Category Archives: Sidebars

Trigger Warnings for Writing

I’m not sure how I got onto this topic today. I was literally supposed to just sit down and read my assigned pages for class this week, when some link or tweet or whatever caught my eye, and it got me thinking on trigger warnings for books. Namely that I don’t see them! Now while I am not a victim of abuse or trauma, I can say without a doubt that I truly appreciate content warnings from films and shows. If they say: “This presentation contains graphic sexual abuse and violence. Viewer discretion is advised.” I will listen! I don’t like getting blindsided with the sight of a man or woman getting raped, abused, or tortured. I like knowing when these things may happen so that I can decide for myself if I can stand watching them. But the courtesy of trigger warnings is less important for me, and more important for those who have actually suffered such experiences, or perhaps knows someone who has.

Even subtle warnings seem to be absent in most books. For instance, my copy of The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett fails to mention that one main character gets raped, and another is forced to watch–not to mention all the incest. Was Mr. Brett expecting his readers to just take for granted that a dark fantasy book would feature such things? And there are plenty of books on the market these days that pull the same thing. What gets me is that movies and television shows are expected to warn viewers beforehand due to censorship ratings, but because books aren’t held to that standard they just don’t do it. I’m not saying books should be rated, but I find it a little disappointing that so many fail to think of those readers who re-experience their traumas again because of someone’s writing.

Of course, there are arguments for and against trigger warnings. I really liked the write up by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, who provides a reasonable argument as to why she–a PTSD sufferer–disagreed with trigger warnings. It was a dilemma I found myself facing when putting trigger warnings on Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic. What “triggers” should I even mention? Was I going to have to put a trigger tag on every post containing a potential scene, sentence, or phrase that could set someone off? And we’re talking about years worth of writing here, so the task felt overwhelming… But as Coslett states, triggers are everywhere and can come from the least expected things. I realize that not everyone who has suffered a particular trauma or negative experience may be triggered in the obvious ways. For all I know, one of my in-story jokes could set someone off. Another write-up by Ann O’Malley argues that people should at least have the choice to deal with such things, because the old phrase “don’t like it, don’t read it” doesn’t work if someone isn’t aware it’s even there. Cosslett touches on this a little bit too.

So here’s what I decided to do: for Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic, I will not be tagging potential triggers in posts or hiding them in spoiler links.* On the front page (aka the “New Readers” page) for both sites, the header for trigger warnings will be highlighted in red (with a red instruction under “ratings” to scroll down to see it) and in that list will be a general breakdown of potential trigger warnings for each story arc for both series. In these lists, I try to cover some of the more common triggers, including one or two less common ones that I think are worth noting (like child death). Given the size of both Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic, combing the stories for triggers would be unfeasible. The best I can do is highlight those that are most likely to trigger someone, and let the stories run their natural course.

The point here isn’t to coddle people or to shove an agenda into people’s faces. I agree with Cosslett that the tendency to tag everything (from blog articles to tweets) with potential trigger warnings is a bit much. But everyone deals with trauma differently, and for those who seek solace in stories like mine, I think it is important to at least give the person a heads up about what they may encounter. People immerse themselves into stories, and sometimes that level of empathy can really impact a person strongly. I’d hate to send someone over the edge just because I failed to take the short time to offer a warning!

*For those Eikasia readers wondering why I’m not putting spoiler links on posts with possible triggers when I do that for graphic sex scenes, here’s why: Eikasia began as a story that didn’t feature graphic sex. I had asserted in the past that I wasn’t interested in writing sex scenes, but this later changed. In order to keep from alienating those readers who did not want to read sex scenes and came to expect their exclusion from the series, I put spoiler links. So the difference with trigger warnings and sex scenes is that I had always intended to write about certain controversial issues in Eikasia, whereas I hadn’t with sex scenes. I hinted at things like self-harm, rape, and torture early on, setting them up as a constant in the setting, and therefore something to be encountered at one point or another. Conversely, Akumu Love Panic does not have spoiler links for its sex scenes because it was established that the story would be featuring such things from the get go. I hope that is clear.

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Sidebar: On Misandry

I’ve done sidebars covering topics that I thought interesting and thought provoking–but usually there’s a concern in my mind that serves as the catalyst to the post.  These sidebars aren’t necessary to read, and if you prefer to have my “meta-commentary” muted, then I’d certainly understand.  Sometimes, it is best to just read the story yourself and form your own opinions without the author trying to get in the way.

I have never been challenged or harangued because of something I’ve written. The worst criticism I received was that my site was “nearly impossible” to navigate, and that was two years ago when I was still struggling with Blogger. So far, ya’ll have been pretty cool with things. But just for the sake of it I’d like to cover this next topic as much as I can.

Men and Eikasia.

First, let’s look at the word “misandry”:

misandry |misˈandrē|
noun
the hatred of men by women : her brand of feminism is just poorly disguised misandry.
ORIGIN 1940s: from Greek miso- ‘hating’ + anēr, andr- ‘man,’ on the pattern of misogyny.

The last sidebar covered one of the “touchy subjects”–that being sexism.  But that was with regards to character views voiced in-story.  What of the story’s view on the matter?  (One could mistake this for being my view, but there’s still a separation between myself and my art, though this line looks a bit thin, I confess.)

Eikasia’s shakers and rollers seem to largely be women, with mostly men being the villains/rivals.

…That is the simple and not-quite-true summary of the cast.

It’s true that Eikasia’s primary players are women (Elmiryn, Nyx, Lethia, Quincy…) but there’s others too.  Hakeem, and more recently, Farrel.  They have played vital roles, and in some cases, with very positive results.  Recent updates have shown the positive presence Thaddeus and Marquis played in Nyx’s past; of the strong and natural friendship that Elmiryn had with Saelin.  But that still leaves us with some of our heroines and their relationships with men.

Elmiryn’s father was cold and ruthless, as seen by the update “The Performers”.  He pushed his daughter to be what he wanted her to be.  Nyx’s father Alvis was notably absent from her life, having left for some unfathomable journey around the world from which he never returned from.  His fate is unknown.  Quincy loathes Tobias for some wrong he apparently committed against her in the distant past.  She also mentions a man named Jack, but at this point we don’t have an idea of who he is.  The tone this sets is accidental.  These women don’t hate men–they just had trouble with some in their past.  Who hasn’t in one way or another?

Then there’s Belcliff’s marshal, Karolek, and Baldwin.  Sedwick is the more complicated of this group as he was a man trying to do what he thought was right, and when he went AWOL, it wasn’t his fault–still his prejudices and his magic-induced rage must’ve painted an unfavorable picture in the eyes of you readers.

Many background male characters are shown as prejudicial and boorish, I admit.

Part of the problem is the setting.  As a fantasy setting with most societies being in one way or other patriarchal in nature, women aren’t really given the chance they deserve to make a change or be in control.  Many women and girls stay out of sight as it isn’t “their place” to speak out, typically.  This is why we lack many examples of female background characters.  As such, this places men in an antagonistic light.  The truth of it is, it isn’t the men I show that are the real antagonists, they are simply the agents of a greater evil, and alone they can be easily overcome.

The other issue, and the most obvious, is that the primary romance is lesbian–leaving little to show the softer side of some of the male characters.

In the coming story arcs, this’ll change as Elmiryn and Nyx’s world expands to include new characters.  So far it’s been a lot of running and gunning with little leisure left in between the action.

Essentially what I’m trying to say is:  the general feeling of neglect and hostility towards men in Eikasia is really just an accident–a byproduct of the largely female cast, and the various settings we’ve seen so far.  I want it established that I don’t hate men, and I don’t like women who unfairly discriminate against them.  …But I still like strong female roles more than the muscular male hero, so forgive me if the ladies have more fun than the guys.  😛

Till next time!

Sidebar: Touchy Subjects

This is a sidebar of sorts that I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.  The bonus story “Short Term Solutions” is a good example, but so is “High Walls, Small Gates”.  What do I mean?  What is apparent in these stories that would require me to “explain myself”?  If you don’t know, then it probably isn’t that big a deal.  If you do know, then you’re the reason I’m writing this.

Racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Eikasia is, before anything else, a fantasy adventure (surprise!)  But close behind that, it is a romance story.  The primary couple, as you clever chickens know, are homosexual.  Interestingly enough, these characters are in the minority.  Nevertheless, this doesn’t change the fact that the majority of my readers are either gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, or LGBT supporters.

So what the hell am I thinking, saying such electric and razor-sharp words like “queer, homo, and dyke?”  The same reason I have characters that refer to dark-skinned races as “darkies and mud men.”  The same reason I have women who think men “have to be a certain way” and men who think “women should be a certain way.”  Just because I as a writer am very open-minded, that does not mean my characters will be.  For some, this could change, for others this may not.  But that’s just how it goes.  In fact, I can say flat out that the only two characters out of the entire Eikasia cast that is completely open minded (atleast with relation to what I’ve stated above) are Lethia and Nyx.  That’s it.  Every other character has some opinion, some prejudice, and some attitude that someone, somewhere, would surely find very insulting.

To address the matter more specifically, I’ll talk about the attitudes seen in “Short Term Solutions”:

Fanaea is a patriarchal society, so a lot of the power and respect goes to the head man of the family.  Hakeem, as you all have seen, isn’t like this–partly because he was torn out of traditional Fanaean life at a young age, and also because of his close relationship with Quincy.  When frustrated with his wife, however, he draws on the only examples of problem solving he has–which come from his father and uncle, who had complete control over their household.  As a patriarchal society, Fanaea looks down on gay men, seeing them as weak and a result of decaying morals.  Lesbians aren’t appreciated either, but homosexuality in men tends to produce a stronger reaction.  Thus, in “Short Term Solutions” we see the prejudices that both Quincy and Hakeem grew up with come forth.  Karolek comes from Gulley, and this Talmorian city-state is known for its fair share of misogyny as well.  Furthermore, as many of you may or may not be noticing–Fanaeans tend to see alot of racism.  Their dark skin and their traditions has them labeled by other societies as savage or brutish.  We know that isn’t true, but do the characters know this…?  That is one thing I have to ask myself when matters of race crop up.

The same goes for speciesism (in this case understood to be hatred and prejudice of other species, but we’re talking about things some readers may actually have to deal with in real life, and I doubt many of you get picked on for being a human… 😛 )

Elmiryn herself has been shown to have a less than PC way of talking about her own sexuality, and this is simply a by-product of her society.  Her attitude about being a lesbian can sometimes be seen as flippant, even if this isn’t really true.  This is partly because her society treated her homosexual behavior as something “not serious”.  That she was only doing it because, “She’s a descendant of Diokles.”  While the woman has no qualms in stating her preferences, she gets annoyed when faced with the question of whether or not she’s “serious” about it, or “actually in love”.  As is her usual tactic when faced with something she dislikes–either she makes fun of it, pretends its not there, or she kicks its ass.

In the coming update, we’ll be given an intimate look of what Elmiryn’s childhood was like (I bet you guys are excited!)  You can expect to see more of the “touchy subjects” surfacing, but just keep in mind that while I’m doing a fantasy story, I’m choosing realistic societies over idealistic.

Till next time!