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March 23rd, 2007

1:03 AM

Slashy stuff

It occurs to me the other day that with the popularity of M/M romances, I haven't heard much from gay guys about these books. Do they like this? Many M/M romances published today are by women although some try to be ambiguous when it comes to their pen names.

I've heard a lot from female readers about M/M so now I'm curious about what the guys may think, especially when it comes to the depiction of emo melodramatic gay guys and all in those stories. I do know of some guys who don't think highly of slash fanfiction because it makes them feel as if a vital part of them is being sexualized/trivialized for the entertainment of women who may one day outgrow their slash "phase". There are also some hardcore/radical gay guys whose attitude borders on misogyny at times - they dislike Rent because they hated those teenage girls clogging up the place and squealing about how cute the principal players are and  they dislike visiting TV forums for shows like Queer As Folk only to find silly girls quarreling about who Brian Kinney should end up with. I wonder if such attitude exists towards the current crop of M/M romances.

Do gay guys enjoy M/M romance written by women? Do they find these romances real enough or do they believe those women know nothing about how gay guys really think and feel? I don't expect I will ever come across research data on what gay men think of M/M stuff written by women anytime soon but I am most interested to know. Is the current M/M stuff, like slash fiction, catering almost exclusively to female readers? Can gay men relate to these stories even a little bit? Hmm.

68 comment(s).

Posted by David:

As a gay man, I especially enjoy reading literature that features gay men as the main characters. I've read many novels/stories that have been written by women. Interestingly enough, most of the female authored gay stories that are available as e-books on-line tend to be much more pronographic than what is published and written by gay men.

While theses stories are marketed as erotica today, to me they harken back to the one-hand stroke novels marketed to gay men in the pulp era (60's-70's). Personally, stories that have a sex scene in each and every chapter I would be called pronography. I have no problem with pornography -- I like it. However, I would much prefer such stories to be marked as pron, rather than "erotica." Erotica sounds better, but I'd rather know that all I'm buying is a string of sex scenes connected by some dialogue.

Slash, IMHO, is taking two heterosexual male characters in an established work of fiction, and making them gay. Some slash writings are great at transgressing the cannon, while others tend to be porn (PWP).

My biggest complaint of gay stories written by female authors is a trend towards rigidity in stereotypes. If I'm reading a story written by a woman and one of the male characters is tall, while the other is short, I know exactly what will happen in the bedroom. The need to heterosexualize gay male sexual relationships have caused me to stop reading several stories. If I wanted to read about a damsal in distress being ravished by the handsome hero, then I'll read a Harlequin romance novel!

So, as a gay male I can relate to some stories written by some female authors. It just depends on if the author treats her characters as real men, or just stereotypes that must conform to some Yaoi rules. Additionally, if there is very little text devoted to the plot, and more to the sex, then I tend to skim over the sex scenes to get to the plot. Especially if I can predict what will happen.
March 23rd, 2007 @ 4:13 AM

Posted by Emily Veinglory:

I get email from gay male readers occassionally--and some m/m writers are gay men, it just isn't the focus of the genre. I also read gay erotica targetted mainly at gay men, and some women write it. There is some overlap across the stereotypical writing and reader habits of each gender. In general though, M/M is romance and enjoyed by romance readers, who are mainly female. (c.f. Romentics which is trying to carve a gay romance niche by and for men--and some of the erotic romance epublishers *could try* having more unisex websites and actually using the word "gay" not jargon like m/m which isn't used by most gay men)
March 23rd, 2007 @ 7:51 AM

Posted by Sean:

Most female-written m/m stories I have read are okay story-wise, but the "erotica" part is much to heterosexual (I assume) in nature. It seems to have more to do with what a woman would want to happen rather than what a man would want - or what a man would do.

I find too that the characters tend to think like women, not like any man (of either sexuality) I know. I don't think it's bad to say that men and women do think differently. We do have different motivations, at least at times.

I can say I enjoy some of the female-written m/m, but in a very different way than I might enjoy a male-written piece.
March 23rd, 2007 @ 7:59 AM

Posted by BBMRebel:

I read M/M written by both sexes - Some are more obviously female then other writers - not that that's a bad thing - just different, more emotional approach to the sex -

I'm also a softy at heart too - I enjoy a bit of angst, conflict, intrique in my erotica - I read to escape the daily grind -

What I'd really like to see more of tho'- are books where the fact that the characters are gay is purely backseat to the story line, but the story line is a mystery - either contemporary/historical or supernatural -

btw- you can list that under male reader response
March 23rd, 2007 @ 8:52 AM

Posted by Cynthia:

I think it's largely a non issue. Gay male readers enjoy what they enjoy based upon the content, not upon the gender of the author. To assume otherwise belittles both the reader and the writer.

The whole *gasp, m/m stories are being written by women, shock and dismay* bit is patently false. Not only have m/m romances been written by women for years, but the vast majority of erotic writing aimed specifically at gay men for the past twenty years or so has been written by, in large part, women.

To assume that because a woman writes a text it is full of angst, drama, and emotion is trite and simplistic. To assume that a text written by a man can contain none of these things is equally so.
March 23rd, 2007 @ 8:58 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Cynthia, you're reading pretext that isn't there in my entry. I am more curious about what gay men think about stories about gay men, ie are these stories realistic to these men? Are the love scenes done right or, as some guys have said (thanks), are they just guys who are acting like men and women in behavior and thinking?

I'm also curious as to whether there are any gay men who are hostile towards women writing M/M romances because such an attitude exists over slash, but that's not really my biggest concern. After all, every subgenre and genre has its dissenters.
March 23rd, 2007 @ 9:04 AM

Posted by Cynthia:

If there's pretext there, Mrs. G, I'd think it comes from the assumption that anyone, of any orientation, reads romance to for the realism.

There are gay men who are very hostile to women writing m/m romances and gay erotica. I say this from first hand experience, as some of these men have been my editors over the years. They're more than happy to take the story, print the story, and hang a suitably queer pen name on it (which is disproportionately been Curtis, for reasons that escape me) but boy, did it kill them to write those checks out to Cynthia. I actually think the popularity of m/m and gay erotica among a female audience has lowered barriers for female creators and eliminated some of the outright hostility. There's eye rolling, still, to be sure, but a lot less flat out nastiness.
March 23rd, 2007 @ 9:32 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

"I'd think it comes from the assumption that anyone, of any orientation, reads romance to for the realism."

Woah, loaded statement there. It's not wrong to want some realism in romances. But that's not the topic here so I'll just leave it at that, heh.
March 23rd, 2007 @ 9:36 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

My experience on both the fanfic and the profic side has been that there are some gay men who like slashy stuff written by women, because it gives them the emotional charge they can't easily find in commercial gay erotica. Note that I say "emotional charge" rather than "romance", because as far as slash fanfic goes, don't rely on getting the HEA. (One of the reasons I don't publicly link to my fanfic is that anyone looking for a gay Mills&Boon style romance is going to get a shock if they stumble into the fanfic...)

As for the "taller/darker/older one fucks the shorter/blonder/younger one" stereotype, yes, it's all too common in slash fanfic, and probably m/m profic. But it's not universal, and it's something I'll occasionally go out of my way to deliberately break. (Or smash into tiny pieces and then jump up and down on them...)
March 23rd, 2007 @ 10:20 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

I can vouch for Ms Jones here. I can't say that her books have rocked my world so far but I like how her gay characters come off like ordinary people instead of one-dimensional "Look at me! I'm the biggest and most flaming queen ever!" signboards.

The reason I wrote this entry is not because I want to create friction, just to make this clear. It's just curiosity on my part.

For example, even in straight romances, there is often knee-jerk hostility against men who write straight romances. There is some truth to that because I find authors like Nicholas Sparks hopeless in depicting females. Their heroines are flat one-dimensional creatures prone to being very spineless and lachrymosal tendencies or they are very angry and irrational creatures. But I also enjoy romances written by Kylie Adams (who gets some of the most hostile reaction ever - AAR calls the heroine of one of her books "amoral" and I'd think this heroine cannibalizes babies or something until I read it and realize that the heroine likes to have sex and expensive bling-blings) and some fiction with romantic elements by other male authors. I know the Male Best Friend author, Leigh Greenwood, is often taken as an example by readers who say that OF COURSE they read male authors, but the author writes under a female pen name for years before he comes out.

And of course, the whole AA/non-AA authors thing.

I'm not interested in the politics behind such issues though. I'm interested in knowing whether, say, gay readers can relate to the gay characters written by women. I've had some interesting emails by guys who've read this entry. One says he actually prefers straight romances because he can't get into the club-hopping scene in gay-lit and he just wants to read about love. Another echoes Jules Jones' opinion on just wanting to read about gay guys in love and not caring about how real the characters may or may not be. I like getting these various opinions, so keep 'em coming!
March 23rd, 2007 @ 10:41 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

One interesting thing -- a lot of people have assumed I'm a man, and it's not just the women assuming that. There are a couple of things playing into that (not least of which is that apparently Jules is a male-only name in the US). But my writing style comes over as male to a lot of people. It's probably in part because I'm a scientist, and years of writing nothing but technical reports and papers colour my prose style.
March 23rd, 2007 @ 12:09 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Well, speaking for myself, all the Jules I know are men.
March 23rd, 2007 @ 1:00 PM

Posted by David:

I think we have to realize that most gay men -- like men in general -- did not grow up reading the romance novels that women did as girls, or started to read in thier 20's/30's. I grew up reading SF/F and action/adventure books, in addition to what would be considered mainstream literature. As I came out, I started to read "gay themed books": books whose protagonist was a gay man. These books covered a wide range of genres; from one-hand stroke books, to mysteries, to coming out stories, to SF/F, to contemporary novels dealing with the challenges faced by gay men living in today's society. Those that were not stroke novels, focused on the characters and while there might have been a sex scene or two in the novel, they were there to fully develop the character(s).

I enjoy reading many of the so-called "m/m romance novels." Most of them, even those that are supposed to have no paranormal/science-fiction/fantasy basis, do not seem to be grounded in reality. But, is that just a requirement for "romance" novels in general, or just "m/m romance" novels in particular? Not being exposed to the "romance novel" genre, I have no idea if the amount of sex and lack of plot/character development is inherent in such books.

As has been previously mentioned before, women have written books in the past with gay main characters, which have been well-received by gay male readers. Patricia Warren's books have gay characters that gay readers can relate to on some level. Some of the contemporary "m/m romance novels" I've read are so focused on the sex/relationship of the two main characters that they fail to develop the main characters, not to mention the plot. It has been some 15 years since I last read the Front Runner, however I still can recall the story. Some of the "m/m romance novels" I read last week I would be hard pressed to remember the names of the characters, much less the plot.

However, are my comments too harsh for "m/m romance novels?" Is there a lower standard of
March 24th, 2007 @ 6:34 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

Of course, some of us with girl bits had a strong preference for reading sf/fantasy rather than romance novels. I don't actually read much profic that's explicitly marketed as romance (fanfic and cross-genre marketed under the other genre is an *entirely* different matter:-). I have to rely on my editor catching it if my cross-genre writing instincts stray too far from what pure quill romance readers regard as acceptable.

And I'll have you know that a lot of sf is grounded very firmly in reality. But I don't think I'll invite that travelling flame war over here by mentioning its name.

(Is there any way to either preview-and-edit a post, or see it in a box more than three lines long? I can't proof-read properly, never mind compose a sane comment, in this titchy little thing that displays by default.)
March 24th, 2007 @ 6:48 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

Comment in my LiveJournal from the post where I mentioned this discussion (from a person I believe to be male, but I have no clue as to his orientation):

My gay friends say, "Not enough sex, and too late in the story. The mechanics are okay."

Well, that certainly plays to the stereotype of men being interested in nothing but the sex scenes. Somehow I don't think some of the gay men I know would entirely agree. :-)
March 24th, 2007 @ 6:52 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

David, your post got cut off by the word count limitation, so sorry about that.

I do agree with you that sometimes m/m romances are too much about sex, but that's more of an issue with the whole ebook scene rather than m/m. Most ebooks emphasis heavily on the erotic aspect of the stories and sometimes the sex overpowers the story. M/M is still new in the scene so I don't expect too many good ones out there at the moment. The best M/M books that I'd consider a keeper so far aren't ebooks - Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner comes to mind.
March 24th, 2007 @ 9:14 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Jules, judging from the number of m/m movies from TLA that I've happened to watch, I'd say the gay community has only themselves to blame if they don't like the stereotype, lol. Those movies, billed as "gay thrillers", "gay romantic comedies", etc, are so hopelessly bad that I've learned my lesson. If I want m/m movies with plenty of nudity, I'd stick to French movies, thanks.

Personally, I'm starting to yearn for more homoerotic tales than outright explicit m/m stuff because I am starting to miss the sexual tension. Too many stories (both m/m and m/f) get the characters in bed the moment the characters meet. I'd like to see more build-up to the first love scene.
March 24th, 2007 @ 9:18 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

Mrs G, I probably picked the wrong ones of mine to send you, then. Though I swear I wasn't going by the first sex scene placement when I picked them -- I was just going for a couple of my own favourites, and they're my favourites for reasons other than the smut count. (Though I love *all* my babies.)

But you can blame some of the publishers for the "third chapter, time for the sex scene" plotlines -- because some publishers focus heavily on getting the characters into bed as soon as possible. That's the market they're aiming at.

And yes, Swordspoint is wonderful. It's really time I re-read it, only I've got this TBR stack making me feel guilty.
March 24th, 2007 @ 10:18 AM

Posted by Shayla Kersten:

I've had complimentary emails from a few gay men regarding my novels. One in particular wrote about Thirty Days, "For a gay BDSM story written by a woman you got it right!" I was thrilled to read his comment. I try to avoid sterotypes or "heterosexualizing" the men in my stories. I'm always happy to hear I've succeeded.
March 24th, 2007 @ 11:04 PM

Posted by David:

Mrs. G.,

I loved Swordspoint, but would not consider it either an M/M book, or an M'M romance book, just a great fantasy novel that happens to have a gay main character. I think I've read just about every SF/F book that has a gay main character and while the fact that the story's main character happened to be gay was the reason I bought the book, the story was why I read it. To my knowledge, none of these had as much explicit sex as the M/M romance novels I've read in the past couple of years.

I wonder if the M/M romance genre is at the pulp stage that the majority of gay literature was at in the 60's? Maybe in time the emphasis on explicit sex will change and more M/M romances will become gay romance novels and focus more on the characters and story.

Honestly, I think there has been a shift in the gay literature to more lighthearted topics in the past 10 years. While I think both the authors and the community needed the cathartic release that resulted with the preponderance of AIDS-related novels in the 80's/90's, too much death and dying can become overwhelming. I think some M/M romance novels can transport the reader to a fantasy world where prejudice, bigotry and disease are not facts of life.

As to gay cinema, I agree. I think that many such gay movies are in the same place as the gay pulp novels in the 60's. However, there have been some vary good gay films that have been produced in the past 30 years. However, it seems that many gay movies are trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. While money is a problem for gay film makers, some very good films have been made by on less than $50K. Granted the production values are not on par with the studio movies, but if the story is good and you have a good cast, then you can have a great movie. Just don't expect to see it at you local multi-plex, or expect the producers to make a lot of money.
March 26th, 2007 @ 2:50 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

David might not consider Swordspoint to be an m/m or m/m romance book, but a lot of slashfen do. :-) I first heard about the book on a fanfic mailing list, as an example of profic that feels like slash. (It's also on the list of suspected avatar books for at least one fandom.)

I think part of the reason for the strong skew towards erotic romance is simply that the erotic romance publishers will accept m/m romance, and places like Harlequin won't. (Except in Japan, apparently.) One of the stories going around the circuit is that at one of last year's conferences, one of the big name editors at one of the big name publishers refused to even consider m/m for women because there couldn't possibly be any market for it. This was after EC was putting out frantic calls on writers' boards for more m/m submissions to meet the demand they could see.

Of course, it's a tricky problem for the mainstream romance publishers -- even if they think there's a big enough market for m/m to make it worth their while doing a sweet m/m line (which isn't a given, even if it's doing very well at small press level), they have to consider the effect it would have on their other market sectors. I can well understand a mainstream US publisher not wanting to deal with the hassle that publishing gay romance would inevitably bring.
March 26th, 2007 @ 7:17 AM

Posted by David:

Jules,
I do not dispute that many in the slash community might consider Swordspoint to be "m/m or m/m romance." Those that are attracted to slash fanfiction would be attracted to Swordspoint; however, neither Kushner, nor her publisher, I think would categorize it as anything other than a fantasy novel.

I've seen Swordspoint and other original novels on slash rec lists, but by definition such books cannot be considered "slash." Slash requires that the main characters in an original novel/series be heterosexual, which allows the slash writer to transform the characters into gay/bisexual men. One can't call Swordspoint, Luck in the Shadows, Cyteen, Last Heral Mage, etc. slash fiction, as the main characters are involved in a gay relationship in the original work of fiction.

I would not consider any of the books you've written -- and I've read all of them -- to be slash. They are original works of fiction. Are they gay novels, gay romance novels, m/m, m/m romance novels, etc., IMHO, that categorization depends on the publisher: which genre description will sell the most books.

As to major mainstream publishers, GLBT content of any kind makes them nervous. Since I enjoy SF/F novels, I am gratified that SF/F publishers have been more accepting of GLBT content in SF/F novels they publish. Granted, most of these novels are by well-established authors, but there are some novelists whose first novels had GLBT content: Flewelling, Huff, Kushner, Moriarty, etc. (Interesting that the list that popped into my head was one of all women writers.)

One thing that has bothered me about this discussion is the aversion by many women to use the term gay. The discussion is about "M/M" or "M/M romance," not gay or gay romance novels. From my POV, this discussion, and from some of the "M/M romance" books I've read, there is a distancing from being associated with the word "gay."

It reminds me of the new terminology the health community has added: MSM, Men who have sex with
March 26th, 2007 @ 11:01 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Re: the use of the word "gay", it's like "Black". I am not gay and I am not African-American/Black so to be on the safe side, I try to use the most acceptable terminology in order not to step on too many people's hot buttons. This is the Internet after all. Even the use of phrases like "queer lit" can set off some people out there.
March 26th, 2007 @ 11:28 AM

Posted by David:

Mrs. G,

As a gay man in a same-sex relationship for the past 13 years, I have never referred to myself as being in an "M/M relationship," neither has my partner, nor any other gay couples we know. I have not recently read in the GLBT media that there has been an outcry over the use of the term "gay" in describing gay men. The use of the term "homosexual" is usually avoided, simply because it is continuously used by the religious right to demonize the GLBT community.

If you have choosen to use a seemingly more inoffensive term in order not to give offense, then I applaud your sensitivity; however, in this case, I don't think there are many gay men on-line that would jump on you for calling gay men gaym, when it is the predominant choice used within the community and the media.

Do you feel that publishers of "M/M romance" market their books so as not to offend gay men, or to be more attractive to female readers?
March 26th, 2007 @ 2:06 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

I don't know, but I do know when the romance/erotic epublishers start putting out these books, they use M/M or yaoi or "same sex" to describe these books. In fact, with more and more bisexual menage books out nowadays. On this blog, I use "M/M" out of laziness - it's easier to type "gay romances".

Point taken, however - I prefer "gay romances" myself so I'll use that phrase from now on.
March 26th, 2007 @ 2:17 PM

Posted by David:

I took a look at several e-book publishers and most have gay or GLBT categories. A few have "Alternative Lifestyles," while others lumb gay with menage/bisexual.

I would argue that while yaoi deals with two male who have sex together, it should not be considered to be a gay novel. This is especially true if the author adheres to the rigid conventions that has been developed in Japan for the characters in such works. From my POV, traditional Japanese yaoi is the epitome of the heterosexualization of a sexual relationship between two men. Consequently, yaoi novels have little to nothing to do with the real lives of gay men, and more to do with the fantasy world heterosexual women have conjured. IMHO.
March 27th, 2007 @ 12:07 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

David, such manner of classification is more academic than useful in my opinion. It's not useful to the reader to have so many classifications and labels. For example, I'd consider Swordspoint a fantasy novel because it's set in a fantasy world, but because it has a strong romantic undercurrent between the main characters, I'd consider it a romantic story as well. And because the main characters are men, this is a story with a central homosexual relationship. Arguing that it is strictly a "fantasy" novel serves no purpose unless we are creating some kind of new Dewey Decimel System thingie to catalog these books.

Yaoi is not a gay novel? Perhaps, but again, it's a matter of perception. In real life, however, it makes more sense and it's more practical to say that it is a gay novel because the characters are gay. Whether they have anything to do with real life is irrelevant because we are talking about fiction here, are we not?
March 27th, 2007 @ 12:33 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

David, I fully understand and to some extent agree with you about slash being by definition fanfic. Nevertheless, there has been for quite some years now a category of "original character slash", where people were writing material that felt like slash but used original characters -- either in a fandom universe, or in an original universe. (People differ on whether fandom universe is slash or original slash.) The SCREWZ awards even had a category for it, although I can't remember if the STIFfies did. That was originally an offshoot of fanfic, but as some of us started to sell material to commercial publishers, the term got transferred to the profic. And inevitably shortened to "slash", in particular by people who didn't know that slash was by definition about someone else's heterosexual characters. (Yes, I've been there for the great debates about whether it counts as slash if the characters are canonically gay or bi).

And the reason for describing it as m/m is in part to get away from the misuse of the fanfic term, while retaining the distinction between commercial gay erotica aimed at gay men, with its "wham, bam, thank you mam" emotional tone, and slashy "by women for women" original character fiction. Note that I am not putting down commercial gay erotica, particularly as I write it and had my first sales in that genre. But it is different in tone, and a lot of people who like slash and slashy profic are not interested in reading gay erotica because it doesn't give them what they're looking for. It's analogous to the difference between erotica and erotic romance, though not exactly the same thing.

Categorisation is in part a matter of publisher choice, as you say. And not just in how it's labelled to indicate a gay relationship. Mine are all categorised as erotic romance, because I'm published by an erotic romance house; but most of them are cross-genre, and some of them are actually more science fiction/fantasy than romance. If Spindrift had been 80,000 wo
March 27th, 2007 @ 12:39 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

Rats. Got chopped by the word limit. I'll see how much I can remember...

If Spindrift had been 80,000 words rather than 60,000 words, I would have submitted it to Anna Genoese at Tor. It's at Loose Id because it's too short for a print publisher.

Part of the reason for the use of m/m is that a lot of the writers came out of slash fanfic, and simply went on using the terminology they were familiar with. m/m, m/m/f, m/f/m, f/f... Being unashamedly shallow, I'll take the m/m over the m/m/f, and the m/m/f over the m/f/m. And I'll describe the genre as slashy or original character slash, but my characters are gay or bi. You've probably seen me on the loops referring to het rather than straight romance.

Then there's the interesting question of whether avatar novels can be called slash, in the full sense of the term. And at least two of the pro novels you listed are suspected avatar novels.
March 27th, 2007 @ 12:50 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Ignorance showing here - what's an avatar novel?
March 27th, 2007 @ 12:55 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

An avatar novel is when an author takes her favourite characters from a tv show, etc, lightly files the serial numbers, and drops them into her pro work. It's usually from the same motivation that drives a lot of fanfic -- because they are just so much fun to play with. It's also often a game with readers from a shared fannish background, which is why you see it a lot in sf&f and mystery, although there are a couple of examples in romance that I'm aware of. There's a good explanation relating to a specific example here:
http://barbarapaul.com/holland.html

It can vary from a main character to brief references -- one example of the latter is when thinly disguised versions of the main cast from Blake's 7 show up in a Star Trek novel:

"Spock watched Landing Party Seven arrive, six people drawn from engineering, computer sciences, medicine, economics, security and ship's stores. Kirk sometimes referred to this team as the 'IDIC party,' because their talants were so diversified, but the designation was actually one of the captain's jokes, for to hear them squabble you would think they could not agree on so much as who would stand on which transporter pad.

Despite their disagreements, though, they were as efficent as any other team. They were directed by the engineer, Rogers, a portly man with curly brown hair. Running to the marine vehicle that landed just after them, they began to assemble it, the giant security officer holding the pieces together by sheer strength while the two women in the party bolted them into place.

Meanwhile, the third man assembled the onboard computer with almost Vulcan consentration, while the last member of the team, a small, nondescript sort of man, always had the right tools ready to hand to those who needed them."
March 27th, 2007 @ 1:15 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

Eeek! I've just realised that my last post was a wonderful display of using fannish terminology. "An author takes *her* favourite characters" because in fanfic circles the default pronoun for readers and writers is "she". That was completely and utterly unconscious on my part.
March 27th, 2007 @ 1:56 AM

Posted by David:

Jules & Mrs. G.,

Putting novels into genres -- usually by marketing departments -- is the bane of authors everywhere. I agree that the gay relationship at the heart of Swordspoint could have people term it as a gay romance novel, but I've read hundreds of SF/F novels that have had the main character develop a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Would all those be classified as het romance novels? But then we get into the definition of genres, which is a whole other topic.

My aversion to considering any original work of fiction as slash, goes beyond the historical origin of the term. The reluctance of people to use gay in describing works -- when there is a gay relationship central to the work -- reminds me of the public denials Stone made regarding the bisexuality of Alexander the Great about his film. I think you could recall other examples of writers, actors, directors, etc, who eschewed the gay label on their work for fear of a loss of readers/viewers. This might not be the case with the use the terms slash and m/m, but the similarities are too close for me not to examine.

As far as books, do you use m/m to only describe erotic novels, or any books that focus or a gay relationship? I can think of many books that contain a central gay relationship (written by men) that have fully developed characters: Brenchley's Outremer series, Bailey's Shadowdance, Grimsley's Kirith Kirin, Harper's Silent Empire novels, Jensen's Fronties, etc. In terms of erotica, would you consider Gordon Merrick's books -- which have a lot of character/emotional development -- to be gay erotica or m/m?

As to yaoi, my understanding is that traditional yaoi requires that the male characters be heterosexual; however, in the story they lapse into a rigidily structured situational homosexuality. Additionally, the male characters do not live HEA together when the stories end. This is why I would not consider such fiction to be "gay."
March 27th, 2007 @ 2:55 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

[growls] I had a long post written out and was about to post it when my laptop suddenly decided that it didn't have a display any more, and refused to come back until I hard booted it. I'll see if I can reconstruct it...
March 27th, 2007 @ 9:14 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

David, I'd call Swordspoint a fantasy, because I consider it to be a fantasy first and a gay romance second. But I'd call it a slashy fantasy a lot of the time, because I'm usually discussing it in a context where it's relevant that it's the sort of gay romance that would appeal to slash fans -- such as this comment thread. The default is het, and so strongly, that people who want to read profic that reads like slash will point out such books to each other, and will use terminology that a) they're familiar with, b) makes it clear that the book provides the same emotional payoff as slash (which is not necessarily romance, even if it often is).

I can understand why you're concerned about the potential use of "slash" as a way as a way to avoid the word gay. In my experience most slash readers are using it with non-fanfic to tag a particular style of gay fiction, but there are certainly some slash fanfic readers who are not comfortable with homosexuality, and do not like seeing the characters depicted in fanfic as actually gay or bi, rather than straight men who are gay for each other alone. "I'm not gay, I just love X." Or as one cynical fan described it, "I'm not gay, I just like to suck Spock's cock." (Quoted in Jenkins' Textual Poachers, IIRC.)

Continued on next rock...
March 27th, 2007 @ 10:08 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

I would use m/m to describe any book that reads like slash, whether it was erotic or not, if I was in a conversation where that was the context. Not least because slash fanfic is not necessarily either erotic or romantic -- one of the reasons that "original character slash"/"slashy" and "gay romance" are not completely interchangeable terms is that not all slash is romance. I would also use m/m to describe a particular type of gay erotica, if I was in a context where that was appropriate. And I'd also use it simply to describe the genital permutations in other contexts, because "gay" is used in some dialects to include both male and female homosexuals, and there are times when I want to distinguish m/m and f/f. There's also the thing about emphasising in menage-and-more scenarios that there is m/m action.

I'm reading the Outremer series right now, and I'd happily recommend it to slash fans on the basis of what I've read so far (or at least to slash fans in fandoms that aren't pure hearts-n-flowers, always HEA). But I asked Chaz whether it was romance or romantic before pimping it to a romance mailing list at the weekend, because I could easily see it *not* conforming to genre romance conventions. (The conversation is in a comment thread in my LiveJournal.) It's slashy, all right, but from what Chaz said it's borderline on whether you could legitimately call it romance in the genre sense. So I'd cheerfully call it m/m in front of a slash audience, but be careful to clarify that this is not identical to romance in front of a romance audience. (Or at least I hope I'd remember to do such.) I haven't read the others, but I have certainly seen some of them referred to as slashy, specifically as a way to mark that they don't just have gay characters, but have the emotional tone of slash.
March 27th, 2007 @ 10:32 AM

Posted by Anne Cain:

From David: As to yaoi, my understanding is that traditional yaoi requires that the male characters be heterosexual; however, in the story they lapse into a rigidily structured situational homosexuality. Additionally, the male characters do not live HEA together when the stories end. This is why I would not consider such fiction to be "gay."

The last sentence in that observation is pretty much the most correct one. Yaoi is not "gay fiction" and it doesn't profess to be--it's totally fantasized romance (and sex) between men, with an emphasis on aesthetics. But yaoi stories *DO* have happy endings and the characters are *NOT* always strictly heterosexual who somehow end up in a confining homosexual relationship. To name a couple of stories:

WILD ROCK: Sexy cavemen fall in and live Happily Ever After, even uniting their warring tribes in the process.

GERARD & JACQUES: Gerard is openly bisexual, with a strong preference towards men. He also lives happily ever after with Jacques (once they narrowly escape the guillotine that is -- the story is set in French Revolution era Paris).

Rising Storm - a very graphically erotic manga, but very lighthearted and bouncy (no pun intended) overall.

Reading the manga and watching the animes is the best and only way to get a feel for what yaoi really is.
March 27th, 2007 @ 10:39 AM

Posted by David:

Jules,

I think the problem we may have is that the notion of a romance novel within the gay literature genre is a recent development. Authors have rarely written novels that had a gay male character. Those who did have a homosexual-identified character, such character was usually either an obvious stereotype, and/or met with an untimely end -- always very painfully.

We can point to works of fiction that did not treat gay men harshly, but they were few and very far between. However, it was not until the 70's that novels were published that provided a gay male character who was neither a sterotype, nor died a horrible death. (Pulp fiction notwithstanding.) And by the time gay literature was beginning to come into its own in the early 80's, we were hit with the ADIS epidemic which not only struck down many writers, but had a profound effect on the themes on which gay writers wrote.

Most of the gay literature dealt with the reality of gay men living in a society that discriminates and condemns gays. While many books included romantic relationships, most dealt with exploring issues that had an impact on their lives as gay men: coming out, family rejection, death of love ones, discrimination, etc. Such novels do not fit the mold of those found in het romance novels.

Which is why I like SF/F novels that had gay main characters. Not only do I get to read a SF/F book (which I enjoy), but I sometimes get to connect with a gay character who is not bothered with the societal issues I face daily. I also have enjoyed some of the m/m romance novels, for the same reasons.

With the Scott & Scott romance novels, and a couple that Alyson has recently published, I think there might be more gay writers ready to write gay romance novels. While gay writers were dealing with the AIDS epidemic, heterosexual women were creating slash fiction; in effect, leap-froging over gay writers in this area. At least that is my current thinking.

As for the Outremer series, I read it be
March 27th, 2007 @ 11:16 AM

Posted by David:

Oops!

As for the Outremer series, I read it because I knew Chaz had written other books with gay male characters. There is a love triangle in the series, and while it probably does not follow the romance genre guidelines, I think the main gay relationship is well-developed. I think for those who like slash fiction, they will enjoy the angst. Overall, it is a good series. I don't know if there is a gay character in his new series or not. Do you know?
March 27th, 2007 @ 11:17 AM

Posted by David:

Anne,

I stand to be corrected, but in my post I did state that my comments were regarding "traditional yaoi." From my understanding, non-Japanese writers of yaoi have not followed all of the original yaoi conventions. Additionally, in recent years, some Japanese authors are also not adhereing to traditional conventions.
March 27th, 2007 @ 11:21 AM

Posted by Raven:

"...would argue that while yaoi deals with two male who have sex together, it should not be considered to be a gay novel."

This illustrates one of the reasons publishers and writers, as well as many readers, us "m/m" instead of "gay." To specifically say "gay" could be seen as defining the characters as gay or the story as a gay novel. Using "m/m" (along with m/f, m/m/f, m/f/m, and so on) really just indicates content. It would be impractical for most publishers to have a "gay novel" category, another for "gay erotica," another for "people with matching plumbing having sex while taking on fantasized het roles," another for "slash with the serial numbers filed off," another for "two guys having manly sex, but one's never done it with another guy before and doesn't identify himself as gay," and so on. Not only would that clog up the website and the marketing department, but it would also drive readers/buyers insane. Instead, "m/m" is used to say, "If you like two males together in some form or another, that content is in this book." Then it is assumed readers can review the blurb and the excerpt and decide for themselves if the m/m content in question suits their particular tastes, whether that be yaoi or gay literary fiction or gay BDSM or whatever.

I have no problem saying "gay." I'm not in the least reluctant to use the word. I wouldn't refer to someone as being in an "m/m relationship" unless they asked me to for some reason (honestly, I generally wouldn't refer to them being in a "gay relationship," either, unless it was specifically relevant to something -- I think plain ol' "relationship" usually covers it pretty well). I don't use "m/m" to avoid the word or because I have something against the connotations thereof. I use it in reference to written material, as an indication of a specific content point. No more, no less.
March 27th, 2007 @ 7:31 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Just a gentle reminder, folks: there are people reading this fascinating and most educational discussion who aren't privy to who Chaz is or what the Outremer series are. Some people are emailing ME to explain some of the things you are discussing and I have no idea either, lol. Please try to be less meta if possible because many people are interested in this discussion - they aren't joining in but they are reading nonetheless.

David and anyone else who knows about this, I am thinking of ordering a Scott&Scott book from Amazon. Any title in particular that I should start with?
March 27th, 2007 @ 7:42 PM

Posted by David:

Raven,

In regards to marketing books, I've found that several romance/erotica on-line publishers have a gay or GLBT category. Some of these even offer a yaoi category as well. A couple still use "alternative lifestyles," but that is a minority.

While I think the categories you've developed are interesting, I doubt that publishers will use them. :) However, using your logic, publishers should have catergories based on the romantic/sexual dynamics of the main characters in the story: m/f, m/m, f/f, m/f/f, m/m/f, m/m/m, f/f/f, etc. We'll have no need for pesky genres like romance, mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, etc., as long as we know the slash configuration. Is this what you are advocating? Or, do you think that heterosexual pairings in fiction is somehow more deserving of being assigned genre labels, while any homosexual content in a book regulates it to the m/m category, regardless of the type of story?

Personally, I think yaoi works, especially those that adhere to traditional yaoi rules, should be in its own category. Women you are looking for yaoi, should not have to wade through fiction that depicts real gay relationships.
March 27th, 2007 @ 10:24 PM

Posted by David:

This thread was started by Mrs. G asking about gay men's opinions on m/m romance novels. In her first post she mentions slash fanfiction. I know some gay men read and write slash fanfiction. I have no problem with that, but I've never read much fanfic, not because I did not feel it was good, but I prefer to read stories about gay men. Slash, by its definition, takes het men and turns them gay. I much prefer to read original gay fiction -- even if it is an avatar of a previously published work -- over slash fanfic.

I think that if an author/publisher wishes to market their m/m romance books to the gay population, then it would be best if they called them gay romance novels. Will this upset/turnoff the women who are interested in homosexual content, but don't want to call it gay? I don't know.

Regardless of the tag a publisher puts on a book, the story and characters need to be fully developed. I don't mind reading a story where one (or even both) men had been leading a heterosexual life until they met each other. (I've known many men where this has been the case) However, so as not to fall into the yaoi trap, the author needs to build the case that these seemingly het men had been struggling with their attraction to men for their entire life. I just don't buy the "I'm 30 and never found another man attractive until I saw you!" Please! We are constantly being bombarded with male images to sell products that would have only been found in the AMG catalogs of the 50's/60's. Just driving around town I see billboards with AF models with nothing but their underwear on, not to mention the unsolicited catalog layouts I get in the mail! You would have to be 100% straight and dead not to find at least one of these models attractive.


PS: Chaz Brenchley is a gay British author of mystery and fantasy novels. Most of his books have a gay character, usually the main character. Several years ago, he published an alternative Crusades-type fantasy novel. In Britain it was p
March 27th, 2007 @ 10:55 PM

Posted by David:

Oops!


PS: Chaz Brenchley is a gay British author of mystery and fantasy novels. Most of his books have a gay character, usually the main character. Several years ago, he published an alternative Crusades-type fantasy novel. In Britain it was published in three books, but the American publisher split the books into six. Collectively they are known as the Outremer series. He has a website for the series at: www.outremer.co.uk.

PPS: Not having read any het romance novels, I have no idea how Scott & Scott's novels would compare in terms of story/character development. I've read them all and IMHO they are a great beach read type of book. Their last one (Surf N' Turf) exploited gay sterotypes too much, at last for the first 75% of the book. I think if I would reccommend one, I'd suggest either Nick of Time or Spare Parts.

PPPS: If you are looking for gay romance novel, I would suggest the Charlie and Peter trilogy by Gordon Merrick, The fist book in the triliogy is The Lord won't mind, which was published in 1970. There is a HEA, but it takes 3 books for the characters to get there. I think it probably represents the best of the gay romance novel to date.
March 27th, 2007 @ 10:56 PM

Posted by Raven:

David, you're absolutely right regarding categories. I used the wrong wording, or at least explanation, in my comment. In fact, the publisher I work for doesn't even use categories. There are genres: action adventure, fantasy, paranormal, historical, etc. This way, if a reader likes time travel stories, they (I won't presume to use "he" or "she") can look up that genre and have their pick. The stories listed under each genre heading are not divided by content; the stories with m/f content are listed right alongside those with m/m content, which is right alongside those with m/f/m and f/f and so on. And if a story is both, say, paranormal and historical, it will come up under both of those headings, as there is often crossover.

There is a separate search option for content, with listings like BDSM & Fetish, BBW, and LGBT & Polyamory. This is handy for folks with particular content tastes. As you can see, they're umbrella terms, which does keep a publisher from having to come up with a separate content heading for every variation. Just as with genres, there is crossover. The LGBT and Polyamory heading includes stories about gay men, lesbians, poly groups of various permutations, people who don't necessarily identify with a specific orientation label or are still exploring, relationships that start out as one setup (say, a het couple) and expand to a different one (say, two men and a woman), and so on. The heading allows for various content and doesn't assume that calling it all one thing is either logical or appropriate. When readers see a book that looks interesting, they can click on it and get more specifics -- a blurb, an excerpt, a line to let them know if it's menage or f/f or m/m or whatever. This allows readers the ability to find the particular content that they're interested in while not requiring (potentially infinite) separate headings for every single content type.

In no way do I think that heterosexual pairings are somehow more deserving of being
March 28th, 2007 @ 9:40 AM

Posted by Raven:

In no way do I think that heterosexual pairings are somehow more deserving of being assigned genre labels while any homosexual content should be relegated to an m/m category regardless of story type (and I'm guessing the question of whether I do was not intended to be offensive, as this thread and discussion have been admirably civil). From a perspective of practicality, it makes sense to go from broad terms (LGBT & Polyamory) to more specific info (m/m, f/f, f/m/f, etc.), while not presuming to use that info to impart any more than actual content. "M/m" says there is sexual content between two males; that's it. It doesn't say it's yaoi, or a gay novel, or a story about one man who's openly gay and his budding relationship with a man who's just starting to accept his own orientation and doesn't identify himself as gay, or any other of the numerous variations possible with m/m content.

The same applies equally to stories with female-female content. And poly content. And for other content headings. The BDSM & Fetish heading tells me the stories listed have some element of the broad range addressed by that heading. There's no dividing the stories with het content from the stories with f/f content from the stories with m/m content, and so on. There's no dividing the stories about het pro Dommes with subbies who don't yet consciously identify as submissive, from the stories about non-pro Doms with five submissives and two slaves who hang on his every command, from the stories about three friends who realize they all have a leather fetish. They all go under the broad content heading because having a heading for each could, just as with those under the LGBT/Poly heading, go on forever. If a reader wants to know more, they click the book and see the specific content info listed. It's pure practicality. Frankly, it would suit me no end to have a content heading specifically for dominant/alpha women and their almost-but-not-quite-as-alpha men who really, really like to do
March 28th, 2007 @ 9:41 AM

Posted by Raven:

Frankly, it would suit me no end to have a content heading specifically for dominant/alpha women and their almost-but-not-quite-as-alpha men who really, really like to do what they're told and yet aren't 24/7 subbies, and neither is really involved in the rules and strictures of the BDSM life. Realistically, I don't expect to see that heading pop up anytime soon. I know to go find the general BDSM heading and start narrowing my search from there. The fact that these tend to end up with their more specific content info calling them "femDom" doesn't mean anything other than that there is a dominant female in the book. It doesn't presume to try to classify or choose from the variations possible with that content, any more than an "m/m" note denotes anything other than that there is male-male content. Publishers can (and should) only get so specific. They list the basic content points of most interest and let the readers decide for themselves what flavor they feel that content is.

In terms of what counts as real yaoi, or "real gay relationships," or real D/s, or whatever, the only person really qualified to make those calls is the reader. I've read so-called D/s that was obviously pretty racy to the author and to me was more like what I'd see in twenty minutes on the downtown tram. I've read so-called gay romance that to me was pure stroke fic between two men in complete denial, and gay mysteries that were to me gay romance. If the publisher presumed to label these beyond the basic "BDSM" or "m/m," it bothered me, as they slapped it with a label that ended up not matching how I perceived the story when I read it. If they just identified that the story had BDSM or m/m content, I went into it with eyes open, knowing that basic content was present but without operating under a belief that there was some specific flavor of that content. I didn't always end up liking the story, but I also didn't feel misled.


It wouldn't bother me at all if publishers made an additio
March 28th, 2007 @ 9:42 AM

Posted by Raven:

It wouldn't bother me at all if publishers made an additional heading for het stories, right along with the heading for GLBT. (I think a few actually do.) That seems fair, and I can see why having a heading for GLBT (or gay, or m/m, or whatever terminology us being applied) can be aggravating when an equal designation for het stories is not made. It can feel like it implies that het is the norm and everything else is "other" and needs a label. Thing is, I could say exactly the same thing about books being listed under "BBW" or "Full-Figured." It could imply to me that this is other, that skinny heroines are normal and so don't need a heading, while the non-skinny girls need a label. Were I so inclined, that could bother the hell out of me. As could perceiving that only submissive or culturally mainstream heroines are normal and so only the dominant ones need a label. Instead, what I see is that these are specific points of interest for many people and so benefit from headings that help readers find them. So while it wouldn't bother me if publishers wanted to make everything completely balanced and thus put in headings for skinny heroines, purely heterosexual couples, heroines who conform to the unspoked cultural standards of female behavior, and so on, I admit that I don't see it as necessary -- and I don't automatically infer a prejudice when the publishers don't, in fact, include these additional headings (content listings, genres, categories, whatever terminology chosen).
March 28th, 2007 @ 9:42 AM

Posted by Raven:

(And I apologize. I had no idea how long that was going to turn out to be! My kingdom for a preview option and word-count meter.)
March 28th, 2007 @ 9:43 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

I see the Masked Editor has been past and said pretty much everything I was going to say... :-)

David, not sure if Chaz's latest has a gay character, but I can ask him -- or indeed you can, as he's on LiveJournal, which is where I know him from.
March 28th, 2007 @ 12:58 PM

Posted by Sarah Frantz:

Don't know if anyone's still reading this, but part of my issue with calling books about two men in a relationship, written by women, for a mostly female audience, "gay" rather than "m/m" is that I feel that "m/m" indicates that it's by women for women, rather than by a gay man for an audience of whomever. To me "gay" would indicate written by a gay man and I would expect different generic considerations. I'd call the Romentic books "gay romance" because they're written by two gay men. I have no problem calling Matthew-Haldeman Time's "Off the Record" a "gay romance" (and incidentally, one of the best pure romances I've EVER read), because I assume Matthew is a gay man. But I feel my heterosexual privilege too much to try to label anything I might write about two men falling in love as a gay romance. Maybe I should get over myself. The labelling is certainly not conscious homophobia.
March 29th, 2007 @ 9:28 PM

Posted by David:

Sarah,

You're the first person here (I think) to admit that m/m specifically refers to stories written by women for women about men involved in a homosexual relationship. I've been getting the feeling from the discussion that most heterosexual women are much more comfortable in calling such books m/m, rather than gay _______.

However, I must contest your definition that "gay novels" are written by gay men for "whomever." I can think of many self-described "gay novels" written by women, not only in contemporary lit, but in the SF/F genre: Warren, Argiri, Arnason, Barker, Cherryh, Cooke, Duane, Fancher, Keegan, Kerr, Lynn, McHugh, Monette, Patton, Renault, Sherman, & of course, Proulx - not to mention the others I'd previously listed. To my knowledge, none of these authors expressed any problems with having their stories associated with the gay label, rather than requiring the m/m moniker be applied.

Your definition seems to relate to the position that many het women have on this subject. Novels written by gay men (featuring gay male protags) lack the emotional depth that can only be found in m/m stories written by het women. While most argue this is the case in the area of pornography (what many euphemistically call erotica today), many do not make any such distinction. For the record, a novella-length story that includes an explicit sex scene in every chapter would be stroke fiction. The fact that the characters express some emotion/love for one another for one page of text before they have sex, does not raise the story above some of the stroke fiction one can find on nifty.

There are many "gay novels" which include sex that have fully developed characters who are are emotionally connected with another character. This is not personally directed to you Sarah, but why do het women have this perception that "gay books" written by gay men (or women, as shown above), about gay men (no matter the genre), do not provide any of the emotional depth that only he
March 29th, 2007 @ 11:38 PM

Posted by David:

Cont....

There are many "gay novels" which include sex that have fully developed characters who are are emotionally connected with another character. This is not personally directed to you Sarah, but why do het women have this perception that "gay books" written by gay men (or women, as shown above), about gay men (no matter the genre), do not provide any of the emotional depth that only het women writing about two men in a homosexual relationship can provide? Is this generalization not limited only to gay men, but to all male authors? Is this the basis for the aversion to calling a book about two men in love a "gay book," or do female authors know that their female readers don't read "gay books" and calling them "m/m" makes the homosexual content more acceptable?

I do not think that all female writers of "m/m" material take this position; however, I've seen it posted so many times as to the reason why het women do not read gay fiction that I must think this anecdotal evidence has some basis in fact.
March 29th, 2007 @ 11:39 PM

Posted by Jules Jones:

David, I think it would be more accurate to say that the "by women for women" thing is because women (and remember that bi and gay women also read m/m slash and profic) feel that the erotica books published by gay male presses for gay men are lacking in the emotional depth that they are looking for. That's a lot more specific than "written by gay men", and it's a complaint some gay men have as well -- think about one of the stated reasons Scott&Scott have for setting up Romentics.

And as a generalisation -- yes, it's male authors, not gay male authors, who are often seen by women as being incapable of writing books with emotional depth. Witness the number of men writing in the straight romance field who use a female pseudonym, and with good reason. What you're seeing with "by women, for women" is largely a male cooties problem rather than a gay cooties problem. Which is a problem in its own right, of course.

My experience as an author is that a lot of women thought that Alex Woolgrave (my writing partner and I) were gay men -- and *liked* the idea of two gay men writing gay romance. From what I see on the loops, the writers who really are gay men are very popular. Back in my fanfic days, my fandom had two men nominated for the STIFfies (the slash fanfic awards), and the people who nominated and voted for them knew very well that they were men.

Continued...
March 30th, 2007 @ 12:55 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

Take a look at the thumbnail descriptions of the recent sales on my website:
http://www.julesjones.com/fiction/fiction.html

"gay romance" appears fairly frequently -- though not on everything, in part because not everything is romance. And the one het story is labelled m/f, not straight or het. When I started that page, I listed stuff as m/f, m/m etc because that's the system I was used to from fanfic. (And god help you if you had icky het in your slash and failed to warn people of the contamination...) Now I also add "gay romance" -- when I remember. Because I have to specifically remember, because it's not the terminology I'm used to. And I still have the m/m label, to make it clear that it's gay male and not gay female.

(Apologies for the advertising, Mrs G. But it's the easiest way to give a specific example.)

"By women, for women" yes. But look at the flip side. There are plenty of men, gay and straight, who are quite vocal about not wanting to read erotica written by women, because women insist on dragging mushy emotions in and spoiling the sex. To which the response from many women is, "Tough noogies. We didn't write it for _you_." I am enormously glad that there are gay men like yourself who read and enjoy the gay romances I write. But the guys who complain that there's too much touchy-feely stuff? I didn't write it for _them_. I wrote it for other women, and the men who do enjoy a good mushy romance.

Some of the history behind this is that modern slash fandom in part grew out of Trek fandom. A lot of women who got into science fiction fandom via Trek found themselves marginalised by male sf fans, who even to this day often have a terror of being contaminated by girl cooties. "That's not real sf. That sucks. We don't want to read it. You shouldn't be allowed to write it." "Well, we didn't write it for _you_. It's by women, for women, and we're not going to stop just because it makes men feel uncomfortable." It is in fact a reaction to exactly t
March 30th, 2007 @ 12:56 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

Some of the history behind this is that modern slash fandom in part grew out of Trek fandom. A lot of women who got into science fiction fandom via Trek found themselves marginalised by male sf fans, who even to this day often have a terror of being contaminated by girl cooties. "That's not real sf. That sucks. We don't want to read it. You shouldn't be allowed to write it." "Well, we didn't write it for _you_. It's by women, for women, and we're not going to stop just because it makes men feel uncomfortable." It is in fact a reaction to exactly the same sort of marginalisation you're concerned about, but directed against women rather than gays. "So where you're hearing "gays keep out", what's being said (in some cases at least) is, "Even if you try to keep women out, we'll still be doing our thing over here, and you can't stop us."

It occurs to me that I should add that in my fandom there were a number of straight men who read and enjoyed m/m slash, even if they preferred f/f. Their attitude was that a good story's a good story, and they can always mentally edit the pink bits. And there were a lot of bi and gay women on the fanfic mailing list. So I personally am used to thinking of my target audience being predominantly but not exclusively female, and far from exclusively "straight women, gay men".
March 30th, 2007 @ 12:57 AM

Posted by Chaz:

David -

The new series - collectively "Selling Water by the River", individually "Bridge of Dreams" and "River of the World" - does have a couple of gay characters, but neither of them is a lead or a point-of-view (oh, and there's something else about them that I am so not going to tell you...). Theirs is very much a sub-plot, drawn by inference.
March 30th, 2007 @ 3:56 AM

Posted by David:

Jules,

Actually in my last post, I was expanding my discussion to include any and all "gay books," not just those one would classify as romance, erotica, or pornography. A more boarder view of stories with gay male protagonists, that did not contain explicit sex. I guess my attempt to expand the discussion is not interesting. :)

Yes, I've heard the complaint about the dearth of emotional content of gay erotic novels from women. Personally, I don't read a lot of short stories as I perfer novels. Alyson and other gay publishers have published anthologies of gay erotica; however, I've not recently read any, so can't comment on their lack of emotional content. However, I think there have been many gay novels, that have been published by small/gay presses, which provide as much, or even more, emotional depth as is found in the average m/m e-book. (see list in nest post)

I could imagine a complaint that there has not been enough good gay books. This I can get behind, but that is not something that is new to me. I grew up reading books that did not have any gay protagonists, much less identifiable positive gay characters. It was not that long ago that it was illegal in some states (and still is in several countries) to publish/sell books with positive gay characters, much less explicit gay sex. While there has been progress on many fronts, one must remember that coming out as a teenager in the 70's was rare. Most either remained in the closet for decades, or after they left home/college. I won't bore you with a history lession, but suffice it to say that the identifiable market for gay books was not (and is still not) sufficient to support more than a handfull of small publishers.

A reader of romance/erotica (het, of course) is presented with 5 or more new titles every week from NYC publishers. How many books does Alyson publish annually? 20? 30? Some of these are the anthologies of stories that may have already been published in a variety of skin magazines. Be
March 30th, 2007 @ 10:41 PM

Posted by David:

A reader of romance/erotica (het, of course) is presented with 5 or more new titles every week from NYC publishers. How many books does Alyson publish annually? 20? 30? Some of these are the anthologies of stories that may have already been published in a variety of skin magazines. Because publishing is a business that has seen some hard times, mainstream publishers are not willing to publish books they think would appeal to a minority of readers. Even more, small publishers are reluctant to publish books that they think might not appeal to their core market. Alyson is just following such logic.

As to trek, well, please do not blame gay men for the actions of straight trek nerds!! :) Actually, I know many gay men (myself included) who watched Star Trek, but none that I know got so involved in it as to go to the conventions. I am not saying there are no gay trekkies at cons, but I think we would be in the minority at those cons. While SF/F has this aura of breaking new boundaries, it has been very heterosexual. And when you get a lot of unsocialized males who are insecure about themselves, the last thing they want is for anyone to question their sexuality; thus is born the hyper-heterosexuality one can see in many of the 50's pulp SF stories. I think that even today these insecure male trekkies would reject any type of slash fiction, just because it might call into question their sexuality.
March 30th, 2007 @ 10:52 PM

Posted by David:

A list of a few gay books by gay/small presses in the past 30+ years that I think have as much emotional depth as presented in some m/m books being published today. (Caveat: Some of these I have not read in years, but I think they met my criterea.)

Bayard, Louis Fool's Errand
Boyd, Eric Mike & Me
Craft, Michael All of his mystery novels
Curlovich, John Michael Blood Prophet: A Novel
Curlovich, John Michael The Blood of Kings : A Novel
Delaney, Dylan Neil
Eakins, William K. Key West 2720 A.D.
Edenbridge, Guy Brotherhood
Elliott, Ben Gladiator School
Ellis, Edward Greek Way, The
Fall, Christian King's Men, The
Fox, Brandon All of his books
Gilbert, Peter Last Taboo, The
Gordon, Jack Dark Rider
Grey, Dorien All of his books
Grimsley, Jim All of his books
Hale, Keith Cody
Harris, Christopher Theodore
Harrison, Don Alexandrian Drachma, The
Harrison, Don Lion Warriors
Harrison, Don Spartan
Howard, Larry Lions' Den, The : a novel
Hunter, Fred Government Gay
Hunter, Jeff Conquistador
Hunter, M. S. Buccaneer: etc.
Ingham, Anthea Sebastian's Tangibles
Iversen, Cap The Dakota Series
Jensen, Michael Firelands : A Novel
Jensen, Michael Frontiers
Johnson, Toby Secret Matter
Kasting, Peter Journey of a Thousand Miles
Kluger, Steve Changing Pitches
Kraus, Krandall Love's Last Chance
Kraus, Krandall President's Son: A Novel, The
Lanyon, Josh A Dangerous Thing
Lanyon, Josh Fatal Shadows
Lardo, Vincent Prince and the Pretender
Lear, James Low Road, The
Lear, James The Back Passage
Lefcourt, Peter Dreyfus Affair : Love Story, A
Mackle, Elliott It Takes Two: A Novel
MacLennan, Alex The Zookeeper : A Novel
Mains, Geoffrey Gentle warriors
Maltese, William All of his books
McMahan, Jeffrey N. Vampires Anonymous
Merrick, Gordon All of his books
Moore, Patrick Iowa
Morris, Gavin Virginia Bedfellows
Myers, John L. Holy Family
Pierce, David M. Elf Child
Plakcy, Neil S. Mahu
Schiefelbein, Michael Blood B
March 30th, 2007 @ 10:55 PM

Posted by David:

Schiefelbein, Michael Blood Brothers
Schiefelbein, Michael Vampire Vow
Seabrook, Mike All of his books
Thorogood, Stuart Outcast
Thorogood, Stuart Outside In
Virga, Vincent Gaywyck
Wood, Nick Light Out
March 30th, 2007 @ 10:55 PM

Posted by Jules Jones:

David, it read to me not as if you were expanding the discussion to a general discussion of gay-themed books, but expanding the specific claim that women think that books by gay men lack emotional depth; expanding it from erotica and romance to all books. So I was responding to that claim. It's quite possible that a lot of women think that, but the "by women, for women" thing is in my experience largely about material with erotic content, whether softcore or hardcore. And I think that really is "men can't write emotion" rather than "gay men can't write emotion", with a large helping of "publishers think men won't read emotion in their smut" on top. Some women from slash fandom are aware of the latter because they know gay men in slash fandom who bitch about that problem.

As for the dearth of good gay literature -- I can't really comment, because my reading is strongly skewed to science fiction and fantasy, and always has been. And while the sf genre has its share of homophobia, it also has a good many books with sympathtic bi and gay characters who are allowed to lead normal lives. Not necessarily blissfully happy lives, but only because any character is going to have problems if they are to be an interesting character in a book, not because gay characters have to be shown to be punished for being gay. So I was reading books like Arthur C Clarke's Imperial Earth in my early teens, without even particularly noticing at the time the subtext of bi and gay being considered normal.
March 31st, 2007 @ 1:51 AM

Posted by Jules Jones:

I can certainly understand the small press problems -- look at who's publishing the gay romances right now. Not the big New York publishers, including the one that actually has a gay literature imprint. It's the epublishers, the ones who can afford to take a chance, and the ones who aren't affected by the choice of individual bookshops or chains on whether or where to stock gay romance. I've seen this from personal experience, as The Syndicate was in Loose Id's pilot print programme. It's sold significantly more copies of ebooks through LI's own website than it has in print, even allowing for the ebook having been out for a year longer. And I see the het books from Loose Id in the romance section in my local Borders, but my book is classed as gay erotica, or gay and lesbian studies. At least it sells slowly but steadily through Amazon.

[looks at booklist] You are a bad, bad man. I already have a TBR stack *this* high, and I'm going to the local secondhand bookshop this morning to hunt for out of print gay regencies for someone...

David -- there's a discussion going on somewhere else about GLBT sf romance that you might be interested in. I think it's a group where anyone can read, but only members can post. Email me for the details, and I'll forward comments for you if you want.
March 31st, 2007 @ 1:51 AM

Posted by Sarah Frantz:

This thing is, I hardly ever read SF/F at all, unless you hold a gun to my head or I've liked the author's other stuff a LOT. I'll read it if it's obvious to me that the story is really about the romance, not about the world building. So I can't comment from that direction at all. So I think going with what Jules has said so eloquently, it's all about the guy cooties, rather than the gay cooties--what a difference a vowel makes. I HAVE read some of Alyson's recent anthologies, and what I'm looking for there are stories in which the characters break boundaries for themselves, which counts for me as emotional content. And I guess on a larger scale, that's what emotional content is all about: breaking boundaries. I'm not being very coherent.

I will say again, however, that I absolutely think individual men can write emotion: Matthew Haldeman-Time being the best example I can come up with. However, in general, I don't read male authors, because as a whole, their female characters suck and they can't write a proper romance. Vast generalization warning there!

FWIW, the characters of most of the m/m romances I read are unabashedly gay, rather than deluded or straight but not narrow. So they certainly consider themselves gay.
April 1st, 2007 @ 4:30 AM

Posted by Dusk:

Coming in late. . . . I edit True Tales: An Erotic E-zine of Masculinity and Power, which has published slash writers. It has also published gay leather writers, who produce the most masculinity-oriented stories in gay literature. I've marketed the e-zine to both communities, and as far as I can tell from who's signing up for updates, it's been equally successful in both communities.

Of course, what this reflects is that my tastes are on the soft end of leather and on the hard end of slash. But I do think that there's a crossover area between slash erotic fiction and gay erotic fiction that attracts readers from both communities.
May 5th, 2007 @ 12:52 PM

Posted by Dusk:

David wrote:

". . . catergories based on the romantic/sexual dynamics of the main characters in the story: m/f, m/m, f/f, m/f/f, m/m/f, m/m/m, f/f/f, etc. We'll have no need for pesky genres like romance, mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, etc., as long as we know the slash configuration."

*Ahem*. This has already happened.

Why do I suspect that you don't visit erotica forums? :) M/M has been in use there for quite a while (since at least 1994, according to the posts I'm turning up in Google Groups) to signify a gay pairing involving two adult men. It's used at ASSGM, among other places (this being the largest newsgroup for gay porn). I rather suspect that the slash community stole the term from the erotica community, or else there must have been a parallel development.

I agree that it would be nice to have m/f as well as m/m. In communities where m/m stories and m/f stories are equally likely to occur, this actually happens - as Ms. Jones pointed out, it occurs in the fan fiction community.

"Renault, Sherman, & of course,
Proulx - not to mention the others I'd previously listed. To my knowledge, none of these authors expressed any problems with having their stories associated with the gay label, rather than requiring the m/m moniker be applied."

Well, Renault certainly didn't call her Ancient Greek characters gay. :) I apply the term homoerotic to my historical fantasy stories because my stories are set in worlds that have a different concept of sexual orientation than ours does. Gay has a whole bunch of implications of fixed orientation that just isn't applicable to some other places and eras. Since a goodly amount of m/m works are non-contemporary, this may be part of the reason some authors choose that terminology.

However, my leather stories are gay. Period.
May 5th, 2007 @ 12:53 PM

Posted by D.J. Manly:

I look forward to the day when we can completely get rid of these labels all together. Love is just love, it doesn't matter what biological sex the characters are. If a story is well written and the reader can relate to it on some level...beautiful. As for what gay men men think of women writing stories which feature gay men falling in love and having sex...if love is held by the author above all things...no matter who is doing the loving...then why would there be a problem? Respect, dignity and the inability to accept any compromise when it comes to equality is the number one priniciple. Not all readers will like a story...not all people..gay..straight or purple are exactly the same. Writing is fiction...which means it's fantasy...but that doesn't mean certain principles shouldn't be respected. This is an old argument and it's a tautology...goes round and round. Can men write women characters? Can White write Black...?? It all comes down to heart rather than head...and a hell of a lot of talent.
Thanks. D.J. :)
February 10th, 2008 @ 6:42 AM