I try not to post about these things too much, since the focus of this blog is on my writing and art, not about my personal and political views. Sometimes, though, the latter informs the former and one finds oneself with sudden blog material.
As it happens, I try to be very aware of minority issues in both Real Life™ and pop culture, such as homophobia, sexism, racism, ablism… all that not-so-good stuff. This is a recent interest – I only started going out of my way to look into these issues in the past year or so, and in that year, I learned enough to want to whack my old self around the head a couple of times for being so incredibly obtuse.
My MO usually comes down to staying quiet, observing and learning, but I’m making an exception in the case of the Outer Alliance, a group that was set up only two weeks ago in response to certain unpleasant events in SF/F fandom that really need no repetition here. The group’s mission statement is as follows:
As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.
In my own writing, that translates to don’t be a jerk, which is always solid advice.
So, today is Pride Day, which basically comes down to people talking about the Outer Alliance, posting the creed above, and sharing a snippet of their own fiction with queer elements or talking about how it features in their work. Although I feature queer characters in both my novels to date, it’s only explicitly stated once, and that’s with a side character. The sexualities of the main characters is hinted at, but not outright stated or explored, simply because it didn’t fit in those books.
Come November, I’ll likely be writing the sequel to Always Read the Fae Print, which will have a different narrator than the first book – one who’s gay and still coming to terms with it. For someone who identifies as queer herself but never actually struggled with it in any way (I just kind of shrugged one day and went, “All right then”), I’m definitely looking forward to exploring that aspect of his character more – as well as the rest of the character, as his role in the first book wasn’t as significant as I wanted it to be.
But I don’t really have much to say about that, nor do I have any snippets to share, ’cause well, the book isn’t written yet.
Instead, I’ll talk about how queer elements feature in my own work.
For those who don’t know, I come from a fandom background. I only wrote a couple of fanfiction stories, though: most of my writing took place in RPGs. Yes, I’m that much of a nerd. (Maybe some other day I’ll talk about how text-based RPing informed my character creation and fueled my major issues with description and pacing, but… that’ll be another day.) Nearly all of my fandom experience revolved around canon characters.
As it turned out, I am a complete stickler for canon. This means I researched my characters to an insane amount, psycho-analysed the heck out of them and got twitchy whenever people took too many liberties with their own characters for my tastes. (My issue, not theirs. At all.)
This also means that, unlike a lot of fandom, I was never much into slash. After all, ninety percent of slash fandom is based on characters who are shown to be heterosexual in the canon material. Changing that – especially when it came to characters who’d been around for decades and decades – never sat right with me. In similar ways, I stuck close to the character’s canon history when it was established, and rarely took much of an interest in pairings that didn’t occur in the canon material. (It happened on occasion. Similarly, sometimes characters established as straight turned out to be bi in my head. In neither case was it something I purposefully set out to do.)
As a result, I was sometimes one of the few writers in the groups I interacted with who had a completely straight cast of characters. That doesn’t mean I never wrote queer characters: when they were queer in canon, I wrote them as such. (I had a particularly lovely time with Ultimate Colossus, though I also wrote various interpretations of Karma, both characters from the X-Men comics. Yes, nerd, moving on…)
The point is, in my years in fandom, I got used to writing straight characters because that’s what canon provided me with. The same fandom experience offered such an overwhelming amount of queer characters to balance things out that I never felt too bad about it, either.
And then I entered the world of original fiction and merrily continued on the same path, initially without realising that this world isn’t quite as balanced in terms of sexual orientation as either the real world or the world of fanfiction. Not even a little bit. (Both original fiction and fanfiction are still completely out of balance when it comes to matters of sexual identification, though, which is an interesting topic all its own, as are fandom’s frequent issues with gender issues in a world supposedly idealised in that aspect… Okay, definitely getting off-topic here.)
It took me a couple of months to realise that for all my support of queer-positive goals, I wasn’t doing a heck of a lot to aid the cause, so to say. It took me a couple months more to realise just how very, very necessary it was that I do – that anyone who feels the same way and has the opportunity should.
That’s just one completely silly example of how even someone who identifies as queer and supports queer-positive goals can be utterly neglectful when it comes to combatting the same unequal representation they so loudly proclaim to despise.
These days, I understand better why people take liberties with canon material: it’s often flawed.
So now that I’m creating my own canon? I try not to be a jerk.
(As an unimportant sidenote: I use the word queer here because that’s what’s in the mission statement of the Outer Alliance. I more often use LGBT because that’s what I’m used to and because it’s a less loaded term, but I understand and appreciate the inclusiveness and flow of the term queer.)
(Yes, I will try to get back to regular blog updates soon. Promise.)