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.
Yesterday marked the publication of His Aura: A Collection of Transmasculine Erotica, which features, among many awesome pieces, two of my short stories, “Maddeningly Wonderful” and “A Honeycomb of Nerves”.
You can read more about the stories and their background in this blog post.
While there is an excerpt on the book’s page of my story “Maddeningly Wonderful”, I thought I’d offer another excerpt from that same story. This excerpt is right from the beginning. I hope you enjoy it. Also, please consider buying a copy of the anthology if well written erotica and trans men is your jam.
I’ve been writing shorter fiction this summer, while I’m on a break from my main manuscript. This excerpt is from one of those pieces of shorter fiction, titled Queer as Love. The story follows a married couple as one of them transitions from female to male. This part comes after the narrator, who is the cisgender spouse, has begun to seriously contemplate divorce. This is a rough draft, so it’s not finished, but the idea is there.
But these fantasies dispersed, like ash. And then I thought of you. As you were, as you had been. I saw you in all your beauty. I saw your strength, and my pride in that. I remembered our first time, in that little hotel room, when you abandoned your towel and clambered right in my lap, straddling me, sinking down onto me while our breathing roared like an avalanche. I thought of our wedding at the courthouse, and how you said “fuck” and made the clerk blush. I remembered our first fight, bitter and spiteful and wounding because we didn’t know how to fight, and how you came running for me and threw your arms around me, and through tears, kissed me and said you loved me over and over. I remembered when Ash was born and there were three of us in the room. There was a new life between us and we were so in awe we were silent. I saw how mean you could be, how cutting and cruel with your words. You were good at that. I saw your childishness, the adult tantrums of pouting and sulking when you didn’t get what you wanted. They way you could and would emotionally manipulate me. How you hated to compromise. The way you didn’t put your shoes away but just let them lay all around where I could trip on them.
You told me once, when you were trying to explain a painting to me, that sometimes what was beautiful was also ugly, sometimes gross or scary.
I saw you in all your beauty.
Today my short story, “The Blind Tattooist”, came out in issue three of |tap|. This story is important to me for a few reasons. It is that it is the first publication I’ve had in the two years since I began submitting short stories professionally, since I decided I would only submit to paying markets. And it is that this is the first time I’ve been paid for my writing.
Incidentally, this story came out of Chuck Wendig’s Flashfiction Challenge about a year ago. Wendig gives a list of titles, provided by commentors to his blog. The idea is to choose one of the titles and then write a story of about 1,000 words to go with it. I wasn’t expecting the story to go where it went, but here we are.
The story follows a young trans woman, Lucky, and her journey of recovery after surviving a horrific attack.
My current main project is a novella tentatively titled “Bloom”. It’s about a man who believes he is straight, Ben, falling in love with his gay best friend, David. This is an excerpt. It occurs in the last third of the story, when Ben has begun really wrestle with the question of his sexuality. Is he straight? Is he bisexual? Hell if Ben knows.
There’s sexual content in this, and there might be typos and errors.
The tick-tock of the kitchen clock, a low wind murmuring through the cracked window. But nothing else; the house safely suffused in silence.
This is ridiculous. I’m scuttling around like I’m thirteen again, sneaking off with my sisters’ Victoria’s Secret catalogues to masturbate to. Thirteen year old desperate measures and all.
David won’t be home for awhile.
The bed isn’t the best place, really. The couch is better. But this feels too . . . intimate for sitting out in the living room. So. Laptop at hand, afternoon sunlight falling pale across the bedroom.
I hope I don’t get a million viruses.
Where to even start? Presumably there’s keywords of some kind, but I don’t know. Uhm.
(Image: a smiling man pointing at the bisexual flag.)
This article on bisexuality and bisexual people facing discrimination within the LGBT community gave me some food for thought the other day. Particularly about bisexuality in fiction, and male bisexuality in particular.
I am writing a book with a male bisexual main character. After years of believing himself to be straight, he finds he can have attraction to men, namely his best friend. He has to re-evaluate who he is and how he identifies.
In the first draft, I toyed with the idea of having the character come to some fuzzy woo-woo conclusion about his sexuality, like he was “beyond labels” and “labels didn’t matter” sort of thing. You can tell I did not find that satisfying. In many ways, that is the expected outcome of the kinds of sexual and personal experiences the character has. Doubtless most books would want to solve the problem of his sexuality by tying it up neat in the ambiguity bow — by not answering the quintessential questions about sexuality that this character’s experiences pose.
Ambiguity can be used as an avoidance of the truth. We’ve all been there: that murky place where things are left unsaid, where people don’t not tell the truth, but they don’t make eye contact with each other either. A furtive place, where we hide things by just not talking about them or confronting them. It is in that kind of space that easy answers like “labels just don’t matter” exist. It is in that kind of place we deny experiences and instead opt for a reality that pretends to embrace the complexity of human sexuality, and yet doesn’t.
Ambiguity like this is poison. And it is this kind of poison which is a little too frequently served in fiction, from TV to film to books.