The Oddity of Categories

I have been busy selling the house and finding my way in life. I hope that nobody has been put out with my lack of keeping up. I will do better, I must do better. This week I write about my book and an interesting thing that happened with Amazon. I am debating my next two posts will be about cooking. Should I do pie or juicing?

I am going to write about something that a lot of people hold dear. I hope that I am sensitive and open enough to do this in a way that is neither offending or idiotic. Though I suppose I will come across as idiotic a lot, and I would prefer that then to be offending. I do not understand how Amazon works. This should be obvious as I attempt to sell my book Monster’s Children. I thought I understood, but it is obvious I do not. You see when I started writing my book I wanted a strong female protagonist. Not because I understand anything about women, but because every great protagonist I have loved in novels has been a woman. My mother and my grandmother have made sure I think badass women are badass. The thought of a badass woman doing badass things is just awesome. But I wanted a love story, and I really had no idea how to write lusting after a man. So, I had her falling in love with her female teammate. Now I know as little about the lesbian experience as I know about the female experience, but it felt more natural to write about falling for a woman, and so that is what I did. All of this becomes important in a minute, please bear with me.

When faced with choosing the categories for my novel I thought, well it is contemporary yet filled with magic and myth. Looking around I saw that most of the stories similar to mine were labeled “dark fantasy” or “urban fantasy.” So that is what I picked when prompted. I had keywords to choose from and I picked all things about fantasy and myth, except one. Several beta readers liked that I had a strong female protagonist that was also LGBT. So, on their advice, I used “LGBT” as a single keyword out of seven and I went about my merry way. I gave none of this much thought as the relationship is not a key component of the story. Sure, it is part of the story, and as the book becomes a series their relationship will blossom into something amazing.

After I released my book things got a little weird. I did a free book promotion and saw that among free books my book was ranked at #1134 at one point and #1 in one category, and #3 in another. This was cool, I was excited, and then I noticed. Amazon categorized it as “Lesbian Fantasy” and “Lesbian Romance.” I have no issue with this because I love the LGBT community. But then I started to worry. All these people buying my book are going to realize it is not a romance novel and that lesbianism is only a small part of the story. What if they are all upset? I mean if I get a sifi book toted as a thriller placed on Mars, I am going to be disappointed when only three pages are actually on Mars. I do not want my readers disappointed. I was nervous enough just writing an LGBT character when I am in fact not LGBT. I mean I do not want to be “that guy” appropriating someone else’s story for my own. Now I have to worry that I am taking someone else’s place who might actually be a lesbian, or worse in the appropriation angle someone might think I am pretending to be one. I just wanted to tell the story that I wanted to read. Allow me to reiterate I know nothing about Lesbian Romance and I do not claim to.

This to me creates two things I do not know how to properly express, but I will try. One, I do not know how many writers share this kind of nervous twitch that I have, but trust me I worry about everything when it comes to my book. I want people to read it. But I do not want them to read it thinking it is something it is not. I want them to appreciate the story and love it. I do not want to take a place that an actual lesbian writer deserves. I mean they are lesbians, they have a much more valid experience which will be part of their books. My book does not focus on this aspect seeing as I was trying to tell a story about magic and mayhem. I must then apologize to the lesbian author that should have been #1 the three days my book was there, and apologize to the readers who downloaded it wanting a lesbian romance as central to the story. Now let me be clear, I would love for lesbians to read and enjoy my book. Hell, I would love it so much that if a lesbian blogger decides on a favorable review of my book I will do drunken cartwheels (attempted I mean (the cartwheel, not the drunk, I can do the drunk)), because it would be amazing. I just want what all writers want and that is my story to be enjoyed.

The second thing that I do not know how to express (that I realize now actual LGTB writers must face daily) is that it is weird to me that a single keyword would become the center point of all categorization. What I mean is, there were seven keywords, and only one of them became important to both the categorizations, while one other was kinda used (fantasy). The entirety of the weight was automatically placed on a single keyword. That seems weird to me. Why does this one word become the most important in the algorithm? Is our society so fixated on sexuality and gender that it becomes the only defining characteristic? I have a minor trans character in the second book, and she becomes important in later books (is my plan). The trans aspect is only mentioned once well after introduction to the character. But still the character is there, does this mean that my second book will be a “Trans Fantasy?” Part of me thinks that would be super cool, the other part thinks it should just be Fantasy. It makes me sad that Fantasy actually means “Straight Fantasy.” Which if we are segregating everyone else out, is exactly what it means. It is the same in my mind that when movies say they had to replace POC characters because they are Americanizing the film what they are saying is that an American film is European.

I will never claim to share the same experience as people in the LGBT community. But it is eye-opening to me that everything else about my book was placed on the wayside for this one single attribute. Being of mixed heritage and an enrolled tribal member I have seen something similar when it is discovered I am part native. Suddenly everything about me in the audience’s eye is all about native. Which is weird. I mean I grew up on the rez and stuff, but let’s face it I am as pale as they come. I am not a POC, not really. My siblings who are darker skinned I think of POC, but I have blonde hair and blue eyes. I do not share the negative experiences they share out in the world. Let’s face it mixed or not, I experience life from a vantage point of privilege because one parent’s genes were stronger than the other’s.

I have always realized this and accepted it. I even once got upset with another lighter skinned individual who tried to commiserate with me about how we are treated by society as POC. I may have been impolite to him because it irritated me. When I go into a store nobody realizes that they have a chance to discriminate. I look as white as they come. I could have been on the Brady Bunch. I am the poster boy for several Saur Kraut companies (and if there are any I do need sponsorship). Trying to claim the experience of a POC is insulting what my family has to go through on a daily basis. They face discrimination, from folks they just met for no other reason than they are dark skinned. That guy just irritated me, and in my experience belittled what other people go through. I am not advocating colorism here, I am just saying, I can pass, it makes things different.

I am not trying to be that guy, but my eyes are opening to the struggle of the LGBT community of writers. You can’t be fantasy writers, you can’t be sifi writers, you can’t be horror writers, or romance writers, or western writers, or detective writers, or history writers; because sadly the world will always see you as LGBT writers. Heck, you have your own category on Amazon just to segregate you and your fantasy books. If I just search fantasy categories I will never find the great and amazing works of potential authors I might like. That makes me sad. It makes me sad that I might be missing out on great books, I love books. Good authors are hard enough to find without twenty different categories used to keep us all segregated.

I guess I will just end by saying thank you to everyone who has read my book. I hope you liked it, and I am sorry if it was not what you were looking for when you tried it out. I would ask that folks please suggest good authors in the comments from all kinds of groups of people that I might have missed in my life because someone decided that they needed their own category and I did not realize that was true. Here I am my own ignorance on display, and asking to be educated.

Well, l hope you have something to say about my post, and that you are willing to help me figure out how to not be a jackass. I also need help, should my next cooking post be about pie or juicing? Also, I need/want a trans sensitivity reader to read the draft of Tricksters’ War II “Raven’s Spear” to ensure I got the character semi-accurate.

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