Catching up with myself on gay YA

This has been a rough week, and it’s not over yet — just a lot of personal and day job stuff going on. But also a little bit of professional stuff, which I’ve caught only the narrowest edge of since, hey, rough week. Not much time for internets.

Still, I’ve been trying to follow the whole controversy that’s been going down the past few days regarding gay characters in YA. If you weren’t aware or haven’t been following it — here’s a good roundup — it’s basically the same kind of discussion we periodically have in SFF about the presence and treatment of characters of color, or women, or disabled folks, or whoever. Someone (two someones in this case) notices a problem and calls it out. The people who perpetuated the problem, rather than asking what went wrong and listening for possible solutions, instead react badly,* attacking the caller-outers. Hilarity, by which I mean a shitstorm of epic proportions, ensues.

I have not followed this as closely as I should, but today I just saw this fantastic interview with author Nicola Griffith, in which she relates her own experiences with agents, readers, etc., when they react to her queer characters. (Then she reads from the novel over which she fired an agent.) It’s funny, but listen closely. She’s describing how the roadblocks of this industry work. No one ever says, “I hate gay people and I’m going to try and prevent you from publishing anything that features them in a positive way.” Instead, it’s passive-aggressive questions like, “But why does she have a girlfriend?” And so on.

Go listen. And listen to the excerpt of the book. I’m going to have to check that one out myself, when I get some free time to read again.

*Because as many have pointed out, we live in a world full of bigotry but no bigots. No one wants to claim their own little slice of the Contributing to the Problem pie, even though everyone should get a little.

5 Responses »

  1. Thanks for the link to the roundup. I had only seen the first post and the “rebuttal”. It’s very frustrating how quick people are to jump on the bandwagon of “See, we don’t really have a problem.” ‘Cause we do…

  2. Been talking to other reviewers about this. Several don’t read YA and are worrying that this happens in the genres they like too. Very upsetting.

  3. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years wondering how endemic this attitude is and have been following this little maelstorm with interest. I don’t write YA, but in my world there’s a race of beings who, well, saying they switch bodies is too simplistic, but that’s the gist of it. At any rate, whatever gender they’re currently wearing, they’ve been both, and as a race they are all bi-sexual. I put off writing these characters and their series for a long time because I honestly didn’t think there was a chance it could be published.

    I finally decided to write it for my own sake, and was pleased enough with the results that I’m now trying to fix some second-act-pacing issues with the idea of shopping it around. I’m also working on the sequel. I still don’t know if it will ever sell, or can be sold — setting aside issues of quality and my inexperience and so forth — but I decided I’m willing to try because I believe in the characters and the story.

    So I was disappointed to see this story hit, but not particularly suprised. It makes me wonder how many brilliant stories (not saying mine is “brilliant” – I can’t judge that – but other, hypothetical stories) are out there going unwritten because writers are shrugging mental shoulders and figuring that they may as well concentrate on more marketable work, i.e., Things We’ve All Seen Before and Will Not Make Anyone Uncomfortable.

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