Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stanley and Phil Are Out

So, I finished the story, and Stanley and Phyllis are Stanley and Phil. It's now a gay couple, but the story is no different than it would have been had they remained a hetero couple. The point is, they aren't different. It's time for LGBT characters to go mainstream.

The Southern Baptists may feel differently, and the Holy See may disagree. Too bad. They can't hold back the tide.

When Ellen came out, the news rated magazine covers. She stepped into a spotlight where she had to state that she did not want to become a spokesperson. But she was, anyway. Nowadays, the news of another celebrity being gay is usually a throw-away line, no big deal. As it should be.

So the story becomes not about being gay or about gay rights, but about being human, facing human conditions, and incidentally, being gay along the way.

Stanley and Phil face the same fate in the same way as Stanley and Phyllis would have. But now that nice old couple next door, the ones that have been together for, well, longer than most, just happens to be two men. Could just as easily be two women. Any two humans.

Neil Patrick Harris may have limited his options by telling the world he's gay, but mostly those who loved him as a performer love him more. Did he lose a few admirers? No doubt. Has it hurt him? Well, I can't speak for him, since we don't often sit down over drinks together, but I'd wager a tidy sum it has not.

So for a writer, is playing it safe, working within broadly "acceptable" boundaries to gain the widest possible audience by not offending anyone a smart idea? A look at best-seller lists would say no. Sex sells. All fifty shades of it. Serial killers, sociopaths. Children killing children.

But homosexuality being shown as a natural part of the fabric of life?

Guess what. It is. And no longer is it relegated to LGBT lit, TV or movies. What had to be front-and-center with Will and Grace has become the gay family member and her/his partner, the gay couple next door. Modern Family? American Horror Story? Gay couple neatly worked in, simply part of the whole.

No one ever made a mark by playing it safe. You can't please everyone, anyway. And "they" say, if you haven't pissed anyone off, you haven't done your job. Plenty of books, stories, and movies play to kids or "wholesome" families, and carefully do NOT anger anyone. But Harry Potter was condemned for promoting the occult, Hunger Games for the hideous idea of kids being pitted against each other to the death for society's amusement (although often it seems we're not far from that now.)

So I'm taking a stand for risk. And if I piss off some, so be it. I probably wouldn't want to have drinks with them anyway, or they with me.

So who'll join me for a martini, a beer, a sweet tea (ugh)?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stanley and Phyllis or Stanley and Phil?

A while ago I posted about a story in the local paper that I was mulling for a short story. An old couple found dead together, frozen in their back yard in mid-winter. Cause unknown. A history of illness, possibly Alzheimer's. Perhaps the wife had fallen, the husband had gone to help and…

I've half written the story.

I've also (see my last post on platform specificity) been working on defining myself.

So now I will digress, and put aside that story yet again. But not really.

The novel I've written includes (count the audiences) a gay protagonist, an evangelist (antagonist) who hosts an interdimensional alien invader, the protag's sister (strong but vulnerable woman) and her hot live-in boyfriend whom she won't marry (women's fic), a pre-teen black boy and his mother (multi-racial/intercultural), both brave and in danger, the protag's partner, a jealous friend, another teen seeking revenge and teetering on the edge of dark and light, and other minions and allies, family and foe.

That's sure as hell not narrowing it down.

Is it a gay novel? Not really. It's a thriller with a gay protagonist who has a partner. But the sister's/boyfriend's story arc is central.

The high school jock and the brave boy are key, but it's definitely not Young Adult. While I've read some YA I enjoy, I'm not a YA writer. I just can't give up enough sex or judiciously used swear words. (English would be a far less expressive language lacking "fuck.") So I know that's not my audience.

Is it a spiritual/religious novel? It does posit questions about certain kinds of religious practice (help me here, John Lennon) and concepts of "light" and "energy." Those concepts and questions intrigue me. What are the truths that give birth to the legends, beliefs, myths, and religions? But I'm more about the questions than the answers.

But this isn't about me. Or about my story, or my novel. It's about homing in on whom I'm writing for. 

No doubt I'd lose people if I go for gay. Do I care, if I gather more LGBT folks who relate to me? Actually, no. Plenty of straight folk would come along if, in writing "gay," I'm writing "humanity."

And don't some of that group enjoy speculating on the nature of reality, spirituality, the paranormal? Sure they do. And a good supernatural scare, too.

So I'm out in the garden watering the other day, thinking about these things as I water baby zinnias, and suddenly I'm thinking maybe that story about Stanley and Phyllis should be about Stanley and Phil. Same story, different angle.

A generation ago, a few very famous playwrights did just the opposite. Maybe it's time for Martha to take off her drag. Maybe now it's time for George and Mark, not Martha, to duke it out.

Easy to say get specific, but hard to do. The "experts" say not to go for thousands, but for a specific few.

Anyone out there into supernatural/metaphysical/speculative/gay fiction?