Titillation (or Lack Thereof)

Blog, meta

I was reading Drew Nellins Smith’s “Let’s Not Get It On: The Indefensible Sex Scene” and found myself making faces at the article. It’s unimaginative, to say the least.

The first problem the author has is that they haven’t read. There is plenty of (gasp!) fanfiction which has provocative and wonderful sex scenes. The same is true with the Romance genre of fiction. Both provide sex scenes that are crucial to character development.

(If you feel the need to mock Romance, bite me. It was one of my staples growing up, right next to James Joyce.)

And that’s the second problem the author seems to have: the inability to recognize that character development and sex go hand in hand. They focus so wholly on the matter of sex in literature they never mention the characters. How are they feeling about this?

Impoverishment

Blog, meta, writing

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.

The Pleasures of Discipline

Blog, meta, writing

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.

Queer, Here (?)

Blog, meta

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”.

qaf uk -- stuart oh yeah right

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?

The Sense of a (Queer) Ending

Blog, meta, reading

I was digging through some of my old graduate school manuscripts. One of my instructors had commented that the story I’d submitted should have a more ambiguous ending. I have no doubt she was right, but this got me thinking about endings. I couldn’t help but reflect on my current work. Did the ending need more ambiguity? Could I make the ending of my novella more ambiguous?

I suppose I could. I suppose there could be more of the unknown or unknowable there. I suppose I could have some mystery hovering over the relationship of the protagonist and his lover.

But I think it would be more subversive to have an unambiguously hopeful ending. This is because the novel is a queer story; the protagonist is queer, and so is his relationship with his lover.

Queer stories, for anyone who knows, are impossibilities when it comes to endings. You have two paths and two paths only: the one which leads to a happy ending, and the other which leads to an obscene tragedy of some kind,

Guess which ending is most common, even today.

So I prefer the unambiguously happy ending. It’s more powerful, more subversive. And it gives queer people much needed hope. 

Ambiguity can have its place in fiction, certainly. But, when it comes to endings, I think queer people deserve more than tragedy or ambiguity.

Sex and Harlots

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rs_600x600-170309063115-600.harlots-hulu.ch.030917I started watching Hulu’s Harlots. I have found it very addictive. We’re only two episodes in and I’m looking forward to next week’s episode already. The basic premise of the series revolves around a feud between two brothels in 18th century London. The series has some strongly crafted compelling female characters, and I like how it’s a story about women, written and produced by women.

However (yes, here it comes) I do find the portrayal of sex puzzling, if not worrying.

In a story about harlots and brothels, of course there will be sex. You’d think you’d encounter sex in all its varietals at least, from tedious and lackluster to utterly depraved and lustful to kinky to intimate and any others besides. Instead what Harlots has presented so far makes sex a joke. Sex is, by and large, presented as being something lewd and comical.

The Only Time a Writer Will Tell You to Watch Some Damn TV

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Until recently, every time someone proudly told me they “don’t watch TV” or “don’t watch much TV”, my knee-jerk reaction was to congratulate them. As if to endorse their choice.

It makes sense, of course. The notion that TV and film — visual media and narrative — are somehow “less worthy” than written literature, for instance, is something that my culture constantly reinforces. We are told TV makes us dumb and intellectually lazy. It’s called the “boob tube” after all, and countless scholars and cultural critics have weighted in informing us of the inherent dangers of too much TV and media.

But lately when someone tells me they don’t watch TV, I’ve been more of a mind to ask them: “Why not?” and to confront them with the fact that not watching TV doesn’t make them better, or their choices more informed, or superior. In fact, it makes them ignorant.

I will go on a brief tangent to help reinforce my point.