Monday, November 23, 2015

"On the Inside" is published

This is kind of a weird situation: one of my stories that I sold back in, like, April is now published, but I don't know when it was actually released.

It looks like I get trackback pings for my About the Author links going up on November 19, so that was just last week, but I received no notifications about the issue being published and there is nothing about it on the magazine's social media. I know the issue had not been released the last time checked the site, which wasn't that long ago. But anyway, the story I sold to James Gunn's Ad Astra is now up and it is called "On the Inside."

I wrote this story in 2012. Because of its length, I had a hard time finding places to submit it. And the first place I submitted it gave me a fairly involved personal rejection (while asking me to send other stories if I wanted to, though I never did find one they wanted to publish). Most notably, the editor told me that they thought the protagonist was "too emblematic."

I kinda agreed with them on this upon reflection, and I thought it might be a good idea to write the story from another character's perspective. Because here's the thing: my protagonist, Lihill, is a trans girl. (I don't use that language in her story, but that's what she is.) Trans girl stories aren't my stories. So anything I try to say regarding their experience is an attempt to relay a narrative I haven't lived.

And that's pretty much what all writers do for all characters, if we're honest.

So I was kind of on the fence as to whether I should really be grabbing that narrative for one of my stories and making it so central to my protagonist's struggle in the story. Except for the fact that it occurs in an alternate world that has elemental magic and a sex-segregated educational system with two of the four elements allotted to boys and the other two allotted to girls, it could be the story of any girl like Lihill, trying to make other people see who she is and let her pursue life the way any girl would.

I did think of another story I might have wanted to tell from the point of view of a character named Teinan, an elder who advises Lihill in a mentoring capacity. I figured I would rewrite the story from her perspective, but every time I read over Lihill's story, I still wanted her perspective to be the one I favored. I decided to make some small changes to the story and start submitting it again.

I sent it to another magazine and received another personal rejection that complimented my writing style but called the piece "too predictable" and "lacking tension." And then the third place I sent it made an offer.

I like this story and I like its character, but while I disagree that it lacks tension, I do think it's pretty predictable. I tend to write plots that are about mental and personal journeys, where action doesn't have much of a place, and I think people who have been in similar places to the protagonist will find some pretty serious tension, but it's true that said tension is not born from the plot.

And even though (if you ignore the magical/alternate-world setting) Lihill's journey has a lot of the predictable, expected confrontations and problems you'd expect a trans girl to have in an unsupportive society, I think I threw some less typical, more nuanced stuff in there too. That's because I have quite a few trans friends, and based on what they say, it gets tiring how so many mainstream marketed-to-cis-people trans stories display trans people who make oversimplified statements about hating their bodies or feeling like they're born in the wrong one, or who emphasize activities and grooming behaviors associated with the gender they want to be respected as. My character doesn't exactly hate her body, sometimes enjoys doing things boys do, and doesn't want to make her success into an inspirational story for others. She makes it pretty clear that her goal is to just get on with being a girl and being allowed to finish growing up.

I kinda have mixed feelings about this story to be honest, but you can decide what you think of it if you read it. Thanks. :)

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