Doctor Who? How a TV show highlights the world’s problem with equality
Do you watch or follow the English Sci-Fi series Doctor Who? I don’t. I’ll be honest. Never seen it, never watched a single episode. But I understand that it’s to the English what Star Trek is to the rest of us (sort of). Like I said, I haven’t seen it. But apparently, they announce new doctors every now and then, and this week, the BBC announced that the thirteenth doctor (anyone superstitious?) would be a woman, for the first time. In a healthy society, this would’ve been met with shrugs all around, because this would only matter to the aficionados. Some would love it (because they like the actor), some would hate it (because they dislike the actress). However, our planet is not a healthy society and before long, the Internet was overflowing with hatred, “too little, too lates” and then some… But it was this article in a Scottish newspaper that had my head spinning. Here was a “feminist” decrying the move as hurtful to equality. He makes some interesting points, which is why it took me a long time to wrap my head around it. Particularly since I don’t watch the show.
Captain Chris Pike and his female Number One (in the pilot of Star Trek) Pike was replaced by Kirk and Number One wasn’t cast again until the Next Generation in the eighties when it was – of course – a guy… The first female captain was seen in the first Star Trek Movie in 1979, in a small role. Source: Tumblr
Here’s the thing. I agree with Mark Smith initial statement: to cast a woman in the lead role of a sci-fi show in 2017 is hardly “edgy”. Had they done it in the 1970ies, yes, but even an “edgy” show like Star Trek couldn’t (wouldn’t? dare not?) cast a woman as First Officer aboard the Enterprise in the sixties. See the interesting pilot with Eugene Roddenberry’s wife as First Officer, aka Number One. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was later cast as a nurse (how female, right?) and as the computer voice. Eventually, in the movies, she advanced to Doctor (1980s). Here’s the problem: women are still universally seen as lesser beings than men. In every aspect of society with the exception of child rearing and ‘care’, where the opposite is the case. Naturally, both views are utterly wrong. Men can be as caring as women and men can be as “worthless” as women are seen.
Yet when a woman replaces a man after twelve instances, people are still either outraged or bored. Let’s assume the opposite. What about Doctor 14? 15? 27? What if the next thirteen doctors were all female? Imagine the outrage! Most major countries in the world have still not had female leaders, and once a woman has had the position, she’s replaced – almost assuredly – by a man. Because “they’ve had their turn, can we return to normalcy now?” NO, we can’t and we shouldn’t. Normalcy won’t be until we don’t even notice what gender, sex or sexuality a person has when it’s equally “normal” aka boring for a superhero to be trans as it is for them to be a man. But for now, we can assume that doctor #14 will be a guy again, that the next English PM is a guy again, that the next German PM is a man again etc. We could, of course, say the same about other countries and “occurrences”. While we applaud the fact that Ireland has a PM who’s gay, you can rest assured this won’t happen again (anytime soon), or that Iceland had a female AND Lesbian PM (her successor was straight, corrupt and yeah, a straight guy). It’s how our society works. For a while (2010-2012), Switzerland had FOUR female ministers in its seven head government (plus a female federal chancellor), a majority, for the first time, ever. Now? We’re down to two. And that’s what most people, even women, consider “normal”.
The “kiss” that rocked the south… Source: Wikipedia
It’s not just gender though, is it? When Star Trek “featured” their first Lesbian kiss it was only acceptable because one of the women was a man in a previous life, and the worms they carry inside their humanoid bodies are basically sexless (gods know how they procreate). And even though there was an outrage when Kirk kissed Uhura in the original show (she was black!) it was under “duress”, not because they wanted to. Imagine if Kirk had been of sound mind, wanting to kiss a black woman! The outrage! The show would never have aired. Even as recently as the 1980s, when Stephen Carrington came out as gay and had an (ex) boyfriend (subsequently murdered (!!!) by the show’s main character and Stephen’s dad), Stephen was almost instantly recast as “bisexual” to soften the blow and later married Sammy Jo. No wonder bisexuals have a bad rap… Bisexuals DO exist, trust me, but bisexuality is not to meant to be a tool to ease heterosexual discomfort… facepalm But yeah, I could go on and on and on, but just stay with Blake Carrington killing his son’s boyfriend and getting away with it, and his son forgiving him for it… Yeah, that’s what my youth looked like! And we complain about a TV show in 2017 casting a woman in the lead… If I have one complaint is that it’s at least fifty years too late (the show first aired in 1963, three years before Star Trek premiered).
Allow me to make it worse, if possible. On Facebook, some of the people I follow, decried the Doctor Who thing as “robbing boys of their last male role models” and it made me wonder: how did girls survive the past millennia with ONLY male role models? Utter rubbish, and utterly sexist, and yes, sadly women are as sexist as men and often step on their own feet of potential advancement. Why, please tell me why, shouldn’t a boy be able to see a girl as a role model? A hero? WHY? Am I missing something? Are girls so much smarter? Because they’ve had no problems seeing Spiderman, Superman, Aquaman, or Batman as role models. But I’m only a gay man, what do I know. We all know that I’m possibly located even lower on the scale than women, just above Lesbians and trans people… frown I do my best to let my son watch the movies/shows he wants, and he loves Elsa as much as he loves Merida or Moana/Vaiana, strong characters, “despite” being girls. And yes, he likes Spiderman, too, or his other cartoon characters in the shapes of trains, little buses, ambulances or what not. Oddly, he is still young enough to not have his mind polluted by the construct of gender. I cherish every moment it stays that way, although I know it’s a battle I’ll lose. Just the other week someone said that Sascha “looked more masculine with his hair short”. Needless to say, I’ll let it grow out again if he wants to. What an insolent comment. As if manliness resides in short hair! But yeah, that’s where we are in real life, in 2017! facepalm
Because in the end, that’s really what matters, right? REAL LIFE. How we educate our kids to be good citizens, respectful of everybody, no matter what, and I for one will do whatever I can so that my son has role models based on their actions, not their gender, sex, sexuality, age, skin color, ethnicity, faith, culture etc.
Notice the representation on this stock image I once bought for my company? Yeah, no blacks and no Asians, but at least we have gender equality…
So how do we move forward? I’m a liberal (in the European, original, sense of the word), I don’t really (want to) believe in quotas or affirmative action, but I’ve also seen how we (in Sweden) have achieved a considerable level of equality, due to quotas. Here it’s a given that approx. half of our parliament is female, that half our government ministers are female. Sweden is far from perfect (re pay gaps), but we constantly talk about it and make slow and constant improvements. The current Canadian government is also a great example of inclusion, but look at how Trump rules in the U.S. and note the not so subtle difference.
So yes, quotas can help. When the Swedish government threatened publicly traded companies with legislation about a 40% female quota on their boards, companies began to look for women for their boards. Sadly, before that, they were mostly complaining about quotas and how they were looking for the right people, not their sex. Suddenly, they found women who were competent. Odd, eh? It’s getting better, slowly, way too slowly. In TV and film, various ratings (e.g. F on IMDB or the Bechdel test) guide viewers to movies with a healthy representation of sexes. And while I can frown upon commercial stock photos with your Asian, your black person, your brown person and a white one, perfect representation of the sexes, I also realize how important it is, and that companies have realized that. Problem is, we’d (as a western society) not accept a commercial with an all black cast or an all Asian cast, as we just wouldn’t see “ourselves” in it, which is problematic at best (I spoke about that with regards to love in my review last week.) This is something we all need to work on, and I believe literature has an important role to play, as our characters don’t have skin colors, don’t have ethnicities unless we give it to them. Why not let them be secrets until after a book is released and then tell people? Yeah, I know, most will assume an all white cast, and that’s at the core of this debate, right? But what if you had a character named Chris who turns out to be a black, Muslim, trans woman? Gotcha! You thought Chris was a straight, white guy… Yeah…
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to this conundrum, but I know one thing: blaming a TV show for being too late won’t help. Instead, make sure they stick with it, not by being representative to the dot, but by being inclusive in all things, and that means not just adequate representation, but seeing beyond all that, to go beyond skin-deep, to the human core of us all, until we get to the point where “what” we are isn’t as important as “who” we are, our character. What’s your take on all this? Do you have any ideas on how to fix this?
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great weekend.
Authors participate in political debates on the same basis as everyone else, but our tools may be different
I’ve been reading articles in papers recommending books to read for the summer, and I find them to be all over the place. There’s the light read, a crime novel or a thriller, suitable to drag along when you’re going to the beach, there’s the biography of this or that accomplished man (usually), then there are the heavy reads about precarious life journeys usually based on reality: difficult childhoods, substance abuse, sexual abuse and what not, and an interesting category: political essays about this or that.
This book isn’t about politics per se, but it’s political nonetheless, as issues like child abuse, trafficking and slavery are debated. I’m shining a light on issues the LGBT community usually doesn’t.
Authors have always written about society in one way or another. We comment, we reflect, but most importantly, we put up this mirror, for people to see themselves in. This weekend, I’ll be in Berlin, attending an author-reader conference, and the one panel I’m doing is about how politics influences writing. Mind you, most of the authors who attend the con are romance writers, and that is maybe the one genre where politics is absent from, probably by design. Romances are about escapism, to make you feel good, and politics, well, is almost an antidote to feeling good these days.
Which is odd. Half a century into my life, I have seen six decades and seen a great deal of stability. When I was born, the war between the west and the east was cold, but things were stable. We did well, economically, as I grew up. Politicians were boring men who mostly seemed to actually care about the well-being of their countries. They seemed to work, honestly for the betterment of society and humanity. Or maybe I was just naïve? When I turned eighteen, the cold war suddenly ended and Reagan and Gorbachev almost did away with nuclear arms after that summit in Reykjavík. When I was twenty-two, the Berlin Wall came down and suddenly, it seemed as if wars were going out of fashion. The Kuwait war seemed to prove that theory. The world, united, fought against a tyrant and defeated him. Then came the wars in Yugoslavia and we began to wonder, is this just the way things are slowly settling down into this new world order? But alas, we quickly began to realize that we’d indeed been short-sighted, naïve. All over the world, war was still raging, people still fighting, and ever new fronts were opening up, from Sudan to Eritrea, the Philippines, all across the Middle East and finally, in 2001, hitting at the heart of the western world, with the attacks on 9/11.
Through all this, the “West”, reunited with Eastern Europe and a more benign Russia, seemed to be stable. The “enemy” was suddenly Islamic terror, and warlords in faraway lands, no longer the evil empire to the east. How wrong we were, and how little we understood just how fragile this bright, new world order was. Suddenly people are questioning the “raison d’être” of the EU, who’s kept the peace in Europe for six decades and running, Poland and Hungary are run by fascistoid governments, France’s historical political parties are all but extinguished after the recent parliamentary election, the U.K. is in turmoil about which way it wants to go, and the heart of the western world has ceased to beat, with a regime combining one man’s sociopathic need for self-praise with a fascist slogan from WWII (America First), while society is so deeply divided that most people cease to even watch/read the news. I look at the past few years in politics and wonder: WTF?
Family Ties depicts a family in crisis, one gay, one straight. Highly political as it showcases just how normal, the unusual can be.
As a minority author, I could, of course, depict this grand picture. I could write political thrillers about the state of the world. But I leave that to others. I find reality exciting enough. My mission is still a political one though. Who I am is still not fully embraced by our societies, not even one as liberal as my own. I might not get a job because of who I am. Never mind that it’s illegal to discriminate, but how do you know? And even if you were to know, how do you prove it? My husband and I may be the legal parents and guardians of our son, but every day we see how society (papers, TV, radio, etc.) refers to parenting as a function of primarily motherhood, trying to engage fathers more. Whenever, wherever my husband, my son and I go, we see the glances, the stares. Yes, we’re not a common occurrence. Neither are red heads, but people rarely stare at them.
And for as long as we are somehow “special”, “unusual”, and “uncommon”, that’s how long I’ll be writing about us, and my point isn’t to make us something else. Quite the contrary, our struggles, our fears, our fights, our vacations, our everyday lives are just as exciting, just as mundane as everyone else’s. That’s what I aim to show society. To my own LGBT siblings, my gay brethren, particularly the young ones, I aim to show that we are everybody, that we can be anything we want, do anything we want. We can be successful, we can fail. Most importantly, our intrinsic human value will always be the same as everyone else’s. This may not be politically opportune, but it’s my ongoing contribution to make my society, my world, a better place. In this, I am like most other authors, don’t you think?
If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. The next issue is due this Thursday. Interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a wonderful week. This Friday will mark the final post before my summer break. I don’t know when or how I’ll be able to blog. Maybe I’ll write something about our vacation. We’ll see. On Friday, I’ll talk more about the upcoming convention in Berlin.
Politicians have always been tempted to restrict free speech, now more than ever, they’re after the Internet
Another terror attack. It won’t be the last, and the person ultimately responsible, British PM Theresa May, who was Secretary of the Interior for six years, above other things sacking 20,000 police officers, now wants to restrict the use of the Internet. As usual with such requests and demands, the way this is said is sweeping and not very concrete. We don’t really know what they want to achieve, and how. The Tories claim this is to make Britain and the world a safer place, to hunt and prosecute terrorists, but knowing politicians, I have my doubts.
In 2005, Tony Blair (from the “other” British party) restricted the use of e.g. hoodies in public places and they introduced a sweeping crime they called “anti-social behavior”, leading to the police being able to arrest people for all kinds of things deemed going against the social order of the U.K. Did the country become better? Safer? No, quite the contrary. I use this particular example because this isn’t something restricted to conservative parties.
All politicians dislike opposition. Power corrupts, I’m sure you’ve heard that before. And Ms. May, like her colleagues around the world, dislikes being criticized. I don’t know how she ticks, why she acts the way she does, but she certainly appears less like the leader of a democratic country and more like a despot “my way or the highway” in her approach to her own people and Europe (who ought to be Britain’s closest friends). Her latest proposals to limit what we can do and say on the Internet is worrying. The proposal in the Tory manifesto are sweeping, and in her speech after the most recent attacks, scary. Why?
I sometimes write about politics in my books (and this blog), and in Willem of the Tafel, it’s both about climate change, and racism. My struggle to keep our speech “free” is personal. As a gay writer, my words are despised by large groups, and books have been burned throughout history.
Yes, terrorists use the web. They use it to spread propaganda, recruit new morons to follow in their path etc. BUT, the Internet is only a conduit. Just like the phone or a car. Despite trucks having been used for several terror attacks, I’ve yet to see a cry to limit the use of trucks in society. So why limit the use of the Internet? This isn’t about terror. This is about the media. This is about the opposition. Sadly, had the other party been in power, we may have seen similar spearhead ideas. Politicians dislike to be criticized, they dislike having the media scrutinize their doing. Have you watched House of Cards? I’m currently watching season 5, and despite the fact that the Underwoods are crooks, criminals and even killers (at least he is), I find myself rooting for him. The anti-hero is the journalist who tries to find the truth about the murder in season 1. I find myself wishing that he’ll fail, even though I should want to be grateful for his work, tirelessly trying to find clues to what really happened to the poor woman before she died in a subway.
No, I’m not saying politicians are murderers. Not at all, but they all dislike criticism, and they all dislike media who digs and finds our dirty little secrets about them. That is true for your local mayor or councilor as much as it is for 45 and his constant ramblings about “fake news”. The media has one single job: to inform the public and make sure to keep the government on their toes, on a straight and narrow path. We live in a day and age where this has become difficult. Papers have hardly any journalists left working and actually doing the digging, they have people on staff who cut and paste from press releases. Instead, many journalists now work for e.g. companies, cities, and governments, feeding ready-made articles, perfectly written, but hardly unbiased, to the media. This makes it very challenging reading the news. But it’s all we have. We, as individuals, have no chance to keep a watch on our own government.
But we have to be vigilant. Power DOES corrupt, and any politician, any human really, who goes unchecked in a position of power, will be tempted to abuse that power. A Theresa May who isn’t questioned, who gets to spread her view of the world unchecked would find it a lot easier to win elections, again, and again. She would find it a lot easier to find support for her ideas. And by being able to monitor and restrict (how we don’t know) the use of the Internet would make it easier to shut down the opposition.
But it would stop terrorists, too!
Sadly it wouldn’t. Criminals don’t care about laws. It’s illegal to possess arms in most Western civilized societies. Criminals still have access to them. And the Internet isn’t just the Facebook, Google and other places we visit, corporate websites and video streaming that you and I use. There’s also a darknet, a place I wouldn’t even know how to access. It’s the illegal part of the Internet, and because it already is illegal, no regulation on the planet will stop it. And the more restricted access and use of “our” web is, the more it’ll drive people underground, to places where we don’t go. Instead, we need to become better at monitoring. We need to have our secret services and intelligence community do a much better job at monitoring terrorists and for that they need resources. Limiting the use of the web makes it more difficult to use the web AS a resource. And we have to make sure that the intelligence services are under democratic control, or they’ll be used against us in time, too. No, I’m not prone to conspiracy theories, but secrecy is rarely conducive to democracy…
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to fix terrorism. The roots to the injustices these young people feel so strongly about that they take up arms and blow themselves and others to the high heavens are old, some go back two millennia, some are much more recent, like the Gulf or Afghani wars. Not to mention how we have treated our social welfare in the west, leaving generations of young people behind. Injustice breeds injustice. But to fix that will take time.
What is your take? Do you feel comfortable with proposals to restrict the use of the Internet? Do you have ideas on how to fix things? Your views are welcome.
Have a good week. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).
I wrote a wedding scene. A beautiful one. Then I had to re-write it
I’m in the editing mode of my latest WIP “disease”. I finished the first rough draft yesterday and went back to the beginning, reading through it again, adding bits here and there, checking the time line etc. There is a wedding scene in the book (two actually), and I really like it. Only it doesn’t work. Insert colorful expletive here. Because here’s the problem, allow me to demonstrate:
A straight writer writes straight wedding scene:
- write couple
- write officiant
- write scene
- move on to next scene
A gay writer writes gay wedding scene:
- write couple
- write officiant
- write scene
- wait, hang on, could we get married in that geography? At that point in time? What sort of “marriage” could we get?
- [colorful expletives] as extensive research begins
- research concluded, delete the scene, start over
I wrote this beautiful wedding scene, right here, in the town of Amalfi in southern Italy, when… Photo: Max Pixel, Creative Commons Zero
I’m not joking, and this is just a tiny morsel of the complications of writing LGBT fiction. We are in a constant battle to keep up with legislation, this ever-changing monstrosity where one day we’re granted civil rights only to be hauled off to execution camps the next, re Chechnya. The couple in my new book get married, only they don’t, as I had to painfully realize today, because of where I later placed them in world geography, I blame it on 5th Avenue, a geography that did not allow them to get married until Obergefell two years ago. So, back to the drawing board, research your state legislation, and find a way to rewrite the scene so that it matched not only the legal requirements I needed in terms of what I was aiming at later in the story, preserving the emotion of that scene while still being historically accurate. I’m telling you, being a gay writer sucks at times! And this is just one aspect.
I just had another long discussion about why relationship (or romantic) stories are so popular with the gay community (at least those of us who read), and why our “need” as gay men is different from the expectation of a straight female reader. Women reading gay romance do it primarily as an escape, a nice fantasy to escape to without the stereotype role models still largely at play in het romance (damsel in distress, alpha male to the rescue type). For us, romance isn’t an escape, it’s a possibility. Does that make sense? For eons, and way into the 1980s, the expectation we had on gay characters in novels was to die, often horrific deaths. We were the villain or the misunderstood freakshow of movies and books. We died. Best that could happen to us, along the lines of the old adage “only a dead Indian is a good Indian”.
Alex and I tied the knot in 2004 and saw our “partnership” upgraded to a marriage in 2009. The first five years remain unrecognized by t.he state.
As recognition of the fact that we had a heart and a soul began to root itself in society, and our struggle for equality began, so began our thirst for new stories, more hopeful stories. We wanted to read about us getting married, having families, children (or not), and to be happy. It was no longer a fantasy (which we wouldn’t have read because that would’ve been too cruel), but a possibility, a hope, something that might actually come to fruition. Do you see the difference? To us, reading about love and relationships is not about escaping reality for a few hours in the comfort of a good book, it’s about our future, a distinct possibility, a reality even for many of us. I hope that makes sense.
To exemplify the rapid changes, what about this. In this country, the royal court would send out greetings cards to centennials and couples married for sixty years or more, a diamond jubilee. By the time Alex and I get our card from His Majesty (or Her Majesty presumably), we would have been married for sixty-five years. Why? Because the first five years were a “civil union” and thus not recognized as marriage to this day. Not that I care much for a postcard from Stockholm, but still… The discrimination lives on.
Anyway, I will have to spend the next days and weeks editing my story, and hopefully, make it work. But today was a sad day, realizing that my beautiful wedding scene was just “pretend”. [Final colorful expletive] I feel very sorry for my two characters, and I may yet have to find a way to make it up to them…
Have a good weekend. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).
My annual royalty statement is a disappointment, although not much worse than last year’s
My publisher had a little surprise for me yesterday. My annual royalty statement. Now I get my statements (and payments) from Amazon every month, but since I only have one 99c title left, there’s never more than cents trickling through. All my other books (novels and my short stories) are published by Beaten Track Publishing. I’d been sent the Q1 statement but had long ago forgotten about it (repressed?) When I got my statement, at first I was glad, the numbers looked nice. I’d sold more than I thought.
But then I went back and looked at my Excel file, compared numbers to 2015. I’d done a BookBub (lucky me?) then and managed to get over 15K copies out to people. Sadly, it didn’t help me at all with my sales. So discounting that, I’d sold about three books per day in 2015. In 2016, the numbers shrunk, Q1 was still okay, but the rest of the year? Overall, I didn’t even sell two books daily. Yeah, that won’t pay any invoices for sure. I got an invoice for an ad in a literary magazine this morning. It’s almost the same amount as my royalty payment for last year. It’s the fourth time I pay that amount… Or you could compare it to one of my five installments for my GRL sponsorship, or the fact that it’s less than I pay for my B&B this weekend in New York.
Which makes you wonder: WhyTF am I doing this? Why am I still investing in trying to sell my books since obviously so few people buy them? One thing’s for sure, it’s not the financial aspects, it’s not because I get rich. The genre I write in (LGBT) and the fact that I’m not writing (fluffy) romance, were originally not conscious decisions, but still.
My latest novel, one I’m particularly proud of.
Okay, rant over! 🙂 Luckily, I only get this reminder once a year. LOL If I look at my Amazon author profile, I can still see that there are millions of authors who sell less than I, and they obviously make even less than I. Readership is decreasing, piracy is increasing, and I would just like to add this to the thirty or so who will read this post: please don’t pirate books. It’s not just about the theft of our hard labor. It’s also about cyber security. When you get something for free (like a book or a movie), don’t fool yourself into believing you get it for free. You’ll also get malware, trojan horses and what not, used by really bad people in DDOS attacks or to spy on you or others. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Just remember that!
Will I see you tomorrow?
So, as crazy and as much of a waste of money it is, I’m flying to New York today, to participate in the Rainbow Book Fair (provided I get into the country tonight…) From noon tomorrow Saturday until six p.m. hopefully thousands of visitors will browse books and talk to us authors, maybe even listen to a reading. I’ll be reading from my latest novel Last Winter’s Snow. I just need to finalize the selection. If you are in the tri-state area, please consider a visit to New York. To set up a book fair like that isn’t easy work, and relies on a great many people’s hard (unpaid) work. See you there?
I’ll keep writing. When I read about the horrible situation in Chechnya, where the leadership under Ramzan Kadyrov promises to exterminate (!!!) the entire LGBT population before the end of May (when Ramadan will begin), my blood freezes in my veins. We haven’t seen this sort of persecution since World War II and the recent killings in Uganda. But I also see how priests in the U.S. want to see us killed, how LGBT rights are questioned even where progress has been made. I see the beautiful images on my Dubai screen saver (compliments Apple), yet I know I can never go there with my family, as the very existence of my family is punishable by death! Just imagine that. So no, no Dubai for me. But i will keep fighting for my siblings, whether they’re gay, bi, lesbian, trans or intersex, queer or otherwise, for our right to happiness, our human and civil rights. I fight for myself, and for my son, for his right to grow up into a better world than the one I grew up in.
There is no amount of money you can place on human rights, so I’ll keep fighting, even though I lose ten to fifteen dollars for every buck I make. #ImWorthIt #Resist
Have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and/or Instagram.
Politics and writing: soon I’ll have to be a panelist on the subject
It’s certainly an interesting topic, and I’m glad the organizers of the upcoming EuroPride Con have asked me to be one of three panelists on the topic. The question they’re asking is: “How do politics influence fiction?” The question assumes a foregone conclusion that there is such an influence. I agree. But yeah, how?
Will I see you in Berlin? There will be lots more to discuss!
If you look at writing historically, it’s always been a reflection of politics, starting with the ancient Greek dramas and on to operas and plays that were written in the last century. Shakespeare’s plays are excellent examples, not because they use real kings, but because these kings served as examples what happened if/when the prince didn’t serve his people. In societies where freedom of speech was an unknown, the arts were often used to tell stories that might serve as admonishment of the political class. But today?
We can say whatever we want, whenever we want. Freely. At least in our western societies. Does writing still fill that purpose? The answer is of course the one you’d expect from me: it depends! A lot of our entertainment today, including fiction, is pure entertainment. Yes, there might be a moral to a story, often barely disguised as you’d expect from cheesy Hollywood movies, where the moral is so obvious it smells like old fish. Literature that aims to entertain, like romance and erotica, is also very much free of politics. But is is influenced by it? Probably. It seems that the worse the times we live in, the more trouble we have around us, the more fluff and happiness we escape to in our books. We just don’t need more misery in our fiction. We have enough of it IRL (in real life).
Literary fiction is different, of course, because in fiction, writers mirror society. And similar to my video last week, where I tried to explain the propensity for relationships in modern gay fiction with the advances in (marriage) equality legislation, current events tend to find their way into fiction, be it social challenges, political events etc. So what does it look like in my own writing? How political is my own fiction?
It varies. Family Ties isn’t directly influenced by current events, but a mirror of the world we live in: marriage equality (and the lack thereof in e.g. Singapore and the U.S., at the time), adoption legislation etc. The Opera House deals with homeless children on a certain level, and that is a direct reflection on the situation in the U.S., where 40% of all street kids have LGBT background, tossed onto the street by their (religious) parents. While not a real problem in (Western) Europe, it’s still something that affects me. The Fallen Angels of Karnataka is also dealing with children, but from a different angle. Slightly “historic” in nature, it mirrors the developments in recent decades, but it also shows how India is failing its children.
My most political novel is – without a doubt – Willem of the Tafel, as our main character becomes the leader of his people. A direct reflection of our current events (global warming, migration etc.), the novel looks at what might happen if we don’t turn around the wheel on Earth. Racism, environmental policies etc. You name it. Plus, several of the characters are politicians.
I can’t wait to see Berlin again. I just hope for better weather. Politics and writing, an interesting topic to discuss. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
I’m not going to go through all of my novels, let me just mention my latest one, which also highlights a political struggle, that of the Sami people in Northern Europe and specifically here in Sweden. It doesn’t get more political than that, not to mention that it is also a reflective account of recent LGBT history of our country.
I really look forward to this panel in Berlin. It’s going to be interesting to see how other authors look at this, particularly since most of the attending authors come from a “escapism” genre, romance, books read by people who may not necessarily want to be bothered by politics in their reading. Knowing the authors, it’s going to be an interesting debate, particularly since most of us care deeply about politics, society and LGBT rights. Is it June yet? You can still join the convention. There are still a few tickets available!
What’s your take? As reader or writer? Do you read to escape or to reflect? Do you write to entertain or to rattle readers?
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