Since joining twitter I have seen a lot of stuff on there about LGBTQ in literature and after I had a talk with a friend of mine about my books, I found myself rather shocked by the fact this seemed to be a big issue.
So let me come clean, or maybe clarify some points.
I write books. Woo...
As a writer, I come up with stories I want to tell, create the characters within the books in high detail, then like a VR simulation, I throw them together and add my ideas. My books then follow their own story in my head and much like an organic process, I feel my way through the way the characters will interact with each other.
Considering the content of my books, am I am LGBTQ writer?
The honest answer there is no. I am a scifi writer. That's what my books are about. I am not having the characters holding up flags, I don't write the characters in a particular LGBTQ way. They are just regular, lovely likable people.
For me, this started in the mid 90's. On my main pen name I was writing in comic books and in also doing mainstream novels. I had been working on a book for a well known scifi franchise and I did something that tested the water. I introduced a strong positive alien female character who was actually gay. What I wrote had no sexual connotations and dealt with feeling and emotion. I knew the sensitivities of writing this at the time, I had friends who were gay and when it came down to it, I felt this was a natural progression. It was scifi after all and if you looked at how scifi represented itself the sky really was the limit and the only constraint was imagination.
Imagine my disgust when I got the first proof back from my editor to find the whole section washed with red and notes scribbled on it telling me to remove it in a not so polite way.
I found this almost hurtful. It was in a way telling me that the mass market did not want to see reality. I never questioned my friends. I just accepted them for the people they were, not which way they leaned. However as I realised over time, in the industry literary works were viewed by committee. At some point in the chain you would find someone who would object because of their own narrow minded beliefs.
For me, Symbiotica was nothing more than an idea dungeon where I could let my more creative side run amok, a way of venting my frustrations at these draconian points of view.
Over time Symbiotica has evolved in to this massive scifi universe. I put the characters in to a blender and saw where they went.
There was however a central theme that right from the start dictating where the books were going.
The Symbiotes themselves.
I have looked in to the philosophy of the series and the Vu'kno symbiotes in detail. Biologically they have always preferred female hosts. Females are more like themselves, nurturing and gentle.
As a result of that in the New Worlds Saga (Books 1 to 5) I had a group of strong, yet flawed human women take on Symbiotes and get thrown together.
I designed each of the characters in very different ways. Melissa Marks is a socially awkward geek who has struggled to find any kind of relationship and it is down to the fact she accepted social norms. Poly Brenner is a quite self destructive woman and has bounced her way through a string of rotten relationships lowering her self esteem. Their relationship I always see as sweet. They are best friends that turned in to something more, but there was no kipper in the face moment. It just happened.
Then take Kat and Jo. Kat was about a straight as you could get and Jo really was oblivious to what relationships meant due to her horrible life. I have often said, it was Joulik and Lyphius and their eternal and almost comical love story that may well have affected Jo and Kat, but again these two fell in to orbit around each other and they are now happy.
This all said, there are characters in the book that don't fall that way and that is fine. Eve and Azeri for example, Flip and Koli, Renata, Sasha and Loren. They are all characters of undetermined sexuality although in my head they are straight.
The situation all my characters found themselves in was the glue. They were bound by their symbiotes and dragged in to a new, enlightening and challenging world. When I wrote the series, my goal was to follow the roller coaster ride and see where everyone landed by the end.
It certainly was not a broad statement of LGBTQ pride as in a way to me that would be an offensive idea. People are people. I judge them for the content of their character, not the life they lead.
The truth of the New Worlds Saga was simple. Behind the scifi, the adventures and sadness there was a singular theme. It was a love story. Poly and Mel with their stormy and fractured relationship, Jo and Kat with their playful and deeply loving relationship, even Coras and the sadness and pain she felt over losing Tioli.
Pure and simple. Love.
If you changed half of the characters names and gender nobody would bat an eyelid but for me, I didn't bat an eyelid because of the fact they are all women. There is in my mind nothing wrong with love and if someone does find it offensive, then there are other scifi books out there with strong and cliché male lead characters.
In Proteus, I intended to create a series that looked at Symbiotica from a very different point of view. Symbiotica was about a group of refugees from a now dead world living on Earth with their human partners. Proteus was about the same characters, but from a very alien and off world perspective and most importantly with their original host species, the Usha.
In the Neo Alphius Saga, I explore in more detail what the Symbiotes are as I tell the reader that they are in fact genderless and more alien than you could imagine. However because they prefer female hosts and the myth that the males are less compatible, they indentify themselves as female. In the first Proteus book I do deal with this and I have the odd partnership of Hueka and her partner Toran, a male.
I wrote those characters because I wanted to explore the dynamic of their unusual relationship between host and symbiote however I have had some readers comment that it was nice to see what is in effect a Transgender character and seeing the struggle they have to find identity. Hueka is conflicted. She is a genderless lifeform that throughout her life has always identified herself as female, yet she is now bonded to a male. When she taken control of their shared body it gets confusing because she is outwardly a he.
I have in the Endless Saga only had Toran and Hueka as supporting roles, however in the Proteus Natural Selection Saga, I do intend to look at their partnership more and perhaps see Hueka finally identify with the fact she is now male.
Again, I never set out to create a Trans character. The idea was a philosophical examination of how the symbiotes perceive themselves. In fact until someone made that observation it really had not crossed my mind.
I think in summation I really must bring this back to where I started.
I write science fiction books.
For me science fiction is about the future, about new ideas, new horizon and the characters that take us to these places. Some authors write about LGBTQ subjects as their core theme, but that is not what Symbiotica, Proteus or the Dystopian Detective are about.
I am pleased that some of you have identified with the exploration and development of some of my characters however the one thing that for me is most important is this.
It doesn’t matter who the characters are or what gender they are. Love is what really matters.
That for me at least is the essence of a good story.