I’ve been reading a lot of Neil Gaiman lately. I finished American Gods and now I’m reading his short story collection, Fragile Things. I confess I’d only ever read Good Omens before. The truth is, I’ve gotten away from reading many male authors. I know that’s likely an unforgivable bias. (I almost said reverse-bias, then I wondered why is it reverse – just because it’s more usual for guys not to want to read female authors?) It wasn’t really a deliberate choice, though I found I tired of the “boyness” in many of the stories, particularly in science fiction and fantasy (SFF). The incidental female characters who have no discernible personalities, the gallivanting from one fight to the next. The reflexive sexism. I know that not all male writers do this and I think Ender’s Game is a brilliant novel. But I stopped reading Orson Scott Card because I couldn’t stomach his male-dominated society ideals any longer.
Neil does not do these things.
He writes stories that arise from myth and fairy tale. They include sex, sometimes between partners of the same gender. His female characters are interesting people, even the sexy ones. And it occurred to me that I write a lot of the same kind of thing.
I hope that doesn’t sound vain or arrogant, comparing my work to his. It felt like a bit of a homecoming for me, because so much of what I write seems to fall outside of the usual arenas. So, it’s comforting to find someone else writing in a similar vein. Also, one of the neat things that he does in both of my editions (Kindle, natch) is provide notes. Sometimes he talks about his process or the inspiration for a story, or editing. For some reason, an aside remark I read yesterday hit me, where he mentioned that he knew very early on that he wanted to write SFF.
It’s often the case that one person’s eye-opening moment is another person’s blank stare, but I had a bit of an epiphany (the sun broke through the clouds, gleamed on the puffy cottony flowered bush, angels hummed – it was just a baby epiphany). I realized that, though I have lots of sex and romance in my stories, that I really want to be a SFF writer.
(Yes, Mom – I’ll keep writing nonfiction, too.)
I think I fell into the idea that the sex and romance outweighed the rest and pushed me into romance. But now I’m all about, hey, if Neil can do it, I can do it. (Obviously the erotica is a whole different kettle of fish and I’m okay with that.)
So, this is likely a ho-hum revelation to you all. Feel free to stare blankly and then go about your business.
But I can still hear those angels humming.