While I was editing my company’s first book last fall, I attended the New York Comic Con. I had a chance to chat with some ladies who were protesting the banning of books. I bought some of their merchandise, donated a few dollars, and when they asked why I loved banned books, I told them that the book I was currently working on was sure to be banned. By someone, somewhere.
“What’s it about?” they asked.
“Lovecraft-inspired erotica,” I answered, and they grinned.
“Perfect,” they replied.
That first anthology, CTHULUROTICA, went on to sell well and be very well reviewed, partially because of our treatment of the themes that would keep this book out of any school library. There were women in love with monsters and women who were monsters. There was sex, most of it with humans, and there were gay characters, and they were having sex too. What we did with this book that was important was we treated the gay and lesbian characters as if they were just the same as the straight ones – the focus of the stories wasn’t on anyone’s sexuality at all. It’s a book about monsters, and being gay, by itself, doesn’t make you a monster. Though I never specifically asked for stories with particular relationship dynamics, I’ve ended up with stories about gay or lesbian characters in my next two anthologies too.
There are gay people in the world, and bi and trans and queer and “it’s not of your business who I sleep with” people in the world, so of course those people should also show up in fiction. I keep those stories in my books because that’s a better reflection of real life than if I were to take them out.
When I write, I write the stories that make sense to me. If a character needs to be a man, or a woman, a child, or a monster, in order for the story to feel right, then that’s what the character is. If a character is white, black, gay, bi, or from Ohio, then that’s who the character is. I write primarily science fiction and I’m well aware that my insistence on writing these characters makes me less marketable, and I don’t care. The world is a complex and beautiful place, full of a greater variety of people than we can probably imagine, and to whitewash the world to make it easier to sell isn’t just cowardly, it’s boring. Even the books that get banned because of swear words and violence and crime are taking away from people the ability to learn how to deal with those issues, and that isn’t fair either.
I think that the people who ban books in the first place are confused as to what a book’s power really is. A book will never make you into someone you otherwise never would have been. Reading introduces you to what you could be, and if you already leaned in that direction, of being gay or questioning your religion, or wanting to fly away on a rocket ship, then a book may show what that life could look like. That’s all a book does, but it’s a great and amazing power, to be able to present a whole new life as if it were just outside of your bedroom window, waiting for you to climb out and meet it. A book may resonate with a reader, inspire and give hope to those who previously never thought these lives possible, but it will only have that effect on people who already wanted to make that change.
A book will never make a kid gay. It will, exactly as it should, show them that it’s OK to be that. That’s why I will not stop writing, editing, or buying books which other people might want to ban. Books are a huge part of my world, and I want to live in a world with all of the color and variety and beauty I can possibly imagine.
Carrie Cuinn is a writer, editor, small press publisher, computer geek, and amiable raconteur. Her writing can be found at http://carriecuinn.com, and her editing work at Dagan Books http://daganbooks.com