Speculative Fiction

Transgender and Androgyny in Speculative Fiction

Drag queen
Image by VOLPE1981 via Flickr

My new story is in trouble.  A lot of trouble.  I can not figure out what I want it to be about.  I really want to do something different, something I want to read, something I want to see, and I've learned that I am a hard target audience.

I only know one thing about the story, I want it to have a drag cabaret in it and I want to play around with gender in a way I've never done before.  I want the character list to include at least 1 drag queen, 1 transgender, and 1 androgyn.  It is hard to deal with this in a way the average reader will be able to cope.

Pronouns and gender words are posing a problem for me.  Also introducing the characters in a way that tells the readers who these characters are without a "coming out" scene or using unflattering language.

When I read iambic kilometer's META: Five+ Ways Being Transgender in Fandom Really Sucks, and Why I Stick With It Anyway, I felt an ache within me to work even harder to get this right.

The trans character is to one I am having the more trouble developing, so I might drop her from the roster.  Is it better to do a questionable job with a character or to leave them out?  I'm not really sure, but I need to figure that out.

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A Rose by any other name

A new story is boiling in my mind.  It scrapes at the inside of my skull like Athena trying desperately to get out.  The cast of characters came to me quickly, but they needed names.

...names...

Sometimes, I feel like names are the bane of all authors.  They have to fit the character and the setting, and work well with each other.  That might sound simple, but for me it spirals into a series of questions just short of the Spanish Inquisition.

Eric's First Rule of Naming

No character in the story can have the same name as a member of my immediate family.

That is hard.  In this particular story, there is a character that feels like a Christopher and another who feels like a Donna, but my sister's name is Chris and my mother-in-law's name is Donna, so both of those names are out.

I made this rule when I was really young, when family thought characters with the same name were really ways to talk about them.  (sigh)

There is a practical reason for this too.  Writers can be sued if people think characters in their stories are based on them.  It makes naming a bit challenging for me, but it is a wise thing to do.

Eric's Second Rule of Naming

Names must flow together well.

Flow is a hard thing to talk about.  The easiest way to think of name flow is that the names need to sound like they belong together.  Families and regions have certain naming conventions, and as a Speculative Fiction writer, determining those conventions are important.

Older fiction didn't bother with this, so we ended up with names like Blork, Gort, and Xanthon.  Names that sounded outlandish, but were just weird.

H. P. Lovecraft thought a lot about the names of the creatures in his fiction.  Cthulhu for example is based on the greek work Cthon which means underground, and he intentionally wanted something that was hard to pronounce and that would be pronounced differently by everyone.  He thought it helped to lend the character an unknowable and alien quality.

Eric's Third Rule of Naming

Love the names you choose.

Writing a novel or series is akin to marriage.  You are going to spend every moment of every day with these characters rummaging around in your head.  It can take months or even years to write and edit a story.  It is a commitment.  Make sure you are committed to the names you choose so you don't end up with a Dwigt in your manuscript.

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A Rose by any other name

A new story is boiling in my mind.  It scrapes at the inside of my skull like Athena trying desperately to get out.  The cast of characters came to me quickly, but they needed names.

...names...

Sometimes, I feel like names are the bane of all authors.  They have to fit the character and the setting, and work well with each other.  That might sound simple, but for me it spirals into a series of questions just short of the Spanish Inquisition.

Eric's First Rule of Naming

No character in the story can have the same name as a member of my immediate family.

That is hard.  In this particular story, there is a character that feels like a Christopher and another who feels like a Donna, but my sister's name is Chris and my mother-in-law's name is Donna, so both of those names are out.

I made this rule when I was really young, when family thought characters with the same name were really ways to talk about them.  (sigh)

There is a practical reason for this too.  Writers can be sued if people think characters in their stories are based on them.  It makes naming a bit challenging for me, but it is a wise thing to do.

Eric's Second Rule of Naming

Names must flow together well.

Flow is a hard thing to talk about.  The easiest way to think of name flow is that the names need to sound like they belong together.  Families and regions have certain naming conventions, and as a Speculative Fiction writer, determining those conventions are important.

Older fiction didn't bother with this, so we ended up with names like Blork, Gort, and Xanthon.  Names that sounded outlandish, but were just weird.

H. P. Lovecraft thought a lot about the names of the creatures in his fiction.  Cthulhu for example is based on the greek work Cthon which means underground, and he intentionally wanted something that was hard to pronounce and that would be pronounced differently by everyone.  He thought it helped to lend the character an unknowable and alien quality.

Eric's Third Rule of Naming

Love the names you choose.

Writing a novel or series is akin to marriage.  You are going to spend every moment of every day with these characters rummaging around in your head.  It can take months or even years to write and edit a story.  It is a commitment.  Make sure you are committed to the names you choose so you don't end up with a Dwigt in your manuscript.

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Gunslinger Girl by Yu Aida

Gunslinger_Girl_Volume_OneIf Jack from 24 had a cyborg decoy assistant, Gunslinger Girl would be it. Looking for some high-action fun? You will love this manga. Although there is no horror or fantasy in this book, it is enjoyable. What’s cuter than a little girl in a school uniform sporting an uzi and shooting up terrorists? Maybe that same little girl collecting teddy bears and attempting to play the violin.

This manga raises an ethical question. The premise is that the social welfare agency has rounded up all the physically challenged girls and modified them into cyborg assassins. On the one side, these once disabled kids now have full happy lives where they can walk, go to school, and play with teddy bears. However, the government sees them as cybernetic toys -mechanical- and completely disposable. The kicker is that they also use some sort of drug to “condition” the girls to obey their handlers and risk their lives for them.

What would you do? If you could make a disabled girl walk again, but the trade up was to have them lose part of themselves mentally, would you do it? What if that girl could help track down terrorists and aid homeland security? How high of a price are you willing to put on our safety? If the quality of life is increased, must the life-expectancy be decreased?

All these questions and more will go through your head as you read this. You will also find out what happens when one of the girls starts falling for her handler.

The art in this manga is well done and has a sort of police show feel. There is one glossy color page in the front and no extras in the back.

Get your copy here from amazon:  Gunslinger Girl

The John Hodgman SF Fan Test

I really enjoyed John Hodgman’s speech at the Radio & TV Correspondent’s dinner for the jokes but mostly for the use of Speculative Fiction to communicate complex and emotionally charged political ideas.  Before we get into that let us take The John Hodgman are you a SF fan test, are you more of an SF fan then the President?  Watch the Video below.

  1. What are the name of all 3 types of hobbits?
  2. Who is the Father of Superman?
  3. Do you have a particular technology addiction?
  4. Do you have a picture of yourself in Cosplay or on a pilgrimage to a SF place?
  5. Can you flash the Vulcan solute?
  6. What was the name of the God that Conan the Barbarian worshiped?
  7. Do you know what the Kwisatz Haderach is?
    1. Bonus points if you know which version of dune the picture is from?
  8. What is the name of the giant sandworm?
  9. What is the name of the machine to summon such a sandworm?
  10. What is the name of the fluid that they expunge from the sandworm?

I love his comment on the Constitution as a big faq for the U.S. and the founding fathers perspective of God as a distant Dungeon Master.

The beauty of John Hodgman’s speech is the use of SF to communicate complex and emotionally charged political ideas in an approachable manner.  He was able to reach out to both sides of the political spectrum and get them to think about ideals like

  • Consensus
  • Eagerly looking forward to the future
  • Appreciating our diversity, EDIC

(via Huffington Post)

How Do You Know If You Love SF

batman-blue-grey When asked "Do I love Speculative Fiction?"  The answer is yes I know in my heart that I love Speculative Fiction and would consider myself a fan.  If that question is followed up with "How do you know?"  Then the answer is more difficult and involves a man in a batman suit playing guitar at a street light but more on that latter. One could just claim "I know because that is how I feel."  It is my first answer to this question but people feel many different things throughout the day and even have feelings that contradict previous feelings or their own believed position.  This does not belittle the gut check but it does reduce it's value to one method of discerning one which should be tempered with something else.

Actions speak louder than words.  A phrase that has so much truth to it and is very applicable to this process of discovery.  Our actions toward Speculative Fiction gives us evidence of our true feelings toward it.  Take this real life experience as an example.

Friday, traveling in my car through town I noticed a man standing in the grass near a three way intersection.  This was not ordinary man for he was wearing a Batman costume and jamming away on a guitar with a smile of joy on his face.  I realized by my own thoughts that this is the moment of truth, what are your thoughts about this man?

My thoughts first went toward protection of Speculative Fiction by discerning if the man was doing this out of mockery.  Satisfied that he was not, my mind turned toward fraternal thoughts.  I celebrated in his expression, became excited, thought about which Batman suit he chose and found myself wishing he could have a catwoman singer and a robin playing drums.  If your thoughts turned destructive, toward mocking this man tearing him down and robbing him of his joyous moment then your feelings are in question because your actions say your  not a fan.

How Do You Know If You Love SF?  You know that you love Speculative Fiction if you celebrate it, cherish it and express those feelings in fraternal /constructive actions.  If your actions are hateful, mocking and destructive than you do not love SF.  You are not a fan.

By the way his Batman costume was blue and grey 1960’s style Batman costume.

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Hugo Nominations: The Picks Are Difficult

Get your copy of Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog here and help support the project The Hugo Awards nominations are out!  I was so thrilled when I saw that Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.  This is great because they are recognizing web series along with television series. Now comes the hard part… picking only one winner.  Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and two other top picks from the category is “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” (Doctor Who) and “Turn Left” (Doctor Who).  This is a very hard pick because I really want Doctor Horrible to win as recognition and validation of web series yet “Turn Left” deserves to win since it is the best dramatic presentation out of the three.

Some other categories with difficult picks.

Which one will you vote for?

See the full list of nominations here.