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nuclear sporks and grumble mail

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dude_the is here for our traditional Superbowl Sunday festivities. Yay! His plane was delayed due to weather, so he got in quite late, which might explain the slightly punch drunk conversation had during the car ride from the MARTA station. Banter revolving around the state of the world resulted in him suggesting that an "automatic sporker" was needed, which then led to discussion of the feasibility of a "nuclear spork" (spork of mass destruction?). I was, and remain, inordinately amused. Spork the world! Mwa ha ha haaa!


Writing Stuff

I got my first hate (e)mail today. Well, actually, that's way too harsh. It's really not hate mail--unless hate mail's a lot more civilized and courteous than I've been led to believe. There was no name calling or swearing. I think it's more accurate to call it "grumble mail" or perhaps "somewhat-aggravated mail."

I've got strong views on a number of controversial issues, and my beliefs tend to make an appearance in the fiction I write--theme and content-wise. So the part of my brain that braces for unpleasantness while the rest of me goes bopping about, oblivious and optimistic, has been busily stacking sandbags, collecting canned goods, and making sure there are extra batteries for the flashlights. It's been preparing my psyche for this moment, with fortifications started as soon as I began having some success publishing-wise, accelerated into frenzied duck-and-cover mode once my more thoughtful work started seeing print.

Suffice it to say I'm not staggered, speechless, or spooked.

However, I am perplexed. Not because I received correspondence from a dissatisfied reader (can't please everyone, and it was only a matter of time before someone felt compelled to type up an email letting me know how much they didn't like something I wrote), but because it had never occurred to me that this particular story would be the one to elicit reader ire. It wasn't the one with the drug use, or the sympathy-for-the-devil-with-undertones-of-free-love tale, or even the treatise on the existence of God (as put forth by a penguin balloon animal). And it wasn't any of my fiction that touches upon squeamish issues like incest, the morality of vengeance, euthanasia, homelessness, rape, religion, and children's rights. It wasn't even any of the erotic horror tales I've penned that contain some extremely squicky naughty bits. The story that abraded someone enough to voice their displeasure? My tongue-in-cheek macabre humor fluff piece. I got my first grumble mail from Escape Pod's podcast of "My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie," a story utterly lacking anything that even remotely resembles a theme


My anti-fan--I'll call her "C"--took issue with what she considered my negative portrayal of lesbians.

For the record, it was not my intention to offend or otherwise nettle, provoke, or aggrieve any lesbians, or cast any negative aspersions whatsoever on non-straight sexual orientations and relationships. My sincere apologies to anyone who found "My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie" anti-gay.

But, okay, here's the thing. C was piqued because the zombie lesbian in question slept with a man at some point in my tale, and that my narrator still refers to her as a "lesbian" and not "bi." Granted, I've never quite got the hang of labels; they typically leave me blinking in the dust. But according to both the Human Sexuality class I took in college (admittedly ages and ages ago) as well as my own first-hand, interpersonal experiences, a large percentage of straight folks experiment with same-sex relationships (especially in college, for e.g.) and yet still consider themselves "straight" and not "bi." Likewise, there's a number of gay folks who experiment with different-sex relationships and who still consider themselves "gay" and not "bi." So labelwise, I don't get why a lesbian having an affair with a guy is cause for dissidence. My take on the matter is that you love who you love, whatever their physiological composition is, and screw the labels.

Not to mention "My Friend is a Bi-Sexual Zombie" doesn't have the zing that "My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie" does.

C also thought my portrayal of lesbians in general was negative--the main one in question being a zombie and therefore having many disagreeable traits that are part and parcel of walking deadhood, but also her romantic interest who is a goth-type with necrophile tendencies. Yet, I thought my characterization of the lesbian characters was leaps and bounds more positive than that of the straight characters--one of whom is a psychotic serial killer and the other is a shallow, borderline neurotic with profoundly skewed priorities, overly preoccupied with the state of her worldly possessions.

Regardless, I wasn't trying to make a statement; my goal was to write a funny story. I'm there at the front of the "humor is hard to write" line, waving my "I wish I could write funny" placard, so I'll just nod and acknowledge that I missed C's funny bone, alas.

Hey, does that mean I'm controversial now? Another milestone, woohoo!

Except the part of me prepping for psychological/emotional cataclysm and disaster is scratching her head, inventorying the pile of unused sandbags and putting away all the cans of vegetarian baked beans, with a bemused and somewhat put out air. I think I'm going to need to placate her by watching CNN for an hour or so . . . or subject myself to a re-run or analysis/commentary of George W's State of the Nation speech. That should mollify her.

Shameless plug:
My signing with Aberrant Dreams is tomorrow. Details:
Date: Saturday, February 4th, 2006
Time: 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Place: Oxford Comics & Games 2855 Piedmont Rd NE; Atlanta, GA 30305-2767; (404) 233-8682

Swing by, say "hi," I'll sign anything. Or come and protest my portrayal of lesbian zombies.

- 92-day FYI from OSC's Intergalactic Medicine Show: "apologies for the long delay . . . your story did make it through the first cut, and will now be passed on to Mr. Card to read and make a final decision." Another month, or two . . . or more to engage in nail-biting before the final verdict.
- 15-day "this is a form rejection" from Son and Foe. Is it me, or have rejection notes gotten kind of weird recently? This one actually says: "As you may have noticed, this is a form rejection." *blink* Okaaay.

New Words: 700 on the Japanese Demon Hunter story.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
4,642 / 6,000

Club 100 For Writers

I'm feeling:
confused confused
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC), teratologist commented:
I hope my first grumble-mail is that amusing.
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On February 3rd, 2006 07:52 pm (UTC), everyonesakitty commented:
Wow, I think that's pretty cool that you got hate mail. It's got to be some sort of rite of passage for a writer. Er... congrats! hehe :p

And good luck at the reading!
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 08:02 pm (UTC), britmarschalk commented:
For the second time today, I am reminded: people who expect offense/discrimination/etc. tend to find it, even where it doesn't exist. It's human nature. Oh, well.

I wonder what your anti-fan would think of a certain story we have under serious consideration right now.

I don't think I'll be able to make your signing, but good luck, and have fun!
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC), coolmajaka commented:
Your I'll sign anything comment reminds me of one of Kinky Friedman's political tag lines: "I'll sign anything but bad legislation." Click the hyperlink to watch the talking doll political ads -- including one called "I'll Sign Anything" -- they're frickin' hysterical.

Of course, the Kinkster is also a successful mystery novelist (NYT BS list) and former lead singer for Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, so one can only hope he'll be Texas next governor.
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC), neo_prodigy commented:
re: alienating sexual orientations
let me just say that for the record you're absolutely right in that there are plenty of gays and lesbians who occassionally have an indiscretion with someone of the opposite sex and still identify themselves as gay or lesbian and not bi.

as far as that and the negative characterizations you're accused of, it sounds like the person in question is channeling her own issues onto your story.

if she really wants to find a negative portrayal of lesbians to gripe about, have her watch the l-word.
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC), jimhines commented:
The gay/lesbian vs. bi can be a very touchy line for some of the folks within those communities. I heard similar complaints about the movie Chasing Amy. My outsider's perspective is that it feels like a cheapening of identity, if that makes sense.
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC), britmarschalk commented:
Is it me, or have rejection notes gotten kind of weird recently? This one actually says: "As you may have noticed, this is a form rejection." *blink* Okaaay.

Hmm. Unusual...

I have to wonder what writers are saying about TTD's rejection letters... they're all over the map, really.
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC), albionidaho commented:
Honestly, I thought your treatment of lesbians was just fine, no gripe here.

Your treatment of zombies, however... I can't tell you how much that offended me.


Good luck at the reading.

*sneaks out the back*
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC), lizziebelle commented:
Sounds like this person was just looking for something to be offended about. Like the folks who said there was a war on Christmas because some stores said "Happy Holidays." Find something real to be upset about, folks! ;)
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 09:10 pm (UTC), yukinooruoni commented:
Silly "C"!

You can be gay/lesbian/straight and still experiment a few times with the other side to see what it's like, WITHOUT being Bi.

Obviously, "C" doesn't understand that being called something doesn't mean you are 100% that. Silly widget.
On February 3rd, 2006 09:46 pm (UTC), ex_girlmech replied:
No, but what "C" is saying is that it's a stereotype that is damaging to lesbians and frustrates the lot of us. In a way, it's like having a black character REALLY LOVE watermelon. It can be tongue in cheek, but that doesn't mean the average person isn't going to refrain from construing it in a racist light.
— On February 3rd, 2006 10:08 pm (UTC), yukinooruoni posted a reply · Expand
— On February 3rd, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC), ex_girlmech posted a reply · Expand
— On February 3rd, 2006 11:07 pm (UTC), yukinooruoni posted a reply · Expand
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC), aimeempayne commented:
Hey! We're both in the "Passed Up to OSC" club! I'll be rooting for you.
[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 09:31 pm (UTC), basletum replied:
I'm jealous of you both now. :)
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On February 3rd, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC), basletum commented:
Sheesh. You'd think the hint at necrophilia would be more offensive than whether or not a character was labeled "Lesbian" or "Bi-". Um, "C" does know that almost everybody loves Lesbians, doesn't she?

I have been wondering, though. If said corpse is a walking, talking zombie, then is it really necrophilia since it's not fully dead? And if it is, wouldn't that apply to vampires as well? And if it applies to vampires, then wouldn't that mean a lot of people are, in fact, closet necrophiliacs, what with the popularity of vampire fiction and all?

Gee, some of my pondering scares even me!
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC), keesa_renee commented:
:grins: Don't worry. Sooner or later, you're bound to need all those sandbags and baked beans. It's a cruel world, after all! ;-)

I don't have the guts to try to drive in Atlanta, but I'll be thinking of you tomorrow! Have fun. :hugs:
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On February 3rd, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC), ex_girlmech commented:
This is coming from a certified lesbo!
Okay, to be honest, I don't care about the portrayl of lesbians for anything - and I repeat ANYTHING - except sleeping with men.

Thus, I agree with your critic on this point. I understand if it is not your intent and in no way am I accusing you of being homophobic, because you're obviously not. But if in the story she identifies as a lesbian and then sleeps with a male (and this was not considered a mistake, or made her feel bad, or way in the past before she was experienced) you are further perpetuating the stereotype that all of us have to live through. Especially us girly ones.

The stereotype in question of course is that ALL LESBIANS WILL SLEEP WITH A MAN if a good enough one comes along. So yes, I completely agree on this front, and even if it was tongue in cheek which I expect it was - most people will take that as a reinforcement of said stereotype, on top of whatever prejudice they had in the first place. It is a somewhat damaging thing to do.

Just my two cents, here.
[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 10:13 pm (UTC), eugie replied:
Re: This is coming from a certified lesbo!
"But if in the story she identifies as a lesbian and then sleeps with a male (and this was not considered a mistake, or made her feel bad, or way in the past before she was experienced) you are further perpetuating the stereotype that all of us have to live through."

Actually, the narrator isn't the lesbian in question, and it is never explicitly stated what Mandy (the zombie) says her sexual orientation is. Also, the narrator mentions that Mandy is “technically bi” in the opening. I really think that ought to have covered my identity crisis bases.

"The stereotype in question of course is that ALL LESBIANS WILL SLEEP WITH A MAN if a good enough one comes along."

In my story, sleeping with a man is the source of all badness. It is a straight relationship which causes Mandy’s misery and sorrow, and a gay one that turns everything happily ever after. I intentionally made the serial killer male to avoid perpetuating the psychologically disturbed/violent homosexual stereotype.

I honestly do consider “My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie” to be pro-gay. If you have the time to download and listen to the podcast, I suspect you'll find it to be far more of a homophobe-bashing tale than anti-lesbian--since the straight narrator is shallow and has profoundly skewed priorities, being overly preoccupied about the state of her worldly possessions. Although her antipathy to Mandy-as-sex-partner could also be interpreted as stemming from Mandy's undead state rather than her gender.

Regardless, I didn't write this story to push an agenda. My goal was to be funny. Or at least entertaining.
— On February 3rd, 2006 10:15 pm (UTC), ex_girlmech replied, “Re: This is coming from a certified lesbo!” · Expand
— On February 7th, 2006 10:50 pm (UTC), sfeley replied, “Re: This is coming from a certified lesbo!” · Expand
— On February 8th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC), eugie replied, “Re: This is coming from a certified lesbo!” · Expand
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[User Picture]
On February 3rd, 2006 10:12 pm (UTC), wolflady26 commented:
This is a subject I've been thinking about a lot recently, in the flack of an essay about how anti-feminist the new Battlestar Galactica series is (an opinion that I wholely disagree with). It's a nasty situation right now, because minorities are underrepresented in the media (I was thinking of gender and race, but sexual orientation fits, too), but any portrayal of a minority character that isn't 100% positive calls down a rain of criticism. Apparently, only white male (straight) characters are allowed to have character flaws. Which is a shame, because a character without flaws is supremely uninteresting.
On February 3rd, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC), ex_girlmech replied:
Well, imho, character flaws are one thing, and sexuality-that-doesn't-fit the label is another... I also agree that people are far too harsh about what is "acceptable".
— On February 3rd, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC), wolflady26 posted a reply · Expand
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