#IndieFallFest: J.S. Little

Hey, y'all! Today I'm featuring J.S. Little for Indie Fall Fest!
Don't forget to stop by the kick-off post and enter our huge giveaway!

On Kira Adams' blog, she's featuring Breigh Forstner today!

1. Describe Child of Doors in one word.

2. If you could recommend one book to the entire world that isn’t your own, which would you choose?
If I had to choose just one, I’d have to go with The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. There are many books I’d like to have people read just to expose them to stories I found to be moving or frightening but I think Demon-Haunted World is one of the few that feels almost like a primer for life. Carl Sagan is one of my inspirations and this book is one of the really accessible works he wrote that is a basic explanation of what science really is. Carl felt that humanity was advancing so quickly we had entered an age where we could easily destroy ourselves without even really understanding what we were doing. Either through nuclear war, environmental destruction, or some miscalculation like an engineered virus. Understanding, he felt, required a way of looking at the world and accepting reality as it is. This book focuses on the concept of why extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. It goes into why it matters whether we question claims about the world and how to go about being skeptical without losing the wonder of the universe.
But, much like Stephen King’s On Writing, it’s also about Sagan’s life and his thoughts about the universe and our place in it. And while I don’t mind some of the more, let’s say, enthusiastic, books on skepticism that have come out in the last decade or so, The Demon-Haunted World is a more welcoming book and is written more in the spirit of coming together against the darkness, using our reason as our guide.

3. We’ve talked before about some readers not liking that your main character, Arc, is a LGBT character. What made you decide to write about a LGBT character?
One of my favorite comics is Strangers in Paradise which features LGBT main characters. Another of my favorites is Serenity Rose that also features a lesbian main character. So partly it was that some of my favorite stories and characters were lesbian or bisexual and when I think of characters one thought was ‘Could I ever write characters that readers would care about as much as Katchoo or Francine or Serenity?’. I guess the trajectory of my thoughts just naturally went in that direction. At the same time I tried to find horror books that featured lesbian main characters and while I found the Lesbian Horror section on Amazon and other sites. To me, they appeared to be mostly erotic horror. That’s cool, but I guess it seemed like there wasn’t a lot of non-erotic horror with lesbian protagonists. And the final piece that clicked in my mind was that same-sex marriage was being very heavily debated at the time. All over the country it felt like people were attacking my family and friends that are LGBT. So, a tiny part of it was spite. Not the most enlightened reason to create a character, I know. And I was a bit terrified I was going to screw all of the characters up into some horrible stereotypes, and I still just hope I haven’t done that in some way.

4. What inspired you to write Child of Doors?
I work in a very large, old building. It has a hallway that stretches far enough that you can’t really see to the end of it. Usually, I end up working until after dark and when you turn the lights off there is no other light except emergency exits. I have to walk down that hallway every time I leave work and there are only switches at one end. Even though I know nothing is there, every step I am sure that something is just going to touch me on the shoulder. That dread is the essence of what I was aiming for with a lot of Child of Doors. When I was trying to come up with a plot I had already decided on the characters, Arc and Aimii, before I even knew what the story was. About that time I was watching a lot of Slenderman series like Marble Hornets, Tj and Amy Projects, and EverymanHYBRID, and I loved the found footage aspect of it but I also wanted something different. I liked what Marble Hornets had done with The Operator, putting a twist and adding elements onto the original Slenderman and I felt that the feeling of the stories was what I really loved. It felt like the characters were going up against something that should not be part of the world.
I love the hopeless feeling in the Cosmic Horror genre; the feeling that immense powers are out there and you can’t stop it. That seemed to be different from what a lot of the vlog series were going for so I thought that might make a good long form story. Child of Doors certainly was influenced by those great series but I wanted to bring my own weirdness into the picture. I still tried to keep the claustrophobic feel of being 'behind the camera' by staying in Arc's head the entire time, for better or worse. But I think it allowed for a lot more of the surreal kinds of storytelling that I like.

5. Scare me with a six word story.
Don’t cry, now —we’re— your soul.

6. You get to steal the career of any author in the world and make it your own. Who’s career are you going to have?
E.L. James of 50 Shades of Grey. I would do my best to use the name recognition to get other books published and then use some of those millions to make a sequel to Secretary instead of that 50 Shades movie. I know there are others who's overall career I like more like wide range of Isaac Asimov's or the length of Harlan Ellison's career, but E.L. James would give me two big things. Something to prove after 50 Shades of Grey (assuming I had to accept the existing books as part of the career) while not really having any other expectations on what my writing should be, and enough money so that I could write until I die and never have to worry about money.

7. What’s up next for you? Any new releases soon?
Currently working on a book, more of a scifi feel, called We Gave Up Our Flesh. It’s about the dawn of Artifical Intelligence and the challenges in trying to integrate it with a human. It’s still was deep in the first draft stage. I also have a free novelette, Mellisa, coming out soon about a girl going to see the ghosts on Halloween. It takes the old story of "Teens going out to a spooky old house" and hopefully adds some interesting and uncomfortable twists to it.

A Tale of Two Genders. Your Mileage May Vary.
By J.S. Little.
I have noticed something about the way I write, and I assume that a lot of writers run into this. The topics I plan on writing about rarely end up being the ones that I actually end up writing about. So here’s something not controversial at all. English sucks at gender neutral pronouns.

All the usual caveats go here : perhaps I am missing something, maybe I need to learn more, just write better words, ect. All of those might apply. That being said let’s wander down this happy little path.

From a very early age we, we being mostly the English-speaking world, are introduced to pronouns as the good old replacement words that help keep writing from feeling too repetitive when we’re describing a scene or writing dialog or doing a myriad of other work that prose tends to do. “Him” is how we refer to men and “her” is how we refer to women. When you really only care about the gender binary, hey, that seems pretty inclusive and for the majority of people it might even seem completely sufficient.

Abstraction is a necessary part of our lives. The complexity of the world is so vast that if we gave every bit of it our full consideration, we’d just fall over at the vastness of it all. Since a lot of people can fall into the ‘penis is boy, vagina is girl’ classification easily, the use of the two pronouns feels pretty natural for a lot of us. We’ll ignore the social reenforcement of this divide since this is more about the linguistic failing than the social failing.

Much like the planetary model of the atom, where electrons just orbit the nucleus, as we grow up we learn that the world is not the simple abstraction that we first imagined it to be. “Her” and “him” are gross designations, at best, that represent collections of traits that may be of some use to some of us in picking mates, but in general, function as very large boxes we try to toss everyone into. Either you go in one side, or the other.

Like I said, I wanted this to be more about the linguistics so read up gender-fluid, trans* folks, and non-binary genders. Heck, there are entire college degrees that study the psychological and social aspects of gender. My point is that English gives us poor tools for dealing with anything other than “her” or “him”.

There is, of course, the social aspect of inclusively in wanting more diverse and accurate ways of describing how people identify themselves. For those that don’t feel they fall within the traditional definition of a particular gender, the lack of a pronoun in the “official” language can present a problem of identity as well as a problem of simple communication. How do you refer to a gender you identify with in the third person if there is no pronoun that is commonly known to the populace that would explain it? Language is the tool of communication and this is one area I find English sorely lacking.

Currently, there isn’t a lot of real movement in codifying a gender neutral pronoun. We have “it” but hopefully the problem there is pretty obvious. Rarely are people happy with the designator “it”. The general singular “they” and it’s forms are the basic go-to gender neutral term I see used the most, even though some style guides and editors don’t like it because they (haha) feel that it is to easily confused with the plural “they”. Usually, I find, the context is enough to tell which is meant in normal usage.

“He or she” is right out unless you are writing a manual or technical paper then it would probably work but, again, we come back to the same binary problem and “they” sounds a lot more attractive and simple.

There are a plethora of different replacement gender neutral pronouns that have been used in small amounts over the years. Ones like “Zir”,”hir”, or “hus” used at various times to try and get a new pronoun to take off. Personally, I like the sound of Xe based ones; Xe for He/She, Xem for Her/Him, Xyr for His/Her, Xemself for Herself/Himself. My girlfriend likes the Thon based ones as it is more divorced from either “her” or “him” in structure and sound and it’s just thon or thonself in place of the other pronouns.

There are a few places on the web where these alternate pronouns make appearances but, for writers, it would be an uphill battle to get an editor to accept them unless it was a SciFi novel. There are some examples of these alternate pronouns appearing in literary works but it is almost always an alternative/indie press that’s willing to allow them.

I hope that we’ll get a better gender neutral pronoun than “they” someday. And part of it is a selfish hope. It’s hard to keep readers in the dark about the gender of a character when you are trying to play with the expectations of readers if you are forced to use our current gendered pronouns. Either you end up lying about the gender and it feels like a cheat, or you do linguistic gymnastics to avoid pronouns at all that that is just as suspicious. Or, perhaps, you are trying to show how gender colors all of the interactions of life by explicitly removing references to gender. It is a telling limitation that I would love to have removed.

J.S. Little has spent the majority of his life reading horror and scifi novels with a sprinkle of alternate history. His writing credits include a Star Wars/Star Trek crossover fanfic he never speaks of and an entry for an Awful Erotica contest that turned into a novella he desperately hides even though it won 2nd place. Little's debut novel, Child of Doors, is far better than either of those.

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