So you want to be a web novel translator…

You’ve read the novels or seen the online scene mentioned in media interviews.

You, too, cut your teeth on fantastical Chinese dramas with beautiful leads and flashy special effects.

Or did you give yourself nearsightedness by sneaking old wuxia books under the covers when it was past bedtime?

Maybe you’re already in the translating profession and are excited to share these sometimes 8D novels with the world.

‘ey there. I’m etvolare (more about me here) and I’ve been around the Chinese web literature scene for roughly four years. Kernels of ideas for this article have been floating around for quite a while, and a behemoth of a future monetization announcement from the leading web novel platform finally galvanized me into action.

I’ll be sharing thoughts based off personal experience in the scene, starting from when there were no companies present. Other caveats include my background: US-centric and a previous finance career.

So. You want to be a web novel translator because…

…you like the novels and have some free time on your hands.

Do you also like digging holes? 😀 Translation is very much like digging holes, and an endless amount at that.

I first encountered this particular metaphor for translation by the founder of Wuxiaworld, Ren Woxing, way back in 2015. It’s stuck with me since because it’s so vivid and so true.

When you embark on the dao of being a web novel translator, you’re making a commitment to the readers, the author, the publishers, and yourself to see it through. Whether life gets busy or you hate the current arc, the translation must go on!

These days, the standard release schedule is 14 chapters a week, or two chapters a day. If you’re fully bilingual and can jump right in, that’s wonderful! You’ve already got a leg up on many other aspiring translators.

Or, you might be like me, an ABC with a decent enough grasp of Chinese…

…completely poleaxed when faced with the actual nitty gritty of translating.

Chinese idioms? Popular culture references? Slang? And to have them make sense when translated into English?? I almost quit a few times in my first year of this new hobby. No, we cannot just skip whatever it is we don’t know. No, close enough is not good enough. XD

So, given that my first year of this new hobby was as much translating as it was really learning Chinese all over again, I’d give a conservative estimate of taking three hours per chapter.

This also includes post-translation editing, because my creative writing skills had declined an appalling degree since college. Good writing skills are critical, because a mess of grammar/conventions/style in the most humdrum tone is a chapter no one wants to read.

For more on the technical difficulties of translating web novels, please check out this write-up I put together. If reading that is difficult, please do reconsider and save yourself the agony of digging all those holes.

This means if I were an aspiring translator now, I’d be dedicating six hours a day to wading through a chapter of 3,000 Chinese characters, Chinese and English dictionaries in hand, and trying to figure out how to make something like ‘Explode Star Point’ sound like the badass martial move it is.

Six hours a day.

Man. That already sounds more like a chore than anything else.

It really is. Day in and day out, trudging through chapters, battling Chinese and turning it into English. The allure of sharing stories of hot male leads or epic battles wears off after a while, and what’s left is the chore of translating daily. Tough, continuous work like digging holes.

The holes need to be dug, everyday, regardless of how you feel about them that day. Most schedules tend to block in recharging and socialization on Friday – Sunday, work or studies from Monday to Thursday. Now, add in another 6 hours of daily hole digging, and those holes don’t go away if the previous day’s quota was missed.

If that sounds painful, that’s because it definitely can be.

It can feel like a drag even if your novel gets a foothold into mainstream popularity, because Chinese novels are long. One of mine called Sovereign of the Three Realms has 2,374 chapters. I’m only just now wrapping it up after four years! (Granted, that was because I started off as a hobbyist fan translator at 2x a week.)

Are you ready to dedicate years of your life to translating a novel? This isn’t crazy talk, truly. Remember the commitment one makes at the start of picking up a novel.

And what if your novel doesn’t take off? What if…

etvo! I’m just in it because I like the novels! I don’t want to do anything crazy like dedicate six hours a day, seven days a week of my life to it! (and earning some pocket money while I’m at it is also nice)

Sure thing, so three chapters a week AKA nine hours a week sound much better, right?

Are you ready to have no readers? Because that’s what will happen. (‘course there are always exceptions, but… please don’t go into this betting on that.)

Almost double digit hours worth of work a week for a few hundred pageviews, if even that. I’ve seen translators put out 5x a week and get less than a hundred pageviews per chapter. In fact, there was a period of time when one of my novels got ~400 views a month for each chapter.

There were 300+ chapters already translated in that novel, meaning a year’s worth of work.

In ad rev terms, that’s less than $100 a month. So after a year, I had barely any readers and sure as heck wasn’t earning much pocket money. Honestly, getting good at League of Legends and becoming a paid booster would be much more fun and pay better.

Slow release schedule = no readers = low motivation = fewer chapters translated = slower releases = a fantastic negative feedback cycle.

This is the sad barrel a translator will be staring down at if the novel that flops. A lock into years of hole digging and no audience. It goes without saying how incredibly demoralizing and depressing that prospect is.

…because you hate your future career path/current job.

Sitting at home and earning money banging on a keyboard sounds great, and it is! But… significant sacrifices are made in the form of employee benefits and relating to others if you hop into full-time web novel translating.

Remember the current standard of 14x a week? Let’s go with that, since one needs to maintain that schedule to even have a hope of making this a full-time job. As a general rule, slow releases = no readers.

Two chapters a day, all day, everyday. Whether rain or shine, sickness or good health, vacation or getting stood up on a Friday date.

You could take the weekends off or go on a break for vacation. You just have to dig more holes on remaining time or forgo the earnings. No work = no pay.

Just opting out of pay is kind of not an option when it pertains to a job, so on a recent family vacation, I booted up the laptop every night when we got back to the hotel. I was translating on the plane and during trip downtimes. The alternative was to dig even more holes beforehand so I could vacation without work.

Incidentally, this standard was 5x a week a few years ago, then 7x a week. It was a definite struggle to scale upwards when the standard progressed beyond a chapter a day. Ideally, it’s good practice to translate more than one’s daily releases, for those inevitable sick days, off days, and vacation time. So when the standard is 2x a day, I should at least be doing 2.5x a day. Thankfully, translation speeds eventually improve so that I’m not locked behind a laptop 8 hours a day for 2.5 chapters.

That’s just time, let’s also talk compensation and the whole package.

In web novel translations, there’s no such thing as annual reviews, raises, promotions, or a career path. You, your novels, and you. That’s it.

In most jobs, employees get 401(k) matches, annual bonuses, health insurance, vacation days, and sick days. Jobs can also offer some sort of pension/portfolio advantage/ESOP/related, employee discounts at affiliated brands, points for usage of company credit card, company parties/retreats, and others.

Fully loaded, the entire package is a lot more than just the salary figure, and all of that goes away when becoming a full-time web novel translator.

There’s also the intangibles that I feel are a very important part to consider. Like it or not, we function in a society. Being a translator usually means working alone, and becoming disassociated from society is an entirely real thing. That can do a number on one’s mood and self-worth as an individual.

For example, the translator schedule is completely different from a typical working professional’s. One can easily go an entire day without human contact. There are numerous topics that translators no longer have in common with their social circle (crappy boss, annoying clients, inclement weather affecting commute, etc).

When peers are making senior manager or vice-president later in life, the translator will forever be ‘just’ a translator. I’ve come to expect comments such as, “Wow, it’s such a shame you gave up your former career,” or “Don’t you feel like you wasted your education and work experience”?

…because you want to make the big bucks.

Wot, did that earlier section not scare you off yet? Alright, alright. TL;DR: web novel translating isn’t the key to striking it rich.

Let’s look at some numbers.

Whether you already have a job or are looking to enter the workforce for the first time, 99.9% of web novel translators are contractors, meaning that monthly expenses look different from a 9-5’er.

Taking the wildly successful novel figure from WW’s future monetization post, a translator can bring in $5,000 a month for luckily having their novel take off. This is not the norm, at all. Given the type of person who can translate Chinese into English (please refer to the translator section below), it’s likely they live in a first world country.

Federal tax @ 22% (singles rate) = $1,100
State tax @ 9.3% (California) = $465
Health insurance (21 yr old @ ValuePenguin): $221
Car insurance (@ The Zebra): $143
Rent (SoCal @ Rentcafe) = $1,469
Utilities + internet (Daily Press): $150

Income left after monthly recurring expenses: $1,452

Gas isn’t included in this rough estimate. This is it. For food. Clothes. The pair of glasses accidentally crushed one night which the catastrophic insurance plan doesn’t cover. Anything for entertainment and fun. Christmas presents for family. Charity and contributing to the local community. Saving for retirement. As this was for a young, healthy single, it can easily go into the red when kids and elderly parents are thrown into the mix.

The monthly paycheck is always an unknown in web novel translations.

My numbers are a daily obsession for a gauge of the current month’s take-home. Are they cratering because of a slow arc? Are they shooting back up because it’s a holiday? Every month is a surprise, and it can be quite frustrating to have results be wholly irrelevant to effort.

In my previous 9-5’s, health insurance, retirement savings, on-site daycare, mileage reimbursement, plenty of discounts and tuition subsidies were included. There were raises and annual bonuses. The neighborhood web novel translator has to pay for everything out of pocket, from a pot that we’re never really certain of how it’ll shake out.

What about other compensation methods?

Some platforms take the uncertainty out of the equation and offer flat pay for chapters. Sounds wonderful, until you realize this also places a cap on your earnings when royalties are taken out of the picture.

For a while, there was an influx of new translators in the scene because some platforms offered ~$40 a chapter. Folks saw that as an opportunity to run chapters through Google translate, edit it up some, and collect easy money for quick work.

That’s absolute bollocks for long term career stability. It’s how one’s reputation gets trashed, readers not touching anything the translator puts out because it’s frankly awful, and that $40/chapter quickly dries up when the platform realizes the novel isn’t bringing any readership/money in.

Some translators join teams and turn in work to a head translator. That can go hand-in-hand with a lighter schedule and fewer holes to dig. It’s sometimes viewed as all of the payoff with none of the responsibility, as someone else is on the hook for mistakes. However, this also doesn’t get one far in this scene as it’ll be the head translator associated with the novel, and pay going through one more middleman.

Web novel translating isn’t the path to big bucks, it really isn’t.

…because you’re already a translator.

If all the uncertainty hasn’t deterred the translators reading this write-up, the actual skillset required might. Reality is rarely what’s imagined, even for those with experience in the field.

Being part of the largest translator groups in Taiwan, I’ve had the opportunity to take a close look at the lives of professional translators. I field a lot of questions from interested hopefuls, so I get this, I really do.

Aside from those who have consistent, long term cases (such unicorns), the downsides of being a translator include dealing with horrific clients, shifting deadlines, subpar source material, and constant uncertainty with not knowing where the next case will come from.

Thus, peers are always curious about this different world, interesting subject material that bring up childhood nostalgia, or something that’s simply a different pace from their usual.

As we’ve established already, unpredictability is such a huge thing in this field. It can be exceedingly stressful to not know how well your novel will do, how much you’ll earn this month, and having to keep digging the holes despite all that. Incidentally, the skillset needed here is different.

You don’t need a PhD in Chinese literature. You don’t need decades of experience teaching Chinese. In fact, classically trained translators don’t have an automatic edge over everyone. The first two were once two separate applicants to volare, and I failed applicants with translation degrees all the time because:

English writing ability is crucial.

This may come across as nonsensical, because right, we’re translating from Chinese into English. Of course we need to know how to write in English.

But do you know how to write a novel in English?

Or let’s take a step back, because original writing isn’t on the line here. How are your creative writing skills? This is the requirement for a good end result, not straight 1:1 literal translation into English.

In my view, readers need to get lost in the story, not the foreign-ness of the written word and how weird it reads. They should experience the same emotions we did when reading the Chinese, and feel just the same sense of wonder, curiosity, or fury. For more on translating web novels, please click here (write-up is in Chinese).

I am firmly of the belief that it is sufficient to master just enough Chinese to understand the original text. More of the focus should be on how to recreate that literary world in English. To this regard, widely read English writers tend to end up wielding significant advantage over classically trained or highly experienced translators who haven’t touched web novels before.

Okay all of this is depressing and sounds like a shitty job, why did you quit finance for it?

Haha alright, despite the absolute wall of text up to here, here I am, four years into the scene. Even with all the drawbacks, I chose this path and stuck with it.

I’m absolutely blessed and lucky that my passion puts food on the table.

That’s the long and short of it. Having seen some pretty impressive stuff in my past life as a M&A consultant and corporate banker, it was definitely a gamble to distill that experience and move into another field with it. Thankfully, the bet paid off, even though I still have close family members who scoff at what I do and mutter about getting a ‘real job’.

It absolutely is a gamble. You never know if your novel will find mainstream popularity, or if an arc will be so boring it craters your monthly earnings into nonexistence. Maybe a new novel will launch on your publishing platform and it’ll distract your readers for a while. Or maybe another novel will host a huge event that draws all the eyeballs for a good couple of weeks. Even I find digging holes tedious at times.

However, every reader comment, breathless theories of things to come, fan art, and tricky passage that I get to sound just right brings a smile to my face. To be able to share these stories with a receptive and enthusiastic audience is this bookworm’s dream come true. I love what I do, and have found living through a developing industry very interesting. And that’s probably my ultimate answer to “so you want to be a (full-time) web novel translator”?

Make sure it’s passion that drives you, and make sure you’re able to put food on the table until it can sustain you.

Derp. I’d actually wanted to make this post about monetization in the scene. XD

武俠翻譯根本不難嘛!

首先,請容許小女子看到標題後立刻昏倒。etvolare.exe has shut down. Reboot required. 您好,我是etvolare, 少數在寶島的武俠,古代言情中翻英者。etvolare是我的筆名,是拉丁文 飛翔 的意思。

幸運的是,周遭的親朋好友幾乎不會提到標題的驚呼,倒是常在採訪時被問到 『小說翻譯的困難度在哪裡?』

近年聽到這問題時就有點想扔下『都難啊!』後落跑,但這總是有點不太負責任呵。因此,帶上累積四年的小說翻譯經驗,有了寫這一章的靈感。

在此之前,我得先澄清中文非我母語,所以文中任何奇怪文法的地方敬請見諒。(詳細請參考何謂英文網文?)我四年前踏進文學的圈子,專攻於武俠,仙俠,以及古代言情。(本文十月十五號發佈,因網頁排版問題所以把日期往後調)

翻譯不就是一個字一個字轉換到另個語言就好?

講到這個職業時,反應其實兩極。很多人會覺得很難,立刻苦惱武俠招數怎麼翻。(先說,降龍十八掌我翻Eighteen Palms of Dragon Dominance,拜託別再來考我 XD) 有些人則是無感,覺得翻譯沒什麼大不了。而這開頭的問題竟然還是曾經字幕翻譯的家人問的。

先不討論翻譯到底難不難,歡迎不覺得難的勇者抓幾個譯者問問。若問十位,則是絕對有十一位不可置信,咬牙切齒,腦神經斷線,想認真跟您討論重新投胎的譯者。

離題了,回到小說翻譯這一塊。

如果真是一個字一個字的轉換,翻出來的成品絕對沒有人想讀。或許這在專業詞彙以及語言要求精準的文件上行得通,例如合約,但在寫作則是完完全全不行。

寫作?

是的,在我看來,小說翻譯其實就是寫作。譯者要看懂原文的意思並且完整的把一樣的情緒,意境,人物發展移到新的語言。若在小說裡好人與壞人大戰了三百回合,有淚,有血,有激昂,有犧牲,那我最後寫出來的英文一定要帶到一樣的情緒。

我如果看字翻,或用個死氣沈沈,沒人想讀的歷史課本口吻敘述,那這… 誰想讀啊?寫出來的東西不僅文法怪異,也會有很明顯的翻譯痕跡,這會導致英文讀者完全不想碰。

舉個今天早上網文譯者群組裡問的問題:

“我媽為了集團,連命都搭進去了,憑什麼最後要便宜別人?”

照字翻: “My mom for the group, even life also ride into it, basis what last to cheap others?”

這到底是… 我這樣寫絕對被作者告。在仙俠小說裡最如容易看到更離譜的,很多打鬥場合都是逗點逗點地形容一系列的動作。照字翻的話會寫出一個五十行的完全亂七八糟看不懂的英文句子。都太可怕了,我看過就趕快忘記。那天又碰到時再補上。

照字翻但文法正確: “My mom even used her entire life to build the group. Why should she let someone else take advantage of her work?”

好,看得懂,沒什麼大問題。除了一個大缺點:

沒有表達到原文的情感。

這有點太平淡了,中文裡用到 “命都搭進去了” 以及 “憑”,所以應該有一定程度的憤憤不平或不可理喻。而且老實說,以上版本寫得好無聊啊。 我要是讀者大概早就跑去追劇,打遊戲,或是其他三百萬個我可以做的事。我完全沒有沈溺在小說裡的境界。

本人的版本:”My mom poured her entire life into the company group! Why should someone else enjoy the fruits of her labor??”

運用標點符號以及哪裡該斷句是譯者需要做的很重要的判斷。中文文法跟英文的很不一樣,常常需要前後掉過來,而中文也常常用逗點串個很長的句字。翻譯文章時,句子的高低起伏非常重要,畢竟會嚴重地影響傳達的意義。

以上還有個很重要的點,就是我使用了英文慣用語。這其實是如何把中文小說翻成英文的精髓之一。

只要會英文就可以翻小說啦!

在創立以及營運volarenovels這些年,我常常收到中文很厲害的申請。有中文博士,中文老師,或深深了解中文文化的人才。這些人都非常令人敬佩,而全部都是中文母語,英文是第二個語言。

並不是說英文是母語才能翻小說,但英文程度真的是要到可以寫作的程度。中文程度只要達到能看得懂作者寫什麼就夠了,而英文絕對不能在日常生活水準而已。

畢竟我最後的作品是一本英文小說,而非中文。所以以上的強大人才在第一關測試都… 陣亡了。

我們先前討論過照字翻是不可行的,那只要文法正確就好就可以囉?

那也只是僅僅寫出文法正確的英文而已,但並不是一本文學作品。我常說小說翻譯就是用英文來完整詮釋原文的意境,情感,人物等,那翻譯的作用是重新建造這書中的世界。我們要的是英文讀者,就像中文讀者一樣,深深沈溺在這文字裡的世界,而非一直被奇怪的寫法拉回現實。

當文法正確時,奇怪的地方往往是兩個語言的習慣差別。無論是成語或歷史典故,或是上一段最後提到的英文慣用語,這都會判定英文讀者是否辦法理解原文的意思。當然,若是在對話裡,俚語和火星文也須考量。

剛剛的fruits of her labor就是個英文慣用語。我會選擇使用它是為了延續媽媽在集團投資的努力。能在地化就在地化是我現在的習慣,我以前是作者給什麼我就寫什麼。那來舉一些貼切一點的翻譯例子吧!

『心涼了』若是翻成 “his heart grew cold” 是正確的文法,但是英文讀者只會覺得這個人物心臟有問題。我可能會寫 “a sinking feeling in his stomach”. 雖然器官換了,但表達的是一樣的情感。

『省小錢花大錢』是個白化,但是我們常會用到的詞彙。”Saving small money to spend big money” 則是文法正確,但翻譯痕跡太明顯的寫法。讀者一看到就會停留在『好奇怪喔…』而非句子的意思。不如直接用 “penny wise, pound foolish” 吧!

這些例子我常常會在Twitter上分享,而你可以點擊我來看一些歷年來的收集。

題材知識和經驗也很重要喔!

這一年來,金庸的神鵰俠侶系列被英國出版社出正式英文翻譯在武俠翻譯圈造成了極大轟動。這麼經典的大作,這麼代表性的武俠教父,終於有出版社願意投資源了!華文圈獨特的武俠文學終於要見天日了!

我與同行都非常非常興奮,我個人準備好好膜拜這一系列,看看大師們怎麼翻的,以及我如何更上一層樓。但無奈的是,出版社寄給我們的review copy到時… 滿懷期待的心頓時涼了。這肚子裡的洞是大到不能再大啦!

我覺得一切的問題來自於譯者對武俠的不熟悉。我在書評裡大大鞭了一番,可點選我看英文書評。 譯者 Anna Holmwood 是非常厲害的譯者,這無需質疑。她出過許多書也在許多機構工作過,但她背景裡沒有寫到接觸武俠的經過,也因為對武俠的不熟悉下使她許多地方處裡的不當。

當第一本出來時人物名稱就被罵了半邊天。黃蓉 變成 蓮花黃,郭靖的爸爸有個英文名子,有些人物是中文名子等等的各式各樣不協調的地方。但我覺得更嚴重是招數名子等錯了。

修煉九陰白骨爪的黑風雙煞被翻成 “Dark Wind Twice Foul”. 我在書評裡提到因為英文 “breaking wind” 的慣用語,以及譯者 “dark and foul” 的用法讓我覺得是個排氣又臭又長的恐怖夫妻。當時看到就整個傻住了。

這就是完完全全的照字翻,英文的每個字都對得上中文。譯者很明顯地不懂這個名諱的主角是夫妻雙煞二人組。英文名子把重點放在 “風” 上面,是個雙倍難聞的一股風。這就是沒有武俠背景,但是是厲害譯者會留下的痕跡。

這也是為什麼當朋友知道我的職業,七嘴八舌問我武俠招數怎麼翻時,我都不敢回答。我得知道每個字每個字的意思,招數的效果,使用者的人格及背景。即時我們小時候在電視節目上看過,但終究沒研究到這種程度。一個不小心我也就把聞風喪膽的壞人變成諧星了。

希望這落落長的一篇有稍微揭開武俠翻譯的神秘面紗,手指頭已打到沒力氣提到古代言情裡的建築,服飾,官位,以及後宮鬥的措辭。若還有疑問的朋友,歡迎在Twitter or Instagram上詢問!

最後來個幕後花絮,因個人背景,常被詢問類似的問題,比如說:

最常收到問題之:怎麼捨得離開以前的金融業?

這是第一次認識我的人,或是第一次接觸的媒體的必問。以上已經算是婉轉的版本,有時也會聽到『不覺得浪費了之前的學位和證照』或『你怎麼會這麼想不開做這什麼翻譯』等等。更刺耳的版本我則是自動忘了精光。至於為什麼會這麼問?歡迎查詢英文版本的about me.

先說,這裡頭的個人偏見也太大了哈哈!俗話說『行行出狀元』,但似乎相信這一句的人不多。撇開金融業的高度壓榨環境以及緊繃心態(我印象最深刻的是有次家人從台灣來看我,本來約好的晚餐,我在開飯前三十分鐘取消。沒辦法,當天得加班,工作為上,沒有比它更重要的),我就是真的很喜歡翻譯小說。

以前的Excel model or PowerPoint做得再厲害也就… 那樣。但現在每天都有很多人等著看我的文章,每個月都有好幾百萬的點閱率關心著我的作品。除了出書接受採訪,我還被邀請開自己的podcast節目以及出周邊。每天都兩眼閃星的過日子,跟以前實在是差太多了。

最常收到問題之:做翻譯真自由,都不用上班

!!!

我不上班的話… 我會餓死 lol. 我們只是不需要進辦公室,但一樣的每天得乖乖地坐在電腦前面好幾個小時。口譯的同行還得跟客戶到處跑,隨時在現場standby.

我通常一天處理一萬個字,平均打六個小時的電腦。最近要開一本新書,裡面把中國風水結合在仙俠的陣法裡,這可是要做很多功課的。剩餘的時間跟讀者互動,維持自行品牌的活動,或是處理當月特殊活動。每個十二月我都會辦寄聖誕卡片給讀者的活動,當月卡片會寫到手廢掉…

可以完完全全安排自己的時間是優點也是缺點,壞處就是我隨時隨地都在工作。朋友常常不解我為什麼每次去哪裡玩都帶電腦。Well, 只要有空擋我就會工作啊。若庫存不夠,我又同時請病假或休假,那… 那個月的收入就很少。週末也工作喔!

Chinese Gay Lit: What is Danmei?

Danmei (耽美) is something that always seems to make readers shriek and fangirl online. Especially with recent mega-hits from MXTX, images of flowery elegant gentlemen have captured the imagination and made girls swoon.

Modaozushi written by MXTX

In a nutshell, danmei is a genre that is written by, consumed by, and targeted for a female audience. It’s wildly popular in online Chinese literature, with adaptations for the big or small screen mostly scrubbed of overt homosexualism.

The term itself translates to “indulgence in beauty” and symbolizes the (over)romanticizing of male-male relationships, sometimes to the point where aesthetics overcome the importance of plot and character development.

There are a few speculations as to why this phenomenon came to be and how they might be compared to its Western equivalent: slash fiction.

  1. The systematic ban and the socially taboo nature of homosexual/homoerotic content in China
  2. Gender inequality and inequity in society where women feel oppressed and objectified
  3. Inevitable ties and constraints in a conventional romance, which end in marriage and childbirth – and ultimately interfere with an idealized concept of love

The first two points aren’t unique to China and apply to most of Asia, where civil rights haven’t transformed as they have in most of the West. The emergence of slash fiction coincided with the gay rights movement, although it tends to be more centered on fan fiction.

Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise to find that danmei or yaoi (Japanese term for boy love, whereas yuri is the term for girl love) is very popular with female audiences in those places, as well. Just as pornography set in a classroom or a religious facility invokes naughtiness, danmei provide readers with the rush of witnessing something taboo and forbidden – and the forbidden fruit is sweet.

Along with that comes the freedom and privilege that a male-submissive character represents, because men can often continue their lives without any fallout (or so the female writers think) that might otherwise affect women, such as slut shaming, virginity complexes, and pregnancy.

This leads to the third point, which suggests that in danmei, the characters aren’t as concerned with marriage and children. Same-sex marriage isn’t allowed in Asia except in Taiwan (where it was recently legalized), and children don’t have to be involved in the couple’s lives (no shotgun weddings!).

This allows “pure love” to exist in the danmei world, where two characters stay together solely because of love, and not because of societal expectations or social responsibility.

Without a widely observable homosexual community in China, life as a homosexual man was both mysterious and romanticized. At the same time, it served as a blank canvas for writers hoping to create a form of “pure” romance without the conventional restrictions.

However, this same lack of understanding also brings an interesting pattern found in danmei – the submissive partner is often portrayed like a woman with feminine exterior and interior traits, only she has junk in her trunks. This is probably the most obvious difference between danmei and slash fiction.

Slash, on the other hand, grew out of fan dissatisfaction with canon relationships. For instance, in the Star Trek fanfiction circle, stories are written about Kirk and Spock because fans felt that canon lore served the two short.

The genre name comes from the practice of putting a slash between the names of two characters that are “shipped.” This often involves romantic or erotic elements that extend from friendship and companionship. Subplots from canon are elaborated, and darker themes are explored such as domination and violence.

In other words, it’s often whatever fans wanted to see happen, but the original writers didn’t make happen.

For more about danmei, and English translations of these novels, please visit Chaleuria.com.