(This is a follow up about Star Crossed; you can read our first statement here.)
In the summer of 2014 when we started plotting the Fly Me to the Moon series, we penciled in a female/female romance about a would-be astronaut and a woman at the American Space Department. Much of the fiction and non-fiction about the space race is very masculine, very white, and very straight, and we didn’t want our fictional universe to replicate those exclusionary narratives. As we drafted the series and this specific story, we came to love to our heroines, Bev and Geri.
The day after releasing Star Crossed, we pulled the book because reviewers pointed out we’d deracinated Bev, who is African American, and given more weight to harassment and discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation than that based on race.
That wasn’t our intent, but intent isn’t enough. We spent eight months talking about and trying to revise Star Crossed, and while we made some progress, we have decided this isn’t our story to tell. We can fix the craft issues, but we can’t shake the feeling that for us to tell this story is narrative appropriation. We therefore have no plans to rerelease the book.
1) Representation in art matters. It’s important to see people in books who look like you. It’s important to see people in books who are nothing like you. It’s important to see people in books who are superficially like you but different on the inside. It’s important to see people in books who are different from you externally whose emotional journeys are like yours. And everything in between.
2) But diversity of representation isn’t enough: the quality of the representation matters. Throwing one woman into a superhero ensemble—especially if she doesn’t have a rich inner life, complex motivations, and so on—doesn’t actually solve the problem. And the arbiters of the representation have to be the people within the community.
3) Certain voices have historically had an easier time making themselves heard. In a Western context, straight male white middle- and upper-class voices dominate the conversation. Even today, publishing largely magnifies those same voices, probably because many editors, agents, and publishers fit into that demographic. Even in romancelandia where women play most of the roles, the white straight middle-class voices tend to be the loudest ones.
4) This doesn’t mean you can’t write an experience that isn’t yours, but it means you have to do it carefully. Start by listening. Read lots and lots of #ownvoices books first. And if you face criticism, don’t get defensive. Apologize and fix it.
5) Writers shouldn’t respond to reviews both because of the power imbalance between reviewers and writers (the latter having more power) and because when you make a book commercially available, accept that reviewers have a right to respond to it however and wherever they want to. The review isn’t for the author; it’s for other readers.
6) Criticism is good and healthy. Debate within a community is a sign of growth.
Into this comes Star Crossed, a book I wrote with my friend Genevieve Turner about two women (one of them African-American) falling in love at a fictional version of NASA in 1964.
Star Crossed is the story of Geri Brixton, an ambitious pilot who’d like to be the first American woman in space, if only she were better with numbers. Reluctantly, Geri agrees to be tutored by Beverly Fox, a mathematician whose work has been getting rockets off the ground and who dreams of love and honesty but has been denied both. Geri and Bev develop a friendship and eventually become lovers, but secrets tear at what they’ve built and threaten everything they hold dear.
As has now become Fly Me to the Moon tradition, I’m celebrating release day with a Jello mold. This one is cranberry orange and courtesy of Martha Stewart.
Genevieve and I are putting the finishing touches on Star Crossed. We’ll have an official release date and preorder links soon (and ARCs in the next two weeks), but before we get to that, I wanted to recommend some of the many, many female/female romances I’ve read.
About two years ago, I asked myself, “Why aren’t there any female/female romances?” This was after I’d previously asked, “Why aren’t there any political romances?” and “Why aren’t there any Muslim romances?”
The problem was all of these questions began with me assuming such romances didn’t exist simply because I hadn’t read them and/or I wasn’t seeing reviewed on the (primarily straight) romance blogs. And in each case, I was deeply wrong. It was the worst kind of “if I don’t know about it, it must not exist” fallacy. But luckily the moment I scratched the surface with my queries, dozens (if not hundreds) of books poured out.
It’s clear that romance suffers from a discoverability problem. For reasons I won’t speculate about in this post, female/female romance hasn’t had as much cross-over with f/m romance as m/m has, but as soon as I went looking for it, I found tons. Here are some of my favorites; let me know in the comments if I missed one of yours.
I’m so happy to share the covers for the next TWO Fly Me to the Moon books with you. We’ve been sitting on these for forever, and it’s been very hard not to wallpaper the internet with them. The blurbs … Continue reading →