nuclear sporks and grumble mail

dude_the is here for our traditional Superbowl Sunday festivities. Yay! His plane was delayed due to weather, so he got in quite late, which might explain the slightly punch drunk conversation had during the car ride from the MARTA station. Banter revolving around the state of the world resulted in him suggesting that an “automatic sporker” was needed, which then led to discussion of the feasibility of a “nuclear spork” (spork of mass destruction?). I was, and remain, inordinately amused. Spork the world! Mwa ha ha haaa!

   


Writing Stuff

I got my first hate (e)mail today. Well, actually, that’s way too harsh. It’s really not hate mail–unless hate mail’s a lot more civilized and courteous than I’ve been led to believe. There was no name calling or swearing. I think it’s more accurate to call it “grumble mail” or perhaps “somewhat-aggravated mail.”

I’ve got strong views on a number of controversial issues, and my beliefs tend to make an appearance in the fiction I write–theme and content-wise. So the part of my brain that braces for unpleasantness while the rest of me goes bopping about, oblivious and optimistic, has been busily stacking sandbags, collecting canned goods, and making sure there are extra batteries for the flashlights. It’s been preparing my psyche for this moment, with fortifications started as soon as I began having some success publishing-wise, accelerated into frenzied duck-and-cover mode once my more thoughtful work started seeing print.

Suffice it to say I’m not staggered, speechless, or spooked.

However, I am perplexed. Not because I received correspondence from a dissatisfied reader (can’t please everyone, and it was only a matter of time before someone felt compelled to type up an email letting me know how much they didn’t like something I wrote), but because it had never occurred to me that this particular story would be the one to elicit reader ire. It wasn’t the one with the drug use, or the sympathy-for-the-devil-with-undertones-of-free-love tale, or even the treatise on the existence of God (as put forth by a penguin balloon animal). And it wasn’t any of my fiction that touches upon squeamish issues like incest, the morality of vengeance, euthanasia, homelessness, rape, religion, and children’s rights. It wasn’t even any of the erotic horror tales I’ve penned that contain some extremely squicky naughty bits. The story that abraded someone enough to voice their displeasure? My tongue-in-cheek macabre humor fluff piece. I got my first grumble mail from Escape Pod‘s podcast of “My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie,” a story utterly lacking anything that even remotely resembles a theme

Huh.

My anti-fan–I’ll call her “C”–took issue with what she considered my negative portrayal of lesbians.

For the record, it was not my intention to offend or otherwise nettle, provoke, or aggrieve any lesbians, or cast any negative aspersions whatsoever on non-straight sexual orientations and relationships. My sincere apologies to anyone who found “My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie” anti-gay.

But, okay, here’s the thing. C was piqued because the zombie lesbian in question slept with a man at some point in my tale, and that my narrator still refers to her as a “lesbian” and not “bi.” Granted, I’ve never quite got the hang of labels; they typically leave me blinking in the dust. But according to both the Human Sexuality class I took in college (admittedly ages and ages ago) as well as my own first-hand, interpersonal experiences, a large percentage of straight folks experiment with same-sex relationships (especially in college, for e.g.) and yet still consider themselves “straight” and not “bi.” Likewise, there’s a number of gay folks who experiment with different-sex relationships and who still consider themselves “gay” and not “bi.” So labelwise, I don’t get why a lesbian having an affair with a guy is cause for dissidence. My take on the matter is that you love who you love, whatever their physiological composition is, and screw the labels.

Not to mention “My Friend is a Bi-Sexual Zombie” doesn’t have the zing that “My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie” does.

C also thought my portrayal of lesbians in general was negative–the main one in question being a zombie and therefore having many disagreeable traits that are part and parcel of walking deadhood, but also her romantic interest who is a goth-type with necrophile tendencies. Yet, I thought my characterization of the lesbian characters was leaps and bounds more positive than that of the straight characters–one of whom is a psychotic serial killer and the other is a shallow, borderline neurotic with profoundly skewed priorities, overly preoccupied with the state of her worldly possessions.

Regardless, I wasn’t trying to make a statement; my goal was to write a funny story. I’m there at the front of the “humor is hard to write” line, waving my “I wish I could write funny” placard, so I’ll just nod and acknowledge that I missed C’s funny bone, alas.

Hey, does that mean I’m controversial now? Another milestone, woohoo!

Except the part of me prepping for psychological/emotional cataclysm and disaster is scratching her head, inventorying the pile of unused sandbags and putting away all the cans of vegetarian baked beans, with a bemused and somewhat put out air. I think I’m going to need to placate her by watching CNN for an hour or so . . . or subject myself to a re-run or analysis/commentary of George W’s State of the Nation speech. That should mollify her.

Shameless plug:
My signing with Aberrant Dreams is tomorrow. Details:
Date: Saturday, February 4th, 2006
Time: 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Place: Oxford Comics & Games 2855 Piedmont Rd NE; Atlanta, GA 30305-2767; (404) 233-8682

Swing by, say “hi,” I’ll sign anything. Or come and protest my portrayal of lesbian zombies.

Received:
- 92-day FYI from OSC’s Intergalactic Medicine Show: “apologies for the long delay . . . your story did make it through the first cut, and will now be passed on to Mr. Card to read and make a final decision.” Another month, or two . . . or more to engage in nail-biting before the final verdict.
- 15-day “this is a form rejection” from Son and Foe. Is it me, or have rejection notes gotten kind of weird recently? This one actually says: “As you may have noticed, this is a form rejection.” *blink* Okaaay.

New Words: 700 on the Japanese Demon Hunter story.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
4,642 / 6,000
(77.4%)

Club 100 For Writers
      4

500/day
      3

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32 Responses to nuclear sporks and grumble mail

  1. teratologist says:

    I hope my first grumble-mail is that amusing.

  2. Wow, I think that’s pretty cool that you got hate mail. It’s got to be some sort of rite of passage for a writer. Er… congrats! hehe :p

    And good luck at the reading!

  3. For the second time today, I am reminded: people who expect offense/discrimination/etc. tend to find it, even where it doesn’t exist. It’s human nature. Oh, well.

    I wonder what your anti-fan would think of a certain story we have under serious consideration right now.

    I don’t think I’ll be able to make your signing, but good luck, and have fun!

  4. coolmajaka says:

    Your I’ll sign anything comment reminds me of one of Kinky Friedman’s political tag lines: “I’ll sign anything but bad legislation.” Click the hyperlink to watch the talking doll political ads — including one called “I’ll Sign Anything” — they’re frickin’ hysterical.

    Of course, the Kinkster is also a successful mystery novelist (NYT BS list) and former lead singer for Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, so one can only hope he’ll be Texas next governor.

  5. neo_prodigy says:

    re: alienating sexual orientations

    let me just say that for the record you’re absolutely right in that there are plenty of gays and lesbians who occassionally have an indiscretion with someone of the opposite sex and still identify themselves as gay or lesbian and not bi.

    as far as that and the negative characterizations you’re accused of, it sounds like the person in question is channeling her own issues onto your story.

    if she really wants to find a negative portrayal of lesbians to gripe about, have her watch the l-word.

  6. jimhines says:

    The gay/lesbian vs. bi can be a very touchy line for some of the folks within those communities. I heard similar complaints about the movie Chasing Amy. My outsider’s perspective is that it feels like a cheapening of identity, if that makes sense.

  7. Is it me, or have rejection notes gotten kind of weird recently? This one actually says: “As you may have noticed, this is a form rejection.” *blink* Okaaay.

    Hmm. Unusual…

    I have to wonder what writers are saying about TTD’s rejection letters… they’re all over the map, really.

  8. albionidaho says:

    Honestly, I thought your treatment of lesbians was just fine, no gripe here.

    Your treatment of zombies, however… I can’t tell you how much that offended me.

    *grin*

    Good luck at the reading.

    *sneaks out the back*

  9. lizziebelle says:

    Sounds like this person was just looking for something to be offended about. Like the folks who said there was a war on Christmas because some stores said “Happy Holidays.” Find something real to be upset about, folks! ;)

  10. yukinooruoni says:

    Silly “C”!

    You can be gay/lesbian/straight and still experiment a few times with the other side to see what it’s like, WITHOUT being Bi.

    Obviously, “C” doesn’t understand that being called something doesn’t mean you are 100% that. Silly widget.

    • ex_girlmech says:

      No, but what “C” is saying is that it’s a stereotype that is damaging to lesbians and frustrates the lot of us. In a way, it’s like having a black character REALLY LOVE watermelon. It can be tongue in cheek, but that doesn’t mean the average person isn’t going to refrain from construing it in a racist light.

      • yukinooruoni says:

        I understand that, but “C” is wrong. If anything, HER idea is stereotyping lesbians. People are people. We’re always curious about “the other side”. Even my staunchest lesbian friends have been at least curious about sex with a guy, even if they’ve never followed through with it. It’s not at all unreasonable to think a lesbian might try a guy or two to see either if she’s missing something, or if she’s wondering “am I really gay or am I straight?”.

        I’d say those people who don’t wonder are very much in the minority.

        • ex_girlmech says:

          Her idea is not stereotyping lesbians. Her idea is to STOP the stereotyping of lesbians as women that will eventually give it up for the right guy. Perhaps when people are more progressive it’ll be possible that what Eugie wrote would not be an issue, but I can tell you that right now – AS A LESBIAN – that a vast people consistently assume that “the right man” would make me change my mind. Read my other comment for an expanded commentary, it’s a bit below yours. :)

          • yukinooruoni says:

            “that a vast people consistently assume that “the right man” would make me change my mind”

            Yup. Even not as a lesbian, I hear that a lot, so I can only imagine how many times you hear it.

            I just don’t think that a lesbian sleeping a with a guy automatically falls into this category. I think there are perfectly non-stereotypically valid reasons for this.

  11. aimeempayne says:

    Hey! We’re both in the “Passed Up to OSC” club! I’ll be rooting for you.

  12. basletum says:

    Sheesh. You’d think the hint at necrophilia would be more offensive than whether or not a character was labeled “Lesbian” or “Bi-”. Um, “C” does know that almost everybody loves Lesbians, doesn’t she?

    I have been wondering, though. If said corpse is a walking, talking zombie, then is it really necrophilia since it’s not fully dead? And if it is, wouldn’t that apply to vampires as well? And if it applies to vampires, then wouldn’t that mean a lot of people are, in fact, closet necrophiliacs, what with the popularity of vampire fiction and all?

    Gee, some of my pondering scares even me!

  13. keesa_renee says:

    :grins: Don’t worry. Sooner or later, you’re bound to need all those sandbags and baked beans. It’s a cruel world, after all! ;-)

    I don’t have the guts to try to drive in Atlanta, but I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow! Have fun. :hugs:

  14. ex_girlmech says:

    This is coming from a certified lesbo!

    Okay, to be honest, I don’t care about the portrayl of lesbians for anything – and I repeat ANYTHING – except sleeping with men.

    Thus, I agree with your critic on this point. I understand if it is not your intent and in no way am I accusing you of being homophobic, because you’re obviously not. But if in the story she identifies as a lesbian and then sleeps with a male (and this was not considered a mistake, or made her feel bad, or way in the past before she was experienced) you are further perpetuating the stereotype that all of us have to live through. Especially us girly ones.

    The stereotype in question of course is that ALL LESBIANS WILL SLEEP WITH A MAN if a good enough one comes along. So yes, I completely agree on this front, and even if it was tongue in cheek which I expect it was – most people will take that as a reinforcement of said stereotype, on top of whatever prejudice they had in the first place. It is a somewhat damaging thing to do.

    Just my two cents, here.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Re: This is coming from a certified lesbo!

      But if in the story she identifies as a lesbian and then sleeps with a male (and this was not considered a mistake, or made her feel bad, or way in the past before she was experienced) you are further perpetuating the stereotype that all of us have to live through.

      Actually, the narrator isn’t the lesbian in question, and it is never explicitly stated what Mandy (the zombie) says her sexual orientation is. Also, the narrator mentions that Mandy is “technically bi” in the opening. I really think that ought to have covered my identity crisis bases.

      The stereotype in question of course is that ALL LESBIANS WILL SLEEP WITH A MAN if a good enough one comes along.

      In my story, sleeping with a man is the source of all badness. It is a straight relationship which causes Mandy’s misery and sorrow, and a gay one that turns everything happily ever after. I intentionally made the serial killer male to avoid perpetuating the psychologically disturbed/violent homosexual stereotype.

      I honestly do consider “My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie” to be pro-gay. If you have the time to download and listen to the podcast, I suspect you’ll find it to be far more of a homophobe-bashing tale than anti-lesbian–since the straight narrator is shallow and has profoundly skewed priorities, being overly preoccupied about the state of her worldly possessions. Although her antipathy to Mandy-as-sex-partner could also be interpreted as stemming from Mandy’s undead state rather than her gender.

      Regardless, I didn’t write this story to push an agenda. My goal was to be funny. Or at least entertaining.

      • ex_girlmech says:

        Re: This is coming from a certified lesbo!

        Okay, after hearing that from you, then I’ve no idea what she’s whining about. Ignore her, like you already have. ;)

        (And I’d love to download it but audio books/people talking on the radio really creep me out for some strange reason, I cannot tell you why)

    • sfeley says:

      Re: This is coming from a certified lesbo!

      Coming in late here… Just to make things very clear, because I think Eugie might have been too reserved in explaining her own story: (she’s the author, she has to leave things open to interpretation; I’m the editor, and I don’t) >8->

      But if in the story she identifies as a lesbian and then sleeps with a male (and this was not considered a mistake, or made her feel bad, or way in the past before she was experienced)

      In point of fact, sleeping with a male got her strangled to death. There’s a great deal of dialogue after that in which it is clear that that she considered it a huge mistake, and it definitely made her feel bad — in fact it made her feel dead. (Not that this stopped her from engaging in said dialogue, or achieving happiness in the end. Hooray for happy zombie stories.)

      The stereotype in question of course is that ALL LESBIANS WILL SLEEP WITH A MAN if a good enough one comes along.

      The out for this was stated very explicitly in the story: “Okay, technically Mandy’s bi…”

      The story really wasn’t about lesbians at all. It was about what to do when your best friend knocks on your door and needs help sorting out her sudden undeath. The way I read it was that the sexual tension wasn’t really critical to the plot; it was mostly there for laughs and to make a cool title. My apologies to Eugie if I’ve misread her intentions with that.

      It’s not an especially deep story. And if anyone comes off looking bad in it, it would be:

      A.) straight women (the narrator gets absurdly awkward about the whole thing);
      B.) flaky Neo-Pagans (not the non-flaky ones, but the My Aura Is Shinier Than Your Aura type); and
      B.) men (the only male character in the story is a psycho killer).

      Not that I’m complaining. It was just a fun story. Not much more nor less than that. We’ve had great response from it, and we hope to run more fun stories like this from Eugie again.

      BTW, may I say that I really dig your Pyramid Head avatar? Now I’m going to be stuck with chibi Silent Hill nurse-mannequins running through my head all night…

      (Oh, and Eugie: I’m really sorry I didn’t make the Oxford Comics thing! I’m glad to hear it went well, though. One of these days I’ll run into you again… And if I get any more passes to any more Serenity films you’re tops on my list.) >8->

      • Eugie Foster says:

        Re: This is coming from a certified lesbo!

        The way I read it was that the sexual tension wasn’t really critical to the plot; it was mostly there for laughs and to make a cool title. My apologies to Eugie if I’ve misread her intentions with that.

        No apologies necessary. You totally got what I was going for bulls-eye on the nose.

        we hope to run more fun stories like this from Eugie again.

        Me too!

        Oh, and Eugie: I’m really sorry I didn’t make the Oxford Comics thing!

        I won’t hold it against you . . . this time. Seriously, I’m bummed you couldn’t make it, but I do understand about that whole too busy/no time thing. It blows my mind that you can juggle the raising of a teeny human person, publishing Escape Pod, and working a full-time day job without having your head explode. I’m unemployed and it’s all I can manage, keeping myself from drowning beneath the swelling waves of my things-to-do list.

  15. wolflady26 says:

    This is a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, in the flack of an essay about how anti-feminist the new Battlestar Galactica series is (an opinion that I wholely disagree with). It’s a nasty situation right now, because minorities are underrepresented in the media (I was thinking of gender and race, but sexual orientation fits, too), but any portrayal of a minority character that isn’t 100% positive calls down a rain of criticism. Apparently, only white male (straight) characters are allowed to have character flaws. Which is a shame, because a character without flaws is supremely uninteresting.

    • ex_girlmech says:

      Well, imho, character flaws are one thing, and sexuality-that-doesn’t-fit the label is another… I also agree that people are far too harsh about what is “acceptable”.

      • wolflady26 says:

        I think labels are what you apply to yourself – and the author should be the one who best knows what her character thinks of herself.

        If a character has sex with a guy and still considers herself a lesbian, that’s not a wholesale statement on the nature of lesbianism – it’s a character who may have a different opinion than you do. It’s similar to believing that having a female character perform actions that I disagree with does not indicate that the writer is misogynistic. It just means that I don’t like the character.

  16. cpolk says:

    you’ve got me wondering if making your lesbian a mary sue would have soothed this reader’s savage breast. (though that probably would have sparked grumblemail from somebody else.)

    Hoomans.

  17. dionycheaus says:

    well, now I’m a little worried. I’ve had a story bouncing around in my head for awhile now that I want to write. The character introduced herself to me by stating her sexual orientation. It’s an extremely defining characteristic for her. Yet in the course of the story, she has sex with a guy. Several times. She doesn’t stop to consider whether she is in fact still a lesbian–of course she is, this is never up for discussion. The story is about the powerful friendship she has with this guy, that moves her emotionally, but does not change her.

    Maybe I’m being too complex with my characters. ::bites nails::

    • yukinooruoni says:

      Write it. Those who think any particular orientation is THAT narrow will just have to learn to deal with it. you owe it to yourself and your character.

      • dionycheaus says:

        I thought perhaps so, but in the last critique of another story of mine by admittedly not-very-deep people, they were all bothered by my not-obviously-gendered character. I mean, she was female, but they seemed confused because she didn’t go around saying, “hey, I’m a girl!” all the time. It was weird.

        Thank you for coming down solid on the non-narrow side. And I think your kittens are very cute.

        • Eugie Foster says:

          What said. Definitely. You really don’t want to dumb down your characters so the lowest common denominator will “get it.” If you do, you’re doing yourself and your characters a disservice.

    • Eugie Foster says:

      Maybe I’m being too complex with my characters

      No such of a thing. Characters make a story worth reading. They draw the reader in, and create meaning and context for the plot and theme. The more complex the character, the more interesting and memorable the story.

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