gender pronouns for the paranormal

I’m struggling this morning. The world news has finally floored me and I’ve going to have to step back for a bit. Bad, really, but on the plus side it’s hopefully given me more space to write, rather than obsess about twitter.

Instead I am struggling in a different way, with pronouns in my new book. I have a character who is turning out to be gender neutral or gender fluid (they haven’t quite let me know which yet). They are from a place where gender simply doesn’t exist in the same way it does here; so when I write from their perspective, I need to find a way to frame their identity in a way that feels natural for them.

This has lead me to thinking about Ursula Le Guin and ‘The Left Hand Of Darkness‘. Although her world is populated with gender-neutral humans who only become one sex or the other for brief periods of time, she sticks to he and she and gendered nouns – King, Queen etc.. This morning I found an essay by her called The Gender Of Pronouns, that I think is from the collection ‘The Language Of The Night’. It’s a good discussion about what she was trying to achieve when she wrote the novel, with lots of food for thought. I think she has made several revisions of it over the years as her feminism evolved and I’m hoping I can track down a copy of The Language Of The Night, which I think has a couple of them.

As long as I have been able to read, one of my preference has been for speculative fiction. Really interesting SF&F should, in my opinion, take where we are now and say ‘what if?’. What if I changed this one thing? What if there was no gender? (Le Guin) What if there were infinite resources and life? (Iain M. Banks, his Culture novels) What if there were space aliens attacking us, how would we treat our children then? (Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game). Of course there is a lot of great science fiction and fantasy around that doesn’t strictly fit that model – I am as up for a good dragon-romp or asteroid hitting the earth as the next person. But basically all those stories that I enjoy put their characters in stressful situations and say ‘what if?’.

That is what I was trying to do with Lost In Time – I started writing in the MM genre because that was what I was enjoying reading at the time, for various reasons I’ll probably blog about later. And I liked the idea of constrasting Lew and his 2016 attitudes with Alec and his closeted, 1920 life. I’m not confident I’ve done it very well at this point – it’s Release Day, otherwise known as Crisis Of Confidence Day.

Regardless, what it *has* done, is open up a whole vista of possiblities in my head about what to write next and I am enjoying the journey and the things I am learning along the way.

ETA. I found this list on Wiki. Useful synopsis.

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