m/m

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The Hot New Thing.

So this morning I woke up, as I do, and checked Twitter, as I do,1 and noticed a bunch of congratulatory tweets getting sent in the direction of KJ Charles.

KJ, whom you may remember from previous posts, is an awesome author who exploded onto the scene a little while back with her Victorian paranormal m/m series, A Charm of Magpies.2

Well, turns out KJ had some pretty amazing news: she’s signed a three-book deal with Loveswept, whom some of you may recognise as sister-imprint of Liesmith‘s publisher, Hydra.

Importantly for the point I’m making here (other than that y’all should read KJ’s books, which you should), Loveswept (and Hydra) are both owned by the biggest publisher currently in existence, Penguin Random House.

KJ’s new series will be an m/m romance. Liesmith, while being a sort of horror/urban fantasy, largely revolves around a romantic boy-meets-boy scenario.3 It’s really, really super-important to remember that these are the sorts of books that, even very recently, the nebulous Theys of Theysay would be muttering about being unpublishable by “traditional publishing”.

KJ’s work in particular is, I think, notable because KJ writes explicit m/m erotica. Queer stories like Liesmith have been done before, and been done by big houses, but stuff like KJ’s? Much less so. But m/m has been growing and growing in selfpub and with smaller, digital-first publishers for years now. It seems the big New York houses–always hungry for the next “It” genre–have been watching.

We live in interesting times.

(Tl;dr: super-big congrats to KJ and go buy her books. Seriously.)

  1. Stop judging me. []
  2. I’ve read it. It’s awesome. Y’all should read it too. []
  3. I’m not quite calling it m/m here solely because I don’t think it quite qualifies, at least not by the strict definition of the genre. But YMMV, and I don’t mind either way. []
2018-05-22T08:55:23+10:0021st October, 2014|Tags: books, kj charles, m/m, publishing|

Speaking to your audience.

The accusation of fetishization gets thrown around the m/m romance community a lot, and often in pretty sexist, and even transphobic/homophobic ways. BUT it is important I think for straight cisgender readers and writers to think very critically about the way they talk about queer bodies and queer sexualities within this community.

I am not saying this always happens when gay romance or any other kind of LGBT romance is written for a cisgender heterosexual audience. But it is a lot easier to reduce a gay couple down to the fantasy of two hots guys, a lesbian couple to two hot chicks, and trans people into sexual fetishes when you assume the actual people represented will not be the primary audience for these books.

Speaking directly to a queer audience will limit the amount of time a writer will spend describing queer identity and queer bodies as strange, exotic or Other. It also becomes a lot harder to fall into the trap of dehumanizing a gay, lesbian or otherwise queer couple, if you write with the intention that the majority of readers will be themselves queer.

I also think speaking directly to a presumed queer audience will encourage cisgender, heterosexual authors to police themselves, and think critically about their internalizing homophobia, transphobia and their privilege.

–E.E. Ottoman on why the “m/m is for straight cis chicks!” trope needs to die.

2018-06-26T13:21:35+10:006th October, 2014|Tags: culture, m/m, quiltbag|

Problematising.

Look, I know about all the arguments that [slash fanfic] – out of which a lot of [m/m romance] springs – allow for queer readings/reimaginings of existing canon and that’s great. I buy that argument, because what I’m buying into is the possibility of it. But in practice, no, and that extends to m/m romance in general. In practice what we have is a tremendous amount of stroke material featuring white cisgender traditionally attractive mostly able-bodied gay men, written by and for the consumption of straight cisgender women. And you can’t claim to me that this is all striking a blow for queer equality and have me take you seriously.

“Redeeming” gay romantic relationships is patronizing. Focusing on cisgender male erotic relationships to the exclusion of other queer identities because you find that stuff hot is erasure. Reducing the significance of characters to gender and sexuality – especially in the interest of depicting erotic sexual activity – is fetishizing. I’m not the first person to say this, but now I’m gonna be another one.

–Sunny Moraine on the problem with m/m.

2016-05-14T10:07:20+10:004th October, 2014|Tags: culture, m/m, quiltbag|

About but not ours.

Gay men, in fact, often find it frustrating to write in this genre.  They sometimes pour their hearts into a manuscript, writing about gay characters dealing with the difficulties gay men face every day, only to have it rejected by publishers of MM Romance because there isn’t enough romance in it.  Or (somewhat ironically) female readers will rate a story badly because there isn’t enough sex in it, which can make us feel as if we’re prostituting ourselves.  And while there are a few gay men on the top of the charts, there are far more women up there.  (I’m talking about the authors who sell thousands of copies with nearly every release.)

The fact of the matter is, MM Romance may be about gay men, but it isn’t reallyours.

–Jamie Fessenden on m/m romance.

This is a really interesting post; a gay male m/m author talking about the difference between the largely female-drive m/m genre and, well, what I guess you’d call “gay literature”. He doesn’t quite get to that distinction, I think, but this is what it is; a lot of gay lit written by actual gay men about actually being gay is, yanno. Kinda depressing. Because, a) it’s Literature, and b) it’s reflecting authentically on the frequently difficult and sometimes outright horrific realities of being gay. Like, homophobia is a thing. Gay bashing is a thing. AIDS is a thing.1 And love is a thing, too. So, yeah. Gay character in litfic are, I think, more likely to fall in love then have horrible fates befall them. Because, yanno. <jazz-hands> Literature. </jazz-hands>

But m/m is a romance genre, and the tropes in romance–specifically the HEA–are different. And while gay lit is important–in the way all authentic stories are important–I think it’s also important to have an idealised genre like romance that does have the sweeping music and soft focus camera angles and kiss on the beach in front of the sunset. Because I think it’s important for people not just to see reflections of authentic reality in media aimed at them, but also dreams of idealised futures. The only narrative told about and to gay men–or any group–shouldn’t be one wherein they suffer and die miserable and alone.

m/m romance might be largely dominated by women, and there are problematic aspects to that. But I’d like to hope Fessenden is also right when he suggests that the growing market share for m/m (and its fandom predecessor, slash) also opens up space for gay male creators to tell their stories, no matter the genre. I do think this happens. Again, it’s not unproblematic (ref. Torchwood), but it does happen.

As a side note: this is also, incidentally, why I think it’s important to see queer characters as heroes in other genres, particularly “genre” genres like SFF. It goes back to that old representation chestnut; if you’re a straight white boy, pop culture tells you you can be anything. A god, a superhero, a cop, a mafia kingpin… Hell, even a ballet dancer. You can do all of that, and you can get the girl. Because TV said so.

Which is great, yanno? Despite what ragetrolls on the internet might like to say, no one wants to take that away.

What we do want to do, however, is extend that to everyone else.

  1. Or, perhaps more accurately, was a thing in gay lit being written twenty or thirty years ago. Obviously the disease is still around, but I think things have changed enough that it’s not quite The Thing amongst young gay men that it used to be. Er… I think. Young gay men out there, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this one! []
2018-04-27T13:47:10+10:0020th August, 2014|Tags: culture, m/m|

Fandom, we need to talk about romance.

Update: The text of the linked article has now changed, apparently in response to this post. Thoughts here.


The genre, not the trope, that is. Because I’ve seen the article “A guide to fanfiction for people who can’t stop getting it wrong“, written by Aja Romano and Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, floating around recently. It’s long and breaks down a lot of the myths that pop up in mainstream media articles about fandom and fanfiction. Reading it, I spent most of the time nodding my head vigorously and agreeing with like 94% of what was being said, but

But. Let’s just talk about that 6% for a moment. Because it’s something I’ve seen before and, sadly, I’m sure I’ll see again. Romano and Baker-Whitelaw are guilty of one thing in their detailed, otherwise-good, five-thousand word breakdown and that one thing is, ironically, the same thing they’re accusing other media outlets of being guilty of. And that’s ignorance of a particular “specialist” subject matter, in this case books. (more…)

2019-04-29T11:15:14+10:0018th June, 2014|Tags: aja romano, books, culture, fandom, fanfic, m/m, pop culture, xp|

STORMHAVEN, chapter 1 sneak peek.

Eeee! I can’t tell you how excited I am for the new Whyborne and Griffin book (and how jealous I am of people who’ve alreayd gotten a chance to read it, coughKJ Charlescough).

Also see my squeeful reviews of the previous two W&G books, Widdershins and Threshold.

2018-05-22T08:56:07+10:0023rd November, 2013|Tags: books, jordan l hawk, m/m, whyborne & griffin|

One for sorrow: “The Magpie Lord”.

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird that you won’t want to miss.

When I was about fifteen, I was obsessed–utterly obsessed–with the magpie rhyme. I don’t remember where I first heard it: we don’t have magpies of the sort it references in this country (Australian magpies are ubiquitous but unrelated to their European namesakes), so it’s not really A Thing kids sing here. Wherever I picked it up from, I became so enamoured with it I based an entire Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle around it, and that was Srs Bizness back in those days.

Since then, I’ve had a soft spot for any other media that happens to feature the rhyme, from Discworld to The Secret World. Thus did I take finding the two most common versions reprinted in the front of KJ Charles‘ The Magpie Lord to be a good omen (two being for joy, after all). (more…)

2019-04-29T11:41:30+10:0025th September, 2013|Tags: books, kj charles, m/m, paranormal, review, romance, thriller|

At the mountains of madness: “Threshold”.

So did I mention last time that I really enjoyed Jordan L. Hawk’s Widdershins? Because, hey. I did. Enough that, as soon as I’d finished, I immediately started reading the sequel, Threshold.

And if Widdershins was good? Then Threshold is even better.

Don’t trust any as have been to the woods.

–Local legend (loc. 919).

(more…)

2019-01-17T07:59:30+11:0018th September, 2013|Tags: books, h.p. lovecraft, jordan l hawk, m/m, review, romance, whyborne & griffin|

Love in the time of mythos: “Widdershins”.

I was about fifteen when I discovered H.P. Lovecraft.

I came to the mythos in a roundabout way, via a large, slim book in our local genre bookstore. The book was S. Petersen’s Field Guide to Creatures of the Dreamlands, a narrative-only supplement for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. Always a big fan of “monster manual” type things, I remember diligently spending weeks thumbing through the shop’s copy until I’d managed to save up enough to buy it for my own.

(The lady at the counter ended up giving me a discount, due to the slightly tatty pages. I didn’t tell her I’d been the one responsible for their dishevelled state. Oops. Bad Alis.)

Ah, childhood!

Ah, childhood!

A few years later, I’d be devouring down every single story Lovecraft ever wrote, awash in thoughts of cults and signs and shambling horrors from beyond the stars. To this day, “Lovecraftness” is one of the Key Indicators that will make me fall in love with a work: from his influence on Stephen King, to the Secret World and Welcome to Night Vale. If it smells even a bit like Lovecraft, chances are, I’m all over it.

It was actually thanks to the latter podcast that I first heard of Jordan L. Hawk‘s Whyborne & Griffin series. I’ve run across Jordan a few times in other contexts, and she’s a lovely lady who’s done me some solids in the past. I knew she’d started writing m/m romance, but I’d been hugely lax in the reading department until the other day, when I decided to get off my ass and pick up Widdershins on my Kindle.

Holy hell am I glad I did! (more…)

2019-01-17T07:59:29+11:0014th September, 2013|Tags: books, h.p. lovecraft, jordan l hawk, m/m, review, romance, whyborne & griffin|