Tag Archives: discrimination

Queer Lit, New Zines, and More LGBT Market Musing

So I received my first official review for the new Tributaries e-book, and it was four stars! But interestingly, it was one of those positive reviews that seem to lack…positivity? The reviewer wasn’t mean or discouraging, but her review had a tone of bemusement to it. Like she didn’t inherently “get” the book, and I don’t mean “get” as in a surface understanding, but “get” as in…she just didn’t get it! Apparently the reviewer (who was very kind to read my work when it was clearly something she wouldn’t have read had I not asked her to) was confused by the “lesbian romance” aspect of my story. She said the main characters, Nyx and Elmiryn, made her think of Frodo and Samwise from the Lord of the Rings, two close but otherwise “platonic” friends. I sent her an email thanking her for her honesty, but also included a tongue in cheek YouTube link of the (in)famous TBS LotR spot that poked fun at Frodo and Sam’s relationship.

I can’t really say that it’s because she was “straight” that she didn’t get my work. I’ve received emails from straight readers, some of them women, who remarked on how much they enjoy Eikasia (the name of my fantasy series) and how they’re surprised at how much they relate to Elmiryn and Nyx as people. Not lesbians. PEOPLE!

Fancy that!

So then I wondered, “Was the reviewer somehow expecting more…gayness? Was my story not alternative enough? Did she expect the characters to hem and haw about their homosexuality? For them to go through a ‘coming out’ process? Or did she think lesbian women would have been more romantically aggressive?” Because (with all due respect to the reviewer) I was equally confused by her perception that the story lacked a real sense of lesbian romance. Numerous times, Elmiryn propositions Nyx. Numerous times, Nyx displays a fascination and attraction toward Elmiryn’s body. They are close and physically intimate in a way that two women who only met each other wouldn’t typically allow so soon (if at all).

But the reviewer didn’t see how the characters could be gay! She even felt like the kiss at the end of the book was a surprise. I could only laugh, I was so bewildered.

Which then got me thinking (and worrying) that perhaps I’m at a further disadvantage than I had previously believed. Tributaries is a romance story, and the growing relationship does play an important role in the plot, but the romance is secondary to the fantasy adventure. I actually feel apprehensive telling potential lesbian readers about my book, because I don’t want to lie and say there’s RAGIN’ SEX in it (that doesn’t come for at least two more books, ha!) but I wonder if I don’t say that will they be interested at all?

Recently on this blog, I discussed a very small market for LGBT books and a severe lack of support for lesbian fiction. But maybe the problem is more than that for me? Maybe, it is isn’t just a lack of lesbian fiction, but a lack of queer lit. I don’t want to get too attached to terms, as people seem to have different ideas of what to call these small niche markets, but in this case, I’m talking about stories that just so happen to have central LGBTQIA characters in ordinary stories. Stories where the main focus isn’t how gay or alternative the protagonist is, how they struggle with their identity, or how they struggle with society’s perception of their identity.

To reiterate: We’re talking stories where the characters just so happen to be LGBTQIA. Queer Lit. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Say it with me: QUEER LIT!

And I realize now that I’ve been writing in an even smaller niche than I could have imagined. Nearly ALL of my writing to this day (Eikasia, Kliff’s Edge, and Akumu Love Panic!) fits into this curious little sub-genre. And why is it a sub-genre? Why, when the queer characters in these stories are having the same kind of adventures as such famous characters as Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and Buffy Summers? How can we make queer lit not a sub-genre of a sub-genre? By publishing more queer lit stories! The problem? Many publishers aren’t interested, and that includes many LGBT publishers.

Then I heard on Twitter of this really cool, amazing project. Vitality!

Vitality Magazine is meant to be a Queer Lit zine that focuses on stories with gay characters. Not erotic vignettes. Not coming-out-stories. Not dramas focusing on the struggle of the gay identity. Just…stories. Such a publication is VITAL in proving to publishers (and even readers) that Queer Lit is worthwhile. That it can be enjoyed by a universal audience if people just gave it a chance.

The goals of Vitality Magazine, as listed on their website–

The heart of Vitality can be broken up into five parts:

  • Positive portrayal of queerness
  • Casual integration of queerness into the lives of our characters
  • Interesting works of art and writing
  • Quality works of art and writing
  • Diversity is wonderful

So pardon the long introduction, but I wanted to share why I think this thing is (personally) so important. Why I pledged $100 to help get this magazine out to the world. And I hope that you support it too, for all that I’ve said. They are currently accepting submissions for their first issue early 2015, and entries must be sent by December 15th. They are accepting fiction, art, poetry, and comics!

If you still aren’t sold, you can give Vitality’s minizine a shot. It’s essentially a sample of what they intend to do!

Visit Vitality Magazine’s Kickstarter campaign!

Visit their official website!

And while you’re at it…

Please check out my new lesbian fantasy romance novel, Tributaries, on Smashwords!

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Elmiryn’s Wisdom…Wait, What?

For those of you who read my free online serial, Eikasia, you’re very familiar with one of the main characters: Elmiryn!

She’s arrogant, brash, and has (what one reader called) a controversial sense of humor.

But if there is one thing that Elmiryn is not, that’s stupid. She may not be the most book smart, that’s for her co-star, Nyx, to brag. No, what Elle has got is an ability to see outside of the box. Now what she does with that knowledge isn’t always tactful, but there’s a reason she was a dragoon captain. Dragoons took on the dangerous missions, the suicidal missions. But she survived every time without a scratch. Why? Because she observes things most can’t even bring themselves to, and it’s that kind of thinking that led her to her surprisingly pragmatic quote in Eikasia’s very first chapter (which she then repeated numerous times throughout the Eikasia epic):

“You can’t shame me for working off my  prejudices–everyone on this world needs a way to react to something new and mysterious if they wanna keep from getting overwhelmed.”

Elmiryn is aware of her own prejudices, and she’s prepared to shed these views if she’s presented a convincing alternative. She will not let others shame her for failing to see what she could not have seen before.

Which sort of brings me, finally, to what I really wanted to talk about today.

As you guys know, I’ve been trying to promote Kliff’s Edge (which you should check out btw!) with tweets, posts, and other tactics. Well, as I’ve stated numerous times on my Twitter account, this is for a school project, and the more response I get, the better results I’ll be able to use for my class final a little over a week from now. Though it would take time to get the approvals (or rejections) I decided to submit Kliff’s Edge to different directories and listings that I thought might accept the series. One of these was an LGBT website (I won’t say which) that has listed my other works in the past.

Now…the funny thing was, I anticipated a certain level of doubt about Kliff’s Edge, because May, the main character, is genderqueer (AKA trigender). That means that in all areas of her life, whether at work, at school, on the toilet, or having sex with another person, she never considers herself a man OR a woman. This is gender identity, and science has shown that sexual orientation and gender are two different things in the human brain. This is a fact that can be seen with transexuals as well. For instance, a person born a man but who wishes to be a woman may still prefer women through the transitioning process (effectively making their orientation, lesbian). Many cisgenders do not know this can happen. I think the LGBT community has progressed in terms of understanding transexuals, but many trans still report discrimination within the community about such things. So given all of this knowledge, I was totally aware that there could be some resistance to the idea of Kliff’s Edge fitting in this LGBT directory.

The response I got? Still surprised me. A lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten used to speaking to people who understand that gender identity and orientation are two different things, but to hear this from a fellow LGBT person was just…wow! It was just a harsh reminder that sometimes we’re not all on the same page.

…And that’s okay! So long as we change.

The response from the listing owner was basically expressing concerns over my attempt to place May in the “lesbian” category because she doesn’t see herself as a woman. They asked what she considered herself when with a sexual partner. They said that lesbian readers had expectations when perusing their lesbian listings and so if May was thinking (read behaving) as a man too much, they would be alienated.

In as non-threatening and patient a tone I could manage, I proceeded to type out my response, explaining that gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing. That May is not trans. She was born with female genitalia and she likes it. She does not “sometimes” thinks she’s a man or a woman. She’s just May. Trigender. Genderqueer.

I then went on to provide examples of how looking or behaving masculine was not a foreign thing in the lesbian community, as not all butches are trans. That androgynous women, whether more masculine or more feminine, had a place too.

See, what the site owner was doing was seeing gender roles and biological sex as inseparable things. As they saw it, May saying she’s not a woman was denying her sex, and therefor (psychologically) she could not be a lesbian.

I’ve already sent my response to the site owner, and I hope that they accept Kliff’s Edge to their listing, but if not? I’ll be…disappointed, but not angry. The entire time I wrote my response email, I was thinking of Elmiryn, and her view on prejudices. Some people simply do not encounter things like genderqueer, and so they don’t know all the facts about them, or that they are a diverse subgroup all their own. Hell can you blame them? I remember feeling isolated in my hometown in California, and I lived 2 hours from San Francisco! People get exposed to different things in different ways at different times of their lives. I even remember a time I got irritated with my husband for thinking all transexuals were gay. It was simple naivety on his part. It’s only now that I realize that was unfair to get upset with him. He’d never heard of the things I’d heard of. And that’s why dialogue is important…with everybody. (Of course, when a person still chooses to disregard facts when presented a series of conclusive arguments, it’s safe to call them an asshole. You just can’t give up on the first try!)

I’d end this by saying, if only we had more Elmiryn’s in the world, but who wants to deal with so many bad drunks?

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