Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shredded...and reacted to...

Well, I guess it had to happen sometime. Most of the feedback I've gotten on The Vanishing of Owen Taylor has been good and constructive and instructive. Some of it I kind of expected, some of it surprised me...but if three or more people say the same thing about what you've written, it's not their's yours. The general reaction has also been pretty much positive about the story...until today.

Just before my meeting in Springfield, I got feedback that tore the story to bits. Completely. "The mystery was of no consequence. Hated the connection to Europe. Felt it was more about being a gay man in America and who cares?" And on and on. The one positive comment was that I do know how to write...but I've become a bit too heavy and dark, not like another gay writer they've read whose touch is light and airy.

What's interesting (to me) is my reaction to it. As noted in this blog, I've had people diss my work before, down to the point where they say I should never write anything ever again. Comments like that used to affect me, but now I tend to shrug them off. You can't please everybody and anyone who tries will be viciously disappointed. And in reply to this I sent off my thanks and said that I appreciated the further verification of what others have pointed out -- that the story doesn't really get going till about page 150. That is something I'm working on.

But I also got kind of pissed off. Not at the criticism but at the dismissal of what it means to be a gay man in America. We've got religious and political leaders here saying gay men and women ought to be executed and denied the same rights as others and rounded up and put in camps or on desert islands, and they are doing all they can to marginalize us...and that gets a big shrug. In Russia you can be put in jail for being gay, or kidnapped and brutalized to death and nothing will happen to your attackers, and that gets a big shrug. In Saudi Arabia and Iran and under ISIS you can be executed for being gay and even gay organizations will try to minimize what that means...and still a big shrug.

This picture is what it means to be gay in too many countries. These kids in Iran were 15 and 17 and got hanged for basically jacking each other off. [UPDATE: I just remembered what it was they were accused of -- frottage, rubbing up against someone or something to gain sexual satisfaction.] The accusation was expanded to claim they'd raped a 13 year-old boy after the Western media got busy broadcasting it, and too many people decided that was an easier explanation to accept (coming from a regime constantly accused of lying and misrepresenting everything else about itself) than the idea that they were murdered for who they are. I'm not letting that get ignored, and I'm shocked that anyone thinks this can't happen in the US or Europe. Because it already has, too many times. Just look at the killing of Matthew Shepard; Elizabeth Vargas with ABC news went out of her way to help foster the idea that his murder was just a drug deal gone wrong, not a hate crime against a gay young man.

Now all of this is still par for the course, for me. I'm very left wing and despise those who despise me and others like me. But it's my deeper reaction that's interesting to me. I was pulling back a lot of the political commentary as being too much...and I'm stopping that, right now. I feel like I was giving in to opinions that this wasn't necessary. Well...Jake is my surrogate in this story, and if I'm using him to preach to the choir, so be it. I want it out there, not shrugged off, and if that means the book comes across as strident, it's fucking strident.

Because I just got reminded there are too damn many members of the choir who aren't listening or paying attention, so they need the preaching.


Michael Dodd said...

I never really trusted the people in the choir that much myself. And I say that after thirty years in ministry ...

JamTheCat said...

It plays off that old saying, "With friends like these..."