What I Meant Was…

Gotta love it when I stick my foot in my mouth!

Last night I did an interview with 744 ABC Melbourne about erotic fan fiction.

During the interview with Alan Brough, he asked me about why erotic fan fiction so often pairs two characters of the same gender. What I meant to say was that in most countries, popular culture reveals a general discomfort with homosexuality, and that frank portrayals of homosexuality are not common.

What I said was that “most people in the world are uncomfortable with homosexuality.”

Clearly, these are not the same things.

Yes. Everyone in the world is uncomfortable with homosexuality. Except me, and a lot of other people, and wow, did I not say that correctly. While I was talking live to a whole lot of Australians. Nervousness, I am victim of it.

Seriously, can I communicate my own embarrassment as well as I communicate my alleged homophobia? I feel like I need to apologize to everyone on the planet for sticking my foot in my mouth.

Oh, well. As the lovely Maureen Johnson said at one point, “Own your mistakes. They are yours.” This mistake is all mine and it’s a nice steamy fresh one.

What I was trying to say was that fan fiction is much more open to gay themes between characters while mainstream media in just about every country and ESPECIALLY in the US, which is where a lot of television and movie entertainment* comes from, is not as open to honest portrayals of homosexual relationships or homosexual tension. Gay character storylines get attention merely for being homosexual because homosexuality is still some sort of major “otherdom,” which baffles me as much as the idea that anyone might have a problem with putting a mosque in Manhattan. Exploring gay sexuality frankly on television would gain much more of a parental warning than the one this segment received on ABC Melbourne, whereas heterosexuality is often very naked, and very visible. 

*I was specifically asked not to mention Harry Potter if I could avoid it, hence my focus on television and movie fanfic.

But no, as @swegener kindly pointed out on Twitter, that’s a homophone, where what you said meant something completely different from what you meant and sounded homophobic.

Yup, that’s what that was. Clearly this was not my finest moment. I goofed up.

Apart from my ‘Did I really just say that?’ moment, we discussed fan fiction, author reactions to it, and why writers are motivated to create it. I know many writers dislike fanfic; I don’t read a lot of it (I have a lot to read on an average day) but I think it’s fascinating and cool that so many people are inspired by the tension and layers of a set of characters that they craft their own scenes in that world. But then, creativity in any form makes me exceptionally happy.

(Except when I creatively say that everyone is uncomfortable with the gheys.)

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Bronte says:

    Speaking on behalf of myself (being an australian), all I can say is as a nation we’re fairly used to the proverbial foot in the mouth. Good on you for speaking up.

  2. 2

    Oh noes! Did you realize the gaff while the discussion was still happening and stammer a retraction, or was this one of those foot-in-mouth moments where someone afterward asked you “what was up with that ‘everybody’s uncomfortable with the gays’ thing you said?”

  3. 3
    Vixenbib says:

    I can SO empathise with Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome, Sarah. 

    You have owned your mistake and apologised profusely to the world and explained what you really meant by what you said. What else can you do?  Forgive YOURSELF and let it go…

    I once blurted out to a roomful of people at a party that a female friend – in fact the hostess of the party – was actually a man in ‘drag’.  There was no sane reason for this other than that, as part of a party game, I was required to shout out something I knew about our hostess… In my inebriated state, and with no consideration for the possible consequences of my remarkable ‘wit’, I insulted and humiliated my friend (and embarrassed myself – the room of partying people was shocked into silence…).

    Of course I apologised and my friend said it was fine and that I shouldn’t worry about it – but I did, for at least ten years. This happened more than twenty years ago and I think I can say that I have now just about forgiven myself. I am not a bitch; I’m a trained counsellor/therapist! Over the years, I have concluded (with no medical input!) that I’m mildly affected by ‘Tourettes’ syndrome – whereby I cannot always control the impulse to speak the unsayable (especially if I think I can make someone laugh).

    Forgive yourself, Sarah!


  4. 4
    Joanne says:

    Ah, don’t lose sleep over it. You know who you are and what you believe, you’ve apologized for misspeaking and that’s enough. It’s too hot on the East Coast to be wearing a hair shirt.

    People who think public speaking is a breeze either haven’t tried it or have shitforbrains. Your critics (all 4 of them) will be on this like white on rice but the rest of us know you accept most people no matter who or what they find sexually attractive.

    Personal note: I dispise fanfiction. Manipulating popular characters rather then thinking up your own characters is stupid and childish. Make up your own protagonists and then you can put them into any situation you care to and be a real author.

  5. 5
    Amy says:

    So, you are actually human?

  6. 6
    SB Sarah says:

    Heh. Apparently so.

    @Cara: I was listening to the interview to remember some of what was talked about, heard myself and said, literally, out loud in my office, ‘HOLY GOD DAMN DID I JUST SAY THAT?!’ It was a unique sound of hysterical laughter, let me tell you.

    Isn’t it bizarre how you as an individual can torture yourself for years over a moment of WHOOPS long after everyone else has forgotten about it? I do that all the time. But if a romance heroine, for example, were to hold onto a moment of WHOOPS as her motivation for avoiding the hero or something, I’d probably lose patience with her very quickly and tell her to get over it already. But then, I think women generally are taught bit by bit to be MUCH harder on themselves than they really need to be.

    Thanks for the reassurances.

  7. 7
    Scribblerkat says:

    No one who knows who you are would believe that was anything but a gaffe. Anyone with a brain knows that gaffes are common in public speaking, and people without brains won’t be here. So, to echo everyone else, you’ve dumped on us, we still like you, you’ve apologized, so now you can forget about it. But you probably won’t. However, if that’s the only mistake you have on your conscience, you’re amazing.

  8. 8
    Jane Holland says:

    I blundered onto a cosy group blog yesterday and made an inappropriate joke, having misunderstood the topic they were discussing – at which point ‘total sense of humour fail’ kicked in with this group. I was accosted on all sides and basically had to flee for my life.

    There are now about 50-100 women out there who only have to see my name to instantly think ‘Not that awful %@&*$!’

    Actually, thinking back on my long career of inappropriate remarks and social-fail moments, that’s probably an underestimate. So don’t get too hung up on this little faux-pas, Sarah. You’ll probably do it again sometime, and especially in important interviews … where all the really good stuff comes pouring out while your palms sweat uncontrollably.

  9. 9
    redcrow says:

    Joanne – so you never had any desire to read more about your favourite characters? Never imagined what would happen if things went differently? Never cared enough about characters to wish some of them lived longer and happier than author let them? Never got angry at bad gyus or some of so-called good guys?
    Fine. Just don’t think it makes you better and more ~~grown-up~~ than us.
    (Oh, and there are professional authors who write continuations, retellings and other variations of already existing stories… and people who write and draw comics about characters created long before their birth, and new writers for long-running TV-series who also work with someone else’s characters…  Feel free to “dispise” them too. )

  10. 10
    Chase says:

    Right on, Red Crow, right on.  To dismiss fanfiction across the board as “stupid” and “childish” is as ridiculous as dismissing all romance fiction, or all science fiction, or all of any other kind of fiction.  It also dismisses things like Wide Sargasso Sea, Wicked, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Plus, most mythologies of most cultures.

  11. 11
    Brooks*belle says:

    Oh the goddess of mispeaking is a heartless bitch ain’t she!  I’ve succumbed to her curse before and thus have an internal WHOOPS list that could rival any glib girl out there!

    Once in speaking to my husband’s former-boss-just-now-promoted-to-the-CFO-position of this multi-million dollar company (while at an awards banquet doing photography for them), instead of charmingly congratulating him on his new position, I choked and spat out, “Well I hear you’re a big Cojones now!”  Instead of the less offensive, but still not very witty “Kahuna.”

    Yes, instead of calling him the hawaiian word for boss or wizard, I referred to him as a testicle.

    Oh and my dad had come to pick me up and overheard the whole thing.

    Mon Dieu!

  12. 12
    Joanne says:

    First of all I was expressing my opinion about fanfiction. I thought that was clear enough when I said PERSONAL NOTE.

    You like it, good on you. You write it and think that’s okay, good for you. Me, I don’t like it and I think it’s a childish grab at someone else’s toys. 

    You like it and think I’m an idiot? Okay. Good for you. Make you happy? Nothing I say will, I’m sure, since this arguement has been going on forever.

    And books like Zombies in P&P is a perfect example of why I detest fanfic.

    Sorry for going off topic Sarah

  13. 13
    chase says:

    One more post on this and then I’m done. Joanne, you have a perfect right to dislike fanfiction at a personal level, but when you verge upon insulting those who do like reading and writing it, as you did in your first post, you can expect those people to call you on it.  That is more than a PERSONAL note, that is getting personal. 

    I don’t know you, so I have no idea if you’re an idiot. But you certainly don’t express yourself in a calm or mature manner.  If you want people to respect your opinions, try respecting those of others first.

  14. 14
    Brooks*belle says:

    Oh and I’m sure there is good fanfic out there—however the dozen or so examples I’ve read (recommended to me by people who read a LOT of it—so supposedly, cream of the crop stuff) made me want to bang my head so hard I’d leave a keyboard imprint on my forehead.

    Subject matter addressed?  Yes—absolutely it addresses needs/desires/wishes that are skipped over in the greater published world, but the quality of writing?  Most of it is just bad, bad, bad.  Gangrenously bad.


  15. 15
    Scribblerkat says:

    As a fanfic writer as well as “real” author, I thank you, Red Crow and Chase. I also say: Joanne, if you can’t respect others, at least learn tact. There are many ways to say what you did without the use of inflammatory adjectives.

  16. 16
    redcrow says:

    Joanne, just because you decided to State Your Personal Opinion, it doesn’t mean that people have no right to disagree with it. Personal opinions don’t work this way.

  17. 17
    sugarless says:

    Joanne – Sorry to hop on the jumping all over you bandwagon, but your assumption is that it’s just stories written by people who aren’t creative enough to think of their own characters. That’s not what it’s about at all.

    I’m speaking mostly about TV fanfic here, I’ve really gotten to know these characters, I’ve spent an hour a week with them for 4, 5, 6, 7 (etc) years, I’ve gotten to know and like them. They’ve made me laugh and made me cry. When a show ends, maybe I’m just not done with them. It has nothing to do with not being creative enough to make up your own characters – it has everything to do with imagining new scenarios, situations, scenes for characters you really like. frankly, it gets people writing, reading and creating, and even thinking more in depth about characters, motivations, layers, etc. I applaud it.

    Not to say a whole lot of fanfic isn’t absolutely terrible, because holy bajesus, it can be. And I can totally understand a personal dislike for it, but not because of the reason you stated.

    Sorry to add to the jumping all over you brigade, and really not tryin gto make you defensive.

  18. 18
    geekgirl says:

    Joanne: Putting “personal note” in front of an insult is still an insult and doesn’t absolve one of the consequences. Given the nature of the thread, one would assume that would be pretty clear. You infaticaly write “is stupid and childish”; not “I feel it …” or “I find it…” or any other qualifiers. You can’t outright call a large group of people stupid and not expect to be called on it.
    I agree with you on the general quality of Fan Fiction out there BTW, the crap to gem ratio is insanely bad; but the same can be said for much of the stuff being published too. Personally, I see it more as wanting to play in the same sandbox than stealing the other kids toys.

  19. 19
    Jane Holland says:

    Hey, perhaps Joanne actually meant to say: ‘Most people are uncomfortable with fan fiction’, and it just came out wrong. ;-)

  20. 20
    Brooks*belle says:

    Maybe we need a thread on good fanfic recommendations.  I just haven’t had good luck with finding it.  I’d LOVE to read some decent fanfic on:

    Jamie and Claire of Galbadon’s Outlander Series (Frankly, I’d love to see one where they get a HEA at Lallybroch and forget the whole 20-year-separation thing)

    Jervaux and Maddy.  Must have more of them. Did she change her uptight ways?  How did the rest of his recovery go? Jervaux is sooooo swoon-worthy.  I could just eat him up. 

    Oh and I need to read a good, hot lurve scene where Jo and Laurie from Little Women hook up.  I still get mad each time through the book when he ends up with shallow Amy.

    I could go on and on and on…but I digress.  And derail threads…

  21. 21
    sugarless says:

    @Jane Holland bahahaha fair enough!

    Also – to actually post something on topic, I have more than a passing familiarity with foot-in-mouth moments. The worst is when you realize what you’re saying is completely wrong as you’re saying it, (“what am I saying? I don’t even think that!”) but or some reason the brain signal doesn’t transmit to your mouth and you just keep talking. Then to try to backpedal but fail miserably and you just keep talking until you have the biggest urge to just clap your hands over your mouth to prevent yourself from speaking.

    Does that happen to anyone else, or is that just me?

    brooks*belle – I’ve pretty much just browsed through Doctor Who and Buffy fanfic – but I’ve given up on Who stuff. The Doctor is really difficult to pin down and I really haven’t encountered many (if any) who have actually succeeded.

  22. 22
    SB Sarah says:

    @Jane Holland: Most people are uncomfortable with diet Pepsi up their nose. I would know. I am one of these people. BWAAAAHAHAHHAHA

  23. 23
    Lizabeth S. Tucker says:

    Disclaimers here: I write fanfic.  I don’t think I’m childish and immature, but I do borrow the characters I love to see what can be done with them other than what is seen on television.  I have also written original characters, both as part of my fanfic and privately for publication (which didn’t exactly work out well—don’t get me started on that subject).  I don’t write slash (other than a couple of experiments, but I do read it.  I read what would be considered quite of bit of fanfic in a few television fandoms (Torchwood, NCIS, and Merlin at this time).

    I am so sorry that misstatement came out of your interview, but I tend to agree with everyone else.  You’ve proven your open-mindedness with other articles, speeches and statements in the past, so forgive yourself.

    As to fanfic and the liking or not liking of it?  I would be among the first to admit that 98% of what is out there is drek.  Heck, worse than drek, but when you find that one story that has you crying, laughing, or “hearing” it like it was an aired episode?  That really is a priceless moment.

    I support anyone’s right to not read it, to dislike it, to avoid it under pain of death.  But I will also smack anyone who childishly insults others involved in it, either as writer or reader.  Just ask Diana Galbadon how that type of insult can cause the fanbase to rise up in united protest.

  24. 24
    Sam45 says:

    I’m off-topic. I apologise.


    Obviously, you’ve just missed out on the good stuff when it comes to fan fiction ;)

    Do me a favour, go look at:

    (i) Written by the Victors (Stargate: Atlantis, most of it written as excerpts from academic texts, spawned the Victorverse)

    (ii) Observations (Star Trek 2009, possibly the smartest story I have ever read)

    (iii) Freedom’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose (Stargate: Atlantis, I have no words for it)

    (iv) War Games (Star Trek 2009, written after RaceFail ‘09 and with it very present in mind, with discussion posts about the author’s use of hir OCs (in other words, OWN CHARACTERS), several of whom are the awesome characters of colour e.g. T’Prina)

    (v) Sixteen Days in September (Generation Kill, Alternate Universe, well-researched piece of fiction set in another culture without using that culture’s conflicts or tragedies as ‘window-dressing’ for romance)

    (vi) The Kids Aren’t Alright (Iron Man, poignant article written by ‘Christine Everhart’ [building on (in other words, manipulating) a character who is a two-dimensional, seemingly incompetent journalist in the films])

    (vii) In the House of Dust (Epic of Gilgamesh, ancient Mesopotamian literature fan fiction [hell yes])

    (viii) Cartography by Touch and its sequel, History of Maps (Stargate: Atlantis, two of the most beautifully-realised pieces of fiction I have ever read, and two of only four stories to ever make me cry)

    …and tell me that it’s all childish and stupid.

    Have a look at this list of Pulitzer prize-winning or otherwise award-winning and well-known derivative works and tell me that they make you detest fan fiction.

    Go read/watch Romeo and Juliet or The Two Gentlemen of Verona (the only two I could come up with off the top of my head) and call Shakespeare a meanie for grabbing at someone else’s toys.

    Sturgeon’s law is a wonderful thing. Frankly, I think your opinion has less to do with the quality of *all* fan fiction (or published derivative works) and more to do with your ability (or motivation) to find the 10% of everything that isn’t crud.


    You might want to look at the new Yuletide archive on Archive Of Our Own and the old Yuletide archive here for the books/pairing you mentioned. Yuletide’s specifically for small fandoms (which it sounds like yours are) and the quality’s hit or miss, but when it hits, it is *excellent*.

    If you wanted good fan fiction recommendations, try the thefourthvine.livejournal.com and norah.livejournal.com first (they’re very well-known multiple fandom fanfic reccers; thefourthvine is particularly hilarious). Fandom tags are listed down the side for both (or under user info->tags), and norah has a tag *rec the reccers* at the top if you want to expand the net for fanfic recs.

    Hope this helps!

    On-topic again:

    ‘Open mouth, insert foot, be crippled by embarrassment for years’ is pretty much what I live my life by, which is, you know, a TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE SYSTEM.

    Don’t worry that it came out wrong this time. You won’t make the same mistake next time, which is really what matters :)

  25. 25
    Sam45 says:

    Aaaaand because the link to the list of well-known derivative works failed, here it is again:

    bookshop’s post on Livejournal: I’m done explaining to people why fanfic is okay

  26. 26

    Sarah, I wouldn’t stress about it. I haven’t heard the interview, but I heard your previous one with Alan Brough, and I’m sure you came across as an open-minded, intelligent person with a great deal of respect for the topics you discuss.

    Plus, the Bitchery aside, it probably IS within the realms of truth that ‘most people in the world are uncomfortable with homosexuality’. After all, it’s still a crime punishable by death, whipping, imprisonment etc in many places, and even in cultures where homosexuality is entirely legal, accepted, and celebrated… well, it’s not celebrated by everyone. And I’d be willing to bet that even amongst people whose ‘best friends are gay’, there is a reasonably large proportion (possibly even greater than 51%) who don’t actually want to see their best friends kissing. Or anything else.

    Heck, given the responses I’ve had from Australian non-romance reading readers and reviewers to my (quite mild) books, if you’d said ‘most people in the world are uncomfortable with sexuality [being expressed in books]’ Alan Brough and many others would be nodding along with you.

    So, definitely don’t beat yourself up about it. Besides, the Australian listening audience has recently been treated to the Leader of the Opposition trying to explain that unscripted remarks are often not exactly the truth. Or what he meant to say. Or what he wanted you to hear. Or something.

  27. 27
    geekgirl says:


    if you’d said ‘most people in the world are uncomfortable with sexuality [being expressed in books]’

    That’s an excellent point! I don’t know how many times I’ve, and I’m sure others here have, run into the slightly uncomfortable shuffle/shudder when bringing up a particularly good turn of phrase or plot device from a romance. Like they shouldn’t be mentioned in “polite” company. As if it matters the genre of the book the good writing was in. It’s not like I’m pulling out whole sex scenes at Sunday dinner. :p

  28. 28
    sugarless says:

    Wait, you mean most people don’t pull out whole sex scenes at Sunday dinner?

    < .<

  29. 29
    Jes1 says:

    It’s not like I’m pulling out whole sex scenes at Sunday dinner. :p

    But Sunday dinner would be so much more fun if you did. :)

  30. 30
    Isobel Carr says:

    Oh and I’m sure there is good fanfic out there

    I’ll add My Own Kind of Freedom by Stephen Brust (Firefly). Fabulous fanfic novella by a multi-published author.

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