This might as well have a subtitle that says “A Reflection on Ready Player One” or “Ready Player Don’t.” I’ve been trying to find the words for weeks and weeks to write a post, but really, I’ve had no inspiration other than to be completely utterly incensed by the dreadful mediocrity that is a bestseller and, now, a movie. It’s not just confined to this one work, by any means, but I feel like this travesty of 385 pages is exemplary of the exact problem that plagues the writing field.
I ended up agonizing over whether or not something I’d written was through the lens of sexual objectification rather than a loving exchange between two characters. I ended up getting a few sensitivity reads, but I didn’t exactly trust their judgment because I thought there was something so inherently wrong about what I’d done that it couldn’t be right. When one of my friends asked me what exactly was bothering me, I couldn’t tell her and went around the issue over and over again because I didn’t know what it was. Something was off. Eventually, knowing me like she and my partner do, they guided me into explaining that I was afraid of emulating the male gaze, which for those of you who aren’t sure what that is, it’s essentially presenting women as objects for consumption by a typically male audience.
I had a miniature existential crisis because, for all my talk and writing, I was still afraid that after over 500k words of sapphic writing, I was still trying to make my female characters appealing for men (which might I say, I would rather die than do. )
So why do I question myself? Because of the media with which I have grown, certainly.
I think that violence has become a way of life for almost all young people, whether it’s physical violence or violence of hatred (which can also be physical, but I also mean the mental strain on minorities). It seems that now, of all times in my life at least, there’s more violence than ever. Recognizing that aspect of daily life and inserting it into YA fiction makes it more widely available to provide escapist and cathartic outlets.
So, how can you recognize a bisexual? There is a presumption in Western cultures that all people are heterosexual, expanded somewhat in this century to the presumption that all people are either heterosexual or become homosexual. Bisexuality, for the most part, remains invisible—invisible, that is, except as a point of conflict or transition. In other words, an action or event must occur to make bisexuality visible to the viewer. Thus, with rare exceptions, the only bisexuals who are seen as bisexual are those who are known to be in relationships with more than one partner (of more than one sex), and bisexuals who are leaving a partner of one sex for a partner of a diff erent sex. Bisexuals whose lives are celibate, monogamous, and/or without conflict or triangulation are rarely read as bisexual by the outside viewer, but rather are seen by others as either straight or gay. Hence, there is an inevitable association of bisexuality with non-monogamy, conflict and transition.
— “Finding Bisexuality in Fiction” by Robyn Ochs
But is this a problem solely in literature? Definitely not. But, most tropes that fall under the Questioned Bisexual end up coming from a point that originated in literature as seen by the vast majority of what we consider “classic” literature as having underlying queer themes. You can deny it all you want, but Virginia Woolf is everyone’s queer mom, and you know it in your heart.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century literature gave rise to many different tropes – the vampiric man-eating woman, the childlike and naive full grown woman who is only a play thing for men, the woman who must die for loving her best friend and having an extramarital affair with a younger man when she also gambles and wears pants…
And still, there are others in the year two thousand and seventeen that don’t believe bisexuals exist and believe it a transitional period between heterosexuality and fully realized homosexuality. Yes, I am talking about someone specifically here, but I’m not going to name names because I’m a better person than that. We all know there are plenty of people who feel this way.
Fragments, Recovered is getting a feature spot on Liverpool Student Radio today, October 19, and will be read by a great and dear friend Scottie Jolly who will be doing a reading of some poetry in conjunction with their creative writing radio show.
This week focuses on introductions, beginnings, first impressions, and first lines!
Please go support their radio broadcast by listening here at 8-10 PM (GMT) / 4-6 PM (EST)!
Butler had no role model for what she was doing—a black, female, science fiction author—but was driven by her own ‘positive obsession.’ … This self-motivation can be understood from a number of angles. She believed that persistence and effort, rather than pure imagination or waiting for ‘the muse,’ were the key elements to success as a writer. She considered herself of average intelligence and not particularly talented. While I would disagree, her self-motivation may be understood as a response to her own self-doubt, [to which she applied] her interest in the mind, utilizing concepts of self-hypnosis to make things true or mantras to improve self-esteem. Her self-motivation may also be a response to the lack of widespread support. While her mother did support her writing to some extent, a career as a science fiction author was largely unfathomable to anyone in Butler’s immediate community. Butler reflects heavily in her personal writings on the challenges of writing and the lack of support systems. She wrote: ‘Should a woman who is black have to spend her writing life wondering whether the praise or criticism she is receiving comes because of her sex, or her color, or because her work is deserving of it?’ and ‘Why aren’t there more SF Black writers? There aren’t because there aren’t. What we don’t see, we assume can’t be. What a destructive assumption.’ Luckily these barriers didn’t keep Butler from pursing her passion. Her self-motivational notes can also be seen as the logical expressions of a writer with compelling personal drive. It is telling, perhaps, that it took such a woman to break into a traditionally white male genre and to become the role model for others to follow. What magnificent voices are today suppressed by the status quo?
–“Storytelling: The Octavia E. Butler Collection” by Natalie Russell
This is a concept that many of us struggle with all the time, I think. We don’t have a specific structure, and then, we don’t have confidence. Because we don’t have confidence, we feel like our works aren’t worth doing, which means we end up not doing them – not writing down these ideas and crafting these stories.
“What we don’t see, we assume can’t be. What a destructive assumption.”
What I’ve seen time and time again is many people despairing that their stories aren’t worth telling and that if they are told, no one will listen. And, as Butler says, that’s an incredibly destructive assumption.
I promised that I would start writing more on LGBT literature once I found the time, and now is as good as ever, I suppose. And, I suppose that the true answer to the question is deeply ingrained homophobia and transphobia and the desire to squelch differences; however, I’m not about to let that slide. Finding a solid answer may give us a better platform from which to speak about the issue.
You’ll have to forgive my delayed post. We were affected by the weather over the last several days, so this will be a short post.
I’ve had a few of my personal friends (as well as many strangers) ask me this question repeatedly with some variation. “How do you keep going?” “How do you figure out a viable interest?” “How do you know what to write?”
I’ll be the first to admit that figuring out what to write is a real pain in the ass, but I can also tell you that figuring it out can be an enlightening experience. I know I usually base my posts on articles or books that can help out, but this time, I’ll just mostly stick to my own way of doing things in hopes that that can help anyone who needs it.
Selene, do you have any thoughts on the article “Homme de Plume”?
“Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name” by Catherine Nichols may be a two year old article, but that doesn’t render it out of date or irrelevant. If anything, I find that it’s increasingly evident and irksome. My thoughts might only be a rant, but I do feel incredibly strongly about this issue.
As a gender nonconforming individual, I often wonder if it’s my place to speak on these issues; however, I have a feminine name. I have a feminine face. I have a feminine… everything. And in a way, I find myself affected by these issues because of others’ perception of me.
Nichols article rehashes, in a better way I think, Francine Prose’s “Scent of a Woman’s Ink” without the… potential for transphobia and a different, more modern take on Virginia Woolf’s plight that she discusses at length in many of her works.
Nichols tackles what it means to have your novel be addressed as “Women’s Fiction,” which is, ironically, one of the most batshit things that could have happened in history, considering that science fiction was literally created by a woman and novels were created by and for women in order to entertain themselves and were highly frowned upon for inciting so much fervor in their constituencies. The mere fact that women are being degraded and cast aside for what they’ve written when the world itself would not perceive literature in this way had it not been for women… It’s astounding the depths of ignorance from which these Academic Elites shout down their dissent.
Not only this, however, but Nichols also tackles the rampant racism in the writing industry by saying that “My name – Catherine – sounds as white and as relatively authoritative as any distinctly feminine name could, so I can only assume that changing other ethnic and class markers would have even more striking effects.” This is a huge issue in the writing community, and we all know it.
So the question is… how do we fix it?
I think this is a multi-part answer with no… well… real, clear answer.
It’s come to my attention that certain reviewers, such as the London Review of Books and the Boston Review, qualify those of nonconforming gender as men and lump these individuals into the male qualifier, cutting down on another valuable issue – queer author erasure. That’s another rant for another day. This skews data in such a way that would render any of their data compilations as inaccurate and therefore not useful to truly compare the numbers. It also takes away from those gender nonconforming people and forces them into a binary standard that they’re clearly leaving, which is simply erasure.
Women authors are being forced into using only their first initial (or using a masculine pseudonym) in order to gain any initial traction. Authors like the C. Applegate, author of the Animorphs series, and Jo Rowling, who we all know. Why should this be necessary? Quick answer: It shouldn’t.
By first taking these accurate data readings to those who have control over these situations, we can start to turn tides. But not all of us have those types of connections. So how do we small people manage to change what seemingly is unchanging?
Challenge the canon. Challenge why people think writing by men is good when it’s really terrible. Challenge mediocre writing. Talk about it on social media. Write angry blog posts. Talk to your friends and family and immerse yourself in women’s writing. Bring a validity to it despite a system that says that these writings are the least valid. Fight back through compassion and ratings and reviews. Do book critiques. As Virginia Woolf said in “Professions for Women,”
Directly, that is to say, I took my pen in my hand to review that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered: “My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure.” And she made as if to guide my pen. I now record the one act for which I take some credit to myself, though the credit rightly belongs to some excellent ancestors of mine who left me a certain sum of money–shall we say five hundred pounds a year?–so that it was not necessary for me to depend solely on charm for my living. I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing. For, as I found, directly I put pen to paper, you cannot review even a novel without having a mind of your own, without expressing what you think to be the truth about human relations, morality, sex. And all these questions, according to the Angel of the House, cannot be dealt with freely and openly by women; they must charm, they must conciliate, they must–to put it bluntly–tell lies if they are to succeed. Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality. She was always creeping back when I thought I had despatched her. Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning Greek grammar; or in roaming the world in search of adventures. But it was a real experience; it was an experience that was bound to befall all women writers at that time. Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.
After my absence, it’s my delight to tell you all that Fragments, Recovered – a poetry project exploring the nuance of language with modern affinities such as found poetry, character limits, and the wonders of word processing’s effectual symbols on reading – is now for sale at 9.99 USD per copy on Amazon! Here’s a link to the book.
The book explores emotion remembered in tranquility, as Blake liked to say (his poetry is also featured in the book!) It also has a bibliography and an annotated bibliography of every passage I borrowed from to help create these short poems. Several ink illustrations are also featured, a gift from AlexiDoesArt on Twitter.
I hope you all can support, boost, and enjoy the workings of a rising queer author and welcome this into the poetic communities.
If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I am, ultimately, open to conversation!