Category Archives: M/M

On writing (cisgender male) gay romance and Strong Female Characters

image by Jason Chan

image by Jason Chan

I just got the novel edits for Labyrinthian (my tropey gay retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur IN SPAAAAACE), which is a tad overwhelming – there is much work to be done, though most of it is cosmetic – but also exciting, because I love this book and I’m looking forward to getting it in tip-top shape for its release this coming January. My editor is a lovely person and graciously takes the time to make sure I know what she really likes – which always feels good – and she mentioned that she appreciated how many of the women in Labyrinthian are in positions of power and protection. That was very conscious on my part, because I try very hard to make my stuff rich in terms of diversity and positive representation, but it reminded me of a dilemma I ran into more than once while I was writing the book itself. It’s an interesting one, and it’s one I’ve had to deal with before. I suppose a lot of people who write this kind of gay romance have done so.

My two protagonists/kissy-face participants, Taur and Theseus, are cisgender men. The story is – at least in significant part – the story of their relationship, so they’re both very much the center of the book, and they are the only POV characters. Which means that Labyrinthian, simply by virtue of what it’s about, is going to be very male-focused. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing all of the time, but looking at the structure of my book and the characters in it, I realized that – given how much I care about making my SF diverse and also feminist – I needed to make sure they weren’t the only ones getting significant screen-time, and that they weren’t the only characters with depth.

So I made a lot of my other characters women. Most of my other major secondary characters are women. Phae, Theseus’s ex, is a queer woman of color. And yes, these women are physically strong, self-reliant, smart, competent, sexually independent. Yet all of those things have been used by writers to argue for their work being feminist, leading to the trope of the Strong Female Character.

And the problem with the Strong Female Character is that she’s a cardboard cut-out. She’s there to do a thing, not be a person with all the strengths and weaknessness and complexities that a person has. She might be able to beat you up, but odds are she won’t hold your interest. And in her way, she’s just as sexist a construct as the fainting flower who exists purely to be rescued by the dudely hero. She’s still there to be a Female Character, not a character who’s female.

What makes a strong character? It’s not physical strength. It’s not even necessarily attractive attributes. Consider, oh, 90% of the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire – most of them are at least sort of terrible people who have done many terrible things, and they lie and cheat and stab each other in the back, and some of them are outright cowards, but a lot of them are interesting. They’re strong characters because – at their best – they feel real.

An actual strong female character is real. I’ve seen it reframed as “strong character, female” and I like that a lot.

So I was putting the women in Labyrinthian in important, powerful positions, because I wanted them front and center as much as possible. But I knew that wasn’t going to be enough. I had to make Phae interesting, and I had to do it on her own terms. And I had to pack as much character development for her as I could into a story where she’s not the focus. I had to do the same for the others who show up, some of whom aren’t there for long. I had to at least try. I owed it to them, and I owed it to myself.

I’m not sure if I was entirely successful – I think I did all right, but I’ve learned that readers are very often better judges of that than authors are – but I hope I did. I love the women in Labyrinthian just as much as I love Taur and Theseus, and I hope that love comes through. I hope you enjoy them, even the ones you only meet briefly. I know they’re looking forward to meeting you.

Line and Orbit sequel news!

The news is that I’m rewriting it. Almost completely. Not going back through and changing some scenes around, not making some major adjustments. I mean I’m scrapping what I have and starting almost entirely from scratch. With the exception LineandOrbitof one subplot, and a few characters, it’s going to be a totally different book.

There are a number of reasons why I’m doing this. Some of it is that, on further consideration, there are  a number of aspects of Fall and Rising as the current version stands that simply don’t work as well as they could. I took on a lot in that book, and I’m not confident that I pulled all of it off as well as I might have. I’m not averse to failure, even in public, but it’s something that I also see no reason not to avoid if at all possible. A lot of Fall and Rising is uncomfortable, and I’m not convinced that all of it is uncomfortable in a good way.

Another reason is money. I want to sell this book and I want to get paid.

I haven’t had any luck finding a publisher for it as it is. This is a problem, and the problem is compounded by the fact that it’s a sequel, not a standalone novel. It’s also much bleaker than Line and Orbit, and while I love and value my bleak writing – my short fiction can be just brutal a lot of the time – I’m not sure that bleak is the right tone for this series. I don’t believe that sequels have to perfectly match their predecessors in tone, but I also don’t believe that they should be vastly different.

So while I dearly love Fall and Rising and while I’ve very proud of huge chunks of it, it’s going into the proverbial drawer and something else is happening. I view this as a learning experience. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I don’t think the effort I put into it was wasted. It just isn’t going to be what I thought it was.

The takeaway is that this never stops being an educational process.

So, as of right now, here are the things (I think) I know about this new version of the next chapter of Line and Orbit:

  • The focus is back on Adam and Lochlan. I love Eva and Kyle, and I think they’ll be showing up in a major way, but Adam and Lochlan were among the primary things that people seemed to fall in love with in the first book, and I think it makes sense to stick with them. That means that this is back to being primarily “M/M” (scare quotes because I am still not 100% comfortable with that categorical marker). There are a number of reasons why I think this is a Good Thing on the whole.
  • It’s not going to be as goddamn bleak. I think a lot of bad things will still happen, but not nearly to the degree that they were happening in the first version of the book.
  • Spoiler alert: For those of you who’ve read my story in Hellebore and Rue, you may see some familiar faces. I’m really pleased about this, and I’m happy that I’m doing this rewrite if only because I get to circle back around in that way.
  • Nkiruka, the would-be replacement for Ixchel, is still in the game.
  • The villain remains the same guy with  the same characterization. Because I love his perfect face.
  • It does essentially the same job as the first version. That is, setting up the third and final book in the series, in essentially the same way. We end at basically the same place, we’re just getting there by a very different route.

So that’s where things currently stand. I’ve started work on it and I don’t expect to blast through it nearly as fast as Labyrinthian (which takes place in the same ‘verse so will hopefully act as an appetite whettener), so we’re ideally talking a finished MS by the end of January at the latest. I’m also supposed to be writing Rookwar, the third book in the Casting the Bones trilogy, so Fall and Rising may get pushed back depending on what my priorities end up being. Oh, yeah, I’m also theoretically writing a doctoral dissertation. So there’s that.

Anyway, for those who are interested, them’s the haps.

OMG GUESS WHAT TIME IT IS

Well, as I write this, my computer clock says it’s 11:48 PM, which isn’t of any special significance EXCEPT that it means that Line and Orbit’s day-of-release is minutes away (!!!!!!).

IT ALSO MEANS that there are now just about 24 hours left to enter to win a free copy. DO IT

I swear, I’d be dancing if I wasn’t so tired and if I didn’t have to teach at 8 AM.

WIP Wednesday: Untitled Dystopian Queer Angel(?) Novel

I’ve censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet–a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/14157/uncensor

I’m █████ to ████ █████ the ████ █████ I’m ███████ on. I ████, it █████ █████-██████. We’ll see.

██████ I ████: I ████ it’s set in a █████████ ████████ ██████. I ████ ████ █████’s a █████ of █████ █████ ████████ ████████████. I ████ my ████ ██████████ are █████ █████–a man ████ a ███████ ██████████ who has ████ ████████ ████ a ██████████ and who has ███████ to ████ █████ the █████████–and ███████–a man ████ a ██████ ██████, a ██████████ ████, and ██████████ ██████, who █████ to ███████ ████ he is an ███████████ of St. ███████ █████████. I ████ ████ █████ and ███████ ████ ██████████ ████ a █████. I ████ ████ the ████ █████ not ████ ██████ █████ ███████ ████████████ but ██████ the ███████ of a ████████ █████████ █████ to ███████ a █████ to █████████ the ██████████.

██████ I don’t ████: ███████ or not ███████ ██████ is an █████. ███████ or not █████’s ██████ is one of the ████ ████. ███████ or not █████ ████ be a █████ ██████.

█████ I ████ all of ████ out, ████ a █████.

– – –

He ████ ███████ the ████, ███████ his █████ ███████ it, ██████ ████ ████ and ██████ ███████ ████ and █████████ on. He no ██████ ██████████ how ████ he had ████ ███████.

█████ he had ███████ ████ the dog-man, █████ had ████ a █████ ████ of ████████ and ███████████ █████. ████ had ████ the ████, and for a ██████ █████ he had ██████ ████ ████. █████ was █████████ █████ the █████ ██████, so █████████ ████ the ██████ and ██████████ █████ ████ he had ████ all ██████ him, the ████ ███████ in the █████ █████. The █████ had ████ a ██████ ████…

████.

And he had ██████ in it, ████████ █████ in the ██████ of an ████████ █████ ████ █████, ██████ █████ ███████ ████ his ████ ████, ████ ██████ up to the sky and his ████ ██████. █████. ████. █████ ████ ████ ██████. He ██████████ ████ ████.

████ a ██████ and the █████ of ███████ █████████ ██████ him, and the ███████ of ██████ had ████████. The █████ ██████ him ███████. He was ██████ █████.

████ or █████ he █████ a █████ ████ ██████ to him ████ the █████ did, and █████████ in him ████████ him ████ the █████ was █████ and the █████ was ███████, and he ███████ and ████ ███████ ████ █████ and ██████ his ████ ██████ ███████ as his ████ was ███████ ████ ███████. He was ███████████ █████, █████████ and █████████ ██████ ████ ███████ a ████. ████████ █████. ██████ ████ was so █████ to ██████, ████ ████ was so █████ to ████.

████ was not ████. ████ was a ████ ██████ of it. He ███████ ████ and ██████ on, ██████ ███████ ███████, ███████ ██████ ██████████.

Why was he ████? █████ had he ████ ████? It ████ a ████ for the █████████ to ████ to him—to ████ ████████ █████████ as █████ as the ████ of his █████████—but ████ ████ ████ ████ ████ █████████, ██████████ to ██████, and ██████ by a ████████ █████████ ████ █████████ █████ ████ ███████. ████ he █████ ████ ████ ████. By ████ the █████ was ████████ and far ████ ████████, no ██████ █████████ to ████ in. █████ was ███████ his ████. He ███████ in a ████ █████ of ██████ and ██████ his ███████ █████ ███████ the █████ of his ████ and █████████.

He ████’t ████ why, █████ all ██████, he ██████ be ███████ ███████████.

Uncensor This

Love for saaaaaale–ebook re-release!

So a little while ago, my erotic dystopian Torquere Sip “We Are Such Stuff” went out of print and the rights reverted to me. It’s definitely not the best story I’ve ever written, but I have a certain fondness for it, so I went back through it, did a little editing and made a few minor changes, and I’m re-releasing it through Smashwords.

It originally sold for $1.99 but now you can have your very own spiffy DRM-free Smashwords edition in a wide variety of formats for only $.99.

Reyes is bored. A young man in a bleak future city of endless rain, he finds his entertainment in packed clubs, one-night stands, and the occasional drug. But when a mysterious young man catches his eye, he is led on a chase through a nighttime world of dreams and dreamers, a chase that could end in frustration… or a new kind of pleasure.

[HEY WHY DON’T YOU BUY ME]

And have an excerpt.

Continue reading

Icarus #7 – Now on sale

Winter, like all seasons, is a time of transformation. Glittering frost appears on windows overnight. Can you feel the chill in the air?

This issue has several stories that will contribute to your shivers, of delight and dread. Hauntology is a genre of music that combines voices from obsolete recording technology with modern electronics.

“Lonesome Road,” by Matt Cheney, is almost a literary version of hauntology, a different kind of ghost story—postmodern, but chilling all the same. Distant voices also play a role in Sunny Moraine’s “The Shapes of Shadows,” a mysterious tale of alien technology. Esoteric knowledge, lust and revenge spill through the pages of Alejandro Omidsalar’s “Abbadon’s First Rule,” a tale of horror and black comedy. And “Bargain Books” asks the question, is invisibility a blessing or a curse for gays? “Blue Moon,” this issue’s poem, shows that mothers don’t always know best. Plus an interview with Hal Duncan.

[click to buy]

You can preview the issue at the link above and it looks great. I’m really excited to read what else is in there. Plus, it just looks pretty, doesn’t it? It’s also a couple dollars off the regular list price, so pick up a copy while that lasts.

The story in question was a lot of fun to write. Most of what I write is fun in one way or another–I wouldn’t do it if that weren’t the case–but this one was a little different in that it contains some twists and turns that actually surprised me a bit as I was writing. The alien technology in particular took some thinking around corners; I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to work or how it was going to tie all the themes together until the idea of shadows came to me, the transient quality of light coupled with the near-eternal nature of stars… though, as Gordon dreams, even stars have lives, and even those lives come to an end.

I was also taken with the idea of technology that was at once profoundly ancient and profoundly advanced, that blended technology and culture in ways that can’t be untangled, and that contained flavors of what we on Earth would recognize from dead civilizations, while still being deeply alien.

Finally, I was thinking about how we all want to leave things behind that will long-outlast us. Monoliths, words carved into stone, enormous shapes in the landscape that can only be seen from high in the air, and the dangerously ephemeral nature of our own increasingly digital record-keeping. What do we remember? How do we remember it? If we forget or vanish, who does our remembering for us?

Enjoy.

Attn: CHEAP-ASS BOOKS

Fictionwise is having a 50% off sale through the end of today. Use coupon code “blackfriday2010” at checkout.

Books I wrote/am in that you can get there:

Hieros (m/m fantasy)

Like a Thorn – “That Wicked Witchcraft” (m/f/f menage)

Like a Long Road Home – “Neither Bird Nor Tree” (m/m post-apocalypse)

Like a Veil – “Catch & Release” (m/f science fiction)

Queerpunk – “Upload” (f/f science fiction)