In the Company of Shadows

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Original Slash
Title: In the Company of Shadows
Author(s): Sonny and Ais
Date(s): June 2006 - ongoing (WIP)
Length: ~1,500,000 words
Genre: Original Slash
External Links: In the Company of Shadows

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In the Company of Shadows is a four-part original slash series written collaboratively by Sonny and Ais. Currently a work in progress, the authors began the saga in mid-2006 and are now in the final stages of completion as of August 2012. Having completed books one, two, and three, the authors are now wrapping up the forth and final book of the series with plans to finish by the end of 2012.

Summary

Author summary: Years after the bombs of WWIII have changed the physical and political landscape, the Agency ruthlessly works behind the scenes to take down rebel groups that threaten the current government. Their goals justify all means. Hsin Liu Vega (Sin) is their most efficient and deadly assassin ever. However, he tends to go off on unauthorized killing sprees and somehow his assigned partners all end up dead under suspicious circumstances. That is why the Agency has had him locked up in a box on the fourth floor for years. But now they think it is time to put the psychopath back in the field. With a new partner.

Boyd's mother, a high ranking Agency official, volunteers her teenage son for the position. Boyd is not afraid of death. In fact, his life has been such an endless cycle of apathy and despair that he'd welcome it.

Can these two broken men form an efficient partnership? Can they learn to trust anyone, let alone each other? Sin doesn't give a fuck about the Agency, or the androgynous boy who holds the remote to the shock collar that is supposed to control him.

On the other hand, Boyd is strangely unafraid of the man everyone calls 'monster' and Sin seems reluctant to let his keeper get himself killed on any missions. Yet.

The story, written from a perspective changing between main characters Boyd and Sin, has been widely reviewed. This review summarizes the story by addressing its many themes:

In the Company of Shadows is a series about two people who are thrown together as partners in a secret agency; their mission is to disband rebels who have propagated in a post-war future, but they have to deal with everything that comes with an unlikely partnership as well.
Miscommunication, periods of distance, fleeting smiles and learning to trust someone when a person can’t even trust himself, these are what they struggle with while still trying to do their jobs. One is a psychopath, called a murderer and monster and generally deemed subhuman by nearly everyone who knows of him; the other is an introvert, cold and emotionless and so lost in thoughts that he would agree that he can be called a monster of inhumanity. But what makes a person human; is it humanity, compassion, or is it simply the ability to reason? Can a monster be human, and general humanity breed monsters?
While they learn about each other, they learn about themselves; where their loyalty and morality lies, and how learning to trust another person can be incredibly difficult, bittersweet, and rewarding all at the same time.[1]

Reception

Since In the Company of Shadows was first published in 2006, fans have been increasingly vocal about how easily they get sucked into the ICoS world.[2] Fans have often described reading ICoS as an emotional roller coaster that brings out reactions ranging from anger to tears. Even reviewers who have noted that the series would benefit from paring down in some places have admitted to finding the plot, characters, and world as compelling and the books impossible to put down. There is a consistent thread in reviews stating that the quality of the writing continues to improve over time, and that each book has been better than the last.

One review expresses the polished, well-edited state of In the Company of Shadows:

Have I said anywhere that I loved this book? I loved this book. It was better written, better edited, better formulated and better developed than all the ones that have come before. The characters had a depth and resonance to them that was incredibly compelling. I can't talk it up enough, with the usual disclaimer that you will need to go into spring training to start the series. Well worth it to get to here.[3]

The well-developed characters and intricate universe are often noted in discussions of the work:

This series is so much more than your standard m/m fiction. While the main couple takes center stage, like they should, they have a supporting cast of characters who are unbelievably 3D and distinct. There are quite a few of them too (causing the occasional 'who the f*ck is this guy again?' moment, but not so often that it's bothersome). The World Building is very well done, not going into ridiculous info dumps, but providing a very clear setting none the less.[4]
This story is brilliant. There are no words whatsoever that I can say to convey how absolutely outstanding this whole saga is. The world in In The Company of Shadows is entirely different from the world which we live in. In that universe, the cold war never ended and unlike in the real world (where we managed to escape the various brushes with WWIII), the characters in this world were not so lucky. They suffered through nuclear war and survived.[5]

Writing Process

Sonny and Ais have a well-documented procedure for their collaboration, both on their website and Tumblr. They discuss with readers the intricacies of world-building and their methods for co-writing and are often up-front with the challenges such a large project can entail.

In answering fan questions, they described their writing process as follows:

The simplest answer to that is we roleplay the story out. Each of us has main characters we are in control of and there are peripheral characters we share or split between us. When the scene focuses on a character one of us is in charge of, that person will write the majority of that scene until it gets to a place where our characters interact again. At that point, we control our own characters, writing narration and dialogue for them, and share the narration for general scenes. However, during editing we both look over the entirety of the story and will change pretty much anything regardless of who wrote it unless it's direct narration or dialogue of the other person's character; then we leave a note for the other author about our question/etc.[6]

With the unique challenge of working between two people, the authors have also discussed their collaboration tools and the evolution of their process:

We started RPing using AIM (which is why the original version of Evenfall was so odd in many places), and then eventually moved to Google Documents, which is a far better way to collaborate. It utilizes folders, comment functions, editing history, and more.[7]

World building is a subject often discussed between the authors and fans, especially on their Tumblr.[8] They reference maps and existing streets, neighborhoods, and other real-world matter to ground their story and create a basis for world-building.[9]

Related Work

The richness and vastness of the world built by Sonny and Ais has left open an opportunity for many spin-offs and short-stories. Written in the same universe, readers have access to stories about non-main characters and other points in time in the same universe.

The Side Story Archive on the authors' site contains many shorter pieces of fiction that fill in their expansive world. There is also an Other Stories Sub-forum located on the forum where longer-form pieces are kept for readers to enjoy. Longer-form fiction includes 180 Proof Vega and After Midnight, both written by Sonny individually, to pair into the 'In the Company of Shadows universe.

Fan Involvement

Since inception, In the Company of Shadows has continuously encouraged fans to review, discuss, and create works based on the post-war world setting of the books. The variety of reviews, questions, discussions, and art can be found on the forum of the authors' website, Penumbra.[10]

Discussion

Discussion about the chapters, guesses on certain mysteries, and even fan requests are all considered on the Penumbra forum. A thread entitled Mission/Scenes etc The Readers Would Like To See is actually a topic that allows readers to suggest future scenes, plots, characters, and ideas with the authors.[11]

There are specific sub-forums for each book, each keeping a lively discussion of what was expected, what came to fruition, and what blind-sided readers as they plot their way through the series.[12]. Sonny and Ais often participate in the talks, creating a unique author-reader experience to further round-out the fictional world they have created.

Fan works

A multitude of fanworks, both art and fiction, can be found on the Penumbra forum as well. Shared with the authors, the fanworks sub-forum has a variety of styles and points of discussion within each fan-creation. Since the beginning of the story in 2006, the number of fanworks has reached well into the hundreds -- each adding a reader's unique twist in the universe created by the authors.

References

  1. Web Fiction Guide. In the Company of Shadows by Sonny and Ais, 16 March 2011. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  2. Fullmoon Bites Blog. Review Evenfall, 15 March 2011. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  3. Moss. Moss's Reviews In the Company of Shadows, 16 April 2012. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  4. Marleen. Marleen's Reviews the Interludes, 08 May 2011. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  5. Pitchan.[1], 12 July 2010. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  6. Sonny and Ais.[2], 1 January 2011. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  7. Sonny and Ais.[3], 1 January 2011. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  8. Sonny and Ais. [4], 18 August 2012. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  9. Sonny and Ais. [5], 18 August 2012. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  10. Sonny and Ais.Penumbra Forum Index. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  11. Nymph.Mission/Scenes etc The Readers Would Like To See, 11 June 2009. (Accessed 27 August 2012)
  12. Penumbra Forum.ICoS Related Stuff. (Accessed 27 August 2012)