I kind of wondered if this would ever happen, and a few weeks ago, it did. Someone made the assertion that my inclusion of gay characters must be part of my personal agenda. I have no idea what, specifically, that agenda is thought to be. Legalizing Gay Olympics? (Oh wait: awesomely, that already exists. Don't reinvent the wheel, Tom!) Anyway, before going any farther, let me make one thing clear, for now and always:
My only agenda when it comes to my gay characters is to write as if gay people exist.
That's seriously it. Look, it's no secret that I lean way left when it comes to GLBT politics (I will not rest until all straight couples are forced to divorce!), but I'm writing a fantasy here, not a Daily Kos article. My characters are who they are; I don't just go around assigning them characteristics as a way of championing my beliefs. If I did, Jesse would be planning his legal Texas wedding, Khan would be burning down Purity Balls nationwide, and Corin would be rescuing all the orcas from Seaworld. (omg, spin-off novellas, anyone?)
So I have gay characters. Two out of eight, if you're counting all my main characters. One is married. The other is known to hump furniture. So why did I make them gay? Here's the secret: I didn't. I guess in some genres (such as erotica) or for some story lines, it is necessary to cultivate the sexuality of one's characters, but for mine, the process was pretty organic. As any writer will be able to tell you, good characters will do as they please. Like children, they shape themselves in some regards, despite your best efforts. Ask my dearest friend Lindsey about the early days. Corin, for instance, used to be a total ditz. Khan was overflowing with pathetic angst, if you can believe it, and Ghi---Ghi!---was the quintessential leader character. I lie not! And Jesse? Jesse used to bang ALL THE LADIES and drive a VW camper van around. No joke. He was like a younger, blonder version of every character played by Matthew McConaughey. Anyway, I think it was all compensation for something, because one day back in 2008 I was trying to sleep and Jesse was all like, "Hey, what if I was a pop star? Oh, and I'm gay." And I'm all:
Seriously, dude? And he's like "Yep. Pretty sure I'm exclusively into dudes now." And I'm like, Do you even know how much stuff I'm going to have to edit if you're gay? And he's all:
And that is Jesse's coming out story, I guess. My only fear at that point was making a cheap caricature out of him. Jesse was always promiscuous, always fashionable, always androgynous, always obnoxiously talented. And he was stubborn about changing any of that. So I just made it a point to tread carefully around stereotypes. Yes, Jesse is fabulous. Yes, he is expressive. But that's just Jesse being Jesse. He's also vapid, vain, inadvisably fearless, affectionate, a certified musical genius, and, when it matters most, remarkably intuitive and compassionate. He is a collection of positive and negative traits, just like any good character, gay or straight or invertebrate.
And Stella? Back in the day, Stella was married to a much younger man. And, oh gods, she was also a fairy at some point, during a dark period of my life known as 'tween years' (there are pictures of this shit. Which no one will ever see). Anyway, when Naunet came into the picture, I just rolled with it. One does not tell Stella Rosin what to do.
So there you have it: my insidious political agenda to let imaginary people be who they are. Which maybe sort of definitely reflects my treatment of real actual people. Someone best call Olivia Pope: this is a scandal for sure.
**related side note** Since we're on the subject of author agendas, there is one thing I would absolutely force-change about Vessel, if I could at this point. And that is the incredible and inexplicable abundance of white characters. Specifically, but not limited to, the fact that three out of five gods whose origins lay in Northern Africa are white people of European descent. What is EVEN up with that? It's a lame excuse, but during Vessel's formation years, I was young and sheltered and wholly unaware of the concept of white-washing. I just dreamed up a bunch of cute boys and gave them powers, and a lot of them, and their friends, were white. I love my characters, but I definitely hate that promoting racial diversity in mainstream media was not on my agenda when they were born. Maybe I can redeem myself when the movie is cast? :D