Play

I know very, very little about hockey. I should point out that I’ve enjoyed a few games live, but I’m not a fan watching games on television. More, my husband occasionally gets tickets to games, and I almost always offer those tickets to a friend of mine who is way, way more into hockey than I will ever likely be.

So. Why am I talking about hockey?

You Can Play.

Now, I didn’t really know much about You Can Play, either, until today when a friend on Twitter pointed out that Andrew Shaw (a name I did know, unfortunately) has become one of the ambassadors to You Can Play. You Can Play was a vague, nebulous thing I’d heard about with queer sports or something.

Now, quick info burst for those who don’t want to read the article: Andrew Shaw got suspended and fined for firing off some queerphobic trash during a hockey game, did an apology (which seemed pretty sincere), and has, as far as I can tell from my super-limited exposure, since been pretty good about not outwardly or loudly hating on queer folk.

That? Good.

Having him as an ambassador to an organization promoting queer athletes?

Uh… Not so good?

Sweat

Come to think of it, I did write a queer hockey story once. Probably not quite what You Can Play is talking about, though.

This actually parallels to some degree my discussion about how the whole “redemption of homophobic parents” is poorly placed in queer narratives (especially queer romance) I wrote a couple of days ago.

So. Let me break down where I’m coming from here.

When you put someone into a position as a queer ambassador and they’re not queer, their history becomes centre stage. In this case? Crappy history. As an imperfect parallel, would you want a football player who was caught, fined, and suspended for, say, animal cruelty or dogfighting to be a face for the SPCA, no matter how much he reformed, apologized, or donated? Likely not.

Everything Andrew Shaw says will come through a kind of filter. When you put a former abuser or hater or queerphobe on the podium, you’ve made it about abusers or haters or queerphobes. Not queerfolk. Even if the message is a good one, it’s no longer directed at the queerfolk, it’s directed at non-queerfolk.

The message of “Don’t be a dick like me,” is a good one. Don’t get me wrong. Because here’s the thing: yes, we totally want queer haters to learn/change. But we don’t have to want to hug ’em after. There’s no prize for reaching basic awareness that queer people are just people and shouldn’t be hated or hurt or unwelcome. That includes us being nicer to you for having made that journey.

Hey, you’ll get polite. Everyone who doesn’t smack me down in some queerphobic way gets polite. Totally. But those high school assholes who roughed me up on a daily basis have changed, too, and we don’t get together for drinks.

I certainly wouldn’t want to play on the same team as them.

And that’s where I think his placement in this role is a misstep. It’s not a welcoming move, so much as it’s a public cautionary tale for those who made (or will make) others unwelcome. “Don’t do what I did.” doesn’t hold a candle to “We want you, please join us.” said to people you’re talking to, rather than speaking to those who did wrong to them.

Andrew Shaw’s story is not an unimportant narrative to have. I just think it would have been a better narrative if another ambassador had it with him. An ambassador with a history of positive queer representation as an ally. Hey, I get it. No one wants to be an out NHL player, apparently (which, hey, take a gander at Andrew Shaw’s previous actions to maybe suss out why). You don’t have a handy queer hockey player to put into the position. And even if you did have one or two of them handy, maybe they don’t want to be reduced to solely being “the queer hockey player.”

But maybe finding a player who has queer relatives might have worked? Or a player who’s a big brother for a queer kid? Or… y’know… someone who doesn’t have a history of being a homophobic ass on the ice?

It’s totally possible I’m missing the mark here, and that other queerfolk would see Shaw as a decent choice. That’s totally valid. And I’m obviously not the target audience. But hey, I’ve learned something about You Can Play, which is good to know about, and I’m at least happy it exists.

But to be clear: As happy as I am I now know about the program, someone like Andrew Shaw—as well meaning as he very well may be—in an ambassador position would keep me away.

Because his voice isn’t “You Can Play.” His voice is “Sorry I Didn’t Let You Play. My Bad.”

Writing Wednesday – Edits!

 

triad-soul

Editing! (Also, you can preorder!)

I got my edits back for Triad Soul, and I’ve been plugging away at them this week. I have more items for my “personal foible” list now (who knew it was possible to be addicted to em-dashes?), but as always, the editing process is my favourite bit: it’s where I get to see where I need to work on my craft, and where I get to see my awesome editor (Jerry L. Wheeler, by the way) take the rough thing I made and polished it and made it shiny.

Also, it’s the point at which things start to feel “real” to me. The Triad boys are fun to write, and it can be easy to overindulge their characters. Jerry keeps me in line, and he’s fun to work with. I love reading his comments, even when they’re snarky.

Scratch that. Especially when they’re snarky.

It’s nice to have that kind of relationship with your editor, and it’s certainly an asset to my writing.


Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks

I’ve been working on Triad Soul, of course, so I willingly put EPfTF aside for the last few days to get the edits done. I should be done today, and then I’ll catch up the word-count, nasal/jaw surgery notwithstanding.

The cast of characters for EPfTF are really starting to come to life for me. Cole’s father, who runs an online ASL interpretation service; Cole’s best friend, who is ace; and the rest of the Rainbow Club, who are a lot of fun to write as well.

They say YA is the genre of “Firsts” and I’m keeping that lens in mind as I go through the book. For Cole, this is the first time he’s bumping into things completely outside of his control and outside of his careful plans. And although he’s snogged it out with another guy in the Rainbow Club, there’s potential for a first serious boyfriend in the form of Malik. If, y’know, Malik might be at the Rainbow Club to do more than ask why Cole didn’t report being shoved into a locker…


Of Echoes Born / Short Pieces

I finished my story for the 11th Annual NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, and sent it in. My assignment was “Ghost story, with an admission of guilt, and a stalker character.” The story I came up with was called “Filling Silences” and involved a cop with a suspect confessing to the stalking/murder of a young gay man. It’s the last case the cop worked on with his partner, who was killed in a drunk driving accident, and closing it means a lot to him. So a confession is great. Except why would a guy not even on their suspect list confess? Is it too easy? He seems afraid of someone, but it’s not the cop. And the longer they talk, the more the cop is convinced it’s not someone he’s afraid of, it’s something.

Today, while I might not get a lot done on Of Echoes Born (see above, re: edits), it did occur to me that if “Filling Silences” doesn’t make it to the next round of the contest, it’ll be well suited to Of Echoes Born with some tweaking and flushing out.

So, in a way, I did work on  the collection, too.


Open Calls for Submission

Lastly, Writing Wednesday updates include my list off all the various open calls for submission I’ve found and/or am trying to write for. If you know of any others, by all means do drop them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. If this is helpful for people other than myself, it’s even better.

Also, January totals were solid: 6 submissions (4 of which were reprints, 2 were new pieces), 1 acceptance.

Onward to February (thus far, unsurprisingly, zero).

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul – Various titles, various themes, various deadlines, 1,200 word count limit.
  • Clarkesworld – Currently open for art, non-fiction, and short story submissions.
  • Cast of Wonders – Young adult short fiction market, open to story submissions up to 6,000 words.
  • 49th Parallels – Alternative Canadian Histories and Futures, Bundoran Press, deadline February 14th, 2017; 1,500-7k word count limit.
  • MM Superpowers anthology – This isn’t the only thing open at Totally Bound (you can click through for the full list), but this is the one I’m eyeing; deadline February 28th, 2017; 10k-15k word count limit, with erotic content.
  • Wet Summer Nights – White collar/blue collar, cross-town, wrong side of the tracks lovers theme; Mischief Corner Books; 10k-18k word count; deadline March 31st, 2017.
  • Alice Unbound – Think Alice in Wonderland, only speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Exile Editions; Submission window: February 1st – May 31st, 2017; 2k – 5k word count limit; Canadians and ex-pat Canadians only.

Blood and Water

As I’m sure is obvious by now, I read a lot of books with queer characters, and quite a few of them are romances. There are themes and ideas that repeat throughout genres, and romance is no different. Some pop up in queer romances more often than others, and some… Well.

I’m going to do something I rarely do, and I’m going to ask you, gentle reader, to shut up for a second, and listen to a sub-sub-subset of an #ownvoice for a moment. And, especially, I’m talking to writers who don’t belong to that subset.

Now, what subset am I talking about?

triad-soul

Quite a few readers did notice that none of my main characters in the Triad books have family. It’s on purpose.

Those of us who got kicked to the curb. The disowned and disinherited. The queers who, upon coming out, ended up losing biological relatives. Not due to our nature, but due to theirs. Their hateful or bigoted or ignorant choice to cut us off.

Now, I bring this up because I just bumped into yet another book where a queer character is treated abysmally and tossed to the curb by their family and by the end of the book the family has come around, and this is seen by all as a good thing, and the whole they’re family and family is acceptance and love trope has played out in full.

And I hate it.

If you’ll bear with me, I’m going to draw two (perhaps imperfect) romance parallels.

Parallel the first: A woman is emotionally abused by a man she is seeing and living with. He treats her terribly, manipulates her, destroys her self-worth, all because he feels a woman’s place is to be heard, not seen, and he finds her desire to be a sexual being in control of her own choices disgusting and backward. When she dares to tell him she wants to be in control of her body, he locks her out of their home, changes the locks, empties their joint account, and leaves her with nothing. She is very, very lucky and survives being penniless and alone long enough to put her life back together. Then he contacts her, and tells her he’s changed.

Would you want to read a romance novel where they reconnect after he wakes up to the bare bones basics of feminism and they end up together? Would you maybe wonder about the message being sent by a novel that paints this man as the romantic hero, or this woman as the romantic heroine, given that she gives him another chance?

Parallel the second: A woman finds an abused animal that has run away. She nurses the animal back to health, and slowly, over time, the animal recovers its ability to trust human beings. Then, one day, the animal reacts to a man when they are out for a walk. She learns this is the man who abused the animal. He has, however, since entered a discussion group for men with anger issues and come to terms with his reasons for kicking the dog and locking it outside with no food or warmth and letting it run away. He wants his dog back.

Would you want to read a romance novel where she hands the dog back over and falls for this guy because he’s changed? Would you be more in the camp of ‘people like that should never be given another animal ever again, let alone the one they hurt originally?’

You’re probably getting the point I’m trying to make here.

I’m not sure why this specific story—the queer kid kicked out who eventually gets the love of his family and they all get back together in a tearful ‘I’m so sorry’ moment—is told so often.

It’s certainly not realistic.

Now, I know what’s coming: it’s fiction. Fiction doesn’t have to be realistic (though, you know what, I’m not sure I agree there: if you ask me fiction has to have verisimilitude, and that’s harder than realistic—fiction has to make sense, which real life certainly doesn’t have to do).

But, more to the point, I imagine many of you are thinking: it’s not just a fiction, it’s a romance. Romances have happy endings.

Right. I agree.

So what’s so happy about reuniting an abuser with the abused? Make no mistake, abandonment is abuse. Why is it that this narrative about queer happiness includes someone who disregarded their health, safety, happiness, and emotions “getting” that they’re worthy of those things, and why does the story need the queer character to not just forgive them (which, let’s be clear, they do not have to do) but to also invite them back into their lives?

What’s the message of that narrative?

I bounced this one out as a question on Facebook, and the replies were pretty interesting and thoughtful. But there was a single thread I’m going to mention first going back to that whole “shut up and listen” thing I said at the beginning.

Not a single person I know who has lived through getting turfed to the curb wants anything to do with their families. Some might speak with them now—I’m one of those, though it’s out of a desire to connect with my niece and nephew more than anything else—but what none of us showed a desire for? Reconciliation and reintegration with the people who tossed us out.

What’s my sample size? More than you’d likely think. And my little post turned into a couple of posts on friends’ walls, too, and as I read those, the same thing happened: no one who’d lived through it had the slightest inclination to get their so-called “real family” back.

I say it jokingly, but I do mean it: Blood is only thicker than water in one way, as far as I’ve determined: it stains worse.

So. Knowing that, I looked at the books where I’d been seeing this narrative, and I noticed a few of things.

One, when it was possible to find out, the vast majority of these stories weren’t #ownvoice authors. That stood out. My first thought there was to wonder if any of the authors had spoken to someone who’d been cut off from their family, or if they’d just heard the facts about the rates of disowning/LGBTQIA+ homelessness, and used it as a plot point with no further research.

Two, the narratives written by #ownvoices which still included this “reunion/reconciliation” generally had a trace more realism, like one parent coming to terms and leaving the other to stand by the kid, or the queer child in question being very skeptical and not allowing the parent or parents in question access to their life on anything but their own terms. Or, the breakdown from the family wasn’t extremely harsh, or came later in life when the character has resources of their own, which still stings and is horrible, but if the turnaround on the part of the family is pretty quick it can almost read more like a fight or a bad reaction rather than the emotional abuse that is complete rejection and detachment.

Three, it was much, much rarer to find stories that rejected this narrative and lined up with something closer to the reality as I and so many others experienced it: where the queer character forms a chosen family, and the parents don’t return to be a part of the queer character’s life—and those generally were written by #ownvoice queer authors.

So my question is this: why? Why is this facet of queer kicked-out-youth reality dealt with so unrealistically in fiction?

I have a few theories, but no real answers.

  • Maybe it’s intended as a hopeful message that people can change. Well, yeah. Of course that’s a goal in queer culture. That’s the whole point of education and fighting the roots of queer hate in the first place. Obviously we want people to change and move away from hating us queerfolk. But this narrative goes a step further than showing that people can change, in that it takes the abuser and turns elevates them to a position of respect, trust, and love, and assumes (or enforces) a forgiveness on the part of the abused. Let’s talk random bigots who attack us. Do we really want to snuggle up with the people who used to shove us into lockers, throw garbage at us, or beat us up on the street? No. We just want them to stop. When it’s the ones who were supposed to love us who are doing the hating, that doesn’t change. If anything, it makes their initial rejection all the more scarring.
  • Maybe it’s intended to show the reader that family is more important than… something? Anything? Hate? Bigotry? Whatever? That one’s biological family has an inherent value that needs to be maintained and repaired no matter what? Because, well, no. An abusive relationship is toxic and should be escaped for your mental, emotional, and physical health, regardless of blood relation. We have whole departments and organizations to help people escape toxic environments. Hell, a tonne of queer youth on the streets are afraid of those organizations because they don’t want to be forced back to live with their families.
  • Maybe it’s intended to show queer kids want their parents to love and accept them? Well, yes. Don’t all kids want that? But here’s the thing with this: that story is already told when the parents reject the child, too. It’s pretty clear that’s not what the queer individual wanted. So, message received. That sucks, and isn’t what we wanted. But if the story continues to bring in the parents after that, then you’re not telling the queer kid’s story any more. Now the narrative is as much about the journey to acceptance the parents are making. And if I can be blunt, as I said up above, the last thing any kicked-to-the-curb queer I know wanted, after abuse/being kicked out, was the love and acceptance of the people who did the kicking. Some wanted love, sure, but not from their parents. Most would have preferred never having to see them again.
  • And maybe, if I allow myself to be a bit more cynical, it’s just thoughtless. It’s a trope, after all, based on a pretty culturally-pervasive fallacy reinforced by pretty much every kind of entertainment narrative we see. Family comes first. Blood is thicker than water. Maybe these are cases of writers who haven’t lived a certain experience and haven’t realized what the reality is like, and so projecting without considering there’s a message being propagated at all.

So. Where does that leave me?

To put it clearly: I can think of no reason I’d ever want to be closely reunited with my abuser/family under any circumstances, period. I don’t want it—I have faith in the love and trust I’ve found elsewhere that I can’t even imagine trying to have with my biological. And this doesn’t feel like a loss or a failure.

I do not have to forgive. I am not broken if I don’t forgive, or holding on to some toxic poison that will give me a spiritual sickness. Forgiveness is conflated with a lot of things. Reaching a state where someone doesn’t think about it any more, or can think about it without feeling shame/pain/hurt is a kind of forgiveness, and has nothing to do with the abuser. People seem to think reaching peace has to include facing the person and letting them know/letting them apologize if they’re willing, and that seems a dangerous a conceit in my experience. Some people take a path that includes forgiveness, being face-to-face with their abusers, and that’s fantastic. But it’s not the only path.

If that’s the only story ever told, I think there’s a problem. What message is that sending to queers in that position? Hold on to hope, they may come around if you wait long enough, and there’s inherent value to having a relationship with these people just because they’re related to you?

That’s… just not true.

So, that’s where I ended up, and it occurred to me that perhaps it was worth sharing. If you as a writer are including in your queer character’s narrative a familial disowning, emotional or mental abuse, assault, or a complete breakdown ending in a kicked-out scenario, and you’re not drawing on an #ownvoice experience, I’d like to ask you to take a moment to ask yourself why you’re doing so if the narrative ends in a reconciliation.

Country – Jeff Mann (Lethe Press)

I’m over at Out in Print today, where I was lucky enough to get to review Jeff Mann’s “Country.”

Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews

51fw2dpmbl-_sy346_Buy from Lethe Press

Country music isn’t a place I ever expected myself to venture as a fiction reader. Music in general isn’t something I find easily translated to text, and yet two recent books I’ve read have had music intrinsic to their core narratives, and have done so deftly.

But country music? I can’t imagine a genre of popular music less open to a gay experience than country music. Don’t get me wrong, some of the country music stars themselves are definitely fetching (their names I sometimes vaguely know thanks to magazine covers from my bookstore days), but the industry itself—and the fan base—have never struck me as remotely friendly.

Obviously, I know that’s a sweeping generalization, and even this Canuck has heard of Steve Grand, but beyond a few recent blips, my experiences in the rural Canada of my youth has left me with a less than welcoming…

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Sunday Shorts – Great Jones Street

I’m late with Sunday Shorts today (I have a good reason, I promise: I got the edits back on Triad Soul and I’ve been reading through them most of the day). Between that, taking the dog to the pit for his Sunday walk, and going for groceries, I sort of fell behind.

That said, I do want to talk about short fiction today, but instead of a particular tale, I’m going to point you to an app.

Yep, you heard me.

There’s this nifty app, Great Jones Street, that I’ve been exploring on my phone when I’m in line ups or on the bus or anywhere else when I’ve got a few minutes and want to read. It’s a short fiction app, and the curation is pretty darn solid. I’ve read a half dozen or so tales thus far, and can heartily suggest The Knight of Chains, the Deuce of Stars by Yoon Ha Lee, and Ice by Rich Larson. Oh, and also Mono no Aware, by Ken Liu.

Anyway, if you’re looking for quick and easy, pocket-sized access to short fiction, definitely check out the app.

Writing Wednesday – The Nose Knows

 

Over the last few days, I’ve had this odd “pressure” feeling behind my nose, and today, at the dentist, I brought it up and now I have minor surgery prepped for next week.

So that’s a thing that just happened.

It’s as minor as can be, is a day-thing, and I’m not even remotely worried. I’ve had so much metal put into my jaw, teeth, and mouth that I can’t even begin to tell you how unsurprising it is that something went a wee bit sideways (well, upwards) and now I’ve got a minor repair.

Bionic jaws need upkeep.

Personally, I’m hoping for a wee bit of wobbly voice afterward. I’ll record it if it happens.

Anyway! Writing Wednesday is late because of all of the above, but here we go.


Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks

I’m still on track with EPfTF, but I had my first really frustrating day of trying (and failing) to connect with the voice of Cole yesterday. I got there, eventually, but every single word was like pulling teeth.

Oh. Hey. More teeth.

That said, I’m not worried, it’s always like this, and I’m finding more and more of the threads I was hoping to find to snarl up Cole’s life. I’ve also had a big breakthrough with my decisions about Cole’s teleportation abilities, what they mean, how they work, and how they fit into the history of the world he inhabits.

Which is our world, of course, only with a kid who can teleport.


Of Echoes Born / Short Pieces

Last week I mentioned I signed up for the 11th Annual NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, which was so far out of my wheelhouse that I’m not even sure I know what to do to finish the metaphor about wheelhouses. I got my assignment: “Ghost story, with an admission of guilt, and a stalker character.” And then I froze. Completely.

Today, while I was learning about my bionic impairment, however, I finally came up with an idea. I’m letting it percolate a bit, but I think I’ve got a story. Fingers crossed.

Still on track with the collection, too.


Open Calls for Submission

Lastly, Writing Wednesday updates include my list off all the various open calls for submission I’ve found and/or am trying to write for. If you know of any others, by all means do drop them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. If this is helpful for people other than myself, it’s even better.

Also, January is shaping up to be a great month submission wise. Thus far, I’ve sent in 5 submissions (4 of which were reprints, 1 was a new piece), and I’ve just signed an acceptance contract for one of those reprints.

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul – Various titles, various themes, various deadlines, 1,200 word count limit.
  • Clarkesworld – Currently open for art, non-fiction, and short story submissions.
  • Cast of Wonders – Young adult short fiction market, open to story submissions up to 6,000 words.
  • 49th Parallels – Alternative Canadian Histories and Futures, Bundoran Press, deadline February 14th, 2017; 1,500-7k word count limit.
  • MM Superpowers anthology – This isn’t the only thing open at Totally Bound (you can click through for the full list), but this is the one I’m eyeing; deadline February 28th, 2017; 10k-15k word count limit, with erotic content.
  • Alice Unbound – Think Alice in Wonderland, only speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Exile Editions; Submission window: February 1st – May 31st, 2017; 2k – 5k word count limit; Canadians and ex-pat Canadians only.