Alex Gabriel

Writer. Reader. Romancer.


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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.

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Alex Gabriel Newsletter

Exciting news: I’m starting an email newsletter! If you want to keep informed about my upcoming releases – and also receive sneak peeks and exclusive content, writing updates, special offers and more – there’s now an easy and convenient way to do it.

Anyone who signs up gets my novella “First Contact” for free. Undercover cops in a gay BDSM club run by the mob, anyone?

You can sign up here – it only takes a minute.

I’d love to see you there! I won’t spam you, I promise. I may, however, ask your opinion on cover layouts. We’ll see.

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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.


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Falling in Love with the Cold-Blooded

Several people have asked where I got the idea for “Love for the Cold-Blooded, Or: The Part-Time Evil Minion’s Guide to Accidentally Dating a Superhero”. I’ll try to answer this as briefly as possible… which is still not very brief at all.

You rang?

A little over a year ago, a friend recounted several interesting anecdotes from an article about serving the extremely wealthy. There was a family who entirely forgot about one of the many estates they owned, for example, while the estate in question was kept in top shape by staff: a ghost mansion running smoothly along in constant readiness for a visit that never came.

mansion-425272_1920My friend also mentioned that most of the fiction she read got the details of extremely rich people’s lives wrong. Hmm, I thought. Yes, I’ve also read stories like that, and those details have always rung false to me. Fictional characters living in a billionaire’s mansion check what they have in the fridge and fix themselves a sandwich, making a mental note to go shopping because they’re almost out of ham; they call out for fast food; they forget to do the laundry; they discover they’ve run out of their favorite cereal, and squabble over who ate the last portion; they split chores like making breakfast and doing the dishes. All perfectly ordinary activities – all things that a very rich person living in a mansion would never ordinarily do.

What might a story that got it right be like…?

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The Quest for Titles

I love titles. Titles are essential; they are the first part of the story the reader comes into contact with. They can be works of art in their own right. They can add additional meaning, provide interpretation or focus, sound allusions… their potential is near-endless.

There are titles I admire, titles I love more than their stories, and titles I love despite having no interest in their stories at all. There are titles I don’t initially like, but that later reveal themselves to be perfect. And, of course, there are titles I dislike; that I find awkward, ugly or ill-fitting, or so lacking they do their story an actual disservice.

For a long time, finding titles was a trial for me. Continue reading


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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!


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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.

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