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Author Topic: Cowardice and Bravery in Literature
Scott R
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No, I don't see any inconsistency or hypocrisy in that stance (even softened); I think you're flat out wrong for maintaining it.

If Rowling had NEVER mentioned that Dumbledore was gay, would you still consider her timid?

What if a book (any book) never addresses homosexuality? Is the author timid?

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AvidReader
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You're right, Aris, I really don't understand. I know a couple people who are very quietly gay and one guy I still think only decided he was gay because he couldn't get women to sleep with him. That's my entire experience right there.

I personally would have absolutely no business trying to write about the gay experience. I assume that like most people's attributes, it does influence how they perceive the world in some way. A black character and a white character even from the same backgrounds are probably going to view the same situation differently because of different cultural views and expectations. I would think gay and straight characters would be the same.

I don't think the point should be "is there a reason for them to be gay". I think if the gay character is exactly like the straight character, then you're probably doing it wrong, in my completely uninformed and presumptive opinion.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
The fact that other markets are experimenting with it does not imply that because this market is NOT, it is necessarily discouraging that experimentation.

The paragraph is actively discouraging it. At the very least, the paragraph intimates that such experimentation is not welcome in the magazine.

quote:
I think he's saying that because this specific individual is discouraging that experimentation, this specific individual is discouraging it in the portion of the market he "controls."
Precisely.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I'm not going to defend Orincoro for being inconsistently elitist. That particular tendency of his annoys me. [Smile] As far as I'm concerned, Schubert has every right to say "I want only the kinds of stories I like," and that's fine by me.

It would be fine by me as well if the name on the magazine was not that of a man who rails endlessly against the institutionalization of particular styles at the exclusion of others. Mainly his is a preference for the traditional, but he blindly promotes and supports the same kind of exclusive boys-only environment he derides in other media.

And ultimately, I'm not a believer in the idea that traditional media can maintain a static context- I believe that media survive changing contexts, and that adaptability is their primary source of growth and continued fascination. I recently presented on that idea in relation to string quartets in a research conference, so I've been thinking about it lately. What bothers me most about the idea of this statement, even though I believe IGMS is a good publication, is that it is reactionary- and reactionary thinking discourages innovation. Even IGMS needs innovative ways of telling stories, or else they may as well print random words.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I think if the gay character is exactly like the straight character, then you're probably doing it wrong....
Out of interest, what do you think would be different about the gay and bisexual people here on Hatrack if they were only interested in the opposite gender?
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scholarette
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In our society, being gay makes having children much more difficult. Adoption can be very difficult and surrogacy prohibitively expensive. I would imagine that would affect your outlook on life.
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Scott R
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quote:
Even IGMS needs innovative ways of telling stories, or else they may as well print random words.
Printing random words would

1) Explicitly defy the submission guidelines that Edmund outlined in his letter.

2) Be experimental! Fresh! Free from the constraints of plot, style, meaning, this liberating mish-mash would ultimately achieve literary significance for the sublime reason that it means nothing, and so means anything!

It's like e.e. cummings for prose, man!

quote:
What bothers me most about the idea of this statement, even though I believe IGMS is a good publication, is that it is reactionary- and reactionary thinking discourages innovation.
I know what the word reactionary means, but I'm not sure how you're fitting it into this context. Can you clarify?
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Scott R
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quote:
The paragraph is actively discouraging it. At the very least, the paragraph intimates that such experimentation is not welcome in the magazine.
Yes, and I'm grateful. I get far too much experimentation (== magical realism, at the moment) in Asimov's.

quote:
I'm not a believer in the idea that traditional media can maintain a static context- I believe that media survive changing contexts, and that adaptability is their primary source of growth and continued fascination.
If you're experimenting with a style that allows a deeper understanding of the work you're involved in, great.

If you're experimenting with a style that is exclusionary, or deliberately codifies and makes your story difficult for the average reader to understand, not so great, IMO.

There is no harm in Edmund's statement. I'm happy to have a magazine that I can depend upon to provide stories with beginnings, middles, and ends, that treat on characters with real emotions and reactions.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:


2) Be experimental! Fresh! Free from the constraints of plot, style, meaning, this liberating mish-mash would ultimately achieve literary significance for the sublime reason that it means nothing, and so means anything!


This would be a fairly good example of a statement that is reactionary. It depends upon a necessarily incomplete set of facts and an underdeveloped sense of what is being criticized. It then uses this set of poor assumptions as ammunition in an argument that accomplishes nothing. If you understood my aesthetic sense, you would know that I am not so much interested in sublimity, I am interested in intellectual beauty.

You're quite right though, to compare the "sublime" with the "lazy." Lazy people have been avoiding beauty throughout human history. What I mean to indicate is that I don't consider IGMS to be lazy, but only reactionary. I think they make the same assumptions about non-traditional narrative structure- that it is foolish, primitivist, improvisatory, that Theodore Adorno continually made. Just look at the way OSC describes himself writing a novel- and you'll get a sense that granularity and coloration, (forgive my electro-musical jargon) are not elements of composition he finds rewarding at all. He is allergic to the process of material refinement- I think that's part of the reason he seems to be ever forgetting the content of his own books.

There was a time when compositional control of the elements of expression, for instance, the explicit orchestrations of Gustav Mahler, that introduced countless contradictions to traditional performance methods, was considered a new and dangerous thing- that it might actually destroy our ability to enjoy music. There was a time when film treated a scene just as it would be treated in a theater. But today, we have the Coen brothers, with their finite attention to the lengths of shots, the idea of accents playing a role in a film where 20 years before, they would never have been used. We are starting to love Mahler even more than Beethoven.

People like OSC evidently still think that there exists a sacrosanct and perfect future, from which the modern world has only derailed us. You don't have to look very hard at OSC's poetry to get a sense that he's trying very hard to insulate himself from something.

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AvidReader
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quote:
Out of interest, what do you think would be different about the gay and bisexual people here on Hatrack if they were only interested in the opposite gender?
I think orientation is about as meaningful as skin color. It's not the attribute in and of itself that makes people different, it's the way the culture acts towards the attribute. It's the layers of experience you build up filtered through that treatment.

You know how they say a black man and a white man watching the same news clip will see two different stories? I assume it to be like that. I don't see how orientation is possibly not going to effect the way a person is treated somewhere, some time. There's going to be social pressures I never tune into that remind them they're different, if nothing else.

I'm not saying a gay character needs to act flaming to be believable. I met several guys when I was writing poetry that you really couldn't tell until they mentioned a past boyfriend.

But just like a rich character isn't going to be exactly the same as a poor character or an atheist and a Christian, I think there would have to be subtle differences. There's an awful lot of life going on all the time. We have to tune into what we're going to notice. I think it would effect a person's mental filters if nothing else.

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Scott R
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I never compared sublime and lazy. Who are you talking to?

In that bit you quoted, I was underlining the absurdity of this statement:

quote:
Even IGMS needs innovative ways of telling stories, or else they may as well print random words.
The one doesn't necessarily follow the other.

quote:
If you understood my aesthetic sense, you would know that I am not so much interested in sublimity, I am interested in intellectual beauty.
I *don't* understand your aesthetic sense. Maybe that's the point-- do you think you have explained yourself well?

Case in point:

quote:
look at the way OSC describes himself writing a novel- and you'll get a sense that granularity and coloration, (forgive my electro-musical jargon) are not elements of composition he finds rewarding at all. He is allergic to the process of material refinement- I think that's part of the reason he seems to be ever forgetting the content of his own books.
I have no idea what you're talking about.

quote:
You don't have to look very hard at OSC's poetry to get a sense that he's trying very hard to insulate himself from something.
Err... in terms of validity, I'm going to rank this statement right up there with "All poetry is about sex."
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TomDavidson
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quote:
It's like e.e. cummings for prose, man!
Just to stick up for cummings for a second: the man was anything but random.
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Scott R
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I know-- I like cummings. But the popular conception of him is that he's more nonsensical than Seuss.
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
If Rowling had NEVER mentioned that Dumbledore was gay, would you still consider her timid?
Yes.

quote:
What if a book (any book) never addresses homosexuality? Is the author timid?
First there's a difference between "addresses" and "refers to".

Secondly, it depends on the books. Harry Potter is a series of seven book that over its course makes mention of dozens upon dozens of teenage and adult pairings. Over that course, the very concept of homosexuality makes itself visible only in a single mocking comment by Dudley ("who's Cedric, your boyfriend"?).

Perhaps wizarding society was homophobic - but in that case homosexuals would almost certainly be among the people persecuted by the Death eaters. Perhaps it was exceptionally open to homosexuality in which case you'd get to see more homosexual relationships in the background, as no big deal.

But as the books stands, homosexuality is instead mostly invisible: and I can only explain that by authorial timidity, not by the context of the books themselves.

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Dagonee
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The books are told almost exclusively from Harry's point of view. Why is it so hard to believe that Harry wouldn't have seen anything about it?

I had no knowing direct encounters with homosexuality before I went to college, other than to hear it referenced as a way to insult people.

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Scott R
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If I understand you correctly, you are critical of the series because it shows no homosexual pairings.

Is that correct?

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
I have no idea what you're talking about.

That's true. Why not stop being such an ass about it?
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:

I had no knowing direct encounters with homosexuality before I went to college

But then the beast was out of the cage?

Really though... didn't know any gay people in High school? Not even the guy everyone *knows* is gay but never really says he's gay, but turns out to be? I just find it hard to imagine. I went to a Catholic boys school and there were still gay guys, but of the aforementioned "unofficial" variety.

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katharina
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Orincoro, the personal insults do not belong in a literary discussion.
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Dagonee
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quote:
Really though... didn't know any gay people in High school? Not even the guy everyone *knows* is gay but never really says he's gay, but turns out to be? I just find it hard to imagine.
I don't have to imagine it. And I know lots of other people for whom it's true as well.
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mr_porteiro_head
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It is true for me.
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katharina
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It was certainly true for me. I didn't meet anyone that was openly gay until I was in my twenties. I didn't know anyone in high school that I would have pegged as gay but in the closet, but then, how would I know?
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dkw
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I think it might have to do with age. 15 years ago there weren't gay-straight alliances in high schools and it really wasn't talked about. I graduated high school in 1990, and I certainly didn't know any openly (or noticably) gay students or teachers. I also suspect that it became more open in some parts of the country before others.
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Scott R
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
I have no idea what you're talking about.

That's true. Why not stop being such an ass about it?
Sorry-- I wasn't trying to be insulting, Orincoro.

Can you explain what you mean in the paragraph I quoted?

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Zalmoxis
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quote:
reactionary thinking discourages innovation.
Actually, considering the rather broad marketplace of ideas and the history of literary experimentation, I'd say that advocating for certain formal requirements is not reactionary anymore. It's one wing of one way of a renewal/revival of fiction.

Didn't the post-structural experiments with fiction already kill the poet, the novelist, the narrator, the protagonist, the page, the plot, the book?

Although there have been interesting refinements and chimeras published in the last two decades, I don't recall seeing anything that formally does something that hasn't been done before. Probably part of the reason that literary authors are raiding the genres for ideas.

It's still a post-punk world, Orincoro. Don't try to tell me there is such a thing as an avant garde form of written fiction. Cause I ain't buying it.

Film and animation is a different story. As is game design. And there was an initial burst of literary experimentation on the Web, but that didn't last too long.

Also: I find it odd that you are limiting innovation to formal concerns. Much of the best innovation that happens -- especially in speculative fiction -- happens on the level of concepts/ideas/world building/magic systems/characters etc.

All that said: I'm not too fond of the whole transparent writing style movement either.

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Tresopax
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quote:
It was certainly true for me. I didn't meet anyone that was openly gay until I was in my twenties. I didn't know anyone in high school that I would have pegged as gay but in the closet, but then, how would I know?
Same here. I couldn't tell you anyone from high school who was gay - and that was in a fairly big high school in the late 90's. There were rumors of course, but I think most reasonable students wisely assumed the rumors to be false.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Zalmoxis:
quote:
reactionary thinking discourages innovation.
Actually, considering the rather broad marketplace of ideas and the history of literary experimentation, I'd say that advocating for certain formal requirements is not reactionary anymore. It's one wing of one way of a renewal/revival of fiction.

That's a decent point. I don't believe in there being an avant garde in the sense of the 20th century, because we aren't there anymore. Just like T.S. Eliot, were he suddenly resurrected with the same creative ideas tomorrow but a hundred years later, would just sound like a jerk.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by katharina:
It was certainly true for me. I didn't meet anyone that was openly gay until I was in my twenties. I didn't know anyone in high school that I would have pegged as gay but in the closet, but then, how would I know?

I didn't say openly gay, I said gay. It wasn't that hard for me to figure it out- I did grow up outside of San Francisco, which probably creates a lot of gay awareness among locals.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
Same here. I couldn't tell you anyone from high school who was gay - and that was in a fairly big high school in the late 90's. There were rumors of course, but I think most reasonable students wisely assumed the rumors to be false.

Why would they assume the rumors were false, and why would that assumption be wise? In all honesty, all the guys from my High school who were rumored to be gay were gay. It's not the same kind of rumor it becomes when it involves celebrities or historical figures. It's also, from my perspective, not a stigma anyway, so I had no ill reason to believe this about anyone.
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Dagonee
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quote:
It wasn't that hard for me to figure it out
The problem is that there were quite a few people that "everyone knew" were gay who weren't. That covered probably half the "everyone knew" people. A zero percent success rate on a sample that large doesn't lead me to consider the method "everyone knows" as having any merit, at least in my school.

I have no doubt I knew people in high school who were gay. But none of the ones I know about were "known" to be gay. I also have no doubt that many people, possibly including you, have a better barometer for such things.

However, for such a situation to have made it into the Potter books, Harry would have had to speculate about someone's sexuality. And that would have made him very, very annoying to me and, likely, many other people.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Why would they assume the rumors were false, and why would that assumption be wise? In all honesty, all the guys from my High school who were rumored to be gay were gay.
The guys in my high school who were rumoured to be gay were so rumoured not because anybody had any real reason to think that they were homosexual, but because somebody wanted to be mean to them and they didn't have the social know-how or support to squelch that rumor.
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Belle
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quote:
The guys in my high school who were rumoured to be gay were so rumoured not because anybody had any real reason to think that they were homosexual, but because somebody wanted to be mean to them and they didn't have the social know-how or support to squelch that rumor.
Same here. People were mocked for being gay even if they belonged in a to a certain group.

There was a group (please forgive the perjorative term about to be posted) known as "band fags" because they didn't play sports but were involved in music instead. Now, only a subset of the band was labeled this way, there were some guys who played in the band who had friends among the jocks and were never called this, but think of guys who played instruments, never dated cheerleaders and were quiet and made good grades - that's who got called names like that.

None of them, to my knowledge, were actually gay, since as a member of the band and a friend to most of them I got invited to their weddings.

I did not meet or get to know openly gay people until I began working and attending college when I was 18-19.

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Noemon
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
The paragraph is actively discouraging it. At the very least, the paragraph intimates that such experimentation is not welcome in the magazine.
Yes, and I'm grateful. I get far too much experimentation (== magical realism, at the moment) in Asimov's.
I haven't been reading Asimov's lately, but this is interesting--I'm not really used to thinking of magical realism as being experimental. It's pretty well established in mainstream literature, and Pat Murphy was playing around with it in The City, Not Long After back in...what, 1989? I guess I can't think of a lot of other authors who have tried to make it work is SF, though.

quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
quote:
Out of interest, what do you think would be different about the gay and bisexual people here on Hatrack if they were only interested in the opposite gender?
I think orientation is about as meaningful as skin color. It's not the attribute in and of itself that makes people different, it's the way the culture acts towards the attribute. It's the layers of experience you build up filtered through that treatment.
Nicely said.

quote:
Originally posted by dkw:
I think it might have to do with age. 15 years ago there weren't gay-straight alliances in high schools and it really wasn't talked about. I graduated high school in 1990, and I certainly didn't know any openly (or noticably) gay students or teachers. I also suspect that it became more open in some parts of the country before others.

Yeah, I agree that age is probably a factor here. I graduated from a very large high school(also in 1990), and while there was one person a couple of grades behind me who was out, he was the only person in the school who was, and I think that he was the school's first openly gay student in at least 15 years (which means he was probably the first ever).
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Scott R
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quote:
I'm not really used to thinking of magical realism as being experimental.
It's new enough to the general science fiction fan community that most people only know it through Bruce Taylor.

It's new enough to sci-fi for Tim Powers and KD Wentworth to both comment negatively on it as a rising style in 2005. (The year I went to Writers of the Future)

:shrug:

It might not be a recent artform, but I'm pretty certain that the approval of it is recent. Even a couple years ago, there were no MR stories in Asimov's.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:

However, for such a situation to have made it into the Potter books, Harry would have had to speculate about someone's sexuality. And that would have made him very, very annoying to me and, likely, many other people.

I agree on that point of course.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
quote:
The guys in my high school who were rumoured to be gay were so rumoured not because anybody had any real reason to think that they were homosexual, but because somebody wanted to be mean to them and they didn't have the social know-how or support to squelch that rumor.
Same here. People were mocked for being gay even if they belonged in a to a certain group.

There was a group (please forgive the perjorative term about to be posted) known as "band fags" because they didn't play sports but were involved in music instead. Now, only a subset of the band was labeled this way, there were some guys who played in the band who had friends among the jocks and were never called this, but think of guys who played instruments, never dated cheerleaders and were quiet and made good grades - that's who got called names like that.

None of them, to my knowledge, were actually gay, since as a member of the band and a friend to most of them I got invited to their weddings.

I did not meet or get to know openly gay people until I began working and attending college when I was 18-19.

I can easily believe that you wouldn't meet openly gay people depending on where you lived. Growing up in SF, I did know gay adults who were in business or were friends with my parents.

But I think the "band fags" thing, which I also experienced being in chorus and theater, is not synonymous with the belief that a person is actually gay. In my experience, and again, it may be unique to a Catholic school very close to San Francisco, the flamboyantly gay guys, of which there were a handful, were left alone.

I didn't like my school for a lot of reasons, but I will say that in the midst of all the problems created by keeping 1,000 adolescent males on a small campus all day together, there was a tremendous amount of tolerance for the actual differences between people- as I recall, most of the fighting was surface stuff, never attached to anything with meaning.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
I'm not really used to thinking of magical realism as being experimental.
It's new enough to the general science fiction fan community that most people only know it through Bruce Taylor.

It's new enough to sci-fi for Tim Powers and KD Wentworth to both comment negatively on it as a rising style in 2005. (The year I went to Writers of the Future)

:shrug:

It might not be a recent artform, but I'm pretty certain that the approval of it is recent. Even a couple years ago, there were no MR stories in Asimov's.

But in some ways didn't MR come out of the science fiction genera to begin with? Is there not an element of MR in Harlan Ellison, "I have no mouth, and I must scream?" Or what about Zelazny- "For a Breath I Tarry."

I guess I don't know the definition of MR people are working with today- I don't have much experience with it outside of Toni Morrison, and I find her books kind of indulgent and wallowy.

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Jhai
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We had, uh, three or four boys come out as gay (to their friends) in JUST my friend/close acquaintances group, which numbered about 30 or so. A couple more came out of the closet to no one's surprise right after they left for college.

'Course, like Ornicoro, my high school was in the Bay Area. But, then, every one of the people who came out as gay were 1st or 2nd generation immigrants - mostly Asian. And the immigrant community (or at least that immigrant community) isn't super friendly to homosexuality.

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ElJay
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You're also, like Orincoro, about 10 years younger than most of the people who said they didn't know anyone who was gay in High School. A lot has changed in the last 10 - 15 years about how open people are. If there were any homosexuals in my high school, I had (and still have) no clue who they are.
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advice for robots
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There was one guy in my class who came out not too many years after we graduated, and, I think, one girl. I was surprised to find out, but not floored.

There were 32 people in my graduating class. I graduated in 1992, by the way. I don't know of anyone else in my small school who might have been gay. I don't know how they would have been treated if they'd come out during HS. We were like a small town.

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kmbboots
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I am older than most of you and I went to HS with at least one (it was a long time ago, there were others I just can't think of their names) "out" homosexual. He was really struggling with the issue, though, which is probably why I remember him so clearly.


And I knew at least a handful of gay adults.

I was also involved in theatre and music which likely makes a difference.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
If I understand you correctly, you are critical of the series because it shows no homosexual pairings.

Is that correct?

Not necessarily pairings, but rather because (as I said outside a single comment by Dudley) it shows no reference to homosexuality at all -- and as many people stated rumours of homosexuality at least are dime a dozen in schools.

For example does anyone really think that the Slytherins wouldn't be making up rumours about Ron & Harry after Harry was assigned to save Ron from the lake in Goblet of Fire?

The absence of such at that place was downright unrealistic.

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scholarette
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
If I understand you correctly, you are critical of the series because it shows no homosexual pairings.

Is that correct?

Not necessarily pairings, but rather because (as I said outside a single comment by Dudley) it shows no reference to homosexuality at all -- and as many people stated rumours of homosexuality at least are dime a dozen in schools.

For example does anyone really think that the Slytherins wouldn't be making up rumours about Ron & Harry after Harry was assigned to save Ron from the lake in Goblet of Fire?

The absence of such at that place was downright unrealistic.

In American schools, I would agree with you. But what about amongst the British (which is where this is taking place)? Isn't there some joke- he's not gay, he's British?
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TomDavidson
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It's actually less credible in Britain, as I understand it.
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Scott R
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quote:
Not necessarily pairings, but rather because (as I said outside a single comment by Dudley) it shows no reference to homosexuality at all -- and as many people stated rumours of homosexuality at least are dime a dozen in schools.

For example does anyone really think that the Slytherins wouldn't be making up rumours about Ron & Harry after Harry was assigned to save Ron from the lake in Goblet of Fire?

The absence of such at that place was downright unrealistic.

All right-- thank you. I definitely disagree with you.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
If I understand you correctly, you are critical of the series because it shows no homosexual pairings.

Is that correct?

Not necessarily pairings, but rather because (as I said outside a single comment by Dudley) it shows no reference to homosexuality at all -- and as many people stated rumours of homosexuality at least are dime a dozen in schools.

For example does anyone really think that the Slytherins wouldn't be making up rumours about Ron & Harry after Harry was assigned to save Ron from the lake in Goblet of Fire?

The absence of such at that place was downright unrealistic.

...

I have three possible answers to this.

1. for charles schultz to never have had anyone call peppermint patty and marcie a couple of lesbos in the strip on occasion must have been similarly 'unrealistic.'

2. insert hardy boys reference here, etc etc

3. oh my god, unrealistic things in Harry Potter?

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Uprooted
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This has absolutely nothing to do with the thread, but everything to do with the thread title. I just finished reading The Kite Runner and I think it's a stunning literary treatment of cowardice and bravery.

That is all.

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IcedFalcon
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JKR seems to keep her business well. Has anyone thought she made the gay comment as a means to promote the franchise through a hot button issue that is taboo?
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dkw
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Or maybe she was just answering a question from the audience. At a forum designed to answer questions from the audience.
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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by Noemon:
It's pretty well established in mainstream literature, and Pat Murphy was playing around with it in The City, Not Long After back in...what, 1989? I guess I can't think of a lot of other authors who have tried to make it work is SF, though.

I think of MR as well-established in the fantasy literature; e.g., John Crowley (Little, Big, 1981, World Fantasy Award), Charles DeLint (just about everything he does), and some of Megan Lindholm (aka Robin Hobb). Neil Gaiman? I know there are others, but those are the first that come to mind.

I quite like urban fantasy/MR as a subgenre. [Smile]

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