(Guest Blog Post by A.C. Wise.)
As authors, it’s natural to be protective of our work. We pour our hearts into our words, and when someone comes back with a critique – even a solicited one – it can sting. There’s often an urge to puff up, get defensive, and say: That’s not what I meant, or You’re reading it wrong, or even simply, You are wrong. However, there’s a stark difference between legitimate criticism and complaining for the sake of complaining, like those one-star Amazon reviews trashing a book because the customer didn’t like the box it came in, or the shipment arrived a day late. The best criticism is aimed at making a piece stronger, and it is worth listening to—especially when you are writing about a character (or characters) unlike yourself.
As a cisgender author writing about trans characters in The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, I am sharply aware of the need to listen. Trans stories aren’t necessarily mine to tell, but at the same time, I don’t believe that means I should only write about people exactly like me. What it does mean is that I need to tell the stories that aren’t mine with as much respect and care as possible, and I need to listen when someone tells me I got it wrong. This holds true for all authors writing someone whose experience is outside their own.
It isn’t easy. There is no universal experience, no one true way to be trans, or male, or neuro-atypical, or anything. We are all human beings; we all have our own backgrounds and baggage and things that will strike a nerve. Something that makes me sit up and say: Hey, that isn’t me, you’re doing it all wrong, may reflect another person’s experience perfectly. Or it may not. The trick is to listen to what the people who might share common experiences with your characters that you don’t are saying to you about how they’re written, and try to understand their perspective.
As authors, we know words matter; we know stories matter. The stories we choose to tell, and the words we use to tell them are important. They carry weight. They carry an extra weight when it comes to stories that are already under-represented—stories about queer people, people of color, stories that have historically been pushed to the margins and ignored. Even though the culture is changing, it’s a slow change. There are few enough positive stories out there that the ones perpetuating negative stereotypes and tropes, or further marginalizing already marginalized characters, hurt even more.
I can’t promise that I got everything right in The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again. However, I can promise that I did my best to write my characters from a place of respect. And I can promise to listen when you tell me I got it wrong, and to try to do better the next time.
Now, to seal my promise with a toast, I’ll leave you with a cocktail recipe designed especially for Uncanny Magazine by the Glitter Squadron’s own bartender supreme, Sapphire.
From Sapphire’s Little Black Book of Cocktails
The Uncanny Unicorn (Shot)
1/2 oz Chambord
1/2 oz Pinnacle Rainbow Sherbet Vodka
1/2 oz White Creme de Cacao
Edible Glitter Garnish
Using a spoon against the side of a shot glass, slowly pour Chambord, Creme de Cacao, and Rainbow Sherbet Vodka to create a layered effect. Top with a dusting of edible glitter.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t normally create shots; I prefer to sip and savor my cocktails. But some cases call for it. The Uncanny Unicorn is an uncannily sweet drink, best enjoyed as a short, sharp shock, or a shot, as the case may be. Even in small doses, the Uncanny Unicorn might be enough to make you think you’re in space, even when you’re standing on firm ground looking up at the stars. The Space Unicorn Ranger Corp and the Glitter Squadron have a lot in common. They both kick ass and save the world in their own way—whether it’s with art, poetry, stories, and essays that set the way you see things askew in the best possible way, or whether it’s with sequins and high heels, both set out to shake up the status quo. And that is a something worth toasting. Cheers!
(Editor’s Note: A.C. Wise’s collection The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again was released on October 20 and is now available from Lethe Press. For another marvelous A.C. Wise tale, please check out her Uncanny Magazine story “The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate.”)