Behind “Captive Prince,” S.U. Pacat’s bestselling work of slave erotica
Captive Prince by S.U. Pacat went on sale in two volumes a week ago and promptly became an Amazon bestseller. An epic work of slave erotica, it currently has a perfect five-star rating and is garnering glowing reviews from readers.
While it may be new to many readers, however, Captive Prince is actually a long-standing, still-in-progress work of fiction that occupies a nebulous genre known as “original slash.”
Slash fiction is specifically fanfiction concerning pre-existing male characters. So it’s hard to define original slash except as something that looks a lot like male/male fanfic—but it’s all original material. In concept, it’s similar to the text-based equivalent of Japanese yaoi, or male/male manga targeted towards young women. The original slash fiction community online shares lots of overlap with the fanfiction community, and many original slashfics—as works are commonly referred to as—not only have a largely fandom-savvy audience but have generated their own fandoms as well.
Captive Prince is so popular it’s generated fanart, fanfiction, devoted community discussions, fan-made resources, and lots of fan buzz. It even has its own Fuck, Yeah Tumblr.
Pacat has been posting the work in serial form online for years, garnering a loyal following content to wait out the sometimes lengthy periods between updates. The first two volumes have finally been published, but fans are already settled in to wait for the publication of the third volume. Though Captive Prince is classic erotica—the main story involves an, er, captive prince forced to hide his identity when he’s forced into slavery to the hot ruler of the next kingdom over—it also goes above and beyond most published forms of the genre by carefully building a universe full of epic political worldbuilding and a large, complicated cast of characters. The general consensus among fans of the series seems to be that while you might come for the slavefic, you stay for the plot twists..
We spoke to Pacat about publishing online, her fanbase, the difference between writing fanfic and original work, and whether “original slash” even exists.
DD: When did you begin writing Captive Prince, and what gave you the initial idea?
I started working on Captive Prince a few years ago, while I was living in Tokyo. Truthfully, I wasn’t good at ideas then, I had no process. I thought ideas sprang fully formed into the mind of the writer, and since that didn’t happen to me, I assumed I must not be a writer. I didn’t realise that ideas are glimmers, inklings that must be seized and worked on.
So I was at that early stage of ‘I would like to write but I don’t know what to write about’. My process was honestly ridiculous. I thought, well, if I am going to write a book, it should be about something that I like! I literally wrote down a list of everything that I liked. The first thing on the list was ‘princes’ and the second thing on the list was ‘hot guys with unbearable tensions between them’. That was it. I still have the list, ‘antiheroes, sword fights, biased viewpoint, rooftop chases, daring escapes, enemies, court politics, power plays’—it goes on.
DD: Were there other online writers who influenced you? Who were they? Did you have any other influences like yaoi or earlier works of erotica?
I would not have written Captive Prince if I hadn’t read Sahari’s Court of Eternity. It was high fantasy original online m/m, and all I really remember of it now is the cool, manipulative dragon emperor, and lots of lines like, “The dragon will never bow before the lion!” I had never seen anyone write m/m high fantasy before and it showed me that this kind of story could exist, could be something I could do.
The Western writer I admire most is [Dorothy] Dunnett, and Laurent’s antecedent is Lymond, but he is also undeniably influenced by all of those effortless blond semes that I loved as an adolescent, Iason, Nakago, even Griffith from Berserk. [Ed note: a seme is the Japanese word indicating a strong male character who plays a dominant role in Japanese yaoi, or male/male manga.] Those cool, inimical blonds…
But truthfully, I’m not sure I can point to a body of erotica and say ‘This is my influence’, because part of the reason I wrote Captive Prince was that I couldn’t find the story that I wanted to read. A lot of my ‘kinks’ are all things like tension, high stakes, adventure, as well as high id archetypes—the dangerous, manipulative, frigid prince, the powerful, warrior-hero—and I wanted to write that but with a kind of—maybe psychological realism is the wrong word, but, psychological plausibility.
Read the rest of the interview here!