Saturday, December 9, 2017

I Tell Stories

In this day and age of...political correctness...and all of that stuff that I legitimately don't understand, am mostly ignorant of and/or don't pay much attention to when it is in the media, I often find an author/writer...wannabe novelist

Hear me out.

First and foremost, I am a storyteller.

I tell stories.

If it comes to me, however it comes to me, I will tell it. I understand many novelists/writers can come under criticism because of things they write. People begin to associate the content within a story to a person, personally, even when the person is a completely separate entity from the things they write! And I believe this with all my heart!

Now, in my case, I'm talking specifically about fiction. Non-fiction writers? Hell if I know. That's not my area of "expertise".

But fiction writers? Come on. Separate them from their work. We tell stories. The stories may be weird, dark, dangerous, aweing, sad, treacherous, deplorable—but they're not real. Nor are they reflections of ourselves.

What am I trying to get at with this...?

My story, Human Shed Skin, is such a perfect example of something I've been struggling with...for as long as I can remember. And I don't care how much you think you know me, nor do I care who you are: prepare to learn something new about lil' o' me(i).

...I really have to get this off my chest...

Nowadays, I see so many people who complain, rightfully, about the lack of representation and diversity—real, positive diversity—in the media. Books, TV shows, movies, you name it. Podcasts, radio, blogs, art, music, sports...It goes on and on.

Here's my story.

Growing up, it was important to me that I saw people of my ethnicity, anywhere. Doing anything or everything. All that was important to me was being accepted for who I was, inside and out. I identified with and could relate to the strange people in the media, I liked the different people I saw in the media. That was good enough for me. For the most part.

This isn't to say I never reached out, wanted or looked for ethnic, dark-skinned or more relatable alternatives; I'll never forget the day I saw a Mermaid Barbie doll I wanted. I chose it and was about to leave the toy aisle....until I saw a brown-skinned mermaid doll. I DROPPED that light-skinned doll and ran away with the brown-skinned one like a miner who struck gold. I wish I kept that doll...because when the hell do you EVER see dark-skinned fricking mermaids?! I knew that, even back then! I was always very aware of the significance of such things!

Most of my childhood is blurry and dreamlike, anyway, so I'm actually the unreliable one as far as what I did is concerned. All I do vividly remember is how I felt, the things that went through my mind. The things I kept to myself...for so long...that are only coming out, today. Damn, have I been in the closet for too fucking long...

Fast-forward to my earliest remembered days of writing stories—actual stories. And what would you know. My favorite characters I wrote about...were not black. Were not dark-skinned. Hell, aside from the very early days when I was obsessed with romance fantasy stories, they weren't even girls.

They were all light-skinned guys.

And I was totally okay with that. Because I was writing a story. The way I saw it in my mind was the way I told it.

Did I mention, again, outside of that whole romance fantasy fiasco, the guys themselves were not heterosexual?...At all?

I had to change the character in some drastic way to either make them bisexual, or heterosexual. And I hated doing that, because I've been writing homoerotica for...whew, a long time (poorly, but a damn long time). I only did that to make the stories "safe" enough for family members to read. Hell, I still do that...and it makes me sad that I have to do it. Thanks, guys.

Furthermore, I had to change the character to make them dark-skinned, too. My #1 dark-skinned character known to my family was originally light-skinned. I had to change that. Why? Because...diversity? Hell if I remember why, anymore...It was 11 years ago. I was always worried if the character's nose was "too white", if their hair was "too straight"...or if I should just stop worrying since the damn character is a fictional one of the fantasy genre, damn it all.

And now, at 25 years old, I am struggling with the now profound realization (due to the media; thanks, guys) that I am a black author whose very extensive personal library of original and transformative works comprises 90% of light-skinned people who I might as well just call white. And I mean that; no light-skinned Asians, here, in other words, or anything of the sort.

To this day, I am still changing the skintones of my characters to make them dark-skinned. Sometimes it works, other times...I feel as if I am doing something wrong. Because it is wrong. I shouldn't have to change a character's skintone or ethnicity just to fit some sort of mold of black authors writing about black people because...blackness? Oh, and don't get me started on the fact that I write about MEN 99% of the time! Women?! BORING! I hate writing women!! All male cast, for the WIN! At least, for my stories.

I personally know why it is important to see cultural, gender and sexual diversity and a metaphorical rainbow of skintones (hell, even hair textures!) in literature. Don't even go there. But I don't fit that mold for the things I write, never have, and it's never bothered me before. It's only starting to bother me now because, like so much of what I am, I'm starting to feel guilty for it. All the more reason for me to say "fuck you" to that. Making me feel for the umpteenth time that I have to "Defend My Blackness™".

I am a storyteller.

If my main character is a white guy with blue eyes and blond hair from a rich family who falls in love with a supernatural creature that also initially takes the form of a white man with brown hair and green eyes but later changes their appearance into a brown-skinned woman with green eyes and curly brown hair—well, that's my fucking story, a la Human Shed Skin.

You know, it's funny. I write stories I would want to read. Yet, I often find myself complaining about the lack of diversity in the media, too. I try to rectify that, myself, as I said before, but those stories normally don't come as naturally as the others. Why...? I truthfully wish I knew. Though, I do have some unfortunate, sad idea...

Now, you're probably thinking, well, then! DO I have any stories about dark-skinned leads/characters/cast/people?! AT ALL?! Yes. Yes, I do.

But then that gets into the other side of what this is all about.

I am a storyteller.

One thing I am a self-proclaimed genius at doing is making up very dark. Twisted. Morally questionable stories, be they fiction or fanfiction. I legitimately couldn't tell you why, either. All of my most favorite stories have such characters in them, either as the main lead or nearly so. Two very new novels I am working on have brown-skinned leads (in fact, I would say one of the leads' skintones is ebony). Both stories, however...emphasize some severely morally questionable things. Or just questionable things, in general, in the eyes of the "general" public, such as polyandry (!!) and polygamy.

Not for any reason. No rhyme, in fact, or reason. That's just my MO. It's what my mind panders to me, makes up for me. I go with it, willingly, happily. It's what I'm good at, so I laugh mockingly in your general direction if you think that's not going to happen because my leads have dark skin and OOH STEREOTYPES.


In all seriousness...I write dark, taboo, twisted, perverse, questionable things. I do not, or may not necessarily support or endorse the things I write. I may have definite unconventional ideas about the things I write, such as what to do with a rapist or about statutory rape, but, pfft. Don't automatically assume I'm totally okay with it. If okay with it at all!

I. Tell. Stories.

That, to me, is what a storyteller is. I agree that, like what I do, some storytellers can try a little bit harder to include positive diversity, but otherwise...A storyteller tells a story. It doesn't matter how dark or perverse or scary or twisted that story is...because it's not real. It's scary to consider happening, yes, and sometimes it's better if you stay away from it, but at the end of the's a fictional world with fictional people. Their worlds can be just as dark and scary and weird and dysfunctional and twisted as ours is. Wouldn't you agree?

So, if you can't handle the heat, stay the fuck out of my kitchen. My dishes are 99.9% a la flambĂ©e. Over a grill. With hotsauce. And wasabi. And ghost peppers....And black pepper.

...I just have to get all of this off my chest. To have something to point people to once The Questions™ start being asked. Because I have no doubt, in this day and age where everyone wants to cross-examine everything and everyone for their being, that will happen, eventually...

But here's something else for you to mull over.

Once upon a time, a self-questioning, mentally tortured, unknowingly mentally ill young girl created herself an "alter ego". This alter ego was her opposite in every way. Every. Way. Older than her. White. Male. And gay. He was her best friend in the universe.

...Eventually, the girl identified as genderqueer. Their best friend died. They struggle with self-acceptance to this day.

The fucking end.

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