Dave McCary's picture
Dave McCary from Santa Barbara, CA is reading A Dance of Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire series) November 22, 2011 - 5:23pm

I don't know how many of you are into reading gay fiction, but I love it. However, I do have a couple contentions with much of the work out there. The first thing that I noticed is that the majority of the authors of gay-male fiction are middle-aged women. One of the greatest problems that poses is the characterizations tend to lose a good deal of believability. That is to say, the male characters are oft made to emotional. Not that we men are not emotional creatures, but we process our emotions, both internally and externally, far differently than women do. So, too many of the lead male characters come off too much like women. A good example of this is Wes & Torren by J.M. Colail.

Now as far as gay fiction written by men, I find that far too much of it either is or skirting to close to being erotica. Most of the time, that is just not what I want. Not that I have a problem with the occasional steamy sex scene between to sext young men, but I don't want that to be the main focus of the book. I want the story, the intricacies, the obsticals, and successes of the relationship.

There are a couple authors that do this well, putting their sex scenes in a charged but tasteful way. Some can still steam up your reading glasses, but they are not the main focus and they are treated with proper taste and dignity, not too crass. Mark Roeder is one of these. He is great. Ron Donague is another. (It so happens that they have both been very helpful and have offered a great deal of advice on my own novel. Though, I respected them for their tallents far before I ever reached out to them.) Mark writes The Gay Youth Chronicles, a series of about 22 books. At least I think he is up to 22 nor. Ron writes the Common Thereads in Life series as well as The Earlt Journals of Will Barnett. All of these are great series' that follow all tyhe things I love best about well written gay fiction.

So, now that I have ranted for far too long, what are your thought?

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 22, 2011 - 5:31pm

I like when a gay character or sex scene can be incorporated into a novel without it being defined as gay fiction but rather just fiction. Plus the gay character doesn't always have to be a good guy, moral ambiguity is good too. I wrote a story on here in the workshop if you are a member called the savage self, the main character is a married man who is seduced by an underage boy who stalks him. Read it if you can and let me know what you think.

.'s picture
. November 22, 2011 - 5:35pm

I like the scene in Trainspotting when the old man is wackin it over Renton. Can't say i've really read any 'gay' fiction though. Naked Lunch was a good one I guess if you count that as 'gay' fiction.

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water November 22, 2011 - 5:42pm

Have you read anything by Edmund White?  I read Nocturnes for the King of Naples and A Boy's Own Story.  A bit obtuse at times, but really good.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 22, 2011 - 5:56pm

Vanessa Veselka (reading her debut) said something about Science Fiction recently that I recalled when I saw this thread. It concerned the various stigmata that tend to revolve around these two genres in particular. That instead of simply being considered on par with other literature they often tend to be marginalized in a condescending way.

She posited that if it's good, then it's good. Why should it matter if it is Gay or Sci-Fi? Or whatever? Now Dave, I'm not insinuating that you (or any of you) think this way, but I just thought it was an interesting point she made.

A great book from another Portland author combines these two ideas brilliantly (Sci-Fi/Gay) and is one of my favorite novels of all time. The Left Hand of Darkness. Written by a heterosexual female about a race of quasi-androgynous males, it is simply brilliant.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 22, 2011 - 5:54pm

The problem with labeling something as just gay fiction implies it should only be read or would interest one segment of the populace. Its like african american literature, books that are marketed just to black readers. Alice walker made the black experience part of the human experience. Gay fiction should do that too and a lot of gay fiction I've read like to ghetto-tize the gay experience. Queer as folk, the tv show is a good example of that.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch November 22, 2011 - 9:15pm

I agree with aliensoul - a theme of a novel should not be the genre of a novel. I like to think of Brokeback Mountain as a love story, not a gay story. I just got Lidia Yuknavich's book and there is a combination of heterosexual and lesbian activity there - is it supposed to be a half-gay book? I think the label should be dropped out of the list of genres.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. November 23, 2011 - 4:24am

I mean, I get that in some bookstores they put a section of "gay interest" to direct readers who might not know which books have gay characters but I also find that some gay people are very elitist.  Like on some websites that I've been to, they talk about how they won't even watch a show if it doesn't have at least one gay character or if a celebrity says they aren't gay then they are no longer interested in them.  It gets kind of silly.  Gay people have more exposure now than they have ever had in Western society and of course that's getting the bible belt of hatred all worked up but I have to admit, whether you like the show or not, tv shows like Glee that talk about gay teens having sex are pretty progressive for our society.  Americans are pretty puritcanical by nature, they like to think they are progressive but a lot of times it just means, "I'm all for the degradation of women in mainstream media but don't show me two gay guys kissing.  Gross."

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine November 23, 2011 - 8:38am

I don't care one way or the other whether characters are gay or not. I don't believe I've read anything that was gay for gay's sake, or gay for pay, even; but I have read plenty of books by gay authors and books with gay characters.

If you are interested in books with gay themes and gay characters, I highly recommend the work of Dennis Cooper. Although, in our (LitReactor's/my) INTERVIEW with the man, he did say he didn't consider his books to be "gay."

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts November 23, 2011 - 9:02am

Some novels I know with gay themes central to the story, Chabon's first one The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Poppy Z. Brite's stuff usually has gay central characters, think Plastic Jesus is an all gay romp, Fenton Johnson's Scissors, Paper, Rock is all about gayness.

NotMarilyn's picture
NotMarilyn from Twin Cities, MN is reading Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn November 23, 2011 - 9:10am

In reading through these posts, there's only one concept that I don't really agree with - the idea of getting rid of the gay/lesbian genre. I think genres have a purpose, and in this discussion, it seems the purpose is being perverted to mean something offensive. I go to the Sci-fi section when I want to read sci-fi. I go to the horror section to read horror. I go to the lgbtq section (when there is such a thing) when I want to read something starring prevelently gay characters and revolving around gay themes.

That being said, just because a novel features a gay character (or more) doesn't make it a "gay genre" book. Several of my short stories feature gay characters, primarily lesbians, and I consider them to be mainstream. I think the distinction of gay vs mainstream is up to the discretion of the writer.

As a final point, I'll reiterate Josh's sentiment. I don't really care one way or the other. Either a book is good or bad. The rest is pretty much irrelevent.


Typewriter Demigod's picture
Typewriter Demigod from London is reading "White Noise" by DeLilo, "Moby-Dick" by Hermann Mellivile and "Uylsses" by Joyce November 23, 2011 - 9:12am

gay fiction is awesome, unless it's provocative, obtuse or silly.  The Naked Lunch isn't exactly gay fiction it's moreover drugs-hallucinogenic-paedophilic-ultraviolent-rape fiction. Sprout, by Dale Peck is an example of good gay fiction. As is "Don't take it personally babe, it just ain't your story." I've noticed that gayness is most tolerated in two places: Scandinavia (esp. Denmark) and Japan (esp. Shibuya). Thus; a lot of gay fiction comes from there. Tbh, fiction just has to illustrate a frame of the human condition. Gay fiction is simply fiction illustrating the frame of the human condition relative to homosexuality.

Dave McCary's picture
Dave McCary from Santa Barbara, CA is reading A Dance of Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire series) November 23, 2011 - 12:00pm

I must say that I agree with you all. "Gay Fiction" shouldn't be a genre in and of itself. It may have been easier to label them that way for the intent of what I was saying, but that was a tad lazy I suppose. I guess what I was getting at is that I don't really care for "gay fiction", but love great fiction with central gay characters.

I am trying to follow that same concept with my own book. I don't want it to be considered "gay fiction". It is more about anti-bullying and overcoming one's past with a little dash of the "coming out" process. Those are the themes I want to be important, not just that the main character is gay. So far, I think I've got that nailed down. Anyhoo...

@Typewriter Demigod... I also really loved Sprout. That character was just fantastically written. He was a great kid, though far from perfect. It made him more real.

@Aliensoul... I agree totally with the idea that, gay or not, the main character does not have to be automatically good. I love books with morally questionably characters. Have you ever read Blackout Baby? (I forget the author of the top of my head.) It was great, well the first half was. I didn't care how the author dealt with his "reformation". I actually made me like the character less and less every page. Anyhoo, give it a try, and let us know what you think. You may come to a far different conclusion.

@Josh... I am also a huge fan of Dennis Cooper. Some of the scenes are downright fucked up, but so well written it is exactly what makes them great.