Alex Gabriel

Writer. Reader. Romancer.


Leave a comment

Why it is never “just” fiction

In recent months, I’ve had several discussions in which I criticized the way a sensitive topic was treated in a fictional work. The topics in question varied, as did the fictional works, but the course these discussions took was always the same. I’d object to the way the matter in question was portrayed, and would be told that it was just a book / movie / TV series, and I was making a fuss over nothing.

It was just fiction! I should be more open-minded; it wasn’t meant to be taken so seriously, OMG; it was all in good fun, and everybody (except me, apparently) understood that; the only thing that actually mattered with fiction was how good (well-written, well-acted, …) it was.

Except that this is complete nonsense.

letters-637182Fiction does not exist in a vacuum. Books, movies, TV series: All fiction is both the result of the common views and opinions of the society it is created in, and – inevitably – a reinforcement of these views and opinions. Even the most uncontroversial novel or TV series incorporates countless social mores and generally held beliefs, and it reinforces them simply by referencing them.

Fiction can (and does) perpetuate commonly held ideas, reinforce stereotypes, prejudices and other beliefs, and validate popular opinions. It always does this, by its very nature; it’s a feature, not a bug. Fiction can also bring people to think and reevaluate, of course. Either way, it has a very real and material impact on people’s views, and on their lives. It matters.

A homophobic book or movie will validate the homophobic views of readers or viewers, and support a general air of homophobia in society. A comedy about men being drugged and raped by a woman (and loving it!) will perpetuate the harmful myth that men cannot actually be raped by women. And so forth. It’s the same for all issues.

Treating a sensitive issue in a highly objectionable way in fiction is not just a bit of good fun. Instead, it is both a symptom of a problem in society, and an actively harmful influence that perpetuates the problem.

So, no. It’s never “just” fiction.

Advertisements


1 Comment

Bewildering Plots: The Secret Coolness of Lost Lovers

Several bestselling books in recent years have featured the protagonist looking into the mysterious death of a loved one, and discovering that their beloved was leading a secret life as – say – a heroic amnesiac assassin, or infamous pop star art thief, or celebrated grave-robbing archeologist. When they weren’t with the protagonist, they were actually out saving the world with their metal arm (or making youths faint in rapture while making off with priceless treasures, or sexily wielding a bullwhip while breaking into the tombs of dead kings… whatever), and were even more amazing and wonderful than the protagonist ever suspected.

love-in-a-cage-515682These books have made me stand in a number of bookstores in complete, befuddled lack of comprehension. My theory is that the interest of these stories lies in puzzling out an intriguing mystery, and perhaps – to some extent – in learning to live with loss while keeping the love alive. But this is a wild guess, because the truth is that I do not understand. At all.

This is basically a love story where one of the lovers is already gone forever, right? It’s about losing someone you love, and then discovering you never really knew them at all. You loved them, sure, but you never knew and loved them as completely as you would have wished to know and love them. And now it’s too late.

No. Just, no. Have I mentioned no?

It’s no better when the dead loved one is a sibling, or parent, or whatever. (It IS better when the person who died turns out to have been a villain all along, because that’s a different kind of tale altogether.)

I think every reader has certain plots that just don’t work for them. I’ve found that this is one of mine.

Maybe someone who does like this kind of plot can explain the attraction to me someday.

Do you like this kind of plot – and if so, what is it that attracts you? What kinds of plot don’t work for you?


Leave a comment

On Fanfiction

maple-leaf-638022My views on fanfiction can be summed up very briefly with: YES. Yes, please.

To me, fanfiction is one of the greatest compliments an author can hope to receive. Fanfic doesn’t take anything away from either the original author or the original work, and it doesn’t harm the author’s vision in any way. How could it? Readers are never passive “recipients” of a story, anyway; they are always the ones who create the story in their minds through the act of reading. There are already as many different versions of the story as there are readers.

If someone finds an author’s fictional world and characters so compelling they want to pour their time, effort and creativity into spending more time within this world, engaging with it, and transforming it, then that cannot be anything but a good thing.

I read fanfic. I write it. I love it. And should someone create fanfic about one of my books, I’d be thrilled.


7 Comments

What I Like In A M/M Romance

A well-written story can make me enjoy (almost) anything. Still, like every reader, I have certain things I tend to particularly love in my m/m romance reading. I don’t mean specific themes or tropes, but general, underlying factors in the way the characters are portrayed and the dynamics of the relationship.

vogue-405148_1280I’m going to talk about this in several entries, because there is a lot to say. Today, as the first installment: Equality!

Please note: These are my personal preferences only, and I in no way intend to set them up as rules, or indicators of literary quality, or anything of the kind. Tastes differ; other readers and writers have other preferences, which is exactly as it should be. The world would be a sad and boring place if everyone liked the same things.

So if you have different preferences (or if you share mine), tell me! I love to talk about these things.

Equality

I am not a fan of hierarchical relationships or other types of power imbalances in romantic relationships (I do love power reversals, though, provided the end result is a balance of some kind).

An Advantage of Same-Gender Romance

For me, one of the great things about m/m romance is that there is no inescapable social inequality tied into the main characters’ genders. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Ebooks or printed books? My answer is YES, absolutely.

My first ebook reader was a Rocket eBook. It must have been, oh, 1999 or 2000 or thereabouts. The Rocket eBook was a giant, chunky and heavy thing, and it was absolutely wonderful. It was also incredibly sturdy – I used it intensively for almost a decade, dropped it repeatedly, and lugged it along on every trip and vacation. I might still be using it today if it hadn’t stopped being compatible with my PC. It still worked fine at that point – the battery life had shortened and it was a bit battered, but that was all.

rocket ebookNobody I knew had ever heard of an ebook reader when I first got the Rocket. Reading it in public was a sure way to start a conversation.

Go back a few more years before the Rocket.

When I was young, I would finish a good book and reluctantly emerge back into the Real World, longing for the next book. If only there were some way to have a single book that would magically change to be whatever book I wanted to read, without lengthy delays for ordering the sequel, waiting for it to be shipped, picking it up after weeks or months…

Continue reading


2 Comments

On the love of narrative clichés

I have a confession to make: I love narrative clichés. Not all of them, of course, but certain well-used plot ideas get me interested every time. Undercover in a gay bar, pretending to be a couple, amnesia, enemies forced to work together – yes! Sign me up!

Sure, these plots have been done many times before. But the same is true of every plot; after thousands of years of fiction being created all over the world, there isn’t a single plot or theme that hasn’t been put through its paces in countless different ways.

The magic is in the details. Originality is in the writing. It’s in the storytelling, the specific set of characters, the way they meet the challenges that confront them, how the author uses familiar themes in fresh ways and plays with existing conventions. I’ve read absolutely amazing, fresh and original books built around a basic premise that sounds tired and worn.

Given my love of narrative clichés, writing “First Contact” was an act of pure self-indulgence. Cops undercover as a couple in a gay bar (okay, a bdsm club run by the mafia – but that’s details)… 😉

Do you love any narrative clichés? Tell me about it!


Leave a comment

Fiction vs Reality

I have never liked fiction to have too close a connection with my lived reality. As far as I can remember, this has always been the case, and it’s a general thing that extends to fiction of all kinds, from books to movies to epic poetry to song lyrics. I don’t want to recognize places, things, people or setting details that have a direct connection to my own life.

Continue reading