Being a writer is already a huge challenge and being a queer writer brings with it a whole new set of challenges. This week we have queer writer and artist duo Finn Lucullan and Kate Larking who jointly create the queer space opera webcomic Crash & Burn.
I spend my entire first impression explaining what I am rather than what I do. — Finn
What challenges have you personally faced as a queer writer?
Finn: Hello! I’m Finn, a 22 year old queer (agender aromantic, would call my sexuality “queer” for lack of a better term) writer and artist from Canada. I do contribute writing to our main project, largely in the form of world and character building, but I’m the illustrator primarily. This is my first major project, and we self-publish.
Challenges come up mostly while in convention spaces, writer/artist social groups, and anywhere I’m trying to get my work to a broader audience. It can be very taxing and it feels unfair to have to choose between discussing my work at events and discussing myself — to support a queer project, I feel obligated to be “out,” which means being “on” as a friendly resource at all times. Sometimes people have so many questions about queer people or news items that we never actually do talk about what I make. When networking, I feel this limits my future opportunities, as I spend my entire first impression explaining what I am rather than what I do.
You field all sorts of comments from people of all levels of sensitivity and education about queer people. There are a lot of microaggressions and a lot of misgendering.
Kate: Since a lot of my work is self-published, I do a lot of handselling. For Crash and Burn, Finn Lucullan (the artist) and I go to local conventions and comic expos. While handselling is important to connect with the community who really wants the work we are producing, it also comes with a side of defending our queer identity as creators. We are frequently asked if our work is satire, even why we bothered creating it. Staying resilient requires a lot of self-care, some screaming outside after events and packed and ready to go, and a side of zine creation to vent some frustrations.
That being said, we still get immensely positive feedback from people who want to see our comic succeed. I have been known to cry upon some of the feedback we have received and the personal stories that accompany it. That is why we create.
Have you ever felt pressured to ‘normalize’ your writing to appeal to a broader audience and how did you handle that?
There’s been a small amount of criticism from people who feel that “xe” is too difficult a pronoun for them to learn, but the argument that certain pronouns are just super hard is not a new one to me so it’s pretty easy to dismiss even when it comes under the guise of reading comprehension. I do think I get less of this criticism since it’s sci-fi and I use “xe” pronouns for aliens; people are more willing to accept something unfamiliar if it doesn’t make them question their ideas about our current world.
Aside from that, I feel more pressure to normalize myself than my writing. It seems like people are able to enjoy the adventure side of my story without always acknowledging its queerness (or maybe by accepting queerness as a fictional sci-fi element), which I hope is some kind of insidious tactic to get the seed of queer theory planted in the back of people’s heads, but might just mean I’m not being blatant enough about it.
Going through school and university, I felt a heteronormative pressure on my genre writing. The expectation of genre, after all, was to appeal to masses and be easily consumable, right? Only in classrooms and under-enrolled lesbian literature classes could lesbian fiction be read—and even then, it had to be autobiographical and expressly literary.
I had to grow out of that internalized heteronormativity. As I did this, I was also learning more about the publishing industry. The truth is this: if a publisher wants a book and they wish to remove queer elements from it, unless there is a serious point to be made about the representation in question, that publisher isn’t the right publisher for your work. Publishers, inclusive of their marketing and editorial departments, should all be on board for what your work communicates. If even one of these departments isn’t on board, your book will suffer at that house.
Mercifully, self-publishing is becoming a more viable option for writers to publishing quality stories without compromising content. You are in control of the freelancers you hire to edit, design, and even market your book. Instead of finding a publisher who is the perfect bundle of services for your books, you can customise your own team.
Do you feel supported by your local writing community? If not where do you find support?
The local comics community is actually fairly large and therefore contains a lot of people, who are all at various stages of learning about queer issues. The majority are friendly and well meaning. In general, they’re very supportive of creators, but don’t know how to actively advocate for greater inclusion of diverse groups. On the whole, I’d describe the local atmosphere as friendly, but not necessarily safe. They want to be inclusive, but don’t always know how, and tend to put the burden of education on me rather than seeking it independently. As far as I’m aware, there are only two of us who are really out as queer or writing queer-centered stories in our local comics group and being the only queer person present is a tiring experience at the best of times.
The most supportive communities are online! We publish online for free alongside our print and ebook copies. There’s a huge queer webcomics community that’s always eager for new content. People really want to see themselves reflected in their media. We don’t have a huge following just yet, but the friends and fans who are looking for this kind of content are really passionate about it.
One of the first writing conference I went to was Sirens Conference, a conference dedicated to women in speculative fiction, including queer voices (sirensconference.org). Here, I was able to find more stories that fit myself and my stories. Here, I could express myself without being judged, and also be challenged in a safe atmosphere where I could continue to learn and develop as a queer woman.
Most of my local writing organizations and conferences don’t actively exclude queer fiction, they don’t include it either. I have managed to assemble my own network of writers who are supportive of me and the themes present in my work, just as I am supportive of them. Some of these people are queer, some are as cis and straight as could be.
When I am able to reach out and connect with others over the struggles and victories communicated in my work, I am humbled.— Kate
What are your goals as a writer?
There is always somebody else who thinks they’re the only queer in the room, and that they have to take scraps of representation from larger franchises that want their money but not their stories — and when they find our table at a con, they’re almost in tears. They don’t believe they will ever see themselves in the things they like, let alone be someone who makes them. I started out with that feeling, that the stories I loved didn’t want me in them, and out of bitter stubbornness decided to make my own thing that I could see myself in, and that maybe cis people can’t! I wanted to make something that isn’t tailored to the comfort of the majority.
I want to create entertaining media — the genres, books, and games that I fell in love with growing up for their escapism, excitement, and enthralling worlds — that include me, and others who are not necessarily like me but who also find themselves excluded. I want to be part of stories about humanity, joy, loss, growth, where queerness is central but not an educational talking point. I want to make stories for people who feel like they don’t have any, and that the stories they love don’t want them.
I will be really honest here; I am a selfish person. My selfish goal as a writer is to explore more about who I am. My emotions and experiences often reassert themselves in my mind as a fictional narrative. The more I write and explore those stories, the more validation I give to those feelings and voices, the better I am able to understand myself. From that understanding, I can generate more stories and push myself further than I would have previously thought I could.
When I am able to reach out and connect with others over the struggles and victories communicated in my work, I am humbled.
Please list any current projects or releases you have.
I am currently working on Crash and Burn, a queer space opera available in print and online at cb-comic.com.
I am currently writing the queer space opera webcomic, Crash and Burn, which can be found at cb-comic.com.
For prose, I am co-founder and contributor to the Queens & Courtesans anthology, benefitting the Sirens Conference for women in fantasy literature (sirensconference.org). [Artwork for Sirens can be found here:http://www.sirensconference.org/support/artwork/]
I continue to work on Anxiety Ink (anxietyink.com), a community of writers who chronicle our struggles with anxiety and insecurities in the face of creative art production.