A number of people who read Tragedy lately have specifically approached me about Garren. Some of those comments were from people who have not read Fathers and Sons, and they (perhaps understandably given the lack of representation in genre fiction) asked if my reference to Garren’s husband was a typo. Just to be clear to those who were not prepared for this: yes, Garren is a gay man. I am not afraid of that fact, and indeed, neither is he.
Incidentally, Garren was not originally written as a homosexual character; this fact evolved slowly from my experiences with him. When it came time to discuss his past it just seemed natural that he preferred relationships with men, and that was that. I made a conscious decision not to “hang a flag” on Garren’s sexuality while writing the scene in question, and I’d like to give you a little insight as to why.
Even though I didn’t set out with an agenda to have a gay character, I put considerable thought into how I wanted to deal with issues of skin color, gender, and sexuality before I started writing Tragedy. I think there is great merit in highlighting the struggles of minority groups through stories. As I’ve said before, societal shifts are slow and subtle, and the media can be an incredible vehicle for change. However, when I was thinking of what I wanted to portray in my work, I decided to take a radically different approach. I thought to myself, what if I made a series of societies in which color, gender, and sexual orientation were non-issues? What would that look like?
How could a story like that affect a reader’s perspective?
In the end I decided that I wanted to create a world where those problems are not paramount in order to showcase our human similarities. I’d like to think that all of us are more similar than we are different – I see it in my life every day. We all experience love, loss, hardship, and triumphs – these are things that bind us, and in my mind, these things are the most important. This was one of the chief motivators behind writing Fathers and Sons – it is a story about love, family, and loss in which the main character’s homosexuality is far less significant than his emotional journey.
I’m very pleased that most people seem to like Garren a lot, regardless of their views on his sexuality. Several have even pointed him out as a favorite character. Garren’s strength, honor, and compassion are the attributes that most people remember about him. It’s hard for me to play favorites with my imagination-children, but if I had to… well, I don’t want to make the kids jealous. 😉
As an aside, this is probably a good time for me to explicitly state that you’re not imagining things – yes, Elden is bisexual. He shows up only briefly in Tragedy, but rest assured I am having tons of fun with Elden in Suffering. 34,000 words and counting, folks. This is real!