Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insecure Writers Support Group Post 1

I joined the Insecure Writer's Support Group that is hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh over at his blog.  I am number 76. I should have waited one more for 77 as 1977 is the year that Star Wars was unleashed upon the world.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer.

So what am I insecure about?

I wrote a book where the hero of the story (protagonist) is gay.  I'm a little insecure that people will judge it for that instead of judging it for what it should be--a science-fiction story wherein the main character simply likes boys instead of girls.  The sexuality part of the story is really underplayed... back burner if you what is actually going on in the world I created.  My protag starts out in the first book as a high school kid.  He plays ice hockey and is really good at math.  My book has Langrangian calculus in it (well the second book does--by then he's a student at Cornell University) and the use of a particle collider is essential to the plotline.  By that time, he happens to have a boyfriend and their relationship is healthy.  They don't get beaten to death by bigots, Jordan's teammates respect him, and he doesn't have a flamboyant personality.  This is because their relationship is NOT the story.  However, the whole "sexuality" thing is such a hotspot that I think the issues in identifying a character in a story as being gay can threaten to BECOME the entire story and I don't like that.

Example:  when word got out through some social contacts in the city in which I reside, a woman whom I barely know wanted me to speak at PFLAG about my book.  I thought the request was silly and I declined. The people that go to those "meetings" are not looking for fiction recommendations.  When they want fiction, they know where to go and find it.  In other words, a speaking engagement at PFLAG is not my audience at all (Star Trek convention would be far more appropriate).  They want memoirs that detail struggle and "Ra Ra Ra Equal Rights For All! Ra Ra Ra Equal Rights For All!" I was a little flabbergasted that there was such a huge disconnect...I could imagine myself saying, "Okay my book is science-fiction.  My one sentence pitch is that it's Schrodinger's Cat with hockey sticks, glass spiders, and monsters from the id.  Any questions?"

One of three people in attendance raises hand.


They ask, "What inspired you to write this book?"

I think about it... "Mmm probably J.J. Abrams."

They look questioningly at me, "Is that a gay person that got traumatized by bigots in Wyoming?  Can you tell us about that?"

I stare back uncomfortably..."Mmm,'s a movie director."

The second person asks a question.  "What trauma in your life led you to write this book and how did you rise above it."

My answer, "I got a "D" in a biology course in college and it traumatized me so I switched majors to English and got an "A". Now I write. Any more questions?"

Strange looks from the three people in attendance that look like this ==> O.o

So yeah...that is my insecurity.  I guess my dream would be to find acceptance with science-fiction nerds who dig the story when it is published in 2013 instead of people who march on Washington and are looking for injustice to champion.  Don't get me wrong...I think championing injustice is a fanastic thing but it has little to do with a debut author who just wants to sell his science-fiction books.


  1. I don't know where people find the time for all these campaigns, groups, bloghops, contests, etc. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

    But I agree that just because you have a gay character doesn't mean you're some crusader for social justice or traumatized by tragedy. Though really you should go with the tragedy trauma thing to get more media attention.

  2. I think it's great to champion a cause, and I think it's even greater that you wrote a gay character without huge emphasis on his being gay. Characters can just be gay and that doesn't have to be their entire identity.

    While I think it's great that you were asked to speak at PFLAG, but I think, had you agreed, you could have conveyed as well that what you wanted was simply a great book about a boy, not a great book about a boy who is gay. And that, in itself, is important.

  3. Yhis reminds me of a conversation with a gay friend over homosexuals in the military. The disconnect for me was that the Pride lifestyle has so much to do with living the life they chose, dispite social norms, and the militry culture is "do as you're told, and do it fast!" His reply was that in this day & age, homosexuals are just wanting to live normal lives, and that their sexuality isn't so front-and-center. This sounds a LOT like the flavor of your book, and may be a good platform for your next invite to PFLAG, if you're interested.

  4. @Mutt: I signed up for a lot of stuff but the insecure writer's support group is easy...once a month. Rachael's campaign though has been really hectic. I'm bundling up every ten people that write the flash fiction thing and sending out an email to a judge and then filling out the form when the judge returns which entries go to round two. With over 250 entries thus's a big job.

    @Lori: I agree :)

    @Will: Well said sir.

  5. I think readers and editors are looking for more diversity in their fiction. I've used lesbian characters quite a few times in my shorts (and published in very nice venues) and the stories were about SF, not about what they got up to in bed

    It's going to be fine.

  6. I think readers and editors are looking for more diversity in their fiction. I've used lesbian characters quite a few times in my shorts (and published in very nice venues) and the stories were about SF, not about what they got up to in bed

    It's going to be fine.

  7. I'm really looking forward to reading your book...and here is why:
    1. the story sounds intriguing
    2. you write smart, I hate authors that dumb things down
    3. now I know the protagonist is gay - and that is cool simply because it doesn't happen in Sci Fi books, typically - so kudos on originality!

    If you want to march and fight for equal rights, I'm right there with you; but if you just want to write with a voice that is under-represented and therefore unique...I'm right there with you too!

  8. I literally laughed out loud. I will be buying the book - I hope it's funny. I honestly think that many younger people in particular will appreciate the non-flamboyance factor and the assertion that he is what he is without making his sexuality the central theme. I love it!!

  9. What a nice post. I love that your character "just happens to be" gay, and the whole story isn't about that. It's one of many dimensions of character.

    I don't have the link, but recently I saw a lovely post written by a sci-fi author who wanted people to stop treating her as an African-American-lady author, and see her as a sci-fi author.

    P.S. recent episode of Breaking Bad, with Jesse at group? OMG so upsetting.

  10. When I'm frustrated, I ask my husband 'Why didn't I choose something easier to do than writing?'

    I can't tell you you won't have to decline more invitations from groups who just don't get it, but you do have to work according to the dictates of your creative juices. Write your book, worry about what people think after. That's my two cents worth.

  11. 1977 is also the year I was unleashed upon the world, so it's doubly awesome.

  12. One thing to keep in mind is that currently, in our culture, the idea of "out" is so shocking and interesting, that people automatically assume that that is the central feature of any gay person's life. For instance, the current fight over "teaching gay history" isn't even really about those who fought for gay civil rights. It's about individuals who happened to be gay and did great things with their lives, and the ability to MENTION that fact when discussing their achievements. To many of us this seems silly. However, I have to think back on the day when I discovered that the SIMs could date members of their own sex. I wanted to throw a freaking party! It wasn't that they'd improved the game, it was that flirting with (and making whoopie with, and marrying and adopting children with) girls in a nationally accepted game was permitted and not really even groused about.
    I could only imagine some poor little Mormon girl playing and accidentally discovering the "flirt" button... oh my.
    I cannot wait to read your book doll. To me, the lifestyle IS beside the point, but Mutt made a great point about the Military choice for gay people. It is a cultural change and one you could definitely address if you get called again.

  13. I think it's good that you are adding diversity to the fiction world with your writing. I can also see how you would worry about how accepting people will be to your concept-it sounds like it deals with some fairly complex issues. It's just a matter of being confident in what you have written and not letting your insecurity hold you back.

  14. You lost me at calculus. Seriously, I think that once we can write characters who are gay, of different religions or cultures, or of alternative belief patterns and not have someone think it's controversial, that will be a truly wonderful day. I think the important thing is to say my story is about a person, and being gay is only one facet of the character, just like in reality.

  15. So...when is your book going to be made available to the nerdy public, like me?

  16. @Julie: Math iz gud, yes? Thank you for visiting :)

    @Charlie: 1 and a half years from now.

  17. Thanks for sharing your "insecurity" with us, Michael.

    I say go for it. It's refreshing to see diverse characters introduced to the literary-verse. And I love the responses to the proposed questions you'd receive! :)

  18. People love to get hung up on the Story of the Author rather than the Author's Story. Just remind yourself that it's the same hurdle JK Rowling had to overcome when people wanted to focus only on how she wrote as a single mother on benefits, Stephane Myer being a Morman, etc.

    Just keep answering those silly kind of questions with your fabulous wit and who knows, maybe someone in that audience might pick up your book because they are a Scifi nerd at heart.

  19. Stopped by to give you a follow and a shout of thanks for organizing the judging of the challenges. Will look forward to getting to know you and your blog as the dust settles a bit ^_^

  20. Intelligent readers won't judge your book by the fact the protagonist is gay. I wouldn't let that bother you at all.

  21. Sometimes people latch onto details that you don't find very important and work them into bigger things than they are in the story. It's nothing you can control, so don't worry about it too much. All you can do is write to make yourself happy, and other will follow. If they want to make a bruhaha about it, the best you can do is not stoke the fires. (:

  22. That's why I love our blogging communities - we're all writers that can support each other, even if we're not all entirely writing the same types of stories.
    More importantly though, which NHL team does your MC root for? :-)

  23. This is a great idea. I will give the link to my sister in law, who must have written half a dozen manuscripts so far but did not dare to send any. Thanks:)

  24. I remember when Orson Scott Card published Ender's Game, and there was a big broo-ha-ha here in Utah because Ender's mother was Mormon. It was mentioned once, I think, but everyone made such a HUGE deal about it. Some were like, "oh, he's Mormon, he's going to start preaching." Others were like "he's blaspheming, because his future can't exist according to the Mormon faith."

    Funny thing: no one remembers that now. All they remember is he wrote a dang good book.

    I think it's awesome that you are writing a science fiction book about calculus. I look forward to reading it :)

  25. For a moment there, I felt like I was listening to Douglas Adams. It was surreal.

  26. I agree with Lori Lee. A character can just be gay without that defining their entire existence.

    I too got a D in college biology. I ended up with an English/communications major.

  27. The Q&A part had me chuckling.
    Why does that have to be 'the point' for some people? I've never figured that out.

  28. This is a great post, Michael. It's sad in this day and age that sexuality still has to be such a hotspot issue. You'd hope we were all a little more grown up than that.

    Except now I'm worried I won't understand your book because it has Langrangian calculus in it. There are different types of calculus? I'm already out of my depth here!

    Love your pitch sentence as well!

  29. Styx released Grand Illusion in 1977. Bonus round.

    And, I am not a science fiction nerd, just a word nerd, but if it helps, I accept you - and admire you, as well.


  30. Cool. A book with a gay protagonist where the book is not mostly about sexuality.
    Seems to me this is exactly what's needed.

  31. OK, I had to admit I was snickering at your imaginary interview. I think you were right to decline to speak at PFLAG - like you said, the fact that the MC is gay is NOT the focal point of the book. Anyway, I'm sure your readers will see it for what it is and not for (a tiny part of) what your character is. :-)

  32. My MC is bisexual. . . really, I wouldn't hyperventilate about sexuality. Not anymore anyway. It's all over TV and movies.

    I like that the protag is gay and that it isn't the main focus of the book. It's part of the character's life, just like in real life.

    Keep writing!

  33. Sounds as if, like me, you've told people too soon about your book.

    The advice I have heard a lot lately is to keep it all quiet and only let your CP, the agents and publishers know about it, so that they can judge it on its own merits before it is unleashed into the world, after that you cannot control how everyone will interpret your work, just hope it is well received and understood by the majority.