Writing What I Want
Today, I want to discuss two subjects that I want to write: gay characters and science fantasy. Including gay characters in science fiction and fantasy is a relatively new phenomenon (with increasing numbers of representation). Science fantasy, on the other hand, is an older form of science fiction and fantasy (obviously) which seems to be on the outs (I think). I want gay characters in my writing. I want gay characters to be the main protagonist, the hero. And I want to create worlds where magic and fantasy science compete and intermingle openly.
Now, it is time to discuss this in more depth.
Gay Characters My Way
With the proliferation of LGBT characters in mainstream science fiction, fantasy, and comic books, there are certain conditions to be mindful of. For one thing, LGBT characters cannot be “too gay.” What the hell does this mean, really? Does it mean the character comes out but does not engage in stereotype/ cliched gay behavior? Does it mean the character does not reference his or her sexuality after coming out? Does it mean that after coming out, said character becomes, more or less, a functional asexual?
This, understandably, pisses me off. I hate “but not too gay.” LGBT people run the gamut, much like everyone else. One lesbian may be passionate about feminism and gay rights. A gay man may be interested in a family. Another gay man may want to party, and party hard. I could go on and on.
But in popular culture, especially in recent years, there has been a temptation to create rather “toothless” LGBT characters. What do I mean by that?
“Toothless” LGBT characters are those characters who either remain cyphers after coming out, are presented in such a way as to be “safe,” or who are presented being either functionally asexual or in a rather passionless relationship compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
Let’s look at the New 52 version of the Teen Titans. Wonder Girl may be in a romantic triangle with Red Robin and Superboy while Kid Flash and Solstice are (or were) in a relationship. But Bunker? Not so much. I’ve read that he has a “boyfriend still in Mexico,” but that just proves my point. Another example would be Anole from X-Men. It has been mentioned that he’s been on dates, but has it ever been shown? Or take Wiccan and Hulkling’s relationship.
I’m currently working on a protagonist who happens to be a young gay man. He’s going to be “starring” in a portal quest epic fantasy of some kind (probably the science fantasy). And he’s going to have a rather active sex life. I’m thinking on the level of a gay Casanova or James Bond (more the sluttier cinematic Bond). While this has been a largely negative trope for gay men to deal with for a long time, I think it appropriate to reclaim it with a more positive interpretation. Just because a gay man likes to have a lot of sex with different men does not make him a villain. The same goes for women and men of color.
Now, before I get accused of only wanting to write promiscuous gay men as my protagonists, I have other gay characters I’m working on, too. One of those gay men will be in a committed relationship. I’m interested in writing a full gamut of characters. I don’t want to write just a single type of character, whether gay or straight.
Science Fantasy All the Way
I love science fantasy. It puts me, I think, in a very interesting position in regards to the science fiction community. I’m politically aligned with the progressive voices rising up in science fiction. I want to see more women, people of color, and LGBT in science fiction and fantasy. But my favorite science fiction and fantasy comes out of the earliest periods of the genre. I love Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Leigh Brackett, etc. And I am equally passionate for their successors like Tanith Lee and Michael Moorcock.
After a lot of thinking, a lot of creating, I am convinced that science fantasy is one of the genres I want to write. I want to explore the boundaries of fantasy and science. I want to challenge the voices that say knights cannot go to battle on motorcycles or fighters. I want to play with history and myth and make it work.
Currently, historicist epic fantasy and urban fantasy are the two dominant genres within the larger fantasy market. I don’t want to write that. I’m uninterested in Medieval European history (or in their fantastic literary descendants). And I’ve yet to read an urban fantasy that I’ve liked (not that I’ve read a bunch). I just don’t care for that genre’s conventions.
I want to write what I want to read. And I’m sure there is a market out there.
Writing to the market is always a temptation in genre. If medieval fantasy is popular, write that. Urban fantasy is at the top of the market? Write some of that. LGBT characters must be “safe”? Write them that way. To that, I say hell no. By the time writers begin to write to cash in on popular markets, the steam is more than likely already beginning to run out. But there may be a few bucks left.
Writing is hard. Writing what doesn’t inspire you is torture. Why put yourself through that?