K.W. Ramsey Archive

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More Than Just Binaries – A Guest Post From K.W. Ramsey

Human relationships exist in a wonderful spectrum of variety that is almost impossible to completely categorize. We keep finding new and interesting ways to bond ourselves to one another, further proving the point J.M. Straczynski raised in Babylon 5: humans form communities. So why is that diversity still rare onscreen?

The standard in most mainstream and genre fiction is to see people paired in binary relationships, usually hetero-normative and romantic. This is presented as the default state of relationships, the thing everyone is supposed to be searching for. Consider the Pair The Spares trope, which has movies ending with everyone paired off with someone else. 10 Things I Hate About You is a good example of this. (Hey, don’t look at me like that. It’s based on The Taming Of The Shrew and is a readily available example of what I’m talking about.)

Not all relationships follow this mold. A recent example is found in Pacific Rim. While it’s still a binary, the friendship between Mako Mori and Raleigh Becket is a good example of a non-romantic relationship between a man and a woman, but also one that maintains a sexual undertone. Even better, it’s obviously the female that has the sexual feelings, as Raleigh never actually expresses sexual interest in Mako. He pushes and mentors her, but he never tries to sleep with her.

Some elements of fandom argue that Raleigh’s lack of sexual interest proves he is gay. I like the alternative explanation that he’s more interested in her as a friend, because that makes their relationship more genuine. In real life, plenty of people meet, have chemistry, and form a friendship without romantic attachment.

If there is a lesson to learn from recent Pride celebrations, it is that more than het-norm binary relationships exist. Some people, both men and women, have no one partner but plenty of friends they partner with. Not everyone practices strict monogamy, and not everyone is just playing the field until it’s time to settle down. People exist in open relationships, triads, and any number of other arrangements of gender and sex without drama and jealousy. Yet it is exceedingly rare to see this reflected in mainstream fiction.

A good example of an open relationship in fiction is found in Violette Malan’s Dhulyn and Parno books (which I really hope she gets to continue someday). The main couple in that series, the aforementioned Dhulyn and Parno, are partners in every sense of the word while in an open sexual relationship. Their bond is deeper than romance and deeper than simple friendship. They would die for each other and then avenge the other’s death without hesitation, but they really don’t care if the other has some sexytime fun with someone else. Another aspect of Dhulyn and Parno’s relationship is that Dhulyn, the female partner, is very much the more physical and earthy of the two; while Parno is more educated and sensitive/sophisticated. In a sense, the characters have switched gender roles as to defy the gender stereotype.

The problem is that the Dhulyn and Parno books aren’t exactly tearing up the NYT Bestsellers list. Don’t get me wrong, I wish they were as Violette is a wonderful author and a friend of mine, but when the best example of diversity in relationships isn’t known to a wide audience, we have to acknowledge there’s a problem.

Diversity is more than getting gay people and people of colour onscreen. We need that, but we also need to demonstrate the various ways people combine and co-mingle, rather than banging the drum that we all need one special person to be complete.


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Adam’s First Blog Hop

Last Friday, Matt Moore tagged me in a blog hop. What’s a blog hop, you ask? Apparently, it’s a Ponzi scheme with writers at the helm. Marie Bilodeau tagged Matt; wherein he had to answer a handful of questions before tagging three other writers to do the same thing. Little did I know, Marie wasn’t the genesis point of this seemingly infinite regression. Marie was tagged by Eileen Bell, who was tagged by Mahrie Reid, who was tagged by Mary M. Forbes, who was tagged by Sara Walter Ellwood. Forget about Ponzi schemes, this is like following the genealogy of a character in a George R.R. Martin novel. Nevertheless, I’m happy to participate. Here are the questions that Matt put to me.

1) When did you know you wanted to be a writer. It must be a specific moment.

This is actually an easy one for me. It was April of 1999, toward the end of my grade 12 year of high school. For the most part, I only wrote in high school when somebody held a knife to my throat and said, “words on paper or else I bleed you slowly.” I liked the process, but my love of video games and movie watching trumped most other concerns at that point in my life.

My relationship to writing started to change when I took OAC Theatre (this is back when Ontario had five years of high school) and half my grade depended upon writing, producing, and directing my own one act play. That pushed me way out of my comfort zone. It is one thing to write a science fiction story for an English class, but it’s another thing to make a science fiction story work on stage. The “I want to be a writer” moment came on a Friday evening after my play made its debut in our class’ one act festival.

Yeah, that’s the kind of high school I attended. You didn’t perform the play for your peers, you aired your dirty laundry for the public.

When the dust settled on the festival, my teacher and the head of the theatre department sat myself and four other directors down for the critique session. I hated the critique session. It was not unheard of for these debriefings to reduce student directors to tears. When they finally got to my play, the head of the theatre department looked me in the eye and said, “I hate science fiction, but right now, the only thing I hate more than science fiction is you for making me like science fiction.”

That’s the moment when I knew that I could make this writing thing work.

2) Which of your stories would you like to see come true?

Hmmm, this is tough one. Being that most of my stories are set in terrible versions of the near-future, I don’t know that there are many I would want to come to pass. However, in the spirit of fair play, I’ll pick the transhumanism story that I have been shopping around. I like to think that when humanity figures out how to use biomechanical augmentations to improve quality of life, it won’t precipitate a debate on what it means to be human, followed by persecution and fear of that which is not.

3) A new writer comes to you and says “I feel like I should quit writing.” What do you say?

“Good, you should probably quit, at least for a little while.”

I know that sounds capricious, but there is method to my madness. Half a dozen years ago I started to feel like I was writing on autopilot. That is to say I wrote because I was afraid to not write. If I wasn’t writing, then I wasn’t a writer, and if I’m not a writer, what the hell am I?

Sometimes a person needs to stop and find their footing. My hiatus only lasted about three months before I couldn’t ignore the myriad of ideas that kept popping up into my day-to-day thoughts. If/when a writer on a break gets to that point, they can pick up their pen because they know it is something they want to do.

4) Twilight turned vampires into brooding, sexy teens. What’s the next monster (yes, MONSTER!) we should make sexy? And how?

Okay, wait for it…

Sexy Horse Vampires.

The horse vampires are very anthropomorphized – think along the lines of Thundercats, only horses. The rest pretty much writes itself.

A teenage girl wants her father to buy her a horse so she can hang out with the equestrian club at her private all-girls prep school. The father concedes to her demands, as pushover fathers are wont to do, only the horse that he buys her has a dark secret with ironic consequences. The more the horse vampire feeds on the girl’s magic blood, the more he turns into a man. But the more he becomes a man, the more he wants to bang her (or thinks about banging her since we want to keep this PG-13 as to bring in as wide of an audience as possible), and those impulses make him revert into horse form. Thus do we witness the eternal struggle between man and beast…and vampire.

Publishers and film producers of the world, I await your phone calls and dump trucks of money.

And now to spread this blog hop to three more people. I’m tagging Nicole Lavigne, K.W. Ramsey, and Simon McNeil.