A reader reviewer for my novel IRON AXE wrote that he liked the book until he hit the “social commentary” about gay people, and then he didn’t like it anymore. He wanted interesting characters in his fantasy, not social commentary.
I found his statement odd.
If there’s social commentary in the Books of Blood and Iron, it’s about how people treat those who are different–half-bloods, LGBT people, slaves, people of different races. Or it’s about about how society treats men differently from women. None of that commentary bothered the reader in question at all. Hell, the fact that I have two interracial relationships–a half-troll with a human, and a human with an elf–didn’t bother the reader in the slightest. But Talfi falling in love with a man–that’s a deal breaker.
Look, dude–it’s not my job to tell you what to like and what not to like. You are free to hate any kind of story you want. But don’t be a god-damned hypocrite about it. Don’t try to climb a pedestal and say the story is bad because of social commentary. Admit that you don’t like Talfi because you’re too insular, too uneducated, too shithouse-behind-the-trailer provincial to join modern society and accept that LGBT people have read heterosexual love stories for centuries, and now it’s okay for a few books to have in them men who love men.
I’ve said said before that Talfi is based on Thjalfi, the speedy teenaged mortal from Norse mythology who became Thor’s servant. He only appears in two stories, but I always liked him and wanted to use him somewhere in a book. I was halfway through IRON AXE before I realized he was gay. Talfi is also unapologetic and unashamed about it, even though he lives in a society that puts him down for it. Talfi also has a happy ending. (This isn’t a spoiler, really–I’ve said over and over in my blogs that I despise the Tragic Gay Character trope and will use it only after the sun burns out.) I would have cheerfully committed murder for this kind of character when I was a teenager.
Talfi is not merely “the gay guy,” either. He is an archer, a prankster, a runner, an imp, a loyal friend, a happy-go-lucky, accidental immortal who has no idea how powerful he can be. He needs to learn. After a thousand years, it’s time for Talfi to grow up, and that’s what we explore in BONE WAR.
And yeah–he’s gay. You’ll like him.
–Steven Harper Piziks