Journal Entry 80 / 3262: Necessary Repairs is a Misuko & Linia story set between Honest Response and Honest Question, and introduces a new minor character, a Doctor Swadjtwai, as well as establishes some important character aspects of Linia and Misuko’s relationship that will be challenged in the upcoming Honesty novel coming in January. Really. It’s that close to being done. I just did a copy-edit pass and the plot is good and solid. There are 156 typos in 232 pages (I did say it was a novel), but I’ve got a to-do list and a long weekend coming up, so… we’ll see.

Last night I wrote the two words every writer craves more than any other: THE END. A story that has been on the back-burner for more than seven years finally came together. It went through revisions, so many revisions, so many good ideas that I had to twist, warp, include or discard to get to the point where I had told the story first. For the longest time I had a mass of chapters, scenes, and even just paragraphs that didn’t add up to a single, coherent story, and now they do.

I think.

Because the next step is to re-read the entirety of it and ask myself, “Do I make promises to the reader, and do I keep them?” Because I have a motto for writing novels: The Promise of the Premise conquers The Muddle in the Middle. “The muddle in the middle” is the part of the book between your clever introductions and your brilliant climax where lots of authors get lost and muddle through, trying to put together small points that may or may not lead to the ending.

The promise of the premise is just that. In the opening chapters you make promises about the story, and by the end of the book you’ve either kept or exceeded those promises. If you break your promises, you lose the reader and they won’t come back.

I write smutty, fluffy, often romantic stories set in science fictional worlds, with occasional moments of action, political tension, philosophical intrigue, or just downright weirdness. In Chapter One I introduce the heroine, Shandy, a hormonally challenged young woman from a world that rejects AIs and robots, so the promise here is obvious: by the end of the book Shandy will fuck a robot. In Chapter Two I re-introduce my protagonists from the last book, Misuko & Linia, a monogamous human/robot couple who talk about their monogamy and desire for one another in the strongest terms, so the promise here is obvious: something will come along to challenge their monogamy, and that introduces a third promise: It’s gonna be Shandy & Linia, somehow. More promises are made as the story goes on, involving five-meter-tall construction drones, questions about how a robot-heavy culture may encourage domestic violence, and how one lives in a culture where actual, human challenges are few and far between.

The answer I’m getting back now is that, mostly, the story hangs together. There are characters with too much spotlight (they’re named and seem to have a role, but disappear before the climax without sufficient justification for their roles), and there are some smaller promises made that aren’t kept. The second-to-last love scene isn’t as strong as I’d like. (Listening to audiobooks in the car is a great way to catch up on reading, but sometimes the cadence of the voice actress later invades the fingers at the keyboard.) This story has a painfully tight timeline, so fixing/changing them may be challenging, but… at least it’s done. Now to give it time to ferment, and which point, after Nanowrimo, I’ll go back and revise it.

On to other projects!

Foz Meadows has a pretty good post about adults writing fanfic and occupying fan spaces in which they push back against the argument that older people (like me) shouldn’t hang out in “fan spaces” like AO3, Tumblr, or FanFiction, because they’re primarily “young people spaces.”

Says who?

Meadows’s insight, which I believe is absolutely correct, is that this argument exactly mirrors the arguments (still held in some places) that young people shouldn’t be exposed to queers in general, since queerness (unlike straightness) is “about sex” and therefore being queer in young people’s spaces is somehow inherently predatory. Meadows is exactly right that this erases queer history from young people’s lives; all the things we went through in the 1980s and 1990s are elided from young peoples’ lives; they never get stories about surviving AIDS, and about attending the funerals of our friends who didn’t. They don’t know about Queer Nation and ACT UP!

(This seems to be a familiar dynamic in other fan spaces, though. The number of people who describes themselves as “fully committed lifestyle furries” who have no idea what the 1990s furry culture was like is a bit… alarming.)

There’s one thing, though, that I’d like to address. When Meadows writes, “This argument mirrors the argument that queer adults are a corrupting influence on kids,” I’m going to have to plead: guilty.

I started writing my stories as fanfic when I was seventeen. It wasn’t called “fanfic” in 1983, and there were no formalisms, and I was a horny, conflicted, terribly introverted and socially dysfunctional teenager, so they were all awful. It wasn’t until I was 22 or so that I started cleaning them up, tossing all the hand-written ones out and re-writing them as a non-fanfic-oriented erotic serial, and using them primarily as a way to loudly come out of all the closets in which I’d spent my teenage years hiding.

So here’s the thing: I’ve never stopped writing to my seventeen-year-old self. I’ve never stopped writing stories that were meant to say something about who I became and how I got there. And to the extent that I don’t limit who can read my stories, to the extent that I do write stuff rated Mature and Explicit, and post them on FanFiction and AO3, I do so with the full knowledge that not everyone tells the truth about their age, and if what I’ve written “corrupts” even one teenager into realizing his or her journey isn’t nearly as weird or lonely as once believed, I’m more than okay with that. That all those feelings they have can be expressed and enjoyed without trauma, without coercion, and without losing yourself. That emotional intelligence is a skill you need and can learn, but with it you’ll be able to enjoy reaching the age of consent with many of the risks mitigated and managed.

After all, that’s what my seventeen-year-old self really wanted to know.

This isn’t a book review of Seanan McGuire’s beautiful book Every Heart a Doorway. I can’t do the book justice. You’ll just have to read it. You have to.

The book is about Eleanor West’s Home For Wayward Children, a school for children whose parents are at their wits’ ends, because their children seem irredeemably mad. Many of the parents experienced losing the child: for a day, a week, even years. For some, the child never seemed lost. But in all cases, the child came to them changed; each child had experienced something, witnessed something. In McGuire’s book, there are worlds next door to ours: worlds of Logic or Nonsense, Virtue of Wickedness, Life or Death, and some worlds have traces of Whimsy or Timelessness. Each child stepped through a doorway and experienced… something. And then, one fateful day, they ended up back here. In some cases, it was because they’d grown, and the world had sent them back here to "be sure." In others, fate or trouble in their world forced them back into ours.

Eleanor herself went through a doorway and lived in a world of High Nonsense until the day came when she was too old to tolerate nonsense. Her heart broken by her world’s rejection, she founded the school for other children like her. Nancy, the protagonist, came from a world of Logic and Death, with some hints of Wickedness, and her innate nature made her a perfect fit, and someday she hopes to go back. In the meantime, she lives in our world, hot, fast, and noisy, and she hates it.

I won’t tell you more about the plot. The characters are what’s important here: Nancy, who loves stillness and quiet; Jack, the mad scientist; Kade, the boy who loves his world but never wants to go back; Sumi, the nonsense girl who never stops moving her hands; Lundy, the woman living backwards; Christopher, the boy who loves skeletons.

I laughed a lot while reading this book. I winced a couple of times, and cheered more than once. But mostly, I cried. I cried a lot. I had to fight tears to write this. Because my heart broke when I realized that I was one of the people who’ll never go back.

When I started writing The Journal Entries, I was one of those kids: the ones who didn’t understand the emotional waters of high school, who didn’t get what was going on, who didn’t feel like this was my place. I went somewhere else, and the experience was a lot like what McGuire described: I had absorbed enough of the world, my world, that I could find my door. The Journal Entries is many things: high Logic, high Life, only mildly Wicked, capable of Whimsy. It was where I could be me, and more importantly, where every story was about me figuring out something about me, about who I was or who I wanted to be. The Journal Entries started out as an expedition through the world I experienced, not a world of going in through any doors, but of coming out of many doors, out of closets, out of wardrobes, out of cages.

And then I started to write about other people. I started to care what other people thought about my stories. I started to treat my Mary Sue character (and I’ve learned to never, ever diss Mary Sue characters) as something other than a shield, the One Who Suffered the Lesson Learned, the one who mapped out what it meant to be me. I started to treat Kennet as a character. Material. Raw ore from which amusing and arousing stories could be told. Not people. Not friends I talk to once in a while. Not even dreams I walk through, touch, hold, smell, taste.

Once upon a time, my stories were about me, and the world, and the hard, hard barrier between us. I liked being on the other side. I’ll still write stories, and still hope to amuse and arouse and even educate. My heart is still a doorway, but today, at thrice Nancy’s age, all I can do these days is press my ear against it and hear the joy on the other side.

Many moons ago, when I was writing more often, I bought a few of books from Siren Publishing. I read one, decided I didn’t care much, and kinda skipped the rest. I picked up two from my collection and started reading them and I’m still convinced that I don’t like them.

I don’t remember the first one I read, but both stories were, well, pretty rapey. Both stories were depicted as menage a whatever, one with a beautiful woman and two firefighters who happened to be were-cheetahs, the other with a beautiful woman and seven (!) hot, hunky scientists who also happened to be were-yeti. In both cases, the woman started out extremely reluctant to associate with our heroes, only to ultimately succumb to some aggressive masculine pressures. Especially the yetis story, where the seven men had different sex styles, one of whom was the canonical angry fuck, another of whom was rough and kinky. The woman goes from having no interest in these men to basically doing punishment spanking and double-penetration anal sex in less than a week, because she’s the only woman with the seven horny were-yeti at their isolated Antarctic research station.

Both stories have the same trope (although they’re not by the same author, not even pseudonymously, as the writing styles are quite different): A human woman comes into the presence of a clan, group, family, or whatever of supernaturals, and with one sniff two (or more) of the men of the clan "recognize" her as their One True Mate For All Eternity, and the rest of the story is basically them "convincing" her, often roughly and with callous refusal to ask for her consent or to hear it being withdrawn.

These are books written by women, for women, specifically that segment of women who really get off on the "forced to like it" or "there’s at least one man out there who gets me and if he has to be rough so be it" fantasy. Research into (visual) porn habits reveals that more women than men enjoy hardcore pornography depicting women being treated violently, and these books are clearly trying to straddle a line between "rough but pleasurable" sex and the outright use of force by men to get sex. The yeti story works extra hard at this, with lots of depicted manpain about how hard the men work to control themselves no matter how good our heroine smells.

Reading these, I wonder sometimes if this is an audience I should pursue. I’ve tried super hard to depict good sex, between well-meaning adults, with all the consent culture bells and whistles: legitimate flirting contexts, explicit and mutual negotiation, safer sex (where necessary; I elide it in much of my fantasy and S/F), aftercare, check-up. I don’t always go through all of them; older and experienced people have the wisdom to know when something can be skipped, understood, or just gone with, and younger people sometimes lack these skills and are awkward about it but I’ve strived to depict decent people trying to get their needs met in decent ways. None of the space opera episodes have ever gone with the "your mouth says you’re not sure but your eyes say ‘yes, yes!’ so I’m just going to start" trope.

I doubt I would often write something like this. It really doesn’t float my boat that much.

« go backkeep looking »