Author Hunter Murphy on Gay Southern Characters

Three weeks ago, I reviewed the new book Imogene in New Orleans by Hunter Murphy — a cozy mystery about Jackson Miller, his partner Billy, and Billy’s mother Imogene. I don’t see a lot of Southern fiction with gay characters, let alone central characters in relationships, so I was more than thrilled when Hunter agreed to write a guest post for me on that very topic! Enjoy, and as always, let us know what you think in the comments!

Imogene in New Orleans Hunter Murphy

I had the good fortune of meeting Hannah at a recent author talk and she invited me to write a post.

She suggested a few possible topics, and I settled on the topic of writing gay characters in the South. I think part of what happened to Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote is they had to hide so much growing up in the first half of the 20th Century. These days, with Alabama considering same sex marriage, at least there has been a major shift toward accepting gay people and gay characters.

Personally, as a writer, I’m more concerned with finding times to write and also maintaining my hobbit lifestyle. (Truth be known, I probably have more in common with Bilbo Baggins than I do Liberace. Remember when the great hobbit Bilbo says, “I miss my books, and my armchair, and my garden.” I could relate. He fought against having an adventure, which amused me and reminded me of myself).

People love to talk about the “gay lifestyle” but the “gay lifestyle” I live is intentionally boring: I go to work, I pay my taxes, I have a bulldog, I have a longtime partner, I watch a lot of tv, I try to read a bunch of books, and I crave about 2-3 hours a day of writing, although what I normally get is a half hour a few days a week..

When I decided to put the gay couple and Imogene in a mystery series, I unintentionally created an entire book full of gays. I didn’t even mean to do it, but Imogene in New Orleans is totally gay. The murder victim is gay and so are most of the suspects.

What I admire about Imogene is her openness to people in general. The way I see her character is that she was born in rural Alabama at the beginning of the Depression, and she was more accustomed to surviving and helping people in her community to survive. Therefore, she had neither the luxury nor the inclination to be judgmental about Billy’s sexuality or anyone else’s.

Imogene in New Orleans Hunter Murphy coverAt one point, Imogene and her son Billy discuss the murder victim Glenway Gilbert’s sexuality. Imogene says,

“The Gilbert boy liked ’em rough, according to [them].”

“Mama, I don’t really want to discuss Glenway’s preferences with you.”

“You ain’t got to, son. Shoot. I’ve lived in this world a long time, and you can’t change what you like, even if you’d want to. And ’pparently, Glenway liked the rough trade. That’s all I’m sayin’. Catfish is a rough ’un, and we need to get after him.”

The character Glenway Gilbert couldn’t change what he liked (and he liked a lot of it). He was not based on anyone in particular. I didn’t want the book to be a cruising book, but I definitely felt that because of Glenway’s prodigious sex life, there were several people who would have a motive for killing him.

Glenway Gilbert had a large appetite. He had quite a few loves and he appeared to tire of them all until his last one. As a writer, it was compelling to me to try and figure out if one of his former lovers killed him or the person who stole his figurines, or both or neither?

And then I had fun with “The Ballet” in the book, the exotic dancing establishment where the victim liked to watch the performances. Many of the suspects for the murder had ties to “The Ballet” (which is most certainly based on a real strip club in the city, a famous place called The Corner Pocket).

I didn’t create gay characters for shock value. It just seemed natural considering Glenway Gilbert’s preferences. I’m interested to see what other gay people think.

I will say that it seems to me that Billy and Jackson’s relationship stands in stark contrast to almost all of Glenway Gilbert’s relationships. I plan for Billy and Jackson to be sort of solid throughout the series. I enjoy the fact that they’re like an old married couple. The next book will not necessarily have a lot of gay characters (except for Jackson and Billy), but as with the last book, it is not a conscious choice. I’m basing my decision on the murder victim and the suspects and their motives.

I’m interested to see what others think about this. I’m glad I live in 2015 Alabama, rather than 1915 Alabama. There’s a lot of bigotry here, but I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with decent human beings.

So, I suppose writing gay characters is not that unusual. I don’t write anything unless it entertains me. Because we live in a world where nearly two million books are published each year. I want my books to be successful (and I’m punch-pleased with how Imogene in New Orleans has done), but my first order of business is to entertain myself, and if I do a good enough job of it, then there’s a chance that others will be entertained too.

Find more about Hunter Murphy and his book at http://huntermurphywriter.com/

A to Z Theme Reveal: LGBT+ Comics Characters!

atoz-theme-reveal-2015

Y’all know me — I’m all about the comics and I’m all about the LGBT+ representation. For my very first A to Z blogging challenge, I’m combining the two. This month will be constructed of an alphabetical list of some of the most awesomely amazing LGBT+ characters in comics!

I know a lot of readers are interested in diversifying their media, and I also know comics can be majorly daunting for new people and it’s hard to track down the stories you want. So, I’m doing the work for you. Each post will be a short run-down of the character in question, followed by a reading recommendation. Some posts are on significant landmark characters, some are on personal favorites, and if I have to choose between the two for a letter, I’ll go with the favorite. I’ve got Marvel, DC, indies and webcomics. I’ve got L, G, B, T, and +. And as always, if I don’t pick your favorite, recommend me stuff in the comments!

A few normal posts will continue throughout April — we don’t skip Ms. Marvel around here for anything — just not so many of them. I’ve got all my letter posts planned, including two guest letters for other blogs, but none of them written… So I’d better be getting on with that. See you in April!

The Sunday Post – Marvel Cinematic Universe

The happenings –

Y’all, I finished Agent Carter, and it is awesome. Peggy Carter is the best of everything. More please. My inner monologue is currently in Peggy’s accent, I pretend I’m Peggy at work (reports become codes, web searches become investigations…) and I may have already bought some clothes just because they looked like things she might wear.

In other news, are you reading Todd Alcott’s blog? You should be. He’s a screenwriter and amongst occasional shorter posts, he writes looooong breakdowns of movies, talking about why they work and how they’re structured. He just finished his Guardians of the Galaxy writeup and it’s very interesting indeed. Here’s part one.

These guys

I totally loved Guardians of the Galaxy before it was cool… buuut cool means great merch! I traded in for these at 2nd & Charles, but one’s a POP and the other one’s a Fabrikations, so you can get them wherever.

(FYI, I’m still super behind on blog-reading. I mention this occasionally in case you’re still following me but I haven’t been to your blog in two months. I’m sorry, I’m coming back!)

Coming up –

Monday is A to Z Theme Reveal day! I hope you’ll all be surprised and thrilled. There should also be a review and a writing post!

Tinker Bell Answers

We’ve reached the home stretch, friends! Quick-fire answers to all of Google’s random questions about Tinker Bell movies, to the best of my ability. I’d love to make you gifs and clips and stuff of some of these, but I can’t, so we’re making do… Links are provided where available.

If you want pictures, here’s the Disney Fairies gallery.

tinkerbell protagonist

This is Tinker Bell, but in changes to Rosetta in the Pixie Hollow Games short, partially to Zarina in The Pirate Fairy, and to Fawn in Legend of the Neverbeast. If you’re looking for information on the protagonist’s identity, that’s this post.

disney vidia a true rare talent

Here’s Vidia’s quote from Tinker Bell at 19:40. “I am a fast-flying fairy. A true rare talent. And this is but a small part of what I do. I make breezes in the summer, blow down leaves in the fall… my winds even brought you here, dear. Fairies of every talent depend on me.” I believe Queen Clarion also uses the phrase toward the beginning of the movie, and the whole thing is about how all the talents are rare and valuable.

Continue reading

Tinker Bell Answers: Pixie Hollow Sociology

“does tinkerbell have something to do with green representation”

I have no idea what green representation is, and Google has failed me. So… maybe? Maybe this refers to environmental themes or environmentalists? If so, you could probably find that in the movies. The whole design is very nature-y, the fairies all work with nature, etc.

“does tinkerbell have any sociological concepts”

Aside from possible environmental themes? Sure. Most things do, really… Here’s an unscientific list:

Tinkers' Nook

Tinkers’ Nook — disneyfairies.wikia.com

  • Gender. There don’t seem to be strong gender roles in Pixie Hollow, but there might be some interesting meta-level analysis. For instance, although all the talents are co-ed, the other talents are shown as pretty and more “feminine” in contrast to Tinker Bell’s talent that’s housed in the folksy and slightly-oafish Tinkers’ Nook.
  • Activism. Or the lack thereof — I’ve written about that here.
  • Discrimination. Even caste systems, and whether or not Pixie Hollow has one.
  • Economic structures. Is anyone paid in Pixie Hollow? If not, why not?
  • Legal and governmental systems. Pixie Hollow seems to have a lot of random laws, some of which are made up by the monarch.
  • Possible LGBT+ characters. Some people headcanon Clank and Bobble as a gay couple since they live together and are generally linked, always seen together, etc. Personally I think that’s thin evidence, but certainly a topic of discussion.

I’m a big fan of movies as examples, so I hope that helps!

The Sunday Post – G. Willow Wilson!

I’m currently reading the four-volume Vertigo series Air by G. Willow Wilson, the writer behind Ms. Marvel and the author of Alif the UnseenI’m making my way through her earlier works, and so far I’m still impressed! Air is odd, it’s about a flight attendant who’s afraid of heights… And it turns out she has crazy dream-flying powers. It’s one of those comics where characters make philosophical speeches about what things “really” mean — symbols exist independently of and dictate the reality of the things they represent, for instance. Sometimes it seems brilliant, other times I don’t get it at all, but the comic is great.

I’m a day behind on my 30 Days of Yoga, I spent all day Friday moving stuff for a yard sale and wasn’t up for more exercise, but I’ll double-up one day soon. The poses are already getting much easier — it really doesn’t take long to acclimate to short practices.

We’ve got more Tinker Bell coming up this week, possibly some more Loki, and if I get real ambitious we may have an actual history post or some such… Although if I’m good I oughta be pre-writing April A to Z posts!

Tinker Bell Answers: The Basis of Our Protagonist’s Identity

  • “what is the basis for our protagonist’s identity? in the movie tinkerbell”
  • “basis of a protagonist’s identity in tinkerbell”
  • “tinkerbell protagonist”
  • “tinkerbell engineer”

Something tells me there’s a homework question going around about the basis of Tinker Bell’s identity! Well, I’m not doing your homework for you, but I do think this is a really interesting topic, and if it helps inspire your homework answer, awesome.

Tinker Bell tinkering

The most obvious basis for Tink’s identity is the fact that she’s a tinker. It’s even part of her name. The whole first movie is about her rejecting that talent and trying other occupations, eventually learning that she really is meant to be a tinker fairy and there’s nothing wrong with that. As I described yesterday, all fairies are assigned a career at birth. That sounds a little dystopian, but mostly it seems to work for them, because it’s not random. Each fairy has an affinity and talent for her, well, talent. The tinkers are the fairies who make all the tiny gadgets the other fairies use in their occupations. The tinkers are undervalued in the first movie, but one of the more subtle messages is that all the other talents depend on tinker skills — just like the tinkers depend on the other fairies to function. All the talents are interconnected and valuable, so Tink shouldn’t be ashamed of being a tinker.

I feel that’s a shallow analysis, though. Tinkering is her job, and it’s her job because she has an affinity for it, but we’re all more than what we happen to be doing. I said in my review of the first movie that Tinker Bell works as a simile of a young woman in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). More on that first movie and initial entrance into tinkering later, but I think it’s important that Tink’s personality means she’s a tinker, not the other way around. That science-y STEM association in the real world works for Tink’s personality, too. She’s curious about the world and how thinks work. She’s persistent — even if she gives up once in frustration, she’ll come back and try again with a new angle. She’s willing to try anything once and see what happens. When she looks at a machine, even one she’s never seen before like an automobile, she has the mental skill of deconstructing that new machine into its parts and seeing how they fit together, without ever laying hands on it. She’s also a fundamentally helpful person — she sees a problem and wants to fix it, even if it’s not her problem. She makes things that make life easier for all of Pixie Hollow, not just gadgets to do her own chores. When Fawn and Zarina get themselves into trouble in The Pirate Fairy and Legend of the Neverbeast, Tink is able to recognize that she’s done the same things herself, empathize with them, and support them. She’s loyal, dedicated, and wants to help no matter what. These are the things that make up Tink’s identity, and these are the reasons she makes a good tinker. Because she’s fulfilled and satisfied as a tinker, she grounds her own identity in that — the same way I’m perfectly happy identifying myself as a history major. But I think it would be a mistake to say “She’s a tinker because she’s a tinker and that’s the end of it.” It’s important — even vital — to her fully-formed identity, but it’s also a surface manifestation of a set of skills and interests that make up Tinker Bell.

That STEM link is to a friend’s discussion post, and I definitely recommend reading it — it’s all about how girls get the message that they aren’t good at STEM. One of the many reasons I love these movies is that there’s no subtle “she’s good at this even though she’s a girl…” message. Not a single one, as far as I can see!

Tinker Bell Answers: My Little Pony and a List of Fairy Talents

Tinker Bell DVD CoverIt’s no secret that I love the Tinker Bell/Disney Fairies movies. Last year I wrote essays/reviews of all the movies then available: Tinker Bell, The Lost Treasure, The Great Fairy Rescue, Secret of the Wings, The Pirate Fairy, and Pixie Hollow Games. Wednesday I added to that list with the new release, Legend of the Neverbeastwhich is my current favorite. So, it’s understandable that I get search hits related to Tinker Bell. I’ve been keeping track of them, and now that I’ve rewatched all the movies, I’m here to answer your questions! Some called for whole posts: this one on Tinker Bell vs. My Little Pony, one on Tinker Bell’s identity, and one on concepts in the series. The rest will be answered in one big post next week. Some search hits were directing people exactly where they needed to go (which makes me very happy!) and I’ve omitted those searches entirely to avoid misdirection. Others were not just vague but illegible, so I’ve omitted those as well. Most surprisingly, it seems that someone, somewhere, is using Tinker Bell in a classroom. Kudos to you, awesome teacher!

“my little pony is the same as tinkerbell”

In my first review, I actually compared the movie to a cross between My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and A Bug’s Life. But I assume you, fair Googler, were looking for examples and reasons, not just notifying the internet. ;)

neverpedia.com

neverpedia.com

Pixie Hollow and Equestria have similar systems where each person has a clearly-demonstrated and permanent talent. On MLP, these talents are much more individualized. When a pony discovers their special talent, apparently in early puberty, they get a “cutie mark” on their flank that symbolizes that talent. In Pixie Hollow, when a new fairy is magically born from a baby’s laugh, the new fairy walks around a circle of tools representing the different talents, and one glows. So, there are only certain talents to choose from, and each fairy joins an existing group of fairies with the same general occupation.

The two properties are also the same kind of fantasy, with similar tones and magical systems. They both feature six-person central groups, and all twelve main characters are female without that being a huge deal in the story. (See below for a list of “who’s who” in comparison!) Both series teach lessons about friendship and integrity.

“tinkerbell all talents”

The talents are an important structural element in both Pixie Hollow and MLP, so I’m glad you came to me, Googler… Google couldn’t give me a list of the talents either. I counted and ten are shown in first Tinker Bell scene, but not all of them are shown clearly. I noted the talents mentioned in the movies, and I did come up with ten:

  • “Garden fairies”
  • Water/dew
  • Something about leaves
  • “Fast-flying fairies” (wind powers)
  • Tinkers
  • Animal fairies
  • “Music fairies” mentioned once in the first movie
  • Dustkeepers
  • Scouts
  • “Snowflake and frost” fairies — They’re called this in the first movie, and one of the talents shown is a snowflake. However, in Secret of the Wings which is all about the winter fairies, they seem to have subtalents like “frost fairy” and “glacier fairy.” These may just be specializations within the overall winter talent.

“tinkerbell’s talent”

She’s a Tinker. More on this tomorrow. ;)

“which mlp characters are like the pixie fairies”

The Pirate Fairy dresses

  • Tinker Bell = Twilight Sparkle. The central character who solves problems with her brain!
  • Vidia = Rainbow Dash. The one with wind powers who’s competitive, snarky, and prone to betraying her friends (although she always learns better).
  • Fawn = Fluttershy. They both have animal talents! Fawn’s personality is more sporty like Rainbow Dash or Applejack, though.
  • Rosetta = Pinkie Pie. The fun, cute one! Rosetta also has some of Rarity’s personality, though, and Applejack’s nature talent.
  • Silvermist = Rarity, although her personality is more Fluttershy.
  • Iridessa = Applejack, at least in story terms. Sort of the reliable one.
  • Blaze = Spike. The animal companion.
  • Periwinkle = Princess Cadance. The long-lost sister/childhood friend of the main character, who’s super sweet!
  • Queen Clarion = Princess Celestia. Of course.
  • Nyx = Princess Luna. Nyx is a new character from Neverbeast, but she mirrors Luna’s dark-to-light journey.

Mane Six

I could go on, but I’ll spare you! I love this kind of thing, though. It’s so interesting to see how similar stories end up with similar characters, or why they don’t. I’ve got a Batman = NCIS list floating around here somewhere…

Check back tomorrow for a deeper look at Tinker Bell’s talent!

And if you happen to have Tinker Bell questions of your own, leave them in the comments, of course. ;)

Review: Ms. Marvel #13

Ms. Marvel #13 cover

Big spoilers!!

Just as a refresher, last month we had a Valentine’s special in which Kamala’s best friend (and superhero-gear provider) Bruno revealed (to the audience) that he has a crush on Kamala. The current issue was advertised as the one in which Ms. Marvel develops a crush on a newcomer. So, at first I was a bit resentful of this turn toward high-school romantic drama, and a bit suspicious of this whole issue, because I thought the past two issues had both been underwhelming. And where’s Adrian Alphona? Not drawing this issue, that’s where… Takeshi Miyazawa’s art is admittedly lovely, but the sight gags are such a part of my Ms. Marvel experience now. I just hope Alphona comes back.

Ms. Marvel #13 KamranThen I started reading and thought, “Okay, I guess this is kind of cute.” Kamran is a childhood acquaintance of Kamala’s, and her parents are trying to set them up (because he’s getting early admittance to MIT, has great prospects, etc.), so of course Kamala resolves not to be nice to him when he comes over. Then we get the big “he turns around and she falls for his gorgeous face” scene… Except what really happens is he mentions he likes the same videogame she does and THEN turns around. She asks what faction he plays, and they start jabbering about videogames and Bollywood movies and all the nerdy interests they share. It’s kind of adorable. They immediately decide to go check out a little DVD store Kamran knows, chaperoned by Kamala’s brother, and that’s when the superheroic hijinks ensue. In a very Superman-esque scene, Kamala has to run off, change into her costume, and deal with a minor villain in the midst of her date. Back to the date in a moment.

The issue began with Ms. Marvel training in New Attilan’s gym. The audience knew she was an Inhuman already, but she only found out recently. This whole issue is tying her to the Inhumans more overtly than before. (I may have to go get some more comics and see what’s happening with the Inhumans right now, just for my own edification, but nothing confused me here). In addition to her association with Lockjaw and New Attilan, Kamala’s new villains are Inhuman terrorists who got their powers in the same incident she did, but who don’t want to answer to the queen (or anyone else). A parallel I didn’t even notice until Kamala spelled it out…

Ms. Marvel #13 Kamala

Kamala hurts the terrorist pretty bad, and is then horrified by the force she used. I assume we’ll be coming back to that in later issues. And theeeen… Kamran reveals he saw her going into the alley, so he knows he’s Ms. Marvel. But that’s not all.

Ms. Marvel #13 Kamala and Kamran

Ms. Marvel #13 Kamala and Kamran

I take back everything I said. This is a brilliant plot. Will Kamala and Kamran get together? Will they become allies? Will he turn out to be a villain? Bruno wasn’t in this issue, how’s he going to react? I was afraid it would be boring and overdone, but this twist is the perfect thing for the series right now. It involves her family life, her friends, her superhero identity, and her connection to the Inhumans. Kamran really does seem cool, Kamala likes him for good reasons, they have adorable chemistry, and I wanna see what happens! Super excited for a great arc to come.

“Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast”: Maybe the Best Yet

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast cover

Oh my god y’all this movie. Took me an extra week and a half to get it watched, but it’s totally worth it. Here’s the description:

Return to Pixie Hollow for a heartwarming adventure, Disney’s TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVER BEAST. An ancient myth of a massive creature sparks the curiosity of Tinker Bell and her good friend Fawn, an animal fairy who’s not afraid to break the rules to help an animal in need. But this creature is not welcome in Pixie Hollow — and the scout fairies are determined to capture the mysterious beast, who they fear will destroy their home. Fawn must convince her fairy friends to risk everything to rescue the NeverBeast.

Let’s get the comparisons out of the way. They’re all favorable. First, I always compare the Tinker Bell series to a mix of My Little Pony and A Bug’s Life. This movie tips more toward MLP, with a “magical beast” plotline instead of a “tiny nature people” concept. The movie also reminded me of the classic Doctor Who episode “The Creature from the Pit,” which (spoiler alert) is about not judging monsters by their appearances, with a very similar sort of aesthetic. And I didn’t miss that Star Wars reference at the beginning, you sneaky little fairy-writers! I’m pretty sure I guffawed.

Each installment in the Tinker Bell series expands on the Disney Fairies universe. This one doesn’t introduce anything drastic like a new season or pirates, but we expand on the background worldbuilding we’ve seen over the past five movies. For example, we hear the term “fairies and sparrow men” for the first time — in the tie-in books the male fairies are called sparrow men, but this is the first time it’s used in the movies. Male fairies are also just called “fairies” with everybody else, so if there’s any significance to the gendered term, I don’t know what it is. We also get to revisit the male bookworm fairy from Secret of the Wings, and apparently he’s kind of a big deal in the fairy library.

Fawn-movie

Fawn

Tinker Bell actually takes a supporting role here and the movie focuses on one of her friends — Fawn, the animal fairy. This is unsurprising since they’ve been diverting the focus to other characters for several movies, but this is the first full-length movie to focus on one of the previously-existing supporting characters. I’m happy for the chance to change things up, and it works well as a way to get deeper into Pixie Hollow’s rhythms (instead of hanging the plot on interruptions or outside activities).

We establish that Fawn has a history of sheltering wounded dangerous animals, like Hannah the baby hawk (har har). This is  nice comparison to Tink’s history of breaking more foundational laws, linking the two together, so I love that Tink chooses to trust Fawn’s judgment. There’s not really a “moral of the story,” which is great — kids deserve complex movies too! — but Fawn’s main theme is “Heart gets you in trouble, head is your friend!” because Queen Clarion tells her that’s her problem. She’s too sympathetic toward all animals and should think more about what she’s doing. Instead of learning to be cold-hearted or totally disregarding the advice, she gets to a place where “for once, my head and heart — they’re actually telling me to do the same thing.” It’s perfect! I also liked seeing her study the Neverbeast’s behavior — especially cool for any budding biologists out there, and it demonstrates that tinkers aren’t the only smart fairies.

As usual there’s also a new character Nyx, a badass scout. Yay! Her arc didn’t have much space, though, so it seems a little lacking. She learns that she misjudged Fawn and Gruff (the Neverbeast), but why was she so driven in the first place? So uncompromising and hostile toward Fawn? Maybe this will show up in another movie? The rest of the fairies have their trademark personalities and funny banter. I laugh out loud watching these movies, and I think they’ve gotten funnier each time.

The animation returns to Secret of the Wings levels with the lovely, complex, furry, expressive character Gruff. He’s another nonverbal character (this series is great for those). He’s occasionally catlike and doglike, but not really either… he’s a new animal design that’s really interesting. The special features on the DVD talk about how they combined different animals to make him look new, but also so those elements would also feel familiar (and thus reassuring). I got attached immediately, bought every emotional state the movie tried to sell me, and then they drop the bittersweet ending — the fairies have to say goodbye to Gruff, because he goes into hibernation for hundreds of years until the next comet and storm, so they’ll never see him again. And all the fairies give him this beautiful journey to his bed and there’s a super sad song at the end and I cried about a Tinker Bell movie just shut up I’m fine…

disney.wikia.com

disney.wikia.com

It’s hard to define why, but this was the most emotional Tinker Bell movie for me. Possibly because it’s an animal movie, or because it’s more a straightforward fantasy movie, or because the setting is more intimate, or just because the script is great. Obviously, use your own judgment for yourself and your kids. Gruff doesn’t die, but I was literally crying, and I’m still thinking about it.