Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hmmm...: Out by Laura Preble

I discovered Laura Preble's book Out today. I have to say that I'm kind of leery about it, but I am curious. Here's the book's synopsis, if you're curious:

In a society where “perpendiculars,” opposite-sex couples, are forbidden, persecuted, freakish…Chris Bryant, a preacher’s son, finds himself in love…with a girl. 

Chris has always been faithful to his Anglicant religion – even though he’s never felt like everyone else, never felt…parallel. And then it happens: he meets her. Carmen. Daughter of one of the leading Perpendicular prosecutors…the girl he knows he can’t live without. 

Carmen has always thought the treatment of Perps is barbaric – but to actually be one? To fall in love with Chris and openly admit to it is suicide. 

Their only chance to be together is the Underground, a secret society Chris’s sister introduces him to that is determined to mount an attack against the social restrictions of the Anglicant church. They want to make an example of Chris and Carmen, two Perps from high social families, to become the catalyst for an uprising that will threaten the traditions of their society’s families and church. 

But the cost of involvement just might be death for them both.

The thing about reversing situations like this is that it has to be very, very delicately done and you have to have incredibly good justifications as to why everything is the way it is. When it comes to stuff like this it's very easy for stuff like this to fail even when the author has very good intentions because sometimes it can read as homophobic even when that's far from the author's intentions. That's why when you have books, movies, and shows that establish same sex couples as the norm for society, many choose to set up the society as being completely separate from other genders. It makes it easier to justify how same sex couples would become the norm and why any other pairings would be seen as strange.

I guess what one of the biggest problems with reversing whatever -ism the book is about is that at some level it's always going to be faulty. Simply reversing the sexuality of the society doesn't work because you're dealing with the idea that heterophobia would end up looking exactly the same as homophobia. You also have to build up the world pretty well to explain how it would come about. Just saying "society developed with same sex couples" isn't really enough, nor is just saying that scenario X caused humanity to do Y. It's so insanely hard to build up enough of a world to adequately establish this that many choose not to go this route. It's possible for it to happen, but for every Noughts & Crosses you get a Save the Pearls that pretty much misses the point.

Part of the issue with simply reversing the mainstream opinion in the story is that you're assuming that all it takes is to swap places. That rarely works because it's not as simple as just swapping one sexuality for the other. There are a lot of things that go into homophobia and part of the issue some had with STP is that it oversimplified the problem of racism by saying that it's just a matter of Caucasians being the norm.

In any case, I'm slightly curious and considering that the author has yet to really post anything strange, I'm willing to give it a chance. This book could end up covering the material in a sensitive manner, so anything is possible.

So far she's been pretty decent about the flak she's getting, with this being the only thing I've really seen so far from her end:

I've already had hate mail about this book, even before it was available to read. People read the description and decide I'm a gay-basher, which is as far from the truth as you can get. I've been a Gay-Straight Alliance advisor for nearly twenty years, my own son is gay, and I've worked for PFLAG, GLSEN, and many other groups. This book is not about anything except love. It's a love story, just as the story of same-sex couples in our country is a love story. My goal was to give people who are in the lucky majority, the opposite-sex couples, a glimpse of what it would be like to be told that who you are and whom you love is deviant and unacceptable. LGBT people live every day with discrimination, both subtle and direct. I've seen it happen at my school, with my son, and with other people less close to home. I've done research; there are still people who believe in reconditioning LGBT people, or "praying the gay away." This isn't fiction or far-fetched. It exists. There are people who still believe that aversion therapy is the way to go, that psychological torture will "heal" people of their "addiction" to their same-sex attraction. The world of OUT is, of course, fictional. It is heightened reality. Our society does not physically imprison people for being LGBT. But in many subtle ways, the system does imprison them. People are still beaten, killed, ostracized, and disowned for being gay. I know students in my high school GSA who cannot be in the yearbook picture because if their parents found out, they'd be without a place to live.

So, I suppose people who read the book will have lots of reactions to it, but at the core, I meant it to be a love story between two people whom society did not see as acceptable. Love is love. No matter what anyone else says or thinks, I know that is the message of my book.


  1. My thoughts are... "Meh". We saw this already once and it ended badly. I'm not sure that doing a parallel story with the "toss it on its head" is the way to go. Either go out there and make it a pure parallel (ie just use some other kind of discrimination) or deal with the real discrimination directly.

    I'll be curious to see your review but I'm also surprised that she did not see the flack coming...

  2. I think what happens with a lot of people who do this is that they get so excited over the idea and don't really think about how it might be perceived by others. What seems to be a predominant theme is that the author assumes that everyone will go into it with the mindset that they have and immediately see what they were trying to do. It just usually doesn't work that way and they're lucky, they'll have someone stop and tell them that before stuff gets released.

    What makes me feel bad for this lady is that she's not nearly at the same level of oblivious as Foyt was/is.

  3. The most famous piece of writing in this particular genre is THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION. Preble and Foyt don't appear self-aware enough to realize whose footsteps they're following.