I’ve been asked this often enough that it’s time to be clear: Hild is not straight.
Interviewers and reviewers have already asked me: So why is Hild a lesbian?
I say: First, she’s bisexual. Second, why the fuck not?
I am tired of having to have a reason for characters being queer. When my first agent told me that my proposal for Slow River was “not a selling outline,” I asked her to explain. She said, “Well, why does Lore [the protagonist] have to have a girlfriend?” I said, “Because she’s a dyke.” And fired her.
Nearly twenty years later Slow River is still in print. It won awards. It got translated into several languages. In the end, readers don’t care who gets naked with whom. They care about the story, the people, the setting. They care about the writing.
We should not have explain why our characters are queer. Or why they’re not. People are just people; they are who they are and love who they love. Sometimes that changes. Sexuality can be surprisingly fluid.
I’m not just talking to straight people here, either. I’m also tired of hearing from quiltbag folk that “No one will publish our stuff because it’s queer.” Bullshit. I’ve never had a moment’s trouble placing my fiction and it’s pretty queer.
Wake up, people. In fiction, it doesn’t matter if your characters are queer or straight, neither or both. What counts is whether it’s any good.
Go write something great. Go read something great. Go review something great. When it comes to fictional sex, never apologize, never explain.
15 thoughts on “Hild’s sexuality”
My sort of rant! Well put, my dear!
Wonderful post! I have two lesbian characters in my novel-in-progress, and sometimes I worry that people might be put off by their orientation. But to me, that's part of who these characters are. And that's the way the world is! Queer people exist, and to my mind, it's unrealistic to have a novel full of characters and not have at least one or two who aren't straight. We should recognize diversity, not hide it or ignore it.
Exactly. Although, isn't this the same sort of nonsense as questions of why a character is other than white or is this or that? It seems to me to come down asking “How come your character isn't like me?” It's a species of imaginative laziness as much as a reaction against anything.
Just write what you want to write. It's the fire behind the work that readers respond to. If you don't feel it, they certainly won't.
Largely, I agree.
Not all my Hild-sexuality questions have been like that though. It's the nature of a rant to not slow down and get thoughtful, but I've had a couple of questions that include the Hild-as-lesbian thing but for which that is just a corollary. And it's been interesting answering them.
So I suppose the rant is polluting them all with the same toxin but sometimes the question is valid.
You'll see when some of these interviews go live which ones I've answered and which I've ignored. And I bet you'll be able to guess why…
I'm purchasing Hild irrespective of her sexuality. I was buying it for the same reason I read all the Aud books. The quality and intensity of your writing, the story and for me most importantly the appearance of strong female characters, be they straight, bi-sexual, asexual, lesbian or alien.
It seems to me that Hild and other lesbian and bisexual characters are partly interesting for that, and mostly interesting for who they are and what they do. their story is the fascinating thing, not necessarily their sexual orientation. Boring to havr to say, but necessary.
Thanks for the rant. :-)
Thanks, everyone. Hild isn't about her sexuality–anymore than it's about food or fresh air or fighting. She takes joy in her body.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that there weren't queer people in the Middle ages . . . o_O
You'd be in the 1% and a target of envy :)
Hey, there's a silver lining to everything…
On the level of principle – “Why the fuck not” is indeed the correct answer.
On the level of practice, as Amazon etc indicates there is a massive market for such fiction even in your Mid-West & our East Riding :-)
Thanks for your Letter to Hild in the Los Angeles Book Review. (I would have commented there had I figured out how to do it.) I knew she built and was head of a double house; I knew that hosted (or possibly convened) the Synod of Whitby; I did NOT know that the Synod of Whitby was where it was decided that England would go with Rome and not Ireland in forming its church. This is pretty funny to me, since it is as a Christian that I am most interested in Hild. I loved your account of how Whitby made you a writer, how the land itself spoke to you of Hild when the books did not. There is acres’-down history of how nuns who ran monastic houses made the Church great in the Middle Ages. It remains a mystery to me how these women could be ignored, or why male historians would WANT to ignore them. It isn’t because of Paul–I have heard his epistles read over and over in church and detect no misogyny in them. (I have read them on my own, too, and my reaction is the same.) Over the years, I have changed from a simply angry feminist to an overwhelmingly puzzled one.
I hope you remembered that as a nun, Hild would have been celibate, whatever her desires. It doesn’t sound like it. But I don’t much care. Any book about Hild has to be a treat–and it is not her sexuality that matters to me.
I’m glad you liked the essay. The novel already published covers part of Hilds life before she became a nun. She doesn’t take vows until the end of Bbok Two.
We’ll have to agree to differ on Pauline misogyny, but I so hear you on the puzzlement!
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