I’m not a savior
I’m not a saint
I’m not an angel
I’m not that quaint
Don’t need a preacher
To be that wise
Don’t need a teacher
I’ve got my eyes
Eurythmics ~ You Hurt Me (& I Hate You)
First off this is in reference to this rather strange discussion brought up over at Dear Author by Jane. Who goes on about having a bias against reading books written by men because she would rather read a female author’s voice. OK, so what about a post op transsexuals voice? Whatever, next!
Then she brings up Josh Lanyon whom I guess has somehow become the poster boy/girl for “rumored” female authors using male Pen Names.
Now, you all who actually read this stupid blog know I talked about Pen Names and their use recently to report goings on over at Torquere Press. If I had just wanted to be a bitter asshole and take a cheap shot I am sure I could have addressed this supposed “issue” about straight women writing under supposed Gay Male Pen Names right there. If I had felt it was even an “issue” or more of an issue than what the owners are doing with their various Pen Names.
NO, I have always deeply felt writing was the great equalizer. Much like the internet it afforded you a certain amount of anonymity while allowing your talent, your words and thoughts and ideas to be read by the masses. If you were Black, Gay, Male or named James A. Baldwin, it gave all comers a chance at success through the telling of a story.
Now I am not super sensitive and never have been in my reading. Did it matter to me that Andre Norton was a woman. No, but it did matter to me when I found out why she had to use a male Pen Name to write Science Fiction (Because it was a male chauvinist club for so long). Hell, I was surprised to find out Samuel R. Delany was not only black but even gay. Wow, what was I missing there.
Would finding out tomorrow that information is all wrong and they were all a bunch of middle class, over weight, super bigoted, white guys change how I feel about their writing or their stories? No. Who they were as people never mattered one minute to me. Who’s picture was on the back cover and the color of that persons skin never mattered to me. Reading has never been about my personal agenda or the cult of personality for me and it never will be as long as I live. In fact I am most likely the guy you see running fast in the opposite direction from any given trend. All I know is my world would be a much sadder emptier place to live in if I lost even one of those stories I loved growing up just because of my own narrow mindedness.
So can a women write good stories with memorable Gay characters? Annie Proulx with her Pulitzer god damn fucking Prize sure the hell did and Mary Renault and Patricia Nell Warren and and and… Does anyone read anymore? Why the fuck am I having to discuss the obvious here? Catch a clue and go read a god damn book people!
Am I more biased in reviewing Gay Men. Well yes, yes I am, as I said before…
I think most people know I am a very nitpicky hardass reviewer who not only reads but likes Gay Romance which is written mostly by women but I also have some experience in the area of Gay Sex and being Gay and I must admit I am far harder in my reading of Gay male writers because I for one expect a Gay writer to have the total experience of being Gay and I guess I expect he probably should be able to riff on all that in unique but realistic ways even in a fictional story.
That should be pretty obvious to anyone.
Why do I like Josh Lanyons books?
As I said in the comments at Dear Author…
- No Chicks With Dicks or Stupid Stereotypes as characters.
In Josh’s series The Adrien English Mysteries the two romantic heroes are…
Adrien English, short, scrawny, even physically fragile and relies heavily on his intelligence rather than physical abilities and seems to have no real solid connections to the surrounding Gay community in LA and I think he has serious relationship issues.
BUT! He is not effeminate, swishy, affected, or constantly in some weak damsel in distress mode.
Jake Riordan on the other hand is big, strong, alpha, straight acting in extreme and seems to have a lot of friends and sexual contacts in the Gay community and let’s face it folks he is a cop and let’s just say from having run into a few in my life Gay Cops are a little um shell shocked up there if you get my drift.
BUT! He is also homophobic, dark, hard drinking, self denial queen supreme, who is also physically violent and a lying sack of shit who not only dates but then marries a woman.
Now if you as a man or a woman were writing an easy formula Gay Romance would you or anyone else even go near these characters as your Romantic Heroes? Probably not. That is the genius to The Adrien English Mysteries because it is a Gay Mystery series with strong Romantic Elements.
- This is not a OK Homo World.
Even though it is fiction The Adrien English Mysteries are not set in an OK Homo World where all the characters presented are either Gay or Gay Accepting. In fact the main obstacle in Jake and Adrien’s relationship is Jake would rather not be Gay. In fact he does everything in the series to undermine any chance of a HEA Gay Relationship because inside he has to reject who he is to be a real man.
- Gay is a spice of life not the whole enchilada.
At no time in Josh’s narrative are we forced into paragraph upon drawn out paragraph of “WHAT IT MEANS TO BE GAY”. You want my biggest harshest criticism of Gay Romance? Gay people do not sit around defining themselves this way even in thought. They live their fucking life and happen to be Gay. This does not mean we do not have battle scars. Jake and Adrien obviously do. We just do not sit around contemplating our navels questioning what it means to be who we are. Do you sit around defining what it means to be a woman? Or do you just live your life as best you can?
Would I change anything I just said if Josh Lanyon was a woman?
In fact good on Josh because I am way harder on Gay Men and if you read my review of his Adrien English Mysteries you will see I was extremely hard on him about being able to provide an HEA for Jake and Adrien that I would find acceptable. I also felt he needed to work on his tender romantic scenes and not rely so heavily on the slapping in sex scenes which I felt had no real buildup. I think if anything Josh is a great writer trying to work into Romance. I think that is fascinating.
Would I change anything I just said in that review if Josh Lanyon was a woman?
In my own personal dealings with Josh Lanyon have I learned anything besides the fact that Josh is a caring person who is honest with opinions and who has continually supported the efforts of other writers by helping out wherever possible online. NO
Have I ever been rude and demanded to know more about Josh Lanyon, which I do know is a Pen Name? NO
I have been following Dear Author for a while and have always mostly agreed with Jane.
Authors should have the right to an opinion.
Authors should not have to run through the marketing ringer with perfect photos and perfect bios etc etc etc.
It should only be about the story, the writing.
BUT JANE! I also believe Authors have the RIGHT TO PRIVACY.
To make Josh Lanyon the impromptu little example of women writing under male Pen Names based only on rumor and innuendo was inexcusable Jane.
Don’t give me some flippant “that is not what the conversation was about” when you stepped over that line.
Josh Lanyon is a Pen Name. We all know this Jane, no duh.
That person, be they man or woman, has a right to tell you or NOT whatever the fuck they want about themselves but to imply they are lying when all you have is assumptions is wrong.
Just apologize and stop acting like you don’t know any better. DAMN!