Narrowing down a genre for my novel: Gothic Science Fantasy

Now that my novel is nearing completion, after more than three years of work, a suitable genre is finally becoming clear.  The plot is all in place; I’ve been working on layers of editing and tweaking: sensory details, distinctive language and habits of the main characters, finding irrelevant or redundant passages, looking for things that need more detail or action, never-ending research, etc. etc.

In the process, themes and symbolism are also revealing themselves, even ones which I did not consciously include.  It certainly does not fit into a “pulp fiction” genre category, ie, following formulas and light on meaning or symbolism, while focusing mostly on a quick, plot-driven read.  No, my book reflects the fact that I like to read a lot of literary novels.

There’s a definite romance, two in fact, but it’s certainly no Romance-novel “happily ever after.”  Actually, it’s an obsessive, even destructive romance, in which one of the characters–whether he’s truly a narcissist or not–sure acts like one.  And if you don’t have an “HEA” ending (as the fans term it) in a romance novel, there’s a very good chance your readers will toss it against the wall and never read any of your other books.  (This has actually happened with writers before.)  But if you have an HEA with a hero like mine, it’s likely to get pushback from abuse victims like we saw with Fifty Shades of Grey.

It doesn’t fit into science fiction, either.  I’ve always been more interested in the fantastical science fiction–Doctor Who, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Farscape–and not so much in hard science fiction.  So what if it’s unlikely a humanoid alien ever lived on Mars?  I still want to read about that.  So what if hypnotism doesn’t actually work like in the old movies?  I still like to watch them.

Turns out, “science fantasy” is a term used for that kind of science fiction.  It doesn’t have to follow strict, real-world scientific principles, and can include mysticism or the supernatural, such as the Force or ghosts or fairies.  So my novel–light on the science but heavy on plot, symbols, reflections on human nature, etc.–fits right in.  It also fits because the hypnotism goes beyond what actual hypnotism can do.

(Or does it?  A boyfriend in college hypnotized me and caused a mental link, just like in the novel.  But then, I can never really be sure how much was truly a Link, and how much was him playing with my head.  But the concept is not unheard-of.)

But that’s not all it is.  Not only is there a romance.  Not only is there time travel and a mad scientist.  But there is a focus on the psychology of the characters, so it can be called a Psychological novel.

There are also themes, symbolism, a character-driven story that’s at least as important as the plot, and deeper meaning exploring the depths of human nature, making it fit in the Literary genre.

But then you find those themes which have become prominent over the past few years as I’ve worked and tweaked: Byronic hero, described above.  Svengali, the older man hypnotizing and manipulating the young woman, while another man–the young hero–tries to save her.  The older, aristocratic man obsessed with the young virgin, imprisoning her in a castle.  Dark themes of oppressive religion and questioning, abandonment, betrayal, destruction, death.  Hypnotism.  A character who is also very vampiric, inspiring a dark and erotic fascination not just toward the young woman, but from her as well.

So there you have it: It’s a Gothic.  Because the Gothic elements are not based in the supernatural (other than the hypnotism and the Laws of Time which seem almost like a deity), “Gothic Science Fantasy” seems most fitting.  Also, because Psychology and Literary elements are all very much a part of the Gothic genre, I don’t even have to specify that it’s a “literary” or a “psychological” novel.

So there you have it: I’m working on a Gothic Science Fantasy.   This will help me with the editing and, later, the marketing, because publishers and readers both want to know “where it fits.”  I love genre-bending novels, which this certainly is, but it helps to know where to put it and who to market it to.

(PLEASE NOTE: Comments are turned off here because this is crossposted with my writing blog.  Please post comments there.)

 

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Reblog: When the Abuse Victim Becomes the Abuser’s Ally

John Crippen has just posted on Unholy Charade about abuse victims who help their abuser abuse others:

When the Abuse Victim becomes the Abuser’s Ally

What he writes of is just what I went through with Richard and Tracy.  I could never be entirely sure if Richard was just as abusive of Tracy as he told me she was of him.  There were indications that he could be just as nasty with her, that he himself was a narcissist.  But I can be sure of the abuse I witnessed from Tracy to other people, not just Richard, not just the kids, but other people they knew as well–even friends!

And one of those victims of Tracy’s abuse, “Todd,” experienced the same phenomenon I did: Even though Tracy was the one abusing Todd, Richard stood beside his wife’s abuse and then began abusing Todd as well.  Same thing happened when anyone–me, Todd, some other friend–complained about being abused by Tracy: Richard would stand by Tracy and help her abuse the person.

Pastor Crippen describes this exact same phenomenon, an abuse victim helping the abuser so much that it’s no longer clear who the real abuser is.  He explains that he is NOT talking about abuse victims who keep quiet out of fear of crossing the abuser, or victims who don’t understand what’s going on, but about abuse victims who are themselves mean and nasty to other people.  He describes, for example, a case in which the husband is patriarchal and abusive, but the wife herself targets and reviles the same people her husband does.  If anyone calls out her husband for his abuse, she speaks up and defends him and then holds a grudge against that person.

It was very hurtful to Todd when Richard did this to him; Richard then acted like Todd was the abusive one and that he was overreacting when he cut off relations with Richard over it.  He then went to Todd’s web forum and screwed it up, letting Todd blame it on a resident troll.

It was also very hurtful to me when Richard kept defending his wife’s abuses of me over and over again.  It was hurtful when she burst out at me in narcissistic rage one day, and he–instead of being apologetic and privately letting me know that she was wrong and misunderstood the situation and that he didn’t agree with her–participated actively in her abuse of me.  He also raged at my husband for sticking up for me, because my husband could see that I didn’t deserve what was happening.  When this happened, I felt so betrayed by Richard–yet when we cut off relations with them over it, they acted like we were overreacting.  Just like they did with Todd.

It felt like being on the playground with bullies making fun of me and raging at me, while I’m all alone, because there were two of them and this usually happened when they had me by myself.  With Todd, they made the disagreement public, and pulled in as many people as they could to help them abuse him.  With me, I know of at least one person they pulled in to their side, telling her lies to make her think that *I* was the abuser.  So instead of recognizing that I was legitimately complaining about how I’d been abused, she participated in the abuse, and became part of society’s problem of victim-blaming.

It’s triangulation, a tactic which abusers use on their victims, whether bullying, or domestic abuse, or spousal/romantic partner abuse, or whatever type of abuse.  It’s meant to convince the victim that she deserves what she’s getting, that the abuser is acting normally, that he’s the martyr dealing with her toxicity.

And when an abuse victim helps his or her spouse bully someone else, this is active participation in triangulation.  It’s frightening and confusing for the victim, who oftentimes is not equipped to speak up in his or her own defense.

I couldn’t understand it because Richard knew Tracy was abusive–he told me about it often–and told me even with her standing right there that friends would break off relations with HIM because they couldn’t handle HER.  Yet when she started raging at someone, he would step right in there and help HER.

Pastor Crippen writes:

These kind, sadly, are beyond help. I don’t presume to know completely what makes them tick, but in some way they have made the decision that the benefits of “standing by their man” outweigh the costs of exposing his abuse and leaving him.

This is a helpful post if you’ve been exposed to such behavior.  It helps me because I see that the baffling behavior I witnessed in Richard, does happen now and then.  It’s not unique to that situation, so it may have some psychological explanation (Crippen has a few ideas).  It validates me for statements I’ve made here before, that it’s wrong to stick up for and “support” your spouse when they’re abusing someone else.

Crippen both warns against getting close to an abuse victim who helps their own abuser–they’ll be “one of the angriest and harshest people you ever get sideways of”– and warns against becoming one yourself.

 

 

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One Exvangelical’s perspective: Ditching offensive entertainment

The other day, the shoutbox of my favorite streaming music station, Sanctuary Radio, held a discussion on whether to play music by certain Goth/Industrial bands who have some strike against them: singer who rapes women, Nazi sympathizers, terrible anti-woman lyrics, etc. etc. etc.  Nobody wants to support bad people, but–should we or should we not play their music?

I come at this from the perspective of a childhood in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian subculture.  From my earliest days, I heard about backmasking and that rock music was of the Devil (or “jungle music”).  I thought the devilishness was in the secular bands backmasking Satanic messages and singing about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, so I turned to Christian rock.  My parents didn’t restrict us too much with music, but my denomination’s teen magazine posted letters from youth pastors who said ALL rock music is of the Devil.  That even included the saccharine, poppy tunes of Amy Grant.

It was also sinful just to go into a movie theater, no matter what movie was playing.  I never went to prom because I didn’t want to go to Hell for dancing.

Then I started hearing from The 700 Club how the Devil was in everything: Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars (because of the Force), Halloween, stories about witches, etc. etc.  I eventually got away from that, but then Harry Potter came along and Evangelicals went crazy.

Then there were the books your parents didn’t want you to read in high school English because of sexual or other verboten themes.  And you’d read the lists of books which were banned the most often from schools/libraries by conservatives who thought Oh my gosh the kids can’t read that!

And of course, there have always been groups more extreme than mine, saying girls can’t wear pants or cut their hair, you can’t wear shorts, some even taking things so far that you can’t even have music at all, or use electricity.

Nowadays it’s coming from the other direction: liberals saying you can’t watch that, you can’t read that, you can’t listen to that, because now it’s violating other sensibilities: subject matter contains rape, the main character is played by a rapist, it’s cultural appropriation, the movie or its director is racist/sexist/ableist/etc. etc. etc.

I learn a bit about the lives of the classic authors and artists and discover that Picasso was a narcissist who treated his women like crap while also making them addicted to him; that Dostoevsky was a terrible human being; that Charles frickin’ Dickens abandoned his loving wife for a skinny young thing because she got fat after bearing him 10 kids.

I hear countless stories of rock music greats committing sexual assault or statutory rape.

I feel guilty repeating some beloved old line from a Cosby routine, or watching a Woody Allen movie.

Warring shippers for the show Timeless argue that the other side is promoting misogyny: “How can you put Wyatt and Lucy together when he was jealous all season?”  “How dare you put Flynn and Lucy together in this age of metoo?”

I already knew there were guys behaving badly in movies like Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, but it had been so long since I saw those movies that I forgot the stuff that Molly Ringwald pointed out.  And yeah, now I can see the problems, the echoes of rape culture, the idea that boys do whatever they want while girls have to stop them–But do we ditch the movies now?

I could see the problem with Mister Mom when I saw it about ten or so years ago: Not just assuming that men can’t parent, but the shades of 50s sitcoms when Mom goes to work, and the house is in chaos until she comes back home.  But do we never watch it again?

Or The Little Rascals–Yeah, it can get racist at times, but it was the 1930s and here were kids of various races playing together like equals.  We grew up with Spanky and Porky and Buckwheat etc.; is it wrong for our kids to enjoy it?

Do we reject Kermit falling for Miss Piggy in The Muppet Show incarnations because she’s a domestic abuser?

And now I hear that Rudolph and some Christmas song I never heard of, are in the crosshairs.  I can’t speak on a song I don’t know, but the whole point of Rudolph is that a bullied reindeer gets honored.  Are we not supposed to depict bullying onscreen now?  Do we stop showing anything bad that ever happens to people and pretend everything’s always great?

It just gets to the point–Where does it end?  Am I to toss out all music, all books, all art, all movies, all TV shows?  Because is there anything out there not touched by, or depicting, some horrible person who did some horrible thing?

It starts to remind me way too much of growing up Fundamentalist and being told to separate myself from worldly things.

From the article Old favorites, outdated attitudes: Can entertainment expire? by Ted Anthony of the Associated Press:

They exist throughout society’s pop-culture canon, from movies to TV to music and beyond: pieces of work that have withstood time’s passage but that contain actions, words and depictions about race, gender and sexual orientation that we now find questionable at best.

…What, exactly, do we do with this stuff today? Do we simply discard it? Give it a free pass as the product of a less-enlightened age? Or is there some way to both acknowledge its value yet still view it with a more critical eye?

…The solutions suggest a general direction: Don’t simply ban or eliminate or delete. Talk about stuff — whether formally, when it’s presented to the public, or informally at home. And involving more voices in the production of today’s popular culture — and the selection, curation and characterization of yesterday’s — can make sense of this more than dismissing the issue as overreaction or scrubbing the leavings of less-enlightened eras.

Let Molly Ringwald have the last word: “Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art — change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”

 

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