Good News; Pet Peeves

I’m a complicated woman.

First, the good news: I’m currently in the last stages of the first draft for the first Highland Dragons novel in the second trilogy. And if that parsed weirdly: Medieval Highland Dragons, coming Sometime Next Year!

And now, a couple things that have irked me in otherwise good reading material lately.

  1. Wolves don’t work that way.

That whole “pack alpha, dominant male” thing that keeps appearing in urban fantasy/paranormal romance/books about dog training? Based on an inaccurate 1981 book about wolves in zoos. ( Actual wolves? It’s more of an extended-family thing, without the extreme gender-based split.

Now, if you want to write a book about a bossy asshole who can’t help it because of instincts or whatever, that’s…fine, in a YKIOK way…but the Bossy Asshole Because Wolves and Alpha, no.

If you want an animal with serious hierarchical structures, dominant males, and submissive females, *chimpanzees* might be your best bet. Except nobody really wants to read “In the Arms of the Shitflinging Faceeater,” for some reason.

2. Profanity doesn’t work that way.

It’s great that one of your main characters belongs to an alternative religion. Major props. No, really. And it’s great that this non-dominant religion shows up in their thoughts and actions.

However: if the character spends most of their time in mainstream society, they’re going to swear, especially in moments of stress, like everyone else does.

I’m pagan. My friends include a Jewish person, an atheist, and a Christian. (Among other things and in varying quantities, but, you know, examples.) If you dropped a brick on each of our feet, the Christian’s response would be the *least* likely to include some variant of ┬áJesus fucking Christ! or God damn it! Even if the rest of us don’t swear from specifically Judeo-Christian terms, we’re not likely to invoke our actual beliefs–not because I, at least, think my gods will be offended, but because those aren’t the terms I grew up using, or hearing other people use, and you swear without thinking.

I don’t believe in Hell, but if you change lanes without a turn signal, I will tell you to go there.

Now, this is different for characters who don’t grow up in the dominant culture, of course, if your world works that way–I could see, say, a first-generation immigrant still using their own culture’s profanity even if they’re otherwise fully integrated–but if your character is, say, a pagan in the 1990s and goes around saying things like “Goddess!” when she’s stressed?

The only realistic assumption is that she’s *pretentious as fuck*. If you want to give that impression, that’s one thing, but maybe consider that.

3. Sex…works a lot of ways.

So your characters are hanging out after the apocalypse, or have gone back in time, or are on another planet with few resources, and a heterosexual pair finds each other hot. It’s realistic for birth control to be a concern, and likewise realistic for that to limit certain very specific forms of activity.

I wish I didn’t have to be the one to tell you this, Fantasy Writers Who Know Who They Are, but…that’s not the only thing you can do. Furthermore, young people have been figuring out those, er, “loopholes”, for centuries–the person who told me about a maneuver called “the Catholic schoolgirl’s best friend” was not of my generation–those things are also perfectly valid forms of sex, and modern teenagers will have heard about them. No, really. No, *really*, I hate to disillusion you, but the world contains the Internet and Cosmo and people who have read both.

And as with all things I can buy exceptions for people raised in historical eras, or Carrie’s mom, and if you don’t get explicit I can buy that they really just want that particular act, sure, I’ve been young, but when you talk about modern characters who “can’t do more than kiss” or “have to keep their pants on” because of pregnancy?

Oh, honey. I want to send everyone in your publishing house a sympathy card and a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves.