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No Hate But….

Published June 30, 2021 by swankivy

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Panel 3 was actually said to me by a publishing professional in response to one of my stories, so. Fun.

We all see what’s really going on when someone wants the stories they read to stop including LGBTQIA content to help them enjoy it. We all see what’s really going on when they feel that these characters’ existence and relationships in stories constitute “shoving it in their face” if we want to act like it’s normal and acceptable. We all see what’s going on when they react to the 3% of media that includes any queer content at all and insist we’re burying them in it (despite how buried we’ve been in EXCLUSIVELY HETERO-CISNORMATIVE CONTENT our literal entire lives). It seems overly prevalent because they want it to be 0%. It seems “forced” and “too PC” to them because they fixate on how foreign it is to acknowledge this in their world. They interpret queer content as an invasion of their lives because their carefree escapes into fun and fiction depend on excluding us. And if we react negatively to being told our content doesn’t belong, we get accused of harassing THEM and denying THEM a voice and an opinion. (Defending our right to exist in fiction after being told we don’t belong isn’t OUR aggression. It’s them starting a fight, and then acting all shocked Pikachu if we respond like we’re being bullied.)

They probably ought to reconsider any sentences that include a disclaimer identifying themself as a supporter or an ally but then lead into the word “but.”

At the very least, if they don’t want to learn from queer people about what our queer stories sound like, they should be able to quietly accept that it isn’t for them and stop whining that they aren’t centered in media that’s made by and for us. We know how easy that is because we’ve been doing it all our lives, consuming media that centers and coercively reinforces hetero-cisnormative ideals, and the big difference for us is that there was no alternative until or unless we started creating it. Our queer-centered content doesn’t stop them from living their life or consuming the content they want to consume, and the times queer narratives and characters make it into mainstream media definitely will not take anything away from them.

(Oh, and if anyone out there is about to argue that our “invasion” DOES constitute pollution of their stories, there’s a word for that: Bigot. You might as well not bother with the disclaimers about why this doesn’t make you hateful. Media is how the world talks to itself, and if our acknowledgment in it causes you discomfort, you might as well admit that you don’t want us to be part of the conversation and you would prefer we stay isolated, closeted, unable to see ourselves in media or even write our own without someone complaining that we didn’t prioritize the very fair and balanced idea that queers are icky. These statements are invariably followed by accusations of “shoving it down my throat” and “being SJWs/too PC” or some other weird impossible standard we were supposed to live up to before we dared to give the world stories about ourselves.)

We have Pride partly because the world is still telling us to be ashamed. That world celebrates its cisgender norms and heterosexual expectations every day without even noticing how free they are to do it. It shouldn’t have to be A Thing, but we don’t live in that world yet where the shaming, the violence, the demand for us to be censored out of society has stopped. I’m really tired of hearing that our visibility is what caused homophobia and transphobia to start existing–if it only started being visible when we were able to talk about it and get coverage, that means it was invisible to most people before that and they literally think it started existing only when we got the tools to tell the outside world what was happening to us. Pride is a counter to that shame and violence. It absolutely is still necessary even though invariably someone always whines and accuses our activism of causing all our problems.

I’m proud of being a queer person and my stories will authentically reflect that queer people exist. If our stories aren’t interesting to you then you should treat them like any other content you don’t want to invite into your life. I don’t read Westerns but I assure you that I’ve never written to their publishers or tracked down their authors to tell them I don’t want to read about cowboys or their weird lifestyle. And if a dude rides a horse in a movie I’m not going to whine about it even though I don’t care to seek out movies about dudes who ride horses. It doesn’t offend my morals that this man lives differently from me or how I would ever want to live. I also incidentally don’t care for toxic romances but guess who’s not writing to the authors of romance books that include that element to lecture them on their irresponsibility.

I recommend non-queer audiences learn about queer people through the media we make, but if they won’t do that, they could at least do us a kindness and shut up. If they’re not going to shut up, they should really do us a courtesy and avoid the performative “Not that there’s anything wrong with that BUT” schtick. It’s embarrassing, and furthermore, it doesn’t fool anyone.

Competition

Published April 30, 2021 by swankivy

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Actually, Amazon has rules about authors reviewing each other’s books because it can be taken as an attempt to influence competition! When I heard that I thought it was hilarious and ridiculous. Authors DEFINITELY don’t think of each other as competition. If someone writes something similar to me, chances are her audience is my audience! And readers don’t sit there going “well, I’m only ever going to read one fantasy novel, so if I buy hers, I’ll never buy yours!”

That’s . . . like . . . THE OPPOSITE of how it works.

Support fellow authors, folks.

Not an Agent

Published March 31, 2021 by swankivy

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It’s rare (though not unheard of) for an agent to read a client’s book very quickly and offer almost immediately. But if you’re an unpublished author writing fiction and an agent is offering to represent you without reading the full book, RUN. and if you’re querying agents who then offer representation contingent upon using “editing” or “book packaging” services they charge for, RUN.

(Also, basic research of any agent you query should help you avoid even getting approached by people like this.)

There are a lot of scams out there and one of their nastiest tricks is making you think you’re an exceptional writer worthy of extraordinary offers outside what you hear is typical. They’ll pretend the “services” are standard and they’ll lean on your inexperience to dupe you while dangling praise and promises in front of your starry eyes.

Agents will not charge you for their services until they’ve sold a book for you (and that fee will be taken out of your earnings, not paid by you directly). Agents will not refer you to paid editing or packaging services and they do not offer on fiction projects by new authors without reading the whole book. And agents will not try to convince you to sign with them by promising you’ll be a bestseller or, in general, talking like an advertisement.

Read that “contract.” And listen to your more experienced friends who are trying to protect you.

Narrow

Published January 31, 2021 by swankivy

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It’s interesting how often people who talk about literary merit and artistic worthiness are so quick to assume women aren’t writing about real problems, or that the differences we do see in common elements of writing based on gender have clear divisions between what’s nutritious and what’s empty calories. There are more women than men in this world, and still our thoughts, issues, and lives are thought marginal.

First, these are all slightly exaggerated and paraphrased from real quotes by men about women’s work. For context, here they are:

  • “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think it is unequal to me.” [Women’s work presents] “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world. And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.” —V.S. Naipaul
  • [Women exhibit] “lack of range—in subject matter, in emotional tone—and lack of a sense of humor. . . . the embroidering of trivial themes; a concern with the mere surfaces of life . . . hiding from the real agonies of the spirit; refusing to face up to what existence is; lyric or religious posturing; running between the boudoir and the altar, stamping a tiny foot against God. . . . ” —Theodore Roethke
  • “[R]omance novels, like racists, tend to be the same wherever you turn. It’s pointless to spend much time impugning these books as writing because they really aren’t meant to be considered as actual writing, the same way a Twinkie wasn’t meant to be considered as actual food.” —William Giraldi

The common theme here is  through some combination of bad experiences with literature, socialized disgust for and condescension toward anything that women enjoy, sexist attitudes toward women in general, overreliance on “award-winning” literature as if the awards are given objectively through some distant assessment of pure merit, overexposure to men’s work as deep and “classic” and women’s work as lowbrow and “popular,” or simple assumption that women’s stories aren’t relevant/applicable/interesting to them . . . these men conclude that they can and should write off literature about, by, and/or for women.

And what’s really interesting is how many men, when challenged on this, will have one of these two explanations for why they aren’t interested in women’s work:

  • They just . . . just aren’t INTERESTED, inexplicably, and don’t know what to say when you ask why or what they could possibly believe about ALL women’s work being “not for them.”
  • They have indeed tried women’s work and didn’t like it, insist that the sex of the author has nothing to do with that, and feel justified in generalizing their reaction as applying to any and all literature by women.

You KNOW they have not concluded men suck at writing whenever they read a sucky book by a man, or when they encounter a genre or subject primarily written by men that they aren’t interested in. Yet somehow, even though they’re totally not sexist, guys!, reading a comparatively small number of books by women has given them all they need to know about all women authors–they all write the same, or about the same things, or with the same lower or basic quality that they’re sure they objectively assigned to the sample they’ve read.

I guarantee you some of these men’s favorite books were written by women writing under an androgynous name or deliberately under a man’s name.

Who You Know

Published November 30, 2020 by swankivy

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Yikes. I got a really pushy message from someone once who claimed that his failure to get attention from the agents HAD to be the fault of his lack of connections. And that if I would ask my agent to take a look, he would “get in” with my crowd or something. (And then of course I was Very Rude since I wasn’t able to do that.)

This was an extreme example, but some people do think like this–that everyone who got scooped up from a query or succeeded at the things they’ve failed at must have a secret they’re not sharing, and that said secret is likely about inside deals and corporate connections. Not sure how they don’t realize how insulting that is to those of us who certainly did not lean on nepotism to receive attention in the arts.

That said, there’s nothing at all wrong with “using” connections you might possess to make an introduction, get an audience, request a favor. You’ve earned those connections and those relationships, and you would do it for someone else in your network if it were in your power. Right?

It’s just never going to work for these kinds of people, who think everything’s rigged and they just have to find the right person to rig it for them next.

Used to Be

Published October 31, 2020 by swankivy

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Was reading over some of my old stuff and revisiting a book I want to finish soon. But it’s written way better than I thought I could write, and I don’t know if I’m actually that good anymore. It’s weird to feel impostor syndrome inspired by your own dang past self.

Seriously, can’t this book just write itself? I don’t know if it can trust me….