Messy Never After ~ Outside the Margins with Atom Yang

Join Prism Book Alliance® as Atom Yang goes Outside the Margins today.


I’m a newcomer to MM and gay romance, so I’m not aware of the tropes, clichés, and stereotypes yet, although as I read, I’m getting a good idea.

And by read, I don’t only mean books. I mean blogs, social media posts, blurbs, and (visually reading) cover designs.

One thing that’s come to my attention is the complaint that sex is not real enough. Perhaps there’s too much anal probing? Not enough fluid swapping? No cleaning of nefarious corners of bodies, before and after pleasurable utilization? It’s no wonder, some complainants argue, that a genre largely written by people who have not directly experienced what they’re writing about, and largely watch pornography (talk about unreal!) for research, would create such fantasies.

To be fair, we don’t hear similar complaints lodged loudly and publicly against men gynecologists, although the famous analogy of going to a mechanic who’s never owned or driven a car, has been bandied about for a few decades now. Ouch. Burn. And yet, there are still men gynecologists, and I know there will continue to be women writers of MM and gay romance.

I want to be clear, though, that I’m not one of the plaintiffs who complain about sex not being real enough in romance. In When Harry Met Sally, nobody whined about the wet spot, and I’m okay with that. What’s more, even in work that is not categorized as romance, such as the realistic drama Brokeback Mountain (happy ten year anniversary!), there is no mention of washing up afterwards or much talk during sex like, “How ‘bout some more spit, cowboy?”

Stories are told about babies being born and people dying every second of our lives, and rarely-to-the-point-of-never, do they ever mention the mess. Not in Grapes of Wrath, not in The Passion, and not in any romances I’ve read so far and maybe more importantly, the romances people like to read.

Why? The answer, I believe, is that realism is a convention that we have assumed has value for everyone and every artistic endeavor. Photorealistic art is considered “good art” made by a “good artist.” Movies like Full Metal Jacket are lauded for “showing how it really was.” Even documentaries and reality shows give the impression that realism equals reality, despite the credits revealing writers, editors, producers, etc. And the next time you wait for people to get out of the way for your selfie at a landmark to make it look like nobody else was there, think about how real that picture is—and would you prefer instead to snap a shot of all the other tourists blithely photo bombing your moment?

In cultures that are not Western, the idea of realism being real is confusing—because who has a plot to their lives? And if realism were what we wanted, why are lightsabers so damn desired, and where the hell is mine already?!

This is not to say that some realistic details don’t help us get in the mood—and stay in the mood—of the story we have before us, but what we notice says more about us than about the story. For example, Scully never took off her glove—covered in dissolving human—in the movie, The X-Files, to answer her cell phone;  and Molly, in Ghost,  had magically clean hands with which to paw Sam during a scene that involved making pottery. Yes, I wash my hands a lot, why do you ask?

The truth is, we like our stories to be stories, especially romantics (to which the realists were reacting) and we don’t want things bogged down with banal details that don’t add to those stories. If you want realism, try reading 18th and 19th century British novels and then get back to me after you wake up from your coma.

What’s considered mundane is going to be personal, for the writer and the reader; for some, writing the nitty-gritty about depression is meaningful, even therapeutic—and for others, reading about the mechanics of intercourse may be helpful to manage expectations and navigate their own future encounters.

Regardless, it’s helpful to remember that in porn and in romance, in news and in documentaries, in videos and in photographs on our phones, there is editing. None of it is real, unless it’s in the real world.

~Atom Yang


Title: Red Envelope
Author: Atom Yang
Publisher: MLR Press
Publication Date: 12/04/2015
Cover Artist: Kris Jacen
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Humor/Comedy, M/M Romance, New Adult, Other Holiday, Romance, Winter Holiday


The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar, a time for family reunions, and for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future. Clint, however, doesn’t want to bid farewell to what happened after last year’s celebration, when he and his Cousin Maggie’s handsome Caucasian friend, Weaver, shared an unexpected but long-desired passionate encounter. East is East and West is West, and Weaver seems to want to keep it that way, but maybe Clint can bridge that great divide this coming New Year, and show Weaver what it means to be loved and accepted.


Red Envelope on Goodreads
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About Atom Yang

Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character his father loved, in case you were wondering.

Farewell Giveaway
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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4 thoughts on “Messy Never After ~ Outside the Margins with Atom Yang

  1. Welcome, Atom! 😀

    Awesome post. This:

    “And the next time you wait for people to get out of the way for your selfie at a landmark to make it look like nobody else was there, think about how real that picture is—and would you prefer instead to snap a shot of all the other tourists blithely photo bombing your moment?”

    As “real” as reality is, the level at which one person feels something is real and should be included in a book can be as subjective as so many other factors. I think this will be one of those things that always fosters discussion because, like the lube or not to lube “argument”, everyone will feel differently about it.

    And this:

    “And if realism were what we wanted, why are lightsabers so damn desired, and where the hell is mine already?!”

    I want mine, too, demmit!!

  2. Hi all!

    I’m honored to join Prism Book Alliance as an Outside the Margins columnist! I’ll be taking over a space that was once held by the late, great Dorien Grey. I’m grateful to authors like him who paved the way for authors like me, not only by the stories he wrote, but by the work he did for this community that has embraced me.

    I look forward to using this space to continue moving our genre forward, and our community closer together.

    Humbly, and gratefully,


  3. I just wrote about this last week on my blog.
    Who defines realistic?
    There’s a lot of stuff I don’t add in even though it’s “realistic” because I’m a romance writer and many readers aren’t into descriptions of brown tinted come rolling out gaping assholes, tears due to not enough lube/lack of prepping, men having sex to get off but not falling in love with the main character, a host of STD & the treatments, gift givers, bug chasers, etc. It’s not that I don’t know about it I simply chose not to include it…
    BTW not all of us get our information from porn it’s anal sex not “gay sex” soooo yeah there’s that.
    I think the required realism necessary is in the eye of the reader.
    Big Hugs, Z.

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