Q is for—Queerness
As I've stated, my motivation for writing a trilogy in which the main character is gay was two-fold: A) I was writing A Book of Tongues “for me”, and as a slasher, that's my bag, baby, but B) around the same time I began, I also ran across some of Hal Duncan (Vellum, Ink)'s writing about QUILTBAG representation in popular media, and though “yes, I can do that—complicated, tough gay dudes whose tragedy doesn't necessarily come attached to their sexuality ahoy!” By the end of A Book, however, I was happy to see that the spectrum of non-default character sexuality already seemed to be expanding far beyond the “hard gay” axis, embracing functional bisexuality and straight-with-an-exceptionality alike. This has continued to happen throughout the rest of the series, with A Rope of Thorns adding polysexual relationships and lesbianism with a hint of transgender issues, depending on how Yiska actually sees herself (more on that later); in A Tree of Bones, those existing currents are continued, hopefully remaining emotionally front and centre as the characters those sexualities come attached to stay in play. And while I'm sad to say I wan't quite able to push it far enough to include any overtly asexual characters, who knows? I already know this universe ain't completely done with me.
What's become particularly interesting for me, however, is that while my original impulse contained a healthy dose of prurience, the actual ratio of sex-to-action has gone down in each instalment, partly due to lack of time vs. intensity of immediate physical threat. This hopefully reduces the fetishistic angle somewhat, which I'm happy with, but it also goes back to Duncan's observation that while sexuality is obviously a cornerstone of most people's motivations, it's not the be-all and end-all we privilege it as in most narratives. And since queerness is a concept which has its roots in a reclaimed slur, a way of self-definition which says: “Yes, I am 'different', but there's nothing wrong with that”, how much further do you have to push before you can note that that sounds as much like hexes defining themselves “against” non-hexes and vice versa as it does like it necessarily has anything to do with who does or doesn't sleep with whom? So the spectrum widens further, hopefully, the default shifting, until you end up in (to my mind) an interesting world where maybe even the non-default characters can feel pretty “queer” themselves, in certain contexts.
(Apologies, of course, for any interesectional toes I may have stepped on with this line of rumination—as a straight person with a particular kink, it's never my intention to co-opt anyone's identity, except in fiction.)
R is for—Red Weed
By A Tree, the Red Weed—Datura nazacul, as Doc Asbury calls it, that parasite infestation of Hell Kudzu spawned by Chess Pargeter's Xipe Totec incarnation throughout A Rope of Thorns—has become a bit of a non-speaking supporting character in some ways, a plot device in others. Some people have rightly noted that it's reminiscent of the trickster predator vines in Scott Smith's The Ruins, which I'll totally cop to; frankly, I don't see how the two couldn't have had some sort of relationship, considering said ruins are those of a Mayan temple. I'd say the main difference in presentation with the Weed this time 'round is that in Rope, Chess didn't know how to control it, and didn't want to know—but here it's being wielded by the Enemy, who understands innately how best to let it do his bidding. Also, given that I'm not a big fan of the re-set mode in storytelling, the Weed is probably here to stay, even by this part of the saga's end...a severe ecological shift, a sort of lasting hex-pollution. Which will have interesing implications for my version of the Weird West in future, no doubt.
Tomorrow: S and T!