Post-Apocalyptic Lesbians

Post-Apocalyptic Lesbians

I have an odd relationship with post-apoc settings. I love the general idea, the concept of post-apoc, but often find the execution to be lacking. For every Mad Max, there’s at least one Aftermath or New Gladiators. Some nice ideas in the lower budget movies, sure, but the obvious issue is the ‘lower budget’. By nice, I do of course mean awful, because… you know, post-apoc.

Similarly, for every Fallout: New Vegas (one of my top 5 games of all time), you have… well, something like Fallout 76, which completely misses the point of the franchise it’s aping off, exactly as Fallout 3 and 4 both did as well (I don’t like Bethesda, if it wasn’t clear).

But more than anything else, post-apoc sits in a weird place for me, where I love the idea of it, but very rarely enjoy the stories set in it. Fallout is… or rather, was one of my favourite franchises because it got post-apoc right. Yes, it was brutal. Yes, it was dark and hopeless in a lot of ways. And yes, most of humanity had been wiped out, and those who were left were largely kind of crappy.

Despite this, it also has some really dark humour, and some of the best back story and lore in any franchise I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, watching, or playing. And a great story, and dated but still serviceable gameplay with great faction and reputation dynamics that Bethesda can’t seem to wrap their collective heads around. It’s a great franchise, is what I’m saying.

So why am I talking about post-apoc all of a sudden? Because it’s a setting I’d like to see different types of story set in. Unfortunately, this presents a problem, as The Closer Look eloquently mentions in his video on The Predator: “when it comes to combining different genres, you can get away with almost anything.”

Key word: almost.

Combining genres is fun, and something I enjoy doing a great deal. My own Aida, for example, is a combo of sci-fi and idols, plus lesfic erotic romance. It works well, if I say so myself (shameless plug).

Sci-fi and fantasy combine nicely, too, with settings where fantasy is being superseded by tech, or where an ancient tech-based civilisation was overtaken by a fantasy one, or whatever. The likes of Skies of Arcadia, Final Fantasy, and plenty of other stories love to dabble with this (including me… which you might get some details on in a later post, nudge-nudge, wink-wink).

Likewise, horror can combine with sci-fi, or fantasy, or post-apoc, or almost anything. Again… almost. Putting horror with comedy can work, and really damn well in some cases. The Evil Dead franchise says hi, especially the second movie. Arguably the third movie veers more towards comedy than anything, but it still has those horror elements.

So what about post-apoc? What can we put that with? Sci-fi? Absolutely, and this is probably the most common combo. Fantasy? Yep. Comedy? As mentioned above, Fallout has some great dark humour moments. Romance? Difficult, but eminently possible, and can produce some truly tragic stories.

Slice of life? Ah, now we’re getting into the tricky ones, and the whole point of this post. If you’ve read much of my work, especially Aida, you’ll know that I love slice of life; Aida is a light-hearted and humorous story where it’s all about character interaction and naughty scenes, albeit tempered by serious drama and conflict as well.

But post-apoc is, by its very nature, dark and gritty and real. How would you even put the sort of light and fluffy slice of life I love into a setting like that? Seems almost impossible, right? Well… maybe not entirely. There is one good example I can think of, a little manga called Vampire After the Doomsday. And the best thing? It’s not just slice of life and post-apoc… it’s also girl love 😀

Check it out here, it’s only a short 5 part work for now, though a (slowly) ongoing one.

So as it turns out, yes, it is actually possible to do post-apoc slice of life. Who’d have thought? It’s certainly not easy and the above work has a supernatural element in the vampires, allowing for a unique setting, and I can’t really imagine it being especially lucrative as a genre to tackle if you’re looking to actually earn money.

But as something a bit different in two opposing genres I enjoy? Yeah… it might be something to look into trying one day. What do you think?

Do You Read Visual Novels?

A Kiss for the Petals

A long, long time ago I read my first ever visual novel. I think it was around 2007, maybe? Alas, my memory isn’t what it used to be. But I remember the visual novel itself, it was a drama-heavy high school romance called Yume Miru Kusuri.

It was your standard ‘boy meets several cute girls, ends up with one of them’ story Japan very much likes to tell in this particular medium, but I enjoyed it well enough. It wasn’t until much later that I finally found a few good examples of Japanese yuri (百合, lit. ‘lily’, the Japanese term for lesbian fiction/media) visual novels.

In keeping with the Japanese obsession with high school stories, most of these yuri visual novels were, of course, in that particular setting, and I loved that. These stories give a window into a world I never got to experience personally, a totally different kind of school life to the one I had (protip: it wasn’t fun).

Remember I mentioned the Persona games in a recent post? One of my favourite aspects of those games is the social simulator, where you have to go to school every day, attend classes, learn (and take exams!), and attend to your personal life outside of school in addition to the dungeon crawling and main story.

Similar to those games, yuri visual novels scratched that particular itch, for a world and a place I’ll never get to experience myself, similar to my love of urban fantasy; I’d give anything to be the MC in a Persona game, despite the great personal risk involved.

But more than that, they also gave me a way to vicariously live a cute girl’s life as she discovers herself and falls in love for the first time. You only get to experience that once in your life, that precious first time, and it’s not always as perfect as it can be in fiction, so getting to live it through visual novels or other mediums is a pure joy for me.

With that said, allow me to share a link to 10 great visual novels you should totally check out if you have the time and inclination for something a bit different to the standard western fare:

Top 10 English Yuri Games

(Highly recommend you avoid looking at the comments for the article. Just trust me on that.)

The Masks We Wear

The Masks We Wear

Have you ever played the Persona series of games? If not, I’d highly recommend checking them out. Persona 4 The Golden is an excellent starting point, but if you don’t have a Playstation Vita (which wouldn’t be surprising, considering how quickly that console died), you could start with Persona 5 on PS3 or PS4.

Why am I suddenly recommending you Japanese RPGs? Simple, because one of the things I adore about the series in question is its exploration of—what else?—personae, the different metaphorical masks people wear. As a series, it delves heavily into Jungian psychology, including the titular persona, but also the concept of the shadow, which are literally the enemies you fight in the games, and the collective conscious, which make up the dungeons you have to fight your way through to progress.

Getting into the specifics here would take multiple posts and a whole lot of digital ink, so instead I’ll simply link you to some further reading if the subject interests you:

The games love to play around with the various concepts Jung put forward. Kanji, a character in Persona 4, for example is confused about his sexuality because he’s a masculine and aggressive young man… but also loves sewing/arts & crafts, and is attracted to an outwardly male character. He’s effectively a personification and exploration of the animus/anima concept (see the article I linked).

Likewise, the concept of one’s true self is heavily tied to that same game. In fact, it’s the game’s thesis statement, its primary theme. The main title theme music is even called Pursuing My True Self, and the characters each have to overcome their own shadow in order to find—and, more importantly, embrace—their true selves. Failure to do so = death.

Similarly, the other archetypes (listed at the end of that article) are explored in depth, with ‘the trickster’ being one of the main themes in Persona 5. The game’s main character represents this archetype, and the game explores themes of social alienation and stigma, and more firmly delves into the concept of collective consciousness.

So why am I telling you all of this? Good question! And one with a simple answer: because quite apart from my own interest in this stuff, I’m planning a work of my own that will explore similar themes, and I wanted to share 🙂

Specifically, I love the idea of the collective consciousness. With that in mind, I decided to develop a setting similar in general tone to the Persona games, where I can explore similar themes. Though in deference to my love of lesfic/yuri, the main character is a girl… and that’s all I’m saying on the subject for now ;p

The setting will be a fictional coastal city, though I’m still deciding where to place it, possibly on a fictional island in the Pacific. In addition, there’ll be an island academy just off the coast of the city itself, where the world’s best and brightest attend.

Thematically, I want to explore the concept of saving face and keeping up appearances in society. Everything in this academy revolves around social standing. No weakness can be shown, and any possible scandals are swept under the rug and kept secret as much as possible by everyone involved. Towing the line is another way to look at it, with social consequences for not doing so.

Our main character is a Japanese girl called Ichigo who manages to get into the academy not through social positioning, as most others are, but through simple hard work and top-of-her-school grades. As someone coming in from the outside, she’s free from the shackles of keeping up appearances and will be uniquely placed to help the other main characters with their various problems.

Of course we’re talking urban fantasy again here, with supernatural components and a literal collective consciousness the characters will have to dive into and explore. But more than that, I love the idea of another concept related to this: collective effervescence, the idea of a society or group coming together unconsciously to perform the same idea or action.

Naturally, there’s nefarious goings-on at the academy that our heroes will uncover and have to fight against, but rather than being direct physical threats—though those will also exist—it’ll be heavily focused on winning hearts and minds, too, in both literal and metaphorical senses.

Like all authors, I have way too many ideas and never enough time to write them all. But since the Persona games are some of my favourites experiences ever, especially 4 and 5, both of which are in my top 5 games of all time, this story sits right at the top of my list of ‘things I absolutely must write before I die’.

Thanks for reading!

Is Conflict Essential to a Story?

Most writers will tell you that conflict is essential to a story. Some would even go so far as to say a story can’t exist without conflict. And sure, depending on the medium involved, conflict is pretty crucial to a story. But is it essential to a story? Short answer: nope. The longer answer is a bit more involved.

There are several major exceptions to this rule. The most prominent examples I can think of would be humour and slice of life. In both instances, something else takes the place of conflict. For humour it’s the concept of set up and pay off, using jokes and crazy situations to propel the story. And for slice of life it’s having stellar characters the reader will fall in love with and simply enjoy watching or reading about in fairly normal (and occasionally fantastical) situations.

Often the above two categories of story will coincide, of course. Slice of life thrives on ordinary situations made humorous by putting a new slant on them. Something like GJ-bu is a great example of this. Likewise, Aria’s various seasons are all heavily focused on what we in the business like to call ‘cute girls doing cute things’, and is what you might call a healing show.

But Freia, those are both anime, you say? Indeed they are! So how does this work with, let’s say, a book? Can slice of life work in something as tightly written as a novel? Where every word counts and there’s no room for fluff? Why, yes, yes it can. I point you towards my own Aida series as Exhibit A, which is a combination not only of lesbian romance, but also slice of life and humour/shenanigans.

There is some conflict in Book 2 onwards as the main characters start settling into their lives and going for auditions, in some cases against each other, but at the heart of the story? It’s slice of life, through and through. Humour and great characters can effectively replace conflict in a story, to put it simply.

So is conflict essential to a story? The short answer was no. The longer answer is also no, but while it’s true that a story doesn’t always need conflict, it does need direction. Even a slice of life story has a direction, with each episode focusing on a specific circumstance or series of events, and a novel is no different.

Each book in the Aida saga focuses heavily on one group of meticulously crafted characters (excuse me while I blow my own trumpet), and follows them through a specific set of events with well-defined arcs and acts, which don’t necessarily follow the traditional structure (acts 1-3, rising and falling action, etc., though they do always have appropriate denouement).

Times change and new genres emerge, or old ones are tweaked for modern audiences. In Ye Olden Greek Times, a lot of stories ended with an intervention from God (which is where we get the term Deus Ex Machina from), but modern stories are considered extremely negatively if you pull a stunt like that. Likewise, the popular belief that ‘all stories require conflict’ isn’t necessarily true any more either.