Which is to say, the first chapter of "Lucifugous" is up at the Subterranean Press site, and there you may read it. "Lucifugous" is a 25,000-word novella, the first story in the New Amsterdam collection/mosaic novel. It was previously printed in Subterranean 5, but if you didn't read it there, you can read it now. (We'll be serializing the whole novella, one chapter a day until we are out of chapters.)
It's got vampires and dirigibles and treachery and urder most foul, and I like it a lot. If I do say so myself.
Also, if you like it, you can preorder the book here, and help justify my existence. There might even be cover art soon.
So anyway, as I'm working forward in the Dust proposal (and I am suddenly tempted to go all arty and lowercase and call it dust, actually, but I might lie down and see if that passes) and I'm thinking of a lot of things that I learned. For example, here I am in chapter three, about to reveal something I probably would have tried to hold onto for later when I was less experienced, trying to create false tension through mystery, or save up something that's actually not such a big deal for a big reveal. (Luke. I am your father.)
And part of the problem here is that I'm working in well-trodden tropes on this one. Yeah, yeah, generation ship, yeah, yeah, lowly servant girl is tossed into great events. Sounds like a hideous misbreeding of The Ill-Made Mute and The Starlost, doesn't it? On the other hand, once upon a time I might have made the mistake of trying to conceal that what I had here was a derelict generation ship, and save it up for some kind of big reveal at the end. But isn't it more interesting if we know that going in, like we know that the lowly servant girl is somehow related to greatness, and then we can continue layering reveals and reversals on top of that?
That's what I mean when I say, shoot the whole deal. Get it out there. Get it on the page. Don't hold it back for a suprise ending, because then what the hell else do you have to construct a story with?
Nobody likes self-conscious coyness.
So another thing I've been thinking of is sort of odd and off on a tangent.
- There is some sort of societal baggage, I think, about fiction in which there are gay characters, and specifically gay male characters. Which is to say, I've noticed an interesting pattern of things that I can't really express in a linear form, so I will give it to you in bullet points.
- A number of gay men of my acquaintance have commented to me that they feel it's unfair that women can get away with writing gay male characters, and they don't feel that it is commercially viable for them to do so. I find this really distressing.
- And yet, the straight men who are willing to write gay men seem to be able to get away with it, although most of them do it rather badly. I except Anthony Burgess from this, off the top of my head (well, I'm assuming he was straight, but I really have no idea beyond that he was married.) and I am sure there are others. And I have to except Chip Delany and Hal Duncan from the gay-men-aren't-spoda-write-gay-men rule, which I'm not sure is a rule at all, just a... I dunno, a worry?)
- So my question becomes, why do gay men feel they're not spoda write gay men? Is there any truth to the assumption that (I'm not talking about erotica here, mind you; it's not my genre and I dunno bupkiss about it.) they're at a commercial detriment if they try? Or is it some sort of industry worry that they might get Teh Gay all over the rest of us?
- Are they sometimes too close to the issues to write them in a way that's accessible to people outside the queer community?
- Why is it more worthy of comment that Michelangelo is a gay man than that he's a subSaharan African with a genius facility for languages? 'cause I'm not any of those other things, either.
- Am I too close to certain issues of my own to write them in ways that are accessible outside my own tight-knit communities?
- How do we get people to look beyond ghettoizing labels like "queer fiction" or "black fiction?" Do we want to? Does the marketing advantage of the ghettoization override the marketing disadvantage?
- Is it easier for me as a white person to get away with writing black characters? Why is it so hard for writers of color to write characters who are not like them? (N.B. I don't mean difficult to get it right. I mean they often face some harsh marketing pressures.)
- Are there readers in the world who are really that freaked out that Easy Rawlins is black? What on earth is wrong with them? (rhetorical question, I know, I know.)
- I do note, as an aside, that a number of gay male writers of my acquaintance write fabulously successful female characters. I mean, really great women. I wonder if this is a side-effect of having personal experience with social marginalization.
- I find it really interesting that I can write sex scenes OR romances from the point of view of heterosexual men, heterosexual women, or gay women (or people who swing both ways, as long as the actual sex does not involve two men), and nobody assumes a particularly prurient interest, but if I write two men in bed together, there's an assumption I must be getting off on it. (I find this particularly interesting, because given my own equipment, I think I might be realistically assumed to be more interested in what women and men or women and women do in bed together.)
- Nobody's ever challenged my ability to write a heterosexual sex scene from a man's POV, but I'm presumed to be making it up when I write a same-sex encounter from a man's POV.
- So why is it so much more, I dunno, racy, for a woman to write a sex scene or a romance involving two men than a man and a woman or two women? Is it because we are presumed to be outsiders and/or voyeurs? Or we are presumed to be othering and eroticizing the other?
- Hmm. Yanno, I am capable of using the same techniques of extrapolation and pointed questions to close friends to develop both narratives. *g* Just saying.
- No, I have no idea why all my lesbian characters are shy, and don't want to put out in public. I'm sure it's revelatory of some deep-seated psychological kink of mine. I may get to change that in the revision of The Sea thy Mistress, though.
- I do find that writing about homosexual male characters (or, in Isolfr's and even more so in Matthew's case, heterosexual male characters stuck in a traditionally female role) is a great way to examine certain feminist issues without that whole icky girl thing getting in the way and distracting people. If you take a male character and treat him, with narrative, in ways that female characters (or female persons!) get treated, the little red WTF! light goes on, and people start to notice, oh, this is pretty fucked up right here. Which is probably why I don't have more dykes in my fiction.
- Hmm. I also tend to treat my characters, of whatever persuasion, as if their sexuality is not their defining characteristic. Except in those situations where it is, either because they have to fight so hard to keep it intact in the face of overwhelming outside pressure, or because they're hung up on it. (Matthew's sexuality? Definitely a major defining characteristic. Poor Matthew. He's gonna have to deal with that eventually if I don't kill him off.)
- I've got at least one Big Gay Book coming out every year between now and 2010. I might be doomed to being typecast a little. Because nobody's going to notice all the straight people. Straight people, like white people, like male people, are apparently a default in Western society, and therefor beneath notice.
- Which strikes me funny, because I don't think of myself as a queer writer, or a writer of queer fiction, or a woman writer, or a writer of women's fiction. I think of myself as a writer. And one, so far, who's having a fair amount of success (I mean, I don't have a new first name yet*), but I seem to be carving myself out a comfortable niche, which hopefully will persist and grow a bit. Assuming I can hold onto my target audience. Hopefully teh gay won't scare too many people away, between heterosexuals.
- On the other hand, because I don't consider myself a queer writer, I may be a sellout. But I'm more interested in telling stories that may or may not have queer characters in them than Big Queer Stories.
(Yes, I have a lot of queer characters. I have a lot of straight characters too, and some kinky ones, and some vanilla ones, and a few asexual ones. Such is life.)
*like the artists formerly known as Steve and Neil, who are now namesakes, with the first name "New York Times Best-Selling Author." Go Steve and Neil!