There’s a part of me that will never accept there isn’t a spell to bring you back. That part of me will always wonder at the words, the ingredients, the timing. Maybe it’s possible, it will argue. Maybe you just need the right combination of Bradbury and Zelazny, Irish Rovers and Bob Seger, a circle of beach sand sprinkled with Guinness and in the center an eagle feather laid atop a Harley Davidson t-shirt; maybe if you just keep searching you’ll find enough little memories to place at the foot of that weathered stone until one day “No Regrets” won’t make your heart twist to read. And I hate that part of me, but I can’t stand to snuff it out, because what if it’s right?
of frigid oceans and frozen shores
glossy raven wings and the howling of wolves
the silver sickle moon rising above jagged mountains
and in the other the Mother Cat, Lady of Flame
murmurs of shifting sands and ancient temples
swift hunting cats and the laughter of jackals
of a sun like liquid gold baking the red land
and I am the wanderer, oh
I am the wanderer
Some days I want to glean meaning from your death. Other days I know it was just some random shit thing that happened. In my dreams society has crumbled, humanity reduced to warring factions and desperate survival, and still what I miss most as I stand by the ocean is hearing songs on the radio that remind me of you. Upon waking I struggle for a moment, wondering why my mother is dating someone, until I remember (over and over and over) – you’re gone.
Writing Realistic Aces, or: On Listening to Your Characters (March 2015 Carnival of Aces)
[ This is my first submission for Carnival of Aces! Hope I didn’t fuck it up. ]
I have been writing about the same two characters for almost twelve years now. When they first came to me when I was a wee teenager, Tanim and Daren were theoretically heterosexual. I say theoretically because even though they both had girlfriends (HAH!) they were very, very, very good friends. Suspiciously good friends. Like, “major homoerotic subtext” good friends. But I was young and inexperienced as a writer and didn’t really understand that your characters drive the story, not you. You’re just the scribe. So I kept on pushing them at these completely 2-dimensional female characters when they were obviously making googly eyes at each other.
What I learned from this experience is that you can’t tell a character their sexuality, just as you can’t tell a real person their sexuality. They tell you. And what Tanim and Daren told me, in excruciating slowness over years of angst and tragedy and dramatic professions of love, is that they were far from heterosexual. Neither, though, were either of them strictly gay, or even bi. They fell somewhere on a spectrum I wasn’t even aware of at the time (thank you, college Psych 101, for introducing me to asexuality!). For though the connection between Tanim and Daren was definitely romantic*, I knew neither of them would be interested in any other man – or any other person, for that matter. Likewise, though in certain story fragments they did engage in sex, I knew it was something Daren was often repulsed by, and something Tanim participated in for reasons other than physical gratification.
If I had to put my boys on the spectrum, I would say Daren is strictly asexual and aromantic, and most likely sex-repulsed to sex-indifferent depending on the story. Tanim, on the other hand, is possibly gray-asexual or demisexual and homoromantic (though he’s basically doomed to only fall in love with Daren). Tanim’s asexuality is complicated by his fetish, however*. He desires sex not because he’s sexually attracted to other men, or because he has a high libido, but because he craves submission. This leads him to frequently engage in dangerous sexual practices and definitely makes him seem like an allosexual character, but at the end of the day the attraction still isn’t there. So while my characters appear outwardly to be in a sexually active homosexual relationship, the reality is much more complicated. And don’t we all love complex characters?
I’m probably not making much sense. I hope I am. The point is, I didn’t tell these characters they had to be asexual. I didn’t set out thinking, “I want to write about asexual characters, and poof! here they are”. I set out to write about these two characters and they turned out to have been asexual the whole time (much like me, haha). I suppose you could call that accidental diversity, but maybe we need more of that; not diversity for diversity’s sake, but diverse characters for the sake of being true to the characters themselves***.
In short, writing realistic asexual characters is as simple as letting the character be themselves. If they tell you, “I’m asexual but when I meet this other character, I’m going to have sex with them,” then cool! That’s what’s going to happen. If they say, “I’m asexual and all I want is a queer-platonic life partner,” then awesome! That’s what you write. And if they say, “Wait a minute, I’m not asexual, what are you doing?” you listen and let them tell you who they really are. As an ace who thought she would never date and never have sex, but who now finds herself in a sexually active, committed lesbian relationship (that could be considered semi-poly if you count Tanim and Daren in there) let me tell you, life throws curve balls. Asexuals come in all shapes and sizes and flavors and colors. Don’t be afraid if your ace character seems to veer away from the stereotype – chances are, the less stereotyped your character is, the closer to representing real asexuals they are.
*Though their form of romance is rather… unique…
**I am forever grateful to the asexual people who discuss their kinks (especially BDSM) online; you have validated what I thought was possible but didn’t know for sure. Thank you!
***Which could be a great tie-in for what Michelle Rodriguez was saying about creating new POC superheroes instead of just changing the race of currently existing ones, but that’s a discussion for a different time and a different person.
don’t you understand? you’ve got it backwards
I am the Moon, often veiled in darkness
waxing and waning as I add or remove layers, depending on my need to hide
not you, beloved; you are the Sun
you should bare yourself in glory
let your golden flesh glow unfettered, unfiltered
don’t hide behind clouds, don’t dull your rays with fog
you are beauty beyond imagining, brilliant and burning hot
can’t you see you light up the world?
shine, you fool, shine
Hannibal and Queer-Baiting
[ General spoilers below for both seasons ]
Queer-baiting, the act of hinting at queer characters or relationships without ever openly acknowledging them, is a hot topic right now as TV networks strive to garner LGBT viewership while still adhering to traditional heteronormative narratives. A lot of popular shows are commonly held up as examples of queer-baiting – Sherlock being a popular example – and for the most part these claims are accurate. However, there’s at least one show where the common claim of queer-baiting is not only inaccurate, but acts as erasure of an actual canon queer-platonic relationship: NBC’s Hannibal. NBC’s Hannibal is often cited as an example of queer-baiting due to the deep connection between the two main characters, Dr. Hannibal Lector and Special Agent Will Graham. It’s obvious from season one, and extremely so in season two, that these two men are drawn to each other in a way neither can quite understand. Hannibal is fascinated by Will’s mind, yes, and Will is at first drawn to Hannibal as a mentor and then out of suspicion he may be a killer, but the viewer knows there’s more. The show wants the viewer to know there’s more.
By citing NBC’s Hannibal as an example of queer-baiting, what people are saying is this: because these two characters never have sex or profess romantic love for each other, they can’t have a queer relationship. This erases not only the spectrum of asexuality and aromanticism, but denies the importance and influence of non-romantic love. After all, what is more queer than two seemingly heterosexual men* forming a bond so powerful that one is willing to cripple the other when he feels that bond, and the future possible through that bond, has been betrayed? And what about Will who, in season 2, grows so close to Hannibal that even the viewer is unsure whether he has slipped from the side of the good guys to become Hannibal’s protege?
The relationship between Hannibal and Will is arguably the most fascinating aspect of the show. We watch Will move from disliking Hannibal to cautiously trusting him as a therapist and then, perhaps without Will even realizing it, confiding in him as a friend and mentor. As Will faces situations and experiences no one around him can quite understand, Hannibal becomes the only person to whom Will can turn; the only person, he believes, who he can completely trust with the growing instability of his mind. And even when Will realizes this trust has been incredibly misplaced, season 2 finds him reconnecting with Hannibal – ostensibly to spring the trap on him, but are we sure? Is Will fishing for Hannibal, or learning to hunt with him? Even until the very last episode of the season, we as the viewer don’t know for certain. What we do know is that Will loves Hannibal; and if you love someone, how do you betray them, even when you know it’s the right thing to do? How can Will bear to give up arguably the only person who can truly understand his mind?
Even Hannibal, a brilliant psychopath five steps ahead of everyone else on the show, is blinded by this love to the point of delusion. Despite what we expect to be Hannibal’s inability to love, to feel hope or longing or beauty, he truly wants this life where he and Will are together as partners in crime. And in this life, who is with them? Abigail, the girl they both view as a daughter. Hannibal dreams of a life with Will and Abigail, just the three of them, and seems willing to do anything to achieve it. So when this dream is ripped away from him, Hannibal’s reaction is almost understandable; we see his rage, his grief, his desire to punish. If he cannot have that life, neither can Will. He takes from his beloved what his beloved has taken from him. Haven’t many of us had that desire?
That’s the beauty, and tragedy, of this show. Hannibal and Will can never “work”. They can never be friends or partners. They can never be mentor and mentee. They can never be anything but enemies drawn inexplicably to each other. They love each other, and that love is destructive, abusive, manipulative. But it’s love, whether either of them can admit it.
Anyone who cites NBC’s Hannibal as an example of queer-baiting either hasn’t seen the show or simply didn’t understand what they were watching. Hannibal steps far beyond the usual narrative of gay or lesbian characters and shows us a form of queerness otherwise never represented in mainstream media. Not only that, but it shows us the beauty and danger love can possess, romantic or not. NBC’s Hannibal is a show that celebrates the power of platonic love, even as it uses that love to (pun intended) stick the knife in our hearts and give it a twist.
*While Hannibal engages briefly in sex with a woman in the show, I don’t believe he’s strictly heterosexual/heteroromantic. I think the show gives us too much evidence to suggest Hannibal at least to be on the asexual spectrum, if not also aromantic.
we’ll lose all the greats in time
mighty shoes to fill