Well, yesterday was *supposed* to be a day off, after I read a blog post, got bent out of shape, wrote my response, and then sauntered off to the couch to watch the Red Zone Channel and eat Maple Bacon Kettle Chips in a leisurely daze…
Yeah, so, no. I ended up with 1,000+ viewers of the post as it went viral on Facebook. Clearly this touched a nerve. Nine people unfriended me on Facebook (thanks for the heads up, FB Purity!) but about that many also friended me in their stead.
I was very careful to make my case without using the Secret Words of Power like “blackface” or “minstrelsy,” but, that’s basically what she was doing – appropriating a culture and then locking its creators out of it. I’m not the only person to see it this way. And, I’m not the only gay man to weigh in on this – Marshall Thornton had some good thoughts about catfishing here.
It’s kinda sad and funny at the same time. Over the last three years, I’ve criticized “paper dolly” characters, the absurdity of MCs who were firemen/cops/soldiers when the author steadfastly refused to even look up, say, how a fireman would properly enter a burning building, dialogue that no human being probably ever uttered, dialogue that no man definitely ever uttered during sex…but I never called out an author by name, or even a book by its title.
And the day I finally lose my shit and do so? Best traffic ever, by a Buzzfeed-like landslide. Double sigh.
But I’m glad, because it really has brought to light what’s become of “gay fiction.” If you look at the top 20, not in Gay Romance, but in Gay Fiction, there’s only one book that’s not erotica or romance.
And the Cosmic Question is, if there aren’t any non-romance gay novels, are they not being written because gay authors (like me) know that the only way to make a living on gay novels is to write them as romances? Are gay men bored with gay stories, and they’ve moved on, or do they not bother because there are no gay stories that aren’t romances?
I’m the very last person to say that Market Forces should be ignored. I Love Money. And I respect those who’ve found a way to make a mint doing something creative. But I blew my top when someone suggested that this was “cosa nostra,” Our Thing… Also, my father used to start his pompous lectures with “What you have to understand is…” So, yeah, telling me what I “don’t understand” is a trigger word for me 🙂
Those story lines that make your content richer? Those tales of the closet, of families who rejected gay children, of jobs lost, careers ruined? Those are our lives you’re writing about. I’m 52 years old. I grew up hearing that all gay people were child molesters, and AIDS is “God’s Punishment” and then after 9/11 hearing that it was the fault of the secular humanists and homosexuals…
These are our lives you’re writing about. Don’t forget that you’re making a profit on someone else’s (sometimes very bad) experiences. Fine, good – treat them with respect. But don’t masquerade as someone who’s had to live through it. And for gawd’s sake, don’t try and lock us out of telling our own stories.
Final thought, and then, it’s Thus Spake Bradathusra and we’re done here. I gotta get back to work doin’ books n stuff for money for bills n stuff.
When I was a kid, I forced my father to drive me from Reno to Star Trek conventions in the Bay Area (okay, at least he did that). I remember being about 12 or 14, and going to a convention table where a somber, dignified older woman was selling her “fanzine.” If you don’t know, that was a self-published fan magazine back in the day of mimeographs and expensive copy machines.
It was slashfic, and I’m sure that there were lots of adolescent boys in 1975/77 who shouted in WTF indignation at the idea of Kirk and Spock kissing, never mind…the other things. I have no doubt that was a hard day for her, sitting there selling the results of her steadfast passion to a hostile audience.
But she did it. And I respect that. She was a pioneer, a straight woman who was fascinated with gay men, and with the vast canvas available when you think about passionate connections between men, gay or straight, especially in this country at that time. I mean, only now are straight guys getting comfortable expressing physical affection without having to shout “no homo, man!” And to mine the panic and loneliness beneath those defenses, to take away the “no homo” and reveal the “homo” beneath – not in the strictly sexual sense, even, but the idea of how sad it is that two men couldn’t touch…
It’s still a fascinating territory. And it doesn’t “belong” to anyone.
Thus Spake Bradasthusra.