The Rainbow in Genre Fiction

As writers, we have to strive to make our work different. Be it the context of which are worlds are set in, the way we tell our stories, the locations we set them in or the timeframes that we present the reader to, there are an innumerable amount of ways to make writing ‘different’—which, I think, is one of the most exciting thing about discovering a new writer. The thrill of seeing how they make their work different, especially the worlds that their favorite genres are set in, is always one of the greatest things that happens whenever you crack open a new book. Though that may sometimes not be the most pleasant thing in the world, I think it makes for interesting literature.

The topic this week on the Guild of Dreams is to write about what makes our writing different from another’s. While that in itself is a great idea, I stumbled over the topic itself because I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to present this essay to the readers of the fantasy collective. I decided that, in the end, I should write it, because if I’m not going to, no one else is.

As many of you probably already know, I self-identify as homosexual (i.e, I’m attracted to the same sex.) I won’t go into specifics, but this has been a near-lifelong identification for me and it has affected everything from the way I perceive things, people, to the way I respond to certain situations and also the way I interact with others. It also affects my writing, which some might find surprising.

Readers and writers alike often ask, ‘What makes your writing different?’

I say, ‘I write about gay characters.’

The writing world is very sparsely-filled with such characters. Genre fiction as a whole especially suffers from a lack of identifiable and relatable individuals that relate to the GLBTQIA spectrum (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual.) Oftentimes, gay characters are presented in minor roles (the strong female character’s sassy, finger-snapping hairdresser gay male friend or the bitter lesbian who hates men.) The two aforementioned roles are probably two of the most commonly-used examples of tropes within the gay community. Even writers who are pro-gay or are gay themselves often don’t write about gay characters, or have them as minor characters whose issues are never highlighted in detail. Growing up, especially as a young gay adolescent and eventually teenager between the ages of nine and fourteen, I searched for positive role models. Sadly, I only started finding them at the age of fourteen, when my thoughts and feelings about my sexuality were festering to the point where I was becoming depressed. While Christopher Rice’s debut novel A Density of Souls ultimately helped me find that support I needed, it was one of the few books I read that had a positive gay male as a role model at the time.

In my fiction, I try to write characters the reader can look at realistically—flawed, dignified, respectable and sympathetic men and women who readers can identify with. Sure, they might not be perfect, but who is in the real world?

Examples of gay men and women in my genre fiction wholly rely on the source. Several characters in my collection Amorous Things are gay or lesbian. My two leads in my novel Sunrise are gay. And, most specifically related to this blog, a major character in The Brotherhood eventually enters into a relationship with someone of the same sex. I won’t say who it is, or allude to which character it might be. I will say, however, that their relationship speaks of how it is to live as a person who doesn’t identify as heterosexual. The doubt, the fear, the misconception, the mistreatment from others, the worries about being in a position of power and about raising a family in a world where the ‘traditional’ is supposed to be the ‘right’ and ‘proper’—all these things are presented in this character’s plight, and though I struggled with including this aspect of this character’s life in the book, I ultimately realized to hide it would do no one good.

In the end, I want to craft engaging stories that are told from points of view that are underrepresented. In my mind, those in the LGBTQIA community are highly underrepresented, and I will never stop writing for them.

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2 comments on “The Rainbow in Genre Fiction

  1. Thanks for your post, Kody. I think that all writers are influenced by their circumstances and their life experiences, so it is in no way unusual that you include gay and lesbian characters in your books. As a father, I feel I can write more authentically about the experience of being a father than someone who isn’t; as a gay man, you can write more authentically about being a gay man. My guess (perhaps my hope) is that most hetero authors shy away from including these characters in their books because they cannot write them effectively and want to keep from falling into stereotypes, though my fear is that the reasons are other than this.

  2. Good post. As someone who identifies with being bisexual, I can certainly appreciate your POV and say: good for you. I fully support where your works go with the characters and if that’s what makes it stand out, then fantastic. Then again, I believe variety and diversity can make things so much more interesting, and better. Taking readers into the other colours of the world can be exciting, even if they never thought of it. Such characters show up in my work, and are not simply minor, and I’d like to think they don’t fit the stereotype, either. Sure, not everyone loves it, but why not? Life is so much more, and so are characters. Keep it up, Kody!

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