in which grapes are sour

24 05 2011

I really shouldn’t be blogging about this, but I feel compelled to. It’s a mistake to even dignify it with a response, but responding is the best way for me to organize my own thoughts for my own purposes, so what the hell. It’s my mistake to make.

Today I visited TVTropes.org to see if anybody had linked to anachronauts from it. Googling yourself is always fun. Well, almost always. There were two decent entries, one about the Mister’s tempting and one about Emily’s Perfectea fight; nice, nice… and then one entry that had been copypastaed in several places with slight variation, clearly coming from someone with a slightly homophobic axe to grind about my shoddy writing.

The main entry is over here but I’ll copy it for you:

“The female elf Nel was rescued by and fell in love with space-girl Una, who is straight. Okay, plenty of healthy relationships have grown out of a Rescue Romance. She doesn’t tell her. Okay, that’s reasonable. Nel decides to devote her life to being Una’s best friend. Um, what? Nel never gets any significant characterization, background, or personality traits other than being in love with Una. Hmm. Nel is tempted by a genie to kill one of the other Anachronauts in order to have Una. She refuses, saying that she’d rather have Una naturally. You go, girl. And then in fs03, Una gets her hands on the sense-recording earrings Nel has been wearing since the beginning of the arc, and is able to effectively be Nel as she talked to the Genie, including her declaration of love. She re-evaluates her interactions with Nel, and then instantly realizes she loves her. Please note that Una has been exclusively heterosexual up to this point, and realizing she likes girls in general and loves Nel in particular is portrayed as basically flipping a switch. Oh, and the author pretty clearly has a fetish for lesbians, as it popped up in his earlier Sailor Nothing, and in an aside in arc 2. Their friendship is written as exactly that; a friendship, with no romantic or sexual tension. Compared to the other romances in the series, which are written much more organically, it seems more like a Strangled by the Red String Romantic Plot Tumor than an actual romance. Nel and Una are given some “private time” at the end of that chapter, which would be ideal for showing their conversation before the inevitable sex and underlining the fact that they actually do have feelings for each other, except we never get to see it. Did I mention that there had been no other significant LGBT characters in the series up to that point? Yes, that’s right, the only known homosexual is there for solely for the purpose of Fetish Fuel. It’s kinda creepy, and I couldn’t read the series after that.”

This seems to be a page largely for personal rants, so, whatever. But a condensed version of the rant appears on several actual trope pages. TVTropes is hardly NPOV, but dag, yo.

This annoys me on a few levels.

1. On a Knee Jerk Emotional Level. “Heyyy! That’s pretty goddamn harsh, man!”

2. On a Puzzled Managerial Level. “Seriously? All the entries for Sailor Nothing on that site, and THIS is the most noteworthy thing about anachronauts, a series entirely built on juicy tropes?”

3. On a Factual Level.

Number three is the worst, because it has a kernel of truth — I didn’t go heavily into Una’s sexuality and justifications and backstory, because I felt implying it was enough. Apparently it wasn’t. I don’t mean that in a snarky way, seriously, apparently it wasn’t enough, and I really should’ve put more in.

It’s too late to back and re-edit the stories; all it’d take is a few references to Orbital culture that I’ve always had in my notes, but those stories are in print form now, unchangable. So, I’m going to be writing a bit into sf02, which already was going to heavily feature Una and Nel, to clarify. I’ve even got a good angle I can use to explore it from, which works itself into the plot, and won’t feel weirdly interjected. Good. Strong story is strong story.

I may as well lay it out here, though, in total as well.

First off, Orbitals have a very strange relationship to love and sexuality, which are two concepts that are either completely ignored by most or at least not frequently tied together. They run the gamut from asexuality to heterosexuality to homosexuality to bisexuality, and it tends to be very fluid throughout the course of one’s life, depending on how you mature and what you determine to be your life needs. And many simply ignore the question entirely, in favor of their careers. (Whether that’s a good thing or not I leave up to the reader.)

Remember, marriage in general was slightly odd, and Una’s parents were even odder — an Optimist and a Pragmatist. THOSE are the mores and taboos, not anything involving biology.

Orbitals frequently sleep in the nude and Una had absolutely no idea that bunking up with Emily in this manner would be even the slightest bit discomforting, to show how distant their attitudes on sexuality are. And, I quote exactly: “Given your reaction earlier, if I have interpreted its proper context correctly, rest assured I have no interest at this time in homosexual copulation with you, either.” Note “at this time”. Subtext! It’s outta sight.

Next, Una’s entire sexual history with men has been a series of failures, false starts, mistakes, and seriously long winded bungles like her run with Brell — which she even admitted straight up was a complete disaster, as she was more in love with the idea of being in love than she was with the actual man involved. For the early half of anachronauts, Una is constantly trying to figure out what she wants. All she knows is whatever it is, she wants it very badly. And it’s led her down the wrong paths as a result.

Her entire character arc has been based on finally understanding her mother’s views on love, that push it beyond the boundaries of a purely physical thing, and into a bond of the most true and wonderful comraderie ever. For months Una had been carrying on in what was absolutely a loving relationship with Nel in all but name, and hadn’t realized it. Once she DID realize it, everything clicked into place. She didn’t “suddenly go gay.” She’d adored Nel for a long time and failed to recognize what that meant. I quote a Tori Amos lyric that’s stuck with me for ages: Brothers and lovers, he and I were. Depth of romance flat out requires depth of friendship, and one can lead to another, if, oh, 94% of all romantic comedies are the slightest bit true.

TL;DR — Una is not any one sexuality. Una is Una and Una is constantly confused about what being Una really means. Which, in fact, is a state most people are in.

If you HAVE to stick a label on her we’ll call it bisexual and get on with our lives.

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20 responses

24 05 2011
cmdr_zoom

First of all, let me note that “Dethroning Moments”, being both very subjective and entirely negative, are in the process of being phased out of TV Tropes. If people want to bitch, they can do it on their own pages.
Second, I think it’s ironic that they claim you don’t set up the relationship enough, and then don’t show any of the payoff either (which you presumably would if you were in it for the Fetish Fuel). That you didn’t focus enough on what is, in the end, just one trait or aspect of the character. Horrors. (I’d have to check, but I bet you haven’t clearly established whether she’s right or left handed either, or what she likes on her fries. This stuff is important, 2f!)
It’s like… “how dare you make this character’s sexuality gratuitous, except when I want you to focus on it and you don’t!”

24 05 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

If it was just on Dethroning Moments, then whatevs. But the exact same thing also is on Suddenly Sexuality, and is hinted at in the trope about the Mister’s offer. Reworded, but just as pointed.
I’d also have hoped that explicitly blockquoting her mother’s exact quote, which directly states that she may find love in a friendship, would be enough. But no, because she had sex with a dude at one point, there’s no way she could possibly love someone who happens to have boobs. It’s too SUDDEN.

24 05 2011
cmdr_zoom

*shrug*
I also note the claim that girl-girl is specifically Author Appeal for you, completely ignoring all the het couples in your work(s). Inkblot much?

24 05 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Well, if we’re gonna quantify… let’s look at primary cast members and standout stars from oneshots.
CULTURALLY OKAY STRAIGHT NORMAL PEOPLE: Emily/Scout, Jesse/Gilbert, Ono/Lea, Yew/Tillman, Melvin/Slyph?, Wallflower/Kev, Carrie/Van Buren, Meiko/Mallory, Lorelei/Mallory (for awhile), Eiko/That Accountant Kid, Himei/Seiki, Shin/Whatsisname.
TOTAL: 11 (+1 undeveloped)
OBVIOUSLY AUTHOR APPEAL FETISH LESBIANS: Una/Nel, Himei/Aki (never actually happens and is only hinted at in standard teenage sexual confusion), Elisa/Daelyn (single line subtext which is never developed).
TOTAL: 1 (+2 undeveloped)
Yep, obviously I’m constantly pumping out lesbians and never write anything else.

24 05 2011
ninjarat

Ignore the negative reviews.
Ignore the positives ones, too.
You don’t write to get positives reviews; you should not write to avoid negatives ones.

24 05 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

True dat.

25 05 2011
lirazel

Also, I thought there was PLENTY of sexual tension — but more from an “I’m an intellectual and I learn life through books and tapes and this is what they SAY I should want so I do — or do I?” versus “Oh wow, I just noticed BOOBS!” perspective.
If you know what I mean. And clearly, you do.

25 05 2011
loopychew

I would like to point out that the person who added the Suddenly Sexuality entry, Jonn, was the same person who added it to Dethroning Moments. So of COURSE it was going to have the same bias. One person posting it to at least two places, as is standard for TV Tropes.
Kinda wish he made a works page, at least.

25 05 2011
meagenimage

I’ve put up a Creator page for you. Hopefully Wiki Magic will do its job.

25 05 2011
jengagne

Yeah, while I don’t plan to outright sockpuppet on 2f’s behalf, I’m going to go ahead and get a TVtropes account at some point. I do find TVtropes fun and I would like to see these entries fleshed out a bit better. Anachronauts is full of as-yet undocumented tropes.

25 05 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Yeah. My objection isn’t so much that he HAETed it, or the Dethroning Moments page itself which is a pile of contention anyway — but that his postings are about the only mention of anachronauts on there. I get a lot of readers from TVTropes for Sailor Nothing, and having the only representation for anachronauts be how horrible it is and what a terrible person I am is not that great.
Well, time and fandom cures all wounds. I avoid editing tvtropes myself because that’s just skeevy, but I’m sure it’ll get proper representation of all the various tropes I’m deploying in time.

25 05 2011
kamalloy

What about relationships with two guys? It’s been a while since I read UE, but I thought there was at least one in there.

25 05 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I don’t THINK I ever did one as a primary relationship. It’s mentioned in sa09 that one of the characters has two dads, and it certainly gets the occasional mention that Yes, Gay People Do Exist, but no primary characters.
I’m thinking of putting one in sf02 because damn, that IS a gaping hole in my repertoire and I am trying to show the Orbitals as being all over the map sexually. Honestly, I’m not trying to pander; sf02 was already scheduled to have a big exploration into Orbital culture before any of this, and it’s just a perfect opportunity.

25 05 2011
luridel

>Nel never gets any significant characterization, background, or personality traits other than being in love with Una.
>and I couldn’t read the series after that.
>never gets
>I couldn’t read the series after that.
Yes she does. But hey, if someone stops reading and then calls a ‘this never happens’…
Nel’s subtle. Her talent – glamor – is subtle. But she holds up her share of the work just fine.

25 05 2011
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Generally Nel is defined by her relationship, but Forsaken Shores had an undercurrent of her trying to develop herself, recognizing (thanks to the Mister’s accusations) that she needed to be more than just devoted to Una.
She has moments where she asserts herself and snaps at people, she’s against slavery and compulsion of all forms, and she’s certainly become one of the most skilled Illusionists of her age.
I never found a place to put it in the stories, but now that she’s “in” with Emily’s gang, the High Fae nobles are pretending like “Oh, well, she’s got some serious talent for illusion, therefore she must have a High Fae ancestor, I mean, no common elf could be as important as she’s become…”

25 05 2011
luridel

“she’s got some serious talent for illusion, therefore she must have a High Fae ancestor”
That sounds familiar to the point where I remember reading it, but I certainly don’t remember where.
(I could also be crazy.)

25 05 2011
luridel

Oh. London’s Fog 01 has-
“True, it wasn’t a particularly splashy illusion, but the fact that it was a 100% success said much to the caster’s skill. Not that any of the High Fae nobility would admit that a mere elf could accomplish a task worthy of an Archmagus, even if they knew.”
That was probably what I was thinking of.

26 05 2011
loopychew

Added a Works Page for anachronauts, and linked it to the Web Original and Web Serial Fiction pages. Other wicking would be appreciated. (Not you specifically, meagenimage, but readership in general.)

27 05 2011
luinthoron

The interesting thing is, a little bit after reading this entry I found myself re-reading a few favorite chapters of the first books. Suddenly lesbian? Definitely not. Anu makes this pretty obvious already in fs01.

1 06 2011
loopychew

Found it. sa06:
Granted, Nel was apparently one of the most gifted illusion mages seen in generations — to the point where the High Fae unofficially considered her an ‘Illusion Fae,’ some new stripe of noble bloodline, just to avoid admitting that a common elf could accomplish what she had accomplished.

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