I’ve been having an interesting but unpleasant email exchange with a writer. I’m calling him a writer because he writes. I don’t believe in making a distinction between published and unpublished, even though he prophetically commented that “anyone can be published. That doesn’t mean the person can write.” *ahem* But he did make sure I knew he was published. He even offered to help me with my writing. What a generous soul.
In the past few months, it seems I'm finding more stories from writers who obviously despise their characters. More specifically, these are straight people writing queer characters and the contempt they have for their characters is breathtaking. So I had to ask, “It’s obvious that you think that gay men are effeminate, lisping, shallow, perverted, addicted, promiscuous, stupid oxygen thieves, so why write them? If you’re writing a novel, you have to live with your characters for a long time. Why not write characters who interest you?”
The answer I got back from this one guy was, (paraphrasing) “Well, the main character feels contempt for other gay men and the gay culture and they way they always act. He’s showing the way they should act. Like men.”
After my blood pressure settled back into the non-lethal range, and I’d deleted every other response I wrote to him, I picked this one apart.
ME: “All men are men. But all men do not act like each other. Do you know any gay men? (you probably do and don’t even know it) Do those men act like your characters do?”
TSW: “You know what I mean.”
ME: “I know that relying on tired clichés is lazy writing.”
TSW: “It’s that whole gay culture thing.”
ME: “What gay culture? Circuit party boys, or middle-aged, middle-class suburbanites raising their kids? How do gay always act? And by the way, Will and Grace, the L Word, and Queer as Folk are not documentaries.”
TSW: “I know that.”
I’m not so sure he did. He thought it was impossible for a gay man or woman to have a biological child.
ME: “Why should any gay man take your main character- a self-loathing, bitter, insecure straight guy- as a role model?”
TSW: “My character is gay.”
ME: “He thinks straight.”
TSW: “He’s dating men.”
ME: “Trust me, only a straight man fantasizes that every gay man in the world worships his cock. Gay men know better. Your character walks into a club and claims that every man there hits on him. In what world? The words “highly selective” don’t even begin to describe the bar scene in WeHo. A cock is a mediocre commodity in a gay bar. Everyone has one. Your character has to have more than that going for him. He doesn’t. Not the way you’ve written him.”
TSW: “Well, he’s a total top.”
ME: “Sure you are, hon.” (I bit my tongue and did not send that reply)
After rounds of emails, I was finally able to get him to admit why he chose to write a novel with gay characters.
TSW: “Gay fiction is like erotica – anyone can get published in it.”
ME: *choke. gasp.* "grrrrr"
TSW: “I’m sure YOUR writing isn’t complete garbage. But you know what I mean.”
ME: (Thanks ever so much for “isn’t complete garbage.” I’m glad you feel my work’s just MOSTLY garbage) "Do you read erotica?"
Oh, well at least he’s competent to judge the genre.
ME: “What queer writers are you reading? Capote? Hollinghurst? Burroughs? Do you have any idea what level of writer you're competing against?”
TSW: “Read ? I don’t read gay stuff. I have no interest in that.”
ME: *rolling eyes.* "Whatever."
EVIL ME: *chuckling* One less writer I have to worry about.