Many blog readers know that I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Well, really its a mostly love-dislike relationship. I know that social media can sometimes be a positive force–alerting us to injustices, uniting us against unfair situations, or keeping each other informed (especially where family members and friends are far-flung and this is the only easy way of keeping in touch). However, in many of my own personal use cases, the toxicity of social media and the results that play out in real life often discourage me from adopting it with any great zeal.
However, I’m not a Luddite and I recognize that sometimes various memes and platforms can be a touchstone for change, but after an encounter with it in the field of writing, I still find myself ambivalent, even when the social media movement benefits me.
So, on Saturday, I was trying to find a place to send out a story that I revised: Starlight, Starbright. And one of the markets that I came across was one that wanted stories by authors of the same race/group as the main character–and they were looking for authors of traditionally marginalized groups (People of Color, etc).
Now the main character for Starlight, Starbright is an African-American male, and as I am an African American male, it (at first) seemed like a perfect fit. Here was a market that was looking for the stories that I was writing. So, the pro is that I have (at first glance) a ready-made market for my story. So I sent it to them, right?
No, I didn’t . . . and I don’t think I will.
Well, why the heck not? Weren’t whinging on about not being published/not having enough markets to submit to about 2 years ago on this very blog? Well, yes, that’s true, but the more I thought about it, the more something about the #OwnVoices movement doesn’t work for me.
You see, The Independent has an African American female as the main character, so even if they took Starlight, Starbright, then they’d never take The Independent as they would assume that I, as a male, don’t have the qualifications to write the female point of view and I just don’t believe that to be the case.
Setting aside for the moment that I’ve had several stories published with a female lead (Skin Deep, Sister-Knight, and by the nature of the story, Moon shares equal billing with Hawke in HawkeMoon), the main character in The Independent is an African American female based on my grandmother.
As I lived with my grandmother for my entire life until she passed away in 2013, I feel more than qualified as a writer to base the main character on her–in fact, it is more than just qualification at this point, it is an honor–but I digress. The point is, while I was not her, I listened to her stories, to her dreams, both fulfilled and unfulfilled, her aspirations, and her relating history, both how it affected her, as well as her own personal history, and this makes me uniquely qualified to write from a woman’s POV in this case as the main character shares a couple of very important character traits with my grandmother.
Now, to be clear, Ryn, my main character, only shares a couple of traits and is not a recreation of my grandmother in story form, but to assume that I’m not qualified to sell the story to this magazine that adheres to the #OwnVoices paradigm because my gender is wrong, just feels wrong as (to be honest) The Independent fits that magazines’s mission statement even more than Starlight, Starbright does.
Biting Off Your Nose to Spit Your Face
So, this is probably an expression that won’t travel well. I know it from my grandmother and I (assume) that it is a Southern US saying that basically encapsulates the idea of doing something that ultimately hurts you when trying to hurt someone else or a larger group/context/etc. Unfortunately, I think this is what the #OwnVoices movement is doing. They’re trying to be helpful, but ultimately, they are either doing harm, or no good at all. Yes, I’ve read stories where I know (from the author’s picture) that wasn’t an African American male even though the main character was and I remember how inauthentic those characters were (more ciphers than characters), but I’ve also read moving and touching stories by authors of different races and genders that have affected me deeply.
To refuse a writer the opportunity to explore the richness of characterization by limiting that writer’s choice of subjects doesn’t really seem to be in the best interests of the art, even if it opens up avenues for publication for those who might not publish otherwise.
In the end, #OwnVoices just isn’t for me. While I understand the appeal, I feel that since my grandmother can no longer speak for herself, so it is up to me, her grandson, to articulate what she wasn’t given the chance to articulate in her lifetime.
To deny me the opportunity to do that, is to (in my way of thinking) deny the very voices that movement claims it wants to hear.
Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:
- Purchase HawkeMoon on Amazon.com (Paperback) or eBook
- Purchase Dragonhawk on Amazon.com (Paperback) or Kindle
- Purchase WarLight on Amazon.com (Paperback) or Kindle
- Purchase Ship of Shadows on Amazon.com (Paperback) or Kindle
- Purchase Faerie Knight on Amazon.com (Paperback) or Kindle
- The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
- I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
- Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel
(Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019