Queer Storylines: Spicy Indulgence or Commercial Necessity?
Vote on the "Yin vs. Yang" tendency whilst ignoring the 'silent majority'.
counts will be counted!
The fictional piece posted below this week’s ir[reverent|relevant] commentary is for paid and complimentary subscribers. It’s been deleted from my edited novel.
Scrolling down to first read the extract will help you vote with more conviction and certainty. I’m told electorates still do this in some countries. What remarkable people they must also be.
Here are two contrasting reviews of the extract. Vote below on which you think applies best. Or feel free to provide your own opinion with a comment.
A tender piece of gender-fluid, queer romance, easily slipping into women’s fiction, with strong literary and commercial appeal. An assured debut, it’s written with appropriate sensitivity by a young woman author, drawing on her difficult Eastern-oriented life experiences.
A tacky tale trading on the tired ‘lesbian space pirates’ trope. It’s a pretty lame attempt to fit the marketing buzz around spice-seeking YA ‘tokkers. It’s penned by a white, middle-aged man, FFS. I bet his wife had to help him – enough said…
Just do what the vast majority of people do. Billions of them, all day, every day. Without feeling a constant, obsessive urge to tell everyone all about it.
Don’t Ignore The Silent Majority
I recently read an obituary which recounted the life of a phenomenally successful musician. What struck me was how they described their popular market appeal. They said they represented the “silent majority”, never fashionable but with a large and loyal international following. They played for presidents, had their songs covered by the biggest stars and were a household name in many countries.
The lesson I took from this was that you can be one of the most popular entertainers in the world for decades without being a trendsetter or a contemporary follower of fashion. You can be a successful artist with multiple chart hits whilst never appealing to memes, marketing managers or contemporary mores. You can, in other words, be just like those you might appeal to: the ordinary man, woman or child in the street. You can act out an ordinary, quiet life: go to college, raise kids, be good grandparents, go on vacation, enjoy sports, cook food, read books, listen to music, watch TV and pay taxes. You can just do what the vast majority of people do. Billions of them, all day, every day. Without feeling a constant, obsessive urge to tell everyone all about it.
This sales model works because the majority are just that. They constitute the biggest market segment, your broadest customer base. Not the loudest, the most opinionated, or those struggling on the margins. The latter are and will always remain a statistical minority (until their views and activities are incorporated into the boring mainstream). They also, on average, earn – and therefore spend – less money, being younger, marginalised, working in non-traditional jobs, placing their principles above kow-towing to the inanity of such humdrum human certainties as death and taxes.
So, when a writer stares at a blank page, how far should they traverse to the left or right of a normal distribution curve to sate a vocal minority's needs and wants? How much do you appease those who think their opinions count most? How far do you stray from what you do, who you are and how you act, deliberately constructing fictional characters whose lives appear to bear very little resemblance to their creator’s? How many contemporary cultural boxes do you ensure your novel ticks to avoid diatribe-laden denouncements. How many review stars do you seek from the vox influencum populi, when they pronounce themselves satisfied with your genuflected tribute to their cause?
It’s crucial not to lose sight of the most important ‘hidden-in-plain-sight’ majority: the white cis degree-educated women who constitute 80% of the anointed gatekeepers to bookshelf content – uncoincidentally, a very similar proportion to those fiction writers, agents and editors occupying the Anglo-Western publishing sphere. They already practise applying this majority model inside industry’s opaque covers, because they have shareholders to please, children to appease and partners to tease, as they live out their (extra)ordinary lives. Mostly. No-one gets drunk, high or hysterical with excitement in a weekly acquisitions meeting or at a major book fair. That’s best left for award ceremonies, major launches and light lunches. Mostly.
P.S. For reference, neither of the reviews you can find above have or will arise from a silent majority. Or myself.
Below is the excised novel extract I promised my paid and complimentary subscribers. I’d love you to read it, think about it, then scroll back up and vote on if it’s best described by the A or the B. Nothing too serious (he says…).
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