Okay, not really. That’s the title of a song by Jimmy Buffett and not really what I’m going to talk about, but it’s late and it strikes me as funny. (Correction: It’s mummies, not witches.)
I have this thing lately about not being able to fall asleep because I’m mulling over something someone said, usually on social media. Tonight it was a Facebook post by ‘Nathan Bourgoine. He’s since written a blog about it, but I haven’t yet read that.
The Facebook post started a bit of a firestorm after someone took offense to a portion of it. To summarize, ‘Nathan had expressed the hope that writers intent on writing from a perspective other than their own would first read widely from works written by people who truly have the perspective the writer wants to explore. He championed “own voices,” putting extra emphasis on the plurality. His message was that one shouldn’t simply read a single book told from a different perspective, mentally check the “research” box, and then start trying to write from that perspective. He mentioned disliking the practice of saying, “Well, I write vampires, and they aren’t even real. Why doesn’t anyone have a problem with that?”
That part really jumped out at me because I have said that. Hell, I said it during a panel discussion ‘Nathan and I took part in together at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans back in 2014. Naturally, I first worried that he was directly referencing me, but several people mentioned having heard that comment from multiple sources. (Apparently I’m not as unique or clever as I thought.)
The real controversy on his page stemmed from one person taking from his words that he thinks no one should write any perspective outside of their own, which he did not say. At least I didn’t take that away from the post, and neither did anyone else aside from that one person.
Here’s my take on all of this. When I say, “How come no one ever asks why I feel I can write from a vampire’s perspective?” I’m coming at it from the opposite direction. I’m not talking to gay men or lesbians, bisexual folk or transgender individuals, I’m talking to Joe and Jane CisHet, who just can’t quite fathom that I could or would want to write from any perspective other than theirs. Their incredulity blows my mind. They never blink at a writer putting themselves in the shoes of a nocturnal, blood-drinking immortal but are stymied that the vampire is a gay man? Well, newsflash: gay men (and all the other letters of the rainbow alphabet, too) are not alien life forms, they’re people. They curse their alarm clocks, spill coffee on the morning paper, commiserate with their co-workers, get stuck in traffic, scrounge through the fridge to put together something for dinner, and fall exhausted into bed at night. They can be brilliant at times and airheaded at others; petty but later selfless, easygoing or irritable, stingy and generous by turns. They can be knocked off their feet by the arrival of a human possessing a particular mix of traits they find intoxicating, and they can get their heart broken by that person the same way anyone else could. And chances are, through it all, they’ll have to endure prejudice and the threat of physical violence from those people —perhaps most of the people they encounter of a day, most every day of every year—who don’t believe, or prefer to pretend, that they aren’t human.
If you’d like to read a vampire story told through the eyes of several men, four gay and one straight, I’m having an ebook sale to celebrate the fact that I’ll have a booth at Louisville Pride this Saturday, Sept 16th, from Noon to 11pm and hopefully also at the inaugural Capital Pride in Frankfort, Kentucky on October 14th. Anyway, right now the ebook of Angels Fall is a measly one dollar: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/674881
Oh, and about reading lots and lots and lots of “own voices”? Yep. I agree with ‘Nathan one hundred percent on that. Run, don’t walk.