Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
Seanan McGuire

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Okay. Let's not pretend I'm free of bias, shall we?

I just received an email from an anonymous source using the option that Livejournal affords that says "you can send me email if you want to" (and I will be turning that option off now; if you want to reach me, you can use the website contact form and go through my PA, like everyone else). The author didn't sign their name (hence the "anonymous"), and went out of their way to say that the email address used will be invalid in two weeks. I am not reproducing the entirety of the email here, but as points have been raised that I feel are relevant to certain ongoing discussions, I will be reproducing parts of it. I will note that I have printed fan mail, both in parts and its entirety, on this blog before, and that this is not a change of policy.

In order to fairly address certain points raised by my anonymous correspondent, I will need to provide relationship spoilers for some of my works. This includes all currently published books in my three primary series; the "Velveteen vs." short stories, which are available here; and Sparrow Hill Road, which is not currently available, but is a part of the InCryptid universe. To avoid these spoilers, please do not click the cut-tag or read the comments.

The basic gist of the message was, I think, summarized by its opening lines:

"I wanted to make a comment on the article discussing the sexuality of your characters.

First, I have to say that the percentage of characters in your books with 'deviant' sexual behavior is astoundingly high. Honestly, you should write a book about why the future is making people gay, not zombies."

They go on to say that the only relationship in the Newsflesh trilogy that involved two fully heterosexual people was George and Shaun, and that all the others were somehow "deviant." Apart from the fact that I don't believe any form of sexuality that doesn't involve animals or children is deviant, since consenting adults can consent to whatever they like, I'm a little puzzled by this. I mean, this series does include Peter and Emily Ryman, Mahir and Nandini Gowda, Rick and Lisa Cousins, and Michael and Stacy Mason, to name some of the happily married and functionally heterosexual couples in the text. Alaric and Dave are both presented as straight; the fact that they had a thing for bisexual girls does not change the part where they never textually looked at a male character in a sexual way.

Two more quotes from the email:

"You say that your characters are gay just because they are. It seems to me that you fall into the same trap as most people—wanting everybody to be just like them. Why are so many of your characters gay? Because you yourself are bi."


"But get off your high horse. Having gay characters does not make you any more open minded than anyone else. It does not make you special. You don't get a pass to be biased just because you're a minority."

Okay, hang on. How is it "biased" to have some QUILTBAG characters—not even a majority of QUILTBAG characters—in my work? I don't want my characters to be "just like me." I want them to reflect the reality of the world in which I live, a world where yes, there are gay people, and lesbians, and trans people, and cis people, and people of every type you care to name.

Right now, "straight" is viewed as the default in fiction, even as it is in life. I've had people tell me that they were bothered by finding out that January O'Leary (who appeared in the second October Daye book, A Local Habitation) was a lesbian, because it felt like a "retcon" to them, having never come up in her initial appearance. If she said nothing about her sexuality, she was a straight woman. When her widow showed up and said she had been lesbian/bisexual, some people were displeased, not because there was a lesbian in my books, but because it hadn't been "a part of the character" from day one.

Again, a quote:

"You never give straight characters the same chance to talk about their lives as you do gay people."

Toby and Tybalt's flirtation got five books before they hooked up.
Verity and Dominic's relationship was the core of two books.
Shaun and Georgia defined the trilogy.

I'm not sure how much more time I could give to the straight people. But let's go ahead and break it down.

QUILTBAG characters (explicitly, on the page, not straight) in the Toby books:

May Daye
Jasmine Patel
January O'Leary
Li Qin Zhou
The Luidaeg
Elizabeth Ryan

Four lesbians and two bisexuals. The same, in the InCryptid series:

Verity's dance partner, James, and his husband, Dennis
Elsinore Harrington
Carlotta from the Concussion Squad

Two gay men and two lesbians. Newsflesh:

Maggie Garcia
Ellie Riley
Dr. Alexander Kellis
John Kellis

Two bisexuals, two lesbians, and two gay men. Velveteen:

Yelena "Sparkle Bright" Batzdorf
Victoria "Victory Anna" Cogsworth
Carrabelle "The Princess" Miller

Two lesbians and one trans woman.

There's no "deviant sexual behavior" in Sparrow Hill Road, unless you count the fact that Rose Marshall is a) dead (necrophilia) and b) in a committed relationship with a car (auto erotica yay!). So my numbers are actually well below the documented one person in ten that is currently accepted as true. I don't have enough QUILTBAG characters.

The person finished their message by saying:

"I'm not looking to start a dialog with you and I do not wish for you to reply. This account will not even be valid in two weeks. I just wanted to express my frustration at you pretending you are free of bias. We are all biased. He who says he is unbiased is the more ignorant of us all."

Okay. Look.

I do not pretend to be unbiased, okay? I have never claimed to be unbiased. I am as biased as the next girl. When I look at the vast tapestry of human behavior, I think that some shit is cool and some is kinda weird and some is kinda gross. But saying "ninety-nine percent of the characters in fiction are straight white people and that does not accurately reflect the world in which we live" is not showing bias, it's showing a desire to keep my fantasy elements contained to things like dragons and immortal sea witches, not "oh tee hee everyone in San Francisco is totes straight because that's what's normal." I honestly feel that my books are a little straighter than they ought to be, because on the page, in the space that matters, more than nine out of ten characters are straight. So far every "spotlight romance" that's gotten lots of space and attention has been a hetero romance, with the possible exception of Victory Anna and Sparkle Bright.

I'm going to fuck up. I'm going to say and do and write problematic things and need to be called on them. I'm human. Well, I'm the vanguard of an invading race of alien plant people but I currently self-identify as human, so that's close enough. And that is not "showing bias." Writing only curvy blonde bisexual girls would be showing "everyone like me" bias. Writing only straight white men would be showing "I want to be huge in the predominantly white and male climate of today's media" bias. Writing what I write is writing what I love.

If this upsets you, if you can't read me anymore because you might turn a page and run into a guy who likes to touch penises or a girl who likes to touch boobs or some combination thereof, that's okay. I want to sell books and feed my cats, but I'm not here to make anyone unhappy. If reading my "deviant" books makes you unhappy, it's okay to stop.

Because I'm not going to.
Tags: contemplation, cranky blonde is cranky, representation matters, writing

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