I’ve mentioned many times of my love for the anthology Fool or Love: New Gay Fiction and one of the reasons is that this compilation of short stories introduced me to several wonderful writers, one of whom is author, editor and graphic designer Jeffrey Ricker.
A graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Jeffrey is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
His first novel, Detours was published in 2011 by Bold Strokes Books, and on the occasion of the recent release of his second novel The Unwanted, Jeffrey was kind enough to accept an invitation to answer some questions here at Indie Reviews.
The Unwanted, Jeffrey Ricker’s second novel, is an extremely well written, action-packed gay young adult fantasy set against the backdrop of the ancient Greek mythological world. In it, the author unfolds the story of Jamie Thomas a sixteen-year-old high school junior whose life is turned upside down by the return of a mother he thought was dead, and who is now seeking his help to save her tribe – The Amazons. Mixing action, danger and romance, Mr. Ricker chronicles Jamie’s more personal journey of coming to terms with the relationships in his life to write a page-turning young adult adventure story that has depth and underlying meaning, and one that I could not put down.
As a lover of short fiction I read a lot of anthologies. But, there is one anthology that stands out and has set the standard for me in terms of short story compilations – Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors R.D. (Becky) Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert, released by Cleis Press in 2009. Fool for Love is an outstanding collection of sixteen short stories that covers a spectrum of themes relating to gay romance, love and life. It is not only my favourite anthology, but also one of my favourite books and one that I continue to recommend far and wide some five years after its initial publication.
Most recently, I read and reviewed Lambert and Cochrane’s second anthology Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, the follow-up to Fool for Love, and equally fell in love with the stories and writing. On Valentine’s Day of this year, Cleis Press released their third anthology – Best Gay Romance 2014.
As a lover of short fiction, I’ve read my share of short story compilations over the years, some more memorable than others. But there is one anthology that always stands out and remains one of my favourites – Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, released by Cleis Press in 2009.
In January 2014, Lambert and Cochrane released their second anthology Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, the follow-up to Fool for Love. Once again, they have brought together an exceptional collection of seventeen short stories featuring contributions from well-established authors and newer writers of gay fiction, including from several alumni of their first anthology.
Foolish Hearts offers a diverse mix of stories and themes, including: the thrill of young love; the bitter sweetness of unfulfilled love; second chances at love; and how through love we often find ourselves. Much has happened in the United States in the advance of LGBTQ rights over the last five years. And as art often reflects real life another prominent theme for a number of the stories is same-sex marriage. But, there is also a distinct international flavour to the anthology as the stories and their characters come from all parts of the globe in celebration of gay romance, love and life.
Dear God by John Goode is a deleted chapter from End of the Innocence, the fourth book in the Tales From Foster High Series, which was excluded from the book because the author felt it would have slowed the pace of the story, but important enough in its subject matter to be released as a short story. In this short piece, Kyle goes to a local church in search of understanding and answers on God, the Bible and Christianity’s treatment of homosexuality as a means of fighting prejudice and those using religion against his friend. His inquiry leads him to some surprising conclusions and forces him to re-examine his own beliefs.
As with all the books in the series, Dear God is well written, and I enjoyed this short fiction for what it is – a means of delving further into the character of Kyle Stilleno, one of the main protagonists in this series, and at the same time examining the issues of Christianity and its treatment of homosexuality, within the context of the overall story arc.
My list of reading favourites for 2013 features a mix of titles, both literary and genre fiction, including action/adventure, contemporary, fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, young adult and (erotic) romance. Most of the books listed were released in 2012-2013, but there are a few that had been on my reading list for years and that I was finally able to get to in 2013. The past year’s best include stories from previously read favourite authors, as well as from author’s that are new to me, and I look forward to reading more of their works in the future.
“…I became a clown for the usual reason – because things didn’t work out. On a grand scale. That’s the cliché of clown stories. I know. Yet I didn’t go bankrupt or lose my family in a tornado or anything like that. I lost Jimmy, which amounted to the same and then some.
Because it was like a tornado, the way it came, leaving nothing behind but dust and ruination – and Jimmy’s voice as he grabbed hard ahold of my wrist with what strength he had left, his big hollow dark eyes looking at me: ‘Don’t forget to take me back the way I came, Seamus…road’s the place for lost souls.’
The question that was my face.
I nodded. Then I kissed him on the forehead and sat holding his hand, listening to the rhythm of his breathing – and humming along with it – as he made his way toward sleep.
Jimmy was a song, see? And the song’s over. Let me tell you the story. You read and I’ll hum…”
I was first introduced to the writing of award winning author Trebor Healey through his politically charged and brilliantly eloquent short story “Trunk,” featured in the 2009 Cleis Press anthology Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction. In 2012, Mr. Healey released A Horse Named Sorrow, an exquisitely written and heart-rending story of twenty-one year-old Seamus Blake who meets and falls in love with strong and self-possessed Jimmy. But their time together proves short-lived, as Jimmy dies of AIDS-related illness. The grieving Seamus (or Shame, as named by Jimmy) is obliged to keep a promise to Jimmy: “Take me back the way I came.” Shame sets out from San Francisco on Jimmy’s bicycle – Chief Joseph – with Jimmy’s ashes, to bring him back home to Buffalo.
I first learned of author Marshall Moore when I came across his guest post on Rick R. Reed’s site, entitled, My Open Relationship With Genre, in which the author shares his insights on genre, writing, and the state of gay fiction. While as a reader I also share many of Mr. Moore’s perspectives on genre what equally made an impression are the titles of his published works – The Concrete Sky, The Infernal Republic, An Ideal for Living. Call it this particular reader’s quirk, but I have a thing for titles, and have been known to purchase a book based solely on its title. So when I received a request from the author to review his 2013 release, entitled, Bitter Orange, I agreed without hesitation.
Bitter Orange is the last book I read in 2013, and in this regard I saved one of the best for last. It is an extremely well written, imaginative, provocative and by degrees disturbing multi-themed story that is part urban fantasy and part mystery, but is firmly rooted in contemporary reality. Through the main character of Seth Harrington, who possesses the ability to become invisible, Mr. Moore turns the more accepted notion of superhero in speculative fiction on its ear to explore the darker motivations and actions of an ordinary person who possesses extraordinary powers. The author grounds the fantastical elements of this story and Seth’s increasing confusion and anxiety about his ability to become invisible against the backdrop of the disquiet and weariness of American (urban) life in a post 9/11 and dotcom crash world. Particular to the main protagonist’s personal story is the question of whether Seth can move beyond the loss, pain and trauma of those falling towers to once again find his place in the world.
End of the Innocence is the fourth book and the first full-length novel in the Tales From Foster High series. It is an incredibly moving and thought-provoking multi-themed story in which author John Goode throws the doors of Foster High wide open to grow Kyle and Brad’s world by focusing on not only what is happening to them, but also on what is happening all around them, further developing secondary characters and introducing new ones.
In doing so Mr. Goode examines the issues of homophobia, forced outing, marginalisation and cyber bullying from all angles and blurs the lines between bully and victim. The author also deals with the issue of gay teen suicide head on, with the same sensitivity and respect that he’s written all the books in this series. There are tragic events that transpire in this story that are transformative for both Kyle and Brad, their friends and the entire town of Foster. They are also a turning point for the series as a whole.
I found this instalment in the series the most powerful and the best written to date. This is saying a lot because I consider all the books in the series to be extremely well written. What make this particular book stand out so are Mr. Goode’s courage and care in the execution of this story. Courage in tackling with realism extremely difficult subject matter, and care in how the issues are depicted all the while ensuring the integrity of the overall story and its characters. And despite the ugliness of some of the events and the tragedy that ensues as a result, the story conveys incredibly important messages while at the same time leaving the reader with a sense of hope.