|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2010-01-31 00:44:00
On being a lesbian writing m/m slash
The discussion is probably all over by now, but here's my thruppenny bit:
Last August, in one of the last panels I went to at the Worldcon in Montreal (on writing historical fiction) I was sitting near the back and listening to the four writers' voices talking with each other (one of them was Connie Willis: I cannot recall who the other three were) it occurred to me that all four voices were North American, and yet all four of them were, when they talked about writing historical fiction, talking about writing in the history of Europe.
This struck me as an interesting question, and I hadn't thought of a better one to ask, so I raised my arm and asked it: Why do you think North American writers, and you in particular, write about the history of Europe instead of the history of your own country? (One panellist corrected me to say he was also writing a historical fantasy set in Japan, which, while interesting, did not change my main point.)
Connie Willis's answer was the one that stuck in my mind, for entirely egotistical reasons: she said, quite abruptly, that the question demonstrated that I did not understand how a writer's mind worked.
That response, all these months later, still mildly irritates and mostly amuses me: evidently Connie Willis presumed that a voice unknown to her from the back of the auditorium could not belong to another writer. (On a panel a couple of days earlier, where we were discussing the writing of despised literature, I (as the representative fanfic writer) said that one thing about fanfiction was that it empowered writers to make the most astonishing literary experiments: a fanfiction writer can try anything because none of us have any literary reputation at all to lose.)
I understood Connie Willis when she said she had climbed to the dome of St Pauls and looked around her at the 1950s buildings surrounding it and understood that everything around St Pauls had been destroyed in WWII and she'd suddenly wanted to write that story. Of course I did: what writer wouldn't? What I was interested was why she felt that impulse had never struck her when considering the history of her own country: and since she dismissed my question as that of a non-writer, I was fairly sure her real answer to my question was "I don't know: I've never thought about it".
I am a lesbian who writes, by preference, m/m slash. I have written f/f slash (I wrote some of the earliest f/f Blake's 7 slash) but I do mostly write about two guys. This has never been an unmarked decision, not even in slash fandom. And so I've thought considerably about why I do it: why I want to write, with such intensity, about two men and not two women. And come up with clusters and trails of reasons, sources of interest, justifications... but all that is just me as a writer exploring backwards through the roots of the stories. I can begin to see why: seeing why doesn't change the impulse to something else.
But if someone had asked me at the very beginning, back twenty-five and more years ago, when I was only warily beginning to be able to say "I am a writer" on the basis that I did write... like Connie Willis on the platform at the Worldcon, all my answers really amounted to "I don't know: I've never thought about it."
What makes me now able to answer the question is not the hundred and more stories I have written - it's the hundred and some times the question has been asked, by people who, justly or not, felt that if I were doing something so inexplicably weird, I ought to be able to explain myself somehow. Because fanfic writers are outsiders, because slash writers are outside the outsiders (were, certainly, for a large part of the 25 years I have been writing it), because lesbians are outsiders and lesbians who write m/m slash are regarded as weird by other lesbians (I have a friend who never told her girlfriend in five years that m/m slash was a turn-on for her - though she read it, not wrote it) - for all these reasons, people more inside the circle than I am felt empowered to ask me to justify writing what I did, and I felt I needed to try and explore my reasons.
But there was a certain truth to Connie Willis's answer, as any writer would understand: though you may or may not explore the reasons and ways by which a story arrives, as I have and as Connie Willis evidently never thought of doing, a story does tend to feel as if it just arrived - as if Zeus really could birth Athena fullgrown from his thigh.
We write the stories we want to write when we want to write them. That's true whether you're a lesbian writing about Avon and Vila (or Spock and McCoy!); or a gay man writing about Ivanova and Talia; or a genderqueer individual writing about Transformers; or whatever. You can spend a lot of interesting time looking at the whys: but that won't change the need to write.
Update, 26th February
Quin Firefrorefiddle on DW thinks: "And I figure that any and all of these questions are going to lead to conversations about who linkspam and metafandom are linking to, eventually."
I find it ironic that a post (on DW) purporting to discuss:
The way the latest fandom discourse on derailing is going, I'm willing to bet that eventually there's going to be a conversation about "how do we define inside and outside the discourse?" and "to what extent do [community]linkspam and metafandom define the discourse?" and "do BNFs have different responsibilities in discourse?" and "who is a BNF?" and such.Yet her list of names linked to on metafandom does not include which journal the post was posted on - and nor does the followup list in comments on the journals linked to in Linkspam, though the commenter there does specifically say that Linkspam only goes to LJ or DW journals.
While the above sentence proves that my grammar abilities are occasionally lacking, I do have a talent for attention to detail. And I figure that any and all of these questions are going to lead to conversations about who linkspam and metafandom are linking to, eventually.