(This was originally a Facebook post, but it got rambly)
Not gonna lie; my mental health is in the toilet. I’m out of the habit of writing. I struggle to blog. I have no clue how to build my mailing list. I *still* owe hard-copies of the Lady Raven books to backers from years ago, which I feel like I’d be doing them a disservice by not making sure my many remaining mistakes and formatting issues are fixed first. I’m struggling to find a new job. I’ve been putting on weight. I can’t sleep past 5am, no matter what time I go to bed.
I’m sorry to everyone I’ve been short with over the past 12 months (maybe more), because a lot of my core mental health issues stem from the existential dread of passing into my forties and seemingly having pissed away a writing career which I’m scrambling to rebuild. Because that was the one endevour which was entirely for me.
I’ve treated a lot of people unfairly. Been judgemental and selfish, and not at all the person I want to be. I’ve even lost friends over my behaviour, and I’ve all but vanished from the writing and SFF community.
And yet, I’ve offered to volunteer to help with Octocon’s online chats, and I’m writing two games for Gaelcon. I’m running a weekly Star Wars game online. And writing two novels at the same freaking time. This is because my mental health is stronger when I have things to work on.
The books are good. The Star Wars game is the best thing I’ve run since Buffy or Deadlands. And I will get a job.
And I will be a real writer again.
Transcript: Hel’s Fury podcast, Episode 40, August 20th
I ran into the fire. When everyone else fled, bashing past each other and leaping over the fallen, as smoke billowed and people screamed, I ran into the cloud. Into the fire.
There’s no ‘normal’ way for a protest to go. Not anymore. But this was something different, something I’d never seen before. Something that would change me, and the world.
Let me back up if you’re new to the show. I’m Helen Neill, and this is Hel’s Fury, your regular dose of political and social outrage, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you know there’s plenty to be outraged about.
Hard to believe, but it was only a few years ago when we really thought things might turn around. We thought if we raised our voices, if we got out and voted, we’d finally take back some kind of control. We thought we could begin to put the country, the world, back on track. But who the fuck would have believed they’d straight up ignore the votes? They didn’t steal the election; they just decided it didn’t matter. So we planned and we gathered. We’re getting pretty efficient at it. It’s amazing how quickly you can marshal tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, all in different cities, and march.
This was the march you’ll have seen in the news. The one that swept every media outlet. But the coverage is bullshit. I’m going to tell you what really happened. I’m going to tell you how the monsters came.
Hel’s Fury is my latest novel intended for self-publishing. If you want to support me, and read each chapter as it comes, you can back me on Patreon at: https://www.patreon.com/paulanthonyshortt
J.K. Rowling is a bigot and a transphobe. This is an undeniable fact.
With that out of the way, before I continue, I urge you to check out these responses from transgender people using their platforms to speak out and educate others:
JK Rowling Transphobia Explained (A Rant) – Jessie Gender
Breaking Down JK Rowling’s Transphobic Essay – Jessie Gender
JK Rowling and the Detransition Narrative – Shonalika
JK Rowling’s Anti-Trans Tweets | Trans Guy Reacts – Jammidodger
Responding to JK Rowlings Essay | Is It Anti-Trans? – Jammidodger
J.K. Rowling is Transphobic? Trans Woman Responds… – Samantha Lux
It is undeniable that Rowling’s past work has contained antisemetic and Islamaphobic coding, and the glaring issue of outright using lycanthropy as an allegory for AIDS and HIV in a world where the victims of it are almost universally dehumanised and driven to harm others or even spread their condition. Where one form of bigotry exists, further bigotry often follows. We’ve seen her support transphobic influencers, and make remarks that are snidely anti-trans while attempting a veil of egaliarianism.
But that’s not what I’m here to discuss. In part because there are better voices to listen to than mine on this matter, and in part because what I want to address is something I actually have expertise in.
The fact is, it was inevitable that J.K. Rowling would eventually do something like write a book where the villain is a serial killer who dresses as a woman to pursue his victims. This is, after all, what most transphobes believe is the truth of transgender people (transgender women in particular); that they are performing a gender in order to catch people unawares and take advantage, victimise, or assault them. The reality is, of course, nothing of the sort. Transgender people are more at risk of assault than any cisgender person on the grounds of their gender. Whether Rowling is conscious of the danger her words and work can bring to the lived experienced of transgender people is irrelevant. She’s had enough time, and enough kickback, that if she cared, she’d have educated herself.
And every author who is biased against a minority does the same thing.
I’ll let you in on a little-discussed secret: Authors love when their readers believe the same things they do. They love it even more then they convince their readers to believe it. Some don’t realise it. Others will deny it. A few will admit it. But they all feel it. And eventually, every author’s beliefs bleed into their writing. To see this, you have to look past what the author and even their character say or do, and watch the narrative. Setting aside the idea of “death of the author” and acknowledging that a work’s impact on the reader is more important than the author’s original intent, you have to understand that the narrative of a book or movie isn’t some random series of events; it’s the literal will of the author.
Orson Scott Card wrote books which stressed the importance of procreation, and where giving in to the desire for same-sex relations was the product of childhood rape and outright punished by the narrative.
H.P. Lovecraft, another famous racist, wrote books that cast miscegenation as a thing of pure existential horror, and was so flagrant in his racism as to title one poem “On The Creation of N***ers”, where he described Black people as “beasts.” Only through attempts as assimilation to Anglo-Saxon culture could he even consider sympathy for any other race.
Even J.R.R. Tolkien, the grandfather of fantasy literature, regarded the land of Ireland to exude evil, and claimed the only thing that kept the Irish from succumbing to it was their strict devotion to Catholicism. It’s no mistake that his heroes live in “The West” and are white, while the evil races loyal to Sauron come from far-off eastern lands or are literal dark-skinned inhuman monsters.
In short, you cannot escape an author’s beliefs. And every author wants you to share those beliefs to some degree or other. Of course we do. We want you to root for our heroes and cheer for our villains’ undoing. Even when writing tragedies, the core of every tragedy is that the hero has some flaw which they are unable to overcome, leading to their downfall. You can’t write a hero whose ending is tragic due to their choice to embrace a same-sex relationship unless you believe that urge to be a flaw. You can’t write a cis-male villain who dresses as a woman to reach their prey unless you see a monster in the people you consider “fake women.”
I do believe that it’s each person’s choice as to how much they can separate the artist from their art. But as you make your decision, make no mistake that somewhere in there is the author showing you who they really are, and hoping that you believe, or can be convinced to believe, the same thing.
A little over three years ago, I stepped away from blogging entirely. At the time, I promised that a new website was “coming soon.” Well, that didn’t turn out as I’d planned. Frankly, very little has turned out as I’d planned.
I’m 40 now. I finished what would become my first novel, Locked Within, more than ten years ago. I thought by now I’d at least be making a living from writing, if not enjoying some semblance of fame and recognition. But while my early days as a published author were exciting and promising, it didn’t last. Enthusiasm for subsequent releases fell; I stopped getting requests to be interviewed or invitations to speak at events; sales dropped into non-existence.
And largely this has been my own fault.
Over the last decade I have made just about every mistake an author can make. I kept a lackluster website; failed to manage my social media; didn’t invest in promotion; failed to maintain regular writing and publishing schedules; I even let myself down in my cover art and editing.
I live with depression and anxiety. These are my monsters. Once they get their claws in, it’s hard to get them out, and they drag you down. So why am I blogging again? To beat my monsters.
There’s so much wrong in the world right now, I need to find focus. I need to write again. I need to tell stories. But just like Rocky can’t jump in the ring to fight Drago without training, I can’t restrict my writing to books. Whether it’s social commentary, critical analysis, or alternative forms of fiction, I need to write as much as I can.
So stick around. I have one book in progress and another I’m brewing up, and each will confront issues I’d like to address. I also have some other projects in mind, which you can learn more about through my Patreon. Patrons get to see my books as I finish each chapter, among other rewards and access to my blog posts early. If you’d like to stay updated on my posts without committing to Patreon, you can join my mailing list, to the right of this post.
I’ve been knocked down, and stayed down long enough. It’s time to get back on my feet and, well, I’ll let Anna tell you…
The next chapter starts here. Subscribe to my mailing list to get updates as they happen.
“The happy ending can’t come in the middle of the story”
– Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn