Every now and again we get another round of “Waaah! Women authors hijacked gay literature! They dumbed it down to m/m romance! Waaah! It’s all rainbows and kissing and happy ever after! Get off my lawn, you people with uterii!”
Gay literature vs m/m romance. Is it really a thing, do you think?
Gay literature seems to claim some sort of ground that is more highbrow than romance. It claims a cultural significance. And here I’m looking at you, Alan Hollinghurst, because you were the first gay writer whose work I found and you’re literary enough to win Booker prizes. That sort of writing would scorn to be characterised as romance. It’s intellectual, innit? Educated and all that. I bet it went to Oxford. (And having said that, The Line of Beauty is still one of my favourite books. Not in the top ten, maybe, but certainly up there in the top twenty.)
The m/m romance genre doesn’t have pretensions of grandeur. It doesn’t claim intellectual and cultural superiority. It claims ‘good storytelling’ and ‘strong characters’ and ‘lose yourself for an hour here’. And it is *burgeoning*. It covers every sub-genre you can think of: scifi, westerns, mystery, paranormal, detective fiction, crime procedurals... the lot. Every single genre is written, rewritten and reclaimed through the lens of two male protagonists and the relationship between them. Maybe not with the philosophical significance that the literary people claim, but with all the trappings of a romance story—heartfelt emotion and drama, eroticism, sex scenes in which the feelings and the relationship matter as much (more?) than the physical gymnastics, a happy ending but with him and him holding hands, not him and her. Stories about love. Sometimes about loss. But ultimately uplifting stories that leave you feeling good.
There has to be room for both. There has to be room for *more*. Such as stories that are about love and drama and conflict and yet don’t meet the expectations of the romance readers in terms of that happy ever after, but which are still gay fiction and about gay characters. They’re in there too, and the flourishing of m/m romance has opened up the door for them.
A good story is a good story. That’s the lesson of m/m romance. So yes. Maybe all the women reading and writing m/m romance have cranked open the doors of gay literature and allowed in a whole host of new ideas, new challenges, new approaches and brought with them a whole new audience and a new experience. Maybe they did come and trample over gay literature’s lawns.
But you know, I can’t think that’s a bad thing. What do you think?
BLURB: The Gilded Scarab
When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.
Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.
(Cover by Reese Dante)
The lounge was crowded that evening. The pre-Christmas rush, I assumed, when gentlemen made merry before being clasped to the bosom of their families, when they would infinitely prefer the bosom of the handsome waiter at their club. I didn’t begrudge the festive cheer, but had to push my way through to the bar. Really. In any well-ordered universe, the crowd would have noticed me and my fine clothes at the door and parted to make way for me, like the Red Sea.
A scotch and soda did a great deal to restore my equanimity. Indeed, I grew a trifle beatific, since all I’d had to eat since breakfast had been some of Will Somers’s pastries, and the scotch didn’t have a lot of insulation to work on. I wasn’t festive, you realize, merely a little mellow. So when the tall man in natty evening dress bumped shoulders with me, I merely moved to get out of range rather than apostrophize him as the clumsiest oaf in Christendom.
“I beg your pardon!” He glanced at me and then again, more slowly the second time. He looked me up and down and smiled. “It’s an unholy crush in here tonight.”
He was older than me. A good ten years at least, but his brown hair, brushed back from his brow in true aesthete style, was untouched by gray. His eyes were the bright mauvish-blue of flax flowers, framed by eyelashes of extraordinary length and thickness. I suspected him of some sort of artifice there. Those eyelashes didn’t strike me as quite natural. But everything else appeared to be the genuine article, and if he were indeed in his early forties, as he appeared, he had worn well. He wore his daisy on the left of his lapel and perhaps his acquaintanceship would be worth cultivating.
I smiled. “I should have remembered everyone comes here at Christmas. I think it’s to immunize themselves against the shock of festive family life.”
He threw back his head and laughed. Mmmn. It hadn’t been that amusing, but perhaps it passed for wit where this man normally existed.
“I could wish there were a vaccine for it,” he said, sounding heartfelt. “In lieu of it, I shall try to sate myself in a more satisfactory sort of life to build up my immunity.” He gestured to my glass. “May I refresh that?”
Did he think he might have the opportunity to sate himself in me, then? We’d see. “Scotch and soda, thank you…?” I allowed my voice to lift and trail away on an interrogative note.
“Daniel Meredith,” he supplied, half turning away to try and catch a waiter’s eye.
“Rafe Lancaster.” I held out my hand for him to shake. “I’m pleased to meet you, Meredith.”
He turned back to me and smiled, and suddenly it wasn’t merely a polite platitude to ease along society’s wheels. I was rather pleased to meet him. I could have done a lot worse.
WHERE TO BUY THE GILDED SCARAB
All Romance as an ebook
Earth’s last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy. In the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. A dangerous job, and Bennet doesn’t need the distractions of changing relationships with his long-term partner, Joss, or with his father—or with Flynn, the new lover who will turn his world upside-down. He expects to risk his life. He expects the data will alter the course of the war. What he doesn’t expect is that it will change his life or that Flynn will be impossible to forget.
(Cover by Adrian Nicholas)
As advertised, the Shield officer was proving to be the enigma that everyone had expected.
Flynn had worked it that first briefing so he got a good look before anyone else. He liked what he saw. In his black uniform, the Shield captain stood out in the crowd of Fleet pale grey. Everything about the Shield rig was plain. The rank pips in the stand-up collar of the tunic under his flight jacket were a dull silver, and only about half the size of the ones Simonitz wore. There wasn't a medal ribbon in sight. Only the tiny, ornate Shield badge at his throat was a bright silver.
The monochromatic look suited the Shield captain, matching his black hair and the pale grey eyes. The captain's hair had more cowlicks than a field full of heifers, spiking up despite it being worn longer than was strictly regulation. Flynn took note, too, of cheekbones so sharply defined that they looked like they'd been machine cut, and a strong mouth. The face was youthful, except for the eyes. They'd seen a lot. Altogether, the Shield captain was definitely one of the pretty people in life. Almost as pretty as Flynn himself.
Cruz, to whom he imparted this insight in the OC after Bennet's first visit, rolled her eyes so hard it was a wonder the girl didn't have to grope about on the deck for them. She had never appreciated his true worth. He had to guilt her into buying him a beer in reparation.
He sipped his beer appreciatively. It always tasted better when someone else was paying. “What d'you think of him?”
“Seems pleasant enough.” Cruz shrugged. “He didn't tell us much, though. I didn't think he would.”
“No. And that first briefing was a bit basic. Wonder what he was fishing for there.”
“We'll likely find out in time,” said Cruz.
“I'd rather know now.” Flynn took a pull on his beer. “Simonitz doesn't like him.”
“Did Sim ever apply for Shield?”
“You picked up on that too, did you? I don't know, but there were a few hints there. I thought the Shield was pretty gracious about it, with Sim sitting there glowering all night.”
Cruz nodded. After a minute, she said, “He was good with Nairn, taking him seriously. Some people might have laughed or slapped the kid down.”
“Nairn's a question mark on legs, some days.”
“He's young for his age.”
“And getting a severe case of hero worship,” Flynn said, laughing.
Cruz looked at Flynn, brown eyes warm with affection and amusement. “He's not the only one, I'd say.” She smiled. “Would you?”
WHERE TO BUY
Gyrfalcon is available as an ebook at Wilde City Press
Comment here and get an entry in a rafflecopter to win an Amazon gift card (drawn when the blog tour is over at the end of March).
In addition, one commentator chosen at complete close-eyes-stick-a-pin-in-it random will their choice of a little pack of Gilded Scarab or Gyrfalcon loot and a free copy of FlashWired (a gay mainstream sci-fi novella).
Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.