Good day, everyone! Let’s have a little chat about stereotypes!
Recently, I was asked a rather difficult question as a writer, and that is “What exactly is my intended market?”
At first glance, anyone who sees my book covers might think they are “ordinary” sci-fi stories – but nothing could be further from the truth! Yes, I do mention the fact that I write in the sci-fi genre – as well as in horror and fantasy – and yes, I also make careful mention that I frequently write in some or all of them at the same time, in the same book!
The surprises do not end there however, as I also frequently write LGBT characters into my stories – often as lead characters – but more about that anon. First, have a look at what was said about my style of writing, LGBT character portrayal and content in a recent interview:
“Engela’s eye for the quirky humor of even the darkest situations sets her writing apart from the masses. Her fiction combines oddball humor, in the tradition of writers like Terry Pratchet and Douglas Adams, with the best of traditional science fiction. A government agency regulates time and its manipulation against the efforts of a brilliant scoundrel. A retired space cop turned bounty hunter grumbles and grunts like a classic pulp noir detective. A glamorous retired intelligence agent moves to a new planet in the hopes of escaping the mystery and mayhem of her former life.
And tucked inside her stories, like a kind of stealth activism, lurks a beast almost never seen in either mainstream or science fiction: fully fleshed out LGBT characters.
Like many of us, Engela has been frustrated with the representation of LGBT characters in mainstream fiction, where gay characters are often nothing more than superficially portrayed plot devices or worse, the object of satire and ridicule. Engela’s work breaks the trend. In her stories, a gay man may be the anti-hero or villain, but not because he is gay. A transwoman may fall in love with a cisgender straight man, and their relationship doesn’t revolve around her gender identity. LGBT characters, in Engela’s work, follow narrative arcs that occasionally intersect with their sexual or gender identity, but are more often driven by the human characteristics shared by all people—hope, fear, ambition, humor, and love.” – Sarah Rutledge Fischer, Focus Mid-South Magazine.
I’m frequently also the first to point out that my writing is NOT stereotypical, and my characters – regardless of their sexuality or gender – are anything but stereotypes!
This could be because I am no ordinary writer. As an individual I have quite a diverse background myself, being that I’m a transgender woman married to a woman – but that is just scraping the tip of the iceberg as it were, and without getting distracted too much by me waffling on about my background, let’s get back to the subject:
Those of you reading this may be happily heterosexual or happily cisgender; or you could be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) or any other flavor or variation of the Kinsey Scale – and that’s really wonderful – but that isn’t the issue I want to address in this article. What I would like to do is to highlight the general stereotypes portrayed in the media – and also by writers in general. The “industry” as a trend tends to apply a specific stereotype to LGBT characters – sometimes based on plain old ignorance or apathy, and sometimes also deliberately and with malice. In so doing, the negative stereotypes they cast have a very real impact on the lives of real-life LGBT people!
For example – in almost every single mainstream movie I’ve seen (and virtually every novel) featuring LGBT characters, the characters are stereotypes:
- Gay men are shallow, weak, slutty, effeminate parodies – and are usually cast as hair dressers who just need to meet “the right woman” to “cure” them of homosexuality.
- Gay women are sex-objects for straight guys to get off on watching, and are really looking for a man to make them happy and ‘save’ them from an empty life of lust and sex.
- Bisexual people are typecast as immoral slutty individuals who can’t make up their minds, so they sleep with everybody and can’t form long-term committed relationships.
- Transgender women are generally typecast as prostitutes or escorts, and tend to look like men in drag. Transwomen by the way, are almost always played by cisgender women in movies and series (look up”Transface“).
- Typically, LGBT people are also negatively stereotyped as the villains in stories or as people who do not contribute positively or constructively to human society – or just as secondary plot devices, usually to illustrate a negative point in the writer’s agenda.
- LGBT readers are probably used to seeing LGBT characters written, presented, portrayed, and acted by non-LGBT writers and actors who typically do not possess authentic life-experiences to fuel their writing on those subjects.
None of these movies (or books) featured LGBT characters who were cast as the lead in the story, as the ‘good-guy’ or action hero (or heroine) or as strong characters. Either none, or very few I’ve seen, feature any LGBT characters that demonstrate admirable morality or inspiring values, behavior or acts – in fact, they are almost always included as a plot device to introduce an erotic angle or a sexual interest or fetish element into the story, or even to demonize LGBT people as a paradigm!
None of these stereotypes accurately portrays the reality of life for LGBT people!
As with any stereotype, there is only a tiny bit of truth to the bias on INDIVIDUAL levels – while the reality of the GROUP is far different, and remains ignored by the stereotype. There are LGBT people in every field of work, and in every social circle. There are gay airline pilots and members of parliament, there are transgender news anchors and politicians, there are lesbian soldiers and clergy – and well, bisexual folks are just everywhere! *wink* Literature and movies tend to lag behind in portraying these realities.
All that is left otherwise, for the LGBT reader is smutty third-rate soft-porn on the LGBT shelf at the back of the book store that has no actual story content worth bothering to read – or a selection of autobiographies of LGBT personalities perhaps, and then of course, the countless fiction novels written by and mainly for heterosexual and cisgender readers.
In mainstream fiction – regardless of whether sci-fi, fantasy, horror, romance, or general – the average writer tends to tell stories of heterosexual cisgender characters and how they relate to others like them, getting on with the business of saving the world, winning wars, and so on, while generally ignoring LGBT readers and their interests or issues.
Sometimes this is deliberate, borne out of a personal bias or prejudice on the part of the writer. This isn’t always the case – it’s not always intentional – after all, how can a heterosexual person who has never had any cause to question their sexuality or gender be expected to understand the scope of issues LGBT people face?
These negative stereotypes of LGBT people in fiction – which tends to reflect the perceptions of the writers in relation to how they understand us in the real world context – reinforces the idea that if LGBT people are illustrated in these terms, then that is all that should be expected of them in real life as well!
No wonder so few LGBT people actually read books anymore!
Well, fear not!
Now there are TWO series of novels AIMED at the intelligent, discerning and open-minded reader who appreciates fiction written BY an author who is part of the LGBT community, and who has spent years campaigning for LGBT equality and human rights as an activist!
- All my novels feature LGBT characters in some form or another – and in all of them, these characters are either THE leading character, or one of the main characters.
- LGBT characters and issues are portrayed in a balanced outlook, and are not sensationalized.
- My novels feature LGBT characters as inspirational people – action heroes, military personnel, leaders, pilots, scientists, police officers, CIA agents to mention but a few.
- In my books, LGBT characters are treated just like normal everyday people – not as caricatures, or sensational elements!
My target market therefore, is not just Sci-Fi/Fantasy – but LGBT-friendly Sci-Fi/fantasy/horror!
If you’re NOT part of the LGBT collective, you needn’t worry that you will have some kind of ‘gay agenda’ rammed down your throat – the beauty of my stories is that these appear as ELEMENTS of the story – not AS the story! There are plenty of heterosexual and cisgender characters – even lead characters – in there to balance things out!
To illustrate the point, here is a brief listing of my novels and LGBT characters featured:
“Blachart” – Blachart, the Corsair nemesis of the lead character Mykl d’Angelo (straight), is a gay man. Although he starts out as a fearful villain, as the story progresses, the character becomes d’Angelo’s firm friend and ally who leads him through a dangerous mission to scout the Corsair base.
“Demonspawn” – Joe Lofflin, the first officer of the ISS Darraine, an imperial warship marooned in deep space, is a gay man. After the death of Captain Blaine, Lofflin leads the crew in their efforts to survive – and the investigation into the string of mysterious deaths on a derelict alien ship they encounter, and through a thrill-packed action adventure.
“Dead Beckoning” – This story features characters from ‘Blachart‘ and ‘Demonspawn‘, working together to capture the last free, most dangerous Corsair leader after the fall of the Corsair base world. It also introduces Blachart’s new love interest, a trans-woman by the name of Marsha – who moved to the fringes of civilization to start over as an entrepreneur business-owner.
“Black Sunrise” – This story features a transwoman (Cindy-Mei Winter), a former agent for the Colonial Intelligence Agency (CIA), who after her transition, moves to a little-known colony called Deanna. There she enlists the aid of Gary Beck, who is a bounty hunter, to help track a missing alien, and by the end of the story, the two enter into a relationship. Along the way, they meet Danielle Grauffis, a 17 year old girl just starting out in her gender transition.
“The Time Saving Agency” – Featuring mostly the same characters as in ‘Black Sunrise‘, this story puts Gary Beck – Mei’s boyfriend, at the center of the story. Aside from dealing with the heterosexual Beck’s difficulty in understanding Mei’s male past, the story is full of action and comedy – and time travel!
“Dead Man’s Hammer” – Again featuring Cindy-Mei Winter as the lead character, this story deals with her grief and anger at what appears to be Gary Beck’s death, and her quest for justice – which leads her and her friends, including the very straight Sheriff Peggy-Ann Muller, Fred the Arborian, and Dannielle Grauffis
“Loderunner” – Timaset Skooch, a private investigator, and slightly confused heterosexual male who happened to fall in love with Dory, aka Dorian Wintermuller one heavy night at a local club, is faced with his partner’s choice to transition to fully female. To complicate matters still further, he has won a run-down old cargo-ship in a game of Uno, and the only choice to improve his lot open to him, is to seek his fortune running cargo across deep-space. Of necessity, he asks the local mafia contact for a little help in finding a fare to start out with. On the Celeste, he meets Victoria Somers, aka ‘Vic’ who is very masculine, but totally cisgender and straight, and a young transgender passenger accompanied by a sinister chaperone who turns out to be a kidnapper holding young Jaymie Vallantdorf for ransom until the Mayor of Mars City pays up. The story is a delightful interstellar romp filled with comedy, action and adventure!
There are still several more books on the way in both series, featuring several lesbian characters as well, including “Overkill” title four in the Galaxii Series, and titles five to seven in the Quantum Series: “Prodigal Sun“, “High Steaks” and “The Last Hurrah“.
My books are not exactly ‘activism’, but if you happen to end up understanding or even feeling more at ease around LGBT people better than you did before, then so much the better.
Again, my writing is NOT stereotypical, and my characters – regardless of their sexuality or gender – are anything but stereotypes!
My stories are about every day, ordinary people and extraordinary situations, told in an entertaining way – and some of them happen to be LGB or T.
You should try reading them sometime. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it – whatever you are! 🙂
The Crow Bar – Christina Engela’s Author Site: Shop & Links Page https://christinaengela.net/