I’ve been thinking lately about what’s lgbtqi in fiction? I mean, when an agent specifically asks for that, what they mean. Generally, what people seem to want is summed up by a male agent on MSWL who specified characters that are gay but that just happen to be gay and the whole story isn’t about that. I’m paraphrasing, of course. There were other problems with that dude so I didn’t query him. I mean, I get that I’m supposed to be desperate or whatever but there are red flags for me, too, not just them in looking at a prospective new author.
Cinderella’s Dead by Kalynn Bayron is a really fun, feminist read full of magic, adventure and romance where women are subservient in a world where one spurned dude has seized power. I guess while we’re on the subject: there was an agent I was so excited about querying. But somewhere into the first or second year of the Trump presidency, she changed her no’s to: no reverse dystopia’s where males are disposable.
I tried to put myself in her place (like when suddenly, all agents are like ‘no pandemics’ and I’ve been working on this same book for about a hundred years; it’s fine) All of a sudden, women being threatened with a total lack of agency by a power-hungry sociopath were bombarding her with reverse Handmaiden’s Tales. How annoying!
But let’s say (since she’s such a big Joss Whedon stan, which, ew) we live in a world of Buffy’s. wouldn’t men who can really only ‘watch’ and sort of half-assed fight be less valuable? But she acted like anything where our situation was reversed would be some petty power trip. Maybe it is, compared to envisioning a world where things are completely equal. Yet, it really wasn’t political, just that’s how the particular society operated for the novel. Maybe this agent rightly felt that feminism isn’t the reverse of what the patriarchy keeps trying to do to us.
Cinderella’s Dead is extremely simple and I don’t mean that as a criticism. It’s for teens, after all, and it does a really good job of explaining how toxic masculinity works. It’s not just one dude being angry on the internet and who cares because it can’t really impact anything. We certainly know now that it can. When enough of them have the same flawed ideas, they can be extremely dangerous.
I do believe there are a few problems with normalization of queer romance at the expense of ever addressing obstacles in this current world but that’s because all my speculative narratives are grounded in this world which doesn’t always apply. That being said, normalization of queer teen romance is done well here. I love how the love triangle is all about how you can’t save other people but Sophia is still really torn up over wanting to save Erin. Yet, ultimately, she can’t love someone who won’t fully love her back.
Erin does love Sophia but feels they need to hide it. There are a lot of complicated points which are made in a way younger people will easily be able to relate to. I just loved this book. I want to send it to my niece but the cover is just too gorgeous. Maybe I will have to buy a second copy and keep it for myself. Sorry most of this was about ME as per usual. I feel I should say, I don’t always enjoy feudal fantasy but this worked really well within the fairytale retelling context.
Oh and I also loved how perspectives in history are touched on in a really simple but creative way. Even in the second wave feminist version with Drew Barrymore, it’s never questioned why Cinderella’s stepfamily is always cruel, and always ugly. Well, but anyone who says that about Melanie Lynsky better not say it to me! Sorry. Done now.
The agent who didn’t want dude Handmaiden’s Tales deleted that from MSWL and is now the person in charge of inclusiveness or whatever at the new agency she moved to and I’m like, wait…? So only not all men inclusiveness at that agency, then? She also won’t remove being a Harry Potter stan. I get that book was important to a lot of people but even just as a professional claiming to support inclusiveness could you maybe not?
*Note about my wordpress blog The Horror of Marna Larsen: I’m sort of reformatting this into book closet because I can’t figure out what else to do with my blog and I’ve fallen into just doing the book reviews here. And it is NOT all horror all the time, sometimes it’s fantasy or romance or whatever else I feel like reading. I’ve painted myself into a corner with this whole horror of thing and it’s my own fault and it’s going to be a period of adjustment trying to fix it.
Oh, I also wanted to mention this is a local author! Well, she grew up in Alaska (Alaska stretches from Seattle to I think Minnesota or something yet all Alaska authors are local authors. That’s just how it is! So shoutout to local female authors!