Will "The Chronicles of Firma" Ever Cease to Be a 'Gay Fantasy Series'?

by Pat Nelson Childs

As we progress into a new millenium, I sometimes reflect sadly on how little has been done to "normalize" gayness in our society. Of course, I mean American society, because Europe and even our neighbors to the north are light years ahead of us in this respect. To be fair, our government doesn't execute gays (if you ever saw the video of the two gay Iranian teens being executed, you might think twice about how bad things are for us here), and we've reached a point where even most conservative pundits support legal rights for gays, though generally more in theory than in practice (and no, Ann Coulter doesn't count. The only "value" she represents is the size of her royalty checks). Even President Bush has come out (sorry poor choice of words) in favor of civil unions. I point this out simply to illustrate how far we've actually managed to come in the past 20 years in some respects. A sitting Republican president (and staunch Christian Conservative) publicly expressing support for civil unions? If that isn't progress, I don't know what is.

But these things are more in the nature of political progress. What I've always been more interested in (and think is far more important) is achieving the "normalization" of alternative sexualities, a state in which the sight of two men sharing a kiss on a bus or in a TV commercial doesn't immediately produce waves of indignant outrage and endless punditry about the decline of Western civilization. Does it strike anyone else as odd that gays can adopt children in most states with the blessing of the majority, but that same majority goes absolutely ape shit if two girls hold hands on the bus? Gays can adopt children as long as they don't show any love for one another? Isn't that going to produce a way more fucked-up kid than one who just happens to have two mommies?

This, in my opinion, is where the real work needs to be done. Anyone who has heard me tell my teenaged fans to "be good ambassadors" knows my feelings on this issue. While I don't advocate abandoning our fight to obtain our legal rights through whatever means works, we also need to keep in mind that not everyone in that fight necessarily has all our bests interests at heart. There are those out there who want, or rather, need gays to remain a fringe, counterculture (and unequivocably far-left) minority, and who will do anything to sabotage what common ground we might find with god-fearing, family-loving, middle-American heterosexuals (in other words, just about everyone else with whom we share this country). Many of them, like many of the old guard in the civil rights movement, have made a comfortable (if not obscene) livelihood by selling us the culture of victimization, and are not likely to let their gravy trains pull out of the station without a fight. Others are simply afraid of losing their "specialness" (think men in nun drag). These people do their best to make mainstream America think that they represent some kind of monolithic "gay value system". What they really are in a sub-culture with a hard left agenda in which ALL traditional American values, social norms and moral judgments are evil and wrong. They firmly believe that everyone who dwells in the grim wasteland that lies between New York and San Francisco is a gun-totin' bible-thumper, and they insist that every good, self-respecting gay person believe it too. For this group, the assimilation of gays into the mainstream is unthinkable, and anyone who doesn't share their view, gay or straight, is the enemy.

Before you start the hate mail, this is not meant to depict every gay activist out there. People like Wayne Besen, Executive Director of "Truth Wins Out" (www.truthwinsout.org) is just one example of a GLBT advocate, of whom there are many, who regularly seeks to engage rather than simply vilify those who oppose gay rights. Does this mean that we have no enemies? It absolutely does not. Someone is buying up millions of copies of Ann Coulter's diatribes, after all, and there are plenty more people out there just like her. The nuns in drag, however, would have you believe that she represents the mainstream, just as they pretend, with the blessing of Ms. Coulter's ilk, to represent the "gay community" (an oxymoron if ever I heard one). Essentially, they are two sides of the same coin, and equally savage toward anyone who challenges, or even questions, the legitimacy of the war they're propagating.

Now what, you may ask, has any of this to do with "The Chronicles of Firma"? If you're not asking that, give yourself a gold star. If you haven't read the first two books of "The Chronicles of Firma", let me 'splain. COF, as several reviewers have mentioned, is not a "gay" Fantasy series. It is a Fantasy series in which the lead characters are gay - a meaningful difference. Although the heroes deal with prejudice in their world, Firma is a land that has progressed several steps ahead of present-day America on the issue of sexuality, and so prejudice comes mainly from idiots and thugs. Even the villains don't care that Rokey and Flash are "samers". Their reasons for wanting them dead have nothing whatsoever to do with their sexuality. As the vast majority of the denizens of Firma have come to believe, whom one chooses to love is largely a non-issue. I chose to create such a world because I wanted my books to reach beyond the gay niche market - to be entertaining and engaging for anyone with an open mind about alternative sexuality (as well as the legitimacy of the Fantasy genre in general, but that's a whole other blog). Though my two lovers battle ratmen, harpies, evil necromancers and numerous other bizarre entities, I wanted their romance to be normal, i.e. one that anyone, gay or straight, could identify with and root for. This is also what I want for the next generation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. I want them to be able to hold hands with their significant other, even (god forbid) share a kiss in public, without it being touted as another example of "the gay agenda" at work. I want them to feel free to be liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious, political or apolitical without being made to feel like a traitor to the "gay community".

These may seem like small, insignificant things, but they make a huge impact on people's everyday lives, as well as their sense of self-worth. Equal rights under the law is a laudible and necessary goal, but another, and perhaps ultimately more important one is the right for "gay people" to become "people who happen to be gay" - able to appreciate the many things that all people have in common, while being appreciated themselves for all the other qualities that make them unique and special individuals.

Pat Nelson Childs
“bringing strong gay & lesbian
characters to Sci-Fi & Fantasy”

www.patnelsonchilds.com
www.chroniclesoffirma.com

Comments

msquared's picture

Oh yes. "But don't be

Oh yes.

"But don't be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it."
-Stephen Colbert

jeff's picture

Hmm...

If you consider that the first gay rights groups organized in the 50s, and the modern gay rights movement began in 1969, I don't know how a case could be made that things aren't changing, when I think the rate of change has been, and continues to be, rapid.

Just in doing this site for 13 years, the age of the people on the site, and the level and detail with which they are dealing with gender and sexuality, there's almost no comparing the first wave and this crop.

You yourself note that our conservative Republican Christian president, who was selected to lead by Jesus Christ himself (note: only the president and not Jesus has verified this claim) supports gay rights on some level.

Your example is pretty easy. People adopting kids is a non-sexualized activity, whereas two girls on the bus holding hands might want to go fuck. With few movies or dominant media showing gay intimacy, it is still taboo. Even the gay roles on TV, they have no sexual lives, just witty comebacks.

I've said quite often that we need to only wait for one more generation to die out for this to be over with. The current young generation doesn't have this view of gays and gay rights, and every successively older generation is slightly less isolated from gay issues, so it's just time. But, like I said, it's hard to complain a 40 year civil rights struggle is taking too long.

I fail to see how the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who raise money for various gay non-profits and were at the frontlines of the AIDS epidemic in the early 80s are proving American values are evil and wrong. If anything, they represent the values most of the country would be better off emulating. So, I'm not throwing my drag nuns under the bus because some people don't find men in drag representing a religious sect amusing. If the path to our freedom is at the cost of anything that's a bit too "gay," then I'd vote for slower progress.

Most of the hard left element in places like my town of San Francisco have no interest in gay assimilation, but not because it's unthinkable and horrible. We just have better things to worry about than the pace of progress in the fly-over states. People here are living their lives the way they want to, and often because they couldn't live this way in the places where they grew up. Outlandish stuff goes on here every night, but because they want to enjoy life in that way, not to retard the progress of gay liberation. That's giving us way too much credit.

The gay community exists, but it's sort of anarchy. Anyone gay who talks to the media represents gays. You can fight the concept of a gay community, or question the image we put out at gay pride... you just won't make any progress. So, this definitely falls under "accept the things I can't change" to steal language from the religious.

I think art is one of the things that changes attitudes, so you're on the right path there. I wouldn't worry whether it's a gay series or a series with gay characters, etc., that's hair-splitting for the media to worry about. I plan to be a very openly gay author, and my book has nearly no gay element. (Although the second novel, which I recently began researching is going to be very gay, since it deals with intimacy and I ain't going straight for that one, blech)

Of course, even in Firma, things aren't perfect. Your samers can be in love, but they are still racist, battling ratmen, necromancers, and others who are "different" etc. So, how much progress has been made? Are ratmen just samers in nun drag who needed to become the enemy so the more mainstream samers' love would be more accepted by the majority in Firma? :-)

---
"Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment." - Rumi

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patnelsonchilds's picture

Ah, Jeff, you never

Ah, Jeff, you never disappoint. Though most of the young 'uns here probably aren't interested in the views of a couple of old fogies like us, I like to throw things out now and then just to let them know that there are gay people out there who aren't riding the ultra-liberal bandwagon.

I have two point I want to make in response to your post. First, I don't question the good intentions or past good works of the Sisters of yadda yadda. What infuriated me was not their marching in pride parades, but crashing a Catholic mass. Now, I have my own scars from growing up Catholic and going to parochial school, so it wasn't the attack on the institution that irked me. My issue is that, in exchange for whatever point the "good sisters" might have made with their liberal fans was far surpassed by the national outrage they sparked, not just among Catholics, but with many others who don't like to see the beliefs of others denograted. I'm fairly sure that neither you nor the nuns care about the feelings of those people who live in the "fly-over" states, as you call them (thank you for reenforcing my point about liberal elitism), but I would think that anyone who truly had the best interests of gay people in mind would stop to think before committing such an incendiary act. It can only enflame anti-gay sentiments in those who harbor them already, and give those who are on the fence an excuse to come down against us. I'm sure you'll have an argument about how it's okay to bash an anti-gay institution like the Catholic church, and that's not a point I would argue with, except to say that I have yet to see guys dressed as Mohamed crashing a Mosque, or faux Hasidic jews invading a synagogue. All of these actions are wrong, not because they attack the institutions, but because they also mock the people who revere those institutions, even those who may not ascribe to their discriminatory doctrines.

Second, asserting that the heroes in The Chronicles of Firma are racist, even in jest, is both unfair and completely inaccurate. You haven't read my books, so you have no idea how any of my characters are actually portrayed. Trashing books you haven't read to make an idealogical point is something that the far right is often accused of (and often guilty of). I find it ironic that you would indulge in the same irresponsible behavior.

Anyway Jeff, butting heads with you is always an interesting and informative exercise. For those of you reading this exchange, my objective in raising these issues is not necessarily to make you agree with me (or, God forbid, Jeff ;-) ), but just to offer you a different perspective and give you something to think about. Whatever a person's beliefs or views, the better informed they are, the less need they should ever have to play the ugly game of demonizing and disrespecting those with whom they don't agree. We're all guilty of it sometimes. In my last post, I tore down the nuns without explaining why I had a problem with them. That was wrong, and Jeff rightly called me on it. We are none of us perfect, but if more of us are willing to at least try and exchange ideas instead of insults, the world will be a better place in the long run.

Hugs to all,
Patrick

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- Pat Nelson Childs
"bringing strong gay characters to Sci-Fi & Fantasy"

jeff's picture

Eh...

Two sisters went to church and received communion in 2007, didn't do anything to upset the mass, and left. Not sure how that constitutes "crashing." The outrage was all from right wing media who, quite honestly, don't need any reason to report anti-gay things anyway. Like you said:

"It can only enflame anti-gay sentiments in those who harbor them already, and give those who are on the fence an excuse to come down against us." So, drag nuns make people who hate gays remember they hate gays, and people who think they may or may not hate gays think they hate them? Yeah, they're really turning the tide against us there.

I go to the east coast to visit family, and to Broadway in NYC... I've yet to find any reason to stop much in the middle. But it's not like I think good or bad about the people in the middle of the country. They just have yet to put anything there to make me want to have shorter plane rides, although I may go see Bette in Vegas this fall.

Since this is a "Christian nation," it would make more sense that we'd have drag nuns and not Islamic or Jewish counterparts. I mean, you're rattled about two nuns 3,000 miles away in a metropolitan area of a few million (about an incident I never even heard of until Googling it based on this exchange, and it happened a few blocks from my apartment), so by representation alone, it would make sense that you wouldn't have the others. Also, Bill O'Reilly and the type of people who carry the "news" of our nuns around the world wouldn't care about those examples anyway, since it isn't against *their* religion. They're not crusaders defending all religious belief.

Of course, Judaism and Islam are both as anti-gay as Christianity, so I'm fine with any of them being available for scrutiny. At their core, they all have the same origins anyway.

If you were offended by my racism joke, then I do fear there is no hope for you, for anyone incapable of humor on such an obvious level, well... it might speak to why you see the world as so dire. But if it comes down to me reading fantasy books or my just not being able to not joke about them, that is an easy choice for me.

Of course, there is a fatal logic flaw in the whole article, though. Your series can never cease to be a gay fantasy series, because from a historical standpoint, all art is judged based on the time in which it was written. So, by writing an openly gay series in a time where there may not be such visibility in the world of fantasy inexorably links the two. It's like Orwell is always read with regard to when he wrote it, and the time in which he wrote, and sometimes how his work can be relevant to today's world, despite critiquing a different time and place, but art is always a product of its time.

---
"Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment." - Rumi

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underdarkness's picture

The only flaw here is that

The only flaw here is that you fail to see the validity of the article. The issue at hand here is that his characters can't be gay without it being thrown into a category in which it has no place. Will that ever change? It's an entirely valid question.

For the record, there is a difference between scrutiny and bigotry. Find that line, Jeff.

Your racism joke was unfunny and remarkably uninformed. If you call that humor, I would have to pass on reading anything penned by you.

As for your remark about the "fly-over" states, you're remarkably devoid of culture. There is more to the world than literature and musicals, however awesome both of those are. You're missing out on the world, despite the fact that you've made it perfectly clear that you have no desire to be a part of it. If you want change, enter yourself into society, not just the gay sect that you've joined, effectively shunning the rest of us.

- One Nation, Under Darkness, with liberty and justice for white, heterosexual, rich, Christian men

jeff's picture

Well...

You can't have it both ways, though. Pat's tagline is that he's bringing strong gay characters to the world of sci0fi and fantasy, but then also wants it to just be a fantasy story first where characters' sexuality is not an issue. You can't need to do the former and then also want the latter, they are of two different worlds.

And, like I said, even if fantasy eventually changes to be more accepting, this series will still exist before that change, or as part of that change, but will be viewed historically in the time it was written.

Bigotry indicates intolerance, whereas I am only indifferent.

I actually don't want to be part of society in general as well as gay society, so it's not either/or, it's neither.

---
"Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment." - Rumi

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underdarkness's picture

Again, you miss the point

Again, you miss the point and completely disregard the actual question at hand.

The question, the title of the article, is not focusing entirely upon Pat's series but more upon any similar books written at any point in time. He used his books as a reference because they're something that a lot of users on this site have read, so people know what he's talking about. Clearly, you don't and missed the point entirely.

So, I will rephrase the question to be clear. In fact, this question kind of sums up the entire article:

Will homo culture ever be assimilated into hetero culture? I would guess that Pat doesn't say it so bluntly because he rejects the idea of a "gay community", but such a thing definitely exists in literature.

That is all he's asking.

- One Nation, Under Darkness, with liberty and justice for white, heterosexual, rich, Christian men

jeff's picture

Uhh...

Eventually, it will be assimilated. As religion plays a smaller part in people's lives (and most anti-gay sentiment stems from religion), gay culture will be fully integrated until the anti-gay religious element will be relegated to the level of how KKK represents the overt anti-black religious element now. It exists, but the culture has largely moved on.

It's not like I didn't realize the question of the article, it's just a topic I'm not interested in. And, it's sort of the Internet, so anything can be a jumping off point or a tangent, so I took the bits I had issue/interest with and discussed them. Just like if someone posts a journal entry about being depressed but mentions a TV show in the process, I can opt to only reply and mention my thoughts on that TV show and say nothing about the other 90 percent of what they wrote.

---
"Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment." - Rumi

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underdarkness's picture

So, in the case of a journal

So, in the case of a journal stating, "I'm going to go kill myself, but not before watching the L Word," you'd comment on the TV show instead?

Okay, that's beside the point. Point is, you DID comment on other aspects of the article, in an extremely uninformed and cavalier manner.

Some of what you said needed to be said. I agree with you on the nuns. They have every right to participate in communion if they so choose, though the concept of drag nuns makes no sense anyway. However, while making this point you decided to throw in unnecessary additives that you thought were funny (which really just showed you to be grossly uninformed, coupled with a complete inability to form a funny joke). Then, you decided to comment on the message of the article as a whole and came up with an answer that had very little to do with the article itself. Essentially, your current answer is all you needed to give in the first place. You read the question far too literally and answered rudely and, more than likely, incorrectly. That is all I've been pointing out.

For the love of the sweet, baby Jesus, if you're uninterested in the question at hand, don't answer it.

- One Nation, Under Darkness, with liberty and justice for white, heterosexual, rich, Christian men

jeff's picture

Err...

Depressed is not suicidal.

---
"Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment." - Rumi

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underdarkness's picture

Jeff missed the point again,

Jeff missed the point again, cool.

- One Nation, Under Darkness, with liberty and justice for white, heterosexual, rich, Christian men

underdarkness's picture

Running out of room. EEEK! -

Running out of room. EEEK!

- One Nation, Under Darkness, with liberty and justice for white, heterosexual, rich, Christian men

msquared's picture

I just have to make a quick

I just have to make a quick interjection about the comment on religion and acceptance of gays. It's doubtless that religion plays a huge part in homophobia, but it's definitely not the only reason. What about the huge stigma around gays in countries like China that aren't monotheistic? Gender identities play quite a role as well. A really great book for everyone on this site to read would be "Dude, You're a Fag" by a woman named...Rascoe, I think. It's a sociological study on sexuality and masculinity in high school, and it does a great job of explaining how gender roles are embedded into our society. 'Tis an eye-opener, fo shizz!

"But don't be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it."
-Stephen Colbert

patnelsonchilds's picture

Just like me, your

Just like me, your perception is your reality. For me to go into the innumerable ways that the left demagogues and misrepresents the right would just start a contentious back and forth that would, in the end, be pointless. I try my best to understand the point of view of those with whom I don't agree, given the fact that I'm only human. Perhaps you do as well.

I'm not sure what sort of hope you're referring to. As I said before, I recognized the attempt at humor. I just didn't find the punchline funny. Perhaps I am overly sensitive because of the four years and thousands of hours of work that I've put into creating Firma and its characters. I have learned to accept all types of legitimate criticism of my books from those who've read them, but I guess I'll also have to work on shrugging off bad jokes about them too. As to my "dire" view of the world, you got me there. I have no idea what you're talking about. I view the world as a troubled place, but I have great faith in the general desire of people to improve it. I believe in the greatness of the country in which I live and in its inexorable march forward both socially and politically. I have a different view of how that should and will happen, but in general, I view the future with great optimism.

Your last paragraph really makes a great point, and one that I hadn't considered. I suppose COF will always be viewed in the context of the time in which it was written, though I hope it will have the power to escape that context and be accessible to people of future generations as well. Writers write for a multitude of reasons. One of mine is so that I can live on into the future. Most people have children for that purpose, but as that is a highly unlikely (though not completely impossible) option for me at this point, I write books. There's nothing in the world that makes me happier than giving some lonely, disaffected teenager characters that they can identify with and a story that pulls them in and enthralls them. If that can continue happening long after I'm dead, then I'll have achieved all of the goals to which I've dedicated the rest of my life.

We don't see the world the same way, and we probably never will. It doesn't mean that I'm a bad person, or that I think you're a bad person. I've never considered the sharing of my views on anything to be a litmus test for either friendship or love. If I had, my life would have been far less colorful, and I'd have missed out on countless opportunities to learn from those whose beliefs are different than mine.

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- Pat Nelson Childs
"bringing strong gay characters to Sci-Fi & Fantasy"

underdarkness's picture

It's a great article, Pat. I

It's a great article, Pat. I heartily disagree on some points, but the overall message is valid.

- One Nation, Under Darkness, with liberty and justice for white, heterosexual, rich, Christian men

patnelsonchilds's picture

Thanks sweetie. Hey, I don't

Thanks sweetie. Hey, I don't want people to agree with everything I say, or everything that anyone else says. My reason for writing opinion pieces is to give people another point of view and to encourage them to arrive at their beliefs by thinking critically rather than just parroting someone else's bullshit (including mine!).

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Please visit my Myspace Profile and add me as a friend.
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- Pat Nelson Childs
"bringing strong gay characters to Sci-Fi & Fantasy"