Each year I await the announcement of the the Canada Reads nominees and the Lambda Literary Awards list of finalists to inform my reading list for the year and beyond.
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.
In addition to co-editing, both are respected authors in their own right. Timothy Lambert’s stories have appeared in Best Gay Love Stories and The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica. Becky Cochrane has published short stories and two novels: A Coventry Wedding and A Coventry Christmas. Together they co-authored Three Fortunes in One Cookie and The Deal, and through their collaboration with authors Jim Carter and Timothy Forry, under the nom du plume Timothy James Beck, they have published five novels: It Had To Be You, He’s The One, I’m Your Man, Someone Like You and When You Don’t See Me.
On the occasion of the release of Foolish Hearts and Best Gay Romance 2014, Becky Cochrane and Timothy Lambert agreed to participate in a Q & A at Indie Reviews.
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.
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.
On the high plains of northwestern Colorado, tales emerge near Yampa, up where the Bear River runs and the Causeway and Little Causeway Lakes nestle into the wilderness like curled cats lolling in the comfort of gracious laps. It is here within the purely black chill of night time when the pop and hiss of a campfire illuminates the faces of wide-eyed children hunkered with their backs to the deep, dark shadows of pine, spruce, and aspen; it is here where the telling of the tales commences from elders to youngsters.
Real or imagined movement within these night shadows is perceived by the children as bears, wolves, or maybe spirits of the White River or Yampa Ute Indian tribes. There is a sense that some malevolence lurks in the shadows, something that may rob sleep from the young who understand the thickness of a nylon tent is no defense against…well, imaginations do conjure a bleak inevitability in such circumstances.
George Seaton’s latest release, The Gift of Stories, is a stand-alone short story of some forty pages that is part of the “Average Joe Collection” published by MLR Press. It is a lovely and heartfelt tale within a tale of many themes including, the magic and importance of stories in our lives and the imparting of wisdom from one generation to the next.
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller – a job he still does, and still loves. A cat lover, ‘Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing “cat or dog?” détente continues and according to ‘Nathan will likely end with the acquisition of a dog. They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in.
My introduction to ‘Nathan’s writing came by way of his first published short story “Heart” a beautiful and poignant tale of love and loss, which appeared in the critically acclaimed 2009 Cleis Press anthology Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. My introduction to ‘Nathan came about while I was on the hunt for a second print copy of Fool For Love (my first one had fallen apart from re-reading). Coincidentally, the only bookstore in Ottawa that wasn’t sold out of copies was ‘Nathan’s, and a great thing happened when I got to the bookstore – I met one of the authors of one of my favourite anthologies.
Since the publication of “Heart,” ‘Nathan’s had over two-dozen stories appear in anthologies by some of the best publishers of LGBTQ fiction, including in: Men of the Mean Streets: Gay Noir and Boys of Summer (Bold Strokes Books); Tented, a Lambda Literary Award finalist and The Touch of The Sea (Lethe Press); and Afternoon Pleasures: Erotica for Gay Couples (Cleis Press).
‘Nathan’s story “Sky Blue” appears in Saints and Sinners 2013: New Fiction From the Festival (Bold Strokes Books) as a runner up in Festival’s short story contest for that year, and his story “Hometown Boy” appears as a 2011 finalist in Saints and Sinners 2011: New Fiction From the Festival (Queer Mojo). In July 2013, his story “Old Age, Surrounded by Loved Ones” was published in This Is How You Die: Machine of Death 2 (Grand Central Publishing). His non-fiction pieces have appeared in I Like It Like That: True Stories of Gay Male Desire (Arsenal Pulp Press) and 5×5 Literary Magazine.
Not only a writer of short stories, ‘Nathan’s also an avid reader of short fiction and combines insightful reviews of the stories he’s read with equally thoughtful observations about, among others, his experiences as a bookseller through his Short Story 365 Series.
His first novel Light was released by Bold Strokes Books earlier this week, and to mark the occasion I invited ‘Nathan to participate in an author Q & A here at Indie Reviews.
“Loving someone gives you courage; being loved back gives you strength.”
Afflicted is Brandon Shire’s first published foray into the realm of gay erotic romance. The story traces the development of the relationship between Hunter Stephens, a blind audio books publisher, and Dillon Chambers, a high priced male escort, from their chance meeting and one-night stand, to their burgeoning love. What ensues is a well-written, highly erotic and sensual romance story as their need for something more than a sexual relationship grows, but their respective insecurities serve as an obstacle in fulfilling their desire for love.
“Stories are wondrous things. And they are dangerous.”
Thomas King is one of my favourite authors and I was thrilled to learn that he was to give a reading and talk in Ottawa. On the evening of March 6th, a sold out audience of about 1,000 congregated at the Centretown United Church to listen to Mr. King read from his most recent book, The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, November 2012) and to field questions from Waubgeshig Rice, author and broadcast journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), and from the audience. The event was co-sponsored by a host of organizations, among others: Octopus Books one of the only remaining independent bookstores in the city; Random House of Canada; and a number of local Aboriginal organizations, including, the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health and the Odawa Native Friendship Centre.
My initiation to the work of this author, activist and academic was through his highly acclaimed novel Green Grass, Running Water (Bantam Books, 1993) and the Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour a radio series that he wrote and produced, and which premiered in 1997 and ran for three consecutive years on the CBC’s Radio One. Characterised as irreverent comedy that pokes fun at Indian stereotypes, the Dead Dog Café borrows numerous elements from the novel Green Grass, Running Water, including the fictional café of the same name which is set in the equally fictional town of Blossom, Alberta, but with different characters. In Dead Dog Café, Mr. King plays himself and is the straight man and third wheel to Jasper Friendly Bear (played by Floyd Favel Starr) and Gracie Heavy Hand (played by Edna Rain). The CD box set of Dead Dog Café has become a listening staple during our annual road trips.
My next intersection with the author’s work came by way of the published version of his Massey Lectures, which he delivered in 2003. Mr. King was the first indigenous person to be invited to do so and in all he delivered five lectures under the title The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative (House of Anansi Press Inc., 2003) to different audiences across Canada. In keeping with the Native oral tradition of storytelling, Mr. King begins each of the lectures with a Native creation story of a pregnant sky woman who falls to the water world and with the help of various water animals builds the earth (Turtle Island) upon which she can deliver her twins. He uses this story in each lecture to weave through his own personal history as a Native American and that of the colonization of the Americas, illuminating upon the impacts of colonization on First Nations (or Native Americans in the United States) and of Canada and the United States’ relationship with its Native peoples. The Massey Lectures are eloquently subversive and they remain my favourite body of work by this author.
Over the years I have read Mr. King’s books for my personal knowledge, understanding and growth. It was an absolute pleasure for me to attend his reading from his latest book, The Inconvenient Indian, which has been described as both “a history and the complete subversion of history” and “a critical and personal mediation…about what it means to be ‘Indian’ in North America.” In his responses to questions from Mr. Rice and the audience on his experiences as a writer and activist and his views on First Nations issues, Mr. King was quite gracious and erudite and that rye sense of humour that is woven throughout his stories comes naturally.
Thomas Hunt King was born in 1943 in Sacramento, California. His father was Cherokee and his mother Greek, and he holds dual (American/Canadian) citizenship. Mr. King received a PhD in English Literature from the University of Utah and went on to teach Native Studies at the University of Minnesota, where he became the Chair of American Indian Studies. In 1980, Mr. King emigrated to Canada which has since become his adoptive home. He has taught Native Studies at the University of Lethbridge (Alberta) and Native Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Guelph (Ontario).
In addition to Green Grass, Running Water, which made a splash in Canadian literature and earned him his second Governor-General’s Award nomination, The Truth About Stories and The Inconvenient Indian, his other widely-acclaimed novels include Medicine River (Penguin Books, 1990), and A Coyote Columbus Story (Groundwood Books, 1992), a children’s book for which he received his first Governor-General’s Award nomination. He is the editor of All My Relations: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Native Fiction (University of Oklahoma Press, 1992) and co-editor of The Native in Literature: Canadian and Comparative Perspectives, in the academic journal American Indian Quarterly (University of Nebraska Press, 1992).