Graphic by staff graphic designer Sumen Imtiaz.

Writers of Tomorrow* is a Slice of Culture series where we strive to highlight our writers of tomorrow — aspiring novelists, songwriters, fanfiction writers, playwrights and more. 

Last time in this series we began looking into the world of Fanfiction. We put out a questionnaire and received over a hundred responses!

In this part, we will be featuring Janna Sheiman, an anime fan fiction writer from New Jersey, who has agreed to do a bit more of an in-depth interview.

We asked our responders whether or not they wrote controversial ships. The slang term “ship,” according to Urban Dictionary, means the act of taking two fictional or non-fictional characters, and personally wishing for them to either be in love or sleep together.

For example, the fanfiction, “Of Lies and Deceit and Hidden Personas” written by Jessiikaa on Fanfiction.net, features what some would consider a controversial ship of Harry and Voldemort. The fanfiction, which was started in 2013, is still being updated today.

The fanfiction involves a “controversial” ship in the story. (Jessiikaa / Fanfiction.net)

For Sheiman, who writes under the name Ruddcatha, said she has written controversial ships.

“Yes, I am writing a collaboration for Kikyo and Suikotsu in Inuyasha based on Jekyll and Hyde,” she said.  

In the anime “Inuyasha,” Kikyo, a priestess, comes across Suikotsu, a man near Mount Hakurei, the purest mountain, who helps and watches over orphaned children. Suikotsu, however, had lost his previous memory of being part of The Band of Seven, a notorious group of murderers in the show. 

The two meet after Kikyo, who has healing powers, tends to an elderly woman. Kikyo senses a jewel shard — an object that gives immense powers — embedded in Suikotsu, but notices it is not corrupt with evil. Suikotsu later regains his memory and thirst for killing, corrupting the jewel, and reunites with The Band of Seven who tries to kill Kikyo and the other main characters.

While some may not take issue with these ships or just fanfiction in general, some people aren’t as accepting or even go as far as leaving rude and nasty reviews or comments. We asked Sheiman about this.

Kikyo is one of the main characters of the 2000s anime “Inuyasha. (Fandom photo)
Suikotsu is one of the antagonists in The Band of Seven arc in “Inuyasha.” (Fandom photo)
Do you ever get any hateful reviews, and if so how do you deal with them?

 “I actually haven’t really dealt with any hateful reviews.

I had one that told me they thought my primary story had turned too sappy and that it was a ‘good attempt,’ and at first I started to get upset and wonder what was wrong, but then had to sit back and look at other factors. I have 100 people that are following me to get access to any story I write, and 270 that want to be notified of when a new chapter of that particular story comes out. 

So I sat down, looked at my plotline, worked with several of my friends to solidify where the story was going, and kept writing, keeping to what I had planned rather than letting the review change where I was taking the story.

Sheiman is working on series called “Duality of Man,” which features Kikyo and Suikotsu, in collaboration with four other fanfic writers — including Fawn_Eyed_Girl, a fanfic writer based in New Jersey. The story depicts an alternate universe (AU) where Suikotsu is a mild-mannered doctor and Kikyo is an intellectual stripper.

An excerpt from the piece:
“I’m sorry I’m late, Kagura.  There was a…”
“I don’t care about your reasons Kikyo, get backstage; you are about to be on.”
Kikyo rushed through the room, her eyes darting to meet Sui’s as he followed her every move.
Bankotsu took note of Sui’s attention and smiled.  Yes, his friend needed relaxation.
Kikyo slid into the dressing room, releasing the closures of her black jacket and skirt to draw out her costume. As she turned to Botan, another dancer of the establishment, for help with the back fastenings of her corset, Kagura stormed into the room.
“You fool! Naraku has noticed you were not here and he is in a mood because of it.”
“Well, it’s just another day then isn’t it?” Kikyo shot back as she drew on her captain’s coat and skirt.  Kagura handed the woman her gloves with a scowl.
“You are on in two minutes… be ready.”
“Am I ever not?”

One of our questions was about something every writer needs — inspiration.

We wanted to know where these writers drew their inspiration from: was it from a song, a dream, an errant thought, or something completely different?

One of our responders who goes by the pseudonym “Catstaff” had this to say about what inspired them.

“There’s no one inspiration,” Catstaff wrote. “Sometimes it’s a prompt or a challenge that catches my eye. Sometimes I decide that ‘the end’ of canon should be ‘the end of part one’ and so I write a sequel story.

Sometimes I spot a minor character or two that I find interesting and so I decide to tell their tale. Sometimes it’s as simple as, A is attractive and B is attractive, so come up with a way to get A and B together and have twice the attractive in one ship!”

Suikotsu and Kikyo, the ship featured in Sheiman’s fanfiction work. (Suikotsu-x-Kikyou / DevianArt)

Apart from the issue of inspiration, we wanted to know how these authors’ peers may have reacted to their hobby. Some may disapprove or even outright reject it while others seem perfectly alright with the hobby.

Fanfiction, or fanfic, for short, has been around for centuries. According to Mental Floss, even “The Epic of Gilgamesh” indicated that later generations were adding onto the epic story and adapting their own. 

Today, the thousands of fanfic writers live on websites like Fanfiction.net, archiveofourown.org, Wattpad and more. On these sites readers can follow, favorite and comment on stories — but this support typically comes from strangers online.

Apart from your friends, do you feel like your peers accept your fanfiction work?

 “So far, I haven’t found anyone that wasn’t supportive of it. 

They may not understand what I write or the genre I write in, but they understand the need, especially right now in Covid, to have an outlet, something fun to do and focus on something positive.

Stay tuned for our next “Writers of Tomorrow” piece to see what the next writer is working on.

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