Tag Archives: Coming Out

Outing a Fictional Character

Space: 1889 & Beyond has been running for over two years now, with ten books published and a further two on the way to wrap up the second season. Since day one, one of my own personal goals was to explore Victorian views on sexuality, both through the characters of Annabelle Somerset (not your clichéd Victorian adventuress – although she does have her moments) and Nathanial Stone. Exploring such views via Annabelle would seem obvious and not worthy of pointing out, although holding her own against a predominantly male-led society is only one issue Annabelle has to deal with – losing a limb is another, not to mention certain revelations explored in the final three books of season two. With Nathanial it would seem to be less obvious, although this line from the opening chapter of Journey to the Heart of Luna (published September 2011) would offer up the first clue…

When we do, I hope I am there. For I would like to ask him this: Why, O Lord, did you make me wrong? My dean at Mortarhouse College could never answer such a question, and he was a very learned man. Only the Almighty can answer me now.

Throughout the two years and ten books we have revealed hints and clues about Nathanial’s personal journey, most especially in Conspiracy of Silence (published August 2012) and Mundus Cerialis (published December 2012). One would hope that at the end of the latter book all our readers would be able to work out that Nathanial is a gay man. This is how Mundus Cerialis ends…

Arnaud noticed Nathanial standing there. “Annabelle suggested we ‘bunk together’. I do not think Captain Folkard would like me to be in his room.”
Nathanial glanced up the gangway towards the control deck. “No, I don’t suppose he would.”
Arnaud placed a finger in his mouth and looked around the lab. “Not much space, non? What to do? I have no sleeping bag.” He coughed abruptly, and looked up with the most pathetic expression Nathanial had ever seen.
“You are unwell?”
Oui. A virus from the Ceres underground, I think. Ne vous inquiétez pas,” Arnaud said, waving away Nathanial’s concern. “No snuggling,” he added, with a slight smile.
Nathanial shook his head. There was a time when he would have responded to that, but instead he smiled. Always the same Arnaud.
“I think we shall have a lot to discuss, then,” Nathanial said and stepped into the lab, feeling better than he had in a long while.
Things were not perfect with Annabelle, but they were on the right path to healing the wounds, and he had made his peace with Folkard. Surely he still held some animosity because of Edwin’s death, but the captain had brought Arnaud back to him – from death in some respects. That went a long way.
He closed the door behind him. It was finally time to move forward again.

fistfulMEDIUMThe most explicit confirmation of Nathanial’s sexuality, and his difficulty with such, was due to be shown in The Forever Journey, but due to some ‘technical difficulties’ the book which followed this, in terms of narrative, was released first. Thus the consequences of certain revelations and themes from The Forever Journey were felt throughout A Fistful of Dust (published October 2013). In terms of narrative I, as editor, had no issue with the consequences being seen before the events that led to them. In fact, I felt (and still feel), it adds to the mystery, leaving the readers to wonder what actually happened to our gallant crew on the way to Mars (answers to which will be revealed next month when The Forever Journey is released!).

Our readers have been very supportive of the series thus far, with many applauding us on the ongoing stories for our regulars cast of characters, as well as those who appear occasionally (such as Doctor Cyrus Grant and Commander George Bedford). They seem to understand that, as author David Parish-Whittaker put it, ‘it’s not just “Airships and Adventures!” (Not that it doesn’t have those, too). I think this particular subplot helps remind the reader of the very real social differences and constraints of the time period. We’re not writing about modern people in top hats here.’ This personal journey for Nathanial has been there since day one, as I said, and I knew that once we brought it to the fore it would illicit some interesting responses. I especially expect some choice comments being made in reviews of The Forever Journey, not just about Nathanial, but about other revelations made in that book, but what I was not expecting, not in a million years, was this ‘review’ on Amazon.com for A Fistful of Dust

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So shocked was I that I posted it over Facebook, to get the opinions of fellow authors, readers and even Anne Rice – since she’d recently been talking about reviews on Amazon.com, and was curious as to how she, a best-selling author of world renown, would respond were it in response to one of her books. Her response was, ‘it’s typical of some of the trash reviewing going on, on Amazon. I clicked report and gave the reason. Imagine a review like this attacking “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” because Uncle Tom is black.’

I am still somewhat miffed as to why, ten books on, someone should take such a position. One person suggested it was akin to revealing that a character like James Bond was gay all this time, a comment which I find bizarre in itself. With the Bond example, I agree it would be a case of ‘what were you thinking?’, since he has a history with women and is quite clearly a straight character. Not so with Nathanial. As shown in the examples above, Nathanial has always been gay, and his personal journey encompasses this element of his character. From actively allowing people to believe he had some interest in Annabelle, to his flirtatious behaviour with, at first, Erasmus Stevenson in Journey to the Heart of Luna and Dark Side of Luna all the way to his first meeting with Arnaud Fontaine in The Ghosts of Mercury to his insistence on having Arnaud join them on the season two mission. Later the reviewer did go on to explain why he made the above comment, in an equally inexplicable manner…

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The implication that we included a gay character because it’s ‘cool’ to do so, is one that puzzles and irritates me. It seems to suggest that we made Nathanial gay all of sudden, that it was a stunt to fit some kind of political correctness. Never mind the previous nine books of character development and steady unveiling of this aspect of Nathanial’s character. Surely the whole point of fiction is to not only tell good stories, but to explore the nature of people along the way? This is done gradually and carefully, without being offensive or, in this case, explicit. To be offended and thus reject a series of novels you were, presumably, previously enjoying just because a character is revealed to be gay, strikes me as a very silly and bigoted way to react. Would it not make more sense to stick with it, and see how the character’s journey pans out? After all, Nathanial is a man living in the 19th Century, the implications of his sexuality will have consequences.

Despite this and the somewhat unexpected reactions from a few people yesterday, I still hold true to what we are trying to achieve here with Space: 1889 & Beyond as a whole, and with the character of Nathanial Stone in particular. All I can say now is this; readers, stick with us, there’s an end game here, one that most will not see coming, but hopefully one all will find interesting and will spark some thoughts in you all. In closing I’d like to quote Arnaud’s father, Sébastien Fontaine…

“Could it not be that they are merely laws man has attributed to God, led by their own fears and ignorance? It is my belief that not everything can be split between right and wrong. There is a whole area that falls in-between. Just because someone disagrees with another, it does not make one more correct than the other.”

Writers’ Wednesday #3: Coming Out Special

National Coming Out Day. You know, I hadn’t even heard of such a thing until my guest blogger, author Bryl R Tyne, told me what he’d like to talk about. In the US National Coming Out Day was Monday (Oct 11th), and in the UK it was yesterday (Oct 12th), so it seems apt that this week I have a gay author talking about writing gay books in a world where being gay really is becoming less and less an issue…


On Writing Queer by Bryl R. Tyne

Am I coming out? Not hardly. I pried open my closet door in 1996, tippy-toed out and back in over the years, and finally, loud and proud in 2008, I came charging out Katy-bar-the-door style with the byline ‘An Author Defying Description’. I’m proudly using that same byline today.

Why so vague, you might ask.

Not to assume ambiguity, I assure you, but more to prove a number of points. The most relevant, my distaste for labels. Labels are the beginnings of many negativisms: stereotyping, bigotry, to name a couple, and take it from me, self-hatred. When there is no one word to describe you, no matter which label is chosen it never quite seems to fit. Suffice to say, I have been labeled by society, and at worst, labeled by those who claimed to love me.

But hey. There’ve been times when even I have labeled myself.

There will always be different aspects of me, or my life, that fit into someone’s neat and tidy boxes. If that makes you feel better, safer, less intimidated or more in control, so be it. I’m me; and I will not apologize for who I am nor try ever again to change into someone I am not. If you need boxes to help you make sense of your pithy-minded lives, that’s really no reflection on me now, is it?

What’s sad is the toll this kind of posturing takes on the individual, though. For those who don’t know me, I’ll tell you up front. I’m a tough one. I’ve lived through abuse, physical, mental, psychological, and sexual, and survived countless beatings, some to the point of unconsciousness. I may appear to be one of the seemingly few, but there are many others out there just like me. For that which we lack in strength, we compensate for in sheer stubborn will. Yet even the most determined of us are riddled with weaknesses.

I know I am, and my usual act of self-punishment is overindulgence. Sounds like nothing, but when the indulgence can take any form or vice, it can be rather scary, at times. Still, others feel they have no out, no release… no other choice but to give up. We’ve seen the increase in reports of teen suicides and the reported bullying that led to most of these recent incidents. Yet, I wonder how many more go under the radar or are simply near misses. It’s an atrocity some cannot accept others for their differences. Diversity really is a beautiful thing once you embrace it.

That leads to my reason for writing characters encompassing the Queer spectrum and penning them as the heroes and the heroines, winners and leaders, protagonists without apology or shame. I’ve always had an affinity for the downtrodden, the outcast, the ones who, no matter how ready or fit, never quite seem to ‘fit in’.

When I began writing again after a 28-year dry spell that is where my muse led me — to write stories about those people near and dear to me… and about myself. Now, don’t get me wrong, just because I champion underdogs does in no way insinuate that my winning characters are unbelievable. They are in fact extremely flawed. In the course of writing anything from literary fantasy fiction to erotic action/adventure romance, I’ve only touched on the gamut of characters I could write. I’ve written wholesome one-man Joes, and slutty Betties who’d drop to their knees at the first sign of temptation. I’ve even written about an angst-ridden teen on the ledge of the roof of a nineteen-story building.

Unlike the news stories though, in my fictional realms my characters, no matter how beaten down, are resilient. My characters don’t give in, up, or out — not entirely. They never die, pointlessly. No. In the end, my characters win.

Isn’t that the role of fiction, though? To help us escape into worlds where the norm is never really the norm? To allow us an occasional glimpse of an ideal world? In my mind, I’d like to believe that. Though most of my stories feature gritty, true-to-life scenarios, one cannot help but note that all of my stories share one common theme: HOPE.

With society on the crux of many changes and youth caught between those changes and the plethora of personal changes and issues each endures as he or she grows, I believe that hope is an important message to share with readers of LGBTQI fiction today.

I’ve been there, done that, and surprisingly, I survived. That is why this Queer writes Queer.

Bryl R. Tyne is a wrangler by nature and a writer by choice, published with Noble Romance Publishing, Ravenous Romance, Dreamspinner Press, STARbooks Press, Untreed Reads Publishing, Changeling Press, and coming Oct. 31st to Amber Allure with TOUGH GUY. You can find out more about Bryl at: bryltyne.com

Text © 2010 Bryl R. Tyne
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