Taboo

There has been a study done, recently, which discovered that people greatly overestimated the number of minorities among them.  The article I read mostly referred to gay people, but there were equally interesting studies/slip ups with various races, religions and handicapped people.

At least part of the reason for this is that these minorities tend to be prominently featured in book and movie and tv.  Part of it is, as Dave Freer talks about today (second half of his post at Mad Genius Club) that trolls can be very vocal; that some minorities back the trolls and that writers are socially inept and don’t generally want to fight … Or couldn’t, while they were working through the politically-correct houses and distributors.  Now some of us are discovering we have untold reservoirs of rage ready to explode at a moment’s notice (yes, I’m keeping it under control.  Mostly.  The words Sarah Smash strike fear in the heart of sensible men, though.  sensible women too, and possibly even sensible dragons).  The other part of it, of course, was that a way to be seen to be “good” by a big house — where they probably could no longer evaluate your writing, much less care if the readers liked what you wrote — was to be seen to back an important “cause” and to get the backing from the – often vocal – supporters of this cause.

I have to say, from personal experience, as far as that goes, having (even sympathetic) gay characters is a bust.  It might actually get you in trouble with the pc police if you’re writing a different gender and you’re straight, because you’re “stealing victimhood” and also, say, a gay man is completely opaque to me and I can’t tell how he thinks.  (Bless one of my gay friends who, when informed of this, said “I should hope I’m opaque to you.  Would you really want to see me digest the hamburger I had for lunch?”)

If you were a woman, a good way to be seen as “good” and be promoted to the skies and beyond was to be “feminist” which of course earned you the buying power of the largest group, because, oddly, women manage to be a minority while being the majority of the population.  It’s all very bewildering. Oh, and if you were a minority say, because of a Latin last name, you HAD to write minority victim stories.

Of course, I was born contrary, so even though I knew perfectly well how to get the attention and the approval of the big wigs, I wanted to earn my way up with good stories.  Yeah, you know how well that worked.  Never mind.

I do however have gay characters and I was thinking over the weekend as to WHY.  Oh, I have gay friends, but that’s not it.  I don’t base my characters on my friends.  (Unless one or more of you shifts into a dragon.)

So why do I have gay characters?  (If you count them in my case it averages to around 10% which the study said was still way too high.  I’m not sure.  I think this is very hard to survey.  From my real life experience I’d think 10% was about right.)  In my case, honestly, because I like to make life difficult for my characters.  It’s not the “gay character” thing it’s the “character has a secret thing.”  Or “character has to work around a more difficult labyrinth than other people do.”  This is why I’m MORE likely to have a gay character where it’s forbidden or difficult to be gay.  It gives me another bewildering plot point to confuse matters and… well, another way to torture the character.  Where it would be a non-even – the shifter series! – and wouldn’t make the characters’ life more difficult at all, I don’t have any gay characters.  (The refinishing mysteries?  Think about it.  I’m making life more difficult for DYCE.  She’s a woman raised by crazy parents, who is at odds with reality in general.  Her best friend couldn’t be a woman, unless I made that woman even crazier…  So… her best friend is a gay male, a position that puts him also slightly askew to reality and makes them both spin sideways at a tilt… thereby solving mysteries that would escape normal minds.  That Ben is the voice of reason in those books – except about his own love life – is a clue at how difficult I’m making Dyce’s life.)

Okay, Sarah, you say.  BUT you’re an author, and a weird one.  I know these days there is almost no book I can open or show I can watch without either the “wise gay character” or the “victim gay character” – sometimes both being the same.

Yeah.  I can’t explain it, as such, but I can tell you HOW that came about.

It starts with the Taboo.  How many of you read Nemesis by Agatha Christie in the seventies? And how many felt a frisson or horror and shock when the motive at the end is revealed to be lesbianism?  (And for that matter cross age and creepy, but never mind.)

Back when homosexuality was the love that dare not speak its name (or as we call it around this house, given two of my cats and their proclivities, the love that dare not meow its name) no one anticipated it as a motive.  It was a total surprise, a great way to throw out red herrings, and the shock of it was big enough to make the book memorable and to hide any clumsy thumb marks leading up to the conclusion.

We writers are magpies.  We can’t look at anything that works that well and not go “ooh, shiny.”  So… throughout the seventies there was a gallop of gay… mostly villains.  Mostly villains until either someone thought “hey, that’s not fair” or “OMG, what if I turn it around?  What he’s hiding is that he loves so and so and that makes him seem like the murderer, but he’s really a good guy.”  Enter a cavalcade of hidden virtuous gay people.  (And eventually — shocking — open, virtuous gay people.)

Of course, meanwhile gay rights were advancing, people were exiting the closet in droves, and at some point someone thought, “I know, I’ll get double author points.  I’ll make gay people victims, because humans always root for the underdog.”

Enter a cavalcade of mysteries where the solution was always “He was killed because he was gay and so and so hated it.”  These books routinely go against the wall, as do the books that say things like “It was all a mob plot” or “he just went crazy.”  They go against the wall because they’re boring and predictable, and instead of reflecting the human condition hold up a kid’s crayon drawing and tell you it’s a true picture.

The thing is, this too is passing away.  We’re now getting the “he’s gay, he’s the murderer and he was driven to it because people hated him.”  Um…  We’re coming back, you see, through a circuitous route to the “gay murderers” – and those are shocking, of course, because for so many years we weren’t allowed to do it.  (And I’ll add a great part of the search for the shocking is that PC has made it impossible to REALLY DISCUSS the stuff the writers worry about, like [well, I’m a writer] what is honor, or what you owe other humans, or what is the ultimate fate of humanity, or is a flea really a rat and a boy when it comes to suffering?  Robbed of the ability to make readers think, a lot of us have decided to resort to “Ah!  Shocking.”)

This too shall pass.  The reason the gay whatever was once powerful was that it was taboo.  Writers got used to coasting on that frisson.  Now they’re not taboo, the frisson is not there, and while many of us will continue to use gay characters (look, Bub, I don’t even fully control who my characters are.  They even insist on certain names.  I often don’t find out why till the book is almost done.  Sometimes I NEVER find out) because it’s a useful way to torture the critters and also because they allow for someone slightly outside and askew (more so for historical characters.) we will have to write a book that works without the “oh, shocking, gay.”

Personally, since I realized that was the “easy way out” about fifteen years ago, I’ve been trying to do just that.  So while I have gay characters, that will not be the thing that carries the book.  Even when it’s the main character or one of the triggers of the plot, there will be other reasons and other tasks to accomplish.  And the book will not be ABOUT being gay.  (Though at least one of them is about being odd.  No, it’s not out yet.)  Since my characters don’t have sex on screen — really — I don’t see why anyone can care that much, anyway.

Other writers…  To no one’s surprise at least half of them aren’t getting the message and will continue to purchase “victimhood” points and “relevancy” points and induce “Ah! Gay!” shock.  This will probably last as long as publishers have ANY power to push a book.  I’m not going to make bets for after.

More interesting is how tv writers (okay, guys, let’s not be mean, they have to accomplish a load of work in very short space) have now strayed from “Ah!  Gay!” to “Ah! Weird!”  This is how I stopped watching mystery shows.  I’m willing to believe – at least in my circles – that there are about 10% gay people around.  I am however not willing to believe there are even 0.1% autoerotic autophage cannibals, or transsexual incest fetishists or pedophilic bestiaphiles who prefer to have sex in free fall.  Okay, okay, I made up that one – but not the other two, which tells you how far the writers are going for “Ah! Shock!  You never saw it coming!”  (And I will not apologize.  In this subject there are no – groans – safe words.)

What that is becoming is ultimately “the villain is insane and has this compulsion” which in the end of course means that there is no rational reason and it’s an unsatisfying mystery.  (At least for me.  Tons of people like it.)  The same for every other form of writing, btw – to some extent all writing is mystery because there’s usually some knowledge the reader must discover or some secret the characters don’t know.

I’m betting that as more people go indie, and as indie writers become more experienced, we’ll see the fictional universe reflect the “real universe.”  I’ll continue having about 10% gay characters, including possibly some main ones (which was forbidden in traditional publishing.  Don’t even ask.)  And they’ll be good/bad/indifferent.  I might have fewer black characters than I “should” by strict head count simply because of where I live.  Yes, I know that sounds weird, but the west has a lower black population (no, I’m NOT going to call them African Americans.  First, because Mike Kabongo will hurt me.  Second because most of my characters are NOT American or, now I think about it, African) than most of the rest of the country, and this seems to seep in through my consciousness.  I noted my percentage of black characters dropped since I moved here.  Which doesn’t/shouldn’t matter except for giving future whiners the chance to call me racist.  (Rolls eyes.  I think the only people I beat on by default are blond women, and yeah, I’d mind if my sister married one.  Actually it’s an old all-girl school in a Latin country injury. The blond chicks tended to be unbelievably stuck up.)

OTOH at least in the Earth Revolution books I have one planned that’s set mostly in Africa and its dependencies, so… that should set that balance straight.  And the fact that I’m even worrying about this, shows you the things we’ve had to take in account in our writing that should never have crossed the mind of any novelist.

Hopefully going indie will allow us to stop counting heads and wondering what the editors will think of us, or what group will picket the publishers’ door, and write what we feel needs to be written.

And the taboo?  There will always be taboos.   They will always be a frisson of shock that hides a multitude of sins.  If you discover one that no one else has had the guts to use (and that isn’t so completely bizarre that readers roll their eyes) go for it.  Just remember, after the first time it loses most of its potency.  (I TOLD you there were no safe words.)

And if you find yourself relying on it, it’s become a crutch.  Find what parts of the book you need to shore up and throw away the taboo.  It will save you coming up with a villain – or a hero – who gets his jollies by watching Venusians mate while suspended upside down in cherry jello.

309 thoughts on “Taboo

  1. Well the “real” taboo is to have a “white male conservative religious person” who is a good guy. [Wink]

    Seriously, one guy complained in Ringo’s Tavern that Barb (in Princess of Wands) was “too nice” to be a “real” religious person.

    Oh, he was also sure that John Ringo was “Religious Right” (John’s a former Catholic).

    1. That could be trouble for me. The first novel I will release will have a white former seminary student who now does some unseemly jobs for the Catholic Church. The horror! 😛

      1. Oh, oh, like the hard boiled Knight Templar and his sometimes-sidekick Sister Angela from the Little Sisters of St. Francis Special Action Section? I like those stories.

    2. Barb is a great character. And I *never* thought that Ringo was religious. I appreciated that he got Barb “right.” It just means that he’s capable of observation.

      1. I think it was a matter that to some people, “religious equals bad” and thus only “religious people can write religious people as good”. There was also a confusion about what conservatism is. The idiot assumed that all conservatives were religious. [Sad Smile]

        1. I think it’s also an US vs THEM thing: We are the good ones, therefore anyone who disagrees with us is evil.

          This happens on both right and left, but I come across it more on the left these days.

          1. It correlates with a) lack of humility b) high self-esteem c) living in an ideological bubble. Few on the Right can be ignorant of the opinions of “their betters.” Many on the Rights are truly, profoundly religious — which tends to stimulate humility. As for the high self-esteem, well , there you have me.

        2. Well, and to some people, “religious” might equal, “Your grandfather all but told you that you were going to Hell.” It took… rather a few years, and the experience of non-intolerant people who were also very spiritually religious, for that sort of experience to fade.

    3. That’s been part of the problem with me finding a home for the Christian Cole novels. Nobody wants to touch a young mixed racial teen who is fighting on behalf of humanity with the assistance of the Church as well as from the Fey. Most agents love the idea until they get to the Church aspect, then ask me “Would it matter if, in the long run, the Church ends up betraying Christian?”

      My usual reply is “Hell yeah it would matter. Christian needs the Church and vice versa.”

      Then they stop emailing, saying that it’s “Not what they are looking for at this time”.

      1. you need to indie-publish it then – I would even read that one because it does sound interesting and I don’t fit the demographic. 😉

      2. *ears perk up* WANT! Part of what made me love the Dresden series from Jim Butcher was that the Church isn’t evil, and I have a pet peeve about the Fey always being in full-on war with the Church. (usually as their victims)

        1. Yes, when the priest talked about being asked to bless an entire barrel of water into holy water, that was awesome.

          Plus, it IS nice that Dresden is able to work with the Church and not have them after him as well.

          1. Strong and believable. Not the “pond scum” type of stuff that gets pushed as “believable” and “masculine,” but a guy I wouldn’t mind my sister dating.

            1. I wouldn’t mind my grand-daughter dating (since my step daughters are all paired up now) 😉 Yea – I like real men with real honor.

  2. Taboos, like cliches, are the fast food of writing. We despise ourselves for consuming them yet keep returning “for the convenience.”

    They are also much much easier to do than “real” characters.

    OTOH, it might be amusing to start a list of truly taboo characters in contemporary fiction/drams. Start with The Good Corporation (I would say CEO, but Tony Stark belies that.) Take WalMart, f’rinstance: provides thousands of jobs which, while low wage are also low-skill, meaning that the wages are probably commensurate with value provided) and (as we have seen with multiple hurricane & tornado events) remarkably adroit about pre-positioning relief supplies and delivering them faster than FEMA.

    1. Umm, I believe a well trained chimpanzee would be better at pre-positioning and delivering relieve supplies than FEMA.

      1. My hubby works in emergency management and knows some FEMA folks. They are actually fine people. The problem is the rules that they have to abide by to get the supplies to certain areas. In certain cases they are not allowed to bring supplies until the State asks for help. It is convoluted and causes a lot of trouble. I do know a lot of good people who were in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. It was a very hard assignment to the folks going in…

        1. Also many of the underlings that actually do the work (minions?) are prior military. Many are retired from other jobs and are doing the FEMA work half-time. The problem is of course in the department heads, State officials, etc. etc. I am pointing at the politicians.

        2. In our State (Nevada) we are always under some kind of emergency because of fire, floods, earthquakes, etc. Because of the experiences that we have (also affiliated with California) our emergency folks have a lot of experience in pre-positioning supplies and emergency work. The States that only have one or less emergency a year don’t have the skills.

          Florida is the other State that has at least two-three hurricanes a year. They are also well-trained and good at their jobs. Louisiana – geez… they were using their emergency money to buy luxury cars for their politicians and sheriffs. it was a mess. They did not have the amount of police because several of their leaders were being paid for two jobs. Some of them ran and did not come back to help get the city back together. Like I said a mess… If it wasn’t for outside help, New Orleans would still be a wreck.

          Sorry you just pushed my buttons with the chimp remark about FEMA and (consequently State emergency workers.)

          Off the soapbox now. 😉

          1. I don’t think anyone intended disrespect for FEMA workers; you hit the nail of the problem on the head with your observation:

            “The problem is the rules that they have to abide by to get the supplies to certain areas. In certain cases they are not allowed to bring supplies until the State asks for help. It is convoluted and causes a lot of trouble.”

            This is the primary distinction between public and private sector: Public sector efforts are rated by their abiding by the rules; private sector efforts are judged by achieving the objective, by getting the job done.

            That is also the reason public sector accounting makes no intuitive sense. (Don’t worry – I won’t go off on a accountant rant.) In the case of Katrina the local authorities froze at the wheel. Federal authorities CAN NOT take the wheel until the local relinquish command. Nor should they: let’s not start imagining the current administration being able to tell, say, WI Gov. Walker: Sir, you’re out of control, we relieve you of authority.

            But it do make things less efficient.

            N.B. – notice that when our military is given authority and responsibility to act (e.g., the Indonesian & Japanese tsunamis, the Haitian hurricane) they serve with nigh unbelievable efficiency and vigor. Put the same people under bureaucratic rule and you get Katrina.

            1. Creeping centralization, a phenomenon that’s well on its way to paralyzing this country (the World, for that matter).

              FEMA was established as a backstop, a resource local responders could utilize so as to be more effective. First response was (and to an extent still is) the responsibility of local agencies. That means it’s variable; State A does a good job, State B doesn’t — and, since FEMA is available, it’s a great thing to use if you’re State B and trying to make excuses. Rinse and repeat, and what you get is uniformity, but it’s going to look a lot more like B than it does A simply because of the averaging effect. That being unsatisfactory, more money and power goes to the Feds, and that ends with local firefighters standing and watching structures burn because they don’t have Federal approval to squirt water there because the Fed who can sign the authorization is not only two States away, he took the weekend off (and yes, that actually happened; some of the frustrated firefighters are people I know).

              There is no bean-counter on the planet who won’t tell you that One Big Central Facility is the most efficient way to do it. That’s one of the main differences between “bean counter” and “accountant”, because there is no record anywhere of the principle actually working in practice.

              1. RIC –
                You can see the problems with centralization in education as well as emergency services. Also – structures like roads, bridges, etc. What happens is that you’ll see the FEDs trying to make the West a carbon copy of the East. It can’t be done because we have less people (not counting California) and larger spaces. We just started a bus service in Carson City a few years after I got here (around 2005). If you want to get anywhere in this State you need a car. It is not like New York, where you can walk everywhere.

                Planes are more efficient here than trains because of our specific problems. That is why I would like to go back to Federalism with strong States rights which is the best way to decentralize.

            2. RES is correct, I wasn’t insulting the lower level workers, many of them are good people, and hard workers. The problem is that like most government agencies those that aren’t hard workers, and/or those without a modicum of common sense nobody wants, but they don’t want to fire them, so they are promoted to remove them from their dept. and make them someone elses problem. (This only makes sense to managers in the government, DON’T try and figure it out from a private sector viewpoint) Also many times they bring in someone with a college degree (college degrees prove that you know more than those without one) to tell the guy that has been doing this for thirty years how to do his job.

              I have dealt with FEMA, though not in the last few years, and with other state emergency workers. My experience closely follows your opinions, at the bottom levels competence and the ratio of intellegent hard working people is roughly equal to that of the general population. The higher you move up the ladder however, the lower that ratio goes.

              1. Yes – I see we are on the same page. Centralization is a real problem when dealing with federal agencies. And as we used to say, the incompetent are sent up the ladder so they don’t mess up the operation. Unfortunately, it causes its own set of problems.

                Cyn

                1. The incompetent also tend to think of getting promoted as a promotion … and seek it out.

                  One consistent attribute of incompetents: they don’t realize they are incompetent (if they did they would act on the knowledge and address the matter.) Indeed, they often become convinced they are the most (only) competent person in the room/organization. Some time back Sarah had an excellent blog post on the topic. Why not make Saturday a “Greatest Hits” day and let late-comers learn of some of what they missed out on, Sarah? You could spend more time in bed eating raspberry-chocolate truffles (although the comments might get a bit … random.)

                  1. I’ve been meaning to revisit the competence thing. That post was from the POV of writers/artists. But I’ve been noticing something that ties in with the Cannibals post. Perhaps they do this because they can’t do otherwise? I.e. they can’t actually PERFORM. Competence has gotten lost in many fields because people learned the theory instead of learning to do — the most obvious is teaching, though editing is part of this. And don’t get me started on the “manual labor” front. So, I should write that to. So — makes note “You call it perversion, I call it hot.” And “Those Who Just Can’t” any other suggestions?

                    1. In technical fields, I have seen more cases where the person did NOT “learn” the theory, all they learned was how to answer questions on a certification exam (I suppose this is similar to the education profession complaining about NCLB, that they have to “teach to the test”. I always figured that if they taught a good curriculum that included the subject matter that was on the Standardized tests, they would fare at least as well, but the teachers I know don’t agree). The popularity of “brain dumps” for things like Computer Certifications exacerbates this, because they don’t truly teach the subject matter.

                      On the other hand, I remember well the stories I have heard from people who worked with someone fresh out of college who tried to tell everyone how to do things, before they learned how the shop worked, so I guess it goes both ways.

                    2. As for the competence, I suspect it correlates to the subjectivity of evaluation of results. And the degree to which failure can be assigned accurately — failure of a rocket scientist is more easily discerned than of an English teacher or an editor.

                    3. failure of a rocket scientist is more easily discerned than of an English teacher or an editor

                      Oh, I doubt that. I’d be willing to bet good money an English teacher or an editor couldn’t even get the damned thing to launch.

                    4. We found this problem Sarah, in electronics shops. We would get techs with AAs in electronics who could only work on monitors. I didn’t get an AA, but I had two years in the US Navy schools with a strong emphasis on troubleshooting. Then we were expected to follow a competent tech around for several months so that we could learn how it was done because school never lives up to actual world conditions. Apprenticeships are needed in many fields. Imho that step is being cut out, which causes a lot of problems.

                    5. It almost makes you think when they developed the apprentice/journeyman/master thing our ancestors knew what they were doing. Nyahhhh – couldn’t be.

                    6. In publishing what circumvented this process — which was still very much alive in Heinlein’s time — was the idea of “natural genius” coupled with the publishers discovering that by controlling distribution and push they could make almost anyone a bestseller. The two combined made them believe that people SHOULD come in at the peak of their ability and either go bestseller instantly or they were never going to. Of course this required believing in “natural genius” and forgetting the whole push thing, but that’s okay. They did that. I don’t know about other fields.

                    7. You reckon those publishers knew that their “natural geniuses” had the rough edges knocked off them in the hardscrabble fields of journalism and pulp magazines? The NY Times has learned why (Jayson Blair) you don’t just hire some kid out of college and put him on the front page.

                    8. The Daughter, after working teaching chemistry labs as a college undergraduate and sitting through innumerable science classes herself, thinks that certain things should not be taught in High School. Why? It is taught incorrectly and then when the kids get to college they have to be untaught. Unlearning what you know that ain’t so is really difficult.

                  2. I have met incompetent people who knew they were incompetent (in electronics) RES. No problem. They took credit for other people’s work and got promoted that way.

                    1. Well, I did say “tend” … but you’ve reinforced my point about promotion.

                      I to had a neighbor who, before he retired, had worked as a master chemist and turned down promotion because “they weren’t going to pay me enough to put up with all that nonsense rather than doing something I liked.”

                    2. One thing I’ve noticed about competence, promotions and such, especially in a family-owned business, is that nobody has a lick of problem with nepotism when the person in question is competent. The problem with monarchy isn’t the monarchy. Isn’t ensuring that you’ll have good rulers.

            3. Private is imho always more efficient. Sometimes we do need the public sector. I don’t see the private sector taking the pay cut … emergency services are actually really expensive. There is a lot of swapping of services between States and sharing of the costs especially in States that have a lot of fire.

              We have a Western coalition that help each other before they have to call FEMA. They have agreements in place. FEMA in our areas are mostly for help for paying for the services. Nevada is a small state population wise and if we had to pay for all the fire services we would be bankrupt.

              1. Not just Nevada. When I lived in western KS, there was a grassfire that spread quickly into rough terrain (yes, there is such within the state). Fire folks from OK and TX responded, as well as every volunteer firefighter available in a three county area, plus more folks who just showed up to move cattle and open gates and fences.

              2. Private sector activity is more efficient in part because that is what it is “designed” to be — efficiency is another word for profit.

                Public sector is (and should be) concerned with other factors. Is an expenditure authorized? Are the funds for the expenditure appropriated? All of this reflects government’s role as steward of the public’s interests. As with a trustee of an estate, the goal is not efficiency, it is responsible oversight. Which tends to slow processes while boxes get ticked to demonstrate proper deliberation.

                Which is why it is important to carefully distinguish between what is properly public sector activity and what can be handled through contracting to the private sector.

                    1. They are fierce RES – I have been on Cytoxan, methotrexate, imuran, Cellcept and prednisone. The Cellcept is allowing my brain to reappear. I lost over 20 points when I was on Cytoxan. I haven’t gotten it back—yet.

  3. I have to say, from personal experience, as far as that goes, having (even sympathetic) gay characters is a bust.

    LOL, I tend to agree, but Stirling isn’t listening to you. Why in the hell HBO overdid the Tyrell/Beratheon gay thing is quite beyond me, as a fan of the series. It was overdone at the least and pandering at the worst.

        1. How do you figure its a WotR parallel? Stirling took the off-season island of Nantucket and dropped it into 1250 BC. Similarly, he took the upper-northwest and negated all artificial electrical and pressure potentials higher than what is necessary for biology to function, ie, all batteries and bang-bangs ceased working. Again, I’m not sure how the WotR fits or how it somehow belies a misunderstanding of history on Stirling’s part.

          Perhaps you would like to step outside…lol

          1. I suspect suburbanbanshee was referring to the HBO series w/regard to the WotR parallel. As to the Renly/Loras relationship, that was strongly hinted at in the books (Margaery’s still a virgin after having been married to Renly for a while, for instance), and so the scenes with the two of them served both as character development and as a confirmation of “Yes, in fact, the guy with the Rainbow Guard and no desire to have sex with his willing, beautiful young wife IS gay rather than an asexual.”

            As to “overdoing things,” well, that’s going to be awfully subjective. HBO had some male-on-male sex that was plotful, and tons of bare breasts as well as some female-on-female sex that was just for fanservice. I’d sooner remove the “Osha randomly naked!” or “Yes, let’s have Littlefinger deliver his dialogue in a room where two women are going at it!” bits than to have the plot-relevant Renly/Loras scene of the first season removed.

            With Stirling, I don’t know. But since one of his main characters is not only lesbian, but also black in a situation where many surrounding characters are either white Nantucketers or ancient peoples of various sorts, I suspect the publisher wouldn’t have pushed too hard for changing that character. It might look racist.

            1. There’s a story that Stirling made that character a black lesbian so Baen would reject that novel and he could market it elsewhere. The way the story goes, Stirling had a contract with Baen that Baen had the “first refusal” on his next book. While I don’t know the truth of this story, his book wouldn’t have been much different if the character was not lesbian or gay.

              1. While it may be true that Stirling made Marion Alston black and gay to play a publishing game (which I doubt), the character’s sexual orientation directly impacted the story. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have ended up with a lover, Swindapa, that gave the Nantuckers direct access to the Moon People and their common war against William Walkers band of uptime traitors.

                1. OH? The noble *male* ship captain could have been given Swindapa as a “party favor”, taken her back to Nantucket, fallen in love, etc. Swindapa would still be a link with the Earth People with a male lover.

                  1. You didn’t say anything about a male captain. You said While I don’t know the truth of this story, his book wouldn’t have been much different if the character was not lesbian or gay.

                    If Marion Alston wasn’t a lesbian, that fact would have had a large impact on the story. You’re also suggesting that making the character a lesbian was somehow working outside Stirling’s S.O.P. in order to game the publisher. He’s had very prominent lesbians in just about every series he’s written. In the Draka series, the main antagonist (protagonist if you dig the Draka) was a lesbian. In the “Dies The Fire” a secondary character that becomes a prominent protagonist as the series develops is a lesbian and the inherent intolerance of the Portland Protective Association severely affects her life. In this latest vampire-esque series, the main villainess has severe lesbian tendancies, though bi might be technically more correct.

                    In other words, Stirling has a serious penchant for strong, female characters that like to “putt from the rough”. If you’re suggesting that he made Marion Alston black to game Bean, I can honestly say I have no idea if that’s true, but would suggest it’s highly unlikely.

                    1. also for the record, the whole relationship was important because their interactions with other cultures were different than they would be for a straight couple. But because of Sterling’s penchant, I think he gets “blessed” with these characters, as I get the occasional gay male. Which, btw, was FAR more of an issue in traditional publishing. They take it as an article of faith that if a woman writes a gay male, gay males will be offended. This despite (yes, I read them too!) examples to the contrary, including Misty. Lesbians are more acceptable because, well… I have no idea. I had a — male — publisher assure me that even women get turned on by the idea of lesbianism, while two men are just “icky.” Er… First, since I’m not writing erotica, there’s no chance for “icky” — I close the door on my characters, always — second, this editor revealed a stunning lack of perception and empathy. Yes, there is a reason most guys believe girls are two drinks away from “some hot girl on girl action.” As a straight girl a) that’s not true. b) though this amuses my lesbian friends no end, I — like Stephanie — cannot write lesbians. I have, after being married for years, come to the conclusion guys DO fall in love with women, but it still seems a little odd to me. (I mean, women? REALLY?) OTOH the idea of women falling in love with women, though completely understandable on an intellectual level cannot be “got” at the gut level. For a long while I wrote gay men because they were easier to ‘get’ than straight men. I’ve got better on that. BUT I’m not alone in this for a straight female. NOT that you’ll get it out of most women without thumbscrews and an iron maiden. I’m just another woman and have listened to a lot of “just us chickens” kitchen talk.
                      Again, this should be irrelevant if you’re not writing erotica. BUT in NY publishing they believed lesbians – good gay guys – bad. (Shrug.) I still get afflicted with the occasional one. For the record of all my publishers, Baen (cheers) is the ONLY one who didn’t bat an eye, or even make mention of it in edits. It was like “well, you’re not going to show them in bed, so who cares?”

                    2. I close the door on my characters, always

                      This is something that has always interested me. I actually asked Peter Hamilton once about explicit, detailed sex scenes. My question was basically, “do you get embarrassed when you realize that your family, your mom (mum, in his case) or dad, or, indeed, YOUR KIDS when they get old enough, are going to peer into inner sexual eye?” He answered that he’d really never thought about it that way. I can’t say that it affected any of the subsequent sex scenes in the Void trilogy, as they were still pretty in flagrante.

                      I have not had to worry about this so far. All of the written material on my first MS is mostly action-oriented and the only mates, husbands, wives, girlfriends, etc, are far-removed or dead. I’ve got some flashback, coming of age aspects to deal with in my main character, which would undoubtedly included some adolescent awkwardness, but, honestly, I think that will be easier to write than explicitly-described adult sex.

                      I mean…MY KIDS are going to read this someday.

                      lol

                    3. Well… my parents can’t read English. My kids … meh. Okay, I actually don’t ALWAYS close the door on the characters. The reason Sword and Blood is under another name is that I DON’T. Why not? Because what happens in bed (once– other times on altar and in parlor) actually matters to the plot. The reason I tend to leave the nitty-gritty out of books is that it doesn’t MATTER. I do show a marriage consummation in Heart and Soul because it MATTERS. But there are no details of what goes where. The thing is, when you’ve written as much as I have, you develop a “sense” for what goes in and what stays out (stop giggling. You know very well what I mean) my true — pre-published — freshman efforts had NO description. Then I realized that was wrong and over compensated, so my first published works, you could DROWN in description. But now? now I have a “feel” for how much description and action should be there along the dialogue. Putting in something that all my senses scream doesn’t matter is DIFFICULT. It’s not a matter of embarrassment. It’s a matter of craftsmanship. “So, he gets a blowjob? What difference does it make to the plot? None? Then it doesn’t go in. What do you mean I have to put it in?” And this is why I don’t write romance…

                    4. Exactly. “Less is more” dictates that heaving bosoms need only heave if they matter. Otherwise, keep those sweater cows bridled. For the record, there was no giggling until I got to “blowjob”. Then, giggles aplenty.

                      🙂

                    5. I do show a marriage consummation in Heart and Soul because it MATTERS. But there are no details of what goes where.

                      Well, not exactly on the what goes where Sarah. What I read was written with humor and panache. 😉

                      I appreciate an author who understands that what goes into a story should be story driven.

                      Momma always said that what people imagine is almost always better that what is shown. This was regards to dressing, but it can be true elsewhere.

                    6. Yes, and tying in with what I answered Wayne on m/m and f/f romance — the other thing I think the big houses misjudge is how much to show. I have no proof of it but I suspect in whatever combination, including m/m which MIGHT seem like pure kink, women prefer to imagine the sex, not read it. I suspect romances (all levels) would do better with just hinting at it. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m the only one with a vivid imagination who finds depictions tawdry and tired because they don’t live up to my mind. BUT that’s my gut feeling.

                    7. I had a — male — publisher assure me that even women get turned on by the idea of lesbianism, while two men are just “icky.”

                      As I understand it, statistically, there is a significant portion of the female population for which either this is true, or they don’t care one way or the other about lesbian scenes. On the other hand, the vast majority of males, and probably a majority of females, are turned off by scenes with gay men together.

                    8. Wayne, check your assumptions. The fastest growing branch of harlequin is guy on guy romances. This is NOT selling to men. The slash sites (could be woman on woman, but were mostly man on man) were inhabited almost exclusively by married women. It was written by married women for married women. (Okay, a few of them couldn’t be.) I have been in a party where women AND THEIR TEEN DAUGHTERS were discussing these sites. You’d never guess it. “normal” suburban women. Did their husbands have a clue? Not a one. To their husbands, if the subject was mentioned, they’d go “that’s disgusting.” On the counter assumption “a majority of women are okay with girl on girl” OH PLEASE. It is now considered “normal” for girls to go through a Lesbian phase. I think this is a triumph of feminism and public entertainment. I also suspect most of these “lesbians” don’t actually do anything but kiss, if that. Though apparently some girls are willing to do girl on girl stuff to catch men’s attention. (Guys don’t do this.) Girls are — will always be — more susceptible to social signals that “this is expected.” However, the natural creature? Well… I know some guys who heard about the indie thing and went “I can write girl on girl romance. It will be big.” Er… not. The number of lesbians is small (relatively) and though guys LIKE girl on girl, they don’t want to read it. They’re primarily visual, and want to watch. Straight women have NO interest. The result is a mirror image of the m/m romances. Which validates my assumption. (And btw, the reason m/m is taking off now is that it SELLS TO WOMEN who would never admit to it. They couldn’t have books lying around in the old days. What would people think? BUT they can have it on their kindle, and no one needs to know.) The reason that entertainment people think “Women are okay with f/f but hate m/m” is that they ASK WOMEN. Heinlein’s dictum of “Everyone lies about sex” goes double for women. We know we’re supposed to act shocked and disgusted, therefore we do. But sales figures don’t lie. Want to make a good amount of cash? Then write m/m. f/f won’t even sell as much as straight romance. (And for the record, I can’t write any of the three — cries.)

                    9. No, not Perversion. Do it on Hidden Worlds. Men tend to be much more innocent of women’s world than women are of men’s. (Although … I remember a long ago article about a young lady who strapped down her bosom to pass a “chest check” and go undercover into a men’s smoker. She was profoundly disappointed to learn that what the men did in there was … smoke.) Heinlein addresses this, somewhat, en passant in Number of the Beast.

                      Other Hidden Worlds might be Bosses/Employees and, going back in time, Masters/Servants (who was it who observed: No man is a hero to his valet?) Or maybe you could look at the Hidden World of the sorority – I understand that those are primarily occupied by lithe young ladies sitting about in expensive lingerie trading battery-operated devices. At least, that seems to be the predominant expression of that milieu in film.

                    10. Actually that’s my idea of sororities, too, never having been inside one. BUT I do know women in the media and women in reality are nowhere near the same. Partly this is political correctness interfering. Partly it is that women are different from men in responding to social pressure and social images. There is a book out Self Made Man about a woman who passed as a man for year. I read it in fascination, not for what she discovered, but for what she didn’t know. I’m going to guess my husband is more open with me than most men with women? Or maybe it was the fact that this lady was a lesbian? Who knows?

                      I don’t actually know much about hidden worlds other than the women thing — maybe mothers and writers. Other than that, I got nothing. I haven’t worked at an honest job long enough to know boss/employee. I know what you mean, though.

                    11. Considering how popular the Yaoi genre of manga is… Guy-on-guy (with, admittedly, equivalent “realism” to the stereotypical gal-on-gal from the pr0n tapes) is profitable. Any editor claiming the contrary needs to be dunked in the appropriate section of the fanfiction pool, and then shown the Yaoi imprints that are canon.

                    12. Well Beth, the editor in question was Jim Baen and his dislike of the lesbian “love affair” had nothing to do with “profitability”. While in some ways I liked Marion Alston I still consider her being a lesbian to be unnecessary.

                    13. Yep. It’s not very realistic. One of my gay friends insists he can help me write this and I keep trying to explain to him he’s NOT the intended audience.

                    14. SH,

                      SORRY ahead of time for going off-topic, but I have a specific question for you and can’t find a link anywhere for email. Is there a link I’m not seeing?

                    15. Bud: Don’t be ridiculous, of course there is a topic; it is taboo.

                      Lou: But, if it is taboo how can we discuss the topic?

                      Bud: Simple – just go ahead and discuss the topic!

                      Lou: What is the topic?

                      Bud: How many times must I tell you: the topic is taboo.

                      Lou: It’s taboo?

                      Bud: Now you’ve got it, the topic is taboo.

                      Lou: So we can’t talk about it?

                      Bud: Can’t talk about what?

                      Lou: the topic, we can’t discuss the topic?

                      Bud: OF COURSE we can discuss the topic! What is your problem, Lou?

                      Lou: But you said the topic is taboo.

                    16. To (sorta) quote (former) DC Mayor Barry: It ain’t my fault – you set me up.

                      Beloved Spouse and I used to perform “Who’s On First” walking around Center City (downtown) Philadelphia. How were you to know the danger of dropping that hat?

                    17. Awright, RES! You made her snort tea!

                      And here I was, thinking of the perfume – “Taboo… whisper its name…”

  4. It also occurred to me that Peter F. Hamilton’s “Oscar Monroe” character was gay, but that had zero to do with the plot or Monroe’s actions in any scene he was in. The only way we even found out he was gay was by mention of his live-in partners. The character was competent, compelling, and integral (in an ensemble sort of way) to five full books set in the Greater Commonwealth universe.

    The gay thing never caused him angst, nobody else cared about it (ie, we didn’t get the ridiculous and completely overdone intolerant bigot who, oddly enough, is usually a hick white male). It was about as much of who he was as his hair color.

    1. yeah. That’s what I tend to make my gay characters, UNLESS it’s in an historical context because that would be… out of character. However, it CAN complicate things. Like Dyce’s parents think Ben would marry her if only she went about it the right way. (And that’s funny right there. Of course, her dad also thinks her name is SHerlockia, so…)

    2. I think you’ve touched on the way to inject it into a story without turning off readers. When it’s just a part of life, most folks don’t care. When it’s an in-your-face-shoved-down-your-throat thing, people push back.

    3. Our tendency to define people in sexual terms is a bug-a-boo for me. Yeah, it happens, people do it, and some pairings are non-standard. But I keep getting the feeling of never ending adolescence in the preoccupation with the subject. So John prefers James. This will shape John and his relationships with others, yes. But why do we have to be voyeurs?

      1. THANK YOU! This is why I close the door on my characters. I was dinged, btw, by the romance crowd because I don’t show Kit and Thena getting into it. … like it’s any of my business. I think it might be that, frankly, we’re very very wealthy compared to the norm of human history, and that well… humans who are wealthy and pampered develop these odd obsessions.

      2. Along those lines, the reason that the Vatican issued a statement about gay men in seminaries a few years ago was not because of sexuality per se, but because anything that stands between a person and G-d will interfere with vocation. That could be sexuality of any sort, it could be an obsession with sports, it could be a chosen lifestyle, but it so happened that it was participation in gay popular culture by potential seminarians that needed clarification.

  5. First off – I am blonde and half my family is blonde. The other half are very dark (for Caucasians). We all share blue eyes. Yes, I have been beaten up about my blondeness for years, but I give back as good as I get. 😉

    As for the gay taboo, I will give you that ten percent is the population norm. In my life I have met (or have family) who either are gay or have the proclivities and it was much higher than ten percent. I think it has to do with the high number of inbreeding in the family lines. My personal opinion of course. I don’t find gayness bad per se, just the need to hide the secret. I knew a woman who was so disgusted with gay people that she told me she could tell by the way a person walked if they were gay or not. I didn’t like her and I suspected that she told people I was gay. Maybe because I was so independent at the time and wouldn’t listen to her trash.

    I live in the West and don’t write about black people. I do have Indians (or NA, whichever your preference) because my experience has been with them. I have a sister married to a Ute, my best friend is 1/4 Indian, and I had a Navajo foster sister. Also, I have lived near reservations most of my growing up years. I would never recommend anyone live on a reservation at least the ones I lived near. It is full of crime and alcoholism. It is the saddest thing I have ever seen. My brother in law’s father died on a lonely road in the middle of winter. He was drunk and asleep on the road. Some one drove over him. This is the kind of stories you find there.

    Mexicans? Basques? They used to come across the border in the seventies to work summers on the ranches near my home. The Basques would spend the summer camping around sheep. They were handsome men, but kept to themselves.

    1. Basques would spend the summer camping around sheep. They were handsome men, but kept to themselves.

      Well, to themselves and their sheep, if you know what I mean and I think you do …

      More seriously, without in any way vouching for that detestable sounding woman, there evidently are scientific studies supporting the existence of “gaydar.” I’ve scant interest in the matter, certainly insufficient to delve into the details of the studies, but the results are that humans are surprisingly good at such detection, often with nothing more than a photograph. Which, of course, is not to say that anybody claiming to be able to tell is in any way reliable.

      1. Wow, I’m surprised people can pick that up from just a photo. I’m sure I couldn’t.

        1. Funny that you’d mention photos – on another subject… The guys I worked with could tell from photos if a woman had enhanced breasts about 25-30 percent of the time. From a photo I could tell 85 percent of the time … But, I can’t tell gayness.

          1. I’ve got fairly reliable gaydar , but for the other: Pictures with or without clothes?

              1. I am sure I could never tell without a hands-on exam, and doubt I could even then. Beloved Spouse would confirm that about some things I am beyond clueless.

        2. That was what caught my attention in the article. I personally have no confidence in my ability to make such personal judgments and wouldn’t even waste the time to take such a test. I did a quick Google on the phrase gaydar test to see if the article would turn up and … well, no. You probably don’t want to know what did turn up.

          1. At one time, my friend Rebecca Lickiss, while at my place, did a search for dwarf lemon trees. (She wanted to buy one.) … I think there were fifty pages of porn and a lone greenhouse page.

            1. Recently Dan Simmons from today called himself via temporal phone in 1969 and this topic came up.

              1969DS: So you’re saying that cyberspace is half God, half brothel?
              2012DS: That about covers it.

      2. RES you made me snort coffee – yea, sheep… I heard a few Scots jokes when I was in the Navy. No I am NOT going to share them here.

        I have heard about the gaydar. I guess I just don’t have it or don’t notice. Plus a few of my friends would be mad at me when they would “come out.” I would say so? we can stay friends? You aren’t going to proposition me, are you? There would be this funny face and then a “no.”

        My best best friend is my husband (of 19 years).

    2. If you ever get the chance, visit the Mescalero Apache reservation near Alamogordo, NM. Not only is it beautiful, but the Mescaleros are one of the most competent tribes in the US. There are NO “poor” Mescaleros.

      I use a black man in one of my books as a foil. He’s the ONLY black on the planet he’s been sent to. 8^)

      1. One reason President Jackson and his supporters wanted to run the Cherokee out was that the Cherokee had adapted so well to the invaders’ culture that they were out-doing us at our own game. Such cheek obviously could not be tolerated.

        1. Yes – they had ranches and very nice mansions. They were doing really really well. Many of the settlers would look at them and were very envious of what they had. Many of the Cherokee sons went to school with some of the wealthy American sons too.

          1. Funny thing, the Southern Dems pulled the same trick a century later at the other end of NC. Google “1898 Wilmington Massacre”, “Wilmington Insurrection of 1898” or “Wilmington Race Riot” … but in essence the Jim Crow laws arose from a bunch of Redneck Crackers ginning up a mob and driving the prosperous Blacks of Wilmington NC into the swamps in order to steal their property. Then they stole their rights.

            1. Umm yea – which is why learning our history is important… yada- yada— not repeat. Unfortunately propaganda is being taught instead of history.

    3. Let me try this again. WordPress has been being very nasty to me the last few days.

      If anyone ever gets the chance, visit the Mescalero reservation east of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Not only is it a very beautiful part of the world, the Mescaleros are some of the more astute Native American tribes. There are no poor Mescaleros.

      I spent almost half my life in the Air Force, which is fully integrated (compared to my childhood, where there was only one black person within ten miles of my home). I also moved all over everywhere, from South America to Southeast Asia to Europe to a half-dozen places in the US. I sometimes use “exotic” people (outside the norm for a give area) as a plot point. In one novel, I have a character that’s being sent to another world as a spy. As he studies up on the world, he finds he’ll be the ONLY black person on that planet, and he’s supposed to try to be inconspicuous.

  6. Just to quietly amuse myself, and to see if any readers picked up on it, I have a character in “Deep in the Heart” who is gay, but such are the circumstances of the time and place, the character herself (being a frontier unsophisticate) doesn’t even know it. She just thinks that she is disinclined to marry and has no vocation for the church … and there you are.

    1. How about the aunts? There is a lot of aunts through history and through literature who lived together. If you think about it, it was quite obvious that the aunts were not family-related and lived quiet lives of gayness. 😉

        1. The uncle farmers – who were Scandinavian in the midwest. (I just had a brain fart) It was one of those American Women writers… If I ever find it I’ll come back to this.

          1. Back before his politics ate his brain Garrison Keillor would reference “Norwegian Bachelor Farmers” IIRC.

            I suspect that once upon a time many people were able to live happy and fulfilling lives absent sexual intercourse.

        2. The Boston Marriage–two women living together under one roof–was never quite so certain to be a lesbian union as today’s activists would have us believe.

          As for men living together, I recall on my little country dirt road in West Michigan that there were two bachelors sharing a small house. Nobody ever said anything to us kids about them being gay or anything.

          Before I married the delightful Mrs. Poling, I had roommates and I had friends who had roommates, too. I never had any inclination toward sexual congress with any of them, and I’m confident none of my friends’ roommate arrangements included sexual benefits. It is grossly unfair to posit that every pair of spinsters or bachelors who shared a roof in times past were closeted homosexuals.

          In my own writing, I have at one character who never quite becomes more than friends with the fabulous babe he works with. I don’t quite know whether he chooses to not-sleep with a co-worker, she’s not his type, or he doesn’t sleep with girls altogether. He just hasn’t told me how he uses his boy-parts. If you want everyone who isn’t certified 100% het, to play for the other team. You’ll get no argument from me. And no support, either.

          I also write about Mycroft Holmes whose brother Sherlock doesn’t seem to use his boy-parts at all. It’s my opinion that Sherlock uses his little gray cells for other things.

          Is this don’t ask/don’t tell? No, it’s respecting my characters’ privacy.

          1. Thank you – the term Boston Marriage was one of those terms buried in my gray matter. Also, you are right… not every couple of bachelors and bachelorettes were involved in sexual congress. It reminds me that my cousins and I had a pact that if we were not married by the time were were forty that we would get a house together. I could have been fun.

  7. Oh god – and the trite cliches in TV mysteries? *shudder*

    It would truly be a change of pace in L&O:SVU or Criminal Minds if they actually had a no-kidding female villain (and in the two cases I was aware of, not Driven to it by a man” or some such).

    Y’know, an episode where y’know it’s the white guy, especially if he’s “christian”?

    Where they acknowledge the actual statistics on female vs. male domestic violence and sexual assaults, or female serial killers, and maybe _occasionally_ take an honest nod to it by presenting one? At one point in time you could actually tell a story like Mommie Dearest, or Fatal Attraction. Or Misery. Now you will never see them on those oh-so-trendy procedurals.

    Instead, even the weirdos and sickos all become one amorphous blog of indistinguishable goo, even as they try to shock us with the progressively weirder.

    1. Sorry, meant :

      Not another episode where y’know it’s the white guy, especially if he’s “christian”?

    2. YES. Even the cozy series are now you know “he craved having sex with chickens so he killed/was killed” WHAT?
      And aye on women, though I’ll confess to an issue. In most of my mysteries the culprit is a woman and I have to work to make it a man. I SUSPECT this is because I know what evil lurks in the heart of woman — being one.

      1. For once it would be nice to have a villain who had no interest in sex; knows what it is, finds it tedious, sweaty, boring and sure to introduce even more tedious and boring complications (no, not offspring – relationship attempts.) The motive for the murdering might be to be free of would-be seducers? “They keep pestering me and there seems only one way to be rid of them; really, they bring it on themselves.”

        1. You’re basically describing Morrissey if he decided to go all hijack-a-nuke on us. He’s already got the nihilism down pat. It would be depressing to see a super-villain Morrissey if for no other reason than super-villains tend to be too busy to put out solo albums.

    3. Oh yes – or the … she did it because she was a minority and her life was hell? How about personal responsibility. She did it because she is a psycho bitch. I don’t watch SVU any more.

  8. There was some strange SF book I read years ago (for a strange book group) that posited multiple genders caused by a gene-morphing drug. There was, I swear to Ghu, a *chart* in the book to cover all the different sexual orientations. Linguistic symbols were hijacked to provide more pronouns. It was wretched. Not to mention way to much work for the reader trying to decipher the *prejudices* against the 5-factorial orientations. Past a certain point I’d think a culture would just go all Slobovian-rabbit and say “YOU…I like!”

    1. ROFL. See this is my issue with the hermaphrodite world. People wanted me to MAKE UP PRONOUNS to use. Can you think of a worse way to draw people into the book?

      Publishers are SO weird.

      1. *blink* But some people like a simple conlang! (Okay, Tolkien went a little overboard for my tastes, but C.J. Cherryh’s bits of alien language are like tasty candy! 🙂 )

        Mind, the way to draw me into a book is a well-crafted alien viewpoint. Give me that and nine times out of ten, I am so there.

        1. Oh, the pov is alien — from a gender pov. The society is as restrained as Jane Austen’s regency and as rowdy as a frat house. The issue is WHEN and what the rules are. BUT throwing weird pronouns in would pop ME out of it, much less anyone else. Besides, they’re not aliens. They’re bioed humans.

          1. There is there. Though “Alien” doesn’t have to mean non-human, depending; if something is unusual enough, hey. (It’s one reason I like Barbara Hambly’s historical mysteries; she has a flair for describing older settings and cultures in the same way that a fantasy setting and culture must be “world-built.”)

            (*beth prods at that sentence, but considering the gods-forsaken time of day and lack of sleep and headache, leaves it be*)

            But, is true, my weird pronouns are generally gonna show up in non-human contexts. (Both because a species that has three genders is likely to call the third one something, and to avoid pronoun confusion with inanimate objects. Except for the AI who likes promoting a bit of confusion anyway, but it doesn’t entirely count here. >_> )

            1. well, exactly. I used (and will use, if I publish it) “he” as a pronoun because “he” is default for humans. Put in “she” and you immediately see breasts. Since breasts are not necessary to breast feed and don’t show in most of the great apes, they don’t have them. Ursula LeGuinn used “he” in Left Hand and that’s what I was “answering” to when I wrote it. Do they look particularly masculine? Well, I suppose some of them. There’s a continuum. There are all sorts of words we don’t have for relationships and beliefs about how people should be we don’t have, which DOES make it alien — however I thought stopping people before every pronoun would both get the book thrown against the wall and make people think they had like, three eyes. As is, the first time I wrote this — before I thought descriptions had any point in a story — people thought they were completely alien life forms, and possibly green…

              1. I ponder whether breasts aren’t advantageous for breastfeeding, though. I, like many humans, have breasts of slightly different sizes — and when I was pumping, I could get at least a third-again more out of the larger. (And cats certainly develop “breasts” while nursing… I wonder if a herm might be a “she” when pregnant/lactating… Probably depends on the originating sub-culture and what ideals they promoted heavily. *scribbles notes to self*)

                1. actually, apparently, no. what breasts are good for are signaling. They resemble behinds (because of course most mammals mate from behind.) In what I call blue butted monkeys, they’ve got blue breasts, etc. (They’re actually baboons. Made nuisances of themselves in Africa running on the roof.) See, in my world, they were bioed to create a world of “perfect equality” — Okay, I was somewhat upset at LeGuinn — only the spaceship got thrown backward in time (live with it) and… everything else went wrong, too.

  9. I’m currently writing a book where one of the main characters is physically maimed – missing parts of an arm and leg – in a society that 99.999% of the people are physically whole. She faces a serious problem with distaste/revulsion, especially in her relationship with men. Today it’s not a problem, but 500 years from now, when almost everyone can be wholly repaired by genetic reconstruction… Who knows what tomorrow’s taboos will be?

    1. Saturday’s Wall Street Journal “Review” section had a lead article about prosthetics, cybernetics, and how does society deal with “enhancements” once they reach a certain point, especially if the enhancement is a side-effect of solving a medical problem. Apparently the writer has a sci-fi novel coming out this year.

  10. I didn’t like her and I suspected that she told people I was gay.

    Heh. I’ve been asked if I was gay before. Apparently I have some effeminate mannerisms. Oh, well.

    I grew up in an area where it would have been bad to be known to be gay, so I was in college before I was aware of knowing any gay people. It kind of made me uneasy at the time, but after working at a restaurant with 5 gay men, including my manager and one waiter who called everyone, including the men, “Hon”, I got over it.

    1. I agree with that Wayne – my first experience with a gay man was a friend of my fathers. He had a wife, several children, and then left to go live with his lover. It tore apart his family especially his boys. However, he was the kindest man I had ever met. I was sad for his children because it really changed their self worth, but I met his lover and he was a kind man too.

    2. I have been propositioned too… lol I could never understand it because my preference has always been men even for friends. Only since I reached forty and later that I started to have female friends.

    3. Back when I regularly fenced I had the tendency to allow my left hand to hang limp — a trait acquired from the need to allow the trailing, counter-balancing hand to drop when lunging — and I’ve no doubt it caused a few people to suspect my inclinations. Of course, an amateur psychologist might hypothesize my proclivity for wielding three feet of steel for the purpose of running people through would be indicative of repressed homosexual desire …

      The peculiar objects of human desire are varied and many, outdone only by the fervid interest some folk have as to what interests others.

      1. Of course, an amateur psychologist might hypothesize my proclivity for wielding three feet of steel for the purpose of running people through would be indicative of repressed homosexual desire

        I don’t know about a psychologist, but a womyn’s studies prof certainly would.

              1. Well, since running someone through is rather non-consesnsual, perhaps it would be Rape-iers.

            1. either that or I’ll write an erotic version and become filthy rich. Um… if I don’t get so bored halfway through that they all turn into giant spiders, of course 😀

              1. If you’re going to maintain the “erotic” tag past the transformation, I humbly suggest that while the Erotic Spider market is likely very underserviced, it’s also much smaller than the Furry Mammals (or Scaled Fantasy Predators) market. AND FOR GOOD REASON.

                1. Don’t make me tell you about the picture I saw the other day! My eyes are still bleeding!

                2. LOL. Beth, this is an in joke for my friends from the time Sarah tried to learn to write erotica and got so bored that everyone at a party turned into alien spiders and invaded the Earth instead of having sex.

                  To be bluntly honest, I’d LIKE to learn to write erotica. With the indie market, I could do it without telling anyone and make money. We’ll just say my attempts so far have been less than successful. It’s the EMOTIONS that interest me. What goes where — meh.

                  1. Hmm… maybe you could collaborate with someone on that. You write in the emotions, let your collaborator write in the mechanics. I know several women who would probably like something like that. I’m sure there are some aspiring writers who can be very visually descriptive but can’t write the emotional side very well.

                    Oh, just to be clear, I’m not suggesting me. While I have considered doing some writing since coming here, I’m more comfortable with exploring the “what if” side of Sci-Fi. I probably couldn’t write either the emotional OR mechanical side of a love scene.

                    1. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Though just last week I heard of two well known writers (not revealing names, though one of them talks about it openly) who used to write erotica for roof over head, before sf/f paid them much. They collaborated because of THIS issue. At the beginning of each book, they drew straws. The one who got the short straw had to write the sex part. 😛

                    2. Hey, any and all of my suggestions are always subject to, “Are you crazy? You don’t know what you’re talking about,” rejection. 🙂 Though I always appreciate an explanation of WHY I’m crazy and don’t know what I’m talking about.

                      I throw out suggestions like a dandelion throws out seeds. I let them float on the wind, and if they root somewhere, good. If not, Oh, well.

                  2. Knowing its source, OK. My mind kept going to the thing Japanese Anime has with tenticle monsters ‘examining’ the sweet young things they have caught. ICK!

                    I like the idea of everyone turning into alien spiders and conquering the earth. Was it some strange alien venereal disease that caused the transformation?

                    I suspect that truely good erotical is bloody difficult to write.

                  3. Well, good erotica engages both emotion and hormones, I’d say. I started writing the stuff as fanfic, in part because various other people were writing it, and… *beth shrugs* It seemed to work, in that various of my friends, associates, and encouragers made nice comments about it.

                    …so did my mom, on one of them. >_>

                    One of these days I’ll finish the story where the Magic Ships run on pure Porn. Er, “vital energies.”

                    Um, where was I… Ah! Foglio’s XXXenophile books might be an interesting read; they frequently capture at least the emotions of “this is friendly boinking,” and sometimes imply far more. (I recall that they said, at the latest Arisia, that part of the reason they stopped is because Phil got tired of drawing the sex part only and was more interested in the rest of the plot! Which… doesn’t surprise me.) If you wanted to try to prime the pump for pr0n.

        1. Heh. Recent kerfluffle on FB. I was chewing popcorn over a posting re: (for lack of a better term) “slut-shaming”, and the back and forth, but decided to step in , after some consideration, to address two points (I dearly suspect Several essays could have been written to, and ignored by many there, and no, I have no desire to “keep my daughters down.”)

          1) The lady who dragged in “Someone’s privilege is showing” was a) exercising IMMENSE privilege, and employing an intellectually corrupt line of argument – stating up front that she would ignore arguments she didn’t like from men, and was entitled to do so because men were “privileged.” She may not be a Womyns study prof, but she sure has swum in the river of kool-aid.

          2) Pointing out that conflating the moral equivalents of “Flashing lots of cash in downtown bars is not wise” and “it’s your fault you got mugged for flashing money” lacked nuance. The latter being arguably vile and immoral.

          One lady thought I was talking about her but we got that straightened out. The other that actually caused me to raise the BS flag? Oh lord. It really cannot be spoofed.

          Upshot: I’m privileged. She doesn’t have to listen to misogyny (as she defines it). I’m ignoring her argument because she’s calling me out on my crap (What crap? I hadn’t previously posted anything.). As a guy I can’t understand what its like to be a girl (oddly, the reverse never occurs to her). Oh, and by ignoring her and leaving her alone to let her talk to whoever else is interested, I’m oppressing her. (So she doesn’t have to listen to me because she’s decided I’m a misogynist, but I can’t decide to ignore really crappy and vindictive logic)?

          1. A lot of these arguments are heads I win, tails you lose. I despise them and next thing I know, I find I’m a self-hating woman. (I’m also a self-hating Latin. Don’t get me started.) Apparently to be female I must eschew logic and take unfair advantage. Too bad I was raised to behave in gentlemanly ways…

            1. Lor. And Yikes. The whatever-it-is-they-see-you-as-traitor, so shut your mouth up and stop rocking my boat argument? Twits.

          2. This is why I contend FB makes us all stupider. You cannot reason with anybody once they’ve declared logic to be a tool of the patriarchy by which they oppress womyn. At that point the only reply that one can intelligently make is on the order of: Did you just say neener-neener?

            1. That’s why I usually carry a 10-gauge double-barrel on the Internet. It ends stupid arguments, and doesn’t allow them to rise again (no, I don’t use silver bullets. There’s not enough left after you get hit with both barrels to come back as a zombie). 8^).

      2. Umm… I really enjoy shooting. 😉 At one point I wanted to learn to fence, but I never had a chance. I did karate and I was a stamina runner. (Not extremely fast, but I could go very long distances and not stop). Since I am showing the signs of prednisone use (fat around stomach, hump on back, big cheeks), I am not propositioned by the females anymore. Thinking back, I was pretty fit until I became ill.

        What has surprised me more is that I have been propositioned by more men since I became chubbier than before. My husband just laughs. I really don’t understand it at all. I know… I think I never understood the chase.

  11. There was a gay male character in a trilogy that really irritated me during the second book. Looking back, the reason was because he got so despondent over his dead partner, moping and more or less making himself a pain in the reader’s @ss. I really wonder if an editor would have put up with a female character who did that about a man, or man over a woman. “Nah, can’t do that, you are stereotyping her as the ‘poor victim of her emotions’.” Or “that’s great, shows his sensitive side, but a page and a bit are enough.”

    There are other taboos one can play with, even here on Earth. For example, I’ve got a major-minor character who is *gasp* celibate! And straight, which means he gets some grief about “secretly being gay.” Oh, and he’s a devout evangelical Christian in England, so the deck is really stacked against the poor guy; talk about being an oppressed minority. My MC is on the run because she is a mixed-breed. Her mother’s people don’t care, but her father’s people strictly control who reproduces with whom (for what were good reasons back in the days before they developed adequate medical technology) and unapproved liaisons are penalized heavily at best. If there is an unapproved offspring, bad things happen. To have an unapproved offspring with a member of a different species . . . Yeah.

    1. I’ll go one further. In some left-wing areas, being insufficiently leftist can cause *involuntary* celibacy. And yes, they will still whisper that you must be gay.

      I’m not talking about James Dobson types here either. I can understand that a woman might not want to date a man who hung outside a gay bar waiting for a chance to beat someone up. OTOH, if you’re in San Francisco or Chicago, and you don’t pledge allegiance to abortion and gun control, you can kiss your chances with women goodbye.

      Actually, you’re pretty much expected to take the most extreme versions of those views. It isn’t acceptable to want abortion to be safe, legal, and rare (unless you’re William Clinton). You have to love George Tiller, the “doctor” who made a fortune on 9th-month abortions. Similarly, it isn’t sufficient in those circles to support, say, background checks on guns; you have to show a deep genocidal hatred for gun owners.

      1. There have been campaign ads run by Leftists, of “hot” individuals pledging to not have sex with anybody who voted “wrongly.” Look it up on youtube if your day lacks sufficient tedious preening stupidity. I think Olivia Wilde … on second thought, any youtube search wit sex in the subject line is gonna take you places you don’t want to be, so just take my word for it.

    2. A devout evangelical Christian? You know he HAS to be:
      a) the deranged lunatic who wants to start a nuclear war to make the Lord come back.
      b) If this guy is seen on national TV working in a soup kitchen across town from where the minority kid or the hooker is arrested holding a smoking gun bending over a dead body, the guy did it.

      1. There’s a whole world of people out there who have religious beliefs, and some of them would actually make for excellent stories if the publishers, and in many cases the writers, would get over their bigotry. The Latter-Day Saints would make excellent sympathetic characters in a post-apocalyptic novel, for instance, due to the fact that they’re practically survivalists already.

        1. interestingly, I believe Orson Scott-Card already did that one.

          Also relevant – one of the main characters in his homecoming series is also gay.

          1. Yes, well Orson Scott-Card would understand the Latter Day Saints and their discipline of being prepared.

            1. I did recently read a pretty good zombie apocalypse novel where the survivors were mostly LDS. No idea if the writer is too, but he claims some of the characters are based on real people so presumably he at least has friends.

              About gays – that may be fairly a often used character trait now, but bisexual characters still seem to be somewhat rare. At least I haven’t ran into that many. But then something similar seems to happen in real life too, people are classified either as gay or as hetero: if some celebrity gets into a same sex relationship he/she seems to be instantly gay/lesbian, no matter how many opposite sex lovers he/she had before. And somehow if the next relationship happens to be with a member of the opposite sex it’s either denial or he/she is actually after all heterosexual, just one who did some experimenting. So what’s wrong with being a bisexual?

              1. I have long maintained that if you eliminate affection from the formula it really does not matter who is fondling what, although I suppose it is reasonable to have preferences about what you fondle. It sorta comes down to whether you are the fondler or the fondlee.

      2. Actually, he’s a nice guy who still can’t quite believe that a working class bloke like him ended up in a highly selective planetary defense force. He’s a bastion of sanity. So yeah, I imagine someone will start speculating when he’s going to go nuts and try to incite the Second Coming. Then the same party will get very unhappy when that doesn’t happen. *shrug* You can’t please some people, can you?

  12. I’ve noticed that many online reviewers dislike Larry Niven specifically because he has very few gay characters. To which I respond: write your own $&%) #(@ stories! Why should an author use a quota system?

    What’s really ironic is that one of Niven’s stories, “How the Heroes Die,” actually did involve a murdered gay character. Even though the most sympathetic character in the story is the victim’s brother, who is trying to avenge his death, that story was attacked as well, because it seemed to imply that there was a link between the victim’s sexual preference and the lack of women in the Mars base. Bottom line: they hate you if you don’t have gay characters, and they hate you if you do.

    1. I probably should keep my mouth shut lest I end up with a foot in it, but I haven’t even tried as yet. I’m very strongly hetero, and I can’t get into the mindset. If I can’t get into the mindset, I won’t write the character well. And I’d rather not write the character at all than write it poorly, or worse, flat out wrong. If I did, it would probably be a secondary character and a sub-plot or just an offhand thing, because that’s all I’d feel safe trying to write.

      I do hope that made sense and didn’t come out sounding like I’m closed-minded or something.

  13. Now I feel seriously guilty for having included a gay character in my last novella. The cliches, they are sticky . . .

    In my own defense, my main character needed an ally, and it couldn’t be someone who saw her as sexual competition. Oh, and also, he was miserable because he wanted money and security more than the man who loved him. So his problems were universal rather than gay-specific. I think that should gain me a few anti-cliche points.

    1. WHY the hell would you feel guilty. I’m plagued with gay characters. I just try not to make them any more victims or villains than anyone else. My gay friends aren’t — though they’re often crazier (in a thinks-too-much way) than most people… but so are all my friends.

    2. But why would a woman automatically think of another woman as sexual competition? I mean, wouldn’t you have to be in a competition for some specific person for that to become true?

      I know, I know, it’s probably the way the worldbuilding works….

      1. But why would a woman automatically think of another woman as sexual competition?

        My father pointed this out to me when I was about 19 so I have watched for it nearly my entire adult life. In any given work setting, if a new woman enters that setting and is perceived as attractive/younger/thinner/etc, the cattiness factor of those already there goes through whatever cats go through when they go upwards violently.

        1. Actually quite true – scott. I have three sisters who were my competition for the few eligible boys in our area (we lived in a rural area). The sibling rivalry was up 20x than normal during the dating years while we were home.

          Personally there are very few women that I can stand. Usually they are really good in their areas of expertise. I have been in work areas with a lot of women and it was not fun. That doesn’t mean that I am not catty… I am very very catty when another woman makes me mad.

          1. I’ve only really experienced the reverse once in my life and it was so stark an example that it’s always stuck with me. My wife and I had been married about seven years (we were 30 and 23 respectively). Her sister’s family came to stay with us and invited a couple of their friends over. One was a guy in his mid-twenties. He wasn’t overly handsome or witty, but there was something almost psychic in the way I could not get the fact that he was an immediate and imminent threat. I have no idea why and have since chalked it up to pheromones or some such. It was really odd though. Much better-looking, smarter, and funnier guys have been in my wife’s presence with me around before, sometimes at get-togethers at our house. I’ve never been able to parse out the difference that instance made.

            1. Listen to it… there was a reason. If I don’t listen to those feelings, usually something bad happens. –what kind of threat? did you know?

              1. It was, very blatantly, a he-wants-my-wife threat. However, there was nothing in his demeanor, his speech, or his proximity that would have overtly given a clue to it. None of the physical or verbal clues my B.G.-trained mother taught me to watch for. I had long since learned to listen to instinct that strong and maneuvered to clear the house.

                1. “None of the physical or verbal clues my B.G.-trained mother taught me to watch for.”

                  … Muad’Dib?

                  1. ‘Zat so?

                    And here I thought I was writing a BS “pickup line”. Hazard of being an SF writer; it isn’t just tech where the science can catch up with you.

          2. My “pop psch” thought on women’s “cattiness”. Men competed for “the hand of the fair maiden” but still had to “work with” the other men as a team. Women competed for the “handsome guys” but didn’t have to work together with the other women as a team. So when women get involved in an envirnoment that has both teamwork and competition, they can work with the guys but have problems working with other gals.

            Of course, this is a general thought and there will be exceptions. [Nervous Smile, don’t want the women too mad at me]

            1. Biology – more like – Men can scatter and spend less energy on their progeny and still have their genes go into the gene pool. Women have larger and less gene material (ova) and must spend more energy to get their genes into the gene pool…

              Even in the bird world, there is extreme competition between the females.

              1. Scott, ever hear about “don’t let the women get you”? They are the “most dangerous of the species”.

            2. One problem for women, they are forced to be both pack and isolationist. As youngsters they compete for men, but in the process they generally have to ‘fit’ in a social circle. Once married they have traditionally both sought to aid in the advancement their husband and their children. Again they are seeking to put theirs above others, while at the same time fitting in. Yes, women learn to be devious in competition.

            3. It’s kind of odd for me. I tend to get along better with guys than gals. My close friendships with women have always self-destructed no matter what I did, but my male friendships by and large go on and on. It isn’t that I try to be catty or that I treat one gender different than the other. According to my Myers-Briggs profile, I literally think more like the average male than the average female, although I really don’t think like either one. And that seems to be true in the social world. I end up gravitating toward the men-talk – sports, and tech, and SF, and science, and stuff, while the women are off talking babies and home decor and fashion and stuff. (OK, I couldn’t have kids so the baby thing does kinda smart, but still.) Oh, and I prefer action films to “chic flicks” too. *shrug* I dunno. Paint me Odd.

              1. *sigh* And then there’s me, talking about SF, Fantasy, Babies (once I had one), medical stuff, tech/computers, and having no interest in sports, home decor, or fashion.

                I just don’t fit in.

                1. Oh. Well, I like home decor. But I approach it rather as a battle. Google How To Decorate A Dump by Phillip de Almeida (no relation.) It was my bible for decorating, when I was young and broke.

          3. During my senior year our class at high school was 80% female. Of the males half were gay. (Easy numbers, as there were only ten of us.) I had dated two different boys over the course of the first semester, and was told by some of the other girls that this was not fair.

        2. This is something that has been long-recognized; it is fundamental to Snow White’s relationship with her step-mum.

            1. Momma used to complain that her mother would meet her at the door when she came home from a date, whereupon she would abscond with the young man to the kitchen and feed him fried chicken and biscuits, essentially leaving Momma out in the cold.

              1. oh yea CACS I could tell you stories about my mother – she loved the boys that brought her flowers when they came to take us out. BTW she never liked my dates. I learned not to care. 😉

                1. I bypassed the situation, having left home for all intents and purposes at 15. Momma was drop dead gorgeous and could be a fantastic hostess. I will give The Spouse credit, when I took him to meet her the first time his natural cluelessness played entirely into his favor.

                    1. But if women were solely sexually competitive, they wouldn’t always be on other women to dress nicer and get their hair fixed up and wear makeup. You would expect beauty shops not to exist.

                    2. That’s not a mystery; it’s a learned behavior. I went to a small private school for a while and at one point, we were in a former residence where the girls’ bathroom lock was constantly being busted. The only way to ensure privacy from jerk boys (and yes, it was always the boys) was to have a friend come to the bathroom with one and lean against the door.

                      (There was a quasi-feasible workaround solo, but it involved closing the door, latching the threadstripped latch, opening the closet door to overlay the end of the bathroom door, and wedging the shower-curtain rod diagonally across to fit in the hinge-gap of the closet door. This could buy enough time to get decent if some jerk boy was shoving at the door.)

                      Grow up in a culture that teaches or demonstrates that Guys Will Be Jerks If They Can, In Bathroom Matters, and going to the bathroom in herds makes sense.

                      (And for really good friends, it’s a way to continue a conversation that’s socially acceptable. *shrug*)

                    3. YES. Having grown up in Portugal, this was “the safe way to use the bathroom.” In the US it’s more “opportunity to gossip about the guys.” 😛 Now that I’m married, it is occasionally way to scare other people. Friend and I in separate stalls will continue conversation. You’ve seen what I write. Our conversations often get us triple-takes as we exit the stall.

    3. Now I feel seriously guilty for having included a gay character in my last novella.

      There are homosexuals in this world, so there will be gay characters.

      I have said it before and will likely say it again. The needs of the story should drive the story — and the characters therein. The problem arises when characters are forcefully manipulated in reaction to the latest fashion dictum from the publishers on high, whether to comply or rebell. If something is not natural to the story it will show at some level.

      1. “The problem arises when characters are forcefully manipulated …”

        Characters of Gor?

      2. YES. And I got really tired of fighting. Say Witchfinder — if I were writing it for mainstream publisher not-Baen, I’d HAVE to make Gabriel straight, because if there’s a compelling reason for him to be gay, I can’t articulate it. (Though now I know the end of the novel in detail, it COULD be to set up sequels in future generations — no, it won’t make sense till you read it. Of course, I wasn’t planning on sequels, but it doesn’t mean the novel isn’t.) It’s a relief to do it indie and let the chips fall where it may and not require me to twist plots and characters out of shape. Yeah, I still fought it, because I was afraid readers would get upset, but then I decided never mind.

  14. Ken has touched on something important: the politically correct folk have not abandoned hatred of gay people, they reserve it as a last-ditch weapon in their character-destroying arsenal. You rarely hear anything about Whitaker Chambers from the PC’s except that he had some gay activity in his youth. One possible Republican female presidential candidate was condemned because, I swear, the commentators thought her husband was sissy. Not necessarily gay, just prissy in a Tony Randall (who was straight) manner. And according to one biography of the film director John Huston, Huston detested and bullied Ray Bradbury on the set of “Moby Dick” because the Bradburys had gay friends; Ray and Margaret had a gay transvestite friend as their maid of honor at their wedding. And Huston was far to the left of Bradbury politically. Huston and Hemingway had this Socialist he-man gay-men and lesbos haters club thing going.
    WayneB: yeah, I’m 100% straight but went through the same thing mostly because I grew up so out in the middle of nowhere that I just didn’t know what gestures to avoid: it took me a year of junior high to catch on that guys carried a stack of books on their right hips and only girls carried their books clutched to their chests, and a guy who carried his books on his chest was &%$#@&%!!!!!! Florence King in “Southern Ladies and Gentlemen” has a wonderful, very long list of Southern male types that includes “Mamma Tried,” the all-hetero fellow whose mother did her best to make him gay, but who only succeeded in implanting sissy speech and gestures in a boy who has the hots only for girls.

  15. You know, I think that much of the reflex bigotry and hatred on the Left is a product of advances in communications outpacing advances in transportation. People don’t accuse their next-door neighbor of incest, no matter how much they hate him, because they don’t want him showing up at their door with a baseball bat. OTOH, you have people in Manhattan stating that incest is commonplace south of the Mason-Dixon line, despite the fact that this is a lie on the same level as the Arab claim that Jews use the blood of Arab children in their bread.

    Just wait till we have flying cars or cheap sub-orbital transport, and I think the brave Cyberwarriors will be a thing of the past.

    1. There’s a movie openly accusing Appalachians of incest dating to WWII era, I read a James Agee review of it. I’m touchy on the subject as at least half of my background is Scots who appeared in the Blue Ridge mountains soon after Colloden. “The Mismeasure of Man” by Stephen J. Gould tells the story of the FDR administrations tentative attempts to sterilize anyone of Appalachian background who came into government custody. The Tuskeegee program was hideous, but the Appalachian sterilization program was the only actual attempt at genocide any US government ever tried to get away with.

      1. FDR’s administration also attempted to gather those from the Appalachians into collectivist farming communities.

        BLOCKQUOTEThe Farm Security Administration (FSA) was the Resettlement Administration in 1935 as part of the New Deal. It was an experiment in collectivist agriculture — that is, in bringing farmers together to work on large government-owned farms using modern techniques under the supervision of experts.

        From: Images of America * Building The Blue Ridge Parkway

        The program failed.

        1. I’m shocked it failed. These work so well around the world and throughout history, from Catalina onward. Okay, okay. I’ll put the sarcasm down, but really “Collective farms” should ALWAYS be a signal to take whomever proposes it and give him a sound beating until sense returns.

        2. I’ve stated many times that I look forward to the day that FDR’s statue in Washington, D.C., is torn down like Lenin’s was.

          Oddly, most people agree with me. Maybe America isn’t doomed after all.

          1. I might add that Roosevelt’s wildly inflated reputation is based on the minority of his programs that didn’t fail outright. Most of them were flat-out totalitarian, and didn’t last. Social Security was able to survive, albeit as a thinly disguised Ponzi scheme, so people remember him as the man who founded it, rather than as the man who praised the Soviet Union as a progressive democracy.

          2. America isn’t doomed. Never think that. We are still the last best hope. Our talking heads, otoh, and some of the people who create educational guidelines and don’t get me started on the politicians… Well… go big on chickens. In the near future we’ll need ALL the feathers we can get our hands on. Tar too.

            1. Our talking heads? I think we may be the first country to promote our own Tokyo Roses and Lord Ha-Has. The beauty of the interwebs is expressed by a character in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’s response to one of the Warden’s speeches: Sure talks purty, don’t he?

            2. I know. Confession: I saw your e-mail on Instapundit, and I put that out there as bait.

            3. At least you won’t have to worry about the tar, even if someone manages to kill the oil industry. Pine tar works just as well, and there are plenty of pine trees in this country.

          3. Ken, my dad grew up during the Depression, and HATED Roosevelt. Of course, it took him almost sixteen years to graduate from high school because he had to quit and support his family several times. He and Mom didn’t get married until after WWII. Roosevelt was ONLY loved by the big-city folks and the Northeast Progressives. Dad landed at Normandy on June 10th, was one of the few non-101st people at Bastogne, and ended up in Plzen, Czechoslovakia, when the war ended. Dad didn’t think a lot of Eisenhower, either. Mom also hated Roosevelt. She spent WWII decoding Japanese navy messages in DC as one of the first WAVES. Her two brothers were both in the navy, and both survived ship sinkings.

            1. My grandparents hated FDR also. I always remember my grandmother saying, however that the only time that her and my grandfather discussed who they voted for was Eisenhower. She voted for whoever was running against him (I’m to lazy to look it up right now) and was disgusted with grandpa for voting for Eisenhower, he informed her that he had driven Eisenhower’s train in Europe, and he liked him. 🙂

              1. Adlai Stevenson, there was a campaign slogan at the time: I like Ike, but I’m voting for Adlai.

        3. That would somewhat explain why “Appalachian” in the New York evokes pretty much the same visceral response as did “Kulak” in Moscow.

      2. Ummm, I suggest you read about the attempts with the Native Americans under Andrew Jackson, before you say FDR’s was the worst attempt at genocide. In one campaign when he was still GENERAL Jackson, Davy Crockett recorded an incident where Jackson’s men trapped a houseful of Cherokee. Jackson ordered the house burned to the ground. It was, burning the people inside alive, and afterward the soldiers discovered that underneath the house was a root cellar full of potatoes, which had roasted in the fat of the dying people above, and which became the soldiers’ dinner that night. When he became President, he initiated the Trail of Tears. It was well named. Think something like Bataan Death March.

        1. I think FDR was worse, not necessarily for the genocide attempt, although Jackson at least had the excuse of being at war with the Cherokee. Later it can be somewhat understood, if not agreed with, that he still viewed them as the enemy to be eliminated; even though the war was over.

          FDR? When exactly had the rest of the US been at war with Appalachia? Maybe Uncle Joe didn’t like Appalachians?

          1. The Cherokee were not initially at war with the United States during the Jackson administration. You could say that under President Jackson it was the United States that declared war with the Cherokee and other eastern tribes. The Federal government decided to ignore the existing treaties, deny the sovereignty of the tribes in their treaty lands and with The Indian Removal Act of 1830 proceeded to remove the tribes living east of the Mississippi and forcibly moving them — primarily to the Oklahoma territory. They then justified their actions when some of the NAs resisted.

            Elsewhere in this line I noted President Jackson’s reaction to Worcester v. Georgia. The Qualla Boundary stands in NC because that the land was privately purchased by whites, primarily William Thomas, who gave it to the Cherokee who had managed to escape The Trail of Tears.

            1. What I meant to say (not what I said when I reread my post :() was that Jackson HAD been at war with the Cherokee. He had previously fought them before becoming President and still viewed them as an enemy to be eliminated after he became President.

              Yes he showed neither respect or compassion for them, I just was pointing out that at least he had an excuse, albiet a flimsy one.

        2. During President Andrew Jackson’s administration the Supreme Court found in favor of Worcester and the Cherokee Indians in Worcester v Georgia, 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515 (1832). Jackson is supposed to have responded, ‘John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!’

          It was not exactly what was said, the following is from Wicki:

          This derives from Jackson’s consideration on the case in a letter to John Coffee, “…the decision of the Supreme Court has fell still born, and they find that they cannot coerce Georgia to yield to its mandate,” (that is, the Court’s opinion was moot because it had no power to enforce its edict).

          Jackson refused to do anything to make the state of Georgia comply. From his relations to the Seminoles to the Cherokee President Jackson showed no respect for existing treaties or compassion for the NAs.

  16. Having said that: there are books where gay characters make perfect sense. For instance, ETHAN OF ATHOS by Lois McMaster Bujold has a planet inhabited entirely by men, relying on imported ova for reproduction.

    1. Well, if it hadn’t been for that flaky Eve person, we would all be naked, male, and in the garden playing sand volleyball with angels. It wouldn’t even be called gay at that point, would it?

      1. That’s the claim of the religion of the planet Athos, I gather. Or close.

        Poor Ethan has to go out and face… women. (And I adore, adore, adore fifty times over how Bujold twisted the expected ending, after Ethan has to team up with — HORRORS! — a female mercenary.)

    1. I’ve noticed that the online reviews of his books are incredibly scathing, way out of proportion to the degree of suckitude of the books. Look, I know that Niven, like every author, has his failures. And you can’t expect every book to be a LUCIFER’S HAMMER or a RINGWORLD.

      However, he has certainly had his share of successes, recently as well as in the 1960s. I highly recommend “The Secret of Black Ship Island,” by Niven, Pournelle, and Barnes, currently available on Kindle–although I’d suggest you read THE LEGACY OF HEOROT first (another excellent novel, BTW). Also, his Draco Tavern stories have gotten better, rather than worse; the first tales were mostly filler but the recent ones have much more story.

      1. I’m a huge Niven and Pournelle fan, had the honor of getting to correspond briefly with Pournelle. Found him to be somewhat formal, but a gentleman in the old sense of the word.

      2. THE LEGACY OF HEOROT and it’s sequel were both very good examples of world-building, though it’s been some time since I’ve read either one. I’m currently going through the audiobook of The Mote In God’s Eye which I never got around to reading for one reason or ‘nother.

        Dan Simmons catching religious grief for his Ilium and Olympos novels (among my absolute favorites) always made me blink in confusion.

  17. I’ve written a couple of short stories with specifically gay protagonists. The first was a (sadly prophetic) story about New Orleans getting wiped out and abandoned; the gay community is big part of the city and I’m reasonably familiar with it, so I made the main characters a gay couple. The second was a short-short about a dating service that offers to change your personality to improve your prospects, and the narrator is a gay man to give him a detached outside perspective on the straight male main character’s dating problems.

    In short, I use gay characters when it adds to the story; there shouldn’t be any other reason. (A lot of my characters’ sex lives never get mentioned — if people want to assume they’re all straight, doesn’t that say more about the reader than about me?)

    1. Cambias — who my characters fall for usually matters to the story. Unfortunately my back brain has control of their orientations, just like it has control of names — which is why I have a character called Candyce Chocolate Dare

      1. Mind you, I usually can find reasons later, but the real reason is that if I don’t do what the subconscious wants it locks up tighter than a constipated clam, leaving me blocked.

      2. I would hesitate to google Candy Chocolate Dare. I’m sure you would get hits, and am willing to bet that your books would not be at the top of the page.

  18. Speaking of people overstating numbers of minorities: am I the only one who thinks that the “obesity epidemic,” currently used by Michael Bloomberg to justify fascism, is WILDLY overstated? I’ve seen several people classed as obese–based on official definitions of the term–who were not only not the sexually indeterminate 400-lb people in Wal-Mart with their thighs hanging halfway down to the ground from their electric wheelchairs, but were in fact considered unusually fit and attractive. I think Bloomberg is using definitions to pull a fast one. And I worry that it may work, since people will remember the man in the wheelchair, while forgetting the other forty people they say in Wal-Mart on the same day.

    1. I agree Ken. Being chubby and being obese are two different definitions. I found that medications can cause an increase in weight gain (take prednisone for instance). That particular drug is used for many different types of illnesses including allergies. The continued use of this one drug can cause weight gain, diabetes, and other problems. And, this is just one drug. Other drugs can add to the weight gain phenom.

      1. Cyn, when Jean and I got married, I was 5′ 10 1/2″ tall and weighed 210 pounds. Jean said cuddling up against me was like cuddling a rock. Today, 46.5 years later, I’m 5′ 8 7/8″ tall and weigh 215 pounds. I’m not such a rock any more, but I can still move huge amounts of weight around. In 1966 (when we were married), I was considered “normal”. Today, I’m considered “significantly overweight”. What changed wasn’t the weight, but the standards. Another case of “one size fits all” being applied to the most diverse group in the world – human beings. Doctors who follow this logic should be horse-whipped – with a real horse.

        1. I was thinking of a bullwhip since I have seen how they are made Mike. Yea, I think the standards are ridiculous. I don’t mind losing some weight. The prednisone really causes a problem for weight gain–and it is fluffy weight if you know what I mean. BUT I still have waist, hips, breasts… I am not a blob.

          It is like they are trying to make us all TV weight (you know skeletons). No wonder we have so many eating disorders. I started to see a rise in those (disorders) around the 80s. I think that was when things started to change on the weight front. You know Marilyn Monroe was size 16. Today she would be considered obese.

    2. That’s been going on for quite a while. The “Body Mass Index” numbers were concocted by the same forces that decided the Ideal Female is a thirteen-year-old boy with a little surgery.

      1. YES! part of this is that the weight numbers we have are from people who went to the doctor, meaning they were ill. Okay, I NEED to lose fifty pounds. BUT when I got married, I was five six (yes, I’ve lost an inch. Yes, I think I know why. No, I’m not discussing it) and 120 lbs. According to guidelines I was “obese” — guys, you could count my ribs and I was in danger of injuring Dan with my hip bones just sharing a bed with him. BUT of course, I thought I was fat, and was continuously told I needed to lose twenty pounds.

        1. Yeah, when I was 21, I got down to 185lbs (6 feet tall), and looked like I was nearly anorexic. The height/weight tables said I was 12-15 lbs overweight, even for a large frame.

          Yet I knew someone in college who, while very skinny, didn’t look particularly undernourished at 6′ and 125lbs.

        2. Well – when I was 180 pounds at 5 ft. 8 in., I was considered obese even though I muscular. Yep totally… I realized a long time ago that 120 made me feel ill and that at 180 I felt strong (and also able to climb mountains, etc.)

            1. I like to lift weights. Have ever since I was a kid and came in wagging Daddy’s barbells (probably weighed as much as I did) and said, “Daddy, show me how to work with this.” (I’d already deadlifted the thing just to carry it across the house.) When I was in peak bodybuilding form (no I didn’t compete, I don’t have pix, don’t bother asking, but I was the same size as Cory Everson if that name means anything to you, just not as ripped) I went to a health fair. Went through bp -100/60; pulse, 68; weight, 160lb, height 5’7″ and a few other such things. I handed the paperwork to the nurse at the end of the gauntlet and she glanced over it and without looking up, said, “You’re overweight.”

              To which I replied, “Not really; I bodybuild.”

              That got her attention. She looked up, scanned me up and down, made me come around the end of the table so she could start at the feet and look up to my head.

              Then she checked off the block on the form and said, “Yep, you’re right. You’re fine.” And I wandered on…

              1. Just before I blew a knee out and spent a year on crutches I was in superb shape — fenced, ran, weight-lifted – and was 5’11 3/4″ (on some things I refuse to round up, and here the extra 3/4 matters) and weighed about 150lbs. Not skinny – fine bones; my wedding band was a size 7 which is less than small for a guy.

                The thing is, the H/W charts reflect a bureaucratic guideline that dim-bulbs are too rigid to apply judgement to. They would have considered my underweight and Ahnuld Schwarzenegger obese for the exact same reasons: that is what their charts said. Who are they to believe: the charts or their lying eyes?

                1. Yep, I happen to be your height, and try to keep myself up around 160-165, when I get down to 150 I am starting to get to lean (losing muscle). I haven’t did any body building since I got out of high school, but when I used to swing an axe and machete all day, for work, my shoulders were about 4 inches wider and I needed to weigh in about 165 or I was getting to skinny.

                  Yes, to annoy those of you who are always having to diet and watch your weight, I have to watch mine also, just in the other direction. I need 6-8 thousand calories a day if I am not doing anything particularly strenous. On the other hand if I am being more active than is my norm, I often eat 10,000+ a day, and have seen times when I was still losing weight.

                  1. Yep, yep, on the weight thing — I “hate” you. If I wanted to get back to my “ideal weight” I’d need to eat 800 calories a day and exercise four hours. I would too, if dictation software worked.

                  2. I didn’t diet until I went into the Navy and they told me I was too heavy… It was ridiculous since I had a 28 inch waist at the time.The girls with the perfect weight and BMI couldn’t finish the physical tests. I could. UGH… once I got on that diet wing-wang, it took a long time to like myself again and get off of it.

  19. James H. Schmitz wrote strong women characters. Did a damned good job of it too!

    If someone doesn’t like what you write, that’s just too bad. They don’t have to buy it. That’s their choice.

    Or if they are really upset, they should try to write something better, like Edgar Rice Burroughs. Of course that would be work 🙂

    Wayne

      1. Heh. The hottest woman in SF&F is Doctor Nile Etland. Oh man does she turn me on!

        I wish Schmitz wrote more stories featuring her.

        Yeah, I’m a geek. I fall in love with woman characters 🙂

        Wayne

  20. (Rolls eyes. I think the only people I beat on by default are blond women, and yeah, I’d mind if my sister married one. Actually it’s an old all-girl school in a Latin country injury. The blond chicks tended to be unbelievably stuck up.)

    HEY! I resemble that remark, and I’m not stuck up!

    But I have encountered that attitude from others of various Latino extraction. I’m really sorry that happened, but it wasn’t ME. Don’t beat on me, please?

    1. That’s probably going to be a default reaction from just about anybody with Latino heritage, although I was a little surprised to see it coming from a European; I’d thought it mainly concentrated in México and south from there. In all of Latin America, la biondina is a separate (and superior) species. This is one of the reasons Hugo Chávez is popular (and yes, he really is). The usual routine is that anybody with “native” blood and/or physical features belongs ‘way down in the social order, and adding in black makes it worse. Not so much in the day-to-day life of the citizenry, but politicians and entertainers are light-skinned Europeans more or less by default.

      1. Ric,
        I saw a blond guy — a real blond. Most “blond” girls in Portugal come from a bottle. Also, “blond” has a different range. In summer I can count as “blond” — for the first time at six. I thought he was an animated doll, because dolls are often blond. I was terrified. 😛

        And I suspect the skin thing is the same as in Latin America but with different values. If you cross the “very dark” threshold it’s probably the same. One of the secrets of Europe is that it’s WAY more racist than the US, it just won’t admit it — even to itself. Why “I suspect”? Well, my problem with blonds was a competitive one: any girl with blond hair or blue eyes gets special treatment. They’re “beautiful” by fiat and get the treatment anyone who is drop-dead gorgeous would get here: from guys, but also from teachers. But other than that, even though I’m uh… olive skinned, I don’t have the features that identify you as “low class” — no, don’t even ask me to explain, and no, you wouldn’t see a difference. It’s not as easy as “skin color” The Columbian exchange student at my high school in Ohio was considered “hot” by all the women, but I looked at him and saw the slums and kids running around half naked… and I could never explain it. I’m sure my younger kid and he would look the same to Americans, but younger kid gets fawning “high class” treatment in Portugal, despite being a deep tan 3/4 of the time. It’s the TONE of the tan as well as the features being more Roman than moorish — so I wouldn’t know about THAT part.

        1. Facial features — I might recognize them if I were there; it isn’t all that different, and can be summed up as !African.

          What you’re telling me doesn’t reach “amazement”, but it’s certainly remarkable. Ever since I began my travels in 1983, I have stoutly maintained that we Western Hemispherians have more in common with one another, from Baffin Bay to Tierra del Fuego, than we do with Europe, despite large and vocal pockets of Europhilia throughout. This is another example: racial prejudice is alive and well, no doubt about it, but the vast majority of people here go about their lives without making any huge point of it.

          The only real constant is that genuine sub-Saharan African ancestry puts you at the bottom of the heap. Next worst is North African Arab-black mix, which I suspect is the lower class in Portugal, but there aren’t many of those in the Western Hemisphere. There are several “native” ethnicities that resemble African blacks in many ways, including facial features, but even they rank above blacks (though only by a little). They probably occupy the same place on the ladder the “Moors” do in Andalusia.

          Never the less, I know or know of successful politicians, business people, TV and other performers, &ct., of all shades and physiognomies. The rule seems to be “yeah, he/she is a [epithet], but the Hell with it, let’s go make some money.” Seems like the right way to do it to me.

        2. I’m partial to redheads. Always have been. My wife’s a redhead. Almost all of the girls I’ve been halfway serious about have been redheads. Blondes do nothing for me. Different tastes, I guess. At the same time, my maternal grandfather was a redhead, and I didn’t care much for him at all. He really was a crotchety old man! Pure Irish, in all the wrong ways.

            1. I’m a redhead who in 1999 died my hair black to go as Neo for Halloween. I bought a ton of BB/pellet pistols and holsters (very expensive) and returned them all over the next couple weeks, but the effect was pretty cool if you ignored freckles 🙂

            2. You saying you’re Team Ron, not Team Harry??? (We’ve already eliminated Team Hermione, I think.)

            3. One of my brothers who is blonde grows out a red beard. People have accused him of dyeing his hair… It’s just proof that we are related to Eric the Red.

          1. Ah Mike – you are missing out on a wonder part of the population lol My hubby before he met me was into brunettes and redheads… and then he met me. *wiggles eyebrows, ears, and nose ROFL

      1. Oh well I’m safe then. I haven’t had my nails done since the early nineties. It is too much trouble. I just cut them off. 😉

        1. Thi is the one thing that my MIL and my mom agree on. My hands are a disgrace. I should grow my nails and paint them a nice pink. I spend half my life typing, the other half doing handy-woman stuff around the house. I cut them as close as I can. Pffff.

          1. I started clipping my nails when I started playing the piano at 8 years old (I am mediocre even after ll those lessons… ) and I haven’t looked back since. Plus I have been typing most of my life. Why do I need fake nails?

            1. Whenever I walk into an office and see a secretary with two inch pink claws I always think two things.

              1. How in the heck does she type with those things!!

              2. I wonder if her husband makes her wear leather gloves to bed?

  21. I don’t know, but I think I might be the only regular commenter here with a military background. Not that that means much, but it does provide a different perspective of guys bunching together. Combat, which I HAVE been a part of, unites men much more closely than normal, primarily for survival. Sharing being shot at does kind of unite one more than riding the bus together would. That’s the same as your Musketeers, Sarah. They have stood together against others, standing back-to-back, facing the hostile hoards. That’s also why Pournelle, Niven, and several others are so hated by many in the effete world of publishing. They UNDERSTAND that uniqueness of military discipline, military camaraderie, and can express it in their writing. That’s also why such books as Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”, Pournelle’s “Falkenburg” series, Pat Frank’s “Alas Babylon”, and many other GOOD war books are read and re-read by many in the military.

    1. That is also a big part of why Baen is reviled by other publishers – allowing such neanderthal writers as Weber, Drake, Ringo, Kratman, Moon & others into print. (My apologies to any fascist cro-magnons omitted, the list is not intended as comprehensive but merely the pre-eminent offenders. Up-and-comers like Taylor, Correia, Hoyt, Williamson and others have not yet quite demonstrated their ability to evoke spittle-flying rage reviews at Amazon before actual publication of their books.)

      1. I’m prior military, from a group of people that treat being in the service like a family business. My grandfather was one of the first paratroopers (he’s in that pic with Ike before the invasion) and my father, uncles, brothers, and cousins have all followed likewise.

        Being in arms with other men can bring you closer in many ways than you will ever be with your wife. There’s also the aspect of men dealing with other men through good times and bad. One of the biggest benefits of having only men involved is a complete lack of extraneous drama. Any extraneous drama tends to get hammered out very quickly and on you go.

        1. BTW Scott – My grandfather was in the Navy during WWII, my father was in the Navy at the end of the Korean conflict, and I was in the Navy during Desert Storm. My great great great grandfather was in a Battalion during the Spanish-American War. Also on my mother’s side we had an uncle die in Germany during WWII. It seems we end up having at least one person go into the military in a generation. I don’t see any of my nieces or nephews going in though. Oh yea, one of my great-aunts was in the Women’s Army corps.

      2. I think a lot of my readers have military background… and not just the barflies. I also seem to — from the people I see at signings — trend more male readers than female readers, which is rare these days. No, I’m not sure why. (Shrug)

      3. I think Williamson gives them split-personality disorders. They can’t decide whether to give him rave reviews for his liberal left-leaning libertarian views, or rage reviews for his hard-right libertarian views.

    2. Mike – I have been in the military, but not combat. When I was in women did not go into combat. However, there is a camaraderie amongst different units that civilians do NOT understand. We helped each other in play, work, and family. We were very tight-knit. My husband was in Vietnam so I have heard some of the stories. It is very intense.

  22. Scott — sorry I missed counting you! My family is NOT big on the military, even though both my parents served (so did two of Dad’s brothers, and both of Mom’s). The only exception is my dad’s youngest brother, who spent his career in the National Guard. I’ve got a couple of cousins who retired after 20+ years, and a dozen more that served a minimum tour and left. That’s not too sterling a track record out of over 130 first cousins.

    My career field wasn’t usually associated with combat. In fact, we’re mostly pampered, protected, and kept at arms’ length from it. I ended up in combat by very unusual circumstances that involved three of us in the Air Force and five Army troops. The Army folks in charge even asked us first if we knew anything about weapons before letting us have them. I guess being a farm boy who hunted to put food on the table was good enough…

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