Sunday, March 16, 2008

The pronoun thing again

Quick post while my hair dye sets. Forgive any typos. I can't see a damned thing without my glasses.

TMy issue with the whole pronoun thing isn't an artistic one; it's a commercial one. These books are a commercial venture, first nd foremost. THat's hard for me to say. My formal training is in Fine Art. I spent eight years training to be a portraitist. Art is my calling, my nature, and in many ways my life. However, publishing isn't an art; it's a business.

A few years ago, my dad sat me down when I was in one of my teenage socialist ranty phases. He told me a story about his office (he'd just retired from his job as an engineer) and a training class one of the managers had given a batch of new engineers.

"What is the purpose of our business?" the manager said.

Every single engineer in the room said, "To provide electricity."

"No," said the manager. "Our purpose is to make money. We do that by providing a service."

That's stuck with me. Writing is my business now. I provide a service in order to make money. Certain things are expected of thta service, and one is readability. I fear that adding a new pronoun that wil be used frequently will make my service more desirable to a very, very small audience and will drive away a large one.

In the movie Bend It Like Beckham, there was originally a major plot line in which Jess and Jules were going to end up in a lesbian relationship. It was a fantastic idea, and I was disappointed when I learned that it had been cut. (Among other things, OMFG, Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley snogging!) However, enough subtext remained to give the suggestion that there was more going on than a simple love triangle, and the tension made it a stronger movie. At the same time, the addition of a heterosexual love interest made the movie accessible to a wider audience. It's a shame that it had to be done; there are too few lesbian relationships portrayed in a positive light in mass media. But I understand why it was done, and that change to the plot took the movie from a possible cult classic to an international smash.

It's all about business. It's also all about gradual introduction of concepts in order to acclimate an overall audience to new ideas. Besides, I'm of the general opinion that THotE is revolutionary in enough areas--especially the inclusion of a fully formed and intimidating parliamentary government in a fantasy context--that pushing for everything will damage the story on whole.

Does this make sense to anyone but me? I know it seems like an awful lot of fuss over one pronoun, but I've seldom seen it done well, and then usually in SF. Hell, even Heinlein never really got deeply into this territory, and he hit on every other possible aspect of fluid gender and sexuality, up to and including a species that matured from one sex to another. If a master like Bob shied away, I'm not sure I'm a strong enough writer yet to pull it off effectively.

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