*Okay, just to catch you up — the great move of 2015 is still going on, though we’ve moved to cleaning and staging the other house. The goal is to have two books delivered and the other house up for sale by the time I have surgery on the 16th of next month, so I can rest/recover in peace. In the meantime the editing on Elf Blood, so I can rush to the finish is proceeding at a glacial pace because painting walls tuckers me out and there’s books to finish, other than those. Very grateful to Chris Nuttall for giving us this excellent piece, and also would like to say I agree with him. I’m not making a statement on gays in the military in A Few Good Men and the novella And Not To Yield in Five by Five 3, either. I’m making a statement on Nat Remy in the military (good) and Lucius Keeva in the military (who in heck thought this was a good idea???) And though from the outside it might seem like Luce’s troubles come from being gay, they actually come from his putative father being a monster. In fact, were Luce straight or able to pass, he would be dead, so… So much for victimhood. The characters are what they are because that’s who they are. Period. And now I’ll get out of the way — at long last — and let Chris talk. – Sarah A. Hoyt*
Making A Statement By Not Making A Statement – Chris Nuttall
Every so often, I get asked a question that prompts an essay. This one was prompted by a person who asked if my decision to make the captain of HMS Warspite homosexual was an attempt to make a statement about homosexuals in the military. I bit down my instinctive response – not everything has to be a statement, certainly not amongst those who write to entertain – and considered the matter seriously.
If you read the book, you will notice that no one makes an issue of John’s sexuality. Ever.
Consider this; no one calls him any nasty name reserved for a homosexual. But, at the same time, no one treats him any differently for being a homosexual. He is not the beneficially/victim of any form of affirmative action or positive discrimination. John had an unusual career path, but – if you read the first three books in the series – you’ll notice that most of the officers who did have a conventional career path were killed off in the war. The Royal Navy accepts John transferring from starfighter piloting to command track, at least in part, because it is desperate for manpower. It didn’t make him a token homosexual or a token anything. All that mattered was that he could do the job he was being given.
I think, in the future, society will evolve to become more conservative and, at the same time, more liberal. This is certainly true of the fictional Ark Royal universe.
Certain issues and activities, and homosexuality is among them, are largely immaterial from society’s point of view. It does not matter to society if two adult men, both old enough to know what they’re getting into, decide to start a homosexual relationship. Nor does it really matter if they want to call themselves ‘husband and husband,’ or declare each other to be their next-of-kin. The government should not be involved in monitoring the activities of consenting adults. It constantly astonishes me that conservatives and libertarians, people I agree with more often than not, will make a fuss about gay marriage. Do you really want to give the government, any government, the power to determine what does and what doesn’t make a marriage?
Social Justice Warriors think otherwise. They want, as a general rule, to define homosexuals as something separate from mainstream society, even – at the same time – as they want homosexuality to be accepted in mainstream society. This contradiction effectively pours fuel on the fire; straight people wind up defining themselves in opposition to homosexuals, even though most of them – if pressed – will admit they have no problem with homosexuals personally. I have a feeling the SJWs are far more insecure than they care to admit. One doesn’t sue a bakery into the ground if one is secure in one’s power and position. Instead, they refuse to tolerate dissent.
This can have baleful effects on writing.
An interesting piece of advice from Heinlein can be altered to fit this situation. ‘Don’t be a gay character. Be a character who happens to be gay.’ Heinlein – who was originally talking about female politicians – was pointing out the danger of tribalism in politics. For writers, having a character whose sole purpose is to be a positive, uplifting model of a homosexual person not only verges on cliché, it veers into the territory of message fiction. Such writers forget the ultimate purpose of writing fiction is to entertain people. Worse, if one writes a situation where the gay/female/black character is clearly superior to everyone else (normally a WASP), it very often becomes completely tedious.
In many ways, this is a form of soft homophobia, what George W Bush called ‘the soft bigotry of lowered expectations’. It suggests that the homosexual is incapable of achieving anything without help from the Social Justice Warriors. Think about that for a moment. How can anyone claim to be against discrimination when, at the same time, they practice a form of discrimination that is far more corrosive than outright homophobia? What value is an achievement if it came through having the starting lines redrawn for your benefit?
I think, in the future, we will all be accepted as individuals.
John being homosexual is just part of his character. There’s no reason for it to be all-consuming. He doesn’t have to fight against discrimination because there isn’t any discrimination. All he has to do is be the best captain he can be.
So … I suppose, by not making a statement, I actually did make a statement. Oops.