What is it about today? Already I’ve gone off on someone about Patrick McLaw (the Maryland African-American teacher detained allegedly because of the themes in his self-published sf books), and now I’m all ranty from a pompous interview in the Guardian with Ian McEwan. Since I’ve exhausted myself with McLaw (let’s just say I’m pissed, pissed, pissed), I’ll just rant a little bit about the McEwan.
Keep in mind that he’s a mainstream writer considered to be writing about family and drama. I think it was the subplot of his newest work that set me off originally, with the 60-year-old husband wanting “one last go” at a grand affair. Grrr. I’m afraid that these days, I wouldn’t make it past the first few pages of a work with that subplot element. I’m sick and tired of the glorification of the male sexual fantasy, especially in a work where the author is allegedly trying to think like a professional woman with homelife drama who encounters a big ethical challenge. Dear God, take me now. Ugh. Can we just say cliched, overdone, trite? Quite frankly, I think “spouse fed up with his work and wanting to retire” or “spouse dealing with onset of illness” is probably more realistic as homelife drama, unless one happens to be part of a particular rich and privileged class. Affairs? Jesus, John Updike did that to death. I don’t care what genre it is, if there’s an affair involved, I’m probably going to throw the damn book against the wall. It’s why I don’t spend much time on the literary genre. Male infidelity is just so done in fiction, in my opinion.
Maybe I’ve just had too many other family dramas in my life to be able to engage with the egotism involved in a man’s desire for an affair. I don’t know. The concept of “one last go” is somewhat offensive to me. Either you’re monogamous and you both agree, or else you’re poly and the rules and structures exist for how you engage with others and it’s No. Big. Deal. To be monogamous, and then have this one last desire for a fling with someone else is profoundly so much a violation of the original relationship (in my opinion) that the other person is justified in chucking the whole relationship and ripping the man to shreds in the court system.
Yeah. So please slap me if I ever decide to write such a thing.
There are aspects of McEwan’s interview that I like. He’s unapologetically placing himself in “what he calls the ‘family division’ of English prose.” I like his advocacy for bringing work back into contemporary writing. I just–I don’t know. Something about the tone of the description of the latest work set me off. Probably it’s more an argument with the character in the latest book who feels himself entitled to ask for permission to have an affair. It’s the male gaze issue
And probably a huge chunk of it is that the sort of sf and fantasy I want to write is more of that sort of family interactions and dynamics stuff. The as-yet undisclosed heart of the Netwalk Sequence involves some very dark and horrible stuff that happened within the Stephens family. It was kept successfully hushed up for over a hundred years. It explains a lot of Sarah’s dynamics, and her star-crossed relationship with Francis Stewart. Only I also bring in gadgets and tech and other stuff because, well…I like boom today. Boom tomorrow as well, but boom today is good. Anthony Trollope in space is fun. So is Jane Austen, the Brontes, and etc.
But it’s not taken as serious writing within the genre, unless you get very, very lucky and you write about the male protagonists. Me, I like playing with multi-generational female protagonists, including the additional drama of reproductive realities. So yeah. Probable obscurity.
However, I intend to have fun doing it. And now my ranty mcrantypants rantage is done. Whew. That’s enough for one day.