Queer Romance Month (5) with Alexis Hall, Beverley Jansen and Guest Star!:
Welcome everyone to the fifth, and final, discussion of the week’s posts celebrating QRM 2014.
I am delighted to be joined again by Alexis Hall and Julio Alexi Genao – This week, after the discussion relating to new posts, I thought we could sum up what we will individually take away from this year’s QRM and maybe mention some posts, which stood out for each of us.
BJ: Maybe I should start as I know our guests have had a busy week especially Alexis with the release of Prosperity, and running the incredibly enjoyable Facebook Steampunk Flashgroup.
AJH: Imma ded. In a good way. But I’m ded.
BJ: I’m not surprised but all your enterprises have been great successes and enjoyed by many so take a pat on the back!
AJH: As long as it’s a gentle pat. But, omg, QRM.
JAG: [sweeps into the room magisterially] people, people. please. no need for all these accolades. i am but a humble scribe plying my craft brilliantly. what a week, eh?
BJ: Julio! Winner of most comments on QRM for your lovely post… (closets.) on Monday!
JAG: i won a thing? what’d i win?
BJ: My undying admiration 🙂
JAG: if you’re going to talk about it i’m going to have to turn into addison de witt to disguise my embarrassment/pleasure.
BJ: You get embarrassed? :p
JAG: oi! settle down in the cheap seats. so, AJH? we’re done. you may take your final victory lap. Queer Romance Month is a thing that has happened to planet earth.
AJH: It happened because of an awful lot of people – the other organisers, people like Kat and Kaetrin and Pam and Karen, who stepped into to help with the admin, Catherine Dair who did the artwork, all the writers who contributed, all the bloggers, all the readers… it’s happened because the community wanted it, and needed it, and here we are. It’s been amazing, the whole month, but do we have any favourites from the final week?
BJ: Well my first was an outstanding post by E.E. Ottoman Why We Need Trans* Romance. It was simply laid out, easy to understand and packed an emotional punch. It made me want to be the kind of writer that was good enough to give them a story with an HEA they could identify with.
JAG: that post… yeah. it spoke to every part of me. i found it pretty thrilling to read, to be honest. we spoke last week about empathy, and how a lack of it leads to human suffering. a post like that makes it easier for people to empathise. i was stunned.
BJ: I think I mentioned on AJ’s FB group that it was a shame E.E was a guest there before we had a chance to read their QRM post. I think the ensuing discussion would have been really interesting.
JAG: that was a great interview all the same, tho. happy to have gotten a chance to interact with EE. the post going live the next day was icing on the cake.
BJ: Absolutely well said. Did you have a favourite you wanted to mention JAG?
JAG: indubitably: vanessa north’s Under The Bustle. what a delightful short! lesbians! weddings! um… bustles! i thought it was fantastic. so sweet, and good-hearted, and… authentic, really. strange as it may be to say.
BJ: It was a great contrast to Sarah Brooks – Tragedy and Lesbian Love.
AJH: I loved that post as well. I think the thing I take away from Queer Romance Month, posts like that and EE Ottoman’s is … how fucking tragic it is that most of us have grown up in a world that told us our love was wrong and fucked up and our stories didn’t deserve to be told. I know it sounds ridiculous but I’ve sort of carried that small wound for a long time, maybe all my life.
JAG: it’s not ridiculous. all queers carry that wound. i’d venture to say that maybe all people do, too, in some fashion. it’s… stuck with me, too.
AJH: Yes but we don’t normally go around, buying milk and reading the paper, thinking about Our Wounds, man, Our Wounds. Most of the time I don’t think we notice. But Queer Romance Month has, uh, helped actually. I mean because the focus was so broad. Just all these people coming together to tell stories, and share them, including people who don’t identify as queer themselves, but believing in those stories too. That’s humbling to me. And powerful.
JAG: we don’t need to go around thinking about it. we’re reminded of them every day. every time we hesitate to reach for a loved one. every time we talk to an employer, or visit a hospital, or… anything, really. it’s not at all ridiculous to be mindful of it because i don’t see how we’re ever given an opportunity to forget.
AJH: I noticed this month, but I felt soothed as well.
JAG: yes, i thought as soon as i said it: except for times like these. except for things like QRM. it’s been glorious.
AJH: I’m so grateful for everything everyone has given I could honestly fucking cry.
BJ: I can honestly say I have cried over many of the posts. I especially felt the wonder of QRM when there was a post by Victoria Zager about Everyone Deserves their Love Story: Asexuality in Queer Romance, now if ever a part of the rainbow was avoided where romance is concerned, in novels etc. surely, asexuality is it. The post was heartbreaking in its highlighting of loneliness.
JAG: it was pretty great, yes. so many amazing posts, speaking to things i never really had occasion to speak to before, odd as that may sound. it’s just not—these things all these great QRM authors wrote about—they’re just not things you talk about, as AJH said, on your daily rounds. but they’re there, in your heart. and reading so many brilliant and impassioned discussions of them was truly a gift.
BJ: I can honestly say I’m a slightly different person to the one who wrote the post at the beginning of QRM because of the amazing personal stories and revelations through original writing that have been included.
AJH: Just to awkwardly take the conversation back a step, there’s also a great post about asexuality in romance by Sam Burke. Both of these posts, actually, came about because of the truly marvellous Tracy Timmons-Grey (who wrote us the amazing post we mentioned earlier). Because it was the first year of QRM, we did what we could with what we had, spoke to people knew, and tried to bring things together. But that only really began to come together when other people came forward. And obviously we’d tried to approach as many people as possible, and get them to approach people, and I was aware that asexuality was under-represented in the schedule, but then Tracy got in touch and was like “hey, what about Victoria and Sam” and I wrote to them in, like, the middle of October going … hey, please, do you want to be involved with this, and both of them just went for it. Writing us posts in a week or something. That just felt like community was working.
JAG: QRM was richer for them. all three of those posts—TTG’s, Victoria’s, and Sam’s—were really remarkable.
AJH: Yes. Kaje Harper was the same – just came out of nowhere, going, I want to do this, can I help? And she wrote us a beautiful story in the middle of October. It’s this sort of thing that’s made QRM, really.
JAG: isn’t kaje amazing? she can write like the wind. i dunno how she does it. right, then: what else?
AJH: I have another off-site post to mention, actually. On Friday—I think it was Friday—Dabney posted a piece to the All About Romance blog, about her own responses to QRM. AAR has been really supportive of QRM from the beginning, and that sort of thing really matters. The truth is, queer romance is marginalised and there’s no particular reason for people who aren’t to give a damn. If romance as a genre already has you covered, why do you need to care about the stories other people need to hear?
BJ: I hate to disagree but I think people will give a damn when they truly realise the work they are missing out on. QRM is definitely one way to promote Queer Romance, and the people to whom it matters greatly, but I honestly believe (and hope) that the incredible quality of the writing being produced will encourage readers to accept queer characters in writing and not as secondary ones.
JAG: huh. now it’s me who hates to disagree: i don’t think that’s really the case at all. i think people who find their way to queer romances via het romance do so because they’re already open to them in some measurable way. the fact that many queer romances are excellent matters nothing to the staunch het reader.
BJ: I suppose I’m being naive 🙁
AJH: I’m with JAG. There are plenty of readers who see queer as a minor sub-genre of het. And, honestly, I very much believe in readers being able to make personal choices based on their own preferences. I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you don’t want to read about “teh gays”. But I think when you get into something that is not really about preference and about morality – the representation of people who aren’t you – personal preference becomes irrelevant. Not in the sense that you HAVE to read it and like it, but in the sense that it’s a cruel and unnecessary thing to deny that stories about other people are worth less than stories about you. Or worse, that they’re a subset of stories about you! And while I definitely don’t think it’s the job of those with power and privilege to kindly make room for us in their playground, I do appreciate it when places like All About Romance or Heroes and Heartbreakers, or any of these other big romance institutions, are including queer as a matter of course.
JAG: yes, precisely. on the flipside, there is something especially galling about institutions who behave as if our stories are as marginal as our politics, instead of as universal and true and important as any of the others. it’s what makes QRM such a vital and necessary thing, really—the validation of… of our validity. of our humanity.
BJ: Maybe I’m just naive and new to this, but I don’t understand why quality writing, whether it be het or ‘other’ won’t win through in the end. Do you really believe that if a reader is staunchly a het reader they would rather read a sub standard het romance than a work like Prosperity?!
JAG: in short: yes.
Bj: That is so very sad and not what I wanted to bring to this post as I’d hoped it would be upbeat all the way through.
AJH: I’m sorry. But that’s the reality of it. And also why we need QRM.
JAG: if it’s any consolation to you, i am high as kite right now.
AJH: Any other choice posts this week?
BJ: Yes I wanted to mention the very gentle and lovely post by Catherine Dair: Pictures of Love.
JAG: ooh, yes. that was lovely.
AJH: Catherine is amazing – and I loved that piece. Again, talking about marginalisation without our own community, there’s a lot of emphasis on images of men together (romantic and/or sexual). So I thought the fact that she chose to two portray two women was actually very powerful.
BJ: I’m not sure if this is the correct moment in the discussion to mention another post but I was strangely thrilled to see Rebecca Cohen’s post about Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20 because Shakespeare was found to be still relevant and referenced during QRM in the year 2014…what say ye?
AJH: Ah yes, that was lovely. I also enjoyed SA Meade on Siegfried Sassoon as well, if we’re talking queer poetry. Oh, and on a slightly different note, I adored Sanda Schwab’s A Fantasy of Empowerment. She is such a thrillingly intelligent writer it, err, thrills me. I loved the way she integrated het romance and queer romance – demonstrating how they actually support each other, rather than work against.
JAG: ‘on “bisexual”’ by cecilia tan. discuss.
BJ: I totally agreed with her when she said she identified with the Vulcan or the Elf or the cat in films and stories rather than the male or female leads lol. That was me too!
AJH: There have been a lot of really excellent and powerful posts about bisexuality. I confess I always feel faintly guilty about them, like I left a bunch of people in the trenches to finish a war that affects me.
JAG: i have to admit similar feelings, myself. it’s possible to become subject to a bit of myopia as far as your own struggles are concerned, as opposed to a generalist view that encompasses the experiences of people in similar circumstances. when you said earlier, BJ, that you have finished QRM a different person than when you began, i wanted to say: me too. i am really very grateful for the platform QRM has given to all these different voices from perspectives not so very far from my own.
AJH: I appreciated Tan’s exploration of bisexuality as identity and label – there’s this in particular:
That should be pretty simple, right? But there doesn’t seem to be a good, easy vernacular idiom for “gender isn’t part of my love equation.” Bisexual is the closest word we’ve got. Which doesn’t mean I haven’t had an on-again, off-again relationship with the word ever since that day in 1977. These days the word is going through a spate of criticism as if the “bi” part of it implies that there are only two genders, thereby erasing the multiplicity of gender variation. Um, no. The “bi” is there because the two main gender categories are imposed on us, not because we agree with them, and the creation and use of the word bisexual means we’re DODGING the two boxes, not that we support the existence of the two boxes.
AJH: It just goes to show, really, how … inexact and subjective language is. I don’t believe the word bisexual is inherently gender binarist (at least no more than homosexual is – both of those imply two genders) … but, to me, queer is the idiom for “gender isn’t part of my love equation” rather than bisexual. Which isn’t to say using bisexual is wrong at all – I just feel that I’ve pretty much had the same sexuality arc as Cecilia Tan (although probably less adventurously) and we’ve both come what is basically the same conclusion except chosen to stick a different label on ourselves.
JAG: whereas i have had the SOLIDLY QUEER arc with a brief diversion into heterosexuality in high school / college. for me, tho… i really struggled with labels. definition is important when you’ve got nothing else to hold on to, but it is increasingly seeming like that’s a rather old-fashioned view of things. i have made many embarrassing assertions about bisexual people and even trans people, simply because the new nomenclature didn’t fit into the perception of the world i’d come by with such difficulty. if i’m honest, i can admit to embarrassment about that.
AJH: Well, I find life as “oh I don’t care, call me queer” infinitely easier than life as a bisexual – which is kind of the identity straights and gays unite to spit on. But I agree that the need for labels lessens as you get older and are more comfortable in your own understanding of who you are and who you want to be with.
JAG: i’m so hot for you right now.
AJH: Here’s my number … call me queer … doesn’t quite work.
JAG: [visibly aroused]
BJ: What you both said. Did you know that in the animal kingdom there are as many as five genders and they have descriptions and names for each one and accept and celebrate the different nuances and behaviours. How come we can’t be more open and accepting of the Human Race???
JAG: bcuz stupid. next question.
BJ: You make it hard to facilitate conversation sometimes LOL
JAG: whatever. i’m a rebel.
AJH: Anything else about QRM. I did love Josh Lanyon’s post Silver Wings. It was beautifully unexpected (country music, whut!), and I was really grateful to him for doing it, especially because I just wrote to him out of nowhere going like “hey, do you want to involved in this?” and QRM could have been complete disaster. But he was really supportive and encouraging, and that actually really made a difference. And occasionally I’d have these “omg, is this a terrible idea, what have I done” moments and then think to myself “well, if Josh Lanyon thinks it’s worth doing, it’s probably not going to be a complete disaster.”
JAG: i was particularly pleased when he agreed to participate. we need our Big Names™ as much as we need our little ones, and there are few bigger than his.
BJ: I think it was an excellent way to end QRM with a John Lanyon post that summed things up rather well I thought. QRM was always a wonderful idea AJ, and Josh Lanyon sealed the deal for some, but so many people have been talking about QRM this year, I’m sure many more authors will be knocking on your door for 2015
AJH: I was thrilled with everyone who contributed in 2014 – from people like Kat who just had something to say, to New York Times bestsellers. A principle with QRM from the very beginning was … if you want to contribute, we want you. I mean, how can you champion inclusion while not practising it? I think it worked out really well in the end.
JAG: it really, really did. i’ve never been prouder of anything in my life, nor prouder of anyone than i am of you, AJH.
AJH: Oh my. blushdie
BJ: I have to say to Alexis, and everyone involved, I truly think QRM has been an amazing success and very important as well. So AJH and JAG whilst we have you both here what can you tell us about QRM 2015
AJH: I honestly haven’t thought about it yet. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be needed. I guess we’ll see how things go for queer romance over the next few months but, uh, one thing is clear … it needs a bigger behind-the-scenes team 🙂 There was a lot of extra integration and outreach we could have done, but we just didn’t have the person-power. But, oh God, don’t make me think about this yet 🙂
JAG: plenty of time to kvetch about next year…
BJ: I think we just wanted to know that there will be a QRM 2015, but I think you definitely deserve some rest AJ.
AJH: collapses happily veryhappywithqrmthankyoueverybodydednow
I would like to thank Alexis Hall and Julio Alexi Genao for today and all the past discussions. I have loved every minute of their company. They can rest, but Prism is not done with either of them….not by a long shot. Watch this space.
JAG: cheers, BJ. thanks for the chat. i had a ball.
BJ: 😉 (scared to leave in case they change everything)…
JAG: [changes everything to reflect the massive length and girth of his penis]
BJ: Here’s the magnifying glass I promised you…
BJ: Ok. I’m going to love you and leave you for Strictly Come Dancing (did they know how that title could be misconstrued?)
AJH: We always mis-punctuate it in this household.
JAG: it’s ‘strikkly’ in this household. 2 of 3 felines agree.
BJ: It’s ‘strikkly’ in this household too.
AJH We call it Strictly [pause] Come-Dancing. Like that. Because we are immature.
JAG: omg we r too!
BJ: Has there ever been a more perfectly gorgeous camp show??? I wuv it. (Oh except for Great British Bake Off!)
JAG: i love that show. i fucking love that show.
BJ: ….fades away…
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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