alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

Yesterday I was at QC2, a meeting of queer romance writers organized by Manifold Press. I chaired a panel on how much reality we want in our historicals and am definitely going to have to blog again about lots of the issues that came up. So much was covered! And then in the hours that followed I remembered how much I’d meant to say and hadn’t, and probably should get around to mentioning later. I am as always occupying an equivocal position of “Well, it’s complicated.”

People love easy answers, but easy answers can’t cover complex situations, and human behaviour has always been hair-tearingly tangled and contradictory. Why should it be different in art?

I hope I’m going to talk later about KJ Charles’s talk about finding the complexities in history and opening them out and discovering that in examining them we also examine ourselves. Also I need to shout out to whose talk reminded me what a genuine pleasure it is to encounter well presented historical research, and also how much I loved the Georgians.

But for now I’m posting here the article I wrote for the event booklet. Some of you may remember the incident that gave me my inspiration for this!

bewcastlearmband6

How much reality do we want in our historical fiction?

Not so long ago, it was the summer holidays, and my family decided to go to one of Kentwell Hall’s Tudor days, at which their beautiful house and gardens are flooded with beautifully costumed reenactors. We have some problems with their reenactors, who pretend to be people of the past, and with varying degrees of accuracy put on ye olde English speech patterns and try to get you to play along with the pretence that you are actually visiting Tudor England.

Our family are reenactors ourselves, but of a different sort – a sort that acknowledges that we are in reality modern people who share a culture, language and knowledge base with any member of the public who might talk to us. We like to have conversations where we and the public share notes. A chat where we say “This is how the Saxons did [whatever],” and the member of the public says “Oh, that’s interesting. I read that the Romans did it [some other way]. I’m interested because I do [whatever craft] myself. It’s cool to see how it developed,” is the kind of chat that we aspire to. A dialogue, in other words.

This training makes it difficult for us to suspend disbelief in the historical reality of the Kentwell Hall reenactors. And because they won’t drop character, and we’re caught in the existential uncertainty of how to talk to people who are pretending they don’t know anything about our shared culture, we find we can’t talk to them at all. We don’t care to be treated as props to be monologued at.

However, they do look pretty! So we decided we would go anyway, keep our heads down, avoid interacting with them, and take some nice photos.

It was a scorcher of a day, so my daughter was dressed in shorts and a strappy top – nothing out of the ordinary for a 21st Century young woman. When we first passed a reenactor who shouted out something about “These young maidens going about in their underwear,” we rolled our eyes at each other, sourly thought “oh ha ha,” and walked on, continuing with our attempts not to engage.

But he followed us. And he continued to pester her about how she was going to hell, leading people into temptation, a harlot who ought to be ashamed, and us about how we should rein her in and put her under proper control and teach her to be properly modest.

It was excruciatingly unpleasant. No doubt we were supposed to take it as a joke or an enlightening glimpse at an ugliness so far removed from our present lives that it can be fun to contemplate. But it wasn’t, of course. Both my daughter and I have had plenty of experience of being followed down the road in modern life by creepy middle aged guys who wanted an excuse to rant at how sinful our mere existence in female bodies was. We didn’t find it any more amusing couched in ye olde English.

Which leads me finally to my point.

When does the pantomime of an abuse become an abuse in itself? The more convincing it gets – the closer to reality it gets – the more you are actually inflicting that very abuse on your reader.

If we had actually been Tudors ourselves (a) we wouldn’t have been dressed like that anyway, and (b) my husband could have hit him across the face with his cane and had him put in the stocks for insulting a respectable young lady. But we weren’t – we were at an unnatural disadvantage very like the disadvantage a reader suffers when they open a book.

When a reader opens a book, they can’t have a free and mutual conversation with the author or with the characters. An author, like our harasser, can drop the reader straight into the intolerable ugliness of the past, and rub their faces in the fact that people like them – women, queer people, people of colour, disabled people, even sensitive non-heroic cishet men – would have largely had a worse time of it than they do today.

That would be the reality. And the reality is not fun. Fill a book with the kind of misery, suffering, fear and abuse, the kind of grinding, soul destroying prejudice that such people would encounter in the past – do it without any glimmer of assurance that you, the author, a modern person, know that this stuff is vile – and you can be sure your reader won’t come out of reading it feeling uplifted. Your reader will come out of it feeling crushed in a way they’ve been crushed too many times before.

If your queer characters always die; if your women end up silenced, relegated to the roles of wife, mother or whore; if your people of colour end up slaves or outcasts, run out of the community or dead, it doesn’t matter how ‘realistic’ that might be. You, the author, are still deliberately choosing to hurt people in ways they get enough of in real life.

It’s important to remember that you, the author, are a modern person telling a story to other modern people. You can’t hide behind the claim that you’re just being ‘realistic’. You choose what goes into your story. You choose whether you start the conversation with “You’re a harlot,” or “Lord, mistress, are you foreign? Do they dress like that where you’re from?”

The sexual harassment is perhaps more likely and therefore more realistic, but one of these openers is an assault, and one is a respectful invitation to play along. If you know that, and you choose the ‘realistic’ option anyway, what can I say? You’re a douche.

 

 

Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

Woohoo! It feels like a long time since I’ve had a new release, due to my unfortunate habit of bunching things up and leaving big gaps between the bunches. And typically I’m going on holiday tomorrow so I won’t be around to promote it for a week, but never mind, I can do that a bit when I get back.

This is my first book with a cover drawn by an artist. I asked for something with a fairy-tale theme because Romania was such a fairy-tale country (full of witches and wolves) during the time when this was set, and I think the artist has done beautifully. Despite that slightly fairy tale feel, this is a historical not a fantasy.

So with no more ado, I announce the arrival of

TheCrimsonOutlaw_400x600

Love is the greatest outlaw of all.

Vali, heir to a powerful local boyar, flees his father’s cruelty to seek his fortune in the untamed Carpathian forests. There he expects to fight ferocious bandits and woo fair maidens to prove himself worthy of returning to depose his tyrannical father. But when he is ambushed by Mihai Roscat, the fearsome Crimson Outlaw, he discovers that he’s surprisingly happy to be captured and debauched instead.

Mihai, once an honoured knight, has long sought revenge against Vali’s father, Wadim, who killed his lord and forced him into a life of banditry. Expecting his hostage to be a resentful, spoiled brat, Mihai is unprepared for the boy to switch loyalties, saving the lives of villagers and of Mihai himself during one of Wadim’s raids. Mihai is equally unprepared for the attraction between them to deepen into love.

Vali soon learns that life outside the castle is not the fairy tale he thought, and happy endings must be earned. To free themselves and their people from Wadim’s oppression, Vali and Mihai must forge their love into the spear-point of a revolution and fight for a better world for all.

http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/crimson-outlaw

With a short excerpt here


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)


Miku twirling by ~SkullRider123 on deviantART

~*~*~*~

I saw this yesterday, and desperately wanted to run around telling my friends and family about it. But then I remembered that my friends and family would not see why it was such a big deal. (Probably because it really isn’t a big deal to anyone except me.) But it gave me such a thrill that I had to mention it:

http://scifi.about.com/od/Weekly-Book-Releases-2013/a/This-Week_Paperbacks_2013-04-01.htm

An announcement at About.com that Under the Hill: Dogfighters is out in paperback. Look at me, hanging out in a list of SF/F authors that also includes Mercedes Lackey, Harry Turtledove and L.Frank Baum. I feel like I ought to be twirling in a sea of stars, as per a Japanese anime character.

Got to say, though, that my ‘brand’ is clearly as disorganised and offputting as ever, since according to KZ Snow’s m/m hall of fame, I’m definitely settled in the minds of m/m readers as a writer of historicals. This makes me squee too. How could it not? Look, I get to keep such great company there too. Thank you KZ!  :)

http://kzsnow.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-mm-romance-hall-of-fame.html?zx=64c01f71dedbdc4

But it does make me think that my branding life would probably be simpler if I got a new pen-name for the SF/F stuff. That way, people looking for Historicals (who wouldn’t touch fantasy with a bargepole) could continue looking for Alex Beecroft, while people looking for Fantasy (who wouldn’t touch historicals with a bargepole) could look for someone else, and I would avoid confusing and offputting absolutely everyone. And if I told everyone that was what I was doing, those who liked both would be able to find both.


Mirrored from Alex Beecroft - Author of Gay Historical and Fantasy Fiction.

alex_beecroft: A blue octopus in an armchair, reading a book (Default)

I had a great time at the UK Meet this year, though the intense (and wonderful) experience of being in a room with 40 odd other people who are all buzzed and happy and excited at being with kindred spirits did lead to me being utterly exhausted the next day.

There have been several write-ups of the day that cover the excellent talks, sumptious food and the excitement of all being in this together.  For example this from Jenre’s blog, Well Read:

http://jenre-wellread.blogspot.com/2011/07/report-from-uk-meet-2011.html

and this one from Erastes

I would like to mention that the free anthology the attending authors contributed to is getting some great reviews!

http://kassa011.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/review-british-flash/

So if you haven’t got a copy it might be worth checking out.

I was involved in the panel on how to write the gay historical, alongside Erastes and Charlie Cochrane.  (I was glad they made me speak first or I would have been too intimidated after their contributions!)  We each spoke for about 5 minutes and then took some questions.  Rather than doing another round-up post of what happened, I thought I’d post the text of my speech, as a kind of hard backup.  I understand that all three will be available on Speak Its Name and/or The Macaronis by next week.

Anyway.  I wrote this down, then I read it out, then I practiced the speech three times without the text.  Then on the day I dispensed with paper or notes and just talked, trying to get the same main points across.  So this text and what I actually said are certainly not identical, but I believe that the gist of the two things is the same.

Read the rest of this entry » )

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