February 27th, 2013


The problem with gay fiction.

After having just finished reading a book, I went looking for something else to read. If you're curious, the book I just finished is The Hollow City, by Dan Wells. I'm quite fond of Mr. Wells's work, despite its flaws. I'd recommend reading his John Cleaver series, starting with the first book, I am Not a Serial Killer. If you like that series, I would also recommend reading I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga.

For a change of pace, I thought I'd browse the gay and lesbian section of the Amazon Kindle bookstore. It was part curiosity and part research. One of my goals as a writer is to create good stories that feature gay characters, but I've always had trouble portraying them right. I was interested in reading fiction within the gay genre to see how others do it. So, here's my reactions from browsing the selection in the Amazon Kindle store.

Why is no one wearing a shirt?

Seriously, that annoyed me. But, as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. I downloaded samples of dozens of books, and even purchased a few books that managed to interest me from their samples. I've read several such books so far. Their content ranged from sappy romance to outright pornography, but out of all the material I've looked at, none of them contained what I was looking for in a story ... which is to say, an actual story to speak of.

All the books I've seen are variations of the same thing. The protagonist is miserable for some reason. Maybe he was fired from his job, or was injured, or suffers from some kind of psychological ailment (post-traumatic stress disorder seems popular). Or maybe he's just a geek or a loser. Then, out of the blue, he runs into his designated love interest and spends the next hundred pages describing at length how sexy the guy is, then they rush into a shallow relationship based on little more than the fact that they're both horny. Some more skilled authors are able to imply some kind of deeper connection, but the emotional side of the relationship tends to take a back seat to gratuitous descriptions of how drop-dead gorgeous the other guy is, or gratuitous sex (or both).

Seriously, some of these books make Twilight seem like good literature, and that saddens me.

While looking into this phenomenon, I discovered that gay fiction has basically been overrun by female authors. The bulk of gay fiction released today is actually written by straight women for a straight female audience, which actually explains a lot. The men in these stories tend to be idealized, as if all men are actually caring, nurturing, and openly affectionate when the women's backs are turned.

All of which I actually don't have that big of an issue with. None of those elements, by themselves, ruin the story for me. What DOES ruin everything is when the author gets so caught up in describing her protagonist's rippling muscles, tanned skin, and large penis, that she completely forgets to add an actual plot to the book. Any attempt at a plot is usually a thinly veiled excuse for the two guys to have lots and lots of sex. Though, when I think about it, maybe South Park had a point.

Perhaps I'm simply reading the wrong books.

I've developed some rules to help me weed out the pointless wank material. If the protagonist meets his love interest in the first chapter, I skip it. If the author spends several pages relentlessly describing a) how unbelievably hot the love interests is, or b) how EVERY SINGLE THING the love interest does is sexy (such as drinking water, sitting in a chair, or just BREATHING) I also skip it. If the protagonist falls instantly in love, with no reason given outside of how physically attractive the other guy is, I'll buy a paper copy of the book just so I can have the pleasure of tearing it to shreds with my bare hands, then burning the shreds.

I do not resent the existence of these books, I just wish that I could find other books which have gay characters that are well-rounded, have actual personalities (hint: hair color, eye color, muscle mass, and cock size are not personality types), and motivations which (shock and horror) have little or nothing to do with their love interests. I want to see gay characters who are PEOPLE, who are individuals in their own right, not just idealized pretty boys who exist only to give come-hither looks to their designated love interests.

Maybe it would be an interesting challenge for me to write such a story.
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