Friday, June 8, 2012

Gay Fiction or Good Fiction? by S.A. McAuley

I’m a new author to the male/male romance genre, but I was a reader before I started writing it. I was hooked after my first male/male book and spent hours seeking out recommendations, devouring the highest rated books within a couple of weeks. I distinctly remember the first time I wrote a review that said “This is not just gay fiction, this is good fiction.” And I also remember how awkward and unfair that sentence felt at the time, but I wasn’t quite sure why.

Labels and I have never gotten along. I tend to rail against taking on any kind of label, just on principle. But when you’re in a business that relies on categorizations and tags and genres? Defying labels leads to readers being unable to find that blissful intersection of desire and greatness.

After going through the tagging exercise of publishing a book, I now know why that sentence bothered me so much. By writing that sentence in my review, I was implying “gay fiction” is not legitimate fiction – that as a subset of fiction it is less, somehow inferior. That’s how hierarchies work, right? There is literary fiction (Ann Patchett being one of my favorites), and then mainstream fiction (Stephen King anyone?), and then mass market fiction (I still can’t get into James Patterson, sorry), and then, at the perceived bottom of the fiction pile, the genre fiction: romance, sci-fi, fantasy, horror.

But the reality is infinitely more interesting.

Gay fiction is unique because while technically its own genre, it also crosses all genres: At Swim Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill, the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward, Woke Up in a Strange Place by Eric Arvin. Gay fiction is just as varied as straight fiction is. (Shocking, right?) That reality supports the use of an identifier, so those of us who want to read about gay characters and themes can find the books that tell those stories.

Where I’ve landed on this argument? Gay fiction is a categorization to take pride in, but to never stop challenging. Tags and categories are living, breathing entities on the internet - ones that we as readers and authors have the power to mold, change, trend, and delete.

My first published short story is set to release July 28th from SilverPublishing. It’s a gay contemporary romance called The Maker Jock. Next up is my first published novel, the story of a gay man who is the victim of a violent hate crime. That one I’m having a little more trouble finding the right category for, but I’m still proud to list it as gay fiction.  After those? I have a gore-iffic horror book I’m working on, as well as the story of a Filipino transgender - both of which will feature main and side characters from the GLBTQQIA spectrum. I’m definitely a genre hopper. But what my stories will always come down to is our shared humanity – the places where our lives intersect. The moments that stretch the limits of categorization because they are unexpected and new. I can’t wait to share more of them with you.

About S.A. McAuley
Sam sleeps little, reads a lot. Happiest in a foreign country. Twitchy when not mentally in motion. Send her a picture and a song and she’s bound to write a story about it. And yes, that’s an invitation.

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