to Europe to get their kid treatment while Etsou stayed at the temple with periodic visits to her. The plan gave them all leeway to keep a facade while Tadashi passed on.
His end of the bargain was to stay out of sight. Not always the easiest thing, but they managed. Tadashi spent more time as his fox than human for six years. The freedom of the temple responsibilities had been nice, and he took more than one trip around the globe. But the mountain was home. Always would be now.
It felt good to be young again, like he'd been reborn. Maybe he had. So much had happened in the last century, so many wounds accumulated, so much life lived Tadashi welcomed the challenges of growing up again.
If I had only known what I was getting in for. Tadashi might've come up with a different plan. One that entailed the Mizuno's moving away then coming back. Staring over at five? Pretending to learn all over again? Only two things kept Tadashi from leaving. His son, Kou, and Dag. His little squirrel who preferred home and the strong, resilient young boy who brought laughter into life.
So to have Dag's eyes well with unshed tears, to see him cry out and stomp, then to turn and run away, it broke Tadashi's heart. He wanted Dag's exuberant smile back. To do that, he'd have to find him first.
Which is... Tadashi tilted his head to the left. The temple. Somewhere in the temple. Only Dag. Tadashi looked up. The sky had gotten quite dark. The fireworks would be beginning soon. They had some neat ones this year he didn't want Dag to miss.
Tadashi took off at a trot, weaving in and out of the flow of bodies. Friends called out to him, their excited voices asking where Dag was and whether or not to save some of the good seats for them.
"Maybe! If you can!" Tadashi called back, still pushing through the crowd. Going upstream was never easy.
The closer he got to the temple, the faster he could run without worrying about toppling someone over. People smiled at him, some asked for Etsou and Hikaru, while a few grumpy old timers told him to slow down. But he refused to go any slower. He wanted Dag to see the fireworks with him.
The thump of the tiles resounded in his ears as he made for the temple, zeroed in on Dag's hiccups and stuttered breaths. Tadashi zigzagged through a few stragglers before shooting up the temple steps and inside the main room. Out of breath, and a little frazzled, Tadashi took a moment to gather himself.
Partially because he needed to, and partially because the overflowing emotions he was desperate to hold in check. Stupid teenage hormones.
Obon never ceased to amaze him. The crowds. The energy. The love of community. The love of small town with mostly Scandinavian background had for his customs. The small pinprick of pride flowed through him. They helped him make the town feel like a safe place for Japanese citizens to resettle after... well, after Berg had him reopen the temple. They even had a museum dedicated to survivors of the internment camps down in town.
However, seeing the festival through these eyes, fresh ones, really hit him in the feels. Tadashi had been so focused on his birthright and paying homage to his ancestors, he had forgotten how much fun Obon could be. This year even more so, he was finally getting back to an age where people didn't question him running around all by himself.
Then there was Dag and their friends. Because of Dag, Tadashi always had people around him, kids wanting to play and enjoy the day instead of worrying about everything else.
How long had it been since he really let go and celebrated? Too long.
Except Dag wasn't there to celebrate. He'd run off, crying. His green eyes full of tears, Tadashi stunned into silence and wondering what had caused the outburst. All right. Time to find his friend.
Tadashi looked up and scanned the main room. He dipped his head when his gaze fell upon Inari, but continued his search for Dag. He could've sworn the sounds had been from here. If it had been any of the other rooms, the chances were Tadashi might not have heard them.
Disgruntled and surprised he was a little pissed at missing the fireworks, Tadashi turned to leave when color caught his eye. Color where there shouldn't be any. Bright red converse stuck out from behind Inari.
Ambling over to the statue, Tadashi decided it would be better to not give Dag a chance to run. He went around the opposite side and hoped for the best. What he found broke his heart.
Dag leaned heavily against the statue. His head pressed against the top of the base. The defensive position in which he had curled into was awkward and telling. One gangly leg stuck out—the one that had given him away—while his other one had been pulled up against his chest. One long thin arm held it close while the other lay by his side, Dag's hand turned up on the ground.
A puppy. Too big for its own body. Thirteen and Dag was already a head over most of their friends. Gangly to the point where someone could count his ribs without much effort. Someday he'd grow into himself, but first, Dag would have to survive the teen years.
Tadashi crouched down next to his young ward and friend. Dag didn't even notice. His eyes were closed, cheeks stained red from the tears.
"Hey." Tadashi shoulder bumped Dag.
"What?" Dag started, turning a wide-eyed gaze on him. "Tada? What?"
Dag tried to untangle himself but only managed tripping himself up instead. Tadashi caught him, only to have Dag pull away. The move hurt, but Tadashi managed to put on a brave face. At least, he hoped he did.
"I'm sorry. Why did you run away?"
Unfortunately, the response only created more tears. Tadashi looked up to Inari wishing for a little help.
A garbled, hiccupped reply from Dag came instead. "You forgot. How could"–hiccup–"you forget? Anyone else."
"Dag, I need you to stop crying. I can't understand you."
More hiccups followed by more tears came. Tadashi had to remind himself once again how young Dag really was. Just because he'd gotten bigger didn't mean he suddenly grew up on the inside too. The first loud boom went off outside.
"No one." More hiccups. More booms. "I could've handled any"–hiccup–"one else forgetting. Just not you."
Whatever Tadashi had forgotten certainly had to be a big deal. He reached out tentatively and put a hand on Dag's shoulders. More loud pops and booms went off overhead. A shudder rippled through Dag, his mournful green gaze turning on Tadashi.
"All day I waited." He sniffled, snot running down to his lip. "All the excitement. I kept waiting when the surprise would be."
Surprise? Tadashi struggled to keep up with the jumbled words.
"I love you," Dag said with another hiccup. "And you don't even care. You just forgot me."
"I haven't forgotten you!" Tadashi protested, confused but sure he hadn't done anything wrong. Dag kept on going as if he'd never heard Tadashi.
"No cake." Another hiccup. "No present."
Oh gods no. Tadashi had indeed forgotten something incredibly important. His chest tightened and the pit of his stomach clenched. He had to do something. Quick.
"I kept waiting and waiting," Dag continued, tears and hiccups galore. "But nothing."
Tadashi grabbed Dag's shoulders and shook him. "Wrong. You're wrong."
Dag's forlorn gaze rose. He swiped his hand across his runny nose. His shoulders were still slumped but Dag had stopped crying. No more tears stained his cheeks. Tadashi saw the raw need radiating off him.
"I just wanted to wait," Tadashi said, only a tiny bit of guilt about the lie. Sometimes it really was kinder. "Because I didn't want the others to get jealous."
"Over what?" A flare of hope shined in Dag's eyes.
"What I got you."
Tadashi nodded. "In my... Meditation room."
"What?" Dag's expression darkened.
"I wanted to keep it a surprise." But before Dag could question him further, Tadashi pulled him up and dragged him out from behind Inari. He ran, a startled Dag tripping after him.
They were out of the temple and off across the empty courtyard while Tadashi tried to think of what to give Dag. Overhead the fireworks display burst above them. Blue, gold, white and red li the sky above, cheers and claps following each burst. But the lights were of no importance anymore. The only thing Tadashi wanted was to make Dag understand how important he was. However, there were only a few items he kept in his shack. One of the drawers in the dresser had Kou's tidbits. There were shirts, mediation stuff, his pictures, and... And... Well, yes, that might work.
The problem with that was its size. Tadashi looked over his shoulder with a critical eye on Dag. He was still growing, but could he really excuse the improper fit because of that? Although... If he gave one of his own... Yes. Problem solved.
Tadashi led them into the shack, pushing away the wave of sadness he encountered every time he visited this place. He turned on the light, focusing on the dresser and ignoring the paintings on the walls. It would only hurt more to look at them.
Not only had he not been here to pay respects recently, Tadashi had failed Berg by hurting Dag. It hadn't been intended, being too busy wasn't an excuse, and Dag really hadn't cared if the festival trumped his birthday before, but it obviously mattered this time.
"Sit down," Tadashi said, pointing to the couch. Dag went, head straight, his eyes following Tadashi. "Just give me a minute."
The dresser wasn't completely empty. Certain items with deep meaning were kept here. When Tadashi needed to escape, or remember, or to breathe, this was where he always came. The place where his life restarted. The place where Berg brought him, healed him, and fought for him. Those gunshots decades ago should've killed him, but Berg wanted him alive, so Tadashi fought. Clung to that need. That hope. It taught him to breathe again.
Tadashi opened the top drawer. Four boxes were inside it. He touched he purple one, thinking hard. It had been his once upon a time, but Tadashi had never worn it. The occasion slipping away from him the moment Berg died in his arms. After that, he couldn't bring himself to wear it. Maybe it's time to let go. A little bit. Out of the corner of his eye, Dag sat rigid on the couch, anticipation vibrating off him. Maybe if it were Dag wearing the yukata it wouldn't hurt anymore.
With a smile, Tadashi pulled the box out and turned to Dag. "For you."
"It's not wrapped."
"Too pretty of a box to wrap it up." It was true after all. A kitsune adorned the box, standing tall by Inari's side. Fitting if Tadashi thought about it. "Open it."
Dag took the box and flipped the lid, eyes wide.
"Happy Birthday, Dag. May the next year be even better."
"You don't like it?"
"It's just—" Dag shook his head. "A yukata? One like this?"
Tadashi turned away, not wanting to show his disappointment. He should've known Dag would balk. He hadn't been made with him in mind after all.
"Are you sure it's okay?" Dag asked. "It must've been... Expensive."
Tadashi didn't answer.
"It's beautiful. I think it would suit you better."
"It's too big for me." Give him about five years or so, then Tadashi would be the right size again. "If you don't like it—"
"No! I want it!"
Tadashi turned back, and sure enough, Dag had the yukata clutched to his chest.
"You said it's mine, right?
"Will you help me put it on?"
Dag stood, carefully putting the box on the couch, then stripped down to his boxer briefs. Tadashi smiled, his heart squeezing tight. To see Dag putting on his yukata did strange things. Things he was better of not thinking on—not to mention the guilt weighing him down.
"Is this the way it goes?" Dag turned in a circle, frowning.
"No, here, let me." Tadashi adjusted the obi. "The left goes over the right. Right over left is for the dead."
Something he hoped Dag wouldn't be for a long time.
"Then the obi goes like this." Tadashi ducked to wrap it around Dag's waist. A hand pressed against his shoulder. An inquiring glance up found Dag staring intently down at him. "What?"
"Thank you." The words were small, quiet, barely perceptible, but they meant the world to him.
"You're welcome. Now let's see."
Dag turned around, holding his hands up. "Does it suit me?"
No, but Tadashi felt a little better knowing his yukata would be there to help protect Dag. "Yes."
The blue bottom grew into a dark purple the near black at the top. Instead of the more popular geometric pattern men's yukatas had these days, stars adorned the fabric will a lone sliver of the moon. Flowers dotted the bottom—definitely not the style of today—while a kitsune watch from afar on the back.
Please, Inari, Dag asked. Look over this boy as he makes his first steps into manhood. Let me be there always when he needs me.
The smile Dag wore reminded Tadashi of the ones Berg used to give him. Honest. Open. Loving. Sometime in the future Dag would probably remind Tadashi more of his grandfather Berg than he wanted. When he filled out.
The thought niggled on something in Tadashi's head but he pushed it away. "You ready to join the celebration again?"
"Yeah, and Tada?"
"Thank you." Dag petted the yukata. "It's like they move when I do, like the stars are dancing on the yukata."
Tadashi just smiled in return.
"I'll wear it forever," Dag declared, and took Tadashi by the hand. "This really means a lot to me."
"Well, you mean a lot to me."
"Ready for the fireworks?"
Dag titled his head, smiling sadly. "Sounds like they're almost done."
Tadashi pulled Dag outside, the two of them huddled close together in the courtyard, watching the explosions above. Shoulder to shoulder their eyes fixated on the shapes and colors above them. Dag's fingers brushed Tadashi's, and he almost drew back. Except Dag gave him that heart-attack inducing smile again.
"No, I mean it. Thanks for not forgetting me."
"What are best friends for?"
Dag laughed. "To drive us crazy?"
"Maybe," Tadashi agreed. "But I like to think we're there to help pick the other person up."
"Sounds nice." Dag pushed closer to Tadashi.
He agreed and turned to the sky. Thirteen wasn't so bad, and he was excited to see what kind of man Dag was going to become. Halfway there, but still so short. Nevertheless, someday, they'd be out here, under the stars dancing away. Until then, Tadashi would watch over Dag best he could.
A brilliant smile lit up Dag's face the exact same moment the sky exploded with the grand finale, fireworks bursting every which way, floating down toward them like stars coming to rest. Music poured out from the speakers. Dag grabbed Tadashi's hand and pulled him close.
And together, side-by-side, they watched as the lights danced overhead. Tadashi pressed in a little closer and sighed. The night really couldn't get more perfect.
"Happy birthday, Dag. I hope that you get everything you wished for."
It's hard to believe I have another release coming up already. Between life, work and everything else, my schedule for stories is pretty slow. BUT, as you can see, another story for you guys to enjoy. The Nut Job is a novella-length SF story in the Foolish Encounters anthology. As you may have noted, I am in good company with Tali Spencer, Tinnean, Elin Gregory, JC Wallace, Angel Martinez and Amy Lane also taking part in our quirky romp.
I thought it would be fun to introduce everyone to Spencer, my space captain with a Napoleon complex. The unsuspecting world may not be ready for him, but Spencer and the rest of his crew hits shelves April 1st. Enjoy!
The Chair & Fork Excerpt
“It’s still there, Spence.”
He bit down on his lip, giving Krapor side eyes.
The tall, lanky Tu’Varian glowered back. “Rcrred is gone and can’t take your damn chair.”
“Fine, but if it’s gone, I’m taking your new sonic screwdriver.”
Krapor paused in his gathering. His slender green fingers went to his work belt, cupping the screwdriver protectively. “You wouldn’t.”
Spencer crossed his arms, straightening up to his whole four and a half feet. It was shiny. He liked shiny.
“That’s just mean, Spence. I’d never find it again.”
He sniffed, looking away.
“No one can find anything in your hoard. Not even you.”
“I know exactly where everything is.”
Krapor tossed the handful of walnut hulls into the bin. “Oh yeah? Where’s that ornate metal fork you picked up on Irasol?”
“Left cubby, on the third row of the sixth rack on my north wall, in the orange plastic cup.”
The birds tweeted, several crickets made themselves known, the breeze rustled the leaves on the trees. Spencer continued checking his square of the forest floor, chucking half the yellowish-green walnuts hulls in the bins while pocketing the rest in his pouch he kept on hand for such occasions.
Only when Spencer looked up did he acknowledge Krapor, who was staring at him, slack-jawed.
Incredulous bastard. “What?”
“I can’t believe you can just spout off bullshit like that. You little sqoltal.”
“Your quarters are the definition of complete chaos. They have a picture of it in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. Do not enter—danger zone. Dozens of safety regulations are broken in it, with a pukey rainbow as its permanent guest on your ceiling. There is no way you can know where that fork is.”
A while back, on one of the Facebook groups I belong to, the question was raised about translating LGBTQ fiction into other languages. A hot topic for many. Once my response got to be over 1000 words, I knew I had a blog post on my hands, so here it is.
Would I love my books translated into other languages so readers could enjoy more stories in their own native tongue? Yes. It would be great to spread LGBTQ fiction (and SF & F LGBTQ) further.
The biggest problem for independent US pubs is cost, and honestly, that will always be a deciding factor no matter how much someone wants to bring their books to a larger market.
CAN WE AFFORD TO DO THIS?
Will they make money, break even, or have a deficit if they choose to translate it? Depends on how well the author has sold and if large enough population outside the US pushes for it. If the company can't make the money back then that puts their US business in peril.
What kind of market can they take hold of to be able to promote the book? Most of the LGBT indie companies we work with/write for are established here in the US, and don't have a way to market the way we can here. Are there LGBTQ indie pubs overseas? Yes, but that's another topic. The freedom we have to write/publish here versus overseas is a different experience.
Will they be able to find a person who can translate well? I've seen translations from presses who have been ripped apart because the native speakers found faults in the translations.
I could go on, but that won't allow me to stipulate on some of the things I've seen/thought about.
I have seen arguments between English language authors and foreign language readers about pirated translations get horrid pretty fast, and I don't want to spend too much time on that but it does need to be part of the discussion - without the vitriol. Also, geography is important. To put it in perspective I want to use two genres as an example that are not English LGBT fiction: Scandinavian Mysteries & Yaoi (Japanese Boys' Love manga).
Would I love my books translated into other languages so readers could enjoy more stories in their own native tongue? Yes. It would be great to spread LGBTQ fiction (and SF & F LGBTQ) further.
The US is huge, with a lot of people, 330 million. All of Europe has about 742 million combined. We have a lot of people to create works for us, some of which aren't English, but the vast majority of books published here for the casual reader are in English. Now, the difference here, even though we have a smaller population is that the populace - until more recently - only needed to speak one language while Europeans are used to being multilingual. My brother in law speaks four languages regularly. Me? One. Take a look at the maps below to get an idea of what i'm talking about. They're not perfect, but I think the point is clear. Take a look of the one with Texas - our second largest state. How many different languages and cultures are shown in just that state?
Our societies have been structured differently from the get go. We drive two medium size states over, they're still speaking English. Travel the same distance in Europe and you have the possibility of encountering four, five, or six different languages depending on the direction. The average American will never have that experience. In Europe, being multilingual is a necessity and how business is done. If a book sells really well in one country, the others notice and approach that publishing house, work out a deal and get it translated as a course of business, but those are the best sellers on their lists. Some of the medium sized sellers may too, because they are used to this and have a business model to work with.
In the US, there are thousands of books published in English every week. A tiny fraction of those will only ever see translations in a foreign language. Only the big best sellers are approached — Stephen King is a perfect example — by publishing houses in foreign countries for the rights to translate and publish. It's not automatic and LGBT writers aren't discriminating against non-English speakers. We're writing in our own language and have not been approached by LGBTQ pubs in Europe to work out deals like the traditional model.
What about Scandinavian Mysteries? How does that apply? This applies to my geography issue, and the observations here are qualitative.
Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (aka Men Who Hate Women) got rave reviews and was out long before it ever got a US English translation. My dad ordered the UK version of it a year before it came out here. What does this tell us? It tells us translation is not a given. Mysteries were considered 'dead' in some sense here in the US and here comes this Scandinavian writer that changes everything. If his book hadn't sold as well as it did in Sweden, then it wouldn't have been translated for everyone else. US publishers wouldn't have noticed the sales in the UK and they never would have approached him/his representatives for the rights to publish here. Larsson had this awesome and different book with a strong bisexual female protagonist, and it changed things. He not only reinvigorated the US Mystery market, but he put Scandinavian mystery writers on the map.
Look at who is being brought over from Europe to the US—it's still the Scandinavian mystery writers they're bringing over, not the best French or German or Italian mystery writers - but more like Larsson. They found a spot to mine and that's what they're digging at until it dries up. Are there fantastic German/Spanish mysteries English readers are missing out on? Hell yeah, but we don't know because they aren't being pursued by publishers here. We also have a highly competitive market in our own language. Think about it. The size of the Chicago metro area (where I live) has almost the same population of all of Sweden. City vs Country. Think about it. Are those mystery readers pirating/translating the mysteries because they can't get them here? More often than not, no, no they aren't. Some are, there is always a small fraction of any population that will do so.
What this shows us that exclusion isn't on purpose. It can be hard to feel that, though, especially when you've been excluded for being who you are every day on some level.
LGBTQ writers here in the US aren't purposefully keeping their materials away from other LGBTQ readers. But for people who are often excluded or are harassed or discriminated against I can see why it would feel that way. We don't have the network and resources built in like the traditional publishing houses do, and that's part of the growing pains, but more on that in a bit.
Growing pains and exclusion actually leads me to Yaoi - for simplicity sake, the Japanese manga version of MM Romance. There's also the tamed down version of it called shounen-ai. Just like MM it has varying degrees of heat and explicitness. Just like MM it hit big, huge in fact, in the market. Anime and manga were being imported from Japan to the US with increasing amounts, and Yaoi was among the products doing well. For a while.
There were a few things that changed the landscape of importing manga and anime in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The internet being one of them, and a younger, savvier internet generation. Social media platforms made another huge impact. The way people could share information and their likes changed, and as that happened, so did another thing. Attitude. That one caused a lot of changes in the publishing landscape on many different ends-the authors, the consumers, the Japanese publishers, and the American publishers.
Yaoi has been around for a while, and was the big thing (in my mind) before MM Romance. It rose up in the 1970s in Japan and by the 1990s was often called Boys' Love, or BL. Its roots were in the Japanese dojinshi that parodied popular shonen (Boy's) manga and anime. What may have surprised some (but not others) was its staying power. In the 1990s, several companies were bringing over any (and really, I do mean any) anime and manga from Japan. We became a viable market for them and they started handing out their rights, signing big deals with lots of companies. Little, smaller operations popped up, wanting to bring over their favorites but not seeing the bigger names doing so. All sorts of genres fell into this. Popular anime and manga in Japan weren't necessarily what hit over here so it was a learning curve for everyone. And for a while, paradise. You could find anything you wanted.
People ate up anime and manga like no tomorrow. Lots of stuff got brought over, Yaoi being one of those things. And guess what? It was a huge hit, especially with female readers. Sound familiar? For a while dozens of Yaoi were being published a month, more on the way all the time. And then it all started to stop, slowly, bit by bit. The cash flow ebbed and all sorts of things got blamed. People had the demand, they wanted this anime and manga, so why was it too expensive to do any more?
What changed was the landscape.
We went from VHS tapes and paperbacks to DVDs and PDFs. On the internet, you could find anything, do anything, SHARE anything with anyone you wanted. The response was immediate. Hey, you want to know what happened in the next episode? Guess what, I translated it for you and uploaded to this server. Check it out.
Geneon brought over some really fun stuff and a huge variety of anime. They were one of the companies that went belly up here in the states. One of their titles was Kyo Kara Maoh!, a shounen-ai. It was actually a very popular anime in Japan. It's still ongoing as a manga and light novels. The anime also has a PlayStation 2 game. It ran for 117 episodes with 5 OVAs, and was even made into a musical. Here is the US, we have two seasons. When Geneon closed their doors in 2007, Funimation finished off the second season (78 episodes) for them and then let it drop (it's license expired in 2011). Now, Kyo Kara Maoh! had its issues, but this was an overall positive role model for LGBT youth that we lost.
The industry 'couldn't' meet fan demand. So, the fans took it into their own hands. They'd get pirated copies of shows or manga, do their own translation, and upload it to share. Who were they hurting? Those companies made a ton of money, right? Besides, they were too slow in getting the really good stuff out there. They had no taste. The fans could do it better than the paid translators anyway. Another problem? The readers were mostly teens and young adults – women — who didn't have the means to buy the translations. Not an uncommon problem LGBTQ youth have in today's market. (It is hard to buy the materials when you're afraid who might find them or have the means - job, credit card - to buy them legally and have to ask mom and dad to buy them when you're still trying to figure it out.)
All sorts of explanations went flying.
But what was happening is this: American companies invested in the Japanese manga and anime, but they no longer had buyers to give it to. Oh, now don't get me wrong, I have several bookshelves I can show you proving some of us bought, that many did. But with the illegal shares online (and some bad business decisions - no one thing can be blamed, but some shoulder it more), people stopped buying. They traded. So the companies who spent tens of thousands of dollars to put anime and manga out there weren't seeing revenues. Fans would refuse to take stuff down. Litigation happened, draining resources, and a sense of the right to share infused a certain portion of the fan base.
Less anime, less manga, and as a result less Yaoi. Publishers closed their doors because they couldn't afford to stay open and fight to get the translations down and not make money, as did companies of anime distribution. You want to tell me illegal translations didn't affect the market?
I was/am an avid Anime and manga fan. When I found Yaoi, I ate it up. They turned out one book after another, and then dates got pushed back, titles weren't going to happen. I bought Anime on a regular bases, trust me, I have the shelves filled with the stuff. I WATCHED as companies folded. I saw the genre I read, watched, and enjoyed evaporate. I encouraged people to buy and not read scanalations, or pirated translations on YouTube. But the writing was on the wall. I can't just go out to the store, see a huge selection and just buy what I want now.
Here's a list of publishers that opened and CLOSED during the Yaoi boom: Drama Queen, Be Beautiful, BLU, Broccoli, and Deux Press. (It may not be complete, there are a couple I can't tell if they are defunct now or not). As an example, Drama Queen was founded in 2005 and closed its doors in 2010-2011ish (I think). They lost the rights to a lot of their titles not long after opening their doors and were on extended hiatus for a good portion of that time. BLU was publishing arm of TokyoPop originally started bringing manga to the US in 1997 and eventually went bust by 2011 for a variety of reasons (the Border's bankruptcy did not help).
Some are still open, but not many, and they aren't producing what they used to. Just compare what June Manga produced in January of 2008 to January of 2014. In 2008 they were producing six titles a month (you can find it here) and now, in 2014, January had one title (you can find it here), and they don't always have a release anymore.
Another side effect of the illegal translations was the erosion of trust with US businesses.
Have new companies and relationships been forged? Yes, I won't deny that. But we aren't getting the same number of Yaoi translations we used to. The Japanese companies are tentative with what rights they do give. Some of the Yaoi companies popping up are forming from non-Japanese artists.
One example is SuBLime Manga (they have excellent PDF files by the way, best I've ever seen – love them). They have worked hard on getting Japanese companies to work with them again. To get the rights of Yaoi titles that were hanging in the wind because the other businesses shut down. But they had to work for each and every title, and the rights to print and digital versions were negotiated separately.
In fact, they had a post thanking fans for the responsibility they've shown with the digital works (you can find it here) because it has allowed them to negotiate new rights with other mangaka and their representatives. But it has taken a lot of effort.
Japanese businesses and writers don't want to sign over rights to have their works published. And why? They weren't making money. This was their livelihood, how they earned the clothes on their backs, and the food on their table, and instead of giving them a more comfortable existence, what they got was a major headache. Lots of titles are now out of print because of the companies going belly up. Those artists can't resell their rights because a creditor has them. And they are wary of doing more business.
SuBLime worked their tail off to get the titles that they have, and they aren't many. It is my hope that readers continue to show them respect by not sharing their translations. Many people watched as the industry fell apart, and many readers mourned the loss, so a lot of those same readers are now protective of the Yaoi that comes over now. We know if we screw it up this time, we get cut off.
And all of this mirrors the debate of translations for English-writing MM authors. If people go around sharing and translating without permission, claiming it’s not hurting anyone, the evidence says otherwise. The sharp decline of Yaoi being brought to the US shows this. If people are saying it's because we're excluding readers, it is not. It's about the resources and ability to be able translate it and the fear of revenue lost to piracy and unpredictable new markets.
Writing takes time. Editing, covers, and marketing all cost the publishers and authors money. If authors can't earn from their writing, then they have to work regular jobs, which means their production goes down, or stops. Just because you can get it on the internet does not equal free. There are a lot of things we can get online that we have to pay for and are willing to do so. If we cannot support the people who create the work that we read, it will go away. I've seen it happen. I don't want to see it happen again. It's not the same when it comes limping back. The selection is smaller and not as diverse or as interesting. Do we really want that to happen here, to us now?
We have an easier way to publish our work in the US, but we are by no means the only ones producing MM Romance. It would be nice to see small pubs overseas reach out to US companies and US companies reach out to foreign companies to work on getting translations, working with each other just like the big pub houses do. But they need the time to allow that to happen. Readers need to give them the time to make those connections because we're new. We're fledglings in this business and haven't had the time to build those connections.
We need to work together, not against each other, if we want to expand our genre farther. Instead of pointing fingers, people finding solutions so we can make the spread of love happen would be more beneficial. Money drives the market, and if that money dries up, so does our market, our chance to have ourselves realized in fiction. It sucks to say something like that, but it doesn't make it less true.
So do I want my books in translation? Hell yeah. And someday, I hope it happens, but first we got to make it so it's possible.
Available at Amazon (and other third party sellers soon).
Alone on his mountain, the kitsune Tadashi only wishes to be left in peace so he can mourn his lost lover and take care of his temple. Unfortunately, several townsmen who have no idea of Tadashi’s true nature have different plans for the "Jap on the mountain" and his land. When they push the kitsune too far, he reacts with horrific violence, leaving tragedy in his wake. Broken and terrified of himself, Tadashi represses his natural drives and shuts himself off from the world.
The intrusion of a lost little girl and her persistent veterinarian uncle, Berg, stumbling into Tadashi’s life, though, and turn his carefully ordered world upside-down. The reluctant hero needs to decide whether he is truly happier alone or whether he can once again embrace a truth he used to know, that life is for the living.
3rd Place, Best Gay Fantasy - 2013 Rainbow Awards
Coming April 5th! The Not in the Stars Anthology from Mischief Corner Books.
Since the dawn of human expression, man has gazed up at the heavens in wonder, inspired by the wheeling of the stars to explain his surroundings. While our perception of those surroundings have changed, from thinking of the Earth as a flat, stable plane to realizing we’re falling through space in a tiny atmospheric bubble, our wonder remains constant.
Space stations, alien races, far-flung planets—join the Mischief Corner authors as they explore the possibilities the stars might offer. The catch? Returning to mundane old Earth might be harder than you think.
My contribution to the anthology is a steampunk inspired moon colony called Orion 1 in 'The Marduk Expanse'. I loved this world I created and plan to revisit it. I would love to do a story about the inhabitants of the Elevator. Feel Me is a good mix of my writing. There are laugh out loud moments and there are sad ones, all of them encompassing a story about a young man who wanted to mean something to the only place he ever called home.
Feel Me - Freddy MacKay
One terrorist blast changed Master Tobias Zimmer's entire existence, relegating him to being nothing more than just a "Coppies" because of the metal replacing his flesh. As the once future Shogun of moon colony Orion 1, he now idles his time away keeping tabs on the Loyalists while his father and brother broker negotiations with the Earth Consortium.
A confrontation with his childhood enemy, Dr. Thorsten Nordenfelt, sets into motion events that cannot be undone and puts Tobias's sheltered heart at the center of the colony's attempts to free itself from the repressive Earth's rule.
Late in seventeenth century, the industrialized nations pooled their resources to find new kinds of energy, ones compatible with their newly found steam power. Through telescopic powers and unmanned rockets, they found the moon's surface to be rich in ores, minerals, and a special type of helium that they could use in their ships, trains and carts.
A Consortium was built, consisting of a young nation called the United Americas, the British Dynasty, the Dutch Empire, the Swedish Lords, the Prussian Alliance, the Australian Bushwackers and the Japanese Empire.
Other countries soon bought into the Consortium as well, wanting their percentage of profits. The only question was how to get to the moon so they could have unparalleled resources. The answer came in a simple invention during the early eighteenth century, one developed for the increasingly towering houses of the Nobles.
Debates raged. Monies thrown around. Committees formed. Political alliances brokered and broken, sometimes in the same day. Eventually though, legal documents were signed and the plans for an elevator to space were made. Once in space, they could build a platform, and from that platform, they could travel to the moon and develop it.
The Consortium poured all their resources, energy and time into the Elevator, undoubtedly the biggest engineering and architectural feat ever undertaken by man. Decades and changing technology as well as alliances caused the building of the Elevator to be slow and often dangerous work. Many young men lost their lives on the project, some were lucky enough to become old men.
By the time man reached space, several generations had been born, lived and worked on the bustling metal city of the Elevator, the people developing their own culture, language (Latium), moral codes and customs. There they had a new problem with which to contend. How to get to the moon? And more importantly, who would be controlling it?
When the people of the Elevator made it to the moon, they had harsh conditions struggle against, but their spirit could not be broken. They were made of the sky already, and could not be brought back down.
The colonists survived, thrived, and ultimately built a sustainable environment for families to live on the moon colony Orion 1, because during the decades long building of the Elevator, invention and innovation had become a life force of its own, many men becoming great thinkers and modifiers of old technology and bringing new life to it and to the people.
The original engineers and developers of the space colony found themselves now the political juggernauts of the people referred to as the Masters, and the ruling family called the Shoguns. The Zimmer family has…
Lifting his foot off the metal depressor of the exhibit, Tobias sighed and took a step back. He had no desire to hear about the great Zimmers and how they created the bustling hub of Orion 1 with almost two thousand permanent residents. He knew the history forward and backward. He had to. Everyone did. Unlike everyone else, Tobias was the genius extraordinaire of the Zimmer family, and the next Shogun of the colony. Or he was going to be. Now he was relegated to being a nobody.
You have no idea how excited I am that I got through and was able to register as a supporting author. Registration is pretty cut throat so I was worried I wouldn't make it. All my friends are coming into the Chicago area for the conference and (since I live in the area) , I really, really wanted to go too.
I almost did something bad when I kept refreshing and wasn't getting a shot in, but it happened and I am oh so happy.
Now I am off in search of an actual picture of me to put on the author bio. I avoid cameras like the plague so finding one isn't easy.
Just wanted to share a snippet from my WIp "Feel ME" for the Not in the Stars Anthology.
Oh, dear gods, what was Thorsten doing at his Portal? Why did the scourge of human existence want into Tobias's hub? No. It had to be a dream. Maybe he never really woke up at Dr. Goldstein's laboratory. The blast from the unpressurized Portal knocked him unconscious.
He had gotten knocked hard.
The pain filled nightmare with the Modifier's had been an expression of Tobias's mind wanting away from Thorsten. Yes. That could explain everything.
"Would you like to eat at the Spicy Noodles shop, or would you prefer the Indian stall with the good naan?"
Nope. Tobias sighed. This was his reality. Thorsten stood in the doorway, Tobias's coat in hand, ready to escort him to the Ichiban. The implications made his head hurt. The only saving grace at the moment would be his father hadn't contacted Tobias demanding explanations for yesterday. Maybe the negotiations kept him too busy to get angry. Probably not but one could hope. Tobias rubbed his forehead, trying not to frown too deeply.
"Or we can eat at the Hamada's Mine Restaurant. Their food is always excellent."
Tobias slid a glance to Thorsten. He had to figure a way out of this debacle waiting to happen. There was no way he could be see with the son of one of the biggest Loyalists on the colony. Gods only knew what Tobias's father would say if Thorsten continued to hang around.
Oh no. Noooooo. Oh, gods. Tobias's shook his head, feeling more caught then a helium miner without a life suit. Thorsten was mad if he thought Tobias's would walk with the dolt around Orion 1 together.
"Why are you shaking your head, Tobias? I thought you loved Hamada's Mine Restaurant," said Thorsten, crossing his arms. "You eat there all the time."
"I am not going to the Ichiban," stated Tobias quietly, controlling his voice carefully. Any perceived weakness and Thorsten would strike.
With a practiced flick of his hand, Thorsten pulled out his pocket watch then cocked an eyebrow. "You always go to the Ichiban this time of day, without fail."
Had Tobias gotten that predictable? Not good. He could become a target, or worse, the Loyalists would plan something disastrous when they knew Tobias would not be around. Bad. Very bad. How could he get so complacent? Stupid!
"What?" He snapped back, more than annoyed.
"Banging your head against the wall can't be good for you."
When had he started doing that?
"You need all your faculties undamaged. I'm not sure you have any to spare."
Not a whole lot to say really. Just a cover to show off for the MCB Anthology (Number 4!). This one is a science fiction theme, and will be out April 2, 2014.
I tend to be a little squirrelly, but my friends still love me anyway. ;)