Every month the OTW hosts guest posts on our OTW News accounts to provide an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom. These posts express each individual’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy.
By day, Gem Asteria works in talent branding and program management, helping companies foster internal communities and increased employee engagement to attract and retain talent. By night, she is fostering global communities around danmei through her story-telling podcast, Danmei Podfics With Gem, where she reads danmei fan fiction aloud from across the fandom, to make stories more accessible. Today, Gem talks about her podfic project
How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?
I was already a long-time fan of anime and manga since I was 11 years old. I grew up watching Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Tenchi Muyo!, and Ah! My Goddess.
2021 is when I started leaning more into the boys-love (also known as “BL”) genre and in 2022 is when I learned about the danmei genre. I was introduced to danmei by watching the “Heaven Official’s Blessing” donghua (based on the original Chinese novel, “Heaven Official’s Blessing: Tian Guan Ci Fu (Novel) Vol. 1” by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu) on Crunchyroll, without doing any prior research about danmei or wuxia.
By the time I completed the first season, I felt there was not enough context for me to fully understand the plot and story. I started researching more about the danmei genre to try and fill in the gaps. Then I proceeded to read the English fan translations of the original novel and was HOOKED. Once I finished reading the fan translations, I came across a comic panel that was retelling the original novel with canon divergence. That comic lead me to popular 151-chapter-long fic that was retelling the whole story with canon divergence.
While I am fully aware that people write creative stories with their own original characters, I was honestly surprised and intrigued to stumble across this fic because I had no idea about the magnitude of fandoms and transformative works based on official books, movies, and more.
Reading that fan work gave me a whole new understanding and appreciation for the original novel. Realizing there was an archive housing hundreds of thousands of alternative universe fics based on the novel, and other stories in the danmei fandom, fueled my appetite to read more fanfics.
How did you get started creating podfic?
I laugh when I think about it! I am not a creative writer but I have a background in singing and musical theatre. I released an English cover of a Japanese song at the beginning of the year and grew curious if I was capable of voice acting. With me reading so much fanfiction, I started thinking to myself, “what if I could listen to these stories on the go and be the person who reads them?” I started researching “danmei audio” on Twitter and found only one other person who was recording stories; that’s when I became introduced to the term “podfic.” I didn’t realize there was an official term for what I wanted to do.
I then navigated to Spotify and entered “danmei” into the search bar, which returned very limited results; some shows were in Spanish and without knowing the language, I was unsure what was being discussed. There were other shows that were not updated in over a year. That got me thinking maybe this can be “my thing.”
I started reaching out to some of my favorite writers asking if they would be open to me voicing their stories aloud. I was honest about my never having done it before, that I wanted to take a stab at narration, and that they’d be credited (at tagged with their socials) wherever I chose to post.
With an extensive background in marketing and branding, I started contacting artists to commission story art that I could use to promote the story with the hopes of also building a brand for myself in the fandom. I also designed “mini trailers” to tease a portion of the podfic to promote on social media to entice people to listen to more.
The first podfic I released was “Headphones and Naughty Whispers” because the plot involves one of the main characters who is well known for his education-focused podcast. He also has a secret; he reads erotic stories under a different alias. Another main character soon realizes it’s the same person. I knew this story would make the perfect podfic and it was highly received; it’s actually my top listened-to podfic to date!
What would you like to see your podcast achieve?
Selfishly, I would love for my podcast to rank as one of the top recommended shows for danmei story-telling and podficcing. I hope it gets fans to fall even more in love with some of their favorite stories, along with discovering new ones, and to get curious listeners to explore the danmei fandom.
Interestingly, my ASMR journaling fic reviews have also attracted more listeners.
Overall, my goal is to make fan works more accessible and to elevate different writers and artists.
Do you have any particular tips to pass on to other podficcers?
I’m honestly still learning myself, and since launching my podcast I’ve connected with several podficcers and joined a podfic Discord server dedicated to helping podficcers. If anything, I would say always remember to have fun and love your voice.
How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?
I discovered OTW through Archive of Our Own and I see the OTW’s role as protecting the right to freedom of expression and advocating for the continued creation of transformative works, free from commercialization. In a society that heavily relies on monetization, it’s inspiring to have an organization that supports fans to have a space of their own and to enjoy copyrighted works in new ways.
What fandom things have inspired you the most?
I am floored by the level of talent, dedication, and creativity that fans have. There are some writers I follow that could publish several full-fledged books with the number of stories and words they produce. It’s amazing that fans create and participate simply because they want to share what they love with others.
When I started my podfic journey, I was welcomed with open arms, which only made me feel more confident and excited about continuing. I’m thankful that I’ve found a community where I can share my love for the fandom and can create with other fans.