Sunday, September 19, 2010

So It's Come To This - About The Damn Vampires

So. I chose. I made a list of pros and cons for all the little niggly, squiggly, unclear, partially-clear, hungry little brain monsters wandering around kicking in doors, spray-painting on walls, and generally making a noisy mess of things in my head. It was a totally scientific process, you guys. You can tell, because there were lists! And as a result...

I am now writing a vampire novel.

*repeated headdesking*

Let me explain. I totally have an explanation. (It's not very scientific, but I swear, it makes perfect sense to me.)

So, you've heard me mention The Damn Vampires, yes? If you're someone I don't know who is just joining this blog, don't worry, you haven't missed anything. I refer to the project as The Damn Vampires, not because it doesn't have a title, it does, and like most of my projects, has from its inception. (I'm good at titles. I don't know why.) But because, from the beginning, I had no desire to write it. Which, as we've seen, is pretty much the indicator, for me. I seriously never learn, do I? But here's what happened: First step, a few years ago, was a dream. Nothing particularly odd about that. I'm a chronic insomniac, I have a lot of weird dreams. But it was one of those nightmares. I don't know if it's me, or if this is a thing among writers, but sometimes, I have nightmares I'm not in. Like, I'll have dreams about really weird and complicated and terrifying stories where I'm just kind of there, shifting perspectives, changing from this character to that, and sometimes, in these dreams, I will actually seek out the dangerous and scary stuff, just to see what the characters will do. And then I wake up and try to make it fit. This was one of those.

When I woke up, after having a dream where werewolves were being hunted by vampires in a strange unconscious dreamworld of a young woman who was, very decidedly not me, my immediate reaction was, "Hell no." First because I don't do that whole fantasy thing very well, it's like a whole other language that you have to learn pretty well before they let you in. My brother's a geek, okay? I know hell hath no fury like a purist pissed off. Secondly because vampire vs. werewolf had been done to death (this was before I had ever heard of Twilight, too.) Thirdly, Buffy had pretty much cornered the market for "Chosen One" stories, and finally, because I just completely lacked the skill for the visceral, violent tale lurking in the dream.

The excuses melted away very slowly. The first thing that happened was the story came back. This is unusual. The only nightmares ever come back, I mean the really horrible ones, are the ones that feature me. Still, I ignored it. Then, I happened to watch a documentary on sleep disorders, which put most of the plot into perspective, and let me think about how things might fit together. Still, I ignored it. Well, okay, I did a little reading, maybe. And in the reading, came across new 'theories' about vampires and werewolves I had never considered. At which point I threw up my hands. I decided, what the hell, I'll write it for Nano, get it out of my system. Since first drafts suck, I'll hate it, and leave it alone. Still, in order to write it, I'd have to kind of understand the styles. So I started reading vampire stuff, Anne Rice, Whitley Streiber, Elizabeth Kostova, and eventually, Twilight, House of Night, et al. Which, of course, led to its own problems.

I spent a lot of time on the Nano boards last year sifting through bitterness at Twilight's success to the actual problems in the story, because I wanted to understand if it was just the aforementioned wrath of purists, or something else going on. Of course, knowing Twlight is problematic is one thing, but I wanted to know what was actually generating all the scorn. And what I found, like I said, was a lot of bitterness. And a lot of distaste for how women, starting with Anne Rice, had 'ruined' vampires. I didn't finish the novel attempt then, but I did get my requisite 50,000 words, and I was totally happy because I didn't fail, and also, because now I saw how daunting a project it would be, and the type of criticism I would have to endure. And it did enough to make it hard enough to not finish. Yay. Mission accomplished.

Let me be clear here, I don't agree. In case you missed it, I have a couple posts on the Twilight phenomenon in particular, and women's place in literature in general that emphasize that I don't agree, but what's coming out of publishers these days does, and I'm a little annoyed and, if I'm honest, intimidated. I refuse to use the term 'sparkly vampires', so I'll just say, my vampires are the nasty kind. The kind that only want to seduce you so it's easier to eat you. So on the one hand, I'm a woman writing a vampire novel, which means people who are interested in vampires won't buy it. On the other hand, I'm a woman writing horrible disgusting and potentially (pleaseplease) terrifying vampires, so people who like vampires now will not get what they are expecting. And thus, I have successfully alienated two audiences.

*commences headdesking*

My last whining post got me thinking a lot about silencing, about how and why it works, and how even I, sitting here writing a blog about feminism and writing and pop culture, about what it is to be different, to be searching for yourself in realms of fiction, in places where every misfit, geek, and misunderstood outcast should have a place, and someone to look to, even I can fall prey to that. I hate myself for a lot of things, most of them inconsequential nothings I have to learn to let go of, but I really hate myself for this, and I'm not going to fall for it again.

So. I'm writing a vampire book. I'm writing a book I have no business writing for an audience that may not exist, and you want to know the kicker? It's coming out in a gush. It's coming out smooth and easy and right, like it's always meant to. I don't know how or why. I hate the twinge of 'must explain why it doesn't suck' every time I explain to people, "Well... I'm writing about vampires." I still hate it, I still don't want to write the thing, because it's looking like an ass-kicker of a story, and who knows what it'll take, how long, how much (there have been four dreams so far. lucid and ugly ones, you guys). But it's coming out almost against my will. I've spent so many months staring blankly, not knowing what to do with Hannah, and this just feels way too easy, like I must be doing something wrong.

But it doesn't feel wrong. It feels good, and I'm enjoying it, except all the little doubts. I've been getting lots of encouragement though, so maybe I've been wrong all this time, and I'm finally getting it right.

New path, same journey. Wish us luck.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Writers finish...and I don't.

Hannah is not going to get finished.

I feel sad. Really really sad, and embarrassed to have failed, yet again, but I just don't know what else to do. I do this thing where I set goals for myself, and if one of the goals go unmet, I can't do any of it. It's a personal issue I need to work on. But working on it with my writing is turning my writing into something I really don't enjoy, and quite frankly, these are still my favorite characters in my favorite story, and I don't want to think of them in the way that I have been. I enjoy the writing that I do, but every time I sit down, it's a reminder of how much I haven't done. It's just the words giving me trouble, and then I torture myself, hate everything I've ever written, hate myself for writing or not writing, or anything else I can.

Writing is hard. Making time to write is hard, having the discipline to write is hard. Knowing your limits is hard, giving up is hard, knowing when to put it down 'for now' is hard, knowing how long 'for now' is, is hard too. I'm not a novelist, I haven't been for years, everything I've ever written in the years since Hannah is screenplay, and I don't want to give her up, and I want to write, and I do think that self-publishing is the answer. But I am torturing myself about writing to the extent where I don't have time to read. And if I don't have time to read, how do I write?

Coming back from vacation, I realized a few things. The first is the same thing I always realize when I go home from a trip: I am capable of pretty damn amazing things. It's hard to be anything but humble while you're looking the Mona Lisa in the eye, or eating pasta under the shadow of the Roman Coliseum or feeling how it's like my feet finally touch bottom in a deep pool every time I leave Heathrow airport to go into the city. It's tough to be anything besides grateful when you're on top of the Eiffel Tower and realize that the woman next to you is eighty years old, and has waited her whole life to stand next to you, here, and millions who will keep waiting, while your own life hasn't even really begun yet. But when it's over, and I can look back, remember getting lost in Paris and finding my way back on my own, remember climbing the huge Coliseum steps with my friends, instead of taking the lift, like I should have done, not because I was embarrassed, but because I didn't want to miss a second, and, without thinking, ordering food in a fancy restaurant, and eating it without asking for help or worrying about who might be staring... That's me. Mine to have, mine to keep, mine to value, as I will. I think about my family and people I have known, the ones who asked me, not how, but why the first time, and the second time both. How the world was created and filled with beautiful things, but there are people who live their whole lives thinking it's easier to not see them, and I am not one of those, and that's enough to make me feel powerful.

I am capable. But I also grew up in disability culture, and one of the problems I have is common to, well, probably a lot of us, since a lot of people I know have a similar problem: I do not know my own capabilities. It's either too much to handle, or not enough to motivate me. I started this project easily because I knew that I would do that to myself, and then, from day one, I've been doing that to myself anyway (I still blame Day One on Amanda Palmer, but, whatever.) So... Hannah will get done. And I will publish a book before the year is out. But I'm not sure, if those things will be related.

Vacation resets me. I want a reset. Not a do-over. The nasty, negative, "You didn't do what you said you would" voices in my head have effectively silenced the voice in my head that tells me where the stories are, but there are a couple little imps still left over from spring and a couple late bloomers. There are other voices, and that's been part of the problem. Hannah has changed from something I want to experience and enjoy and remember, into something I want to get through, to get to other things. And seeing as how I plan to write it in three novels, it's so much more daunting that way.

So, I'll keep working on it. In quiet, in private, in bits and pieces. And focus the rest of my energy... somewhere else. Don't know where else yet. Like I said, a couple things are clamouring for my attention, but this is not what I want to be writing right now, and if I don't write it, I feel guilty, so I don't write anything else, and I continue to torture myself (seriously, nobody told me writers were this neurotic! haha) So. Regroup. I'll wait a week. Maybe two. One of the many little imps in my head will come forward with gnashing teeth (no, not that one,) my family drama will settle down, and start again. I do mean to make something of myself, and do it in this way, but I may have overestimated myself (again), and not quite grasped what would be the best vessel for that.

It's upsetting, and it feels like failure, but that's me being neurotic. I write better in the fall, anyway. (This is actual fact, not an excuse. Spring for ideas, Summer for obsessive creative spurts, Fall for grit-your-teeth, down-and-dirty writing, and Winter for hacking the crap out of all the stuff I was previously too warm-and-fuzzy about to be objective towards. It's always been that way, it just seems too obsessive-compulsive to not at least try to change habits. I am foolish, it seems.) I'll find something else. There are a lot of something elses. When the ideas have hold of me, they drown out the negative voices so that I can be perfectly happy writing crap. Hannah's not doing that for me right now, but something else will. Meanwhile, I'll keep plugging away and picking it apart, and it'll come out, eventually.

And I'll keep writing this blog. I like having somewhere to talk shop, and people who'll talk back. Writing this blog is easier than writing stories, which I never even thought possible, and it helps with that need to sift through stuff, to find the balance between who they are, and who I am, and who is more important.

I took tons of pics and videos from my vacation, and I'm going to cut them together in a massive doc-style video, if I can manage it. For now, for everyone out there who has to wait, or doesn't think it's possible for them, or just because the world is beautiful and I like being able to share it, here's some shots.

See you next week for round two?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Courage.... and Other Things I Don't Have

Yes, I owe this blog fun and exciting Euro-Adventures. I will get to that, promise. It’s just that this thing has been sitting on my dashboard for a while, and I wanted it out there, because it’s something that bothers me, and also something that I’d like feedback on, and something that I think other people should know too. So, FIRST, awkward and frustrated discussion. Then, Euro-Adventures!

I am, as previously mentioned, a person with a disability.
I am also, as previously mentioned, an asexual person, with a disability.
Those two things? Are not related. And I hate having to say that, because it reminds me of how my mother has to tell people her daughter is smart right after she tells them her daughter is disabled. Because I know I have to say that, because to a large portion of the population, one thing cannot be true, if the other is. I also know that even when I say that, people will disbelieve me. So I will say again:

That I am a person with a disability who identifies as asexual is not a forgone conclusion. That I belong to both groups is incidental, and that both groups have been mistakenly thought, by people who are not part of that group, to denote a lack of maturation or inability to understand one’s social or physical development, does not mean I am, in fact, immature, or that I do not know my own body. The fact that I am asexual is not proof about the presence, or lack of a sexual desire in a person with a disability, or zir understanding of zir sexuality, or zir ability to express that desire, if indeed it does exist. The fact that I have a disability is, similarly, not proof that all, or even most, people who identify as asexual suffer from some kind of physical, mental, or chemical deficiency. My sexuality has as much and no more to do with my body chemistry and brain function as the average heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or pansexual individual. It is a part of me, as is my disability. It, like my disability, has a huge affect on my social interactions, and the average perception of me. They are not the same thing, nor are they part of one another.

I am oversimplifying again. The truth is, we don’t know what causes human sexuality to develop as it does, and there are a lot of factors. For years, we have been confirming and solidifying that the cause of homosexuality is largely genetic, and not a lifestyle choice. And now, there are studies that prove that identical twins can have different sexual orientations. It’s possible the specific place my brain has been damaged is directly related to sexual development. And it offers a very neat explanation. However, it’s also entirely possible I’m asexual because I was born asexual, like the other 600,000 or so people that we’re aware of who are also asexual, many, and I would wager most, of whom do not have brain damage to blame. And I dislike even giving credence to the notion that this could be anything other than simply, “I was born this way.”  In the same way my mother knew that my intelligence could only ever be relative to the perception of where my intelligence should have been, I know that my sexuality will then seem less genuine, less the real thing.

Detour with me for a sec. As previously mentioned, Hannah is an old story. Hannah is a story I wrote one summer when I was fourteen, that I just can't let go of. It's interesting to see the ways my writing style has changed, but also, it's interesting to see that my topic of interest hasn't, really, just the way I confront it. Hannah doesn't have a disability. I've explained why Hannah doesn't have a disability; I didn't want her to. I didn't want her recognized as the self-indulgence that she was, and is.  But there was a character who had a disability. Hannah's only childhood friend has a learning disability. In the earlier versions, she doesn't really get much of a mention. She's in one chapter, early on in Hannah, as a sort of juxtaposition between where Hannah is, and where she ought to be, so I wasn't explicit on the whole learning disability thing. She shows up in the second book, once or twice, when Hannah gets a boyfriend. (Hold on to that.) She's not very interesting. I feel guilty, now, at the lack of attention I paid her. Because in this version, she's very important. She's kind of integral, actually, and I'm enjoying Hannah's mucking around in her imperfect brain. I'm enjoying her there as a kind of proof that Hannah is just a kid, and I'm enjoying her for her own characterization. It's amazing to me, how easily I made the connection that she had the learning disability, another one of those things that's been there all along, but also, that I can use it to say all the things that Hannah, so desperate to be taken seriously, won't say. It is such a change, to be so fearless, now, and come right out and say it. Hey. We are everywhere. Sometimes, it's not our story. Sometimes, we have a place in your world too. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it makes me feel better about so many things. Mostly, it makes it easier that I can't do that nearly as much as I'd like to.

I know why I made her so vapid and boring before. Firstly, I don't have a learning disability. Some things haven't changed. I didn't want to get it wrong, so I was afraid to do anything with it. But I know many people with learning disabilities, am friends with many people with learning disabilities, so I feel confident in a way I didn't when I was young, in my ability to treat this character like she is as real as someone I know, and not disappear her disability entirely. In the second book, she's not as quirky, she becomes sort of vapid and shallow and boring and kind of the media version of teenage girl, the one we’re supposed to understand is an accurate and general representation of ‘average.’ I know why that was too. It's not because I went all sexist, though there might be some sexism in there. It's because I started the second Hannah in high school. To give you an idea of what high school was like for me, I began the second book at sixteen. By sixteen I was vocally out, had to be just to dodge all the questions and comments thrown my way. I said to my very best friend, "I'm going to write another Hannah book, only this time she's our age. And she has a boyfriend." Her response was, "Good. She needs one." I said, "What? The last time we see her she's eight." So the next words out of my friend's mouth were, "Well, you need one. So it's good you're writing about that stuff." There were, of course, vapid shallow people of all sexes making these demands/accusations, but I could at least understand the boys' complaints, (mainly, ‘why can’t you be flattered, so I can get what I want?”) But with the girls, I just thought they were really that stupid.

Which brings me back to my original point. Someday, when I can get it all out, I am going to sit down and explain to you all about the many and varied forms of asexual discrimination. We're going to talk about all the courses on peer pressure they teach you in grade 6 and up, and how it feels to role-play a 'situation' and have your friends roll their eyes at you, and teachers ask you to, "really, try to be honest." while you stammered your way through it, confused, trying to figure out what was so damn funny about all this, and what these people wanted from you, and why those decisions were supposed to be so hard. when everything inside you says that is a clear not going to happen situation. We're going to discuss, at length, how often I hear the word 'unnatural' in reference to me, and how many asexuals through history have been branded pedophiles and secret perverts, and how it feels to have friends who won't touch you, not because they think you're gay or anything, just because they know everyone else does, and okay, you know, not having a boyfriend is fine for YOU, but OTHER PEOPLE would like to have the cute boy know they're available, okay? We'll talk about how it feels to love someone who believes you incapable of love, how it feels when everything you do or say is proof that you are not who you say you are, because we don't have words for love, devotion, desire, attraction, and passion that do not translate to sex to everyone but me. We'll talk about what happens when I go to the doctor's office, and how I have bisexual and gay friends who tell me I don't understand what it's like, to have people think those things about them, all the time. Not that I'm dismissing the trials of the other people on the sexuality spectrum. But we are more than just natural allies. We are fighting the same battle, and one day, I will have the words and courage to explain that in such a way that someone might even understand.

For now, the only thing I can say is this: I don't write asexual characters. It has taken me roughly twenty-three years to write characters with disabilities, and I know why that is. I know that is because I was always so afraid to be recognized, so afraid I didn't matter enough to be allowed to talk about this, that I wasn't disabled enough for my views to count, that I was 'too negative'. That is not why I don't write asexual characters. I can acknowledge the same fear, of course, I know part of it is that sometimes, the label doesn't quite fit me, though it's closer than any others, and I certainly don't want my asexual experience speaking for anyone else's. And there's the problem. I don't write asexual characters because to the wider world, we still don't exist. We are temporary asexuals if we're victims of rape (we are damaged), we are asexual if we have secret fetishes and can't have sex any other way (we are sick), or if our sexuality is so abnormal we need to hurt people to get what we want, so we bury it until it erupts and we claim another victim (we are evil). Does this line of thinking not seem familiar? Nobody speaks for us, not yet. We have no place in popular culture. In an oversexed world, we hold no interest. In every TV show or movie or book, if a character has no interest in romance, the audience is on the edge of their seat, waiting for the change. I don't write asexuals because I know, if I did, no one would believe it. I know that, because I know the number of people who still don't believe me. I know an even greater number of people who know exactly how I feel about sex and love, and still believe I am the only asexual person in the world. Being asexual isn't about doing nothing, where everyone else is doing something. I admit, I have some problems with sex. All the problems I have with sex stem from the pressure I received to be anything other than what I am. People are bored with me. I had someone say to me once, "Obviously, you're going to have someone someday. You talk all the time about not having one." I don't write asexuals because I know exactly how little people want to hear from us. I know exactly how hard it is to read and understand, and what a disappointment it is that that doesn't change. I know, because I am that disappointment. And I do feel lonely sometimes, but if I ever said that, people would start waiting for the change, all over again.

Think about this: I am a het asexual. Lots of asexuals are at varying points on the Kinsey scale, but I'm pretty comfortable with the knowledge I am more het than most. How do I know this? Because everyone I've ever been attracted to has been male. How does an asexual describe attraction, though? When I say attraction, I mean, the people I see who are pretty are both male and female, but there is something particular about pretty men. There is something internal that says ‘wow’ in a different way than when I see a beautiful woman. It is not a sexual desire kind of 'wow.' It is more a 'let me stand next to you, look at you, and commit you to memory." Or sometimes, "please be my friend and find me interesting, because I am fascinated by the fact that I find you interesting, that is special and rare."

I don't know how to explain it. I know it's different from sexuals, because of the blank looks I get, but that's all I know. When I was in college, there was a boy I liked. We had lunch together once, and he asked me out in a very sweet and vague way, and I never took him up on the offer, even though I very much liked him. It wasn't fear that made the decision. I just liked him too much to want a relationship. I liked being his friend, and his smiling at me and liking my writing and seeing me a certain way, I didn't want that way to change. When I told a friend this, she said, "but he likes you back!" and I said, "I know. But if he pursues me, I might have to do something about it. I might have to go out with him, and do the whole girlfriend thing, and then there's the whole explaining the 'no-touching', and even if he understood that, there's still the fact that we would be different.'" And she said, "that's the point." And that's when I knew I lost her, so I just said, "Not to me."

I don't write asexuals because we don't have words to explain ourselves.Nobody really wants to know anyway, they want to get to the good part at the end where we get fixed. I don't write asexuals because I don't want to feel like I’m taking something away from the thousands of other people in the world who are all differently asexual and probably more comfortable with it than I was taught to be. I don't write asexuals because we're boring, we're not wanted, and nobody even believes we exist, and selfish as it sounds, I want people to read my writing, and like it.

So, I don't write asexuals. I want to. J. M. Barrie wrote asexuals, and they called him a pedophile. I don't have that courage. In his book, Little White Bird, when Peter Pan transforms from bird, to boy, he looks at his reflection, sees he doesn't have wings and says, "I suppose I can't fly?" And as soon as he says it, it's true. The moment he doubts, it's over, and he spends much of the book looking for a way back up. I feel like that, sometimes. Everything I've ever done that people said I shouldn't have been able to do, was easy for me, because I knew other people had done it. But I'm a fraud. This is different. I know there are asexual voices in literature, but they are rare. Somebody, someday, is going to have to give us more, make us real to people. And I may be one of the only people who could do that (working on the assumption that 10% or less of the population are asexual, and 10% or fewer of those are artists) and I don't, simply because I believe I can't. Because nobody has shown me how. I don't know if that will change. For now, to the asexuals, I'm sorry. I can't. To myself, I am doing the best I can. To everyone else, it's working. Are you happy?

Maybe in another 20 years, hm?