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Thread: On LGBT main character

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  1. #11
    practical experience, FTW Tazlima's Avatar
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    Jun 2013
    Quote Originally Posted by lizmonster View Post
    While this is a great line, too many recent events have proven this to be entirely false. There's a fairly vocal (but, I keep believing, small) contingent of SFF fandom that wants Adventurous Heterosexual White Boys In Space (and/or With Dragons And Submissive Women), full stop, and anything else is PC rubbish.

    I'm trying to articulate what's bothering me about bits of this thread. I don't think anybody's intending to say this, but there's an undertone here and there of "it's OK to write queer characters as long as you're not too loud about it" with varying (subjective) definitions of "too loud."

    And I don't think that's necessarily what people mean to be saying. But it strikes me a bit like someone saying "Watch it when you write about folks from Wisconsin, because it'll come across as message fiction." Because queer people are, and including them in a book, even as (gasp!) a main character, shouldn't be any different than any other character decision.

    Of course I realize it is, because of the world we currently live in. And I'm a big proponent of sensitivity readers if you're delving into a character who is enough Not You that you're concerned about missing the subtleties. But explicit inclusion of non-majority/non-culturally-dominant characters is no more a political statement than not including them.

    It's really interesting that you interpreted the comments that way, because I interpreted them quite differently, and now I'm wondering if I misunderstood something, or (if you're younger than me) perhaps it's a generational difference.

    I guess it comes down to your perception of "message fiction." Message fiction has its place in the market, but for a long time, it felt like it was the ONLY place you could look to find a bit of diversity. Look at picture books for example. When I was a kid, POC were starting to appear in PBs, but the majority still featured images of white children. And when I DID see picture books that had a dark-skinned child on the cover, seems like nine times out of ten it was specifically about that character's cultural heritage.

    Now there's nothing wrong with books about different cultures. They're interesting and informative, and they certainly have their place on the bookshelf. But where was the picture book about a hispanic child going to the dentist for the first time? Where was the picture book about a black child who can't find his teddy bear? Stories about small, everyday things, or even crazy things? I don't recall seeing any POC in the works of Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss. I don't remember any POC in the Ramona books or the works of E.B. White, or Roald Dahl, or most of the other authors I loved growing up. (I'm not saying there weren't any at all... I haven't read those stories in years and memories are funny things, but if they were there, I don't remember them).

    No, the only way a child could be black was if the story was set in Africa. Hispanic children only appeared in PB versions of Mexican folktales. They were segregated into "message fiction," and LBGT characters weren't on the radar at all.

    As depressing as it was that POC were relegated to this one corner of the market, it was a good and beneficial thing, because it was a foot in the door (a door which still isn't open like it ought to be, but that's another conversation). If you're being squashed into a corner and are fighting to free yourself, you have to push HARD. You can't just be a Hispanic child going about a normal day, you have to be a Hispanic child doing Hispanic things.

    Look at the show Will and Grace. An awful lot of the premise of the series (especially in the earlier seasons) boiled down to "Will is gay. See how gay he is?" And it NEEDED to do that, because people needed that first hard push to accept that, "OMG! This kind of person exists, and can be likeable!" It's like giving a toddler their first bite of a new food, and they fight it because it's new and unfamiliar, so you shove it in their mouth and they make a bunch of weird faces and eventually it hits them... "wait... this is good."

    Now I see modern depictions of same-sex relationships, and often I can only admire how far we've come. Modern creators don't need to fear that daring to make a character gay will get them cancelled (as happened with "Ellen"), and they have an audience that's grown up in the midst of the fight for LBGT rights. Compare that with my parent's generation, who were raised without being told homosexuality even existed. Modern writers have a much more savvy audience from day one.

    The ability to create nuanced LBGT characters is a hard-won luxury that earlier writers simply didn't have. The gay person no longer has to spend every scene going "I'm gay, I'm gay, see how gay I am?" They still CAN, and if the story is focused on the character's experiences as an LGBT individual, there's nothing wrong with that. There will always be a place for stories about specific life experiences, but that's no longer the only option.

    So when I see people saying, "careful not to fall into the 'message fiction' trap," I don't see people saying, "message fiction is bad," and I certainly don't see anyone saying "LBGT characters shouldn't be TOO LBGT." I see them saying, "we have the luxury of making them more than just "the gay one," so let's take advantage of that and make sure we're writing fully realized characters that are more than just their sexuality or the color of their skin.

    I dunno if this makes any sense, and I'm out of time and have to go, so Imma post it and come back to reread later.
    Last edited by Tazlima; 07-18-2017 at 03:19 AM.
    "One of the hardest things to do, I think, is learn to trust your own creativity." - Ambrosia

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