Monthly Archives: June 2013

Critique Group Indecision

I’m a member of Critters, an online writing group. I’ve blogged before about some of my issues with the group. And lately, my issues have started to bubble up again. 

At issue is the fact that Critters is aimed more at short stories rather than novels. And, as a writer, I’m far more interested in writing novels than short stories. In fact, I have no interest in writing short fiction. 

So, while I’m helping numerous other writers better their own work, I’m not sure if my own work is benefiting. Yes, I’ve been a dedicated reader for several novels, but I’m still forced to critique short fiction so that I can remain in good standing. 

Don’t get me wrong. Critters is a great resource. But I’ve grown bored with it. I want something new.

But, perhaps, now is not the time to change. Maybe I should stick it out. Or, perhaps, start looking for critique groups that are novel oriented with similar values that I share. 

That could work. 

Now, if only I could find the time to think without my rambunctious nieces running wild. 

DOMA and Prop 8

Today, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA as unconstitutional. And the defenders of Proposition 8 were ruled to lack standing to argue the case. So, in this month of LGBT Pride, two major victories in the struggle for LGBT rights have been won.

Let me do a happy dance.

Still dancing.

Okay, I’m done. While these two decisions are definite victories,the struggle for full equality is not over. Not by a long shot.

DOMA’s downfall paves the way for married same sex couples to have the same rights and benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. Of course, this only applies to those states that have marriage equality.

The DOMA ruling is the major victory.

The Proposition 8 ruling, though a major victory for same sex couples in California, does not have national impact. At least not from the ruling itself. But the symbolism is immense, I think.

I think it is Rachel Maddow who stated that from this point forward, marriage equality is inevitable. It may take time. There will no doubt be a relatively quick spate of marriage equality laws before progress begins to slow.

What I’m afraid of is that the “blue states” and Democratic leaning “purple states” will have equality while the “red states” will have constitutional amendments banning marriage equality. How long will this potential outcome last?

The momentum has decidedly shifted. But is this shift localized to the more progressive states?

The struggle will be in becoming more successful in those states with constitutional amendments and other forms of anit LGBT legislation.

What can be done to change the minds of the politicos and voters of these states?

Even as marriage equality spreads across the nation, that does not mean that there are myriad other challenges that await the LGBT rights movement. The struggles of LGBT youth and elderly come, often tragically, to mind.

As is so common in every civil rights struggle, the struggle is never over.

Just look at what happened to the Voting Rights Act yesterday.

The struggle continues.

 

What is amazing, now that I think about it, is that it has only been ten years since the Supremes ruled that Texas’s anti sodomy law (and thereby all others) are unconstitutional.

Fanfiction: Redux

During my “31 Days of Post,” I wrote about my conflicted thoughts about fanfiction. My feelings on the subject remains, ultimately, the same. But the more I think about fanfiction, the more I’m concerned about what it can do to young writers who wish to write professionally.

Here is an example. This is a Glee fanfiction. Kurt Hummel’s birthday is after Valentine’s Day. Maybe even a month past. The AU element of the piece (all fanfiction by its very nature is AU) is that Burt actually does favor Finn and they go to a football game the same day as Kurt’s birthday. And they left without Kurt. Add in the whole thing with Blaine and Rachel, and Kurt runs off to France to live with his wealthy maternal grandmother. And he meets Sebastian.

Now, there is a huge issue with the premise. If Kurt’s birthday is in March, the NFL season is over. But basketball season is on (and Cleveland really would work better), or maybe early baseball season.

Clearly, the fanfic writer (I won’t use her username) did not do her research. Which may explain why certain core plot elements are never explored. . .

Research, or the failure to do it, is one of my pet peeves when it comes to writing. And this includes fanfiction.

Just because you (the fanfic writer) are using a preexisting intellectual property does not mean that you can let your imagination loose without doing the research. You need to do it yourself. Otherwise your work will look shoddy. Even if your writing is above average.

If your version of Kurt Hummel is more in the fashion industry, do the research.

If your Dursleys abandoned Harry Potter rather than take him in, find out what the contemporary alternatives to orphanages are (given that they have fallen out of favor for the last thirty or forty years).

I could go on and on. But I won’t.

Because I’ve got game seven to watch. Go Spurs!

The Trouble with Brett Easton Ellis

This post is one of a series of posts in honor of LGBT Pride Month. This post will not have a solid thesis. I don’t know what I’m arguing or what I want to prove. I have questions. And intimations. A sense of unease.

To be honest, I’m torn about Brett Easton Ellis. I don’t know what to make of him. Either as a writer or as an occasional commentator on LGBT culture.

For those who don’t know (given the usual focus of this blog), Brett Easton Ellis is an American writer. His career has spanned from the early eighties (with Less Than Zero) to the present (with Imperial Bedrooms). His most famous works are his earliest novels: Less Than ZeroRules of Attraction, and American Psyco (his most famous work). Ellis’s writing is noted for the use of stream of consciousness, a focus on celebrity glamor, and usage of black satire.  Given several of his works, he is no stranger to controversy.

I first encountered Ellis years ago in a profile documentary on Bravo (when Bravo was actually a good channel). I was entranced by this rebel. He was (and is?) the writer as celebrity. The equal of those he writes about. And yes, I may have had a celebrity crush on him (I was in my teens at the time).

It would be several years, though, before I would again encounter Ellis. This time, in his works.

Rules of Attraction is an amazing read. But that was years ago. 

Now, I’ve got Less Than Zero and Glamorama from the library on my shelf. I’m in the process of slogging through Glamorama, and tempted to drop that novel to move on to Less Than Zero.

While I enjoy Rules of AttractionGlamorama is really dragging. It’s, honestly, rather boring. I’d almost want to say a good third of the novel could have easily been cut. Is the long name dropping sentences really necessary?

Glamorama is, simply put, an updated version of North by Northwest. The only difference is the unreliability of the narrator. Is Victor Ward schzophrenic? Is he actually involved in this crazy spy thriller that is, perhaps, reminiscent of 1960s spy spoofs? Or is this actually a movie? Or a combination of all three? That is the question.

But mustering up the will power to stick with it is difficult.

And that, perhaps, is the rub of the issue.

Is Brett Easton Ellis a one theme pony? Has he really progressed since his most successful period? Has he become entrenched in the eighties?

The problem of Brett Easton Ellis refers back to a previous post where I explored how fans should handle writers whose views they do not wish to financially support (Frank Miller’s comments about OWS come to mind).

And in the past five years or so, Ellis has become a veritable gadfly to the entertainment wing of LGBT media.

I’m honestly torn. Ellis’s comments have been excessive. Would it not be better to deem Glee unwatchable crap without referencing “puddles of HIV” or viciously criticizing/ bullying Chris Colfer or Matt Bomer?

Why am I torn? I like Ellis’s work despite the endemic flaws and success bloat. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that watching Glee is like face planting into a pile of cow shit (to use my own simile), I don’t necessarily disagree with the spirit of his views on Glee.  I do, of course, have issues with his comments on Chris Colfer and Matt Bomer. I actually like Colfer’s singing though I prefer hiwriting (has he been asked what his post Land of Stories book plans are?). And while I know zilch about Bomer (except he is fucking hot) and less about Fifty Shades of Whatever, isn’t it too soon to play the fantasy casting game?

I do have issues with Ellis’s public comments. By going to the textual extreme, dialogue is shut down. Rather than defending Glee, Colfer, or Bomer, Ellis’s opponents use offense. “Ellis is a hack,” “a bitter queen,”  and so on.

The argument needs to be had. Should we be satisfied with Glee? What should be done about internal bigotries within LGBT culture (like effemophobia) ? And does Bomer realistically have a shot at playing Not-Edward-Cullen (is that the former Twilight fanfiction novel)?

I’m torn. I like Ellis’s work, but I think he takes his public pronouncements too far. Is he really after discourse or publicity, though? And why is he not engaged on the meanings of what he tweets? What should I do?

Just Disgusting

Maybe I could have bundled this post with one dealing with anti-LGBT bullying. Or maybe even merge this with a standalone post on Bret Easton Ellis. But I’m just too fucking mad right now. Seriously fucking mad.

What am I talking about? Theodore Beale’s disgusting attack on N.K. Jemisin’s Guest of Honor speech at Continuum (it is an awesome speech- if you haven’t read it, do so) a few days ago. 

Beale (or Vox Day as he is also known) is infamous for his routine racist, misogynistic, homophobic, etc. ad infinitum attacks on anyone who is not a straight white male American. 

Beale represents an unfortunate reality within science fiction and fantasy as a community. While SF/F often is the most progressive of genres (at least in ideas), it has a very bigoted past. Women have been (and are still) routinely treated as second class writers and fans. The Russ pledge exists for a reason, you know. And fans and writers of color are treated in much the same way. This cannot stand.

But it does. And that is the sad thing about being an SF/F fan and writer. I want to push the genre forward. I want to see heroes of color, more women represented, more LGBT, etc. 

I am firmly entrenched in the progressive wing of SF/F fandom. And if I make stupid mistakes (which I will), I want (and should) be called out about it. Because I want to avoid those mistakes. I want to improve. 

I’ve had some tussles with Beale in various comments to blog postings at Black Gate (and maybe a few other sites). In my estimation, he’s a reactionary blowhard that wallows in his myriad bigotries. He is abusive textually and intellectually. In short, he is a bully. 

I don’t want him to appear again in Black Gate. I want to see him removed from SFWA. 

Hopefully, this latest outrage is his last. But I somehow doubt it. 

 

Now, if you are interested in reading more reaction to this infuriating and derogatory attack, check out today’s SFsignal SF/F/H posts collection. Foz Meadows has an excellent rebuttal. And Chris Gerwel of King of Elfland’s Second Daughter has a great analysis. 

I need to calm down now. 

On Moving

I was away for a few days due to a move. And I just got internet access today.

Moving is always a stressful  time. Doubly so when it is unwanted. Personally, I hate moving. I can’t stand uprooting everything and trying to set new roots. 

And this particular move was more unwanted than most. 

Anyway, maybe I should bitch about the internet. So far today, accessing the net has failed twice. This is just downright infuriating. Mind you, fixing it isn’t that hard. But it is frustrating. This shouldn’t happen. Barring failure to actually pay the damn bill. 

Now that I’m back, expect posts coming fast and furious for the next week or so. 

What I Want, the First Post in Honor of Gay Pride Month

Fair warning, this post will involve profanity, wishful thinking, and a fair level of ranting. And maybe some self revelations. 

This post is geared towards LGBT representations in literature. This encompasses all literature. From novels to television, movies, comics, and games. From literary mainstream to science fiction, fantasy, soaps, and so on. I’m going to touch them all, and discuss what I would like to see going forward.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m as well versed in the representation of LGBT characters and issues in fiction as I would like to be. For some time, I did toy with the idea of studying LGBT literature as a focus. But I never got too deep with that flirtation. Largely because I’m a very picky reader (read I’m a fucking harsh critic). 

So, I’m not claiming that what I’m going to say is the truth. Maybe there are LGBT characters that I want to see, but I just haven’t discovered them yet. And hey, if you readers can point me to great literature (of all kinds), you have my thanks in advance.

The question, I guess, is what do I really want? What do I want to see and read? Without talking out my ass or playing too much of a what if game, let the ranting begin!

I’ve gone on record that, for me, Glee is an unwatchable, poorly written mess (now let me qualify by saying, the show just is not for me). But, is Glee not the “gayest show on television” (unfortunately, in my opinion)? And is not Kurt Hummel one of the (current) paragons of LGBT representation? Argh!

You see, I don’t think Glee is nearly as progressive as it likes to think it is. The show does argue for tolerance from bullying and criticizes the most egregious forms of homophobia. But are Kurt and Blaine treated with a marked difference than the straight characters? And are Santana and Brittany treated more as titillation than anything else? 

I don’t fundamentally dislike Kurt’s character. In fact, I rather like it. My problem is that most of his storylines, to my limited knowledge, piss me off. The infatuation with Finn is, to me, nothing less than homophobic (and given that the other major characters exhibit similar infatuations should be called out). I could go on complaining, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll give some ideas of narratives I’d like to see (either for Kurt or some other character).

I’d love to see Kurt confront institutionalized homophobia in a way that he never expected. What if his rejection by NYADA had more to do with his sexuality rather than the lame excuse he was given? Remember, while Broadway isn’t as homophobic as Hollywood (on an industry level), there is likely to be a notable institutional level, regardless. I mean, seriously, Kurt will struggle to achieve his dreams because of his sexuality. I’d like to see that struggle. Also, I’d like to have seen a much better pre college story line (one of my pet peeves is the one university trope). Does Kurt have other options? What are they? Finally, I’d like to have seen Kurt lose some of his sexual reticence. Could he not have several love interests (rather than what is almost certain to happen)?

It took me some time to figure out what my problem with Shameless was this season. I just don’t like Ian’s relationship with Mickey. I just don’t like them together. I’d rather see Ian with someone else. But there isn’t much that I’d necessarily change. 

Let’s move on to science fiction and fantasy (in many forms). In recent years, the representation of LGBT has improved immensely (not to say that this is a new phenomenon). 

The presence of LGBT characters in comics has exploded in the past ten years to an amazing level. Though more can (and should be done). The Big Two have made tremendous strides introducing new LGBT heroes and supporting characters. And creator owned comics? Very impressive strides. 

The issue, though, is how those characters are handled. Some are handled very well (like Alan Scott and Batwoman) while others are handled very poorly (Bunker). I think that is the struggle that lies ahead.

When it comes to books, the culture is changing in a much more progressive way. Hopefully, this trend continues. I haven’t read as much as I would like. But I’m making a commitment to seek out and read more SF with LGBT characters. 

Now when it comes to film and television, the level of representation is a mixed bag. Several prominent shows have LGBT characters (Game of ThronesSpartacus, Teen Wolf, etc.) But, again, I’d like to see more. And I’d like to see these characters raised to a level of prominence rarely seen before. 

What pisses me off, of course, is, despite the progress made, the increased level of representation is so fragile. Last year was perhaps one of the best when it came to LGBT characters. But next year bodes ill with so many shows with LGBT characters canceled. How is that to be combated?

The more I think about it, the more I am sure I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. The best way to get the types of representation one wants is to do it oneself. Either through creative endeavors or activism. One should never settle for the status quo. 

 

Realism (as a Genre)

I’ve written about realism on the blog before. But on those occasions, the subject was realism in relation to science fiction and fantasy’s verisimilitude (or internal realism). In this case, I want to explore realism as a genre in and of itself. Even though realism as a literary genre doesn’t really exist anymore. Perhaps the more appropriate genre should be literary mainstream, but realism brings, I think, more to the table. Especially when it comes to writing. 

I’ve always been a science fiction and fantasy geek, but I’ve also been deeply interested in literary mainstream and the literary avant garde. That’s where my rage at Bravo and A&E comes from. This fascination, however, comes and goes in spurts. Which sucks for someone who wanted to be a professor of English Literature for much of my teen years. 

When it comes to writing, I was more interested in writing literary fiction much earlier. Indeed, all of my ideas now are fantasy or science fiction. The lone exceptions being my Keep Weird and Gay Erotica (if the later even counts) projects. 

And I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t know where I’m going with either project. What’s the endgame? I have a few ideas and arcs (both are designed to be comics), but what of it? The passion I have for my other projects just isn’t there for the more realistic projects. 

Was this always true? I think so. When I’ve set myself the goal of working on projects that are not speculative, I’ve found my enthusiasm lacking. The “magic” just isn’t the same. And I’ve already mentioned that when I read history, I’m always thinking about applying what I’m reading to worlds of fantastic adventures. 

But there are themes I want to tackle that realism just seems to do better. 

Or does it?

Perhaps I would have more luck if I incorporate some of the “realistic friendly subjects” and insert them as subplots. Now, this could work. I mean, I’ve already been tempted to do that in regards to Two Cities adding elements from Keep Weird into itself. 

Okay. I think I’ve solved this problem (for myself). But there are so many more that are so interesting. Like “what are the dangers of only using science fiction and fantasy as artistic inspirations?”

Anyway, right now I need to get to work on the first proper Gay Pride Month post. 

Posts in Honor of Gay Pride Month: An Introduction

The month of June is Gay Pride Month. And in to commemorate, I want to write a series of posts exploring LGBT issues both within a science fiction/ fantasy context as well as in wider culture. 

This is not going to be another “31 Days of Post.” That may be an October tradition. What I am planning to do, however, is a disjointed series of several posts (I’m aiming for more than ten). 

I had planned to not have a specific plan for the project. But I do have some ideas and topics I want to touch on. And hint at. In a lot of ways, these posts will be me talking to myself (and you, the reader). This will be especially obvious coming up. 

I’m not going to spoil what I have in mind. Hell, I don’t know if there is (quite) anything to spoil. 

Now, I would like to open this project up to suggestions. If there is a topic you would like me to cover that is LGBT related, please comment.