Collision: Stories by J.S. Breukelaar
Release Date: 2/19/19 Genre: Speculative Fiction, Horror, Weird, Fantasy, Scifi, Dystopian
WRITING SEX by J.S. BreukelaarMale writers often get asked about whether it is difficult for them to write in the voice of their female characters, and how they do it. I’ve found that women don’t get asked about this as much. I wonder why this is. I think it’s interesting that something that amazes us about male writers—how they’re able to inhabit characters of another sex so well—is sometimes taken for granted with women. This could partly be because of what is perceived as a long tradition in literature of heterosexual male protagonists, and women writers pressured to produce these if they want readers. Yet, writers of all genders have persisted in turning this on its head for hundreds of years, either by insisting on creating female, feminized or queer protagonists, and by querying the sexed gaze. It’s not, or it shouldn’t be, rocket science. What to me is really important is that it’s not as hard writing outside your gender as you think. In my collection, six out of the twelve stories feature a male protagonist, each as different from each other as they different from the female, animal or other characters. What enabled me to write, say the character of Commander Whyte in “Rogues Bay, 3013,” is to imagine life as a Frankenstein’s monster, and what that might do, in the end, to your soul, and who you might target to take down to hell with you. Possibly someone who you think is as vulnerable as you, and you might be wrong. The myopic male gaze generally misses something. But in “Fixed,” my male character Gene feels empowered through his connection with the female other. And in “Fairy Tale,” the mysterious Aisha is the one whose hold over her false father is both liberating and perilous—leaving him unsure of what he’s fighting (for) or whom. Women and men’s bodies are different, but the sexed opposition between them can often be exaggerated at the expense of the story you’re trying to tell. Sexual reality is fluid and complicating desire usually produces the most compelling stories. When interviewers asked poet and songwriter Patti Smith whether her song, “Gloria,” was about being a lesbian, this is what she said: “I always enjoyed doing transgender songs. That’s something I learnt from Joan Baez, who often sang songs that had a male point of view. No, my work does not reflect my sexual preferences, it reflects the fact that I feel total freedom as an artist.”
About the Author: J.S. Breukelaar is the author of the Aurealis-nominated novel Aletheia, and American Monster, a Wonderland Award finalist. She has published stories, poems and essays in publications such as Gamut, Black Static, Unnerving, Lightspeed, Lamplight and elsewhere. She is a columnist and regular instructor at LitReactor.com. California-born and New York raised, she currently lives in Sydney, Australia with her family. You can find her at www.thelivingsuitcase.com.
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