Silence

Woman holding poster at Trump rally. Reads: Silence = Death.

For days now I’ve seen the news reports about the Chechen concentration camps for gay men go by my news feeds, and all I have been able to do is repost. Once on Twitter I managed to express a few lines of stunned horror. Everything else has been silence, the echoing emotions ringing inside my own heart. I have not known what to say. Not in the sense that there is something important for me to add to some kind of conversation, that I am some kind of expert or have any solution, but in that I do not know how to process this inside my head. The simple concept that this is happening–my brain always wants to say might be happening, wanting so much to cling to doubt–makes me want to retreat into shadow, close the door, shut the blinds.

That’s usually when Depeche Mode starts to sing to me, asking me if I Enjoy the Silence.

This has been my struggle with everything in the news since November. The level of disaster is a blitzkrieg. It’s not possible to RESIST at the level any of us want. Irrespective of personal struggles, it’s too much for one individual. At some point we all retreat into silence, and we must indulge in self care. We must look at kittens and Star Wars trailers and get excited for new books. But there is always that nagging question. How much silence is enough? How much is too much? How much is too little?

What, in the end, can we truly do?

What I have had to do, what I have detested doing, is making choices about where I put what I put my energy into. It horrifies me that there are so many important things going past me and I must say, no, that cause is not the one I can donate to, despite the fact that it is in as much danger as this other one. It’s not where I’m putting my flag. Money and energy are finite elements, and while I can empathize all day long, I can only show up to so many rallies, can only give so many pennies. Unless I stop doing anything but resisting. Unless there is no more silence at all, only noise. And so I don’t let that happen. But I hate it, and it hurts my heart, and it has the  effect of making me even quieter, even sadder.

But this new twist, this knife they give us now.

Concentration camps for gay men.

Concentration camps.

For gay men.

I cannot abide this silence.

I can’t stand it in my heart, in my head. I can’t bear the white, searing knife that hits me every time I read the headline, see that man in every AP photo. I don’t know who he is. A jailer? Victim? Reporter? I can’t read the articles. I can’t get that far. My imagination is too full from half reports. I read something this morning about bottles. Sitting on bottles. This is as bad as the torture of gay men in ISIS, except there it fits with the rest of what horrors they do. That whole organization is a pit of darkness, of our creation and the world’s, and in my head, I can bleed for it, weep, but it doesn’t cut like this.

THERE IS A CONCENTRATION CAMP IN THE WORLD FOR GAY MEN. In a country associated with the one that hacked our election. Which helped ensure a woman who would have acted on this isn’t in command. Which helped enable a Congress who doesn’t give a shit about this. Who won’t make one move to stop it. With an Attorney General who is probably wondering how he can organize his own.

Because this is where we are now. This is where we live. In this shitty, nightmare hellscape existence where we live and laugh like zombies, pretending it is fine while it all dismantles around us. The Christian woman who checks you out at the grocery store is potentially glad and grateful men and women and non-binary freaks like you are being rounded up and tortured. She may hope it happens to you here soon.

She has allies in power who are enabled like never before to make it happen. They just put a monster who hates you on the Supreme Court.

THERE IS A CONCENTRATION CAMP IN THE WORLD FOR GAY MEN.

Keep saying that. God fucking damn, walk up to strangers and remind them. It exists. It’s a thing. We’re walking around and laughing and acting normal and it’s fucking happening. You’re reading this and a man is being tortured because he’s gay or suspected of it. Or because they wanted to put him away and this was a good excuse.

So what’s going to happen here? Is Steve King going to come for me? Or are women getting a pass? Will they pat me on the head because I married a man? Will they lock me up for being sick in the head? Will my writing become dangerous to the state? What if my daughter wasn’t nearly an adult? Would they take her away from me because what I write is pornographic? (It isn’t.)

How’s your silence?

Mine feels like hell, that’s all I know. It tastes like ash. I cry in the shower. I read too many news stories, start to shake and go take an Ativan. I let myself put some politics in Shelter the Sea and then I said it’s time for light, and so for the story I’m writing now, it’s hope and light and wonder, and it’s exactly that. But sometimes it hurts so much to write like that when I feel like this.

I will not be silent on this. I don’t know how to speak yet, but I’m working on it. All I know is Jeff Sessions could fill three camps full of people I care about, and I bet he’d like to try. And I can’t stop him. Some of those people are children. My daughter’s friends. One of them is Damon Suede. I simply think about that one and I want to rend walls and storm DC like Boadicea and make a preemptive strike. Me, it’s hard to say. I’m open about my orientation, but it all depends on what they want, right? If they asked for my silence and the trade was to keep someone I loved safe?

There are concentration camps for gay men, and we’re doing nothing. Our congress is doing nothing. Our leaders do nothing. We do nothing. Unless we do.

Fuck this silence. Carry these men in your hearts. If you’re fighting you’re own battle, if you’re struggling in your own nightmare microcosm, push out, remember there are people fighting with you, bleeding with you–you simply can’t see them. Don’t drown in sorrow, but take them where you go. Remember. Push. Speak. Pull that energy, keep waiting for your moment. Resist in whatever way is right for you, and keep sucking on that light, gathering it, because there is going to come a time when we have enough focus to do something, all of us.

Keep this fight going however you can, however is right for you. Do not die in silence.

As for that bitch at the convenience store, walk on by. You don’t have time for that. She’s a tar pit of decay and rot, and your soul deserves better. You have a better land in store, and she doesn’t get to come to our party.

In the meantime, though, if you need to cry–god knows you do–go ahead.

I’ll be crying with you.

Where My Books Went, How You Can Get Them Back, Possibly Cheaper & Faster

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If you’ve gone shopping for sixteen of my books right now, you’ve found them impossible to get. There are for a few titles lingering paperbacks sold by legitimate publishers, but most are from resellers inflating the prices to ridiculous amounts. Please allow me to take a moment to explain to you what’s going on with my work, and for heaven’s sake, don’t pay $50 (or anything more!) for a first or second edition paperback.

All my out of print titles from Samhain Publishing and Wilde City Press will return to print within this calendar year or by early 2018. For your reference, the titles currently out of print are

  • Carry the Ocean
  • Love Lessons*
  • Fever Pitch*
  • Lonely Hearts*
  • Special Delivery*
  • Double Blind*
  • Tough Love*
  • Clockwork Heart
  • A Private Gentleman
  • Family Man
  • Let It Snow
  • Sleigh Ride
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Hero
  • Miles and the Magic Flute
  • The Devil Will Do

(The books with asterisks have third party audio rights, and you can still purchase these titles if you wish to listen to these books instead of read them in the meantime, but keep reading before you rush off.)

With the exception of Family Man, I will independently publish all these titles, and I’m working as hard as I can to get them back into the stream as fast as I can. The problem is, I have four new titles I’d already intended to write and publish independently this year too, and I also refuse to put out a book that isn’t done properly. This means I’m re-proofing each book before it goes out and in some cases doing a quick dust-up edit if it’s an older book where my re-reads have caught too many glitches. None of these things take too much time on their own, but collectively even a “quick” production takes time and effort on fifteen books.

I’ve also decided, since I’m here doing a big relaunch, to put three previously free shorts through the editing process and make them proper books and part of their series’ proper lineup. Those titles are

  • Frozen Heart (Love Lessons)
  • Hooch and Cake (Special Delivery)
  • The Twelve Days of Randy (Special Delivery)

I think there may end up being another one for Love Lessons this summer, possibly, but we’ll see.

The bottom line is that the books are coming back as fast as I can get them out. If that’s all you need to know, you can sign up for my newsletter now and you’ll know as soon as they’re back. If you want to get grittier details, keep reading, and if you want to know how you can get the books cheaper and faster (and help me out a bit in the production of this independent venture while also having a great time behind the scenes), keep reading.

Here are some questions I know you will have.

  • Will the new editions be different?  Yes and no. The content won’t be different on any of them, though there will be subtle editing on several titles, fussy stuff that will make the reading smoother but 90% of readers won’t ever notice. What you might notice and appreciate, however, is the improved formatting, particularly on the Samhain ebooks. I’ve noticed particularly on my iPad that the Samhain books have horrible indents and scene breaks; this will be fixed in the new editions.
  • Where will the books be sold? Everywhere I can send them. They’ll be on Scribd too, probably, and in libraries if Overdrive picks them up where you are (best way to get them is to go request them at your local library–you may need to tell them they have to ask again because they’re reissued). I’m going to make them free for libraries for a year so libraries can get them back since this really screws libraries that had the books. The only place you won’t find the books is Google Play, because their discounting always screws up Amazon.
  • Will there be audiobooks? Yes. Anything that doesn’t have an audiobook will eventually get an audiobook, but Iggy can only read so fast. First up is Carry the Ocean.
  • Will the books have paperbacks? Yes, and they’re going to be gorgeous. Kanaxa is doing them all, and the drafts she’s done so far are stunning.
  • Will the books have new covers? Some will, some won’t. The Love Lessons series, Carry the Ocean, and Clockwork Heart will keep  their original covers. All the others will have redesigns by Kanaxa. Even the paperbacks for the covers kept by Kanaxa, however, are substantially different, in the interior and exterior, in that the formatting is improved.
  • What’s the schedule for releasing your out of print books? It’s a little in flux, but here’s the best guess I have right now. I’m updating it as I know more.
  • What do you mean, I can get the books faster and cheaper? I’m glad you asked. This one needs more than a bullet though, because the short answer is, you join my Patreon. The long answer needs some links and some foregrounding.

Heidi Cullinan’s Patreon in 2017

There are several posts on my Patreon which outline this in better detail, including a video which I encourage you to watch before you pledge (unless you read the posts and pledge details and immediately feel you know what it is you want to do). I’ll give you a summary here as well, however, so hopefully between all the sources you can make an informed decision.

Patreon is a pledge community. Essentially if you join my Patreon you become my patron, pledging a dollar amount per month to support me. You can pledge as low as $1 per month, though you can edit your pledge (or end it) at any time.  For your pledge, you get specific rewards, which are detailed in the sidebar of my profile page.

Now, normally the rewards are different: most months the rewards are intangible or are smaller, more extra things. 2017 being 2017 has changed everything, and this year is largely a bumper crop for my patrons, to the degree that it’s not a matter of getting a book a month, it’s which book that month you’ll get, most of the time. My patrons have to be on their toes right now, deciding what pledge levels they need each month because their reward needs are different each month, and I don’t know yet which month will contain which reward. The bottom line is, my patrons are getting a lot of books this year.

The other detail you need to know about being my patron is that it will allow you to get my books early. Have you been eagerly awaiting the sequel to Carry the Ocean? Well, my patrons have seen the cover to Shelter the Sea, some have seen excerpts, some pledge levels read the ARC, some have their names in the acknowledgements (that’s a pledge level reward), one won her name as a character, and they’re all about to get the ebook, probably next week. Maybe by this weekend. They’re going to get Carry the Ocean as well, if they signed up for two ebooks. Everyone else will be waiting until the end of April or early May for the standard release of Shelter the Sea, and they may have to wait another week or two for Carry the Ocean to reappear. My patrons will get paperbacks early too, if they’re at that pledge level, and they’ll be signed, though some people chose to donate their paperbacks or give them to others.

Do you love Walter Lucas or Baz Acker or Mitch Tedsoe-Keller more than you know how to say the words? Do you want desperately to see your name printed in the cover of their book? You can do that, as a patron, by upping your pledge to that reward level for one month (at the right month, and I’ll help you make sure you’re at that month, don’t worry). Do you want to be a muse who whispers in my ear and helps tell me what to write, for a little while or forever? Do you want to see your name on my website as a muse? That’s a pledge level too. Do you want to get rewards you missed? There’s an option for that. There’s so much stuff you can do. Plus we hang out a lot, telling stories, brainstorming, talking books and anime and movies. Recently I shared an Indiegogo campaign of another author I thought my patrons might be interested in, and they were very interested, so that worked out nicely for everyone involved. We’re a community, a family.

My Patreon right now is my biggest income stream, because Samhain has stopped, and I’m in the dry spell where I haven’t yet put these titles back (and there’s a third party delay before payment) but I have to spend a ton of money to get them out again. That’s another reason for the staggered release, why I’m not simply whipping them all back out this month. The more people who join my Patreon, the faster I can do that, the more audiobooks I can do, etc. Because Patreon pays me monthly, immediately, and the truth is plenty of people will still buy the books in third party, so this isn’t hurting me at all, having you join me this way. Plus at $1 it’s a nice price for you, cheaper than anything at Amazon or anywhere. You also get our customer service, which any patron of mine will tell you is better than anything else you can get. My husband Dan is my assistant, and he takes care of anyone who misses a reward or loses their file or can’t figure out how to get something to load.

Right now my Patreon family is almost 200 people, which feels big to me, but I’m not worried about size anymore. So far every time we add someone new it’s just more family. I welcome every expansion, every new member, every evolution of our sacred space. Because the money is important, and I’m so grateful for it–but what I crave the most are the reader interactions, the patron updates, the feedback, the comments, the people who support me. My greatest dream is to someday have a patron meet up, where we can all hang out face to face, finally.

If you want to come join us, for community or just to get the goods–you’re welcome to. You can even simply poke around and try it out. I hope I see you there.

If you have any questions about my books, my schedule, my Patreon, or anything else, please email assist@heidicullinan.com, and we’ll help you out. (You’re emailing Dan because my email is a large Dumpster fire, and he’ll triage these and get them answered so much more efficiently than me.)

I’m going to go back to editing and formatting and writing so I can get you these books back ASAP. Take care, and happy reading!

Heidi’s Handy-Dandy “How Do You Patreon as an Author” Post

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I’ve been asked by a number of authors lately to give my thoughts and share my experience as someone who has used the Patreon platform, and in the interest of both giving that reply and helping anyone else who might be curious, I’m going to answer those questions here on this blog.

I began my own Patreon in a typical Heidi fashion: on a passion-fueled whim. It was August 28, 2015, and some Serious Shit™ had gone down in my life. Some bad, some good, but the bottom line is that big changes came with financial price tags, and I couldn’t figure out how to finagle things to account for that. Add to that I’d started to go indie on some of my backlist titles and was thinking about starting some of my new work as indie as well. Then I read Amanda Palmer’s Patreon pitch, got caught up, and jumped in. This was the post I wrote about how she moved me, where in the end I spontaneously started a Patreon. It was later in the evening, and I went to bed on a rosy glow of Amanda-fueled feeling.

The next morning I woke much more sober and went downstairs prepared to delete the Patreon and write a “hey, JK” post because I felt foolish for being so overexcited. I worried I’d let myself be too carried away and wanted to undo my exuberance. Except when I went to the Patreon site, readers had already joined. Lots of them. Not an army or anything, but several people. Enough that now I was stunned out of my shame and sat there long enough that even more people joined, to the point that I had a real Patreon and now here I am, sixteen months later, not only still using the site but considering it an integral part of my publishing experience.

I started my Patreon for a specific reason, but it quickly became something greater and more complex than anything I could have ever predicted.  The money is of course what draws artists to the platform, and it’s a huge perk. In the sixteen months since I started my Patreon, my income from publishing houses and vendors I deal with as an independent author has come with all manner of headaches at different times, some which have been heartbreaking and intensely stressful, some simply infuriating—but every month that Patreon income simply arrives as the stable paycheck we can count on. It’s not a ton, but it helps. In good times it simply shaves off the overhead of indie book production, but in rough seas it can be what saves our bacon. Multiple, multiple times my husband has threatened to write the Patreons a fan letter. Because there was a span of months where the stress of publishing chaos, my health, and general whatnot meant my production was low and therefore sales were grim all around, and of course that’s when everything happened in our lives and the teenagers needed All The Things, Right Now, and we were sweating and panicking but every month there would come that solid, stable slam of money. My husband loves the patrons almost as much as I do.

Most of the time, however, the money is only a perk for me. Don’t get me wrong, I value (and utilize) every dollar, but the interaction and the connection is a bigger deal for me. Even when I’m not able to post as much, simply having the Patreon space is huge. I’ve crowdsourced both the entire patron hive mind and sections of it for help with projects (they’re giving me feedback right now, in fact, on something about my WIP), vented my frustration with minor things in general about writing or the process, kept them abreast of what’s going on without broadcasting it to the whole Internet.

Sometimes though simply knowing they’re there is huge for me. I don’t know why Patreon feels different than social media. I think it’s the idea of skin in the game. Or maybe it’s because of how I stumbled into this, because I let myself slip into asking. All I know is that for me, the connection of serving my patrons is magical. It frees me in a way I never knew it would. I don’t think it would work that way for every author, and in fact I think it could cripple many, that mental framework. For me, it’s so perfect. Every month I look at my patrons and think, “How am I serving you? What do I need to give you?” It’s never a burden, and in fact it centers and sometimes heals chaos in me to focus that way. It’s a kind of meditation for me.

Now, the key here is for me. The reason I’m taking the time to write this very long post and getting so personal about my reply is that my answer whenever someone asks me about Patreon is that I am adamant that each Patreon must be for each author and for each fandom/reader group. I think it’s a good idea for authors interest in Patreon to join the Patreons of other artists at least for a little while to poke around and see what’s up, to look at their rewards and get ideas, but in the end you need to make your own choices and find your own way. You also need to expect to make changes a lot until you find what works.

The one thing I’d say should be universal is that the word patron does mean you’re there to serve the people coming to you, and since there’s an exchange make sure you’re honoring it and being up front and realistic about what you intend that exchange to be. A lot of times people show me their rewards in preview before they go live, and if I ever offer criticism it’s to push them to think about how exactly they’re going to deliver what they’re promising every single month. It gets dicey thinking about how to reward people all the time, and you panic and think of stuff that sounds good in theory until you’re on deadline and suddenly you have to figure out how to run a Skype chat for people who aren’t showing up anyway because nobody wanted that reward except one guy in Cleveland. There’s also the eternal question of do you go monthly or by creation–always a hard call, because it depends on what you’re offering and how you’re setting it up. How often are you putting books/things out? How long are you making new patrons wait to join the fun? Sometimes they can’t see cool posts/get rewards until they’re charged, so if you’re going to go by thing at the very least have them charged as they join (that’s an option) so they can get access right away.

 

I don’t ever intend my Patreon to replace traditional bookselling. I do offer my books as rewards to my patrons, so technically they take away from sales, but my patrons aren’t even a tenth of my book sales at this point, so they’re a scratch off the sales at best. Plus my patrons are more likely to recommend my books to others, ask for my books to be included in libraries (some of them are librarians and booksellers), and in general help promote my work. Also even the $1 a month patrons are technically giving me more “royalty” per book if I produce my usual books per year if they remain patrons for the full twelve months. Because I do give all my patrons all my books. I have enough higher level patrons they more than subsidize the $1 patrons, which means $1 pledges are a great way for students and fixed-income readers to get all my works, something I’m interested in facilitating.

I also love giving things to my patrons. It’s a hot pleasure of mine. I sometimes find random things in my life or think of books or what have you and think, “the patrons would love this,” and I enjoy offering it to them as a prize they can enter for. I give books of the month, let certain levels see sneak peeks of covers and blurbs and stories… It’s not that I don’t enjoy sharing these things with other readers too, but it is nice to have it contained in a space. I don’t love always that money is the gatekeeper, but it’s a dollar. $12 a year, and people aren’t required to stay a whole year.

Perhaps Patreon won’t always work for me–things change, needs alter. For now, however, Patreon is an integral part of my indie publishing experience, and this is how I utilize it, this is my advice for those thinking of doing the same. There’s nothing wrong with changing your Patreon if it’s not working the way you want, and there’s also nothing wrong with deciding it isn’t right for you and your readers after all.

Here is my Patreon if you’d like to look at it. There are all manner of rewards, and you can see them in the side column. You’re welcome to borrow any of those that might suit you and your readers, or use them to inspire your own ideas. I wish you luck in your Patreon endeavors, and I hope you find your community to be as close and nurturing as mine is to me–or, perhaps I should say I hope your community is whatever you wish it to be for you, and that your readers feel the same way.

Life After Yuri on Ice – Beyond the Boundary Episode 1

Everyone is coming off their Yuri on Ice highs and are thirsty for more great story. If you’re looking for gay romance, well…um, hi there, but also, you know, there’s a bazillion other books and here are some others I’ve read, just a handful. Mostly though people are looking for anime. I’ve joined MyAnimeList and am trying to keep it updated (still thinking of things and adding them), but I’m also going to start rewatching and recapping the shows I really love and posting reviews on that site and my various blogs. It does double-duty as research/background amp for an upcoming work-in-progress of mine, but it’s also my happy place. So with no further ado, let’s dig in.

Tonight I’m starting with Beyond the Boundary, also known as Kyoukai no Kanata. The anime is based on a Japanese novel which has, alas, not been translated into English. I’m learning Japanese, but right now I can almost write out the basic hiragana with a cheat sheet and I can parrot back a few basic phrases and recognize a few in anime—Japanese characters are still almost entirely nothing but scribbles on the page to me, so I won’t be reading any manga or novels anytime soon. The bottom line is BtB isn’t quite like Yuri on Ice in that it was created specifically to be an anime, but it isn’t like Noragami or Haikyu! in that it’s being made into an anime as the manga is still being written.

I’ve already watched BtB all the way through, but it’s been about six months so some of the fine details get fuzzy. I also am absolutely no expert on Japanese culture or Japanese anything, so expect to hear me talk about aspects of what I’m seeing and be bemused by stuff that someone who knows better will pipe in and say, “That’s because X” or “that’s a Y” and this is all fine. I’m here to make all new mistakes in 2017.

This is post is analysis but also recap, so if you don’t want spoilers you should go watch it first and then get back here and read. You can stream it as of this posting on Hulu as well as Crunchyroll.

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The first thing you need to know about BtB is that it is beautiful. I recommend it as something to watch post YOI because beauty is one of the things we fell for, and BtB delivers in every episode. The animation is often breathtaking and sometimes heartbreakingly breathtaking. The opening sequence is absolutely stunning, full of pans and sunsets and so much beauty you want to keep watching just to see what else they’re going to deliver if this is how they open the show.

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The characters aren’t exactly slouches either. We begin with narration from Akihito Kanbara, who has spied a new female student standing on the ledge of the top of a building, and he assumes she’s ready to jump and commit suicide. He gives us a few thoughts about suicide in general, about what it means to take one’s life, and he remarks, without explanation, that this isn’t something that’s going to be an option for him in this life, so far as he knows. He also points out that he has two choices, to passively watch to see what happens with this girl or to be active and try to stop it, and though he’s normally a passive person he can’t help but rush to the rooftop and try to stop her. He omits part of what he says to her, though he lets us know he complimented how good she looked in glasses as he begged her to reconsider her suicide.

The girl remains still for a moment, then remarks, calmly, “How unpleasant,” backflips over the chain link fence, lands in front of Akihito, forms a sword out of her own blood, and stabs him with it. He cries out, falls, then asks, politely but out of breath, if she could please take the sword out of him for now. “What are you?” she asks, and he points out he should be asking her the same question. And that, he tells us, he how he met Mirai Kuriyama.

It’s a killer opening…and in the grand tradition of Japanese anime, instead of answering all those questions, we now migrate away from any attempt at those and instead go to high school, or university, or whatever kind of school we’re at here. All I know is there are virtually know parents, everyone lives alone in apartments or in big empty houses with older siblings, and they’re pretty much independent, yet they all go to school and despite dealing with paranormal issues on a daily basis, they still have to study for tests and tend to their club activities.

Which is where we open now. Akihito is in the literary club room with Mitsuki, who is one of my favorite secondary characters. She’s sassy, intelligent, and a cool head in a crisis. Also, sexy. In any event, she teases Akihito as they try to select manuscripts, but he’s distracted by noises in the hall, which turn out to be Mirai, who has come for her daily attempt to kill him. He is annoyed by this and attempts to explain to her, again, that he’s immortal and can’t be killed. In their back and forth they give us some grounding backstory we need to understand the story world: Mirai is a Spirit World Warrior, the last of a cursed clan with the rare and despised/feared ability to control their blood and used it as a weapon to kill youmu, which are these kind of demon things which can possess people but mostly run about making a muck of things and need to be killed. Mirai’s job as a Spirit World Warrior is to kill youmu, and she’s supposed to be really good at it.

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Akihito isn’t possessed by a youmu as he keeps trying to tell her; he is a youmu, or rather is half youmu, half human, and because of this he’s immortal. It’s not something he chose, but there’s nothing he can do about it, so would she please stop trying to kill him. She nervously, fussing with her glasses (which he finds attractive as he has a serious glasses fetish) says she’s sorry, she must keep attempting to kill him. He stalks off, frustrated, and returns to the club room.

Mitsuki suggests he let Mirai keep trying, but Akihito angrily points out it hurts when she stabs him. When Mitsuki wonders why Mirai is so persistent, Akihito is struck with a wonderful idea, thinking perhaps Mirai is in love with him and that is why she keeps trying to kill him. He’s very pleased by this thought, because he’s all behind being loved by a girl who looks great in any pair of glasses. Mitsuki calmly labels him a deluded pervert, pops her lolly back in her mouth and continues reading a fiction about dismemberment.

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Did I mention how much I love Mitsuki?

Then Mitsuki turns serious, suggesting Akihito should avoid any further interactions with Mirai. He’s surprised and asks why. Mitsuki reminds him that her family, the Nase family, are Spirit World Warriors and have jurisdiction over all the other Warriors in their district. She points out a Nase daughter is giving him advice, and if that doesn’t spell things out for him, then he’s stupid. On that note, she leaves.

Akihito, who is apparently stupid, meets up with Mirai, or rather lingers until all the other students are gone so when she tries to kill him there’s no one around. He does attempt to outrun her this time, but she’s pretty spry and after a merry chase they end up having a duel in a classroom which involves her being by terms as intense and clever as a ninja and clumsy as a clown. Their battle is interrupted by an invasion of a full youmu, however, and when it attacks Mirai not only hesitates but trembles, afraid to attack. Another Spirit World Warrior appears and gives chase, but the gig is up now: Akihito realizes that though Mirai has no trouble stabbing him over and over, she’s too scared to actually attack a youmu.

youmu attack.png

He takes her to dinner to talk things over, and while she eats out half the restaurant (on his dime) she explains she’s never killed a youmu, that she’s been too afraid. She was using him for target practice, basically, and since she realized he couldn’t die it was super handy. He gets angry at this, reminding her that stabbing hurts, and then the waitress reappears with more food for her and he’s even angrier at the idea that she’s bleeding him dry. “Wasn’t that the deal?” she asks. “You feed me in exchange for not trying to kill you?” Then he realized she intends to not try to kill him only for tonight.

He walks her to the train station, still trying to reason with her and point out she could be hunting youmu like a regular Spirit World Warrior, but she will barely talk to him and simply thanks him for dinner before she leaves.

The next day Mitsuki tells Akihito to meet her in the cafeteria for lunch instead of the clubroom, which is odd, but he does it because it’s what he does. She gives him a cryptic message, telling him once again to stay away from Mirai, more forcefully this time. She lets him know the Nase family is keeping an eye on her. But she also acknowledges that despite her warning, he’s probably going to have contact with her anyway, right? Probably, he admits, then laughs. “But hey, I’m immortal, right?” She leans forward and whispers in his ear, as serious as a heart attack, “If only you could die.”

in the park.pngNow it’s the end of the day again, and Mirai is meeting up for her usual attempted murder. Except instead she goes out for lunch in the park with Akihito, where he gets her to admit everyone talks bad about her on social media, she has no friends but him, and she avoids her apartment because there’s a youmu in there that she can’t kill. He declares this must be fixed. If she learns to kill youmu, then maybe she’ll leave him alone, he thinks.

She says she doesn’t want to, and he asks her, exasperated, why she doesn’t simply quit being a Spirit World Warrior. She shoots back, just as frustrated, that she can’t, reminding him of her cursed blood. She says she tried, but she can’t walk away from it whether or not she wants to. This is what she has to do. He goes quiet, gives her a small, sad smile and says, “It’s the same for me.” Then he leads her to her apartment.

sad smile.png

They arrive, and at first it simply seems empty and quiet, but soon there are strange noises and movements, and the youmu appears. Mirai whips out her blood sword as the youmu forms, looking like some kind of floating unwrapped mummy…and the episode ends.

youmu apartment attack.png

I love a lot of things about Beyond the Boundary. I love that the girl is the one whipping the sword around, to start. I love that the guy is pretty beta. There’s actually more about the guy to come and we’ll discuss that in upcoming episodes, and this will include ships, but we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them. I also love the whole monsters inside theme, which isn’t new at all of course, but I love the way BtB plays with that theme. I love that it’s Mirai’s blood and Akihito’s identity, that neither one of them want what they have inside them but to take it away is to end them and so live with it they must.

I also adore what I already mentioned, how we go through this whole thing with mega ultra paranormal background and it is only going to dial up, but meanwhile, don’t forget your school books. As a writer I’ve got to remember this grounding, because it seriously works. They lose it a bit in later episodes, but I really dig this whole “the world is a mess but school must go on.” Everyone writes it for kids but hey, it works for adults too because that would be Life 101. All damn day all I wanted to do was enjoy anime and maybe do some fun things but I had Things I Had to Do. Oh to only have high school in my way. At least then someone would be making me dinner. I’m the asshole who has to cook and make sure there’s food to be cooked. This is why I love the high school magic. Someone is taking care of the background noise. Oh, to have a cafeteria! A clubroom. An adult above me to pretend to have answers so I didn’t have to be the one standing up and lying my ass off about how it’s fine and we’re not all about to go down in a flaming Cheeto apocalypse.

The thing I’ll tell you too is that this anime ends happy enough that I’ll rec it. Now you may end up shipping people who don’t sail together, and that’s fine—the ending is vague enough you can still pilot side boats if you want. I’m not sure that the “movie” or extra version or whatever you call it is out on Crunchyroll. I think I watched it on Youtube but to be honest I’ll be buying the Bluray because I really dig it and need it in my life. For now, however, I’ll continue recapping the episodes one at a time once I have my life homework done and my word count/WIP goals met for the day.

If you decide to give Beyond the Boundary a try, I hope you like it.

 

 

Born to Make History: Yuri on Ice Episode 12, History Made and Next Level Feels on Deck

Honestly, I should wait until tomorrow to write this recap and analysis, as I am still a teabag of feels still steeping, but I’m also Little Miss Brood and should frankly get my butt back to writing books tomorrow, so let’s write this bitch before I get caught up in the day job or the wrong thing trips me back into an anxiety puddle again. Because right now Everything Is Fucking Wonderful even though Yuri On Ice has ended. Season one has ended, that is. The punchline of the day is I would bet hard, hard money we’re getting a season two and that the series as it stands is highly satisfying, emotionally healing and utterly rewatchable until we get that second season. So today we dance, katsudon. Ready or not, we dance.

There will be spoilers ahead, and GIFS. Here’s the non-GIF link. Before we get there, though, here’s a list of all my blog posts to date on Yuri on Ice. I’ll update this as any get added, including the one I’ll be doing on December 28 at Happily Ever After at USA Today. That one will be more of a retrospective post, but my aim is to make it interesting to both people who have watched the show and people who are curious.

And because it comes up every time I do a post: You can watch Yuri on Ice here.

Okay. Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.

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On reclaiming power in trauma

This post isn’t about Yuri on Ice, believe it or not.

I’m definitely still in my initial stages of exploring this topic for myself, but it helps me to talk out loud, and it helps me to feel like I’m helping other people recognize if they’re in the same boat themselves. I know that’s the case because every time I bring this subject up I’m drowned in comments and emails and notes of people saying, “I feel that way too.”

I’ve not been shy about admitting I haven’t been able to handle the post-election fallout well, and the truth is it very quickly became only a tiny bit about the election itself. Despite all my efforts to use logic, coping mechanisms, and every tool in my not insignificant arsenal to assert self care, since November 9 I have barely eaten, barely slept, experienced frequent (but mild) panic attacks, had decreased interest in usual activities, been irritable, withdrawn from friends and family. I am unable to listen to any news and even a few news stories, even simply Twitter headlines can send me into a terrible spiral. I don’t mean that I’m simply upset. I mean that one story about the CIA  can mean I won’t sleep. Sometimes a simple photo of a certain individual who won the electoral college can render my appetite dead for eight hours. In no way am I exaggerating my reactions. They’re intense and upsetting and I am, despite all my efforts, unable to control them. I’m managing them, but I cannot get ahead of them, not in the way that I want. And as December 19 (the day the electoral college votes) approaches, all my anxieties get worse.

I have my coping mechanisms, but they’re bandaids, and I’m very aware of this. So today with great eagerness I went to my new therapist and fifteen minutes into her gentle leading chatter I abruptly took hold of the conversation and said I wanted to talk about something, and I explained what was happening to me. I laid it all out. We’ve already talked about this in my introductory visit, but I really put the whole corpse on the table, and I was honest and calm but also raw about it, and then I said, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to move forward, can you help me?”

I knew she wouldn’t have a magic wand. I didn’t expect her to fix me, but I hoped she could give me a tool or at least some insight so I could move forward or at least not feel so helpless. She did give me something, and it was odd, because it was something I already knew. But it was oddly magical after all, simply having someone else say it to me, to have me lay that all out and then have her name it. See it. Acknowledge it too.

Basically, I’m reliving trauma. This really is PTSD. Old wounds are fresh, past pain returned. It’s shocking and painful to my present self because I thought that was done, gone, but it’s shocking and painful also because that pain is still real. And my reaction this time is to freeze. There’s nothing I can do, and so I am standing still, bleeding out, watching things fall.

I’m working on trying to move. This post is part of it. I don’t like losing control, and I’d rather tell the whole world that I’m having a hard time than slink around quietly pretending otherwise. I’d rather put a pike in the ground with tears down my face bleeding than bleed on the inside and stumble around while people wondered what was wrong with me as I continued to fall more and more spectacularly. Also, I know I’m not the only one having trouble. Apparently therapy offices are full of people like me. Like, full. This fucking election woke up all of us. Some people are angry and fired up, and I love you for that. Please go fight.

Those of you who need to sob and bleed, those of you frozen who can’t move, my hand is up. I’m in this corner, if you need to huddle.

Here’s the thing that I talked about today, the thing that made me sob all the way home, the thing that drove me to blog, that I need to climb on top of so I can find better footing. It’s not just that the man who assaulted me and fucked with my head has merged in my mind with the President Elect, that ever time I see him or hear him or read his name I feel physically ill, the way I did when I was young. It’s that every time I see people who voted for him or discarded the threat of him and protest voted I see enemies and enablers. I see the people who I told and didn’t believe me. I see the people who dismissed me. I see the people who made excuses and didn’t help. I understand intellectually it’s not the same, but the problem is, trauma doesn’t work that way. It’s a reptile response, and at this point when I drive down a road and see a Trump bumper sticker, my brain says, enemy, threat, get out, get out, they hate you, they don’t care what happens to you or anyone you love, they’re monsters. I can’t see people anymore. I see enemies and allies. It’s really exhausting, and I want to quit, but it’s not that simple.

I have been crying pretty much since my appointment, but honestly that’s good. They’re different tears than the ones I cried right after the election. Those were tears of panic, and these are release, mourning. While I drove Sia’s “The Greatest” was playing, and I immediately put it on repeat and cranked it as loud as my eardrums could stand. It’s playing now, so loud the bass is like a heartbeat in my head, Sia entreating me over and over again not to give up, reminding me I’m free to be the greatest and that I have stamina. And at some point a triangle of images formed in my head, three Heidis from three different times of my life when this trauma was sharpest. The time of the incident, which was such a hellish, awful time on so many levels, a Heidi floating on a sea of chaos, barely feeling. The Heidi in her early twenties, returning home and seeing him in town and recoiling in fear, having panic attacks, trauma spilling over until random things triggered her and she melted down at college, ending up in her first real therapy session with the campus pastor, the first person to believe her.

Then there’s the current me, the last leg of the triangle. We stand across time and space, regarding each other, feeling each other’s pain and shock and helplessness. I have tried to send strength to them, showing them where we end up, and they in turn have sent strength back to me, reminding me that we did in fact find a way to go forward, that it hasn’t been that the trauma has been eating us alive all this time. And yet I’m also noticing there’s a need to stand here and acknowledge it, to witness. To say, “this is a thing we are all having, and it is awful and painful and none of us deserve it, whether or not we can endure it. Maybe we are the greatest and have stamina, but this is a shitty thing we have, and we all hate it.”

It’s funny, that’s the thing I resist the most, because it feels like a dark pit, as if acknowledging it sucks is the most dangerous thing, that which will suck me down. And yet every time I join the others in admitting how much this hurts, how much I hate it, how much I am still both of them no matter how old and smart I am, how wise I may have become–every time I jump into what I’m afraid is darkness, that’s when I’m able, even if only for a moment, to sing along with Sia and spin in a spark of light.

I can’t call Senators. I can’t protest or picket. I can’t yell or scream, even though I have in the past. When you see me gleefully tweeting about anime or anything at all, I may be indulging in my privilege to ignore the woes of the world, but it isn’t the case that if I didn’t ignore it I would be out there fighting. The only other choice for me right now is destruction. I hate admitting that, but it’s where I am. If I had to spend my days lobbying politicians and arguing against who we have elected I would last less than a week and then I would need to be hospitalized. Absolutely no hyperbole in that sentence.

That said, I know my way out of this. One, therapy. Lots and lots of fucking therapy. I have so many goddamned appointments, honey, and I’m going to all of them. All of them. Crying is happening too. I’m hoping soon when I wake up at three AM I can come down and cry and journal rather than simply watch Haikyuu! and try to forget the world exists. As soon as the smoke clears on Christmas I’ll be back to full time writing too, and that will help me as well, because work has always calmed and focused me. You can bet your ass this will all bleed into my books, and that’s a good thing. Directly and indirectly, but what will matter is I can create those worlds and feel as if I have control. I am not okay right now. But I know what I need to do in order to get to okay again.

And now we get to the other reason I wrote this post, in addition to it being therapeutic for me to confess. If you read this and you feel this way at all, if you’re having trouble because of this fucking election, whether or not you feel you have a right to feel that way or it’s silly or not or you’re overreacting–if you relate to anything I said here even a little, please, please go find yourself a good talk therapist. They’re not magicians, but they’re wonderful mirrors. Someone to help you see yourself and what you’re doing and where you’re trying to go.

Even if you can’t do that, if you’re having trauma because of this election or for any reason, don’t feel ashamed, and don’t feel alone. And don’t feel powerless. I may be down now, but I’m not felled, not by any measure. It’s not about whether or not you fall. It’s how you get back up again.

I definitely have a mountain to climb. But Sia’s right. I do have stamina. And the hell if I’m giving up. Then, now, or ever.

Born to Make History: Yuri On Ice Episode 11, Our heartbeats flutter to a stop (but it’s gonna be okay, I swear)

 

There will be a GIF and non-GIF version of this blog for many reasons. If you require a non-GIF version of this post, please redirect to this link before the cut.

If you’re reading my posts for spoilers, you can carry on as you do. If you’re here because you’re trying to decide if you should wait until next week to watch because you’re nervous, if waiting a week is going to kill you if there’s too much tension but you don’t want to be spoiled, let me stop you right here. Play episodes 1-10 on permanent loop for the next seven days and then play 11-12 straight through next Wednesday. You’re welcome.

Because yes. It was That Kind of Episode.

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Born to Make History, Supplemental: Yuri on Ice—The Gift of the Undefined Romance

Spoilers for Yuri on Ice up in here, folks. You’ve been warned.

This non-recap post is part me escaping pre-Christmas responsibilities (not really feeling it this year, TBH) and part giving into an increasingly burning need to talk through stuff percolating as I think through my recent re-watch of episodes 1-10 after our revelatory credits sequence last Wednesday. I’d been thinking about some of this stuff for some time, but two topics stood out most to me during my review: how beautifully character flaws were made vital to the story, and how perfectly and consistently Kubo left the relationship of the protagonists as undefined as possible, allowing the viewer to define it instead. I’m going to cover the flaws topic in another post sometime. Right now I want to talk about that undefined aspect, because I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I doubt there are many writers talented enough to pull it off on this level.

I certainly know I’d have trouble doing it. Creating that kind of reader space isn’t just tricky, it’s like creating one of those crazy sugar-carved eggs, except you have to do it underwater while the egg is in space and with robot arms that will be disturbed by random earthquake tremors. Conflict and arc in a romance is all about the relationship, about the build, the stakes, the yearning, but that means you have to show the relationship. Which generally means giving away what kind of relationship it is. You have to acknowledge orientation, gender identity, pasts, fears, hopes, for at least one of the characters.

I love how Kubo basically ignored these rules and carried on as if logic and reason didn’t apply, and it works so well, better in fact than if she’d laid it out. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d love a version where Yuri ID’d himself as gay or bi or demi or even acknowledged he had more sexual feelings (or even simply romantic feelings) for Victor. But that doesn’t fit with his theme, his “this love is more than any one thing” love. Which I assume is Kubo’s theme too, but more on that in a bit.

new-yuri-we-havent-seen

Kubo gets away with her strategy, I think, because her medium visual, not written. I honestly can’t see how someone could pull off such a non-specific relationship (without deliberately saying it’s non-specific) in written text, though now I kind of want to see someone try. You couldn’t do it with tight point of view, not the way most romances are written. (Though now I want to see that tried as well.) The difference between visual story and written story are those spaces; when you write a scene down, it’s almost impossible not to outright tell what’s going on, but when an anime or a movie or any visual media relays a scene, there’s so much more room for ambiguity. Plus viewers forgive ambiguity easier than readers do. We expect to be made to work to understand things visually more than we do in text. If I write a scene and you can’t situate yourself, you’ll be annoyed, but if a movie pans over a city and shows someone holding a glass looking pensive and that’s it, it feels like mystery not yet solved, not something out of context.

So the medium is already lending itself to Kubo’s setup. Plus, we have the second truth, which is that there aren’t many gay romances littering the ground in anime, so no one is expecting one. She’s creating the road she’s walking on, and so when it’s vague, we aren’t even sure it’s road at all. Is this actually a groundbreaking gay romance? We can’t tell. She didn’t say. It feels like it, but we don’t know.

Honestly, though, I think the real truth is that Kubo is a master artist and chose this path not only because she could but because it was precisely what she wanted to do. I think she wanted that space for her viewers, for her characters, for herself and the vision she saw in this story about life and love. I believe she chose to avoid an openly queer plotline not because she didn’t want it to be queer but because she wanted it to be as queer as people wanted it to be—and also as universal as it possibly could be. She didn’t want it to be defined by anything, boxed into any single space.

Because of that delicate balance, because of that openness and care, because she neither closed or opened any door with any definite determination, below are only a small sampling of the kinds of reads you can make on the relationship between Victor and Yuri, all of them with supporting documentation. Yuri on Ice as a choose-your-own love story.

Asexual

not-romantic

There’s a legitimate asexual romance lens for YOI as of the airing of episode ten. The strongest argument for an ace romance, in fact, comes from Yuri himself in the most recent episode, in his insisting on defining the engagement as nontraditional and not really an engagement. Of course, the strongest argument against it comes from his hypersexual pole dance in the same installment.

And yet sexy dancing isn’t sex. He didn’t strip to his skivvies and ask Victor to go to bed with him. He got half naked and asked him to be his coach.

Yuri decidedly doesn’t have a sexualized reaction to Victor’s naked or sexualized self at any point and time except for the Eros dance, and even that’s pretty much an acknowledgement that this is sexy. While Yuko passes out from how hot Victor is, Yuri simply thinks, “wow, this is really sexy, it’s enough to make me pregnant.” Which is something, I guess. Even so, there are so many openings for a read of Yuri as an ace, especially in the beginning. Over and over again Victor gives him an opportunity to view him sexually and he refuses to do so.

I wouldn’t read Victor as an ace, at all—which makes his accepting of Yuri and what he needs to be loved that much more thrilling. I mean, what if Yuri is an ace who is open to a non-sexual romance, and Victor the most eligible bachelor in the world decides he needs Yuri more than he needs a sexual relationship. I mean what the fuck about that. What if they’ve been negotiating, offscreen where we don’t get to listen/watch, that touching and cuddling is fine, but they’re not doing sex, and Victor says, no sweat. I love you. Let’s do this. Engagement is on. Gold medal or not, just kidding in the restaurant.

I mean, holy shit. Would that knock your socks off, or would that knock your socks off.

Demisexual

i-love-pc-bowls

The ace angle is only one way to read their relationship, though. The demisexual argument is more popular, and possibly more likely, but honestly I don’t want to come down on any one side here because I like all of the angles. I will say that if I were to write the novelization of this show (I would love so much to write the novelization of this show) and were given carte blanche, this is the angle I’d choose. Except I’d try really hard to follow Kubo’s example and not explicitly say what was going on with these boys.

I lean on the demi angle a little because of the ambiguity, I guess. Because I think there are a lot more demi people than know what demi is. I don’t quite qualify, but if you allow it to be a spectrum, then yes. I really hate labels for myself because I’ve classically never fit in any box, ever, and all labels do is remind me how much I never belong anywhere. But spectrums? Spectrums are great. Which is why I like “queer” a whole lot because it means I don’t have to try to explain why I like girls a whole lot but am married to a guy. Well, it does. But it makes me feel less odd about it.

Anyway, Yuri for sure fits the demi profile, the way he was disinterested in Victor sexually until they connected emotionally, the way he didn’t have any sweethearts and didn’t seem bothered by it except when other people made him feel ashamed about it. The way he simply couldn’t seem to understand the concept of sexual love until he connected with Victor personally and over an extended period of time, until he really grappled with what Victor meant to him.

Also, there’s the drunken pole dancing. I know I used it above and explained it away, but it’s thin ice. It’s not hard to poke holes in Yuri being fully ace because of the pole dancing, because he was totally grinding on Chris, and Victor. And the thing is, we don’t know what else he said to Victor. It isn’t just what Kubo says, it’s what she doesn’t say.

It’s not the case that Yuri couldn’t be ace or demi and not behave sexually. You can have gray sexuality and still behave in a teasing manner at a party. You can also have sex, because you want to or because you were horny or whatever. From a narrative standpoint, though, the read begins to break a bit, and from a character standpoint, it gets rough, because I can’t see Yuri’s personality holding too much of that up. I think to make Yuri too sexual and have him be ace is a stretch. You have to count the pole dancing, etc, as specifically horniness brought on by alcohol, or wildness brought on by alcohol (and say he was never horny, just wild, and it was never sexual, just naked and raw).

The tie-grab gets fuzzy too, but I think you can push it. Again—there are so many little things that are on the edge, but they’re on the edge, and you can tip them any way you want. I’m literally going to take every single frame and use them for ace the same way I am for D/s. Which, how insane is that. How brilliant, Kubo.

Bisexual

still-cute

You can also argue, however sexualized Yuri is or not, that he’s bisexual. I’m not comfortable talking about Victor or not—I think it’s been confirmed that though the subs have him talk about his first “girlfriend” the Japanese says a non-gendered “sweetheart,” but even so he could be speaking of a time before he was out. We have so little information on Victor assigning him an orientation feels dangerous. Yuri, though? There’s a little room for picking a side, and it’s entirely due to Yuko.

There’s not much there, and I’m not entirely sure I buy it personally, but neither do I mind people seizing on the cue and claiming Yuri is bisexual, either. In the first episode, Yuri reminisces about how Yuko got him into skating, and he talks about how she’s still cute. He also skates Victor’s routine just for her.

Now, it’s pretty easy to say this is an old crush, a childhood infatuation that was never romantic, and it’s also easy to say he never saw her as anything but a friend. But there’s room for it to be a crush, unrequited love, for his routine to be a goodbye to her. There’s room for so much, in fact. I’ve seen people argue it as such several times. So go for it. You want Yuri to be bi? There’s a path for that.

Gay

tumblr_oelu46p0nm1sldn55o1_500

There’s also a pretty clear read for Yuri to be straight-forwardly gay. As I said, the Yuko attraction can be viewed as something real, but it can be written off as just friends, or a youthful crush before his true orientation was acknowledged.

You’ve even got two paths here for the gay storyline. He could be gay and anxious about it, not dating because he didn’t want to be out to himself and it takes supergay Victor to get him to acknowledge his true orientation. I feel like that one’s a stretch, given the way their same sex relationship is so accepted by everyone, but it’s still possible, if thin. A more solid read is the idea that between his shyness and his focus on skating/school, Yuri wasn’t exactly someone who was going to be dating a lot. So it takes Victor marrying work and love to get him to take the plunge.

For the purposes of this read probably you go with the idea the Victor is gay, which is honestly more likely than him being bi, especially given his costumes seem to be modeled on out skater Johnny Weir’s, but again, outside of those costumes there’s precious little in the story to support any definitive read on him. Which once more I assume is intentional. So do with Victor as you will.

Late Bloomer

late-bloomer

Whatever orientation you assign Yuri, and even Victor, there’s a delightful late bloomer read you can give their romance. Yuri is late to everything with his inexperience, but episode ten has Victor confessing he’s pretty much been working his tail off for twenty years, so if he’s been getting any action, it’s been sex at best and probably some thin relationships. Neither one of them has had a lot of experience with love.

Yuri, though, hasn’t had any experience, except for his pole dancing lessons, apparently. And though there’s a strong ace or demi read for him, it doesn’t necessarily follow that everyone who blooms late sexually has gray sexuality. Some people simply arrive to that part of themselves later, especially if they’re busy working like Yuri is, or are plagued by anxiety as he clearly is. Maybe he can’t let himself relax into sex until Victor puts him at ease. Maybe Victor can’t experience love until Yuri shows him how to slow down.

If you’re a late bloomer, or you simply love that kind of story, you can experience Yuri on Ice through that lens.

Repressed Sexuality/Sexual Awakening

awakening-2

At the same time, while we’ve covered all these sweet, almost sugar-coated bases, there are a few black velvet edged stops to make on our romantic reads as well. Which sounds insane. How can there be a read which allows for a romance with no sex and a romance which opens the door to all kinds of it? Kubo-sensei, that’s how.

Now, there’s a caveat to this read and the next one—big caveat for the next one—in that to make these reads work, you must imagine beyond the text. They only work with hints given and imaginations let loose. But the point is, the reads can be made. This isn’t a horn being grafted onto a goat. This is a glimmer of a shaft glimpsed from a white equine’s forehead. You can get there if you want to believe.

If you want to believe that Yuri is a hot little sexpot who has been dying to get out and simply needed sexy Victor to set him free, you need only start with the credits of episode ten. You imagine that Victor saw him cut loose, be sexual as all hell, then decided to set him free with the Eros program, luring him out with the only breadcrumbs left after getting naked and baring his neck didn’t work. Not to mention flying all the way from Russia and giving up his career.

The Eros program itself, though, and its incredible arc track Yuri’s evolving sexual awakening from “please watch me” to “don’t take your eyes off me,” from seductive smile to the blowing of a kiss to God only knows what we’ll get Wednesday. I mean, maybe a pole dance? On the ice? I put nothing past Kubo at this point.

D/s

tie-grab

I have a little harder time with this one, but Kori Michele has made some heavy arguments for a D/s read of YOI in her post-ep 10 viewing recaps, and I can’t fail to include it in this list because of that. And honestly, I would have had to include it anyway, though she gets credit for solidifying it in my mind. There are too many little nods, particularly in episode 8. The tie grab and the skate-kissing being the biggies.

But honestly, the way episode 10 shows Victor so clearly wanting to be led, wanting to follow Yuri, the way in episode 2 he’s playing geisha with that robe and batting his lashes, the way he’s so pleased to be competed over–says at the very least everyone insisting he’s the dedicated top in the relationship needs to rethink their ship. I have a harder time with the D/s angle because I just cannot see it in their personalities, but having said that, the bedroom is a private place and you never know unless you’re in there. So go ahead and imagine what you want. Also, do remember I’m talking D/s, not bondage and the rest of the acronym. I really, really can’t see anything but domination and submission here, not masochism etc.

I will say that regardless of whether or not these two play or not, their personalities are pretty switchy. Nobody’s dedicated anything. Victor wants to boss around and be bossed around all in the same sentence, and ditto Yuri, which is why they’re a perfect fit. Victor is better about knowing how to negotiate who is leading when, but Yuri will get better at it. He’s already getting there. He got a lot of the way there in episode seven.

And speaking of episode seven. There’s a huge read we haven’t talked about yet, and since it’s the one I suspect Kubo most wants us to view, I would like to honor her by addressing it now.

A Love Without a Name

yoi-how-i-wonder

Did you notice how in China Yuri performed Eros perfectly, Victor cheered so hard he about flew out of the stands, nearly made love to him in the kiss & cry…and Yuri seemed almost unmoved?

I haven’t seen anyone talk about that, though admittedly I might have simply not seen it. I didn’t talk about it because when I started doing the recaps that had already passed by and I was catching up on recaps, and that episode got lumped in with five and six. It’s struck me every time I’ve watched that episode, though. Yuri nailed that routine because he wanted to lay claim to Victor, to show everyone the man was his, to show them Victor hadn’t left the sport in vain. And everyone was impressed, especially Victor. Everyone except for Yuri.

What Yuri got from that was an anxiety soup, one neither he nor Victor could quell, not until they blew up in the parking garage. I will forever love that they had that argument down in the bowels of the arena. Here we are in the guts of the event, barfing out our real feelings. Victor showing his inexperienced, unpolished hand. Being rough and wrong and inept. Yuri emoting all over, not being able to stop himself from saying the truth that he fears, no longer letting it rule him. Of not being able to be healed by letting it out, exactly—it wasn’t that sending it out of himself naturally set him free. It was that he set it free and then made himself realize it wasn’t the boogeyman he thought it was.

And that Victor wasn’t the god he’d made him out to be. He was just a man. A man he loved.

That episode and that moment was where Yuri fell in love with him, the real Victor. Flawed, raw, real Victor, not the man he’d hung on his walls. I love that he did all that on the ice, too—he’s fucking skating and falling in love with the right one. Which is why he’s messing up, because he’s there and he’s not. And then he decides the way to celebrate is to give his lover something special. To show him he notices him. To make this skate just for him. Not perfect, not for the audience. This isn’t for anyone but Victor. This isn’t for points or the Grand Prix. He doesn’t think “oh, how many points would I get.” He thinks, “oh, I wonder how Victor would react.”

That’s love.

That’s a gesture of love, and it’s not sexual, but it’s one of the most romantic gestures you will ever see in anime, fiction, or otherwise. YOI is full of those, though, and none of them have a damn thing to do with sex. The running toward each other at the airport past the glass. Yuri insisting Victor go to be with his dog. Victor arranging for his former coach to stand in for him. Victor knowing so many tiny little things about Yuri and them coming back to him while he skates alone. Yuri being so lost without Victor while he skates. The divots in the bed where Victor has clearly been sleeping cuddled beside Yuri. They way Victor is always hugging and touching Yuri. The way they hold hands. They way Yuri proposes. The way Yuri calls the engagement rings good luck charms. I’ve seen the Tumblr posts where this is explained to be more than simply luck, that this is cultural—with or without this context, it keeps the focus in the zone of the nebulous, and that makes it all the more magical.

Yuri says in his speech at the end of episode five that his theme is love and it’s a love without a name. This entire series is about a love without a name. It doesn’t have an orientation, or a heat level, or anything. I will not be surprised if she finds a way to end it with as much flexibility as possible, and I’m not going to be disappointed. I won’t see it as a cop out, because that’s not what it’s going to be. Not with this set up.

A harbor for all the ships

rings

I’ve blogged at length about what this series means to me, but this series means a lot to many people and in different ways. It’s able to do that because it’s not taking any sides. It’s not specifically a queer romance or an anything romance or even, precisely, a romance. It’s a love story. Splitting hairs? Nope. It’s a story about love. How much romance you put in there is up to you. If you want a love story full of sex, you can have it—you’re just going to have to imagine it. Plenty of people have. If you want a love story with no sex? You can have it. Minimal sex? Yep. Are you focused on a specific orientation angle? Go ahead.

What do you want? You can have it. So long as you let the story be, at its core, about love.

Every time I watch even five minutes of Yuri on Ice I learn something new. I find things as a reader and as a writer and simply as a human. I will never get over that in such a nightmare of a year, at the darkest hour, this show has appeared like a sunrise. It doesn’t make the darkness go away, but boy does it help remind me where the light comes in.

Will talk about flaws tomorrow, or Tuesday at the latest.

Born to Make History, Supplemental: Victor Nikiforov Weeps for Toxic Masculinity

I swear this isn’t going to turn into a Yuri on Ice blog, and I promise I still am writing fiction, though I’m getting dangerously close to a volume of printable work on this show alone. Here’s the thing, though, episode ten really did change the whole game, and it’s going to keep changing things. At some point this weekend I’m going to rewatch the whole series given the new information that we have, but I just saw a Tumblr post that made my head spin. So here we are, one day later.

Spoilers again. Get out if you don’t want them. Read More

Born to Make History: Yuri!!! On Ice Episode 10 recap, @kubo_3260 is a genius & I want retire to be her handmaiden and make her katsudon & cake

I would like to warn our affiliates that we will be running long. Also I have so many feels and this post will be ridiculously effusive. If it were me delivering this as a speech in a bar, I would be drunk, weeping, and there would be rendering of garments. Probably at some point I would begin erecting a shrine to Mitsurō Kubo out of whatever material was at hand, and then it would just get weird, weirder than that was already. Probably sticking to written words is best.

Let me begin with these words: with two episodes yet remaining, and with the caveat that I understand this is anime, not a novel, I am elevating Mitsurō Kubo into my top five authors, and at this point it’s simply a cool-off period (and the remaining two episodes) to see whether she dethrones Henry Fielding as #3 behind Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, or if I need the whole canon to really dethrone Bujold and Austen, or if I should put her at six, or what. But she’s in there for sure. Unless she drops a nuke on Barcelona or something during the last two episodes. She has stolen my soul, and I don’t want it back. She is genius. Woman, Kubo-sensei, what have you done, you brilliant, patient, beautiful genius. May every wish you have ever desired come true upon you tenfold, forever, and may I please, please simply stand near you someday so I can weep near your shadow and die happy.

SPOILERS, SO MANY FUCKING SPOILERS.

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