Ok, everyone. I'm going to do it again. I'm going to get serious, and talk about fear.
Here's the rub: I'm afraid.
The novel I'm currently working on is about love. Specifically, it's about two souls in love. Here, in fact, is the blurb I wrote about it for NaNoWriMo:
"Two souls chase each other through time and space in a love story that spans entire continents and eras. A Greek god falls in love with a mortal youth; a born-again preacher falls under the spell of a brilliant yet icy scientist; a young tribal leader risks everything for the sake of a wild nomadic shaman. These stories intertwine with many others to form a complex tapestry that explores the intersection of faith and love, and the very human fear of making leaps in both."
Way in the very beginning of this process, when I decided I was going to write a book about souls, instead of people, I knew I was going to play with gender. It didn't even occur to me to not do that. In a previous IWSG post, I mentioned this, noting (to quote myself, here) "And what better way...to explore how our souls love, than by taking gender out of the equation? I mean, does a soul have a gender? ...it's such a fascinating issue and question that I want to raise it."
And that's what I'm doing. As of now, there are going to be at least six lifetimes in this book (although I reserve the right to add or subtract as needed.) Three will have a love story between a man and a woman. One will be between two men. Another will be between two women. A third, which will begin and end the book, and weave throughout the other stories, will be between a woman and a narrator whose gender is never specified.
I know that many people will read that last paragraph and think, "So what?" And some others might think, "Cool!" I also know, though, that many others - more than I might think or hope - will read it with mild disgust at best, and outrage at worst.
This is not exaggeration. There are entire countries where loving someone of the same gender can land you in jail, or in a grave. In the modern world. In 2014. The US isn't exempt: despite the Supreme Court's ruling in 2003, there are some states that still enforce (unconstitutional) laws that target homosexuality.
So it's with some trepidation that I write this book. Look, I'm realistic; I know I'm not doing anything seriously dangerous, or even trail-blazing. Many, many activists, plenty of normal people, and a large and growing number of writers have done and will do much more, and risk much more. I salute them and support them in any way I can.
But I'm human, and I'm flawed, and I'll admit that I don't want to be hated or judged. I want people to read my books. I want people to buy them, and read them, and talk about them, and I don't want to become a target of vitriol (who does?), or preach to the choir - and incidentally, M.L. Swift has a great, brave, eloquent post about not doing just that, which you can read right here - simply because I chose to write about love. Judge me for writing badly; for being boring; for being untruthful in my work; but please don't judge me for what I believe, in my heart, about love. Or for who I love.
Because I do believe it, deeply. I believe that gender, like race, is skin-deep; that many if not most of our assumptions about gender come from social mores, not biology; that our souls, whatever those gleaming, intangible, vital streams of light and spirit may be, do not obey the laws of gender; that when we love, truly love, we love with our spirits as well as our physical bodies. And I want, desperately, to tell this story: the story of souls, not people, who love.
And so I can't write this book any other way. And yet, I'm still afraid.
Is that silly? Maybe. But I can't help it: the fear of judgement is very real. I have friends here online, and a whole world of readers I hope to attract, and I don't want them to dismiss me, or my stories, because of prejudice.
And yet, they might still. Ultimately, it doesn't matter - I'm going to write this anyway, no matter what people might think. I would guess that writers who censor themselves out of fear of judgement probably end up creating terribly dull fiction. Certainly some of the world's great books have offended, and will continue to offend, giant portions of the population. I'm not completely crazy; I don't think I'm writing one of those masterpieces (I have a very long way to go, and a lot to learn, before I could even hope to do that.) I just hope to tell a true story - not a real story, but one that vibrates with something true about what it means to be human - and yes, to reach some hearts that might be surprised to find themselves reached.