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Interview: Erica Friedman - Page 3

Yuri Manga Publisher and Founder of YuriCon


YuriCon - Yuri manga and anime convention

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Media Blasters is getting into yuri too, with anime releases like Simoun and Strawberry Panic. I'm supporting them fully.

I think yuri fandom is on the rise. We've spent many years at Yuricon and ALC helping create an audience here. I always knew that we wouldn't be the ones to be successful at it, but I'm glad to see it taking off at last.

Q: Are there any Japanese yuri titles that you'd love to see published in English?

EF: Dozens. (laughs)

The collections from Yuri Hime, have a good chance to be published, now that Seven Seas has started picking them up. Strawberry Shake Sweet tops that list. I'd love to see Love My Life by Yamaji Ebine get over here and the Maria-sama ga Miteru light novels, by Konno Oyuki.

Q: One of your many yuri manga projects is ALC Publishing, which publishes translated Japanese manga, original yuri manga anthologies and yuri light novels. When and why did you start ALC? And what does "ALC" stand for?

EF: ALC stands for "AniLesboCon," which was the name we first used at Yuricon. It comes from an Revolutionary Girl Utena fan-fiction story written by Dreiser, in which lesbian character Juri comments that all the anime lesbians are so much cooler, smarter and better looking than the characters around them. She decides to start a convention for anime lesbians... AniLesbocon.

When I started my group, with Dreiser's permission, that was the name we chose. We changed the name to Yuricon early on, but I didn't want to lose the old name, because it made me laugh.

We started publishing yuri manga because no one else was - and at the time we started, no one else cared, either. Yaoi was just starting its climb toward popularity.

It all started when we ran a Yuricon event in New York City and a Japanese woman came by. It turned out that she was a manga artist for a lesbian magazine in Japan. We became friends quickly and one day, she and I were talking over lunch about how we both began creating stories, because no one was writing the kind of thing we wanted to read.

Rica Takashima was drawing cute, funny sweet stories about a girl looking for life and love in Tokyo, Rica 'tte Kanji!?. I was writing a story about a lesbian pop idol, Yuriko, the Yuricon mascot. That day over lunch I asked if I could publish her book as a translated manga. And ALC Publishing was born. Since then we've done two translations, five anthologies and a light novel.

Q: Tell me a bit about Yuri Monogatari, your yuri anthology.

EF: Yuri Monogatari (Lily Tales) is named after the popular short story series by Yoshiya Nobuko, the Hana Monogatari (Flower Tales).

We did our first anthology in 2003 and we've done them (roughly) annually since. Each anthology includes artists and writers from Japan, Europe, and North America. We tend to focus on doujinshi artists, rather than try to license stories from big companies. We truly believe that these are the people who are creating the best yuri manga out there - women drawing stories about lesbian experience for other women, not for mass-produced magazines pandering to large audiences.

In 2007, Yuri Monogatari was nominated for a Lambda Award. Although it didn't win, we were very proud to make the final cut.

Q: ALC Publishing has also shown and sold books at Comiket (Comic Market) in Japan, right? What was that like?

EF: Can I jump up and down and squeal? (laughs)

It was fabulous. Rica Takashima had been selling there for us for a few years, but in 2006, I was able to be there for the Winter Comiket event. It was so amazing to be on the other side of the table. We had so much fun - there was even a moment at one point of the day where we had a line in front of the table. I felt like I had had won an award.

Fans were very positive, I thought. Many people were confused that the books were in English, and some "rare hunters" bought them just because they were unusual. But overall, people seemed really happy to have them.

Q: You also organize Yuricon, the only U.S. anime / manga convention focused on yuri manga and anime. How and when did it start?

EF: The idea began in 2000, when the interest in BL was beginning, and no one really cared about yuri. When I started to promote the idea of yuri for a few years "Eww, yuri," was the most common reaction. But I've never cared much what other people think, so I kept on promoting. Originally, Yuricon was only meant to be an online community, but in 2003 we ran our first live event.

Q: I read through the Yuricon site, and noticed that's not an annual event – can you talk a bit about that?

EF: Events take a tremendous amount of time, money and manpower. And the Yuricon staff likes to have a life. Originally, Yuricon was never meant to be an offline event at all. We did the 2003 event not really thinking we'd ever do another one. It was just for fun.

In 2005, Rica Takashima organized a Yuricon event in Tokyo and we did a joint venture with another organization, an event called Onna!, which was also a lot of fun. Last year, we decided that we wanted to do an event, but didn't really want to do a full weekend. So we ran a one-day event, which was a blast.

People ask me all the time when the next one is, but the truth is, we don't really feel like planning year after year, and spending all that money, in case they might come. We prefer to do a different kind of event each time, whenever it suits us. (laughs)

Online, Yuricon has contests every year, and we do lectures and public appearances all the time, so there's a good chance for people to see us and talk about yuri manga and anime. And when the mood strikes us, we run an event, too.

Q: And finally, can you share a bit about your upcoming projects for 2008 and beyond?

EF: 2008 is an "on the road" year. We were in Japan, and we'll be visiting a few conventions to do panels. There's always a possibility for an event in 2009, we're in the very early planning stages.

In the meantime, we're working on our books, and I'm writing news and reviews at my blog, Okazu to keep everyone up on what's old and classic and what's new and hot.


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