Week Four was another fantastic week for Queer Romance Month – I sincerely hope that some of our readers, who were busy with GRL, had a wonderful time, but can chill out now, and read the amazing posts up on the QRM site – Click HERE
This week Prism is pleased to welcome a Twitter diva par excellence, behind the scenes QRM volunteer, and all round friend with a glittery black heart Miss Kat Fantastico! She has written a passionate round up of this week’s posts, and includes an intriguing list of what to look out for next week!
First of all Ulysses continues his statesman-like round-up of QRM below:
I think I’m getting the drift of this year’s “We All Need Stories” for Queer Romance Month. The threads that appear each week are very clear: it’s about the “all” in “we all.” The “need” is the same for all of us and for each of us: we need to be visible. We need to see ourselves and our experiences in the words on those pages. We need to feel hope – the hope of love, the hope of acceptance, the hope of a happy-ever-after insofar as mortal life can offer one. As Kirby Crowe noted this week, HEA is not true to life – and that’s why we need these stories.
The “all” is clearly the hard part. If you follow these things, and you’re as old as I am, you’re aware that the 10% minority that “we” used to represent has been whittled away to perhaps 5% (some say less but I can’t deal with that). This is to say that of people who apparently identify as L, G and B – on whatever these surveys we’re told about – come in at 5% or under.
And you then realize that the TQ+ folks are a minority within our minority. Frankly, I miss the 10-percent days. It was a nice solid number when we marched on Washington and paraded in New York and invaded the suburbs with our (apparently) heteronormative fantasies.
But there you are. The miracle is that we now have a body of people – the majority of whom appear to be straight cisgender women – who are intent on making us visible, on giving us the stories we need; even if originally their audience was each other and not us. How incredible is that I found the m/m world at 55 when I desperately needed it; when I felt completely invisible as an aging gay man in a world obsessed with abs and fashion and youth? Hollywood and most pop culture continues to marginalize us and erase us because the only thing they care about is profit. I’ll echo Annabeth Albert’s sweet shout-out to her autobuy authors: thank you for writing what you do and giving us what we need.
It is a rare moment in my life when I feel like an oppressor, other than in relation to my children. But, as a cisgendered white man, and an admitted child of privilege all my life (other than the gay part), it’s getting hard not to flinch with guilt when I read about the double-barrelled isolation and loneliness of some of the bloggers this week.
As hard as it is to believe, it is possible to be more invisible than someone else. It is possible to feel more erased than other queer folk from pop culture and queer lit.
Non-binary; bisexual; asexual; non-white; trans; disabled; on the spectrum; kinky; queer. John Goode’s angst about the word queer itself is, I think, well founded. I smile wistfully at his utopian vision of a post-queer world. Wouldn’t it be nice? But I still feel queer is the one word that touches on a commonality in our diverse lives. In one way or another – or a few – we’re “off.” What the stories we need provide for us is the reminder that “off” is not the same as bad. Using the word queer might seem to be self-isolating, but what it really is, is armour with which we can strengthen our resolve not to feel less just because we’re different.
I was particularly struck by Harper Fox’s comment that straight kids need queer romances as much as we do – but for a different reason. We need them to feel visible; straight kids (and adults) need queer romances in order to see into our lives and to understand us better. If you take away ignorance and replace it with empathy, then you begin to break down isolation and pave the way for acceptance.
Fox brought up Rita Mae Brown, the first big-time crossover lesbian writer, whose Rubyfruit Jungle was read by lots of straight college kids. She also cited Mary Renault – a lesbian writer who moved to South Africa to live her life in peace. I’ll never forget reading Mary Renault’s The Last of the Wine as a tenth grader in prep school. It was the first time in my life that I read any book (much less in school) where the two main characters were men in love. For a boy just realizing that he was gay, it was a revelation that changed my life.
Amy Lane’s wondering about whether queer romance ultimately helped move marriage equality forward gave me pause. Could it have? Whether or not it actually did, the very presence of this queer romance has surely created legions of straight supporters for gay folk (remembering that the readers of m/m were originally by and large straight) and how can that not help all of us? Jenn Burke’s adorable tale of her parents reading her gay romance novel and how it changed them is something we need to keep in mind.
I think the most important message I got this week was about the need for us to write our own stories. Mainstream publishers and most straight authors are not going to do it for us. Encouraging writers of m/m fiction to broaden their horizons and add more diversity to their characters and their plotlines is fair enough; but if writing what you know is what makes a great book, then it is very possibly up to us to take that particular beast by the horns and help make it happen ourselves.
Now let’s hear from Miss Kat Fantastico!:
This week’s posts have been gloriously varied and nothing short of stellar. Here are some that particularly stood out for me.
One of my most favourite posts from the whole event is Not Just For Me by EE Ottoman. EE wrote about the need for trans stories about every type of person there is, and how they want those stories out there – not just for them, but for their little 3yo nephew (who may or may not grow up to be trans) and anyone else who needs them. The list of stories EE wanted to see written almost read like a manifesto and I just hope that people see it and want to write and publish them because it’s so vitally important that everyone is able to read stories about people like themselves.
Some of the best posts tend to be the more personal ones. The Equality of Differences by Ais Lin was such a post and had Ais explaining how and why as an asexual lesbian she hasn’t felt like a normal person for most of her life. I think it would have resonated with a lot of people who also feel as though they don’t adhere to what are considered societal norms. It was educational and an ultimately uplifting post about coming to terms with and being unapologetic for who you are.
Another post that was as brave as much as it was personal was Why I Wrote Cam Girl by Leah Raeder. You often hear authors speak about a part of themselves appearing in their books. I mean, I think it’s impossible for anyone who creates something, to do so and not include a part of themselves. So for an author to turn around and say they wrote their book–not just with a part of them–but as a way to be honest about who they are, is bravery personified. It cannot be underestimated how important posts like that one are and how it can have an impact on someone experiencing something similar.
Quote of the week has to come from the excellent We all need stories – but which ones? And why? by Harper Fox.
But until the word “mainstream” ceases to have a meaning – until all our streams run peacefully and unpolluted to the ocean where love really is just love – the rainbow authors still have work to do, and remit far beyond the boundaries of entertainment and romance.
The message that everybody–old and young–deserve and need to be able to see themselves in the books they read and are as deserving of their HEA, was simplicity in itself and perfect for how much truth there was in it.
A conversation with a volunteer at a signing at the RWA convention was the basis of In Search of the Golden Heart by Amy Lane. A volunteer named Jean and Amy spoke about the Marriage Equality law coming to pass and whether LBGQT+ literature and specifically m/m romance had any impact at all and they both agreed it did. The post then goes on to make the valid point that fiction opens up our minds and makes us more empathic – both of which I wholeheartedly agree with. This one gave me all the feels which, considering who it was written by, should surprise no one.
As an aside, I’m now insanely jealous of Jean because she got to hug Amy Lane. cries
We All Need Stories by Cole McCade was about how problematic checkboxes are. How they are alienating and essentially dehumanising. How, as a person, you have the right not to be labelled or be defined by the labels that are put on you. I’d never heard of Cole McCade until I uploaded his post. I’ve since read blog posts by him and his ability to talk so much truth and sense is a joy to behold. He makes me get heart eyes.
I think we all have that one book that speaks to us (hellooo, Sutphin Boulevard), that we feel was written especially for us and us alone. A Love Letter To Nancy Garden’s ‘Annie On My Mind’ by Marieke Nijkamp was a post that ably demonstrated the positive impact books can have on you. If I hadn’t already written my own love letter to my book on Goodreads, then this post would have inspired me to do so.
I wanted to stand on a box and shout, “Halle-fucking-lujah!” when I read On Writing Bisexual Characters, by Christina Lee. In the 18 months I’ve been reading m/m, a huge source of irritation for me has been the term ‘gay for you’ to define a trope where a man is straight until he meets another man who has the ability to make him gay presumably by the power of his magical cock. Saying ‘gay for you’ is tantamount at times (because I think there are maybe exceptions) to bi erasure as it’s denying people the right to define who they are and what relationships meant to them when they had them. Christina Lee writing a post explaining why she wrote not one, but two bisexual characters in her m/m book and had them define themselves as being bi instead of it being regarded as a ‘double gay for you’ story, needs to be lauded.
Another post touching on bisexuality was We All Need Stories by Alex Beecroft. Inspired by a comment on Tumblr about Trowchester Blues, this post really got across how there is so much alienation for young people trying to come to terms with who they are and where they fit in in the world. It also highlighted how strides have been made over the years in respects of those from marginalised groups feeling safe, but there’s still a ways to go. Stark realism coupled with hope made this post a particularly special one.
It’s hard to pick a favourite post from the last week, but there was a one which had me going, “YES. THIS. ALL OF THIS” and left me wishing I’d written it myself. Dear Auto-buy Authors by Annabeth Albert was a letter from Annabeth (writing as a reader) appreciating and thanking authors for doing what they do. I read an awful lot. I’ve amassed a quite a selection of favourite authors. But there are only three that I would consider auto-buys. My auto- buy authors (Alexis Hall, Santino Hassell and Jordan Castillo Price) could write whatever and I’d still buy it blindly because they are the ones who have earned my trust the most. Reading is my ultimate comfort; it’s my happy place. Knowing I have authors who can be trusted to meet certain emotional needs at particular times is such a balm and makes me want to wave that post at them so they know that what they do… well, it’s very much appreciated and means everything. I don’t think anyone who reads for pleasure, would be able to read that post and not agree with every word that was written. I loved it.
There wasn’t a post I disagreed with per se, but Queer by John Goode was the one post from this week where I thought disagreement could come from others. It was very much a post where people’s perspectives about what the word ‘queer’ meant to them, would affect how they viewed the post. Not everyone agreed with what he said, but it was still right that he was able to say it. One of the best things about QRM is that all perspectives are welcome.
As I’ve helped out a little bit with the admin for QRM, it means I’ve had access to all the posts. It also means I’ve shamelessly abused that access by reading all the posts already. So rather than listing what posts I’m most looking forward to, I’m going to instead list a small selection of some of the writers of the ones I’m most excited for everyone else to read…
Vanessa North – Four words for you: flash fiction containing dogs… I don’t need to say anymore, do I?
Santino Hassell and Ashley Hayes – Here be some original art.
Sam Schooler – So positive, so proud, and so hopeful. If I could hug this post, I would.
Heidi Belleau – Made my heart hurt a little bit, but posts like this one are vital because someone will read it and recognise themselves and maybe won’t feel so alone.
Julie Bozza – Film review! This one is a film review! Proof that QRM really does have a bit of everything. And I know this is neither here nor there, but Julie’s author bio picture is just the Best Thing Ever.
Cecil Wilde – A plea that I hope is heard.
Joel Derfner – We go back to school for this one. Utterly charming and it made me laugh. A+
Nicole Kimberling – Another piece of flash fiction. The post also includes bonus Nicole Kimberling content. Oooh.
GB Gordon – Another year, another excellent post, with this one being about getting to a place where you’re comfortable within yourself.
Vicktor Alexander – Very lovely, very heartfelt, and the title of it brings a lump to my throat whenever I see it.
Kelly Jensen – Warning: click on the link and this post will give you ear worm.
DJ DeSmyter – Easily one of my favourites posts–if not my absolute favourite. It’s unique, beautiful, and the most perfect and fitting post to close this year’s Queer Romance Month celebrations.
I hope you have enjoyed the round ups from Ulysses and Miss Kat Fantastico! – and that if you haven’t already, they might tempt you to visit QRM –
Next week will be a little different as we will have the round up of the last week, and an overview of the event from our guests. Plus, I will actually comment on my favourite posts etc 😉
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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