Sleeping Beauties: A Live Read Begins

[Sleeping Beauties Content Note: Trans Exclusion and Erasure, Misogyny, Violence Against Women]

Sleeping Beauties Recap: When this book first popped up on my radar, I expressed some concerns about the content on Twitter. This week, I purchased the book and read through it. As I read, I live-tweeted my thoughts on Twitter. This is a compilation and expansion of my tweets. The live-read will be spread out over multiple posts, which will be indexed here.

Sleeping Beauties, Part One: The Auld Triangle. Chapter 1

(Tweet Link) I just bought the Stephen King novel where "women disappear from the world of men" because I feel we need a trans reviewer on this. The novel is here, if you want to buy and follow along.

I'm not doing this live-read to slam King, I want to be very very very clear on that!, I just have concerns about the copy as a trans person, and I feel like the best way some of my fellow writer followers can learn how not to do the thing is by annotated example. [Note: This book has two authors, Stephen King and Owen King. Throughout the live-read I mess up and refer to "King" as a singular entity. These references will not be corrected in this compilation.]

Let me set the stage by talking about why this book caught my attention: it's a world in which all women (except one) catch a disease. From the Amazon copy: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?

what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?   In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep: they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent.

A big problem here is that "woman" is not a neat biological condition such that all woman can catch a disease that all men would not. Women are not a different species from men such that diseases can't cross the species divide. If this disease is biological and, say, affects uteri (uteruses?), it will catch trans men while passing over women who don't have uteri (for example: women who've had hysterectomies, trans women, women born without a uterus due to medical conditions, etc.).

If (on the other hand) the disease is magical and really does affect all women, then the world will need to be radically trans-affirming to realize that. Otherwise, the news will report this "man" over here (actually a trans woman!) has the sleeping illness and these "women" over here (trans men!) are immune. Even in a perfectly trans-affirming world, it would take time to sort out who is a woman and who is a man because gender is complicated and can't be discerned at a glance.

Now, this novel may understand all this! We shall see! But if the novel doesn't include trans people, I'm not trying to stir up shit for the Mr. Kings. I just think he's big enough a deal that I can use him as an example without hurting him or his sales, and cis writers can take notes and learn. So. *rolls up sleeves* Here we go.

To start, we have six pages of characters. One character is "a common fox, between 4 and 6 years of age." I mention this because if there aren't any trans people in this novel, then that means a fox warranted inclusion before we did.

A quick term search for "trans" reveals no use whatsoever of transgender, trans man, trans woman, trans person, etc. That doesn't mean no trans people are in this novel--they may use other words in the narrative--but it's... troubling. I would expect the word to be used, given the premise in the advertisement copy.

Not every novel needs to have trans people, to be clear. But this is supposed to be a worldwide phenomena plaguing the planet. When you reach for something as ambitious as "every member of gender X on this planet now has Y condition", you gotta include us! Not because of political correctness, but because of realism. We exist out here, so where are we in your world?


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