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The Good, Bad and the Ugly—and the Psychotic

05 Dec Posted by in • Guest Writers | Comments Off on The Good, Bad and the Ugly—and the Psychotic
The Good, Bad and the Ugly—and the Psychotic

I am a constant reader. When I read fiction I like to be taken out of myself and my everyday existence, to be whisked far from those with whom I am familiar. I like to visit worlds I would otherwise never inhabit, populated by people I would otherwise never encounter. I like a variety of characters, from the achingly sane good guys who recycle their plastics and take in stray animals whilst still finding time to churn their own yogurt, to the bad-beyond-belief guys, the femme fatales and harebrained hermits who are more likely to be found poisoning the fairy cakes. And whilst I may prefer these characters be at least well drawn, and do experience a frisson of annoyance towards writers who take a very obvious lazy route to characterization, neither do I feel any need to identify personally with characters any more than I feel a need to see my own life reflected in theirs.
One of my most enduring favorite authors is Stephen King and this is largely because King delivers on all of the above requirements for me. I was puzzled then to recently read a review on an LGBT site of ‘Full Dark, No Stars’, King’s latest collection of short stories, in which the reviewer accused King of using a negative stereotype by making one of his psychotic characters a flannel shirt-favoring lesbian with a rather testing hairdo. Perhaps it is because I don’t feel a great need of this personal identification, or perhaps because I like to choose my battles with an eye to not expending energy unnecessarily, but either way I tend not to get overly irked by things like this. Instead, I think we need to remember that fictional characters are made-up, not real, as are the worlds they populate similarly unreal. With this borne in mind, any attempt to sanitize fiction would be an unfortunate knee-jerk reaction, one that would detract from the whole reading experience. Fiction needs the good, the bad, the ugly, and yes, the psychotic too. Stories would be less vibrant if Edward and Bella did not have a Victoria to trouble them, if Hansel and Gretel did not have a witch and a gingerbread house to encounter in the deep, dark woods. Writers have been depicting heterosexual characters ( and characters of no defined sexuality at all ) as evil, psychotic, violent, and generally unpleasant since ever human beings learned to tell stories around a campfire. These characters have been black, white, short, tall, American, British, male, female, lawyers, doctors, housewives, mail carriers, cops, and just about everything in between.
To erase all lesbian, gay, and trans bad guys, and girls, from the page and reserve those for “nice characters only” is to discriminate and patronize by depriving LGBT readers of the full fiction reading experience. We, too, need the odd raving backwoods loony grinning in gleeful psychosis whilst she or he lops off the limbs of their victims. Just to balance out the yogurt-churning good guys. By all means let these characters be well-drawn and, hopefully, given some quality that makes them interesting as well as evil ( and honestly, in King’s case above, I think lazy characterization is the only crime he can be accused of ), but please, just don’t take them away.

Writer Devon Marshall has penned short stories and articles for numerous LGBT and mainstream publications, including SASS Magazine, and has had her work featured in two Forward Press anthologies. Her first full-length novel ‘The Lesbian Vampire Chronicles’ was published in August 2010. She lives on a windswept Scottish island with a large dog and a loyal housemate. When she isn’t writing she enjoys reading and watching old b/w movies. For more information on Devon’s current work visit her website at www.devonmarshallwrites.me.uk and read her blogs at http://devonthewriter.livejournal.com and http://wwwdevonmarshallwrites.blogspot.com

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