Tolerance and Substitution

I promised you all 12 hours. But I slightly lied because I found out that transferring stuff from Google docs over to LJ html makes for some fucked up html. I had to clean that shit up otherwise this post would look like crap. Oh – and I forgot to mention yesterday – I watched a whole 10 minutes of True Blood Season 6 this year. By God, what I saw was shit. I watched no more and have no inclination to search for how it all went. I’m sure it’s craptacular. Oh – and as a bit of housekeeping, I’m thinking about turning on post moderation for all my old posts, as I get a lot of spam on them, and I don’t want to get all excited about a full inbox, and then find out that they want me and my guests to enlarge our penises. It would mean that all of my anons would still be able to publish, but I would have to approve comments on old posts. That would stop spammers, but it would only affect older posts – not the most recent ones. Which is cool because I doubt anyone looks at the comments of old posts any more.

So, for my first post back, we’ll be covering a topic that’s often brought up. It was mentioned light years ago on the Real Light of Tolerance post, and it’s about the concept that vampires are an allegory for gay people. This has been said quite a few times by CH herself, but she’s not big on explaining, so there’s lots of confusion and issues with the books because of it. So I’m going to lay it out as I see it.

Let me point out that you need to understand that these are fantasy genre books. In the fantasy genre, issues and dilemmas are blown out of proportion as moral dilemmas. Fantasy uses metaphor to explore issues, but in a way removed from the prejudice with which you usually explore issues. That makes it different from other genres, merely because it isn’t based in the real world. There are no vampires, witches or anything else in the real world. Fantasy uses the new world that is created to try and explore some of the underpinning concepts from your beliefs.

Note the contrast in the genres. For example, in drama, the question is open and simple – it presents you with a gay person, such as in Torch Song Trilogy (OMG watch this movie it is one of my favourites ever) or Philadelphia and poses open questions, prodding you to draw the same conclusion that the movie itself does. When you’re watching a drama movie like that, it poses only realistic questions, and really is quite specific about those questions. It’ll question what you think about a gay man being in love, or what you think about discrimination against gay people who are afflicted with HIV.

In fantasy, however, bigger questions are posed. It is no longer constrained by specific questions that can be applied to only a limited sector of people, and rather tackles the issues in a new environment where perhaps your usual prejudices are not with you. It is hard to really see yourself as which side of the Iraqi conflict you’re on, when you’re experiencing it from the point of view of Katniss Everdeen. In fact, this perspective of a war makes the audience think not only about the ethics of war, but what effect it has on children. Panem may not actually exist, but it’s a movie about power, politics and being on the end of things such as trade embargoes. Unlike its drama counterpart, however, it deals generally with a theme, and can’t just awaken ideas that only apply to Iraq – it can apply to World War II and to Vietnam.

That does not mean however, that the author is merely trying to imply that all Allied Forces do is kill children for amusement. The questions and scenarios are really not that specific. Children are used to polarise the situation – the author chose a girl, and a child as the protagonist because it’s more difficult to lay too much hatred at her feet (barring internalised misogyny that pervades everything). Most people feel sympathy for a child torn by war that they wouldn’t feel for an adult. That’s why all those pictures of people starving in Africa are usually children – because people see adults as responsible for their own situation. A child is seen as more blameless – even if the adult and the child were born into a situation, humans are more inclined to feel sorry for the child, because they see the adult in having agency.

As well, you have a no pre-determined opinions of Panem. You are on Katniss’ side throughout the book, but you have ample opportunities later on in the book to see that the citizens of Panem are caught in a similar situation to Katniss (in that their city is riddled with shit to keep them in line too). The reader doesn’t have any terrorism/drone bombing type scenarios in their history with Panem, so they come to the table with no prejudice and can really explore what it would be like to be in that situation, and thus with luck, develop some empathy for those in the real world.

Another good example of this is Marvel, dealing with differences in X-Men. Do you really think that Stan Lee believes that because he was writing about civil rights issues, and that directors of other X-Men movies think that one of the different people out there in the world is one where if you touch someone else, they die? Or is it merely that through the character of Rogue is an excellent way to encapsulate all of the questions we might have about communicable diseases, and distil them down into one character. In say a drama, this would be “How do you find sexual fulfilment when you are HIV positive?” In fantasy, it is overblown so that Rogue can’t touch anyone without killing them within a short period of time. Not only that, but it takes you out of whatever prejudices you might have against HIV positive people, because it doesn’t mention it – it mentions a unique thing you have no prior experience of, to ask questions that would just as well apply to HIV positive people as they do to Rogue.

Harry Potter series is too a metaphor for World War II. Voldemort and his pureblood agenda to eradicate the Jewish people is Hitler. Does this mean that J.K. Rowling believes that Jewish people can perform magic such as Harry can? Or that Hitler really was the greatest guy of his time? No, the correlation is not so strict. That’s what happens when fantasy makes a metaphor.

So too, with the correlation between vampires coming out of the coffin and gays coming out of the closet. Did CH really believe that gays sometimes grow fangs, kill people and are ruthless murderers? Did she really imply that there are gay Kings or Queens in every state, and that they subvert the straight agenda? Fuck. No. Like with Rogue and the other X-Men, she amplified the dilemmas involving gay people. She took the ideas of tolerance and made them into a story with characters who do far more socially unacceptable things, such as kill others, instead of just love others.

It can’t be denied that it is far easier to like someone who kisses boys just like you do, rather than like someone who might kill boys if the mood takes them. Obviously, it was never a hard and fast metaphor for gay people. I’ve had many gay friends, and I’ve seen them in daylight. And none of them slept in coffins. Funnily enough, that there – it was my straight goth friends that did shit like that. By picking something that is not quite the same thing, CH can take gay issues out of pre-existing context. She can overblow them to make sure that when one thing is taken to the extreme, it helps cement a position and explore beliefs. It’s something that’s commonly done in fantasy, so that delicate subjects can be interpreted through the prism of fresh eyes, and without existing prejudice or what you believe about yourself.

CH can translate the ideas about gay people and how they are accepted into society into how it would be if we had another group that had all kinds of pre-existing myths about them. Vampires are monsters to most people, and to a certain extent, there is a belief amongst society that gay people are monsters. It wasn’t too long ago that medical science lumped gay people in with paedophiles, held that they would corrupt your children and destroy families; and to a certain extent some of those beliefs are still present in the world. Mr. Minty’s father once told him that there is a progression – a well known one according to him – that gay people will soon descend into acts of bestiality and paedophilia. The whole idea of the slippery slope – and Mr. Minty is alive and well in the modern era, and he’s not the only person who thinks these myths about gay people.

We see it too in the fandom. For example, suggesting that Eric in any way likes men is cause for alarm for some readers, who despite his stated preference for sex with women, there has been no point at which Eric has been presented as purely heterosexual as Bill has. Indeed, much is made of his ability to be ambiguous about his sexuality, and to play to certain desires without showing any disgust. In the books this is the case, but in the fanfiction in this fandom, Eric is often purely heterosexual, often bagging Bill for showing gay tendencies. Not to mention all the constant maligning gay people get in fanfic themselves – being either whitewashed like the pervasive Stan and Pam pairing, or by re-writing canon by saying that they totally have no homosexual tendencies whatsoever. In short, it’s closer than you think.

In contrast, Eric killing people just doesn’t seem to raise any eyebrows. CH took bloodsucking killers and made you sympathise with them, but the idea of sympathising with someone who just loves a little bit differently is still scandalous, even in the fandom. If it had been a book about gay people, then how many people who currently read these books would have picked those books solely about gay issues up? And would you then thought deeply about it and examined what you really believe about what tolerance and accepting gay people really is?

Not only that, but if it asked the outright question “Do I have to be gay to accept gay people?” it would have been an easy answer for many people in the fandom. People would say “No, I totally don’t. I accept gay people with all my heart”. If this was a story about gay people, there’d be lots of pats on the back all around, and the question would be easily solved. Some people would probably pat themselves on the back for the fact that they read the book at all – showing just how tolerant they are for reading such a book. Many people reading such a book wouldn’t bother to question their underlying morality, and would indeed not have much underlying thought about it. Otherwise we wouldn’t this pervasive theme in fanfic, now would we?

Buuuut…”Does Sookie have to become a vampire to show she accepts Eric as a vampire?” well, that has an altogether different answer. People will swear blind that the ending of the book means that Sookie does not accept vampires, and thus is not tolerant of them. The fact that right up to the end of the series, Sookie stuck to being human instead of becoming a vampire, as well as the fact that she didn’t end up with a vampire means that she doesn’t really accept them. Here, tolerance has come to mean wholeheartedly becoming that sub-group to show that you’re on board with it.

That’s where you come to question some of your underpinning beliefs, and whether they really gel with your knee-jerk answer to the first question about accepting gay people. Mainly because it’s taken you out of your pre-prepared answers, and now you’re flying blind with what you really think. That’s the benefit of fantasy, and why people write this way, and don’t just make it so that the answers are easy. And that’s why I like fantasy – because it usually shows me a new way of thinking about things. To test if I’m really seeing the issue as it is, and not just being PC so people won’t think badly of me. I can test my underlying morality by how I answer these questions.

Not only that, but the answer becomes clearer too with regards to those underlying issues. The fandom largely thinks that in order for Sookie to be shown as tolerant of vampires, then she has to not only want to be one, but she also has to marry one. The same answer would be totally different if we were to ask the fandom “Do you think you have to marry a gay person and want to be gay in order to show that you truly respect gay people and think of them the same as you do heterosexual ones?” or even “Do you think that you have to believe gay people are perfect angels in order to show that you tolerate them?” This is where some of the readers’ prejudice can be exposed and examined. This is where you substitute the big questions about gay tolerance with the big questions about what it means to be tolerant of vampires.

That’s where soooo many readers got sucked into Eric’s final viewpoint – that not wanting to be a vampire means that you think vampires are disgusting. Whereas, essentially, Sookie’s view is the right one – that she wanted to do what was her own choice and preference, and that meant staying human. Imagine if we took this quote by Eric:

I knew if you were turned…you would be so glad. There is nothing
better than being a vampire. But you seemed repulsed by the idea.

Dead Ever After, p. 128

and chose instead to replace that notion with “gay” or “black”. See how well that argument flies when it’s still Eric saying something there. Would you automatically just accept him as right because he said it, or would the proposal seem – as it is – born of a faulty premise that in order to love something, you have to be that thing. Certainly, it puts Eric’s own levels of tolerance at the forefront – if he is truly tolerant of humans. After all, here he is actually saying that his sub-group is actually better than Sookie’s – and yet that went almost completely unnoticed. Sookie is apparently the intolerant one, and Eric is an accepting angel too good for such a prejudiced person as Sookie.

We can’t actually change our orientation or our race – but by using vampires as an allegory for gay people, that allows the question to actually be posed to the reader. A book advocating that gayness is a choice would be odious, but CH sidesteps that by using vampires. It’s now not something you either are or aren’t – it’s now about “If you had the choice, would you change who you are and choose to be part of that minority?” The question is effectively only posed to Sookie too, because the main vampires in the books had no choice – it was imposed upon them, similar to how people are either born gay or not.

Furthermore, the original premise can’t actually be applied to the ending when fantasy is an allegory for real world issues. No one can seriously believe that when it comes to Harry Potter, that what JKR wanted to point out is that Hitler was defeated by a young Jewish boy using the same ideology. That seems obvious, right? Because Hitler did not die that way. So fantasy also divorces itself once the story starts. It’s not supposed to be a heavy moral lesson, but rather a way for the reader to think differently about subject matter. It’s not a perfect mirror all the way through the story, because if you wanted to do that, you’d just write drama.

Hence, Sookie not ending up with Eric is no big deal to the original allegory. Obviously if we just plain old substitute Eric with “gay man” then the idea that Sookie fall in love with and have a relationship with a gay man would be rather silly. It’d probably end up being incredibly insulting to gay people too – because it would be a study in erasure. Showing how a good straight woman can turn any gay man straight.  That’s one of the old myths that still circulates too. I knew one particular woman who believed this about gay men, and set about ‘turning them straight’. For her trouble, she got a reputation for turning men gay, merely because they would have sex with her, and then decide that yep, they truly were gay.

Yes, accepting vampires by being tolerant is the original allegory, but we already know that gay people cannot glamour you, or bite you to turn you into one. Hell, even if you try for the risky type analogy, and say that the vampire bite is penetrative sex, then you still can’t say that having sex with a gay person makes you gay. Just like the above woman did not share her straight cooties with the men that she had sex with, so too, it works the other way around. That sort of thing comes from within.

Same goes for any racial relationship – that you can never “turn” black by merely sleeping with a black person. Nor can you be considered racist if you marry someone of your own skin-tone. There are some places where the allegory fits, though. But even Sookie points out that it’s not a hard fit. For example, remember when all the men in Merlotte’s killed Charles Twining? Sookie said that it hearkened back to the bad old days:

Of course, it was tempting to think this was an echo of the terrible old days, when black
men had been lynched if there was even a rumour they’d winked at a white woman.
But, you know, the simile just didn’t hold. Charles was a different race, true. But he’d
been guilty as hell of trying to kill me. I would have been a dead woman in thirty more
seconds, despite my diversionary tactic, if the men of Bon Temps hadn’t intervened.

Dead as a Doornail, p. 290

Sookie points out that Charles might have been killed similar to the old days of the South. However, CH distinguishes the allegory. Charles wasn’t just looking at a white woman – he was actively trying to kill one. He was not doing what another human, or a white man would get off for. White men who try to kill white women usually don’t get asspats for doing so – or at least they’re not supposed to get asspats. So while the allegory holds in some areas, it clearly deviates, and Sookie  tells us that it clearly deviates.

That’s the issue with choosing something that isn’t quite like what you’re first beginning to explore. As I’ve pointed out, the blood bond is an allegory for exploring slavery in the South. It’s not a hard and fast correlation, because black slaves in the South could not do some simple magic with string and decide that they didn’t want to have a Master any more – that was where the idea diverged from the real information. The point to the allegory of the bond and slavery was to explore whether or not it’s okay to have a slave if you really want that slave, and love that slave.

The fandom by and large – who don’t  seem to be pro-slavery, said “Yep. Fucking slavery sounds great!” when it came to the blood bond. It was a case of deifying one of the slave owners (Eric) for not being an abusive slave owner. Ignoring completely that slavery is bad no matter who your master is. Would slavery therefore be okay with these people, as long as your slave owner could order you about, but loved you? Would slavery be fine as long as it’s better than raping slavery? Many of these points were entirely missed by the fandom. The blood bond was romantic. The end.

If CH had kept the blood bond until the end of the series, then she would have had more opportunities to explore the ideas that we have about things. I think it is a great pity that more people didn’t sit down and think “Even if my master is kind and I love them, is it wrong to break my bonds and be independent and without a master at all?” In fact, it’s almost freaking scary just how into women as slaves most of the fandom was. The slave was seen as the ungrateful one for not liking being seen as a possession. Sookie herself was exhorted to just be thankful it wasn’t a worse master, and be grateful such a master deigned to pick her.

What a great conversation the fandom would have had if we could get away from the supposition that women are lacking, and should just accept what men do to them. Instead, most of the time was spent trying to spank Sookie back to freaking biblical times – you know, unless you have more than two witnesses hearing your screams, you weren’t really raped ,you slut? For a fandom that seems to present as secular (and complain at length about the Biblical stuff in the books) they sure don’t seem to mind the bits about how women should shut up and do as they’re told. For those of us who’ve already pretty much decided that women are people, it was an opportunity to examine other issues, but also to see how freaking prolific the idea is that the job of a woman is to do what a man tells her.

I can also see why CH got rid of the blood bond rather than answer questions about it. It wasn’t doing its job for the most part – she got endless questions about it, and it’s become legend what a freaking huge favour Eric was doing Sookie. Slavery has become a good thing – the blood bond was seen as something that was loving, rather than something that was about ownership. Eric was praised for his not fighting slavery, but entering into it, even as a kind master – but still a master. I think I’d get rid of the concept too, if I was trying to explore slavery in the South, and everyone was telling me what a great and loving idea it was.

I would also argue that the belief that because Sookie didn’t end up with a vampire, instead ending up with Sam, that’s a slap in the face to minorities. Because Sam isn’t a minority or something. He’s just a regular human…wait… Of course – this is not the case. Sam is just as much “other” as Eric is. In fact, being with Sam has put her in danger, that’s for sure. To the point that Small Town Wedding was all about how you could get killed for being associated with a shifter. And if you haven’t read that, let me point out that it’s in the books too:

I’d been selected as the sacrificial lamb, despite the fact that they knew for sure
I wasn’t a shapeshifter; in fact, they thought I wouldn’t put up as much of a fight
since I was only a shapeshifter sympathizer, not one of the two-natured.
I wouldn’t be as strong, in their opinion.

Dead and Gone, p. 198

This was the last straw for Arlene and her FotS buddies. Before this, Sookie was not generally liked by them, but seen as not a particularly high priority for killing, but after that, it was time for a crucifixion. Being with Eric might have gotten Sookie lectures, but I think the fact that there were protesters outside Sam’s bar just as there were outside Eric’s bar shows that there’s not that much difference between them. Sam is just as much of another sub-group as Eric is. He’s had people outside his bar, and the entirety of Small Town Wedding is about the intolerance of people towards people merely related to shifters.

If you wanted to look at it from racial terms, I doubt that any interracial marriage is placed on a true hierarchy that actually means anything without rating the races from best to crap – which is not the way we really want to think about race. If Eric were a substitution for African American, and Sam a substitution for Mexican American, then I don’t see how it’s secretly racist that Sookie ended up with one or the other. While some racists might have some sort of system of sorting who is worse, that’s hardly a matter here. If you wanted to look at it from sexuality terms, I don’t see how it’s more homophobic either. If Eric were a substitution for gay, and Sam a substitution for bisexual, it doesn’t make Sookie homophobic for marrying one and not the other. What many readers seem to forget (until it comes time to slag Sam off) is that Sam is not a pure human either.

Some may argue that the desire for Sookie to end contact with vampires is what is offensive about the use of vampires as an allegory as gay people. As I said above, it does not mean that the ultimate moral to the story is that gay people are users who will get you killed soon as look at you, so shun them. It isn’t tied that tight to the concept. Indeed, I would argue that that’s more of CH’s own exploration of Christian values of tolerance. See, the hard Christian value – mentioned in the first book, and a running theme of CH’s work – is how to turn the other cheek. Throughout the books, Sookie is shocked to find out that while she believes in a system that says that she must offer no resistance to violence, and lay herself open through ‘turn the other cheek’ – against all of her own best intentions, she wants to live. That without thinking, she’ll defend herself against Debbie Pelt, rather than letting herself get shot. This is one of the hardest ideas of Christianity to actually follow – to mete out only love, acceptance and passivity if someone hurts you. It’s almost impossible to do before the instinct to survive kicks in.

The concept of turning the other cheek is tolerance to an extreme. Christianity made an art form out of martyrdom – emulating Jesus by praying for those who will betray you, and accepting what they do to you without fighting back. It is about trying to not resist whatever other people will do to you. Indeed, that’s been the source of complaint for many people – ‘why does she want to be with humans, when they’ve shunned her all her life?’ It wouldn’t really make much sense in the concept of this tolerance for Sookie to accept that vampires are consistently hurting her and hurtful because “It’s their way” and yet humans shunning her would get zero free passes for not embracing her as one of their own.

However, it would be different if Sookie decided that she should not have any contact with vampires because she’d sat down and had a long hard think about how they were bad people. That isn’t the case. In the first instance, it was she who was banned from the vampire places by vampires themselves – based solely on what and who she is. For their own reasons, they pushed her out of their social spaces of their own accord. Abiding by that and saying that it’s maybe for the best not to continue seeking vampires out isn’t born of prejudice – it’s born of her seeing what all of her past experiences with vampires meant. What they don’t mean is that she’ll get more acceptance from them – because when the chips were down, Eric, Bill and Pam chose vampire loyalties over Sookie. All three vampires had instances where they respected more what their makers wanted than what they had going with Sookie.

In fact, much of the fandom expected tolerance to come only from Sookie. If Eric wanted to kill people, fucking live with it. If Sookie didn’t want to get bitten hard as a result, evil. Tolerance wasn’t something that many readers expected vampires to have – they were merely supposed to be beneficiaries of that tolerance. For all of the carping and complaining about Christian values, I doubt very much that Sookie would take all those hits without her Christian values. Certainly, when it came to Eric, he was very sensitive to prejudice about himself, but no problems with prejudice towards Sookie – he played on that to keep other vampires from thinking he didn’t own her.

Merely because Sookie doesn’t date a vampire, or that she ends up going through two break-ups because vampires will always cleave to vampires, and do what’s in their own interests at her expense, then that isn’t prejudice. That’s realism under the terms of what Sookie knows of vampires. Here’s a racial example, from someone who dated an Indigenous guy in the past. One of his hard rules was that he practised the didgeridoo every single day. One of the other hard rules was that as a woman, I wasn’t allowed to touch his didgeridoo. It was considered his sacred men’s business, and by touching it, I would rob it of its power. This was his actual religious belief, and I respected that. But what if I didn’t like the implication that I was dirty as a woman, and not to touch his stuff? Would I be racist to say “For my own sanity, I don’t think I’m going to do this again.”

Tolerance is a fine line to walk – it is not something that is supposed to be completely selfless. That is, in a way, just as intolerant as anything else. If I were to say “All gay men are angels” because I want to show how much I love gay people, then that would be just as intolerant as saying “All gay men are devils”. It’s just as much of a stereotype as anything else, and just because it’s positive doesn’t mean that that therefore is a good generalisation to make. This is pretty much the stage that many people are caught in, when it comes to tolerance. It’s a kind of “fake it before you make it” stage, where marginalised groups never do anything wrong.

It’s no better to say that instead of thinking gay men are destined for hell, they are instead God’s special gift to the world and a model for mankind. What most people want – gay people included – is to be treated as people. People who are not sainted gifts from God, but rather people who pick their noses, cheat on their taxes, hog the remote just like the rest of us – the only literal difference is their sexual orientation. For example, my son is not a better person now that he’s come out as not straight. That’s literally the only difference. He still asks me to wait two and a half hours while he “just does something on his computer” before he washes the dishes. Mentioning that he’s an imperfect person does not make me a homophobe. It shows that I’m not trying to cover up my real homophobic thoughts by making out that he can do no wrong.

Tolerance always seems to be twisted into believing that any criticism means that you don’t accept that particular group. Nuance is lost on many, and they don’t quite get that tolerance does not equal loving acceptance and superseding all of your own beliefs in favour of the marginalised group. It means I permit something to go on in my presence, and that I view it fairly and objectively. It does not mean I have to join in too. As you’ll note, there’s a difference between “I tolerate my husband” and “I love my husband”. Tolerance with marginalised groups is no different.

The message of tolerance in the books is not supposed to be about how vampires are perfect gifts from God who can do no wrong, and when you don’t like what they’re doing, you damn well smile and accept it because they know no better. I think Eric might take your head clean off if you patronised him in such a way. This is the concept of the vampire (and to a certain extent men) as some different species that you just have to grin and eat shit, otherwise you might be a bad person. Note for example Sookie’s statement that:

…vampires were users of humans…
Dead Ever After, p. 183

is actually demonstrated in the text. Throughout the books, Sookie has clearly come second not just to her boyfriend’s particular agenda, but also to vampire agendas. Sookie is the one expected to wait eight weeks for Bill to return to Seattle, and know nothing. Similarly, she is the one expected to wait however long it would be that Freyda would occupy Eric. Firstly they put their own careers as first priority. But then on top of that, they put the personal desires of another woman over Sookie – a woman that they are also intending to sleep with. Same thing happened with Sophie Anne.

Calling it as it is – as Sookie sees her place in the hierarchy is not intolerant. That’s Sookie maintaining her own boundaries, putting limits for crossing those boundaries.  She would need to be delusional and without reality if she didn’t call it for what it was. And I do think that holding her thoughts to the same standard as FotS – well holy fuck – have a thought, in anger, after a painful and protracted breakup, and it’s not exactly charitable, and you’re just the same as people who bomb buildings. It’s almost like she tried to set Pam on fire…oh no, wait, it certainly is fucking not.

Sookie not talking wonderfully about vampires doesn’t make her a bigot, any more than saying “When I’m in a group of people in wheelchairs, I inevitably end up with painful toe injuries”. Even if your injuries are all your fault, where you stub your toe on the wheels (a distinct possibility, and the wheel spokes have the ability to give you a honking bruise in between your toes, which hurts like fuck) that does not turn your statement into “I believe people in wheelchairs suck”, no matter how much you like Eric.

The simple truth of the matter is that Sookie is right. At the beginning of the book, there she was, in her house for more than a few days. Hadn’t shown up to work, hadn’t gone out, hadn’t picked up her mail. Where exactly were all the vampires who are so eager to ask her to come to their conferences? Truly, she could have been a rotting corpse by the time Karin turned up and none of the vampires would have been the wiser. Sookie makes a point of showing that that is the case.

And before you jump on the “Well the weres and shifters didn’t do it either!!” in defence of Eric – true. But we all know that I would like to have Alcide to be the first werewolf that colonises a black hole. As for Sam, he was going through his own thing, and let’s be real here – standing up for Sookie at the Were War, liaising with the Hot Shot panthers to find Jason – dropping the ball once does not signify the same trend. I don’t recall Pam sending out any kind of tracking for Jason – whom she knew was missing too. Even if you could twist things Sam’s done in order to show that he’s really a bad guy, then this isn’t the “Who is a bigger dick to Sookie” Olympics. Congratulations, vampires still fucking lose.

People – even people like Sookie, most foul woman she’s supposed to be – aren’t obligated to lie so that they can show their tolerance. I mean, raise your voice in the comments if you have been stabbed on behalf of someone else, and the best they do is fix you up and give you a bed for one night while making it clear they want you gone by dawn, grateful that your life was saved. Tell me, would you feel grateful if you risked a collapsing building with bombs in it, and you didn’t get a thank you card from every single person you saved? Or would you, when combining these incidents and all the others, somehow conclude that these are indeed shitty fucking friends/employers/lovers you’ve got there.

Seeing vampires as they are, and what they have brought to the table is not intolerant. At no point did Sookie say “They weren’t even fun to be around” or “They weren’t even good company” or “I really didn’t like them all the time I was with them” or “They smell funny and I couldn’t get the thought from my mind of baby blood dripping down Eric’s chin” or “I would laugh about how stupid they were in my head later”. Those sorts of statements are intolerant. That is what the undercurrent of intolerance looks like.

So while the concept of the books is an allegory for gay people coming out of the closet, the minute you don’t make it a story about gay people coming out of the closet, it stops being a perfect fit. In a fantasy world, you have to mess about with things, and cannot just go through a story about gay people and do a word replace, any more than you can go through and do a word replace about people of colour in the same instance. You have to loosen up how closely you think that it will follow the concept, and start thinking about how you can translate those questions back to the original source material.

The idea of writing fantasy books is not always a perfect repeat of what it is that you would do if you switched out which group is the marginalised group. You can generally translate things, but that’s not going to hold with the minutiae. It’s going to hold in big statements, but not in the little statements – not if you want your story to make narrative sense anyway. Or unless you’re wanting your book to make sense like this – where context is absent from what you’re presented with.

If I were to say “Vampires were sick of being seen as predators out to hurt regular people”, that would actually fit with gay rights and civil rights agendas. People of colour are often seen as criminal predators who hurt “regular” (read white) people. Gay people are often seen as sexual predators who hurt “regular” (read straight) people. But if I were to say “Vampires want to have the right to own casinos” well, fucked if I know what that has to do with civil or gay rights. That’s where CH incorporated some of the things that organised crime has done. That’s not a pressing issue with any marginalised group – it’s all about if they have the money to buy the casino, not that they are legally precluded from owning one.

So I don’t tie the allegory too closely to the source material, and I believe that is a mistake. If the author wanted to make a statement about how they felt about a certain situation, they would merely do that – guide the reader in a nuanced way about an explicit subject. Writers choose fantasy so that they can make you think. If you read fantasy and don’t have a sit down and a think about what it is that you truly believe, then sure, you have enjoyed the book, but also missed an opportunity for self development. Reading books can just be about entertainment and enjoyment factors, but if you want to take things a little further, it also helps you to challenge yourself in a way that sitting alone in a room trying to think up your own challenges doesn’t.

I do think that it’s good that people think about the underlying messages, even if they come away thinking that they don’t like what they believe is the underlying message. However, I truly do enjoy the books as they are, and enjoy thinking about how the situation compares to what I see in every day life. Reading fantasy genre books helps me to think about what I really think, and why someone else might make a different choice, or see it a different way.

I don’t believe that the ending of Dead Ever After was a tale of demolishing all that tolerance work. I don’t believe that if the favoured couple don’t end up together, that therefore means that they secretly hate each other, and the lesson to me is to hate all demographics he’s a part of – from men to vampires as an allegory for gay people. A story about tolerance is just like gay people themselves – it’s not always seamless and without imperfection. The story has to stand as a story without it being a close substitute for another story; and gay people have to be seen as people without having to be a close substitute for straight people.