Saturday, June 8, 2013

Five Questions: "Second Skin", Crossed Genres Magazine Issue 6, June 2013

Annnd he's back. My internal blog narrator PT has been rattling the cage door, because he knows it's that time again: time for Five Questions With Teh Author about writerly things. Stand back, I'm flicking the lock...

PT: WHOOP THERE I IS! Flowers, chocolates, glitter, thank you thank you all. I'm here to be fabulous.

AF: Ahem.

PT: Oh yeah, and talk to you too. If I must. So what's on the agenda today? Ohhh yissss, your story "Second Skin" that just came out in Crossed Genres Magazine. So, the first question is...this is nothing but Downton Abbey fan fiction with the serial numbers filed off, isn't it?

AF: *sighs, pinch nose* I brought this on myself, didn't I. Yes, I guess that's one way to describe it. I was a bit of a Downton Abbey fan, and yes, this story is a response to something in particular. So you COULD call it fan fiction. I call it more a response to the seeming inevitability of refrigerated women in story telling.

PT: Was a Downton Abbey fan?

AF: THEY KILLED OFF LADY SYBIL IN CHILDBIRTH! Ughhh, I know it was the 20s, before the birth of the NHS, but come ON. Why do we have to have men being shitty all over a woman's body just to make drama. And if that wasn't bad enough, they killed off Matthew! It's the sort of writing that makes a woman tear her hair out. I was with it right until the end of season three. Seriously, every woman who has had sex or made vague insinuations towards autonomy on that show has had terrible things done to her. Think about it. Even the most virginal Lady Edith tries to take control of her destiny and men dump all over her.

PT: *snicker* So it is fan fiction. This from the person who swore off ever writing fan fiction again.

AF: We will not talk about That Which Shall Not Be Named. Not unless you want to be locked up for good.

PT: Oooookay then.

AF: Let's just say I wanted to write a story where the woman isn't refrigerated, she has some hand in her destiny, and the women of the story actively work to help each other, even if it is coded by the strange rules of the day. That's often what's missing from nostalgic costume drama. Those stories often forget women have been helping each other give birth for centuries. Now, if the Downton story had been a discussion about midwifery in the early NHS, or the gendered division of health care (like in my story), it might have had something profound to say. But nope, it was straight up sloppily written soap. Killing of the women for Teh Big Sobz is far more interesting than a nuanced story. I'm so sick of stories for women that are just "Get married off, have a kid, die dramatically".

PT: Did you write the story for the theme of the Crossed Genres Magazine it appears in, "She"?

AF: No, it was a beautiful coincidence, and I only had it re-written (for about the fifth time!) the day before the submission deadline.

I wanted to write a piece about women helping women survive birth in a gender divisive world, and also explore gender identity between the old and new world as well. I liked exploring a female identified character who was gender fluid in their tech-savvy world - comfortable to be coded androgynous or even masculine on any given day, depending on how they felt - but also had to appear strictly masculine in the tech-backwards setting.

I liked the play of masculine comfort by their own rules versus the discomfit of being masculine by the very strict old rules of the gender binary. That also made it an interesting exploration of the tight binary imposed on men. In this story, it did the men no favours either. They were just as restricted by their roles.

PT: Near the climax of the story, one of the characters is thought to be suffering from pre-eclampsia, a condition which is often diagnosed many weeks or months before the birth. How did Doctor Everson miss this?

AF: Ah, I see what you're doing. Trying to trap me into admitting lazy writing. Unfortunate for you, I have a close family member who is a nurse who walked me through the condition. On about my fourth draft I realized the good doctor had not picked the condition up early enough in the patient, but it played well into their fear of not being a good doctor without their technology - she talks often about not being able to read people's biology well without her "neurals". So I left it in, thinking people would be smart enough to pick that up.

PT: Alright, last question. I'll make it easy on you. Your character Doctor Everson wears really natty suits, and you describe them with the sort of love reserved for describing ladies dresses of the era, while the dresses barely get a mention. Do you like a good suit?

AF: I LOVE suits. If I could afford them, I'd have a wardrobe full. A suit worn with Chuck Taylor's is my favourite thing. On my bucket list is to be fitted for a good suit by Tomboy Tailors of San Francisco. My biggest problem is pants because of my bum size - I currently I make do with a mish mash of black jeans matched with all manner of lovely men's tailored shirts. I'm afraid I'm terribly hipster when it comes to my shirts and suit jackets and ties - they're all from second hand stores. I can't honestly remember the last time I wore a skirt. It feels so alien now.

As far as the outfits in the story goes, it was absolutely intentional. Doctor Everson loves a good suit, and since the narrative was first person this made her slightly unreliable. Everson sees women's clothing as messy and restrictive, so she saw the women in the country as such. Hence the descriptions of messy hair and tight smiles and total disinterest in their clothing.

PT: So if anyone wants to buy you a present, a nice tie or pair of cuff links wouldn't go amiss?

AF: Absolutely! Hey, that's one more question! Cheat! Get back in that box, you!

PT: Muahahahahahaha.....ties and cuff links and waistcoats, oh my! Final shower of glitter, and I'm done, my babies....
The Author's favourite purple tie and black pin-tucked shirt.

No comments:

Post a Comment