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2,330 Journeyman Scribe 2nd Class

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    Connecticut, USA
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    Science fiction, Gregorian chant, Renaissance and Baroque music, my beautiful pet rats

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  1. I haven't thought it all the way through, yet. Here's a start, though: it's a given that we are all human beings, so our basic psychology is the same. Yet heterosexual mores since the invention of agriculture are premised on the need to ensure that men know who their children are, hence all the customs by which men dominate and restrict women and hedge in their sexuality. Gay men and women, on the other hand—while historically pressured to do their reproductive duty to their society (marginal cultures can't afford to let anyone off the hook, if they want to survive)—meet one another more as equals. This makes, I think, for a very different set of relationship challenges, since there are no pre-defined roles to slot into. My ex and I found it both liberating and scary to have to invent the pattern of our relationship as we went along, yet watching my sister, a strong woman, negotiate the cultural expectations involved in her romantic relationships with the men in her life actually made me glad for the lack of a cultural template for his and my relationship. Now, some of the expectations of the romance genre are pretty hard to escape. In fact the genre is pretty much defined by the need for the two main characters to achieve monogamous couplehood. Whether this should really be the case in gay romantic fiction is a question we don't seem to think about, though perhaps we should. But even within the constraints of the genre as currently defined, there is a lot more room for diversity of thought and outlook. Surely, making at least some gay male characters be a lot more promiscuous before settling down would make stories truer to real life. A lot of men, gay or straight, are not naturally monogamous (though of course many others are), and exploring the reasons for a man's deciding to quit playing the field and settle down might well make for a compelling story. Moreover, the fact that procreation is off the table for a same-sex couple means that their sexual practices can be a lot more diverse. In real life, this frees each couple to form their own understanding of what constitutes "real sex" and "making love" in the context of their relationship, and the logical consequence for m/m romance is that the genre's relentless focus on anal sex as the culmination of two men's sexual relations is unrealistic and not essential to the genre. There also seems to be a taboo against incorporating some of the kinkier sexual practices gay men get up to into stories, though I'm not sure why this should be. Have writers tried this and found that stories about characters with sexual kinks aren't romantic, or something? I've also known constellations of friends who were sexual partners, as well. While they didn't define themselves as being in a group marriage, they essentially were, and seemed happy together. Wouldn't that make for a nice, genre-confounding happy ending, too? I've read some really good stories about gay menages à trois, so I know it can be done. Anyway, these are the sorts of thoughts rattling around in my brain at the moment.
  2. This is a very good essay, and it explains why I've found a lot of the m/m romance I've looked at to be very unsatisfying. I am on record on this site as decrying the unrealistic depiction of gay men in a lot of fiction, and I don't mean to say that heterosexual women writers cannot get into the psychology of gay men and write them realistically, just that the m/m romances I've read appear to have been written by authors who didn't choose to do so. If, as you say, m/m romance is mostly written by heterosexual women for other heterosexual women and is basically a vehicle for their fantasies, that explains what I've picked up on, and it means that the genre is not for me, since I don't share those fantasies. By contrast, m/m romances by men are often preoccupied with surface appearances and raw sex. This reflects the fact that men's sexuality is visually stimulated, and that gay guys have few qualms about seeking out sex and are more likely to connect with other gay guys than straight guys are with women (the gay men of my acquaintance have lifetime sexual contact numbers that are ten to a hundred times those of the straight men I've talked to about this). It's not that gay men can't be monogamous, but that the social pressure to be so in the gay community is far, far weaker. (I once read an article by an early gay rights advocate who asserted that it was the duty of all gay men to sleep around as much as possible, in order to fight the patriarchy.) Gay male writers appear to have their own set of fantasies, quite a few of which were satirized by Graeme in his hysterically funny short story, "My Roommate's Gay." A number of the sites I've discovered while looking around the Interwebz are are preoccupied with the travails and triumphs of thirteen-year-old boys (apparently it's the age at which many gay writers think their lives started drifting off course; they may not be entirely wrong). I just wish I'd met my true love at that age and had had even a tenth of the sexual stamina of these fictional boys. In any case, it is the skill and goals of the writer that are at issue. A writer capable of getting into people's heads is going to write good, realistic fiction and avoid clichés. I'm not so sure the tropes you list in your essay are so much "female" as "heterosexual." The fundamental notion is that there is a dominant sex and a submissive sex (or, in gay terms, some people are doms and some are subs), and that there is one "real" type of sex, in comparison to which all other types of sex are either secondary or unreal. This makes a certain type of sense, from the point of view of a heterosexual couple trying to conceive a child (and I imagine it's the reason William Clinton tried to assert that a blowjob wasn't "real sex"), and it also makes sense that gay writers imitating m/m romances written by heterosexual women might carry over some of these notions into their own writing. The contrary view, however, was expressed by the sex columnist Dan Savage a number of years ago: the more types of sex we consider "real" and "hot," the more real, hot sex we are likely to have. Likewise, submission and dominance are complicated issues, and the dominant partner overall may be the submissive one in bed. Likewise, as our lesbian sisters can tell us, who penetrates whom has nothing to do with who's in charge during sex. BTW, the Elderly Woman Advocate is popular and can be overdone, though I have enjoyed quite a few stories with such a character. She has her real-life counterparts in the lives of many gay men, though not always so "elderly." In my case, as for many of my friends, it was my mother, who was a force to reckon with. She laid down the law to her conservative Baptist family and demanded that they treat me well. It worked; whatever they may (still) be saying behind my back, they've never inflicted their homophobia or their religious prejudices on me directly. And of course, the younger generation's attitudes are a lot less hateful to begin with.
  3. I only ever wear natural fibers, and in summer it's loose cotton or linen clothing that lets the air circulate. I have no qualms about going commando, since wet underpants in the butt crack are not a thrill (to me, anyway; how you get your jollies is your business, lol!). Since cutting out virtually all the carbohydrate from my diet, I stopped burning so easily, so I sometimes go shirtless, though the site of my naked torso is not a thrill (to other people, anyway; fortunately, I don't have to look at myself, lol!). I tend to prefer hot coffee even on hot days, but once I reach my caffeine limit, I switch to carbonated water for the rest of the day and drink to thirst.
  4. You reminded me of a Web site called "Hairway to Steven," which was dedicated to the lovely Steve Kelso, a beautifully hirsute model for explicit gay photos. The site is gone, but there is still an abundance of photos of Mr. Kelso floating around, and looking at them might provide some visual solace for your auditory distress.
  5. In general, I dislike having to mentally correct spelling and grammar errors while reading. As Fowler points out, we want our readers to be pondering the point we are trying to make, not puzzling out what our point actually is. I find I can usually put up with a certain amount of errors and lack of clarity, especially in an otherwise interesting story, but past a certain point I'm likely to give up, feeling that my time might be better spent on some other story that doesn't require such a struggle to read. And what a glorious feeling it is, to encounter polished work that lets you immerse yourself in it, with no obstacles! What a joy, when that happens!
  6. The issue is not the size of the words, but their appropriateness. Hemingway made a career of using short, pithy words, and Jane Austen used longer, often more-learned words, but the common element to their writing is that they used the right words to tell their stories. The key to learning how to find the right words is to read, and to read a lot.
  7. In hockey there is the regular hat trick of three goals in a game, but there is also the Gordie Howe hat trick, in which a player gets a goal, gets an assist, and gets into a fight, all in the same game.
  8. While Gimli may have hoped to see Galadriel again, I have always seen Gimli's adoration for her as being like a courtly knight's devotion to his lady. Galadriel was, from all accounts, devoted to Celeborn. While, if memory serves, Galadriel interceded on Gimli's behalf with the Valar, it was for the sake of his friendship with Legolas, as I've always understood it. It was also Sam's friendship with Frodo that earned him a journey into the West, albeit many years after Frodo's departure with Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf. Of course, Sam also bore the Ring for a time, and that was another reason for his being permitted to leave Middle Earth. (There may be an inconsistency here, however, since it was Arwen's place on the ship that Frodo is supposed to have taken.) As far as couples go, I wonder sometimes about Gandalf and Saruman. . . .
  9. Tolkien would have probably denied it, but you are definitely on to something. And of course, Frodo and Samwise are as much of a couple as David and Jonathan, and likely intentionally. I'd also have loved Faramir and Eomer to have had more of a relationship. As for mainstream sf, there are two potential couples I can think of: Asimov's Daneel Olivaw and Lije Baley, and Fletcher Neihardt and his cousin Jeremy (or possibly his other cousin J.R.), in Cherryh's novel, Finity's End. I had hopes, for a time, that something might develop between Bren Cameron and Jase Graham in Cherryh's Foreigner series, but alas, it was not to be. I also had hopes that several of the guys in Weber's Honorverse would get together, but I don't think Weber would ever be comfortable writing a gay male couple. P.S.—Bujold never wrote a sequel to Ethan of Athos, so we can still hold out hope for Ethan and Terrence C, I guess.
  10. Token would be the first to say that his originality lay in how he used his material, not that he invented everything out of whole cloth. One of his main goals was to write a mythology for the Anglo-Saxon world, on the lines of the Norse and Germanic legends. He drew on the Eddas and other sources for his names and themes, he based Quenya on Finnish, but the ultimate sensibility of his writing is British. The theology underlying his worldview is very strongly Christian. For an understanding of how he viewed what he did in particular and how he believes the act of "sub-creation" works in general, read his essay, "On Fairy Stories," and his short story, "Leaf by Niggle."
  11. This was more or less my point when I derailed that other thread. My point was not that people who aren't themselves gay men should not write about gay men, but that they should do their research, because there are obvious signs when a writer has no clue.
  12. My favorite authors are almost all women, and they write realistic men of all sexual orientations. Several of them got started by writing fanfic, in fact, so your point is well-taken. I'm very sorry to have made you angry. I haven't yet encountered any of your stories, and therefore have no idea what your writing is like. I will make a point of looking up your work. My point was not that women can't write realistic gay male characters, but that the fanfic I've read on AO3 truly does not appear to have that as its goal, and it's that apparent lack of intent to write realistic gay male characters that makes me feel excluded from the readership of those fics. The comments on the stories reinforce my impression, because the most approving comments are for those characters and actions I find to be the least representative of any gay men of my acquaintance. The question of whether anyone but a member of group X can write effectively on the X experience is a long-debated one, and I would venture to say that a good enough writer probably can put him- or herself in the place of anyone, but it takes imagination, empathy, research, and effort. I've read essays by gay male writers claiming that only a gay man can accurately convey the gay male experience, but I've read convincing gay male characters written by writers who were not themselves gay men, so I know it can be done.
  13. I'd be interested to know the title and author.
  14. BigBen

    Member Title

    I notice that when editing my profile, my catchphrase "Too terrified to publish" appears in a box labeled "Member Title," whereas on my profile it appears in the "About BigBen" sidebar (to the left of the screen) labeled "Rank." When I post, it appears unlabeled just under my name. The "Community Reputation" sidebar to the left of the screen describes me as "Journeyman Scribe 2nd Class." At the top of my profile, under the name "BigBen," the word "Members" also appears. I assume that's the group to which I belong. I hope this helps resolve some of the confusion.
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