April was a busy month!
Very recently I had the opportunity to share Author X Audience with someone in the animation industry. This person was very kind, and I was excited to get to have a conversation with them about art since they are also a bisexual woman. One thing that became quickly apparent in my conversation with her was that Author X Audience isn’t quite up to snuff on its realism when it comes to the industry. In particular, when Terry reads through the Serenity Peaks episode script that Alexis spoiled herself on. I believe my correspondent’s exact words were “I would be so fired if I leaked a script to a fan…”
I’m definitely taking some liberties with that. And I fully intend to sneak back and have Terry swear Alexis to secrecy before reading the script for her now as well. But I wanted to touch on that now, just in case anyone is having difficulty with that particular aspect of the story. I am not an animation industry pro, and all of the information I have that informed the writing of AxA was what I could grab from commentaries, interviews, and Comic Con panels. I did my best and tried to do my research, but I will probably still flub the realism of this from time to time. I hope you will still be able to enjoy the story!
My correspondent also touched on how easily recognizable Terry and Serenity Peaks are. Her advice was perhaps to change those things so that Terry and Serenity Peaks are as unrecognizable as possible from their source material.
The problem is, everything in my manuscript is recognizable. I’ve taken our world, and shoved it sideways. Things like the great media conglomerate Bizney are recognizable in a way that allows readers to tap into the mood of that company immediately. People like Rebecca Sucrose and her show Steven Multiverse are instantly recognized. And I did all that on purpose. Because this is a story about fans and fandom as much as it is about Alexis and her journey. While I could pick one thing and spend a fourth of my manuscript building a fictional fandom for readers to relate to (like Rainbow Rowell in Fangirl), I don’t want to. I have bigger things to tackle in this story, and I hope that you will all understand the tongue-in-cheek way I reference our reality with names that are familiar and yet different. They’re meant to give you an instantaneous connection to the material.
To pare it down, when I do this, I’m inviting you to bring your own fandom experiences into my narrative. I want to tap into media you know, and fandoms you are in while still clearly communicating that my story is a work of fiction. Because of that, AxA takes a very tongue-in-cheek approach to media, creators, and even businesses you may know. To fans of manga, I’m sure ZIV is pretty familiar. Bizney is so transparent I feel both the company and my comment on them are apparent in the name. There are many more: The Lion Duke, Star and the Forces of Malevolence, and D for Declaration, just to name a few. These are my love letters to the things you’ve consumed in your life, and my invitation to you to bring your reality into my fictional playground—to make space in an original work for fandom that I don’t have to invent dependently within the work.
I’m also going to link everyone to some of my favorite articles about parasocial relationships again, and how feeling connected to characters and people we don’t know personally in real life is a real thing that our brains do and is nigh chemically indistinguishable from other relationships. Short article here, long article here. Especially in the beginning of AxA, Alexis is dealing with the leap from a parasocial relationship with Terry to a real one.
While you may recognize things from real life in the fictional versions of things in the manuscript, these aren’t in place so that I can write real person fanfiction about people I’ve never met before. They’re there so that you can bring your own parasocial relationships into the story and geek out like Alexis and Terry do.
It’s also been brought to my attention that this might make people who see themselves in the characters I’m playing with uncomfortable. I want to clarify again that this story is fictional and my characters—while inspired by my experiences with real life, fandom, and the public personas of people I admire—are indeed characters. It is my hope that should this reach people who feel they inspired a character that they will understand that this is not a comment on them or reality; and also that in order to tell my story, I felt the need to keep certain things recognizable in order to tap into the real-world feelings of my audience.
April 11th through 14th, I promoted AxA at ClexaCon. Each time I mentioned that the story was about a bi woman with anxiety, people went “Oh my gosh, that’s me!” or “The story is intersectional?! Oh, finally!” There’s such a need for stories like this. I finished work on Author X Audience a while ago. I don’t want to delay releasing it any longer. I wrote AxA when I couldn’t envision a future for myself anymore—when I had lost all hope of one day ever getting to work with stories in a way that could pay the bills.
I’m still compromising in order to tell stories. I couldn’t find anyone who would traditionally publish AxA. Some people balked at the length (114,000 words!). Others felt there was no audience—not because there isn’t a need or interest for works like this, but because people who would relate “don’t have money.” America’s publishing model is so tied to making money that it feels that has become its primary purpose instead of telling stories. I feel a living wage would make it easier for emerging artists to start up. I feel universal healthcare and a universal income would also help. Even at the convention, so many vendors of books and art and other wares were there working outside of full or part-time day jobs.
I work part-time at a video game shop to make sure I always have enough to pay my bills. I freelance (as people on this site will know) and write to supplement the rest of my income. And even then, I am still making my life work on a shoe string so that I can write and keep chasing my dreams of getting stories like this to the people who desperately need a soft epilogue.
Did you hear me, reader? You deserve a soft epilogue. Queer, trans, black, indigenous, Latina, Jewish, carrying a mental illness, living with a disability, any combination and ones I haven’t named. All of you deserve to be more than a tragic romance or a sacrifice or a dead extra or the villain.
This story was my soft epilogue for me.
Before Japan, when my family members were dying, when I had yet to know about my father’s affair, and no mentions of divorce had yet been made, the only thing that gave me solace was survival and recovery stories. I read Looking for Alaska by John Green. I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. But by far the most important, the most relevant story, the one that gave me the most comfort and solace and ability to continue on and hope was a fanfiction by Sodomquake called Sympathy Crime. Sympathy Crime was Persona 4 fanfic and was so long that when I chose to design it as a light novel for my book design class in grad school, I had to split it up over 3 books. It meant I got to design covers for a series, though, so that was fun. It covered the events of the game, but also showed one of the main characters, Yosuke, start a relationship, begin to believe he was a problem in the relationship, fall victim to abuse in said relationship, and then realistically recover from his abuse after leaving the relationship. Often in block buster media, love conquers all and “cures” people of their trauma. I was not in a place where a kiss and a few kind words could help me get away from my budding anxiety or the trauma of being scapegoated by my family in their grief. Seeing Yosuke be triggered, even long after he had gotten out of his relationship with his abuser and was in a healthy relationship with the partner and best friend we’d been rooting for all along helped me feel less like a freak.
That’s why I feel—even though some people may feel that what I’m doing in making media, businesses, and personas recognizable in my text—I still need to release this story. It may not be perfect (I’m not an animation pro, and things might be “too recognizable”) that I need to keep releasing this story as it is. I don’t have the time or resources to rework it and still bring it to you in a way that is as coherent and cohesive as it is now. It’s been through many rounds of editing, by myself, with feedback of beta readers, and with the feedback of a copy editor. All of us have worked hard to make sure that Alexis’s journey comes through, that Terry and Serenity Peaks make sense as their own independently fictional things.
This story is one of recovery, hard work, and a happy ending. Everyone deserves that. And I want to give it to as many bi women with anxiety like me as I possibly can. I hope that mission will be enough for anyone who has a problem with inaccuracies or meta in my story to be understanding towards me, the narrative, and fans of my work. Just as I said at the beginning of Alexis’s story in Valerie’s quote from V from Vendetta: even though I do not know you, I love you.
Plus, I think the world could do with more bisexual representation from bisexual people. For a queer con, ClexaCon had a lot of people running around defining bisexual as transphobic or making it out like bi women weren’t gay enough unless they were with other women. One panel I attended that was about how not to police in the queer community, the women running it tried to define bi and explain the difference between bi and pan. Neither of them used those labels and they had just finished talking about how important it was to keep an open mind and listen to how/why each person uses/relates to their labels.
I’ll be writing about that whole experience for my Patreon supporters in my Tales of a Bisexual collection.
Keep being your amazing selves. I’ll see you in my Q&A’s as soon as I get them running, and in next month’s blogpost!