How We Co-Wrote Punk — Ryan’s View
The punk aspect of our story required little research on my part. I’ve always wanted to write about the punk scene, having spent four years immersed in it, and still enjoying the odd live show now and then.
For me, it was a natural choice to cast the main character as a punk; it was the best way to quickly immerse myself in the character. I found it easier to write a punk teenager than to write a non-punk, and it brought a dimension to our story that Hazel would have needed to spend a lot of time researching.
It’s not just about wearing clothes covered in patches of favourite bands and slogans – a punk teenager sees the world through a different lens, one of questioning what is taught. The ideas found in punk encouraged questioning what I was told by parents, schools and peers and allowed me to more easily abandon the life I was supposed to be leading and follow my own path. In punk, I found the freedom to explore music, my beliefs and ultimately who I was, and to experiment with gender roles and how I presented myself to the world — exploration that led to my gender transition.
To me, punk is a music scene with anarchist principles at its core. Practically, this translates into questioning what authorities teach through schools and government, pointing out where those in power abuse their power at the expense of the vulnerable and the environment, and living and promoting peace and anti-violence. Because it’s also a music scene there are punks placed all along this spectrum of political involvement, from daily activism to intellectual rather than practical involvement, to being interested in the music alone.
I see the punk side of Finn’s character as integral in his journey to understanding that he needs to transition to male, where the book begins. Of course, there are teenagers unaware of this fairly underground scene who decide to transition, but this journey for Finn was one that I could most easily relate to, and provided a setting that I thought readers would learn from and find interesting. Those familiar within the scene will appreciate the accurate depiction and musical references, and those unfamiliar will learn about something new and be less likely to judge punks on appearances and stereotypes. This was also a goal of the gender transition story.
I chose the bands referenced in the book quite carefully. All of the local band names are fictional, with the ‘Chronic Cramps’ being a reference to the Cramps, a mixed-gender punk band from the 1970s. For the real bands, I chose older artists like Bikini Kill, Iggy Pop and NOFX partly so that the book wouldn’t date because of the bands referenced, and also so that younger readers would have some great music to look up while reading the book. In this way f2m: the boy within already has its own soundtrack spanning three decades of punk. The beauty of writing books is that you don’t need permission or to pay for the rights to play an artist’s music like you would for a movie – the soundtrack plays in the reader’s mind!
Bikini Kill were the most influential (and some would say the first) Riot Grrl band, a genre of feminist punk rock from the 1990s; there is no doubt that they would make a strong impression on Finn and the Chronic Cramps. Artists who are not specifically punk are referenced as well, to show that Finn has varied musical tastes and doesn’t limit himself to one genre, something I found throughout the punk scene; freedom of thought seems to flow into freedom of musical influences.
During the period that f2m: the boy within was written, I explored new punk bands and revisited some old favourites. But not while I was writing – I find it too distracting!
George’s bit at the end
And tune in next time for a post about graphic novels.
Catch ya later, George