It’s time for more of my favourite reads, and today I figured I’d go gay. Well, y’know, I’m always gay, but today… You know what? Never mind. Here are some more of the books I read this year and loved. If you love yourself some gay fiction, I have some options for you. Or, y’know, if you’re doing the gift-buying thing.
When you listen to audiobooks on a regular basis, as a listener you start to find performers you love. Before you know it, when you’re looking at the lists of audiobooks, you’re searching the listings not by title or author, but by who performs the audiobook, and then reading the blurbs of the books they’ve done.
Because of this, finding a new and awesome performer is like finding a new author, and in fact absolutely leads to just that: finding new authors through the performer. So, whenever I see a Jason Frazier audiobook, I nab it. And in this case? I got to rediscover an awesome queer retelling of a Greek Myth by Felice Picano, and a truly great narrative experience. An Asian Minor tells the tale of Ganymede through his own voice, and it’s a delightful, insouciant and fun ride.
There is a lot to love in this novella. First off, Ben’s character was well written: he’s a former athlete, he suffered a major injury, and his recovery was by no means an easy journey, and he’s living with chronic pain. Ben comes across as someone who has—in many ways—given up on “better” and is enjoying moments of happiness as he can snatch them (which includes fun sex with hot guys when he can grab it).
Davis Fox is a gay man rejected by his homophobic family who wants a shot at reconnecting with his stepbrother. Davis is an architect, a gosh-sweet-blushing sort of guy, and he hires Ben to teach him to wakeboard—because his younger step-brother is a bit of a wakeboarding prodigy, and there’s a contest coming up where they could both enter and have a chance to reconnect and talk out of the reach of their people.
They connect, miscommunicate, take terrible risks, screw up, and eventually come clean with each other about how they feel, what they’re afraid of, and of course, Double Up delivers a happy ending for the reader.
Revisiting the trio from the James Lucas Trilogy was like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes (okay, maybe more like a comfortable leather harness), I slipped right into this novella.
When a former acquaintance of James’ becomes involved with a shady character and James’ efforts to help him backfire, Tate decides it is up to him to save the day even if it means putting himself in danger. He dives into a dangerous situation without a lot of forethought, and of course ends up in danger himself.
What The Loft does with these three characters is magic on a couple of levels. Lister does her research. Be it consent, contracts, or kink, I have never found even a shred of fault in the depiction, which always walks the perfect example of “safe and sane.” More, the intersection of these three characters with very different points of view balances the queer mentality really, really well. These men live and breathe and exist in very different circles (I love that Lister writes a character who is involved in the church as well as a character who wants nothing to do with religion), have different ages and life experiences, and have formed a unit that’s strong without making the parts feel weaker alone.
I’ve long been a lover of Space Opera, but it was so rarely a place I saw myself represented that I drifted away from it over my years as a reader. I always felt a disconnect: how come we got to the stars, but there’s never a queer person in sight? Why can’t the cocky space pilot be bi? Why can’t the tech-smart engineer hook up with another guy?
Well, they can. Allow me to introduce you to the Maverick Heart Cycle.
Gatecrasher is the second volume, and as in Soul’s Blood puts Stephen Graham King’s brilliant (and apparently effortless) world-building on display to wonderful effect. Get them both. Trust me. Queer space opera rarely comes with the whole deal. A blooming poly romance? Bi representation? Gender and race explored in a future society handled with real skill and attention? Stephen Graham King brings it all and it’s very welcome, from the opening scenes to nail-biting conclusion.
I read Eros and Dust over the course of weeks, a story here and there, and walked away well contented. Healy has a way with short fiction I aspire to, and his themes—here very much a tangle of desire, aging, Mexico and South America, queerness—play lightly at one glance even as they settle into the reader’s skin.
I’d read a few of the tales before, but there were many new to me. Some walk right up to the edge of some pretty dark moments, while others are fanciful and magical and nearly folklorish. The end result is a collection that teases the reader tale by tale, zigging when you think it might zag, and all the more enjoyable for the surprises.
We all know I love good short fiction, and Eros and Dust is great short fiction. If you’re at all a fan, it deserves your attention.
The whole framing of the “seize the day” narrative of They Both Die at the End around these queer kids was so spot-on. They had a day: one day. And in that day, they had some choices to make about how and what they would allow themselves to be, and most of those choices were about whether or not they would be themselves. It’s frankly a perfect analogy of a queer life reduced to a twenty-four hour period. This is every day as a queer person: a loop of choices about where, when, and how you can position yourself to be yourself. The notion of so many people watching them live this last day just added all the more authenticity to the allegory for me. When I’m existing in a queer space, like my own home, or Pride, or a queer club, being me is effortless. I can relax. I can be. But the moment others are watching—and boy, how people watched Mateo and Rufus—the more decisions have to be made. Is this a safe spot to touch my husband, or kiss him, or to even say the word “husband” or “queer” or in any other way out myself? Or is this a moment where the smarter and safer thing—even though it’s the diminishing thing—is to not touch, not kiss, not say, not be out, not be me.
These kids? They live all of that in one day. They choose, moment by moment, whether or not to be themselves, and that’s the brilliance of They Both Die at the End to me: Even with just one day? They know how important that is, and show the whole damn world.