In Conversation with Dirk Maggs, Producer of The Sandman

Neil Gaiman (L) and Dirk Maggs (R)

The Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine podcast recently featured a conversation between host Jo Reed and producer, director, and writer Dirk Maggs. In a career spanning 30 years, Maggs has won many national and international awards. He first made a name for himself turning DC comics into audio productions, and when Douglas Adams heard those adaptations, he pulled Dirk in to bring his Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy series back to audio. Maggs has also had a longtime collaboration with Neil Gaiman, which most recently has resulted in an audio adaptation of The Sandman, Gaiman’s beloved classic comic book series.

Listen in as they discuss Maggs’ decades of work bringing audio dramas to life.

James McAvoy

Partial Transcript:

Jo Reed:  I’m curious, when you go into the studio, for example, and let’s talk about SANDMAN specifically, do you have a sense of how the narration should sound to you? Are you hearing it already in your head? Do you know what you want from each actor? I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying—

Dirk Maggs:  Do I prepare?

JR:  No. No, I’m sure you do prepare, but how much do you leave open for the actor?

DM:  That’s a good question, Jo. The challenge of making SANDMAN was, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, but I was also very aware that this is a much loved, much cherished piece of work.  One of the biggest issues with THE SANDMAN is, it’s been in existence for over 30 years now. People know what they want to hear from it. And I realized quite early on that if I was going to be clever and try and reinvent the wheel, I would be in an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” situation. But the thing about SANDMAN was, I don’t think audio, as a medium, need feel inferior to any other medium, because I believe that our medium works just like movies and TV do. The only difference is that the stimulation bypasses the optic nerve. It doesn’t go in through the front door. It sneaks in through the side doors and then it creates the image on your cerebral cortex. Between your ears is the single greatest imaging chip in the computer world, which is the human brain. Your brain will create visions from what you hear. Some people, there are conditions where people don’t have this, but most people have this, which is really what we rely upon in the audio business to tell our stories. You visualize from what you hear.

Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven

JR: OK, so let’s bring it back to SANDMAN.

DM: So I was ready to go with an adaptation of SANDMAN, and I knew this wouldn’t be so much an audio dramatization. It would be an audiobook sort of riding on a dramatization, because we would need to find a way to stick very close to the original. I felt that that was the plow to furrow, because then Neil, as exec. producer with me on this, we could then concentrate and make this as quintessentially SANDMAN as we could.

JR: Well that’s easier said than done. How did you go about making this happen?

DM: I immediately gave up any thought of updating it, making it present day, introducing cell phones or the internet or all of this. It had to stay set in the late ’80s, early ’90s. It had to be something with Neil’s authentic voice in it, and that was the real revelation, because I said to Neil, “The only way I can think of doing this is to see your original scripts, the scripts you wrote for the artists and Todd Klein, who was doing the lettering, and the inkers and the colorists. Those will have the descriptions of what you wanted to see, and if I blend those descriptions with what you actually see in the comics, we will end up with something which will be as quintessentially SANDMAN as you can get. Then if somebody wants to pick the comic book up and look at it alongside, there will be a fair degree of correlation.

Tales in The Sand – Cathy Tyson, John Macmillan, Amaka Okafor, Don Gilet, Joseph Marcell, Inel Tomlinson

So Neil dug out from these ancient hard drives, and I think the first one I got was episode three. I think one and two have disappeared into the ether. I was looking at it, and as soon as I opened this thing, I’m with Neil, I’m standing at his shoulder while he’s writing this in 1987, and he goes into what this episode’s going to be about and the general feel of it. And then he starts describing the panels. Then something wonderful happens: This stuff I’m reading, these descriptions of what he’s seeing in his mind’s eye, it’s poetry. It’s like Dylan Thomas. Suddenly, I can see exactly what this needs to be. This needs to be Neil.  He’d already asked if he could narrate and I said, “Well, of course. Of course, my dear.” But when I saw this, I thought oh, this is it. This is the motherlode, and that was one of the best parts of the job for me.

Arthur Darvill

JR:  He’s a wonderful narrator. He has just such a beautiful voice and intonation. And he can lead you into some dark places, as he does in the book, without being threatening.

DM:  Yes. Neil has a very particular way of reading. If you hear one of Neil’s books read by the author, he has a distinct style. He has a rhythm and he has a way of massaging a sentence which keeps you interested to the very end. Neil reading this stuff, and with the action playing underneath, with the wonderful cast we had and with, you know, I’ve brought every inch of sound designing experience I’ve had over the last 40 years into the sound design. And then James Hannigan’s music, which adds a whole new layer of magic to the thing. When it’s all mixed together, you’re transported, and you’re in this guy’s head. It was so wonderful. About 10pm one night, three or four months ago, while I was doing post-production, I emailed Neil and I said, “Do you know how good you were when you wrote this stuff?” I didn’t expect an answer, but almost immediately came back, Neil saying, “Yes, but I don’t remember doing it. I’m not the person who wrote this. He’s a different person to me.” And I thought, what an interesting answer, because this young man, who’s what? Neil wasn’t yet 30 when he started SANDMAN. He was a library brat. He brought himself up just devouring books, and all of it is in THE SANDMAN. He’s got the poetry. He’s got the knowledge. He’s got all this eclectic stuff that’s just gathered in his brain. It’s just falling out on the page. It’s magical, absolutely magical. It was magical to do it. Some jobs, you know, in the end it’s a job of work, and some jobs are hard work. You think, gosh, I really could have picked a less onerous duty here.  But this was a joy, from start to finish.


AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience. AudioFile Earphones Awards are given to exceptional audiobooks. Subscribe to Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine for daily audiobook recommendations from AudioFile editors and contributors, and for bonus interview episodes for a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of favorite audiobooks.

[Based on an AudioFile Magazine blog post.]

Brian Keene Terminates The Horror Show Podcast

The Horror Show with Brian Keene is ending with next week’s episode the host announced today in “Curtain Call”. He’s still going to do some video interviews with authors on YouTube, but the podcast is ending.

Brian Keene

..I’ll focus ONLY on giving them a platform, rather than a format where they have to share the spotlight with whatever terrible fucking thing happened in the industry that week…

Keene feels that doing a podcast with the premise of The Horror Show – delivering news of the field – requires spending time on some painful disclosures.

If you’re going to do a show that — at least in part — focuses on fairly presenting news that impacts the horror genre and industry — then you’re going to have to give oxygen to some of that poisonous stuff. And when you give oxygen to the poisonous stuff, it slowly takes your own oxygen away.

Here lately, I’m having trouble breathing.

(And yes, it occurs to me that “I can’t breathe” has very particular connotations in our society right now, so let me take this as an opportunity to reiterate that Black Lives Fucking Matter, and if you disagree with me, that’s okay. Stop buying my books).

At times in 2020 Keene was required to report about people he knew well, like Borderlands Books owner Alan Beatts, and author Matt Hayward. And in June a single episode of his podcast covered allegations against 10 different individuals in the comic book, horror, science fiction, book fields involving everything from sexual coercion to sexual assault.

Keene says he continues to enjoy “giving a platform to other voices and shining a spotlight on the genre’s history. …Those things don’t take away my oxygen.” So he will be transferring the interviews planned for The Horror Show with Gabino Iglesias, Stephen Graham Jones, Cina Pelayo, Tim Waggoner, Wesley Southard, and Somer Canon, to his YouTube channel.

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

Judge Who Was Kramer’s
Co-Defendant Loses Election

Gwinnett County (GA) Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, still awaiting retrial on charges of computer trespass, lost her bid for re-election in a runoff held August 11.

Ed Kramer earlier this year took a plea bargain on charges of computer trespass and in February testified against Schrader, his former co-defendant. Her trial ended in a hung jury. A new trial had originally been scheduled for April, but the court system has been shut down since March because of the pandemic.

Kramer is a co-founder of Dragon Con, but he has not been a co-owner since 2013.

Schrader polled 41% of the vote, the winner 59%.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins for the story.]

Borderlands Books Owner Accused of Sexual Assault

Deeply disturbing charges from two women about being abused by Alan Beatts, owner of Borderlands Books, were aired by The Horror Show With Brian Keene on July 2.

Content warning for physical and sexual assault, and incest.

The charges were initially shared by Sarah Read on June 20, when she tweeted a screencap of the account posted by Beatts’ ex-girlfriend on Facebook. (The source post either is not public, or has since been removed.) 

“Alan Beatts is the owner of Borderlands Books in San Francisco and my ex-boyfriend. He grabbed me by the hair and threatened to kill me with a knife to my throat. He tried his damndest to rape DoveStep Beatts. I know there are others he assaulted and abused. It feels weird to ask for people not to support an indie bookstore right now, but please don’t support Borderlands Books,”

DoveStep refers to Beatts’ daughter.

Brian Keene spoke to the daughter and the unnamed ex-girlfriend, and his podcast reports their allegations in graphic detail. (A transcript of that podcast segment is available here. Content warnings apply for the podcast, and today’s Mission Local article: “Borderlands Books owner publicly accused of sexual assault by daughter, domestic violence by ex-girlfriend”.)

Keene also spoke to Alan Beatts in an off-the-record conversation – disclosing that Beatts is someone he had a 20-year professional and personal relationship with, that he is not only “intricately tied to,” but is the subject of an entire chapter in Keene’s recently-published memoir End of the Road.

The Beatts charges are not only toxic to hear about, they are shattering to the community that supports Borderlands Books. When Beatts announced in February 2015 he could stay in business if 300 people bought sponsorships for a hundred dollars apiece, the number of sponsors needed to underwrite the store’s survival plan came forward in less than 48 hours, and by May he had 800. This overwhelming response allowed the store to envision buying its own building, and in 2017, 49 individuals loaned $1.9 million to purchase a new location on Haight Street. 

Keene said on the podcast: “This is the one that broke me, folks. …All I can say is I’m sorry to everyone involved. …I will not be doing any more signings at Borderlands Books.” 

Author Christopher Golden tweeted a link to Keene’s podcast with the comment that these allegations are “stomach-turning” and that “I love the store but as long as he’s connected to it, I couldn’t support them.” 

And the store’s Events calendar indicates several virtual items which had been scheduled for this week have been called off, with only the explanation — “Due to unforseen circumstances, this event has been cancelled.” This includes virtual appearances by Katherine Addison, Jo Walton, Mike Chen, Kelly McWilliams, Kate Elliott, and Mary Robinette Kowal.

Charles E. Gannon Q&A with Jim Freund Today

Author Charles E. Gannon will discuss Nebula Awards finalist Marque Of Caine, with Jim Freund today. The livestreamed discussion hosted by Mysterious Galaxy bookshop in San Diego begins at 7:00 p.m.

Tune into their Facebook page under the “discussion” tab at the time listed to participate. See ticket link for details on purchasing a book. If you can’t make the schedule time, check out the archived stream in Mysterious Galaxy’s Virtual Event Archive after the event.

Award-winning author Dr. Charles E. Gannon is a Distinguished Professor of English and a Fulbright Senior Specialist. A recipient of five Fulbright Fellowships and Travel Grants and is a Nebula finalist, his book Rumors of War and Infernal Machines won a 2006 American Library Association Choice Award. His latest sci-fi novel, Marque of Caine, is the fifth book in his Caine Riordan series. It has been two years since Caine was relieved of his command for following both his orders and his conscience. Now he’s finally received the message he’s been waiting for: a summons to visit the ancient and enigmatic Dornaani; the same Dornaani that still have his mortally wounded love, Elena Corcoran. As clues and new threats push Caine’s quest beyond the edge of known space, he discovers that the Dornaani empire is in decline, meaning his beloved Elena is now only half the mission…

Signed bookplates are available for books purchased through the shop. Indicate the request in the comment field at checkout.  All bookplate orders are due July 13, and will be are arriving separately from the books free of charge.

Tomorrow Is Arriving

New York City seems to be getting closer to what Frank R. Paul had in mind.

Look at New York YIMBY’s construction photos and artist’s designs for these four projects.

“450 Eleventh Avenue Prepares To Go Vertical In Hudson Yards”

Construction is about to go vertical at 450 Eleventh Avenue, a 487-foot-tall, 531-room hotel from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in Hudson Yards. Designed by DSM Design Group and developed by Marx Development Group, the 43-story tower is one of several new high-rise structures sprouting up around the Jacob K. Javits Center.

“Exterior Hoist Comes Down For Virgin Hotel At 1225 Broadway, In NoMad”

Façade work is nearing completion on the Virgin Hotel at 1225 Broadway in NoMad. Designed by Stantec and developed by Lam Group, the 38-story, 476-foot-tall structure will yield 300,000 square feet with 460 hotel rooms. Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group will be in charge of managing the property, which is the first Virgin Hotel in New York City.

“The Spiral’s Steel Superstructure Continues To Rise At 66 Hudson Boulevard In Hudson Yards”

Bjarke Ingels Group‘s 66 Hudson Boulevard, aka The Spiral, is rapidly climbing above Hudson Yards. Like its next-door neighbor 50 Hudson Yards, the 66-story supertall has nearly doubled in height since YIMBY’s last update in December. Tishman Speyer is the developer, Turner Construction Company is the construction manager, and Banker Steel is in charge of fabricating the steel for the 1,031-foot-tall commercial office skyscraper, which is expected to cost $3.7 billion.

“YIMBY Checks In On The Site Of 350 Park Avenue In Midtown East”

Perhaps the most exciting skyscraper project proposed for New York last year is 350 Park Avenue, a nearly 1,500-foot-tall skyscraper from Vornado Realty Trust and Rudin Management. After YIMBY broke the news on Vornado’s expected 2027 completion date for the tower back in February, we stopped by the site to check on the status of its current occupant. Located between East 51st and East 52nd Streets, a total of two edifices would need to be demolished to make way for the development.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Courtney Milan Comments About Mixon Report on Sriduangkaew

THE UNEXPECTED. Not counting the times she was nominated for literary awards, Benjanun Sriduangkaew hasn’t been in the news here since 2017. It’s not clear she’s done anything newsworthy even now, but the fact that she’s been mentioned so often on Twitter in the past week has made people wonder why.

In 2014, Laura Mixon published a report identifying Sriduangkaew as the abusive blogger Requires Hate (among other handles), a piece which earned Mixon the 2015 Best Fan Writer Hugo.

D Franklin tweeted in this thread that the increased discussion of Sriduangkaew in the past week was specifically in response to another thread, however, yesterday there was a kind of “crossing the streams” when Elizabeth Bear tweeted, “Just so you all know, an unknown actor who is possibly Requires Hate is just about to launch a really fucking big disinformation campaign about @scottlynch78 and me. If a whole bunch of accounts you’ve never heard of start launching really wild accusations, don’t be surprised.”

Alexandra Erin tweeted a skeptical response: “Last night I blocked Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch, who both had followed me for some time after she did the equivalent of detonating a tactical nuke as a flash bomb to distract the audience, blaming all emerging accusations against her on someone her community will accept.”

While paging through the allegations, defenses, and comments from the parties’ friends and critics, something else emerged that did warrant a story.

COURTNEY MILAN. A Google search shows people have known for several years Sriduangkaew and Courtney Milan are acquainted, but this past winter Milan’s profile grew more visible after her unjust treatment by Romance Writers of America triggered member protests that led to a complete turnover in RWA leadership and a great deal of media coverage. And last week when Milan started to speak out on behalf of Sriduangkaew, and criticized the Mixon report, the connection became more interesting to people active in sff.

Milan made a general comment:

Then, responding to the last of several non-public tweets from Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s protected Twitter account, Courtney Milan threw shade on the Mixon report:

D Franklin responded:

Milan added more commentary about the Mixon report. Thread starts here.

Courtney Milan signed off the exchange with this apology:

More Bradbury Literary Dividends

(1) IN VINO VERITAS. How’s your Finnish? Tähtivaeltajablogi has put up a post about the translation of Bradbury’s Dandleion Wine, “Kirjat – Ray Bradbury: Voikukkaviiniä”. The beautiful cover speaks for itself!

(2) LASFL DAZE. “Ray Bradbury’s Clubhouse” chronicles Ray’s earliest contact with fandom at First Fandom Experience.

…In Surround Yourself With Your Loves and Live Forever, edited by John L. Coker III, Bradbury’s friend Ray Harryhausen later recalled:

“In the mid-1930s when I was still in high school, Forry told me about the little brown room in Clifton’s Cafeteria, where the Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League would meet every Thursday. Robert Heinlein used to come around, and a guy named Ray Bradbury. We were a group who liked the unusual.

“Ray would arrive wearing roller skates. After selling newspapers on the street corner he would skate to the meetings because he had no money. He used to go meet the stars at the Hollywood Theater where they did weekly radio broadcasts.”

(3) RAY & RAY. Eyes on Cinema presents an undated video of these two friends and creators in dialog: “The importance of curiosity with Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen.”

(4) CALLING. This is from an interview with Tobias S. Buckell in the June Locus.  Buckell grew up biracial in the Caribbean Islands.

“Ray Bradbury has a story in The Martian Chronicles about a couple with a kid that dies.  The Martians can adopt whatever form people around them want, so one of them goes to their parents and looks just like the kid.  Their son is back from the dead, and they don’t care why–they fold him into their routine.  He starts disappearing a lot, so they follow him, and realize he’s also being a lot kid for another family along the way.  The two families call him back and forth like a dog until he just rips apart and dies.  I read that in high school in the US Virgin Islands and broke into tears.  That story literalizes a metaphor about the question you asked earlier, about being pulled to one side or the other.  That story is not about being biracial–but for me it was.”

(5) DESPARACION DE LOS LIBROS. Ray Bradbury was interviewed by Cristina Mucci on the Argentine TV show Los siete locos in 1997. The program is “dedicated to the dissemination of books and culture.” Bradbury’s answers were broadcast with Spanish subtitles. Early on, he was asked about Fahrenheit 451.

(6) A VISIT ON CABLE TV. The Planetary Society has posted this 1982 interview with Bradbury on their YouTube channel.

Mat Kaplan crossed paths with author, poet, and visionary Ray Bradbury many times across three decades. UK Planetary Radio fan and Bradbury expert Dr. Philip Nichols recently revealed that he had a VHS copy of Mat’s first interview with Ray, conducted in 1982. The author of The Martian Chronicles was a frequent visitor to Long Beach, California where Mat managed a cable television channel. Here’s that interview.

(7) SCREEN PASS. Christine Novell considers “Modern Plagues and the Prescience of Ray Bradbury” at The Imaginative Conservative.

…In the world of pandemia in 2020, Bradbury’s stories resonate with a different irony. For those who can afford the technology, screen life has become more critical than ever, critical to education, business, government, and ministry. It has become a way of connecting, a method of community. It keeps us close, yet as Bradbury thought, isolated from our neighbors and family. But that’s the nature of the current virus, a destroyer of community. Bradbury did not predict a plague-inspired isolation, at least not this type of plague.

Instead I think he saw technology as the plague that isolates, a relentless social force. He would ask us, “What are we dependent on? What can we not live without?” As if Bradbury was thinking aloud, he offers several “solutions.” We could destroy technology, especially if we realize it controls us too much. In “The Murderer” (1953) Albert Brock is arrested for shooting a television set, murdering a telephone, a wall radio, a wrist radio, intercom system, and other things. Brock is happily committed to an institution for six months in a quiet cell. This is the stance of a rebel, not a conformist….

(8) THE TAKEAWAY. Sam Weller, the Bradbury biographer, has assembled an online course for Columbia College Chicago, “Creative Storytelling Featuring Ray Bradbury”.

Experience the transformative power of creative writing through the life and works of famed fantasy writer, Ray Bradbury. As the author of Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury remains one of the 20th century’s most visionary and celebrated writers. This course explores practical creative writing strategies through a deep dive into the “dark fantasy” of Ray Bradbury.

(9) APOLLO 11 NIGHT. Ray Bradbury is interviewed on the night of the first moon landing by Mike Wallace. From Comic-con 2009, Ray’s own DVD. Part 1 of 2

Ray Bradbury Moon Landing Interview part 2

Marc Scott Zicree (“Mr. Sci-Fi”) tells where he was when the Moon landing happened. And he also relates Ray Bradbury’s anecdote about why he skipped out on David Frost’s show that night to find someone who would interview him about this great event.

(10) WICKED GOOD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Angela Haupt asked 13 novelists “which books they like best when they need to get away.”  Pierce Brown recommended Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Diana Gabaldon is the only sf or fantasy novelist whose name I recognize (I don’t know current YA novelists) and she recommended Shogun. “Salman Rushdie, Diana Gabaldon and other authors reflect on the books they find most transporting”.

(11) NO THANKS. It’s a 1980 rejection letter from Ray Bradbury to Stan Lee. Makes you wonder what Stan submitted to Ray…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster, for these stories.]

Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore GoFundMe Approved

Don Blyly of Uncle Hugo’s.

Don Blyly, owner of Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore in Minneapolis, told Facebook readers today they have taken over the GoFundMe originally announced by Alexi Vandenberg and it is now the authorized fundraiser.

Straight from Don: The guy from New Jersey who set up the GoFundMe page without permission was an honest guy just trying to help, but was over-eager. Last night he transferred the site over to Uncle Hugo’s. People no longer need fear that it is a scam from New Jersey.
Best,
Don Blyly

So friends, feel free to donate!

Uncle Hugo’s, in business since 1974, and neighboring mystery bookstore Uncle Edgar’s, since 1980, were burned May 30.  

Now renamed the “Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund”, the appeal’s change in status was explained in an update:

This is Sam Blyly-Strauss, Don’s son. Alexi has turned over the GoFundMe to my dad, who is having me handle the tech end of things. We’re still not sure what form any eventual rebuild of the business will take or what the timeline might end up being, but you can all rest assured that any donations to this GoFundMe will reach Don Blyly for use in rebuilding. As my day job is managing security for a multi-building site in Downtown Minneapolis, I’m pretty swamped right now but will be placing updates here when they become available. The Uncle Hugo’s Facebook page is another good place to check for general updates. I’ll respond to any questions as I’m able, but I can’t guarantee a super fast response time with everything else going on. Thank you all for your continued support in this difficult time.

The fund has raised $23,945 from 494 donors as of this hour.

Times Are Booming for
Archive of Our Own

What else have people to do during the lockdown but read fanfic? Or so it seems. Not only have AO3’s readership numbers gone through the roof, they’ve been able to raise plenty of money to keep the site healthy.

“For a lot of book lovers, rereading old favorites is the only reading they can manage at the moment” says Sarah Wendell in the Washington Post.

Fanfiction sites have also been experiencing a massive surge in traffic during the Quarantimes. Hugo Award-winning site Archive of Our Own announced that it was taking emergency steps to manage server loads with “weekly page views increasing from 262 million to 298 million in just two weeks.” The increase isn’t surprising: Fanfic was already popular, but now it offers the soothing experience of new stories set in recognizable places with characters we already know. A large portion of the cognitive work is already done before you even begin reading.

Here’s this year’s traffic graphed month-by-month. The green line at the top is April.

Archive of Our Own’s administrators reported a surge of donations, too.

The OTW’s April fundraising drive is over, and we are humbled by your incredible generosity. Your donations far surpassed our initial goal of US$130,000, bringing our total to US$458,501 donated by 14,905 people from 96 countries. We are beyond grateful, and as committed as ever to this community that we’re all building together, every single day. We cannot thank you enough for helping our mission and for ensuring that our projects will grow even more in the future.

FOLLOW-UP. Meanwhile, AO3 remains blocked in China, however, the actor at the center of the controversy has made a widely-viewed, though not very specific, apology: Global Times writer Gong Qian has the story — “Chinese actor Xiao Zhan’s apology video goes viral following AO3 controversy”.

A video of an interview with Chinese singer and actor Xiao Zhan has gone viral on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo, with many Chinese netizens praising the star for his courage to apologize to the public for the actions of fans who caused overseas fanfic platform Archive of Our Own (AO3) to become blocked in the Chinese mainland back in late February.

In the video released Wednesday on Sina Weibo, Xiao said, “Some time ago, some disputes related to me occurred, and this dispute happened during the key period of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I feel very sorry. If those disputes caused some trouble to some people, I want to make an apology to them.” Although the star did not specify what the “disputes” were, many Chinese netizens have surmised that he was referring to the AO3 controversy from three months ago. The video had earned more than 39.15 million views as of Thursday afternoon.

In February, the star and a portion of his fandom became the center of controversy after a group of Xiao’s fans reported overseas fan fiction site AO3 to the Chinese authorities for hosting fan fiction that depict Xiao and his male co-star Wang Yibo from the hit TV drama The Untamed in a same-sex relationship. The fans claimed they reported the site to protect their idol’s reputation being ruined from what they claimed were pornographic stories. The platform, which was extremely popular in the Chinese mainland, became inaccessible soon after, provoking a huge backlash among the public, with some criticizing the fans for damaging artistic freedom.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]