I wrote here about the publication of His Aura, an anthology of transmasculine erotica. I am not an erotica author, but I had a few pieces I’d written for a friend’s project which didn’t pan out and thus needed a home, so I submitted them. I was accepted. Gleefully, and trustingly, I signed the contract. And then waited. And waited. And waited. Payment was supposed to happen a few months prior to publication, and include copies of the book. The publication happened. The payment never did, and those copies never came.
The editor of the tome is “Shaun J. Phree” or Shaun Peterson, though, both could be pseudonyms for all I know. It is convenient he vanished from the web after the publication. He made promises to authors by email to pay us, but never did.
But just so you know. If ever a guy wanting to publish trans fiction appears and has the same name, tell him to go fuck himself rather than submit any work to him. And, as always, for authors working in any genre: be careful as you can.
The only reason I bring this up after so long is that I have the energy to deal with it now, and it I feel obligated to warn people.
ETA: Apparently he now lives here and publishes the book through his personal site so he doesn’t have to pay the authors, the snake.
Dear 22-Year-Old Me:
After getting over the shock of discovering your older self is, in fact, a man, and hairier, smellier, and grubbier than you currently are, I expect you might be a tiny bit disappointed. (But not with the impressively groomed facial stubble.) I know that you didn’t expect your life to be like this, thirteen years in the future. I think you expected to be a university professor by this time (ha ha), rather than some dude who works part time as an adjunct. I think you also expected yourself to have written and published a few novels by now, and might look on this scruffy character — who will be you — as something of a failure. Not only is he one short bastard, and not only has he not even finished a single novel, he does not even give two shits about writing novels anymore. He has all these — novellas and short stories — just simmering away on his mental burners. But what does he really have to show for those thirteen years’ time, creatively speaking?
So I am working on the fourth draft of my novella, Bloom. I am discovering a number of things about the project and earlier drafts.
I’ve applied for a few Stegner Fellowships in my time, and inevitably found myself looking at the biographies for the current Stegner Fellows. Supposedly the fellowship takes people from all walks of life, with different educational backgrounds. The website for the Stegner Fellowship states that a degree is not a prerequisite for the program. And yet, fellow after fellow had matriculated in an MFA program, and published in all the “right” prestigious literary magazines, and was neither terrifically young, nor that old — probably most in their thirties. Most were white or white-passing. I would also bet that the vast majority were straight and cisgender, and hadn’t dealt with PTSD or mental illness.
I wish it wasn’t so, but most creative writing graduate programs suffer from the same lack of diversity the Stegner Fellowship does. It’s no wonder the fellowship is populated with the same people.
This is a problem which has been commented on a great deal, so I won’t bore you with the standard “but we must have more diversity and it begins with changing our gatekeeping practices” shtick. We know that. Of greater concern to me (and to the literary community of the U.S.) is the impoverishment of literature under these conditions.
In my time as a writer, one persistent myth I’ve noticed, which clings to even seasoned writers, is that one should wait for inspiration. One doesn’t need to force words out with something as tedious and dull as discipline. Just let the words come naturally, as if by magic which came from rainbows farted out of a unicorn’s asshole.
Just like rainbows farted out of a unicorn’s asshole, the idea that most writers can get anywhere without discipline is false.
I am going to brag a little, so if you want to avoid that, now’s your chance.
I’ve been getting back into submitting short stories and I am struck by the number of queer* journals and magazines handwaving their, well, queer content with phrases like “we don’t just publish queer content” or “it doesn’t have to be about that”.
Okay mate, if you want to wuss out, be my guest. Because that is exactly what these magazines are doing. If I want to read queer content, I look to queer magazines and journals. Hello. By basically “watering down” their content, they betray the very reason they are supposed to exist, and they betray their core readers. And that last thing, to me, is one of the gravest sins a publisher or writer can commit. You do not dis the reader. Ever.
If you publish queer content, publish queer content. Gleefully rub it in people’s faces. Don’t give a shit about people who squawk, queer or no. Just be out and proud about it. Like, “yes, we just published an explicit story about rimming, and next issue we have lesbian lovers working through parenting!” People haven’t died in a myriad of ways, from murder to AIDs, so you can wuss out and publish content that “doesn’t have to be about that” or whatever.
* Queer because it is the best all inclusive term, has been reclaimed since the ’80’s, and hints at radicalism.
ETA: I wrote a much more eloquent blog post on pretty much the same topic here. I guess it’s been bugging me for awhile?