Friday, June 22, 2012

Babes in Boyland welcomes Elyan Smith


Where the Eighties seem to have been the years of the clear-cut Gay & Lesbian culture, reflecting in the fiction of that time (Amazon still uses the category today, as does Good Reads), the nineties and post-nineties expanded into LGBT, adding more letters to become LGBTQI in, probably, around the early 2000s. Then, with a healthy dose of a fairly strong queer culture emerging, the letter soup expanded to the point where, today, no one actually quite knows how many letters should be included or what they represent or even how distinct they are. This goes for society, but, naturally, that also goes for the fiction that that society produces.

Personally? I always say I'm an author of LGBT fiction because it sounds fairly inclusive (even if it shows its age, in my opinion), but truth be told it's a little bit of a white lie. What I write is gay fiction, for the most part, blokes having sex with other blokes, being in love with other blokes, living their lives as they fall for other blokes or break up or do whatever people do (be cops or firemen or popstars -- honestly, more people should be popstars).

That, to me, is what gay fiction or M/M fiction is about, what M/M romance is about if it's a romance, and I don't tend to stray too far from that at all. It's what I enjoy reading and what I enjoy writing.

That said, sometimes the blokes I write have had sex with women in the past, sometimes they have sex with women on the page, in the story, in the present. They are cis sometimes -- born biologically male, having penis and testes from birth -- and they are trans* sometimes -- having vaginas and breasts at birth, sometimes still having vaginas and breasts when they are protagonists in my story, and so going with LGBT fiction is a concession to readers, to fellow authors, to the spectrum even if I rarely write people who aren't (i.e. don't identify as), well, gay.

When I wrote Portside and talked to Riptide about it, when we discussed the marketing and the blurb and how to sell it, if it had been down to me the word trans* would have likely not appeared anywhere. Not in the details and not in blogposts about the story and possibly not even in discussions about it. Iwan, the protagonist, doesn't use the term to describe himself. He's a bloke who is into other blokes, everything else, while it's a physical reality, doesn't figure into his identity and how he perceives himself, and I didn't want to make it too easy for people to shelf it as trans* and move on past it, ignoring that especially folks who are trans* are likely also something else, gay or straight or bi or queer, and are sometimes those things first with their trans* status forming merely the background but not the active identity of their lives.

People are more complex than simple letters in an easy acronym, and while I understand the need for categories and for labels, both in marketing books and developing identities, forming groups and finding kinship, I don't think letters and labels should be the be-all and end-all to either fiction and identity. We're still all people first.

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As part of the Portside blog tour, leaving a comment will enter you into a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift certificate.

BLURB

Life on the dole in a dying town is defined by drinking when you can, smoking to pass the time, and, if you’re gay, going down to the barracks at the old port to get some. Iwan’s got the cigarettes and the booze down pat, but he lacks experience, which has him sticking to online porn and watching other people.

Everyone else seems to have moved past getting what they want, while all Iwan can think of is what could go wrong. He knows who he is, regardless of labels. But no matter how often his best friend Lyn tells him to just go for it, he doesn’t trust other people to see past his mismatched body.

Paying for what he’s afraid to get for free is a long shot, but it’s better than just watching, and it’s better than porn. It doesn’t change the world he lives in, but it changes him.


BIO

Elyan Smith lives in the southwest of England. He works in research during the day and spends most of his free time writing LGBT fiction. Portside is Elyan’s debut release. You can find him at his Website and his Twitter, and purchase a copy of Portside at Riptide Publishing.

Please join Elyan at his first blog tour stops here and here.





28 comments:

  1. Very interesting post! I definitely want to read this book :-)

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    1. Thanks very much, and I hope you'll enjoy the book if you get around to reading it.

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  2. I tended to think of it all as LGBT as that was the acronym in use while I was at university plus I tend to get in a muddle when trying to remember which other letters I should be adding.
    I saw the acronym QUILTBAG earlier this year though; and I really do like that one - adds a bunch of letters and I can remember it. And it makes me think of quilts - a wonderful mix of different colours & patterns that somehow all work together (I keep hoping that as a community we will all work together at some point!).
    You're right though - we are all people first :)

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    1. I tend to use LGBT as well, generally, but I'm aware that some people consider it limiting. Granted, there's people who'd rather see it replaced by queer as an umbrella term as well, so there's that -- LGBT is certainly much more inclusive than, say, Gay & Lesbian.

      But yeah, ultimately, the world doesn't exist in neat little letters and separate categories, so there's always a certain amount of danger in prescribing labels.

      Thanks for the comment, appreciate it.

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  3. I was born in 1980 and still use LGBT. It's hard to remember all the other letters, although I feel inclusive of them.

    Jase
    vslavetopassionv@aol.com

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    1. I, obviously, use LGBT as well (it's in my bio after all) for ease of use and people's familiarity with it, but I do believe that it's an acronym of the past that is changing as we speak and likely won't be in active use anymore in this form in ten or so years.

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  4. I hope the evolution of these different genres and the fine points between them (m/m, LGBT, etc) will help people realize the subtlety and variety of relationships between people in general. "We are all people first"--beautifully put!

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. I think it's easy to get caught up in who is which letter and how when there's such fluidity and diversity amongst people, nevermind them having the choice of what label to use and how. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Thanks for the post,informative with the truth.
    cvsimpkins@msn.com

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  6. I've read another book featuring trans characters(I didn't realise this at first), Blacker than Black, also from Riptide. It never occured to me to see the main protagonist as not gay, but I assumed he was a guy through the book. The author never said anything about the gender, still one does chategorise a bit, because one is so used to it. Still mostly I liked the book for itself and liked the protagonists, regardless of their genre. It all depends how something is done and presented to the reader, I think.

    Jibriel.O(at)web(dot)de

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    1. I haven't got around to Blacker than Black but if I recall correctly the protagonist might not even be trans but intersex? I could be wrong though (I should have a proper read of my own publisher's backlist probably ;)) I'm glad you enjoyed that one, either way. I do believe that readers are happy and prepared to read a really diverse selection of genres and characters and that publishers may underestimate readers' readiness to peek outside the box.

      Thanks very much for the comment. Appreciate it.

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  7. I've stuck with LGBT, though it isn't to discount or dismiss people who identify themselves as one of the new letter additions. LGBT just rolls off the tongue and is much quicker to say.

    Very interesting though. While I would say that your assertion is correct--that a male is still a male, regardless of what body he was born into, and that it isn't always easy or even right to put a label on that--as far as genre classification and ensuring readers can identify the books that do and do not interest them, it is a necessity in the literary world. Being all inclusive and accepting is something we should all strive to, but people (myself included, honestly) are just too damn picky when it comes to what they read. Whether that is a bad thing or a good thing...well, that's difficult to say.

    Geoff
    decepticonverse@gmail.com

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    1. Oh certainly, but I'd argue that that is the literary world just reflecting society at large rather than being a specific, separate world governed by own rules. People kink on all kinds of things, or prefer/not prefer all kinds of things, but those preferences don't exist in a vacuum untouched by whatever else is going on in their lives. I can't make people read things, and I agree that I'd much rather have people pick up my book or any book fully well knowing what they'll get into or there'll be a lot of heated aftermath BUT ... if I write about guys, being guys, having sex with other guys, with all the guys involved identifying as gay, full stop, no qualifier, no nothing, no matter their physical realities - it feels a bit like a betrayal to put the trans label on it when no one in the book technically identifies as trans. It says, 'no matter your personal identity, this is the label you need to avoid misleading others'. I just don't like the implication this has for real life people who have a trans background ... as if there needs to be a constant disclaimer for the safety of others. But that's my personal unease, and clearly in a space that is about selling and buying, and hopefully fulfilling customers' desires to a certain point, making information available helps.

      But as you can see, I'm just personally a little uncomfortable in what this suggests to readers beyond the lit market (that characters (and therefore people) are either gay or trans, for example, which isn't the case; that something can be only trans fiction or gay fiction and not both... which leads to deeply awkward discussions online).

      All that is just to say that I see where you're coming from, but I also see the other angle of what good/harm labeling books a certain way can do and it makes me a little uncomfortable to then go out and label (nevermind that I'm probably not that likely to write stories that stick very firmly to any label/category).

      Thanks for the comment though, I appreciate the discussion.

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    2. I agree to an extent. I guess this is going to make me sound like a hypocrite, but I would argue that it is merely a sign of transition. It really sucks that we, as human beings, feel the need to label and categorize every little thing (when it comes to ourselves and other people anyway...it is sort of a necessity as far as science is concerned), but at the same time, I understand that labels are still needed. That we, as humans, are not ready to let go of those distinctions. Sometimes it is out of ignorance that we cling to these labels and other times it is because we feel we need that extra bit of clarification. There are also those that celebrate the labels placed upon them to take ownership over them and say to the world 'this is who I am'. And honestly, that's okay too.

      As an editor, I get to read a lot of books that I wouldn't otherwise choose on my own and it really opens my eyes to a lot of interesting things. Because of this, I have a unique understanding of how a book can transcend the labels placed upon it. Your book may not be the type I would normally read based upon how it is classified, but the ideas behind it that shun those labels intrigue me. I think it really says something that some of the most interesting things are the ones that defy classification, the things that can't be easily placed in a neat little box.

      I guess what I'm trying to say is that our strange need for over-classification can either hurt or help, it all depends on how it is utilized. Beyond that, we could all stand to be more open minded in the way we approach things.

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  8. Thanks for your informative posting. Didn't know that there were additional letters being added to the acronym. Best to keep it simple.

    Jess1
    strive4bst at yahoo dot com

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    1. To be fair, it's not like the letters are being added willfully. They do represent folks who feel they should be included in the acronym and when that's the case I think it's silly to stick to more antiquated ideas. That said as long as, say, Gay & Lesbian is still in frequent use I doubt anything other than LGBT will be become a term universally used. Appreciate the comment :)

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  9. I learned something today from your interesting post, thank you.

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    1. Happy to hear that :) Thank you very much.

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  10. Thanks for the post, the book sounds great!

    peggy1984 at live dot com

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  11. Please include me in the drawing. Thanks!

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  12. I agree. It's only Love...why cant it be universal.

    Interesting blurb!

    monica
    moniqee at hotmail dot com

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    1. Agreed. And it'd be nice if things could move towards that at some point. Thank you, and thanks for commenting.

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  13. Zanara dragon-on@bigpond.comJune 23, 2012 at 2:10 AM

    It would be nice if there was no need to use any words or acronyms to divide people into compartments. Hopefully there will come a day when labels just don't matter and people can live their lives anyway they want.

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    1. Exactly. Though I'm partially contradict myself here and say that there is a beneficial use to labels - finding community, support, managing to build movements for rights, etc. But when it goes further than that, when it becomes something being applied by others, that's when I see it as slightly problematic (i.e. gay guys with trans background being primarily identified as trans rather than gay, no matter how they themselves define their identity, etc)

      Thanks for the comment, appreciate it.

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  14. Thanks MJ and Piper for giving me the chance to blog here. Loving the discussion it's spurred. Appreciate it lot's, thanks guys.

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