How did “Finding Home” come about?
“Finding Home” was one of those stories where the first line popped into my head while I was at work, and I just had to know where it led from there. I knew from the outset that, even with an opening about a family fleeing their reality, it needed to be positive, and have a happy ending.
What role did the awesome productivity tool Habatica play in the creation of this story, and how do you use it to boost your creativity in general? It’s such an open-ended way of questing for getting stuff down, how do you min/max it?
I love Habitica! All the avatars and pets and mounts and monsters are just so cute. I tend to use it for positive rewards—so setting up habits with a positive side only means that when I do something, I get XP and gold or loot. And if I didn’t do something, well, nothing happens. I dislike punishment systems since I don’t find that helpful to me at all. I keep the dailies to a minimum, and don’t involve writing in that column. I can’t write every day, and that’s fine, so I keep the writing-focused goals (habits or to-dos) separate. Habitica is awesome for allowing lots of customization for whatever process works for you. Also? I just got a blue T. rex and it is ADORABLE.
I loved your essay “I Don’t Want Your Queer Tragedy: A Parable.” This story, and your body of work overall, engages with the important mission of EVERYONE SHOULD SEE THEMSELVES IN HAPPY ENDINGS! Why do you think some straight writers are so fond of killing queer characters?
Society and wider narratives, whether written or visual or both, have for a long, long time framed queerness as something wrong or tragic. Of course this is a lie. The problem is that, to varying degrees, we’re all taught by culture or fiction narratives that only cishet people (often white, usually male) deserve positive endings to their stories, or can go on when the story ends. The trope of “tragic queers” is, for me, incredibly toxic, because when that was all I saw as a small!Merc, I did not think I was allowed to grow up or live or look forward to a future if I wasn’t straight and cis.
So, I try to believe that for most straight authors, it’s not malicious (I know sometimes it is, and this makes me so sad). Perhaps it’s unconscious bias, unexamined mindsets, ingrained beliefs that are never questioned—whatever the case may be, if it’s ignorance, at least that can be adjusted, if the author wishes to learn and do better.
The question I would ask most straight authors who feel a need to include tragic queers is: “Why?” Why do you feel this is necessary? Why do you feel this is your story to tell? Can you not see us alive, with a future, and happy? Or do you not want to see us that way?
It’s incredibly hard to envision a future for yourself when you are told, explicitly or implicitly, to your face or through stories you want so badly to see yourself in, that you don’t deserve to exist. We need more empathy, compassion, kindness, hope. We need to see ourselves with a future.
Each choice in a story—who to include, who lives, who is happy—says something. If your story kills off the only queer people shown, what do you think that tells the young queer reader who’s turning the pages, hoping they don’t see themselves dead yet again? Please consider what you are saying when you write.
Stories are powerful; they can change lives. I want so much for more stories to offer hope for us to live.
For queer (and non-queer) readers yearning for stories about queer characters that aren’t tragedies, what stories or lists do you recommend? What are you reading right now?
I’m following a couple comics, like Eth’s Skin (eths-skin.com) (which has a non-binary protagonist and a cute queer mermaid and an ace guy and a cranky selkie and is just ADORABLE!), and O Human Star (ohumanstar.com) (gorgeous, queer, adorable SF!). In the short fiction scene, I tend to follow recommendation lists by fellow queer and trans writers, such as what author Bogi Takács (prezzey.net/speculative-fiction) curates with #diversestories and #diversepoems hashtags on twitter (you can find em at: @bogiperson); I love what Nebula-nominated author Rose Lemberg (roselemberg.net) is doing in their Birdverse series of stories; when I come across stories I love, I try to promote them—usually on Twitter or Facebook—because it always delights me when I find wonderful things.
You’ve written on your blog about having auditory/sensory issues. How do you think this has influenced your writing process?
It’s definitely affected where I can physically write. Super bright or florescent lights are painful for extended periods of time (over thirty minutes at a stretch). I like dimmer settings, or natural lighting, so windows are great if they allow in daylight. For auditory, this is actually a bigger issue than lights for me—I can’t deal with unfocused sound. So, for example, I love music that has a strong beat, and I will listen to Rammstein at high volume all the time, but I can’t handle crowded spaces where everyone is talking, or there is a high reverb quality (large spaces, or venues with echo-y rooms) because that’s painful. I need to control the volume of sound, and the specific kinds of sound. Total silence is good. I bring earbuds or headphones pretty much anywhere I go so, if needed, I can either mute out some of the ambient noise, or else cancel out whatever sounds are hurting me with music that I’ve specifically picked and am familiar with. (This is also why I can’t listen to the radio and dislike being in spaces where there is music on the overheads—unfamiliar, or even familiar songs I dislike, are difficult to cope with for more than a few minutes at a time due to having to process the audio.) So, yeah. As long as I can control the auditory input, I can work with or without music, though I do prefer to write to music.
Auditory and lighting stimuli are themes I work with quite often in my stories—whether it’s how things sound, or the interplay of sound and silence, light and shadow, the different sensory issues I experience have found their way into fiction quite a lot!
If you could biologically reconstruct yourself into any entity, what would you pick?
A spaceship. A SPACE SQUID. Because how awesome would that be? (This is totally Ada Hoffmann’s (ada-hoffmann.com) fault, by the way. She’s written about squidships and it’s all so great.)
In your mind, did the original universe literally end? Or was it a metaphorical ending after the dad left, which compelled Mama to jump from universe to universe?
I think it’s more a metaphorical ending; since they left when Joseph was a child, he’s inclined to believe it was literal, though. Sometimes loss can feel like your whole universe has been upended or just ended.
Why do you think Mama is still so compelled to travel? Do you think she will ever hook back up with Dr. Amelia?
Part of Mama’s motivation to travel is, I think, the fact that she is still processing her grief. She has lost someone deeply important to her—her husband. Healing is not a quick, or linear, or understandable process, sometimes. It’s messy and awkward and sometimes it takes a long, long time, if at all. And that is okay.
Also, spoiler alert, but yes, she totally gets back with Amelia later on. Because I believe in happy endings.
What is your home?
This is a hard question, because I don’t know. I’m still looking, I guess. There are places I have lived, I have had a “home address,” but on a gut-level I don’t know that I’ve found home. One day I think I will. I’m optimistic that way.
Joseph is such an amazingly together person. He finds a home with Amand, but I feel that in order to do that, he first found a home in himself that helps him find such a lovely connection. Joseph seems to have a great gut sense for who he is and recognizing what is good and what he wants. How do you think he cultivated such togetherness and trust in his gut instincts?
From his mom, and friends met and sometimes lost along his journey. In a lot of ways, this is how I feel I have formed a sense of self: My own mom is amazing and such an inspiration and support to me, and I have a blessing of so many wonderful friends who have helped me realize my best self. I may not literally be traveling through other universes (YET), but different sets of changes and growing up to understand who you are as a person are factors I think a lot of us wrestle with in life. I wanted to imply as much as show/tell that Joseph has had many wonderful connections in his life, even if many are bittersweet or sad when he had to move.
I’m trying to think of a good question about queerness or trans-ness in this story, but my mind just goes to “awesome, yay!” It’s part of the story, part of a person finding their home and skin, but it feels like a natural part of their wholeness, and finding joy in unconditional acceptance. Is there a queer/trans question you would like to be asked? Is there a queer/trans question that you would love to never be asked again?
A question I really don’t want to be asked again, or see other queer and trans writers asked, is the one about “but why did you make X trans/queer/NB/something-other-than-cishetwhite-norm?”
It’s weird to see or read fiction that so heavily relies on one subset of humanity, as if 99% of the population consists of cishet white men. Despite what some gatekeepers appear to think, that’s not reality. Reality is vast and complex and awesome; there is no homogenous monolith of queer or trans people, any more than there is for any other person group.
A question I am okay with being asked is along the lines of “why do you write about happiness and hope and positive things with regards to queer and trans and non-binary characters?” Because that is important. It is overwhelmingly, mind-bogglingly important! Everyone needs to see themselves. But more importantly, for me, at least, people need to have the opportunity to see themselves portrayed well. With compassion and complexity, with respect and dignity, with happiness and joy and hope.
If all you see is darkness, it’s hard not to succumb to that despair. We need light. We need to know that there are others out there who are like us, that it is okay to be yourself, that we deserve to live.
Until positive queer and trans narratives are as common as tragic ones, I will always try for positives. For hope.
Do you have any projects you would like to tell us about?
I’m super excited about several forthcoming stories, yes! I’ll have a story about queer families and gender and robots in the July/August issue of Cicada; a post-apocalypse tale about a genderqueer person searching for their family that’ll be in Shimmer at some point; and a flash fic about love, cursed roses, and hope that’ll be published in Daily Science Fiction.
I got derailed on the novel front for the last six months or so because I was finishing college (!!!) in March, and needed some time to recover. But soon I plan to dive back into that wordsmithing adventure—I’m aiming to finish revisions on a fantasy novel about necromancers by late summer, and I will be drafting a space opera novel, set in my Principality Suns universe, over the summer/fall as well. YAY FOR STAYING BUSY.
And of course writing more short stories with happy queer and trans characters. If one of my stories can help someone who’s struggling, help them find hope and the will to keep trying, I consider that the highest success and that’s what makes all the difficult times worth it.
Spread the word!