12 June 2017

The Honest Review of Doom

Warning: Here There be Spoilers. If you're interested in reading Flowers of Luna, but haven't yet, you probably shouldn't read this entry. A major plot point is discussed.

One of the good things about having published Flowers of Luna and getting it listed on Goodreads is that I get to read what my readers -- or at least, the generous subset of my readers who leave me reviews -- think of what I've done. Recently, a reviewer posted a three-star review which I think is, despite the low rating she gives my book, an excellent review.

Ms. Reviewer puts her finger right on something that I was concerned about when I wrote the manuscript, something that I tried to avoid. To whit, the "bisexual cheater" trope. I am a Sapphist -- a girl-type person who falls in love, and when I'm extremely lucky, in bed, with other girl-type people. One of the reasons I don't use the L word for this preference is that it has been my experience that there's a lot of gate-keeping involved in the use of that word, and I don't care for that at all.

I have dated several bisexual women, and never cared with whom else they might have shared their bed before, or after, me. I only cared that they showed me affection while we were dating, and were occasionally willing to be naked in bed with me.

So, if this is true (and I assure you that it is) why does this trope show up, despite my effort to keep it from being prominent and ugly? How did I end up hurting at least one bisexual woman, despite my deep desire not to? Well, it was a failure on my part; a failure to come up with a better way to tell the story.

You see, I started writing Flowers of Luna after a particularly bad break-up. I had fallen deeply in love with a woman named Michele1; I'd built my life around her. I thought we were going to be together until one of us died. She turned out not to feel the same way. I was crushed, and I needed to think about the things that happened, and somehow find my way to a happy ending for my characters, if not for me.

In the end, Hana is not actually much like Michele. And Ran is only sort of tangentially like me. It's not a Mary Sue tale, or at least, I hope not. But without the actual reasons that Michele gave for breaking up with me, I still needed to come up with a way for there to be a crisis, a way for them to fall apart and come back together.

I tried to make it clear that what happened wasn't because Hana was bi. It was because she was young, and inexperienced, and trying to figure out her feelings. Things snowballed out of control and she didn't know how to resolve the situation.

In fact, Hana is not bisexual. She was raised in an environment where sexuality wasn't a spectrum -- men loved and bedded women, and vice-versa2.  So it wasn't until she went to Lunagrad and met Desdimona (who is bisexual) that she even considered the possibility of romance / sexuality with another woman. When she meets Ran, she's still trying to figure everything out. Does she make a bad decision? Yes; a series of them. Is it because she's bi? No; it's because she's experiencing that most Japanese of plot tropes -- the conflict between social obligations and personal desires.

So. I tried to bring all that out in the story, but apparently, I failed.

Could I have written the story differently? Could Jin'ichi have been female? Yes, but then Hana would have been aware of her own Sapphism, and it would be a case of Hana actually being a cheater. Knowing that Hana had cheated on Jin with her, how could Ran ever make the leap of trust required to get them back together?

Could I have figured out some other conflict to bring the two of them to the brink of a breakup, and then figured out some way to haul the situation back in? Maybe; but I didn't. Perhaps this, too, is a failure of writing.

At any rate, I tried not to make the story about the bisexual betrayer, not to hurt the feelings of any bisexual women. And, at least in Ms. Reviewer's case, I seem to have failed. I'm deeply sorry for that.




1 Yes; the woman to whom I dedicated the book.

2 In this respect, Hana actually reflects my own upbringing and journey to figuring myself and my sexuality out.

1 comment:

Susan - No-reply by choice. said...

It could be insensitivity on my part, but I didn't see being bisexual as being an actual problem. For me, the story didn't revolve around sexual options, but around character choices.