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DesDownunder

Expanding Gay Literature

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Some thoughts on subject matter for Gay writing.

So we have had some interest expressed in stories that look beyond the schoolyard and college environment. While it's not difficult to find various other romantic tales of love between men, and love between women, a large number of them still remain romantic in the narrow sense of a love-story.

You know what I mean, boy meets boy falls in love with maybe a catastrophe, misunderstanding or other turmoil. And if not a turmoil then a tale that is little more than a wish-fulfilment of riches and happiness almost beyond endurance; let alone the erotic descriptions that even perhaps defy, the gods of sex themselves.

Not that there is anything wrong with such stories, except perhaps when they are written badly. I am sure most of us have read a pornographic story or two without coming to harm, even if not actually avoiding coming to a satisfactory climax.

My desire here is to point out that despite the enormous attraction of writing love stories about early and youthful romance, there are equally attractive stories of romance between gay people that have wider implications for the plot itself.

I just watched yet another movie about lovers (straight ones, but hey, no one is perfect,) who were caught up in yet another moment of horror in the Nazi Holocaust. It shouldn't really be surprising that even after all this time and all the stories that have come to us from World War II, that there are still events that have never been told and are only just now making themselves known.

It isn't about gay war stories though, that I am talking about here. We have had a few plays and novels about the Nazi persecution of the gays, and some have been quite enlightening, even heroic in furthering the cause for same-sex recognition and equality.

What I am saying is that I believe while stories about coming out, will never be out of place and indeed are needed in today's world, there is a place for stories that concentrate on the lives of lovers in same sex relationship, against a backdrop of real life. While it is true that stories have been written around real events, by real life, I mean something a little different.

That difference is not just about how the lovers come out, or find each other, but how they lived their lives, how they sustained their love in the face of the events (often hostile) around them.

If the persecuted prisoners of war have given us stories such as Schindler's List, Bridge on the River Kwai, The counterfeiters, Stalag 17, King Rat, Enemy at the Gate, not to mention Hogan's Heroes, Catch 22, To Be or Not To Be and hundreds of other tales of romance and adventure, then why do we limit ourselves to writing about just that moment of sexual awakening? (Rhetorical question.)

I want to suggest to those who might find it appealing to look back on your life, or your imagination, to find romantic stories about same-sex lovers and their lives during those years when they were hounded by the local police and the law, when they were outcast, bullied and beaten by 'upright' members of society.

When every good boy did what he was told and told nobody what he did, or what was done to him. However do not think I am asking for paedophile stories, I very much am not! That requires a very discerning approach which is outside the scope of this essay. (If you want to write a gay Lolita story, take care.)

The persecution and assassination of gay men in particular in polite society must have thousands of untold stories of romantic (both tragic and heroic) situations.

It is nearly 65 years since the end of WW II, and yet we still get stories about the sacrifices people made to protect those they loved and how they fought the Nazis, how they escaped them to be together, free from the horrors of war and oppression.

I suggest that for anyone wanting to remember or to do a little research, that there would have to be stories to tell, not about gays in WW II, (although that would be okay too,) but stories about the struggles of gay men in the times and societies of criminalised homosexuality, because that is our war. How they fought against it, or couldn't. How they stood up in court and swore their right to be who they are, as Oscar Wilde did. How they and their stories, in their own way contributed to the downfall of sex laws that were inhuman. These don't have to be Earth shattering stories of massive horrors, but they should reveal the depravation of the individual's rights and his striving to assert his humanity, his right to love.

I believe that if these stories were written, they would not only promote the legitimacy of gay literature, but also be a force to assist in dismantling the oppression of those laws and attitudes still so inhumanly operating in still too many nations.

Am I suggesting gay propaganda for what is laughably referred to as the gay agenda?

No, I am suggesting that just as there has been a long procession of stories showing man's inhumanity to man in times of war and other struggles for freedom and human rights, then gay stories could also be told and written about the times when a war was, (and still is) waged against same-sex relations.

Don't mistake this as a request for political stories, either, (though they could be). Politics are invariably involved in most stories, whether at the family dinner table level, or the town meeting, but the foundations here are the fights for human rights, the triumphs of love defeating the incompassionate fascist monsters as much as overcoming the oppressors who insist that their answers to life and love are the ones which should be imposed on everyone.

I just feel we, as gay writers have a lot more to say and write about than just what goes on the schoolyard. (Even if I do like writing and reading those stories myself.)

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I have, for some time now, been interested in writing a short story about the Rats of Tobruk from WWII, but the amount of research required, and the (personal) need to not offend the people who were actually there has made the task daunting.

As for the sorts of stories you are talking about -- they're out there. I know, because I've read a few. For me, it's just that historical fiction is not something I'm particular keen on doing. That's more for those who have a good background in history, and/or a strong interest in history. Since neither applies to me, I don't do more than dabble in the field of historical writing.

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Graeme, you are already an acclaimed master of the writing that you do so well. No need to change.

I was posting an idea to pursue, for those who wish to explore something different.

As for the historical research, I tried to emphasise the fictional element, and WW II was only mentioned as a parallel to our own war against gay persecution; a war that is, by its nature, ongoing for many people. Like all wars there are stories of love and compassion in its midst. Those stories can be as romantic as Casablanca, or as thought provoking as Judgement at Nuremberg, or as thrilling as the Hunt for the Red October, or The Great Escape, to name just a few. As some of these examples show, historical and geographic accuracy are not important unless the author wishes them to be so.

There are many parallels to War and other genres of stories in the lives of gay people, but I don't want to preempt the creativity of others, just prod it a little by showing one idea of the boundless nature of stories about gay people, their lives and loves. As important as coming out stories are, there are other moments in our lives that deserve to be dramatised in fiction (or factually documented if writers so desire.)

After all, gay stories are about human beings too.

:wav:

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The lives of most gay people even in years past has been ordinary and quiet. Your suggestion of a historic backdrop for a gay story is a challenge as the writer above has suggested. In the fall of 2010 I hope to publish on AwesomeDude my second novel that has its gay beginning the trenches of France during WWI. But the research required to get the setting correct is a challenge.

I pride myself when writing gay fiction set in times past to get the setting accurate. To most people it would not matter whether the story started near Verdun, France in 1916 or later 1917. But if I wrote about two young American soliders the story could only take place toward the end of the war because we did not have American troops in France until near the end of the war. As I say most people reading the story would not know but I would know.

In the next few weeks watch for an essay called "All the Beautiful Men" and a short story entitled "The Photograph" which revolve around the life of a famous gay photographer named George Platt Lynes and a very famous photograph that he took. The picture that accompanies the story was taken in 1938 but not seen publically until the late 1950's after the photographers death. The story represents the kind of censorship that gay men and women endured under the regime of one the most famous gay gay haters - J. Edgar Hoover. I wish I had the time to research the relationship between Mr. Hoover and Mr. Clyde Tollan, his companion for many years. I am sure those records are buried so deep they many never come to the fore.

Enough except to say to Graeme that I found the movie "The Reader" absolutely fascinating. I hope someone does a story about real stories of gays during WWII that is not only about their persecution but also their heroics and gallantry. Maybe all gays were too frightened to be heroes but I suspect not.

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That is fascinating Seth, I expect you will have a wide readership for your stories. I will be most interested to read them.

I am certain there were and are many stories about gay heroes and gallantry both on the battle field and in cities and in suburbs near all of us and some, closer to our own times. We just have to find them or imagine them. When we do I expect there may well be a love story involved as well.

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In support of your WWI effort, I trust you have read Pat Barker's wonderful trilogy, Regeneration, Eye at the Door and Ghost Road, which has gay themes in the background of Britain's WWI participation. Two real-life characters in the story--Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen--were gay.

The lives of most gay people even in years past has been ordinary and quiet. Your suggestion of a historic backdrop for a gay story is a challenge as the writer above has suggested. In the fall of 2010 I hope to publish on AwesomeDude my second novel that has its gay beginning the trenches of France during WWI. But the research required to get the setting correct is a challenge.

I pride myself when writing gay fiction set in times past to get the setting accurate. To most people it would not matter whether the story started near Verdun, France in 1916 or later 1917. But if I wrote about two young American soliders the story could only take place toward the end of the war because we did not have American troops in France until near the end of the war. As I say most people reading the story would not know but I would know.

In the next few weeks watch for an essay called "All the Beautiful Men" and a short story entitled "The Photograph" which revolve around the life of a famous gay photographer named George Platt Lynes and a very famous photograph that he took. The picture that accompanies the story was taken in 1938 but not seen publically until the late 1950's after the photographers death. The story represents the kind of censorship that gay men and women endured under the regime of one the most famous gay gay haters - J. Edgar Hoover. I wish I had the time to research the relationship between Mr. Hoover and Mr. Clyde Tollan, his companion for many years. I am sure those records are buried so deep they many never come to the fore.

Enough except to say to Graeme that I found the movie "The Reader" absolutely fascinating. I hope someone does a story about real stories of gays during WWII that is not only about their persecution but also their heroics and gallantry. Maybe all gays were too frightened to be heroes but I suspect not.

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I hope that I'm taking Twilight in the direction of the new ground that Des is talking about.

It isn't historical and might fit in the mold of the modern-techno thriller.

I use characters that are relatively young but I smash the high school mold and explore areas like leadership and teambuiling that I've not seen addressed elsewhere.

I just finished the first draft of Chapter 4. I don't plan to post until I have what I consider to be most of the story in the can.

so far the cats like it.

:wav::cat::wav:

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Sounds good to me James.

I mean if the cats like it, it has to be good. :wav:

Historical or not, isn't important as far as what I was talking about, it will be enough to explore gay characters and their lives in settings that have been the previous focus of only hetero-stories, or to investigate gay situations that have been overlooked.

A modern techno-thriller sounds terrific to me, but however it turns out, James, you seem to be on the path I was talking about.

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