Good Morning, Everyone:
Today in the Madhouse, I'm featuring Lucy A. Snyder. For those who aren't familiar with her or her work, Snyder is a five-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author and she wrote the novels Spellbent, Shotgun Sorceress, and Switchblade Goddess, the nonfiction book Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide, and the collections While the Black Stars Burn, Soft Apocalypses, Orchid Carousals, Sparks and Shadows, Chimeric Machines, and Installing Linux on a Dead Badger.
I first met Lucy at Seton Hill University when I was attending graduate school. She's a brilliant, kind, and strong woman who I learned, and continue to learn, a lot from, and I highly recommend her work. Personal favorites for me are: Orchid Carousals and Chimeric Machines.
The essay that Lucy wrote for us today is personal, raw, and inspiring, and I hope you enjoy it. Something that I want you to ask yourself before, or even after reading it, is: who are the last five LGBTQIA authors that you've read? If you're having a hard time answering that question, or if no names are coming to mind, again, I invite you to broaden your minds and your reading preferences, and explore the range of literature that is out there and available to you.
On Being Queer
By Lucy A. Snyder
I grew up in a socially conservative town in West Texas, and I wasn’t raised to feel good about being born female. Boy stuff was cool. Girl stuff was either tedious or worthy of mockery. My parents tolerated my being a tomboy when I was little, because of course I wanted to do interesting things like the boys did. But they made sure I knew I wasn’t really a boy; they made sure I knew I was the weaker sex, that the world was a hostile place full of dangers ready to devour girls who didn’t follow the rules. Growing up in a fear-based household gave me a strong foundation for becoming a horror writer!
The residents of my hometown, despite it being one of the few cities out in that part of Texas with an actual gay bar, weren’t the least bit woke on LGBTQIA issues. Being gay was worse than being a commie; boys threw “queer” and “faggot” around as insults with impunity. Lesbians were sinister, humorless figures doomed to tragic childless deaths and, afterward, everlasting hell. Bisexual people just plain didn’t exist as far as I knew.
I didn’t know how to process the feelings I had for other girls, who as a group didn’t accept me anyhow because I was a quiet, awkward weirdo who liked to do nerdy boy stuff. And boys didn’t really accept me, either, because I was a girl and girls sucked. Friends were hard to find and easily lost once I inevitably did something uncool.
My feelings of isolation, loneliness and despair peaked when I was twelve; I knew I was a nerd, and I knew from movies that adult male nerds suffered endless rejections and indignities. How much worse would it be for me? I couldn’t envision a future where anything would get better because I had no models for life turning out well for a girl like me. Even in the books I devoured as my main escape, novels where dragons and unicorns and monsters danced across the pages, there was nobody like me. I felt like I was something that should have never been born.
In 6th grade, I went through my first suicidal depression. My father, a psychiatrist, took it as a professional affront, and his first-line treatment was to shout at me about how I had scared my little friends with my talk of wanting to be dead, and that I had embarrassed him and should feel ashamed of myself. My entirely well-meaning mother (and I don’t say that sarcastically) told me, years later: “Well, I knew you were miserable, but I figured, kids that age are just miserable!”
As much as I wanted my pain to end, I couldn’t work up a plan to kill myself. Feeling so thoroughly dismissed and disregarded awoke a bitter determination inside me: I decided I’d live just to spite everyone.
So I lived with my pain and feelings of isolation. Other kids did not. And I can’t shake the feeling that if I’d just been able to see myself in the books I loved, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so worthless and alone all the time.
Things are better now. Publishers are far more accepting of LGBTQIA characters, particularly in YA fiction. But the political climate in our country makes me worry that things will slide back to the bad old days.
I don’t identify just as bisexual but as queer. I deliberately identify with the word boys threw around in the schoolyard as an everyday insult. And I recognize that other folks still recoil in horror from it as a loaded slur.
But “queer” is a good word. It’s about being strange, curious, odd. I’m strange as hell. I’m curious about everything. I think odd thoughts. “Queer” probably comes from an old German word that means oblique, cross, adverse. And that’s a pretty good way of describing how I approach my writing: it’s a little cross, and I like to look at things slantways and sideways and upside down.
I am queer. My life is queer. My stories are queer: they’re rooted in my dreams, my fears, my experiences. I’m not for everyone, and my stories aren’t, either. But I know from my own life that representation matters, authenticity matters, and I represent as hard as I can.
About the Author:
Lucy A. Snyder is a five-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author. She wrote the novels Spellbent, Shotgun Sorceress, and Switchblade Goddess, the nonfiction book Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide, and the collections While the Black Stars Burn, Soft Apocalypses, Orchid Carousals, Sparks and Shadows, Chimeric Machines, and Installing Linux on a Dead Badger.
Her writing has been translated into French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Czech, and Japanese editions and has appeared in publications such as Asimov's Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, Pseudopod, Strange Horizons, and Best Horror of the Year. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and is faculty in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. You can learn more about her at www.lucysnyder.com.
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