1. I didn't want my radio silence on the terrible fail that's been going on in SPN and Bandom big bangs lately to be taken as tacit consent, so for the record (and in case anyone hasn't seen these): This post on the complicity of fellow fans
in race-related fail, especially in the context of a Big Bang fic, I think is really salient. Although it's an awkward, difficult thing to do, especially for fans who aren't people of colour and don't feel "qualified" to talk abot this, I think it's really important for us to tell our friends: stop. I think you've done something wrong there. That's a hard thing to do - but, from one privileged white person to a bunch of other privileged white people, it's also our own responsibility, to notice that shit, pick up on it, speak up about it, and try to clean up our own acts instead of wasting the time of others. And note that this doesn't just apply to racefail. So on that note if you see me doing something and you think I might be showing my ass, I would rather know than keep being an ass. [Of course - of COURSE - it is also our responsibility to scrutinise our own work.]
2. Relatedly, someone in the Young Wizards fandom wrote to me about the Young Wizards Kink and Cliche Meme
yesterday asking me to consider restricting non-con or to apply warnings more consistently, and I want to thank her for being a good anti-rape activist and speaking up about this. Although I ultimately felt that I couldn't ban non- and dub-con from a kink meme, I ended up screening and reposting some prompts with subject-header warnings. So first off, if I screened your prompt, that is why, and thanks for not kicking up a stink; and secondly, I'd appreciate any discussion about this (or links to similar discussions.)
3. Malinda Lo has recently written a five-part series on Avoiding LGBTQ Stereotypes in YA Fiction
, which I recommend (although a bit tentatively because well, this is fandom. The idea of anyone on my flist needing to be told that there is more to gay men than being flaming and that not all bisexuals are slutty makes me lol.) In the process of that I ended up reading her post at Scalzi's blog about writing a world in which same-sex attraction and opposite-sex attraction are treated in the same way
(i.e. there's nothing weird about being gay or bisexual.) Someone in the comments, which are interesting, asked whether it's ever appropriate or useful to write about minorities in exactly the same way that you'd write about majorities, i.e. without the knowledge and context of Othering, discrimination, etc. She compared it to a discussion during Racefail about the fact that having a character who in all other ways behaves as if she is white, but giving her a randomly different skin colour, doesn't do much to increase diversity. I found this a really interesting discussion and I guess I have two things to say about it:
- I think this is a classic case of why discussions about and experience of one type of discrimination, or the lack of one privilege, don't always translate. Because actually speaking as someone who actively seeks out LGBTQ fiction, sometimes I DO just want to read something where the spectrum of sexualities [and gender expressions!] are all totally A-OK and fine and wonderful. In that vein, Diane Duane's Door books should be getting a lot of props (not wrt gender expression where they're fairly traditional: this is, after all, epic fantasy.)
- Queer YA literature is crisis fiction. It is fiction read desperately and sometimes under subterfuge by teenagers who are questioning, lonely, or miserable. And what this fiction mostly is - nine times out of ten, pace
David Levithan, almost all queer books written before the year 2000 - is fiction about how goddamned hard it is to be queer in the Western world. Mostly about how hard it is to be a wealthy white cisgendered queer person with typical gender expression, which is an added layer of irony. For quite a long time, in fact, these books all had devastatingly grim endings in which [for the boys, and also for transgendered people] someone was beaten to death or contracted HIV or [for the girls] the crush turned out to be straight and the parents separated them horribly or, admittedly much more rarely, somebody got raped. And frankly this is pretty friggin' miserable. Some of it could be uplifting, challenging, brilliant, inspiring, a call to arms - I don't want to bash a whole generation of queer YA fiction. And I also want to say that teens *do* need this kind of thing, just like they need books about sexual abuse and domestic violence and drug abuse and drunk driving. Teens need to know that they are not alone. That other people are going through what they are going through. And that they will get out on the other side.
But on the other hand. Teens also need romance. They need fluffy, silly, fantasy. They need bouncy, happy fiction. They need to know that unhappiness isn't going to follow them for the rest of their lives and that it is possible to be a girl dating a girl and have a normal, ordinary romance with flowers and chocolates or a boy dating a boy with a million paper cranes and ridiculous romantic gestures. There's this book by Sonya Sones called One of those Hideous Books where the Mother Dies
which features - spoiler! - an adult gay couple in a side role, and although the book really isn't about them, I distinctly remember reading it and thinking "at last, a couple with a normal life." There is definitely something to be said for undermining the "monogamous permanent couple with a kid is the height of normal and the goal of an adult life" idea, BUT, as a teenager you aren't always - I wasn't always - thinking of radically undermining heterosexism like this: I just wanted a happy normal life for some people like me.
There are always going to be people - I've read their reviews - who think Boy Meets Boy
is a ridiculous book that betrays queer teenagers by failing to represent their real experiences of pain and discrimination. But there are also teens who are crying out for this stuff (many of them, of course, are straight teenage girls, as Alex Sanchez recently pointed out!) Don't diss the happy ending and the happy life: for some genres, a happy book *is* a radical book.
4. Upcoming: three ways the publishing industry made me mad last week! Tune In Next Time.