The Beta Bop is a social dance, and in this week’s three-part series of interviews, I’ll be talking with one of my favorite dance partners, TruantPony. Part 1, How You Do What You Do (including brief bio) is here, and Part 2, The Art and Science, is here.
Truant has beta-read The Shape-shifter’s Tale, Erika and the Vampire, Max and the Ghost, Annie Brown and the Superhero Blues, and most recently, The Necromancer and the Barbarian: A Love Story, to which she contributed key insights on the immunology of resurrection.
E. P. Beaumont: Some people get really irritated when you try to unpack the deep axioms of a work of fiction. They’re like “shut up, it’s just entertainment.” What’s your reply to that as a beta-reader?
TruantPony: No, it’s not. Fiction has the ability to enter your thoughts and influence your mind. Be very careful as a reader, because when you’re reading fiction, you are WILLINGLY suspending your disbelief and part of that means accepting the words/ideas put forth by the author. Language is powerful, and as with all things that are powerful, it can be misused.
The way I see it, writers put forth all their effort to make their story believable in fiction, to convince you of the reality of their story, the world they’re building. I definitely wouldn’t take it lightly, because I’ve found some really deplorable ideas in fiction before.
E. P. Beaumont: What are the most deplorable of those ideas? Any speculations as to why they’re so popular?
TruantPony: Some of them include putting women ‘in their place’. And that place is properly as a secondary side character who NEEDS to be rescued by a strong alpha male.
Why is it so popular? I have no clue. It sells, maybe the industry wants to keep it that way, perhaps the industry likes to promote certain agendas? I think that’s my paranoia talking…
I do think sexism does still exist, though, and that’s NOT paranoia talking, that’s real experience.
I’ve also been told that as a wife, I should be ‘obedient and listen to my husband no matter what’. Yes, here in America. By Americans.
In fact, the other day, I was helping out at my family’s business, and when I explained that my father cooks, and my mother takes care of the business and basically runs the show, the customer told me as a last parting word- “That’s nice, but don’t learn too much!” Was it a joke? Because if so, it wasn’t funny to me.
E. P. Beaumont: Sex roles and talents are not the same thing.
(sensing the abyss, and proceeding nonetheless) In contemporary romance, many writers are experimenting with BDSM themes, but invariably conflating them with traditional sex roles. Any comments on that?
TruantPony: Boring. The real spice is the non-traditional sex roles. Speaking as a biologist- sex is genetically determined. Sex roles, however are largely dictated by society and the way women and men are ‘expected’ to act is a social construct.
That’s what I believe.
E. P. Beaumont: It’s interesting that the people who claim loudly that traditional sex roles are ‘what evolution intended’ don’t tend to have real scientific training.
TruantPony: That kind of pisses me off. I’ve had debates with such idiots, complete with papers and invariably they’ll flounce off in a huff. What evolution intended is that we pass on our genes, as many as possible, in the most effective way. Evolution doesn’t ‘intend’ anything but that.
E. P. Beaumont: I knew practicing geneticists when I was in college and graduate school, and they seemed perpetually bemused by the complexity of it all.
TruantPony: It’s very very complex, genetics. And we still don’t understand all of it. Same with the brain. I wonder if in my lifetime, we’ll figure it all out? I’m inclined to believe that there is still a lot of mystery to it, and that complete understanding is that unreachable horizon.
Preview of Coming Attractions:
In August, TruantPony, my beta-reader BrainSister and I are going to take on Fifty Shades of Gray, romance-writer Genre Fascism, BDSM and traditional sex roles, and other Juicy Topics of TEH SEXEH. As artists and passionate believers in free speech, we do not endorse book burning, so it is in a strictly platonic manner that we are going to flame that sucker but good. Stay tuned.
While you’re waiting for us to have a go at this Moby-Dick-scaled sitting duck, have a look at our colleague Jennifer Armintrout who, in the course of her critical labors, suffered the Slings and Arrows of Outraged Fandom in the form of a Goodreads pile-on that fell most heavily not upon herself, but upon a writer with a similar name. (To which your Humble Author appends No Comment, in all caps).