It’s very important to me in my work that female characters are human, fully-developed, and have just as many quirks, flaws, and moments of strength as the male characters. I make sure, too, that my male characters have moments of vulnerability and–the good ones, anyway–do not subscribe to traditionally “masculinist” ideologies. That’s one way I mark a villain, in fact. If he’s sexist, he’s probably not someone I want the reader cheering for. I am not compelled to read or write work that fails to meet these basic criteria. I disagree with undermining characters’ objectives, success, and autonomy based on their gender, and in order to avoid appearance of such, I try very hard to make sure this doesn’t happen accidentally, even if the plot might dictate it.
Do I fail at times, even as an avowedly feminist writer? I’m sure I do. Patriarchy gets its mitts in society all over the place, so deeply entrenched that we don’t always notice it. But I think I’m getting better at portraying the kinds of women I want to read about, and I hope readers appreciate that I’m making the concerted effort, especially in genre fiction where (woman warrior tropes aside) female characters are still not always treated with the same level of respect as male characters.
For most of my long fiction, I spend months creating an outline before I ever put pen to paper on the novel itself. Usually for short fiction, however, I simply fly by the seat of my pants, letting inspiration take me where it will. The problem with this disparity is that of the outlined novels I’ve created this way, I’ve completed a grand total of zero of them. And yet the freeform stories I’ve just written on the fly? Over half of them have been published already, and the sheer word count of all my short prose alone would equal a novel or two.
So there’s the rub. Outlining might lead to more complex storytelling, more expansive and intricately designed worlds, built with attention to the minutest detail, but they will take you so long to do you might never finish them. One book series, I’ve been editing and re-editing for nine years now! It’ll get done, I’m confident, but I keep having to update the technological references and pop culture jokes every time I revisit it.
I’ve written my fair share of reimagined fairy tales. “Sparkling Teeth and Sacrifices” is essentially Snow White with vampires. In the pipeline, I have modern takes on Tristan and Iseult (“The Lovers,” soon to be appearing in Daily Love) and a Breton myth about a ghostly fisherman who kills people by a lighthouse (“Iannic-ann-ôd,” set for a January edition of Dark Fire Fiction). With a lot of my work, I try to invent my own mythology, but there’s something so deeply appealing about turning existing fables on their heads.
And I’m not the only writer with this fascination. Magazines and anthologies devoted to reworked fairy tales pop up all the time. Two of my favorite authors–Angela Carter and Joyce Carol Oates–both released entire collections of essentially feminist readings of monomyths. Anne Rice took it another step further with her Sleeping Beauty books.
So why do we do this? What’s the appeal? Is it a desire to drag your favorite childhood stories kicking and screaming into adulthood, to lay bare the essential weirdness of so many of them? To examine the source and remove the Disneyfication, leaving the gritty underbelly exposed?
I think it’s mostly about the appeal of speculative fiction overall. I write non-realistic work because I keep asking myself “what if…?” And sometimes that question comes when I’m feeling ornery and wondering just why Snow White was so pale or why the big bad wolf could talk. The whimsy of the fairy tale world? Or did vampires and werewolves lurk just at the corners of the imagination of the Brothers Grimm?
The short fiction anthology Once Bitten, Never Die has now been released by Wicked East Press! $16.99, ISBN #978-1617061653. Available from these fine retailers:
Featuring my short story, “Sparkling Teeth and Sacrifices,” as well as work by Heidi Lengwenat, Steven Gepp, William Greer, George Wilhite, Edward Ahern, Rob E. Boley, Jaimie Capelin, Ryan King, Suzanne Robb, Philip Roberts, Matt Kurtz, E. J. Tett, Stephanie L. Morrell, Henry Snider, John X. Grey, Milan Smith, Adam P. Lewis, Eric J. Guignard, Rebecca Snow, Quinn Hernandez, and Tara Sayers. Edited by Jessica A. Weiss.
Guest blog from author and publisher Steven Saus. Spec the Halls is now available for purchase!
My name is Steven Saus; I’m an author and publisher. I run Alliteration Ink, where I both publish original work and also provide publishing services. This year, I’ve taken up the mantle of running Spec The Halls from Abra Staffin-Wiebe. There’s both a writing contest and a charity fundraiser. Right now, I’m doing a bit of a blog tour to support the fundraiser; each entry talks about something different, so you’ll want to stop by them all. You can see a full linklist of the guest posts at specthehalls.tumblr.com and read more about the whole project (and get the charity eBook) at specthehalls.com.
It’s really exciting to be doing an eBook as a fundraiser. It makes things a lot more flexible, especially in two big ways:
We can deliver more to donors without taking away from their gift. Ever wonder how much the wrapping paper, envelope labels, canvas totes, and unwanted “subscriptions” end up costing? I always thought it ironic that environmental organizations would send you unwanted paper calendars in the mail. When you get a tote bag for a mere $10 donation, either a large chunk of your donation is paying for the bag, or the bag was made in a sweatshop somewhere, or both.
That’s not the case here. With Spec The Halls, all of the proceeds will go to Heifer International. All of them.
Once I assembled the first eBook, the second didn’t “cost” any more to put together. Nor did the third. All of that money is going straight to the charity.
And what do I mean about “the proceeds”? Simple. Paypal charges some transaction fees. Amazon and the nook store also charge per-sale fees. I can’t make those go away – which is why it’s best if you get the eBook from specthehalls.com . But after those mandatory fees, every cent goes to the charity. Period.
I can let people donate on their own. You can’t write off the purchase of Spec The Halls as a charitable donation (just like you can’t for that yogurt that donates to breast cancer research). I’m not thrilled about that, but the effort and paperwork to make it happen was so far beyond my ability… well, let’s just say that Simon Canderous1 would have been upset at the amount of paperwork. But I can do something that’s almost as good.
I can give you a copy of the eBook if you donate to Heifer International on your own.
Send me a copy of your reciept (dated after 1 Nov 2011, please) and I’ll gladly get you a copy of the eBook, just as if you’d bought it from me.
That’s something that would be simply impossible to do with a paper book fundraiser.
Go check out the Spec The Halls eBook, and enter this year’s writing contest!
This year’s edition of Spec The Halls is only available for a limited time, so act quickly to get your copy!
1Don’t know who he is? Go check out Anton Strout’s books!