This episode of The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast features Book Appreciation with Anna Clutterbuck-Cook (part 2)
Episode 35c with Heather Rose Jones
In the Book Appreciation segments, our featured authors (or your host) will talk about one or more favorite books with queer female characters in a historic setting. This time we had so much to talk about we split it into two episodes. Listen to episode 1 here
Listen to this episode
In this episode we talk about:
- What is Anna looking for in f/f historical romances?
- Rich backstories and complex social networks
- The default assumption that women’s lives can only exist in relation to men, and how this affects even f/f fiction
- What were the shapes of women’s lives in history and how could f/f stories fit into those spaces
- The ways in which many popular m/f and m/m historical fiction tropes don’t fit f/f lives and relationships
- Constructing a “ladder of intimacy” for female characters that feels true to women’s lives
- How do historic definitions of “sex” affect how we imagine f/f sexuality in historical fiction?
- Why is actual sex so often absent in f/f fan fiction?
- Embedding sex scenes in the particularity of the characters’ lives and experience
- The conflicting tensions in reader reactions around sex scenes–is it “romance novels without sex” or “non-romance novels with romantic elements”?
- Embedding queer historic characters in a community of marginalized identities
- K.J. Charles and Cat Sebastian as authors creating series of connected novels that build queer community over time
- The misperception that queer “happily ever after” is unhistorical
- Writing characters as part of an existing queer historical continuum–the example of Charlotte Cushman
- Looking for stories with feminism and intersectional identities: non-white characters, disabled characters, non-privileged characters *
- Promoting diversity as readers and identifying our own biases
- Are women inherently uninteresting? The problem of “himpathy”.
- Books mentioned
- All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
- ”A Sweet Yuletide” by E.E. Ottoman
- Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
- Beauty and the Clockwork Beast by Nancy Campbell Allen (m/f)
- Kiss of the Spindle by Nancy Campbell Allen (m/f)
- The Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian (m/m but has secondary f/f couple)
- RWA racism and homophobia letters controversy (blog by Ivy Quinn)
- LHMPodcast on Charlotte Cushman
- Sins of the Cities series by K.J. Charles (m/m)
- Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
- Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne
- A transcript of this podcast is pending.
Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online
Links to Anna Clutterbuck-Cook Online
please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect
[Music] this is Heather Rose Jones with the lesbian historic motif podcast this weekly podcast looks at lesbian themes in history and literature and historic research into gender and sexuality we talk about current historical fiction with queer female characters including fantastic versions of the past and have interviews with authors who write those stories and in months when we have a fifth show we’re proud to present new original lesbian historical fiction for your enjoyment last week and Anna Clutterbuck-Cook and I found we had far too much fun to contain our conversation in a single podcast we’re back with Anna Clutterbuck-Cook to talk more about ffs historical fiction so you have some very definite ideas of what you’re looking for in your ideal FF historical romances let’s talk about that and if you can think of the examples of books that hit your sweet spot on any of these features this is a really great context for mentioning them and recommending them to our listeners so what are you looking for so I think I would say first of all that when I think about what I’m looking for in a romance novel it’s not necessarily distinct if I’m thinking about FF versus any other genre that I’m reading so I I feel like there are ways in which the FF romances that I have read have fallen short on some of these things and we’ve talked about them in the previous segment things that structural issues with lido characters and novel length and all those kind of things but when I think about sort of what really hits my sweet spot in terms of historical romances in general they are things that I think about to FF relationships as well as mmm relationships and other types of relationships I feel like I’m always looking for protagonists who have a really strong depth of personality in life so when they show up the beginning of the story I really want to know who are these people what has shaped their life so far how do they spend their days you know what are their social networks like and I think that when we were talking about people having trouble imagining women existing in previous you know existing independently in relationship to each other in historical spaces part of that comes out of what the stories that we’ve all been told about the past and you know how patriarchy made it impossible for women to exist outside of male spaces and Rebecca treestars book all the single ladies talks about this a lot even in our contemporary world that the stories we tell about women’s lives really are shaped by the mainstream stories we tell us they are shaped by their connections to men whether it’s their fathers or whether it’s their husbands and if a woman is single in a sense of not being connected to a man we don’t understand how that story works and I think that for an FF romance to be successful you really need to think about how those stories work and once you think about how women existed in the world in the past outside of relationships to men you can start thinking about what those what the shape of their lives individually look like and then how two or more of those lives will come together to shape something new and I think that that’s where when we see a lot of these FF romances taking places in really short form so novellas and short stories you lose a lot of the time to get to know these people as characters because you’ve got 30 pages to get them together I just read it was a lovely little Christmas story by Ottoman and I’ll find the title for you I can’t remember it off the top of my head but it was a little Christmas story about a woman who was a baker and she falls in love with I forget what the other woman’s occupation is but they’re two working women in like 1840s New York and the one woman comes into the shop to buy some bread and they have this little interaction and they end up getting together at the end of the story but you you know Eve you’re starting to see I think more historical stories trying to grapple with like how did women hide women make their money you know we’re not they’re not all Paris’s you know you know what did the shape of their days look like what were the factors that you know made their business more precarious potentially because their women owned bases or whatever how did they access Capital all of those kind of things and I’m really glad to see more of those things happening yeah you mentioned Eris’s and it it always strikes me that some of the most popular tropes in MF historical fiction work backwards for FF because you know heiresses were had some of the least free lives in terms of choosing their own life context their own life paths a rich man had a lot more power to decide not to marry or to marry and and live separate from his wife if he was interested in male relationships then a woman in a similar economic position would have so we’re set up with these popular tropes and and it’s reminding me of a book that I’ve been seeing discussion about on Twitter recently about the sexism in medical and safety studies that assumes the male body and assumes the male life and that therefore creates active hazards for women in that like you know seatbelt studies and and you know God studies and whatnot which is an odd tangent to go off of when talking about historical fiction but in the same way I think sometimes we’re set up with these these popular tropes that are mismeasured to women’s lives and therefore lead us to believe that either women couldn’t have these stories or that women’s stories have to be like the male stories yeah I think that that’s a completely valid observation like breaking the medical studies thing in because I think that is our I talk a lot about this in terms of constructing sex scenes that were used to written sex taking certain story arcs or those the progression of a sexual relationship in a romance length novel you sort of have these set scenes and they can be unique to the characters but you sort of know that there’s a ladder of intimacy and you get to the you know you get from you know hand-holding to sex ed what does the sex look like and there is a way in which the heteronormative sex stories that we tell Frank can translate into Emma and to be fair there are some authors who are doing wonderfully queer deconstructions of what sex looks like in mmm romance as well and also MF I’ve read some great about stories that are just you know kids to intercourse sort of sort of narratives but people in contemporary life are still so confused about how sex between women works that it can be really hard to structure a romance narrative of progressive relational intimacy that includes sexually explicit scenes because people are sure what that even entails and so I think much like with your your medical studies arts are templates are still so much dependent on these particular activities that categorically look different when you’re talking about the bodies of two sis women or even sis and trans women what is sexual intimacy mean to them and there’s no sort of ready ready storyline for us as both writers and readers to put that in into neat little categories and say okay this relationship is is it go this is what’s gonna happen and I think that that’s much like the how are they going to make money to survive question causes people to stumble alive and even when you look at the historic record so much of the of historic commentary on women’s sexual relationships is focused on the heterosexual model where sex between women only comes to people’s attention and only becomes an anxiety when it is penetrative sex with a penis like analog and you find that often over and over again in history that’s what that’s what the law was focused on that’s what social structures were focused on that if you were doing something other than you know a I don’t wanna say heteronormative but a hetero like sexual activity people didn’t treat it as sex and therefore in one in one way we don’t know about it cuz nobody was making a big fuss about it but in the in another way it it becomes invisible as a lesbian activity if what two women are doing is kissing and embracing and and speaking endearments and maybe fondling each other’s breasts and and they may not have categorized it as sex and therefore it doesn’t fit into our our narratives of what the sex scene in a book looks like and so this is maybe the reverse of what we’ve also just been saying but that one of the frustrations that I have fanfiction that actually prompted me to start writing was that a lot of times when FF relationships came up in the fandoms I was reading in they would be very non explicit and so the relationship might be there but the people who were writing it were DS D sexualizing it like they were turning it very much into like we’re best friends when we kiss along which can be valid but it was really interesting to see how differently FF relationships were treated in fandoms where the mmm relationships were like plot what plot the sexual activity you could possibly imagine and thinking about that the sexism involved there and the heteronormativity too but that people couldn’t because in our culture we think of our contemporary culture we think of men as the ones who have the active sexual interest and sort of precipitate sexual activity and a lot of the narratives that we carry around in our heads when you have two women neither of whom is responsible for precipitating that activity people are really confused about how it happens was written just didn’t have it it didn’t have an integrated sense of how the sexual intimacy of the characters fit into the story and fit into their lives and that’s definitely something I also look for my historical romances or any romance that I read is I really want to understand not just how these two people are great in terms of any sort of inter-relational you know friendship how they how they’re gonna construct a life together but like how how they feel about each other and it really embodied way yeah you mentioned that in your notes that you were looking for the physicality of the experience and that’s something I’ve heard from from other people Farrah Mendelssohn mentioned that you know one thing she looks for in FF writing and that she tried to put in her own novel was that sense of the physicality of the intimacy the embodied intimacy yeah I think that for me the most effective my own storytelling is think not just about like geometrically how are things happening that’s right but why are these characters doing these things what does that feel like today and I think when you that’s a depth of writing that kind of happens at the second or third pass a lot of times that you kind of sketch out how the how the scene is gonna play out and then you at least this is how I do it would go back and think about you know well how are they what are the characters feeling that leads them from point A to point B to Point C have they done this thing before are they worried about this thing you know if they did it before how did that feel this feel different than the last time they did it all of those kind of questions that help you put yourself in the mindset of the character who’s choosing to do this activity in this moment with this person and why does that matter and I think it’s a really great opportunity to kind of step back from the scripts that we all carry around about how this narrative is supposed to go and think about well if these two specific people with these two specific lives and sets of feelings and motivations come together what would feel good to that two-g together one of the things that I reacted to in our original Twitter conversation and in this one it wasn’t a conversation yet you were making some comments and I reacted to it because it’s very hard for an author not to read commentary on literary motifs and take it personally so so this is not to be taking you personally but I get a lot of feedback from readers who want my books to have more on page sex they want my books have more heat they want they want to see those characters going down and dirty and and for me you know it was I came to it with a from a number of different points of view one is genre and when I started writing the alpinist series I was very much modelling the genre on on georgette Heyer who does not have on page six and yet you know you know that her characters are you know deeply and passionately in love with each other and I was coming at it from a sense that well part of it I was coming at it with a sense that I was not at a point where I could write good explicit sex scenes I I’m still working on that concept I have a story where I want to first venture out into it it’ll be a short story and then the third place I’m coming from is that I am affect asexual so my ability to put myself in a character’s head space who is feeling sexual arousal and and you know feeling it generally and specifically is affected by that and it was to some extent a specific decision I made that that my books will clearly indicate that these characters have sexual relationships and even give you cues to know when they’re often the next room doing it but that I’m not going to write explicit sex scenes because I don’t think I could integrate them into the story as well and I and I think it is possible to write perfectly good historical FF romances without having explicit sex so it always it always puts my back up when I basically have a reader say you know this was a perfectly good story but it doesn’t work for me because no sex and and so that was why I had that reaction to your comment it’s like I appreciate the people that readers want this that they are looking for this but but I feel this this deep anxiety that there are readers out there who feel that a book can not be a good book unless it has explicit sex and I don’t think that’s what you’re saying but that was one of the you may remember that I kind of bristled a bit in that Twitter kethry yeah and I think I would definitely say that I don’t believe that fiction and even romance section requires on page sex to be romance I think for me it is such an integral part of a romantic relationship that I I miss it when it’s not there I just read it a couple of I can remember her first name Alan is the last name to steam from Punk romances that were wonderful little steampunk fantasy is the second lightest kiss of the spindle and the first one it’s a the second one kiss the spindle is sort of a Sleeping Beauty’s story but said in this 19th century steampunk universe and the first one in this series is the Beauty and the Beast narrative it’s set in this same the world-building is wonderful yeah and and I’ll track down I’ll track down all these references and make sure they’re the same and I really enjoyed that and I was sad stories but for me when I seek out romance genre specific material that is a piece that I that I am looking for so it actually helps me when I was reading the the two steampunk romances to think about them as like steampunk fantasy with the romantic element in them and then I wasn’t like looking for certain pieces of the story that I felt were we’re missing I was like oh this is this is a great fantasy story and I do think is it a matter for you that romance is a genre in in your personal take on it should have sexual content and that that it can be a story with romantic elements but it has to have sex for it to be a romance I don’t I don’t believe that and I know that they’re I mean they’re a whole their whole conversations in the romance genre about sort of how do you how do you rate the heat levels how do you tell it’s a weird yeah but but similar to infection you you tend to rate things based on how explicit they are I think a big part of what I seek out in both fanfiction and romance is the sexual piece which I am very interested in as both a historian a historian and as a reader like I’ve always been really interested in how you portray human sexuality on the page and how you think about how how we think about sexuality as part of both identity and relationship so it’s a very personal preference lumen but when the reason that I came to fan fiction and then to romance was I was following that piece of story that that type of storytelling and the storytelling about that particular part of human relationships that I wasn’t finding in other genres and so so it’s a very personal yeah I’m sorry sorry if I made it sound like I was challenging you on that but I do want to be careful because I know that there are people who are sort of in the opposite vein like don’t want explicit sex and their romance and I don’t think that that makes what they’re reading not romance and and for me as a reader I’m I’m fine with there being sex in my romance as long as it doesn’t feel like and now we’re going to stop and have the obligatory sex scene I there was one time I was reading a series of ffs historical novel ads where I gave up after the second one was because it was basically and now we’re going to dress these people up in costumes and now we’re gonna put them in bed and now they’re gonna have wild sex now we’re going to have the second sex scene and then we’re done and it’s sort of the opposite for me it’s like I’m coming here for the history and the sex is okay but but it shouldn’t be all about the sex so I can see what you’re saying it’s like you’re coming here for specific things and it’s fine if they aren’t all there but there are some of them are what who came for ya I would also say to that for me it’s really important to have the sexuality piece happen within a larger narrative so before before I came to the romance genre through fanfiction I was also reading erotica short form erotica anthologies and things like that and I found them super frustrating because there was no storyline right you get these characters with sort of minimal character development and so depending on what you want more or less successful little scenarios but you don’t have the larger story of how does how does this scene or how does this relationship fit into these characters whole lives and so what I found in the romance genre that I wasn’t getting elsewhere in shorter form erotic fiction was how does this intimacy fit into a whole world of both these specific characters and their relationship but also they’re they’re even sort of bigger circle of you know how does how does that relationship then fit into the other relationships that these characters have with each we know what their family is with their friends the world that they move through and so just but you know yes I’m coming for this particular piece but it’s very important to me that that particular piece be embedded in a story about the whole person the lesbian talk show relies on support the support of you our listeners the support of those who like and review our show on their favorite podcast app the support of our patrons on patreon and the support of our sponsors we hope you’ll continue to enjoy and support the lesbian talk-show you mentioned another thing you’re looking for is stories where the romance is embedded in a community it’s embedded in a web of friendships of family so so talking about more about what you’re looking for there yeah so I think this kind of builds on what I was saying earlier about how a lot of times it seems like people struggle to create you know sort of full depth identities for women characters in FF romance and one of the things I think it’s both sort of politically important to me and narrative ly important to me is that particularly in historical fiction we have this fictional space to think about how people with marginalized identities of various kinds did live and thrive and make space to be themselves in the past I particularly appreciate authors I think both KJ Charles and Kat Sebastian do this really well working with characters who are money to rester crafts or at least well on eat aristocrats right where people are working for a living are people who have various types of you know really hard struggles but through the relationship that they build that’s at the core of a romance novel and then all of the relationships around those people they create a life of that has more stability than they had before their relationship came together and that particularly can happen really beautifully when you have a series of novels that are all interconnected so that the queer community builds over time and that each novel has a particular relationship at its core but it connects to the network that’s already in place so that the what I’m thinking of right now is cat Sebastian’s the soldiers Gabriel was the first one and then the Lawrence Brown affair and Brugha never rape these three stories are all mmm romance but you start out with the core the core couple that gets together in the first one is like an independent investigator and a soldier who’s just come back injured from the Napoleonic Wars so they get together around investigating an abusive husband situation where the the sister of the soldier has been married to someone who is really cruel and she actually has she in her female companion and then they have a couple of children and they’re trying to figure out how to get the sister and her companion out from under the control of the abusive husbands so they’re a little there a little FF relationship that kind of develops the background of the story and then in a success of two stories you can have characters who were introduced in the first novel who then end up coupled together and by the end of the story you have like this family reunion scene where you have you know every single couples totally queer and you have some cats and dogs to be and they’re all taking care of each other and each other’s children in these various ways and I think that it is both historically plausible that people created these kind of mutually supportive networks for each other and I think critically important in the present for leadership to reimagine history when these kind of stories to realize that you know queer identity even if it doesn’t have the same specific categories as it does today has always been around and always been possible and in fact is part of the historical narrative despite the fact that a lot of times people in you know traditional publishing environments I don’t know this is skipping around a little bit of rwa published a couple of letters earlier in the year in response to an essay about white supremacy and romance both of the letters were very upset that the author of the original article Elizabeth Kingston was talking about racism and romance and on one of the letters yeah one of the letters also brought up queer and queerer identities and historical romance and was like it’s basically saying it’s a historical to have happy queer characters and you know it’s really important if you’re gonna tell stories about your history to make sure people understood how terrible it was back then to be queer and held like life-threatening and it felt so obviously wrongheaded yeah I mean like one-headed but the perspective of someone who thought that the way to be respectful of queer representation was to it was to acknowledge how horrible it had been and then if you give your characters happiness you’re somehow disrespecting the describe like you’re erasing the discrimination that they experienced this person I don’t think understood that by saying you know if you had been born before 1969 your life was going to be miserable as a career person erases whole swathes of queer history and really had this dichotomy of like either you’re happy or you’re set like either you’re joyful or you’re miserable and if you experienced discrimination you couldn’t possibly have formed happy healthy relationships with other people and so I actually think that doing the project of writing romance that has these this larger sense of queer community in it is is doing really important reparative work around putting the mainstream understanding of queer history that queer people were so oppressed until Stonewall and equal marriage equality and now everything is good yeah the listeners cannot see but I am rolling my eyes at that that was one of the places I came from back in the 80s when I first started researching queer history as a potential author because I had found that every time I started imagining a story to write it was a coming-out story it was a you know what is the strange thing I am feeling nobody has ever felt like this before a story it wasn’t so much that I knew that to be wrong but I felt it to be wrong and I wanted to write stories I want to write historical romances about queer women who knew already that they were part either of a social continuum or a historical continuum a conceptual continuum I wanted characters who already knew this is a thing you know you can be this thing and and now I’m gonna act on it and the more have done a lot of research and there a lot of research has now been available that wasn’t available back then to identify communities and traditions and ways of being that embodied this sense of continuity and community and networking I can still surprise myself when I’m looking at I did a show on nineteenth-century actress Charlotte Cushman because her name kept coming up in a book called improper Bostonians which is about queer boston and all of these female couples in 19th century boston who were connected to her in some way so i decided i need to look at her further and her entire life is one vast network community of female couples in the US and in England and in Rome and supporting each other and stealing each other’s girlfriends and having just being part of this enormous female female community that history does not tell you about in fact of the two biographies of her that I read for putting together the show one of them entirely erased that aspect of her life and basically oh well you know she was a single woman and she was unhappy about it and she had some friends and the other one really embraced looking at her as a as a woman as part of a woman centered community with a vast fandom of female viewers of her shows who specifically interacted with her in a desiring fashion and I want a miniseries about her I mean I absolutely do because it tells this story of women being part of a community of queer women in times before the 20th century and I do think I agree with you that is so important to be aware of yeah one of the serious that KJ Charles Wright sins of the cities she’s created this basically a queer bar gentlemen’s a gentlemen’s club that you have to again we’re back to the whisper networks you have to know the people who can then introduce you to the club in order to get in but it’s this you know who’d have once you’re in the inner circle it’s a space where you have all of these peer men you are circling and clear each other’s lives and and become there are some established relationships in that community and then there are a lot of times in the stories one of the characters he’s part of that community that falls in love with someone who is outside and we know is coming in from the outside but is able to get connected up to this this group of men who are all we’re in some fashion and through that community has her stories tend to have kind of a thriller slash mystery aspect to them so there’s often a murder to solve she’s always very proud of herself when she writes a story that doesn’t involve dead bodies but you know you sort of have this the danger aspect of this story that usually the queer community then comes to the rescue on some fashion because you’ve got all these these relationships that are in resources and the people who are in that space and I really do like how fiction can reinforce the importance of that larger community and I think it’s something that often queer romance writers get better than sort of traditional m-f story lines because the tropes that we have 4mf relationships to marriage tend to be very nuclear family oriented you get the couple together if you’re lucky you’ve got you know a lot of times those series will have siblings or something so you get different siblings getting paired up through the story or something like that but they tend to be very much a family focused and I think that the queer authors are very consciously creating found families for their characters sometimes those will include elements of siblings or parents or who or children from previous relationships but I see that work being done very purposefully in the queer romance space and I really appreciate that so another thing you mentioned that you are definitely looking for is feminism and intersectional identities and I think we’ve touched on that a bit especially in terms of you know having the presence of the whole spectrum of sexualities and genders so what else is really important to you to see in your romance yeah I really appreciate people who have much like with thinking about women and other people who are economically contingent I’m seeing more and more romance that involves people who are white people mixed-race from all different contexts Courtney Milan who mostly writes m-f but has also written mmm I think has an FF sure yeah god I’ve got a title for her on my upcoming list I think because what the title is but so I mean I’m excited about that one to you but she has the series that she’s sort of working through right now started out with a short story in Hamilton the Hamiltons battalion anthology that was to two men one white Englishman the other one a black American and out of that couple she has built this whole family of transatlantic like the I think the nephew of the the black merchant who features that novella has a son who falls in love with an English white woman who’s an abolitionist so they have that there’s an interracial relationship and then she’s a another one of the merchants in that family I think it’s up with the women from Hong Kong since she’s doing some really interesting thing about a sort of global scale looking at interracial and a whole gender spectrum of things going on I’m seeing more and more people incorporating Nirali typical characters and characters with different types of physical and mental health issues Kath Sebastian has a wonderful character who struggles with he has malaria he’s he’s been in India and he develops malaria which is treatable but but a tronic yeah and so and so he has to figure out how he’s managing the illness it’s a illness but figuring out sort of how to talk about that with his boyfriend and you know them trying to figure out how to establish a life together that accommodates the the fact this character is going to go through periods of really extreme unwellness so I like all of the ways in which people are thinking about not just two white kids who are financially secure and therefore have no problems in the world you know getting together that they’re really thinking about intersectional identity isn’t a whole range of you know economic and personal levels yeah I have to say that one of my perceptions of a vélez vyx side of romance and especially in contemporary romance and I may be doing a great disservice here because my familiarity with the field tends to be you know superficial from looking at titles and descriptions rather than being a deep reader but that there is an issue around diversity especially if ethnicity and that you know it’s not that there are no characters of color in lastik romances but it they tend to be you know about that or they tend to be separate and and I will say the the electric writing community you know as a self-identified community tends to be really really white and this is something that we have not we have started thinking about grappling with but it’s one of those again a vicious circle where if I were if I were a black reader if I were a leader of one of the Asian cultures and I came in and I looked at less Vic I would say I don’t belong here I I do not exist here why should I stick around and try to change things I I know that when I go out looking for authors to interview I’m very actively looking for more diverse authors with diverse being codeword for not always white and it’s it’s something I do have to actively pay attention to and search for and make an effort because if I were only looking statistically at who’s got a new book coming out that I want to feature it would not be as diverse it is something that that we as a community have to engage with recognize our own prejudices even in just you know what books we like and promote its yeah it’s there yeah and I think that one of the things white readers and writers can do not just in the last community but you know anywhere in publishing which remains incredibly white is thinking about and also in profession say in fanfiction as well is that a lot of our fiction reading and the Preferences that we bring to that have very deep and not necessarily explicit roots in our comfort levels we want to read the things that appeal that we resonate with and then we’re comfortable with most of the time if we’re doing leisure reading if we’re doing reading for pleasure as opposed for for business and really realizing that what feels comfortable and familiar and resonant with us is shaped by pervasive cultural racism so that if we find ourselves saying this character is unrelatable or this character is unlikable that’s not a feeling that comes out of nowhere that’s some sort of innate preference that we have we have been taught to have to cultivate emotional connection with certain types of characters and with certain types of situations I think a lot about that in terms of women writing mmm whether they’re queer women or not because from the moment were born the stories that were supposed to teach us to Center the male experience to connect with male protagonists in fiction to really try to cultivate actively cultivate empathy for those male characters because they are at the center of the stories that were given to read and we’re given to watch so it’s like if you look at the cultural landscape out there to go back to what you were saying about fit fiction and how hard it is to find a cultural product that has two well-developed women to put together in our relationship in fan fiction we’re given so many stories where you’ve got the male buddy is or you know at least one too if not more really fully fleshed-out male characters in a television series that we can put together most of whom are white I think it’s really hard when you’re talking about people’s pleasure reading to walk that line between saying cultivate awareness of why you’re resonating with certain stories and others well also not telling people your preferences are wrong like yeah because it can be really easy especially when you’re talking about romance and relationships to turn that into well if you’re attracted to a white character in this story you’re doing it wrong yeah I’ve run into this for for the the gender identification even within less fixed circles I I once tossed out on a Facebook group the question of you know if if you think you don’t like lesbian historical –zz what is it you think you don’t like about them I was a very skewed question but one of the responses I got was well people women in history didn’t do anything interesting why would I want to read about them women in history just sat around sewing what’s fun about that and I was just gobsmacked that the idea that women in any period were inherently uninteresting and therefore why would you write or read about them in the first place it’s so obviously not true but where does it come from how do we pick up these messages and internalize them to the point where we think it’s unrealistic to read or write a story about women doing interesting things and it applies the same to characters of all types of diverse and marginalized identities it’s how do we get these messages that says these people only have a certain narrow type of story they they don’t have interesting stories they’ve got those types of stories and I don’t want to read about that yeah I find man the operating culture and she has coined the term hip a–they to describe how we are encouraged to identify and feel a motive connection with white men across all sorts of media spaces she’s talking specifically in terms of not necessarily fiction but in coverage of things like the cabinet hearing or I forget what his name it was but the swimmer who was the forget omission and then let off with sort of that a slap on the wrist yeah because because we wouldn’t want to ruin his you know his promising future but she’s so she’s talking about how we are taught we are expected to empathize with those people and feel sorry for them like to a much greater extent then then the situation actually warrants because we’re primed to connect with white men in these stories and we’re primed to be suspicious of women’s testimony of women’s experience to discount that their their pain and their humiliation would eat all of those things and look at the story from the perspective of the white male protagonist and I think that it’s really hard to dig out from from under that like being queer is not inoculation against that yeah because the larger media culture so I’m not sure what the solution is to that other than being aware of it and cracked like exercising the muscles that stop you from automatically doing it and stepping back and saying what am I doing here Who am I humanizing who do I think is deserving of second chances who do I think has an interesting life story and why and just holding that instead of alongside the things that you’re reading and getting pleasure from and think about what the dynamics are in those stories that you’re engaged with so that’s kind of a downer I don’t want to go out on that topic how about a brief summing up of what are the things that bring you joy ffs historical romance or would bring you joy if you found them I just I would definitely as I said we talked earlier about this trend and established queer romance authors bringing in FF characters either as secondary relationships and larger stories or in novella sort of outtake stories and I would really love to see those relationships take come front and center in those spaces and see more FF romance full-length romance that really imagines how women might have been able to establish home lives together and you know work lives together and all those the rest of the sort of like how do they build some family for each other what sort of networks are they engaged in so thinking about their relationship not simply in isolation in a very brief story but thinking about those women as embedded in a much larger community that supports them and I really like another aspect of the Bassett if we are a fat found family story time what I really like is that it does allow for a greater variation of gender identities and types of relationships because you have a larger cast of characters and so I really hope that moving forward we can see more series of romance that that does something to address that resource scarcity yeah because there’s just more for everyone like there’s an abundance of stories and that people don’t necessarily feel that they have to find the relationship pairing that precisely mirrors their own experience or identity in order to connect with those characters but that they can they can read in the romance genre and really appreciate a full range of identities and relationships and types of desiring and types of community because there’s just so much of it out there yeah so I I hope that we can we can get to a place where we feel like it’s less like it not so necessary to protect what we already have from like outside and invasion or outside threat and and think about creating more and more sort of sense as opposed to like let me be very attentive of the space that I already had like maybe if we can think about it in terms of opening up a little bit more from silage a silo being a really generative dynamic and having more frost I love conversations sparking more creativity and more diverse type storytelling creating new script so that we’re not just repeating the same old scripts over and over again so I’m hopeful I know is that a foregone conclusion there’s still a lot of you know white supremacy in publishing and heteronormativity and publishing I love that but I do see a lot of hopeful trends coming from the margin to the center and hopefully if we continue to support them by getting super excited about them on Twitter that those things will will become stronger threads in me forward so Anna if people wanted to follow you on social media and hear more of your wonderful opinions where should they look so I am primarily on twitter my twitter handle is feminist live short for feminist librarian so feminist Li B you can also find me online at the feminist librarian calm my blog isn’t super active these days but that’s the website has all of my various social media handles and if I do happen to have something like this podcast where I talk about something interesting I tend to cross post it there so people will find be able to find that and if they’re interested in in fanfiction or part of the fanfiction community I am on it archive of our own as Eliza Jane elig aja and eat okay I’ll put links to those in the show notes so people can find you this has been a fascinating conversation I’ve been hoping to start including some more wide-ranging discussions like this on the show and it’s been an absolute delight to have you on as a guest thank you thank you so much for the conversation and I know we will continue to talk on Twitter and elsewhere so looking forward to it I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast if you want to follow up on anything we’ve covered see the show notes for links and to contact me with questions book announcements or topic suggestions if you enjoyed this podcast please read it and subscribe on itunes stitcher or pod bean and consider supporting our patreon and if you’re on facebook check out the lesbian talk show chat group [Music]