Feel free to ignore.
So in the last few weeks I’ve been involved (marginally) a few “discussions” about a few things that seem not related but kind of are. (I’m not linking to any source articles because the drama level is already off the charts and I’m not going to contribute to that. sorry.)
One, a chat about writing POC characters. My MC in my soon to be released book is black, and so when I saw an article saying “white writers please don’t write POC, ok? thanks” I stupidly read it. It was a good article, actually, and made some great points. I should have left it alone but I got talking, asking questions about the ways I should represent POC in fiction, and if it was even okay for me to do so, and lots of other things. It was, of course, not the first discussion I’ve had on the topic. But the people involved had very different opinions than the ones I’d spoken with previously. While the first groups I’d talked to had said “please don’t treat me like an alien. I’m more like you than different. Every story about a black man doesn’t need to be about his race or his struggles.” The second group said “please don’t use me as a decoration. If you’re going to write a POC character, make his race an issue and show his struggle please or you might as well just make him a white guy.” So I was confused and slightly unsettled about my new release.
Two, there was a discussion about the new Harry Potter thing and the Native Americans’ reactions. Which led me to ask: in what ways is it okay to use the stories and myths and experiences of other cultures as inspiration in our own fantasy work, especially when we are outsiders to the cultures we are borrowing (appropriating?) from? Still no answer, except “be respectful” which seems obvious but I don’t know how exactly to do that in a practical way. (Do you have to keep the myth intact? Is it okay to alter it? Use part but not another part? Only borrow from cultures which were not oppressed? Only borrow from cultures long dead?) So again I was confused and not sure how to move forward with my WIP. (Probably NOT going to use those western African gods/goddesses as inspiration anymore, though…)
Then three, there was a m/m genre hubbub (when is there not lol) about the trope “Gay For You” and how some people think it is hurtful (it sometimes is, lets face it) and how others just want to be left alone to write their happy stories and not think about all that. I talked a lot and read a lot on both sides and in the end I still kind of feel like everyone’s underlying points are good, I agree with both sides. I don’t write GFY, but the way people started talking to each other was really mean and shitty and disheartening to watch.
Needless to say, I consumed a lot of wine these past two weeks.
The truth is, in all three of those discussions, I shouldn’t have been talking. I was, and always will be, an outsider to those things. I’m not a POC, I’m not a Native American, I’m not a gay guy. So I really shouldn’t have chimed in and made the conversation about me. I am VERY sorry for my selfish involvement in those conversations. Apologies to everyone who had to interact with me.
I’m also sorry because, while I do indeed care a lot and have a lot of empathy, those issues are not really things that impact my life in any tangible way beyond my writing. So my involvement was more of an academic nature, not an emotional one. I write gay guys. And sometimes, black gay guys. And sometimes fantasy where I use myths I don’t own as inspiration. I want to ask questions, and try to do those things right.
But I don’t want my questions to hurt people. So I’m not sure where to take my questions anymore. Where to talk about writing, and people? Is there anywhere where it is safe to do that? Where people won’t attack each other?
I don’t understand how people who are writers can have such a lack of empathy for their fellow humans. To me it seems like writing is the only place where my weakness (over-sensitive crybaby) is actually a strength. I use that sensitivity to feel what my characters feel, and to put myself in the pov of others. For me, that empathy doesn’t stop when I enter facebook or goodreads. For a lot of people, it clearly does. Or maybe hostility is just a way they protect themselves? I don’t know.
I also don’t understand how people who are writers have so much trouble in a discussion/debate. I LOVE talking about stuff. I love talking about writing, and people, and history, and culture. I try to be respectful in my language. Lots of people hate me but very few can claim I was ever outright rude or mean to them. I try really hard to be civil, at all times. If you disagree with something I say, or vice-versa, I won’t hate you, or ignore your further comments, or talk shit about you behind your back. Seriously you’d have to be pretty awful for me to do any of that.
I can see why some authors just say “fuck it” and stop listening to critical voices. Or stop writing stuff that is not 100% defend-able and bland. Neither of those options sound good to me. At least not yet.
I love writing Romance. I really love writing Romance between two males. I don’t know exactly why that is, but it always has been, for me. I know that means some people think I am gross, or creepy, or damaged. I know it means some people will feel fetishized or appropriated by my work. I’m still not sure how to deal with that. I’m going to keep trying to figure it out, but maybe quietly.
Be nice to each other out there, people. ❤ Life is hard enough already.