Non-Fiction Spotlight: By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga by Erica Friedman

After the Hugos is before the next Hugos, so I’m continuing my Non-Fiction Spotlight project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that come out in 2022 and are eligible for the 2023 Hugo Awards. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here. To check out the spotlights I already posted, go here.

For more recommendations for SFF-related non-fiction, also check out this Facebook group set up by the always excellent Farah Mendlesohn, who is a champion (and author) of SFF-related non-fiction.

Some people claim that the reason that SFF-related non-fiction books have increasingly been crowded out of the Best Related Work category at the Hugos is that there are not enough non-fiction books published every year to fill the Hugo ballot. This is wrong, since there is a wide spectrum of non-fiction books covering every SFF-related subject imaginable released every year. Today’s featured non-fiction book proves how wide that spectrum truly is, because it is a book about the history of lesbian relationships as portrayed in manga and anime.

Therfore I’m thrilled to welcome Erica Friedman, author of By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga to my blog today.

Cover: By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Manga and Anime by Erica Friedman

Tell us about your book.

My book is By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga.

Lesbian-themed animation and comics (and related media), known as “Yuri,” is the newest genre of Japanese pop culture. Even though it’s only been acknowledged as a separate genre for a little over a decade, Yuri has a literary and artistic history that can be traced back to the early 20th century. My book is a series of interlocking lectures and essays that trace that history and bring the story of Yuri to the present. I cover key series and creators, as well as the efforts by creators and fans to carve out a space for ourselves in the larger Japanese pop culture fandom.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Erica Friedman. I have lectured at dozens of conventions and presented at film festivals. I have edited manga, most recently Riyoko Ikeda’s epic historical classic, The Rose of Versailles. I have read, watched, thought about, written and spoken about Yuri for more than 20 years now. My blog, Okazu, is about to turn 20 years old, in fact.

What prompted you to write this book?

Yuri has passed that tipping point where it’s no longer fighting to be recognized as a genre. More Yuri manga, anime and games are coming out than I can keep up with – a very good problem to have, honestly. But as new series bring in new fans, I wanted to capture all the history up to this point, so it wouldn’t be lost in the crush. Fandom did a lot of heavy lifting in Yuri and other queer fandoms.

Yuri’s roots are also different than any other genre in Japanese pop culture, since Yuri was a feature included in all the other genres, with their own tropes. I wanted to capture the complexities of the genre’s origins in hope that other people would use this as a springboard to jump off for further research.

Plus, I just really like writing about Sailor Moon. ^_^

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

That’s a great question!  I think By Your Side is a truly unique book, because it  is a story of a brand new fandom that was born only a quarter of a century ago. If you’re part of any fan community, it’s sometimes hard to remember that  everything in fandom is changing all the time. But it is. The rise of queer content and queer fandom is shaping multiple media even as we speak. And, of course, folks who have worked in fan culture are likewise shaping their own genres in new and exciting ways.

Secondly, Japanese pop culture has had an indelible imprint on western pop culture at this point. I hope that Hugo readers are interested in that phenomenon and would like to learn about this particular piece, which was driven by fans on both sides of the globe to become something new. I also hope the LGBTQ+ folks will take a look at this book and learn that if it feels like there’s no space for them in a fandom, it should not stop them from creating that space. It’s not just possible – it’s critical to do so.

Do you have any cool facts or tidbits that you unearthed during your research, but that did not make it into the final book?

The Yuri genre is growing so fast – and so much new content  is being created that even as we went to press, there were new works I was scrambling to squeeze in. Yuri creators are more likely to be openly queer than they were even a few years ago. I wanted to capture that.  As we were going to press, I was rewriting my look at the future of Yuri furiously!

SFF-related non-fiction is somewhat sidelined by the big genre awards, since the Nebulas have no non-fiction category and the Best Related Work Hugo category has become something of a grab bag of anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere. So why do you think SFF-related non-fiction is important?

If fiction is us, as a species, sitting around a fire, sharing our hopes, fears, aspirations and legends; then non-fiction is us passing along our skills, our lessons and our history. Non-fiction is stories, too— stories told of what was and what is…stories that shape what might be. Non-fiction gives us shoulders to stand upon.

Most importantly, non-fiction is the chronicle of us. SFF fandom is not just those who create stories. For instance, we know how many people were and still are inspired by Star Trek to seek out new worlds and new civilizations.  Non-fiction allows fans to explore spaces where we take to the stars in other ways.

Are there any other great SFF-related non-fiction works or indeed anything else (books, stories, essays, writers, magazines, films, TV shows, etc…) you’d like to recommend?

While I’m here repping queer Japanese culture, I want to take a moment to shout out Queer Transfigurations: Boys Love Media in Asia ed. by James Welker.  Boy’s Love as a genre in Japan has a different trajectory than Yuri, but it’s gone global in a big way since the 1990s. Now that it is a global phenomenon, embedded into everything from anime and manga to Korean pop music. This is a collection of writing by 21 scholars, looking at the explosion of BL across Asian countries and their pop cultures.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m really excited about all the Yuri – and Yuri research — yet to come. What series, people and tropes will we be discussing in the next 20 years? I don’t know – and I can’t wait to find out.

Where can people buy your book?

I’ve got links to all the major online and several niche booksellers – plenty of non-Amazon options – for both print and digital on my site:

(Direct links if you prefer: )

Barnes & Noble:
Ebook Direct from Publisher:

Where can people find you?

For all my links:

Thank you, Erica, for stopping by and answering my question.

By Your Side backcoverAbout By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga:

The Untold Story of Lesbian Love in Japanese Anime and Comics

“The first in-depth study of Yuri in English.”

James Welker, Professor of Cross-Cultural and
Japanese Studies, Kanagawa University

Two decades in the making, By Your Side is a collection of essays, scholarly and approachable, by the Western Hemisphere’s authority on the subject. This landmark work should be in the library of any fan of anime, manga, lesbian relationships in media–or any combination of the three!

“By Your Side is the complete Yuri resource I only ever dreamed could exist…Friedman graces readers with illuminating insights as they follow her through a century of the genre’s evolution and revolution.”

Nicki Bauman, Yurimother

About Erica Friedman:

Erica Friedman is the founder of Yuricon community, and was the first publisher of Yuri manga in English, with ALC Publishing. She holds a Masters Degree in Library Science and a B.A. in Comparative Literature, and is a full-time researcher for a Fortune 100 company.

She has lectured at dozens of conventions, presented at film festivals, and participated in academic lecture series in the United States in Japan. A Manga editor, she most recently worked on Riyoko Ikeda’s epic historical classic, The Rose of Versailles.

Erica has written about Yuri for a host of prestigious Japanese and American outlets. She has written news and event reports, interviews Yuri creators and reviews Yuri anime, manga and related media on her blog Okazu since 2002.


Are you publishing a work of SFF-related longform non-fiction in 2022 and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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