Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The purity of fear, prejudice, and intolerance (the m/m rainbow has only one colour: gay)

I should be telling you guys about a book. Or write a post about my lecturer at university who, I've learned today, died last August, way too young, a man I kept thinking of as "I want to be him when I grow up". RIP, Mr. Werth. You were (and still are) an inspiration.

Those will have to wait, however. What's been eating my brain (and you guys know it's bad when something is eating my brain, because then I brood and later come up with a lot of weird ideas) is this discussion on Dear Author, about fanfiction, slash and m/m and other things, but the discussion in the comments soon moved on to misogyny in m/m. The whole thing is interesting, and I'm not going to attempt a re-cap.

I believe the m/m genre is in a very large part, hostile to (fictional) women.

Back in the days - before November 2011, and boy, will I remember that date forever, even if those who "made it so memorable for me" - I'm trying very hard to stay civil here - have moved on and are pretending it never really happened - back in those days, the genre I write in was "gay only".

Not "gay gay", mind you, but "m/m", because the genre usually doesn't give a toss about depicting real life gay men. It's about the fantasy, stupid. Women in m/m writing are hated and loathed and reduced to the stereotypes of whore, bitch, fag hag, and disposable womb for the two men to get a child they can coo over without resorting to what fandom calls "assbabies" (a somewhat vulgar term for the concept of "m-preg" - or male pregnancy). Now, even the most gay scene gay guy I've met in my life has very strong female relationships; mothers, sisters, nieces, friends, friends and family of his partner.

Only gay men in m/m are stripped of female friends and family. The received wisdom is that "readers don't want to read about it". I've seen people loathe Jean, but I'd say Katya in Special Forces gets even more hate (this number is subjective).

It gets worse. Many gay men used to have sexual relationships with women in real life. Some were married to women. Fathered children. Oh wow, don't you dare write about that in m/m - people will not review you. The biggest, most important m/m blog out there will not review you if there's even one sexual encounter with a woman.

This abhorrence of what's called "girly bits" or "girl parts", or "vay jay" (the last expression makes me laugh; to my non-native ear, it's as bad as "her womanly molten core" from some horrendous m/f romance) is wide-spread.

They call it purity.

It's probably my cultural reflex, but using a word like "purity" for, in essence, erasing women, erasing bisexual men, and, if you think further, erasing trans* people (some of whom are men with "girl bits"), really gets my goat. Like it's something positive.

The hostility to trans* books is quite clear, too. I mean, here is a reviewer who reviews a book by a trans* guy ABOUT a trans* guy and says that it's not authentic.

And if a trans*/genderqueer book is written by an author who is too big (and way too good) to be ignored (you know, and wrote an award-winning book), they review it, but the comments immediately put the world back on its axis. It was a lapse, and it won't be a regular occurrence, Gods forbid we could actually include genderqueer and trans* characters in our oh-so-tolerant genre.

No, that's against the idea of purity.

Now, in my book, everybody can review on their blog what they want. People can post about how disgusting "vay jays" are and how authors are misleading readers, and how one m/f or m/m/f sex scene invalidates the whole book.

So, because there are three pages of m/m/f sex in Dark Soul, the other 306 pages are "sneak menage" and Dark Soul is no real m/m book (damn, and I thought Silvio being definitely coded as genderfluid in the third part would have given my game away).

According to some reactions, by not getting rid of Donata in Dark Soul, I've cheated, lied, misled my readers and I'm a liar, cheater and force my bisexuality down people's throats. The whole relationship between Silvio and Stefano is invalidated because they dare have fun with Stefano's wife for a night. It's a "let-down" and Silvio deserves better (yeah, destroying Stefano's marriage is clearly much better than his anonymous quick fucks that he normally goes for, TOTALLY agree).

I'm being told that I've misled people about this being an m/m romance, because, apparently, that's something that CANNOT happen in m/m romances, so I'm lying.

Funny, I didn't get the memo where a) I defined this book as an m/m romance, and b) where somebody defined those rules and every single m/m author and publisher actually signed this definition and defined penalties in case of breach.

I guess after writing three pages of (damn hot) sex with a woman, I'll get my m/m romance writer membership card torn up now - something I haven't managed even after killing a protagonist and writing about murder, torture, brother-incest, PTSD, rape, racism, genocide - I've FINALLY accomplished the biggest crime of them all: written a mixed-gender sex scene.

Mum would be so proud.

Actually, she would be. She raised me to be able to look in the mirror every morning and look myself in the eye. And I am getting sick and tired of this blatant woman-hating that goes on in a female-dominated genre. I know amazing, kick-ass women; I'm the child of one. I'm friends with women who can mop the floor with most men out there. Human beings who had to do real battle for everything they have. Women who sacrificed everything for their children, who stood up to abusive men and told them to get the fuck lost. Women who worked harder, for less pay and less praise than a comparable man. Women who rebuilt bombed cities without heavy machinery, stone by stone, with their own hands, because the men were dead and somebody had to rebuild the country and in the hope for a better life for their children, male AND female.

But that leads far away - I'm just saying that women are awesome, and just as strong, resourceful, intelligent and kick-ass as any man. There is no difference in gifts and abilities.

But, to return to the matter at hand. The problem I'm seeing is not for my own sales (frankly, writing is a financial sideshow for me - if I wanted to make money writing, I'd have gone mainstream ten years ago). The problem I'm seeing is the biggest reviewers in our genre have decided that "vay jay" is "yuck" and writers writing about bisexual men who are sexually active on the page, and protagonists who are not in the full possession of XY chromosomes and a penis, balls and prostate (read: trans*men) are not actually part of the genre.

Make no mistake: In our genre, reviews are everything.

Publishers know this; authors know this.

What this leads to is pre-emptive self-censorship.

It reminds me of the situation in Nazi-occupied Paris (I'm currently reading a book about it). In Paris at that time, more than 8,000 books were published a year (more than in the UK or the US). Everything had to pass German censorship (the Propaganda-Staffel). At first, the German censors read everything. But reading that many books is a huge drain on resources, so what they enforced was self-censorship. The publishers knew what was forbidden, and they were "trusted" not to break those rules.

If you're a publisher and depend on the Propaganda-Staffel for getting printing paper AT ALL, you made damn sure that the censors never had reason to complain.

I'm not using this example to fulfill Godwin's Law that every internet discussion WILL bring up the Nazis. I'm using the example to show how insidious and easy self-censorship is. All you have to do is teach authors and publishers what is not desired and threaten - in so many words - to withhold the primary resource, whether it's paper, attention, or reviews, doesn't matter.

And you *will* have publishers who internalize these things. Authors will not write books that have absolutely no chance to get reviewed. They'll "tone things down". Publishers will instruct their editors accordingly. Authors will learn from their publishers that trans* or bi content is to be avoided.

The problem is when the personal taste (or: kink) of the big reviewers DETERMINES the genre, steers it and defines it. It's very often veiled, like "it's not that we don't like trans* stuff, but we won't review it", or "We'd review it, but we can't find anybody who wants to read that", "anything but "pure" m/m will be a DNF or an F or a 1-out-of-5 star review, or..."

And this is the attitude I really struggle to comprehend. If they don't have reviewers, they can find some, quite easily. If they believe that only the "fantasy version of gay", namely m/m, is worthy of reviews, then they really shouldn't display Rainbow flags on their blogs.

Because the Rainbow flag does NOT stand for exclusion. Any GLBTQQ activist I know would be ashamed to think that the Rainbow has come to mean "gay only" in ANY part of the arts; and, yes, our little corner, where we create pulpy little stories, is part of the arts and wider culture.

The Rainbow doesn't only have one colour. The alphabet soup "GLBTQQ" does NOT mean "gay only and everything else is ewwwww". It's not "gay-only voices, and everybody else shut up because you're not feeding our kinks."

Don't call your intolerance, fear and prejudice "purity".

I believe it's time to discuss this, without prejudice, fear and intolerance. We are the other colours out there, and I, for one, will never self-censor myself to just one colour. I'm way more than that.

ETA: I'm turning off approval of comments for sake of discussion, but I *will* delete abusive comments.


  1. I haven't actually had a chance to read the last two Dark Soul books. One of my favorite parts was that I liked Donata. I was very very curious as to how she was going to play out in the series, b/c I knew you weren't lame enough to just cap her or make her crazy evil out of nowhere.

    I really don't get all these unwritten rules in m/m. The story is the story, however it plays out. One of my fav verses to write, that I haven't gotten to play in sadly, is Sandstorm-vrse, b/c it's a harem world and bisexuality is a key part of the culture.

    I had someone tell me once she didn't want to read my book Bound b/c she didn't like the one MC gets married and she hoped the wife died. Her comment almost made me cry, b/c while the woman does die it wasn't to get her out of the way, it's b/c that's how the story went. I don't like when people hate women just b/c they're in the way. Killing that character broke my heart.

    The reader did finally read the story, and apologized, and said that in the end she had liked the character and was sorry to see her go.

    I've also had several people tell me they didn't read het before my odd stray stories about side characters, and that made me happy. It really really bugs me that women are so hated in m/m fiction (though, by the same token, I find it just as insulting when women are included out of a sense of obligation rather than b/c they're necessary to the story, if that makes sense).

    I have this idea for a story, a crazy ambitious fantasy story about women who are turned into men for plot points I won't plague anyone with. I really want to write it, but I really am put off by all the fucking grief it will bring me. It won't stop, in the end, but it grates that's become an issue.

    1. Megan - I for one, would love to read those stories. I think they are very important to question gender and orientation stereotypes. There's much more out there than gay boy meets gay boy, and they get bashed and deal with homophobia. Much more. Such interesting layers and conflicts - we could write the truth rather than stereotypes that some of us self-enforce because "the readers will hate it" otherwise.

      And those rules *are* unwritten, but they are insiduous as hell. A little while ago I had a discussion with a very gifted writer who said, paraphrased, "I'm not big enough to fight it." And I thought, wow, if those people break this talent and take this writer's original, beautiful and deeply-felt stories and ruin them by forcing them into the m/m corset, something is really wrong with the genre.

      But yeah, if I've learned one thing (ironically from Special Forces) then it's that most readers don't actually mind terribly much when their limits are pushed. Some love it. Many readers have written me and told me they'd never expected to love my stuff, but they did and their are life-long converts. I hadn't reached them if I'd made round pegs for round holes.

      Stay strong, and write that fantasy novel!

    2. Megan... what Aleks said. Write that fantasy novel!

      I can attest to this...

      ...But yeah, if I've learned one thing (ironically from Special Forces) then it's that most readers don't actually mind terribly much when their limits are pushed. Some love it. Many readers have written me and told me they'd never expected to love my stuff, but they did and their are life-long converts. I hadn't reached them if I'd made round pegs for round holes.

      I am one of those. Of all the things I love about Aleks' books, that is maybe my favorite. He never makes round pegs for round holes.

      Do it darlin'. DO IT. Don't let them tell you what to write and how to write it. No matter who they are. Write the story that needs to be written. Some of us readers want that. :)

      Go Megan, Go Megan! ;)

    3. I'd read that, Megan, especially if you wrote it.

    4. Oooh, please please please write it, Megan! =)

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this, Aleks! This fucking bullshit misogyny where anything with "girl bits" is sooo gross and sooo icky that it MUST NOT be included in m/m writing has been chapping my ass for some time now, and I've just fucking had it.

    Thank you for writing about it clearly, precisely, and without the million-and-a-half swear words I would've added. I'm Tweeting this page all over, too, as well as FaceBooking it to my like 5 friends, lol.

    Gawd, it's just so fucking frustrating. One of the stories I'm working on right now has an intersex character with some "icky femmy bits" and just happens to identify as a young gay man. But apparently that doesn't count because he's got femmy cooties. In another story, a lesbian chick, desperately in love with another woman who is afraid to walk down that road, finds solace with a Fallen angel whose own mate is another male angel whom he has been forever forbidden from seeing again. OMG, HURT/COMFORT/ANGSTY HET BETWEEN TWO GAYS, ALERT THE MEDIA.

    GAH. I just want to slap someone. Several someones. This is just so ridiculously bigoted and disgusting. And good on you, Aleks, for blogging about it! I salute you with my tepid Diet Coke!

    1. You don't believe how many swear words I've deleted, to be honest.

      Also, Riptide fully embraces intersex and all other genders - but the support infrastructure (blogs/reviewers) is not the same, and it bites me that amazing trans* or bi* stories can't get the same exposure than a luke-warm or cheap-ass m/m story. I personally only care about the quality, and my reading (or writing) is NOT 150% dedicated to ride the kink of the week.

    2. If you're anything like me, it was prolly close to a half million. I likes me some sweary words when pissed.

      Also, Riptide includes intersex characters?! FUCK ME, how did I miss this book? I shall have to remedy that as soon as possible, holy hell.

      And I'm with you, I read and write for the quality, mostly of the characters but also for the surroundings. Kinks come (hah!) and go, but characters are what you hold close to your heart.

    3. Riptide published Blacker than Black, which is a genderqueer book featuring hermaphrodites (and wow, we're proud to have it, because it's also beautiful). We've contracted one FtM story (which is damn hot, too, and literary, and beautiful, written by Elyan Smith), and we're desperate for more material like this.

      And - I agree. I care deeply about some characters I would never have expected to like. It's a bit of a risk, but I tend to trust a competent author and form my judgment AFTER I've read the book.

  3. I'm sick to death of politicians calling me weak, foolish, ignorant, a slut just because I have an innie instead of an outie. I really don't need that kind of hate in my entertainment and the community that surrounds it. I've been lucky that the little pockets of the m/m community I hang out in have been thoughtful, kind, and accepting. But that does mean that I avoid a lot of groups and blogs.

    I have a vagina. I refuse to spend my time, attention, money, or vote on anyone who thinks there's something wrong with me because of it.

    1. There are amazing writers out there that are and will toss this shit on the ground. With every post from Violetta Vane and Heidi Belleau, I have beautiful images in my head of a genre that doesn't give me the feeling of "do I NEED this shit every six weeks".

      I hope, one day, we'll drag these people out of whatever pond they inhabit (I'd have almost said "middle ages", but this isn't even medieval...). It's evolution, it's got to happen, and if we have to kick them every yard of the way.

      The crazy thing is, women are 51% of the global population.

  4. Whereas I'd LOVE to review more bisexual romance that does more than just mention that one or both guys are gay (and no, it doesn't have to be a menage). And I'd LOVE to be able to review some good trans* romance. I reviewed the Cairo book. I'd love some more. I wonder if DA gets more traffic than Wave's blog...

    1. I'd assume DA is one of several orders of magnitude larger than Jesse Wave (which is by far the biggest and most influential m/m blog out there). I'll make sure we'll send you our bi and trans* stories - we have some treats come up. Some fantastic voices that really deserve to be heard.

    2. Not to hijack Alek's blog ::blinks eyes innocently:: but I've got trans and menage I'd love to have reviewed by someone who would give them a fair shake. And I'll have more to come in the next year. I'd love to know there was a place I could send them.

  5. I can understand, to a point, the desire to protect the little corner of the world that you've had to fight so hard to carve out. That point ends when you start doing to others the same things that were done to you.

    A standing ovation to you, good sir, and all my support to your cause.

    1. Thank you. And I'd rather change attitudes than sound a call for war here. I do believe people can learn and will learn - and I think this particular issue is overdue and NEEDS to be addressed for m/m to ever grow up and be taken seriously.

  6. Kudos to you, Aleks, for saying what so many of us think. It boggles me on a daily basis that such self-hatred and prejudice runs so rampant amongst a community formed in the first place because of the very prejudices they now seem to embrace. I don't for a second buy the "it's fantasy" argument. Escapist, sure, but when contemporary is the largest selling subgenre and then the proper realism is not addressed in regards to safe sex, those same people will come back and scream loudly that authors are doing readers a disservice. Apparently, none of them understand the definition of hypocrisy.

    For the record, I don't excuse het readers for the same biases. In my opinion, such prejudices aren't excusable under any circumstances.

    I won't even touch the trans* issue. I wish I could, but it would be such a waste of effort and energy. All these readers care about are body parts, not actual characters. They profess to want new and different and risky, but that's just lip service.

    1. Anon - That's a very good point. Many positions are hypocritical and are taken and abandoned according to taste once a position is questioned and becomes untenable. Sometimes, m/m is "just like gay" and "all rainbow" and it's not exploitative because "we raised money for the Trevor project" (while trans* people are getting harassed in the genre and their publishers threatened with boycotts, as happened in the M/M Romance group blowup in November).

      And then when people criticise realism, it's "just fantasy". People can't have it both ways.

  7. Heidi also wrote a great post that complements this:

  8. I sooooo wanted that 3 page scene with Silvio, Stefano and Donata to happen, thank you!! You gave me the ending I really wanted but I have found that I tend to be amongst the minority in quite a few opinions in my life *shrug*.

    I have never understood the amount of hate a group of individuals can generate when they themselves have had that same level of hate directed towards them. It makes no sense to me. There are so many flavors (for lack of another word because I had a brain fart atm) of personal identity out there and none of us have the right to tell another they are wrong. Perhaps I am too open-minded (I have been told as much) but all I require for my moral compass to ring acceptable is consenting adults. What floats my boat doesn't necessarily float another persons and vice versa. I find it very difficult to understand the need to make everyone fit into neat little boxes..........damnit I LIKE outside the box ;)

    I would be very interested in reading more transgender stories. I am on a quest to understand better. So I will read until I do.

    1. Thank you! I do hope (I'm an optimist, despite my sometimes grim tales) that the "we hate vaginas" front in m/m readership is a small, vocal minority. (I hope it's a minority, or I won't be able to afford refunding them all their money.)

  9. The only part I don't agree with in your blog is there are a few gay men (very few) who don't like women. They are very rare and suffer from other issues as well but they are out there.

    Everything else, you're spot on.

    1. Well, that goes for any relational situation though... I know a heterosexual female who's been married for close to fifty years. And she's a hardcore misandrist.

    2. Lori - I've encountered women-hating gay people. In fact, I once went out for dinner with a random assortment of gay guys (friends of my uncle, also very much gay), and sat through four hours of vagina and menstruation jokes and some of the most appalingly sexist behaviour ever. I can't say I enjoyed my food, and being a stranger in a foreign city without money, I didn't have the option to take a taxi and go home. It was extremely painful to watch and to see them deride and ridicule and bitch about women (but then, I guess they manufacture some people on assembly lines, and a womb and the care, love and attention of a woman wasn't actually involved in creating those strapping young and middle-aged lads).

  10. I'm with you 110% on this one.
    Gender of characters shouldn't matter a whit, for starters. One way or the other.

    On top of that, there is nothing "rounded" or well developed about a story, or a genre, that excludes with extreme prejudice every hint of realism.

    I never had any illusions that BTB would be widely reviewed within the genre, for these reasons.

    I feel another ten-page thesis coming on. My thanks in advance for collating all the reference links for my citations in one place... =D

    1. Please, feel free. I think we need to put this discussion on the broadest-possible base (and I've borrowed links quoted elsewhere and that people pointed me to).

  11. I have to wonder about the fantasy lives of people who have such a narrow view of what they will read for escape. I personally like my fantasy to have a good, solid grounding in reality. Even my personal fantasies involve real people in real (or potentially real) settings. But then, I'm also one of those people who likes her science fiction to have a grounding in real science (thank you, Mom!) and has been known to poke around fact-checking historicals.

    I also don't like the idea of DNFing a book because it did something that disrupted your expectations -- I rather thought that was the whole point of reading something you've never read before. If I want to see the exact same relationship replayed ad nauseum, I'll simply keep re-reading the same couple of books, thanks.

    Make me a list -- GOOD m/m/f, trans*, anything with strong, well-rounded, *likeable* female Characters in a Supporting Role. Please. Promise I'll read!

    1. Hi Tracy - I'm the same (research, realism, all of it). The people have to be real, or I'm not interested in them (or what they get up to in bed - despite the amount of toys and ingenious positions).

      That list would be a treasure - I'd suggest putting the question out there on Goodreads.

  12. I haven't read Vol 5 yet (tonight! I can hardly wait), but I did want to comment. I'm one of those who doesn't really care if it's m/m/f, m/m, f/f or m/f (and any combination thereof, including trans). It makes me furious that there is such hostility toward women in m/m stories. Real life has more complexity, and not every gay man is a Kinsey 6.

    I occasionally review books on my blog, and would love to review yours anytime. (Btw, I came to your work from reading Lion of Kent when I saw it at Carina).

    And now I'm going to go read Vol. 5 because I want to see what happens between Silvio/Stefano/Donata :)

    1. Hi Alyssa, thanks for commenting (and sticking with me - do check out Kate Cotoner's solo work, too, she's awesome).

      I completely agree. All the gay men I know (and talked to about it) had sex and relationships with women, and most of them are still fond oft hose women, as friends, as memories, or just as people.

      If you want to do a review, get in touch at vashtan at gmail com - I can do blog posts or interviews or send you a copy of whatever book you'd like.

  13. Very well put, Aleks.

    I don't particularly like het sex when I'm reading, but I never score it against the books (or I try not to, unless the het relationship was mentioned in the blurb and thus I was forewarned). That's mostly my current issue kicking in though.

    What I found interesting about Donata (and keep in mind I've only read Vol 4 & 5) is that at first I wanted him to get divorced from her so S&S could live HEA. But then I really got to meet her and I loved her for being strong and understanding and patient. While the sex still squicked me, it was really well done and I think balanced out the relationship. Plus it showed the full acceptance of all parties in the relationship. (And this is without having read the previous three books.) I'm sure you already know how awesome Donata is though, so I won't bore you.

    Other than that, I agree with Amara!

    1. Hi Alex - Yep, we all have our issues, and I'm not discounting that. I just believe that an open mind can beat whatever other stuff is going on. :) And I'm glad you're "getting" Donata and her role. I didn't expect it to turn out the way it did, but when it did, Rachel had my back and I decided I can't write that book any other way.

  14. Well, since you mentioned me, I may as well way in. LOL Yeah - here's the thing about that review that pissed me off - the reviewer started off by mentioning Chaz Bono, and made it seem as though I'd "tackled" the "issue" of transgender people. First of all, I TACKLE being transgender every day, and second of all, transgender people aren't an "issue". Politics is an issue. Religion is an issue. Transgender people are HUMAN. Clearly the reviewer had no clue who I was, and did no research before posting their review. (I've ranted about that before, after seeing a review of a story written by an African American person, in which the reviewer said the African American characters weren't realistically written. Frankly, a lot of reviewers would save themselves sounding like asshats if they did a 10 minute google search, but that's beside the point.)

    The other thing that pissed me off is a clearly non transgender person voicing an opinion on what they believed a transgender person would or would not do. There is no one on the planet who comprehends what it's like to be transgender other than ANOTHER transgender person. Everyone else can imagine and empathize, but actual comprehension is beyond them. We go through things that "regular" people can't even imagine. So for someone to say "I don’t think that a person who is committed to a gender transition would just up and put on a dress to placate his mother." is just ridiculous.

    The review of "Static," by the way is not "the first novel reviewed on this blog that deals specifically with transgendered people in a starring role" since it happened on 7/2/11 and "Family Ties" was reviewed on 8/19/10. Again, reviewers failing to do research. But then again, "FT" isn't a "novel" by any means - it's much shorter. Something else my work gets dissed for quite frequently. Meh.

    But in any case...

    On the point of women in m/m fiction: It seems there are only a few options for women - either they're bitchy ex-wives, awful mothers, or "fag hags". Which, for a moment let me divert here to say just how absolutely abhorrent I find that term. I mean, you wouldn't call a woman who only hung around with African American men a "n*gger hag" so why is "fag hag" acceptable??? (And for God's sake please no one go off on me for using the term n*gger. I'm the least racist person on the planet.)

    But yes, getting back to the topic - gay men have female relationships. Friends. Sisters. Cousins. Mothers. Sometimes ::gasp:: sexual partners or ex girlfriends. Some gay men don't come out of the womb knowing they're gay. Some find it out later, after having ::gasp:: heterosexual sex a couple times. And there are bisexual men. Yes, they exist. I *am* one. Sometimes, the family members of gay men are stupid, mean, intolerant, and brutal. But sometimes, they're not. I realize it's realistic to include mean family members. I've done it. Most of my gay characters come from less than accepting families. That's what I know, so that's what I use. And I've been accused of writing a bitch female - in Finding Sanctuary, Vincent's female fiance goes a bit off the deep end when he leaves her. I'm not sure that's not a rational reaction from someone who has just had her white picket fence life ripped from her clutching grasp. I didn't write her that way on purpose, it's what the characters dictated. That's either the truth or a cop out, whichever the reader decides it is. I know it's the truth.

    1. What you said, bro. I'm not even worried about the ocassional "bitch ex-wife" or the ocassional "fag hag" (and I like none of those terms), I'm worried when it's consistent throughout an author's work (because then I *will* assume this author Has Issues), relentless, widely accepted and EXPECTED - which at the moment it pretty much seems to be.

  15. had to break this up because it was too big. LOL

    Why aren't females written nicer? I haven't a clue. I can totally understand (though I think it's archaic) the attitude of not wanting male/female sexual acts in a male/male book. That should be labeled menage. What I can't understand is not wanting female characters in the books at all. That's just...silly. Women exist.

    And, though I haven't read Dark Soul, unless the male lover wants and expects his married male lover to leave the wife, then there's no "short end of the stick" if the wife isn't left. That's call bisexual. And being bisexual is not giving anyone the short end of the stick. If anything bisexual sex is way more exciting than limiting oneself to just straight or gay sex. I get that it's not everyone's thing, but it's *someone's* thing, and it shouldn't be relegated to the back of the bus.

    On the topic of reviews: Meh. I'm not convinced reviews are all that important. Do I really care what anyone says about my work? Ultimately? No. Am I humbled and thrilled when someone actually gets it? Of course. I'm human. It's a natural reaction to be proud/pleased when someone praises you. I'm more amused than insulted, though, when they don't get it, because often times, they really just don't get it.

    On the topic of transgender characters: I'm sick to DEATH of being told that my ftm characters aren't "really gay" because they're trans. Here's the thing - if someone LIVES as a man, has relationships with MEN, and f*cks MEN, he's GAY. It doesn't matter if his penis is between his legs or in his bottom drawer. The elitist bullshit that goes on in this industry - where only men with attached penises qualify to write male/male sex, and only men with attached penises qualify to be IN male/male sex, makes me ill. I'm sick to death of blogs by upstarts who rant about what m/m "should" be. You know what it "should" be? Romance. The rest is details that don't matter.

    I've written m/m. I've written f/f. I've written transgender. I've written menage. I've written twincest. I've written soft BDSM and hardcore BDSM. I'll continue to write all of those. This year, I'm going after mpreg, zombies, religion, more twincest, brocest, and homelessness in two different views. I challenge anyone in the industry to tell me I can't.

    1. I'm weird, but I think a menage would involve a more-or-less equal triangle. There's no real relationship between Donata and Silvio. She likes him, she finds him attractive, and Silvio respects her and finds her attractive. Donata has had girl-on-girl sex and does like threesomes. Silvio is a Kinsey 5 or thereabouts, but he has had encounters with women, and right at the start of the series states that not many women can give him what he wants (which is being dominated and made submissive/receptive).

      But Donata does exactly that. We know - from the start - that this is a possibility, and that Silvio can get off on this. All I'm doing in part 5 is to get him off on that, and build mutual understanding between the lover and the wife of a bisexual man who has suffered a great deal trying to choose between them. People have these kinds of arrangements in real life all the time. I've seen it, and I'm hugely impressed when people negotiate their sex lives as ADULTS rather than what's in the Bible or gods know where those crazy ideas come from (and don't get me started on sexuality in the Bible - I have read the Old Testament).

  16. Have I mentioned lately how much I admire you, Aleks? Well done, boy!

    In my last goodreads review (of an historical m/m) I happened to write:

    "Another thing that bugged me is that there is not a single female in this book that does not fall somewhere in the range between pathetic and spoiled bitch. In fact, the HEA for the MCs is created by removing ALL females from their life together, not in the least the potential future female necessary to produce an heir. Except for the scullery maid and other female lowlife, I'm sure. Good riddance?"

    1. Marleen: Thanks. I wish these rants weren't so bloody necessary.

      And - yes! i believe that if it keeps cropping up in reviews, people might actually change their thinking habits. It's just that - a habit of lazy thinking (and, yes, lazy writing), and the world is too complex for that.

  17. I am one of those who dislike MMF. Period. I would have really appreciate it if this writer of Dark Soul has forewarned this development in Vol 5. Now I have spent nearly 20 bucks buying all 5 volumes of a series which I will never read. Aleks, you are not new to this genre. You should know some MM readers read MM because it is MM and nothing else. I read to enjoy. I am nearly asking for a refund here..

    1. When you go to the page of Dark Soul 5 in Riptides site, you will find a complete list of themes & pairings that will be found in the story. So it's actually the readers own fault, if they buy a book before taking a look at any possible warnings or themes they will have issues with.

  18. As a side note, if you go to the Riptide Publishing page and look up all the Dark Soul books, on the Additional Details tab, under Pairing, *ALL* the books say "bisexual." A couple of them say "multiple partners" and the final one says "menage." Since the tag bisexual was used from the beginning, that would mean, at least to me, that - eventually - there's going to be some m/f sex going on.

    1. The problem is I bought the Dark Soul Series in Amazon which provide no such warning. I never would have bought this series if I have known about any m/f/m pairing. Perhaps publishers should have provided more description to Amazon since so many of us buy from Amazon kindle!

    2. Hi Anon - Get in touch with me by email and forward me the receipts of your Amazon purchase and your PayPal address, and I will refund you what you paid for the whole series.

      (This, even though the m/m/f sex happens on three pages out of 306. But I'm not going to argue just by how many percent those three pages lessen the value of the story.)

      We *are* providing all the information that Amazon will accept, but we have no power over Amazon's way to handle information. This is one of the reasons why we spent months and a lot of hard work to make the tagging system work on our page - and we do have the most sophisticated "warning" system out there.

      Anyway. My email is vashtan at gmail doc. The money will be with you as soon as I get home, with my compliments.

    3. Thanks. I am not that desperate about a refund but am tempted. Dark Soul is not the only story bought by "mistake". I have always like your writing and am just disappointed, especially waiting for the whole series to end before reading. Was looking forward to it as the description in Amazon never hint on any f/m or m/m/f love. "Three pages out of 306..". The problem is these pages happen towards the ending which spoils the whole flavor.

    4. Please, do be my guest - I'd rather pay the money back than have somebody out there holding a grudge over the money they spent because I "misled" them.

      Regarding further writing: I'm "warning" you now (I know, "warning" is a fandom tradition) that you will not like any of the Scorpion-related stories that I'm currently outlining. As outlined, all of them have heavy trans* and genderqueer content, and those trans* characters won't all be MtFs.

    5. Regardless of where you actually purchase the book from, you should always do your research, check out the author's site *and* the publisher's site, and read every excerpt available, etc. When in doubt, you can always e-mail or send a Facebook message to an author and just simply ask what themes there are, and if they think the book is for you. I have a dedicated reader who does this all the time b/c she doesn't like heavy BDSM, and often you can't tell how heavy a scene will get simply from a warning. So...yeah. Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the reader. Authors cannot be thought police.

    6. You got to be kidding me! Do research etc etc before buying a book. How is a writer going to earn a living if a reader takes so long before making up her mind. Life is too busy for that! I am not really holding a grudge. My own fault for assuming A. Voinov will only stick to MM romance, as past reading experience has indicated. Have to be more careful now if MM writers are going to switch to MMF. My interpretation of F here means a straight woman. I am fine with trans* and genderqueer. Just not a story featuring a straight woman in a MMF relationship and that is my choice of reading for enjoyment.

    7. You know, in the old days, people used to spend hours in brick and mortar bookstores, browsing aisles, looking at books, reading blurbs, flipping through magazines, etc. Not just for books - folks did this for many items - furniture, cars, jewelry. People made informed decisions based on research. Everyone wants things instant now. Well, when you go instant, you give up certain things. Like certainty.

  19. Hi, Aleksandr,

    Ann Somerville kindly passed me on the link to your blog post here. Been there, fought some of these same battles. As a bisexual male, I didn't write my novel, Dragon Streets, as a "gay novel" or m/m fiction, because I consider myself bi, not gay. And that novel was about a bisexual character. I was idiotically naive, and I had to have someone else explain to me after the book sale how m/m fans are mostly straight women, etc., blah, blah, blah.

    Wave was good enough to bend the rules to review it, and Sirius reviewed Buddha on the Road, but yes, there is a HUGE amount of hostility in some quarters towards bi depictions, female characters, and quite frankly, some of the debates and discussions in online forums are a huge turn-off. Got sucked in a couple of years ago by a wolverine pack on Goodreads... Never again, especially when these so-called know-it-alls hide behind aliases.

    There are some wonderful, caring fans out there and some brilliant reviewers, but yes, the bullshit is unbelievable sometimes. I quoted you with a line of yours from here on another forum that drifted into this issue. It's not just the women-bashing that gets me, but how the genre is quickly calcifying into the Mills & Boon crap which is why many readers fled HET romance in the first place. I won't allow anyone to tell me what to write, but I think I've outgrown the genre and perhaps so have you. This isn't to say we've outgrown our readers, far from it... just the idiotic categorization and artificial "rules" certain folks insist on having.

    I wish you the best of luck!!

    Jeff Pearce

    1. Hi Jeff - thanks for commenting. What you describe sounds like what I love to read, so I'll be putting your books on my pile.

      I'm frankly shocked at the bi-hostility (then again, I shouldn't be - bis are either "totally hot" because we can cater to some person's sexual fetish for threesomes - done it, was kinda fun and way too complicated, and then didn't end very well - or natural-born traitors and cheaters). I'm desperate for more bi books that show us as something else. You know, people with the rare gift to love whatever kind of partner we encounter. And it is a gift.

      (Which is the reason why I made Stefano's arch about accepting his bisexual nature and finding a way to deal with it and an arrangement that works for him AND his partners.)

      Also, you are 100% correct about the calcification. Crazily enough, the het world doesn't seem to have anything similar, and Current Romance has come a LONG way from the M&B stereotypes (but Sarah Frantz is the expert, most of my knowledge on the Wider Romance Genre is from Dear Author). So, it's our niche that is so crazy with a wide consensus of craziness.

      I hope authors feel less pressured about following those rules and I do believe we'll get more awesome books if we break every rule in the book.

    2. If you pick up my titles, it'll be honor indeed! And I'll go check out yours soon. :-)

      Yeah, as a bi male, all kinds of crap, never even mind the crap in terms of literary expectations, etc. Fight the power!

    3. Hi Jeff - I got Dragon Streets and hope to read it soon. :)

  20. The Rainbow doesn't only have one colour. The alphabet soup "GLBTQQ" does NOT mean "gay only and everything else is ewwwww". It's not "gay-only voices, and everybody else shut up because you're not feeding our kinks."


    DC Juris said: You know what it "should" be? Romance. The rest is details that don't matter.

    YES, that!

    I am still surprised that in a genre that has been discriminated against, there is such a rigid way of thinking, prejudice and even discrimination.

    I am glad that publishers like Riptide and Storm Moon Press welcome all stories in the GLBTQQ range, and I hope more will follow, as well as review sites.

    huh ... if we want to be all inclusive shouldn't there be an S in that acronym?

    1. I can fix that - there's an "A" missing, too - hence the flippant comment about the "alphabet soup".

    2. Ouch! Yes *feels ashamed for missing the a*

      Alphabet soup is right, maybe we should just go with 'rainbow family' or something like that. 'Embrace the Rainbow' is a good place to start. No letters, no distinctions, the rainbow doesn't discriminate or label, nor should we :)

  21. Funny you should mention The Rainbow Aleksandr, while readinig the discussion on Dear Author I kinda had the impression that it was still Black & White out there in the world. I must admit that I'm a fairly new reader on mm novels so I'm still a bit ignorant on what goes on out there, however that all topic brought some heavy sad feelings on me. You see I read "books" and by that I mean like to read a full story. It doesnt matter to me if its about war, romance, scifi or whatever as long as it's well written and in the end of the book I'll be left with a content feeling that I gain something by reading the book. Perhaps I dont understand reviewers at all. Never read a book just for the reviews sake. I'd rather have my own opinion on it. And how are they to say that the readers wont read a m/m book because it has some m/f/m scene on it. Mutilating the story from all females just seems so unnormal to me. Like having to cook without spices. It's just sad...
    So big thanks for being who you are really, being the first author that introduced me in this genre and made me love it all the way.

    1. Hi Tomy - thanks for commenting. As a reader, I'm much like you. I read for the "full story", not for some gay utopia where women don't exist or are "naturally evil". For me, the main thing I read for is emotional release - tension, suspense, deep caring about people's struggles and developments, and then the happy glow of resolution. And that's it - whatever genre, whatever writer can give me that without setting of my bullshit detector or making me cringe with bad prose has a fan in me.

  22. I always thought that the whole point of writing LGBTTQ stories was that respect should be given, attention paid and voices listened to that had been ignored, marginalised or reviled in the past. I've seen many comments by people who identify as LBGTTQ saying how joyful they are to see stories written about people similar to them, enduring and surmounting the same problems and eventually coming to some kind of happy ending. It strikes me that that is a fabulous thing to do - to give someone that pleasure through ones imagination and words on a page - whether the story requires a 'romance' tag or not.

    My kink is for well written stories about sympathetic human beings whose choices I can respect and an engrossing plot. To discard the whole of Dark Soul etc - 306 pages of story - because of one short mmf sex scene is ludicrous to me. Even more ludicrous than lumping all stories that deal with LBQTGT relationship under the 'erotica' banner whether the sex scenes are explicit, or present or not.

    1. Hi Elin - I agree. It's crazy that these stories - which are empowering to a (not so small) minority and might just lift up people that have been crushed and ignored and made invisible - how that is twisted in the name of "kink" and made intolerant, shallow, and reverse-hateful. You don't fix thousands of years of suffering and discrimination by reverse-discrimination and suffering and hatred.

      And yeah, the "erotica" label is f*cking stupid - I mean, the mainstream has some terrible and appalling sex writing but doesn't come with those labels....

  23. I commented over on Goodreads, but this topic has bothered me for years, so here I go: I didn't have a clue about m/m when I started writing. I just wrote. If I needed a bitch in the story, I wrote one in. Met enough to know they exist. And if I needed an asshole guy, I wrote him in too. What I didn't expect after all this writing was the comments indicating female relationships, sexual or supportive, were unwelcome. And more surprising, some readers expected me to place my characters in a world without sexual issues such as sexual identity or prejudice to same sex couples. I was, basically, criticized for having a bit of reality in my epic fantasy. Since I was exploring these issues with my characters, and fantasy settings can sometimes make issues stand out, I found the criticism strange. I didn't write my stories to have a mental masturbation over men who exist in a world without social issues or women. I wrote about men who persisted despite prejudice and danger. Actually I thought I was writing an epic fantasy.

    In any case, I don't like how glbtq content is a big no to some m/m readers/reviewers. I can understand preferences in reading, but I think a reader /reviewer should be honest rather than offer unwarranted criticism. If your thing is for man on man, don't call it purity of genre. It's just your particular reading fetish.

    1. KM - I'm 150% with you. I've always only written what I felt, and when it co-incided with the "kink of the day" at some places and for some readers, cool, I take the money, but it's not why I write or how I write. My character would laugh at me and never stop. :)

      The crazy thing is that "real life" gays seem to be more open about all this wider rainbow stuff. So here's a group of people discrimination most of the rainbow for the sake of one of the colours of the rainbow that has no such discrimination, at least on the literary side (and some unfortunate gay writers bitching about female authors in "their" genre notwithstanding).

      I'm crazy, but can't we all just grow up?

  24. One of the reasons I started reading m/m fiction was because I was tired of the wimpy, pushoever women in het romace/erotica.
    I don't have an objection to women in my fiction; I just prefer them to have some backbone. The more Donata appeared in the Dark Soul series the more I liked her, and I did enjoy the m/m/f part - it was a beautifully written scene.
    Maybe it's because I'm bi and poly, but once the idea existed that Stefano, Silvio and Donata could have a relationship that made perfect sense to me. The same with Silvio's gender fluidity - it fitted him.
    I would rather have a well written, realistic story than a fantasy that someone thinks will appeal because all the unpleasantness, the women and any variation from m/m has been removed. Hell, I'd rather have a well written story full stop!

    1. Hi pointycat (love the nick!) - Yes, I hear that much of the attraction of m/m is that there are no idjit heroines seemingly so common in m/f. I do think the issue is much larger here - I think writing stupid/idiotic/weak/whiny/unsympathetic/..../ women is basically lazy and bad writing. But if I'm bad at writing something, I try to make up that weakness.

      I've often said I'm bad at writing women, but I have long had some issues with femininity (largely, I hate the enforced feminine stereotypes that female-bodied people are expected to follow and are being bullied into following), but looking around myself in my daily life, I'm BESIEGED by kick-ass women I respect a great deal. So the solution for me is to take my fictional women from real life - half a dash from a friend, some attitudes from my boss... and Lady Frankenstein lives and kicks ass and takes names.

      And, I'm with you. While I'm a monogamous person (serial monogamy), I know poly people that make this work and with the right people, that would an arrangement that works for me, too. So, yep. I rather have my characters find ways to live with themselves and each other than tick somebody else's kink box.

  25. Interesting topic, Aleks.

    I've found that over the years of reading m/m my feelings have changed on this subject. When I first started reading m/m romance, I came from m/f romance out of a dissatisfaction with some of the female characters in those books. Many were irritating and not at all like me. It was refreshing to me to have stories which focused solely on men (who I could enjoy reading about without ever being forced to 'become' as is sort of expected with a female romance character) and their love for each other, and I got annoyed if a woman 'intruded' on that, as I saw it at the time. I've also never been fond of m/f erotica, even before I read m/m romance. I hate the use of the word 'pussy' or 'cunt' and that shows up in nearly all erotic romance where a woman is involved. In m/m erotic romance there are lots of cocks, dicks and pricks but no pussies and cunts and so I could read that without wincing. Double standards? Possibly, but give me a 'moist cave' over pussy any day!

    Nowadays, I find myself more interested in looking at a range of different dynamics in relationships and so a character who has sex with men and women is just as appealing to me, as long as the sex scenes are written in a way as to avoid overly graphic sex terms. I've reviewed many like this on my blog, even one a couple of days ago where all the characters are openly bisexual. My one exception to that is m/m/f romance. I've tried it several times but there's something about it that just doesn't appeal to me. I'm not sure why, perhaps I need to examine that a little further. However, to be castigated over what is, in a sense, just a quirk of reading preference seems rather extreme. I don't hate bisexuality just because I'm not keen on m/f/m romance.

    The decision of a certain romance review site not to review books with m/f sex in them was born out of pressure from publishers for reviews of m/f/m books. It wasn't the original intent never to review books with some m/f sex in, and before the ban I reviewed several books with m/f sex in them. However, in order not to appear to have double standards the site decided it needed to draw a line and be firm about it. It's not been a popular decision, I know. I'm not sure I agree with it either, but it's not my site and I have to abide by the decisions made by the people who run it, just as the guest reviewers at Brief Encounters have to abide by our rules of no stories over 20,000 words.

    1. Hi Jen - thanks for your comment, and I can say that my own preferences have shifted very much along the same lines (I had some serious issues with femininity, but show me one transguy who doesn't...and i'll ask you for a black-winged unicorn next).

      Of course everybody can review whatever the hell they want. There's no reason why a blog couldn't specialise in reviewing only blond-haired characters or books with ginger tomcats on the cover. :) It's just when they fly the GLBTQQSA flag or harp on about the Trevor Project that I get somewhat angry. Because it's not just G kids that kill themselves - if anything, there's a certain privilege attached to be genetically male (or pass for male), be white and gay and the whole works - something that's widely discussed in the rainbow community and among writers. So, making the support visible with putting the flag there is a great thing, but when the actions are in direct contradiction to that, then I get a bit weirded out. "We don't mind trans* stuff and we support trans* people, but we don't want to read their stuff." Anybody else clenching their teeth at that?

  26. Aleks,
    Thanks for writing this post. It gives me some very good food for thought.

    1. You're welcome. I can't help bursting out with this stuff...

  27. This We are the other colours out there, and I, for one, will never self-censor myself to just one colour. I'm way more than that.

    It's the reason why I choose to find the proverbial line drawn in the sand by people who think they know what is or is not "prudent" or "pure" in this genre and I boldly step over it (and smile at them as I do so). It's because I spent years of my life hiding my truth for fear of attack, bullying and "a fatal accident" that I am very sure would have occurred had I not waited to come out when I did. I've met and worked with people who aren't "pure gay" who don't identify with the tall, muscled, gorgeously handsome closeted football player or the tiny, very pretty twink that seem to be staples in much of this m/m genre and they laugh when I tell them about some of the books out there. They ask me where are the matchmaking female best friends, where are the mothers and the sisters, they ask me why is it that all of the women are so evil in the books.

    They ask me why I got so many angry emails about my having the bisexual sister, in my wolf-shifter series, defeating the villain in my fourth book seeing as how the female is definitely the more vicious of the wolf species.

    I wish I understood why this "female-dominated genre" is so antagonistic against the female character and sometimes even the female writer, why they are so against bisexuals and trans* characters and gender fluid characters when these people actually exist in the rainbow community. I just don't.

    Maybe one day someone will explain it and then we'll all understand and be able to deal with it, until then it's up to amazing authors, with amazing platforms who are just "too big to ignore" to keep breaking down stereotypes and pushing the envelope. It's not the reviewers who decide what is acceptable, it's the readers, because for every story there is a reader who will cherish it and we are doing them a huge disservice when we tell them that the story that they love or the characters that they adore aren't "pure" or "acceptable" because they don't fit into some reviewer's preconceived, and mistaken, view of what it means to be a part of the GLBTQQ community. We're doing those people who are gender-fluid, who are trans*, who are bisexual, who are gay men with strong female connections a disservice because we're telling them that they don't exist, because we're allowing someone else to dictate that to us.

    That's just my opinion of course, but it's the opinion of someone who is not only gay but trans* as well.

  28. I swear to god, I am sick to death of all this bullshit. Life has put a kink in my online time, so I go for loooong stretches without getting a chance to get on and catch up, but EVERY single time I have for the past few months, I've come back to yet another firestorm of...I don't even know what to call it.

    People have got to stop talking out of both sides of their mouths. You are either tolerant of ALL or you are not. This is not a Skittles rainbow. You can pick your favorite color or flavor out of the bag, but you must buy the whole bag to begin with.

    I don't even know what I'm saying, I am just too frustrated by the entire community. It's a fucking high school clique and I am so resolute now and really glad in the decision I made to get out of it. This completely seals the deal. People are not being inclusive and supportive and 'embracing' anything.

    And, none of it ever looks likely to change, this divide just keeps getting deeper and uglier and it's just plain sad.

    Best of luck, Aleks, I know it goes without saying how much I adore you. *hugs*

  29. Justine Anderson24 March 2012 at 16:08

    It's a shame that they choose not to review these books, and readers who choose not to read them are the ones that miss out on some beautifully written stories.

    I loved the Dark Soul series and for me the ménage was a perfect addition to the story. It felt true to the development of the characters and I loved Donata and her acceptance. It was great to see a strong woman who wasn't a complete bitch for a change.

    I love reading stories with bisexual characters and following their journey of discovery, that probably has anything to do with the fact that I'm a bi woman.

    I would have thought that the incest would have provoked a stronger reaction for people rather than the inclusion of the ménage.

    It's a shame that the reviewers feel that they have to exclude so much. Glad that I make my own choices and recommendations to and from my friends rather than relying on the reviewers rather blinkered viewpoint.

    I am so glad that you decided to continue to write what you want to write after the November '11 events. I look forward to you continuing to stretch the limits of what I choose to read.

  30. Hmm. Such an interesting post.

    I'm still working my way through the DA columns -- I'm recovering from the flu and currently have the attention span of a gnat -- so I'm only responding to your post.

    I think *perhaps* some of the hostility toward girly bits developed early in m/m when certain het authors attempted to cash in on the perception of a very lucrative sub-sub-genre by writing romances that had the best of all possible commercial worlds: m/f/m. Thus we had "gay romances" where somehow a woman managed to be central to the relationship.

    When I first came across these stories they did strike me as a crass commercial ploy, stories designed to cater to heterosexual sensibilities and fantasies.

    It may not have been fair even then, and I'm sure it's no longer fair given how much the genre has evolved in a few short years. However, I think some of that bias still lingers -- a sense of resentment that gay romance can only be tolerated if a woman is somehow included in the mix.

    Anyway, I'm not arguing with your point so much as analyzing the antecedents of what I agree is a genuine bias.

    1. Hi Josh - thanks for commenting, and I hope your flue clears up quickly (my partner got something like that last weekend, just in time for his birthday, so I hope you have a carer ready with chicken soup, too).

      I totally agree on the m/f/m thing, actually. I've never read any of them apart from a couple books written by friends, and the main thing that irked me was that very often that triangle was really lop-sided.

      I believe a triad can work (not that Dark Soul *is* a triad), but usually not in a short form (three people bring like twice or three times the issues to the table that two people do), and I think it requires a lot of character insight and a damned good writer to even attempt it.

      My big issue is that, yes, the genre has moved on - lots of readers have moved on from the "ewww, woman bits" - but those that haven't shout very loudly, and some of the most influential and important reviewers are actually fuelling that bias and intolerance while flying rainbow flags on their blogs.

  31. Thanks Aleks, for saying what has needed to be said. I find it strange and saddening that so many claim discomfort when normal women are part of m/m stories without even getting into sex scenes. It is fascinating to consider how the antecedents of the current m/m genre are tangling us up today.

    I am one of those readers who found m/m by accident and kept reading because I didn't have to suspend my disbelief (or even understanding of my own life?)to read a story where two people find each other and through that experience become their true selves/are better for this relationship - whether that is HEA or HFN or shades in between. This doesn't mean that I want my gender to be erased or disparaged. It means that I want to respect the story and the people in it.

    I have too much real life going on at the moment so I am saving Dark Soul 4 and 5 for a time when I am able to read them with the attention they deserve and as a reward - I am looking forward to this very much. I am too much of a romance reader not to want a HFN/HEA and I know 3 books in that Donata is an essential part of that. I am also glad that there will be new Scorpion books!

  32. I can't even count the m/m-books I found disappointing because they either had no female characters in them at all or where the only female character was the villain. It is like the ugliest side of fandom, where on the one hand the female fans bemoan the lack of strong women in the original source and yet either erase or turn the women that do exist into villains and harpies. Female character bashing at its worst. :-(

    I want interesting characters, male and female and transgender and queergender.

    I'm currently plotting out an SF-book where one of the supporting characters turned out to be genderqueer, probably intersex. I'm not going to cut hir out of the story just because some morons think that in m/m there only should be men.

    My male characters also might be interested in women, they might flirt with women and men, they might have had relastionships with women, they will have female friends and family.

    Women are great! We get erased or reduced to stereotypes enough in mainstream-fiction that we shouldn't do it to ourselves as well.

  33. I know this is a bit off topic but I do feel it is important to mention since evryone keeps mentioning the Rainbow flag and how people are only accepting one color. If everyone took the time to look up Gilbert Baker's 1979 Rainbow flag they would know that each color does not stand for any of the alphabet soup. The six colors that are represented Mean red: life orange: healing yellow: sunlight green: nature Blue: harmony and violet: spirit. GLBTQQ is not seperated under this flag. This flag is to represent what you should be standing and living for as a whole. I really have no comment about the other issues. I don't want to get involved. I just wanted to let everyone know the meanings behind the colors and to think on it.

  34. How very odd. In my decade of writing m/m stories, I've never had a single reader object to my female, bisexual, or gender-variant characters. (My most popular series has all three.) Moreover, three wildly popular online m/m authors are Manna Francis, Maculategiraffe, and M. Chandler. All three give prominent roles to women, and the first two have bisexual protagonists. Maybe the reviewers are simply out of touch with what many readers like?

    My only objection to the female characters I've seen in m/m fiction is that they so often fall into the trope of ordinary, sympathetic friend. I'd love to see some friendly wild-eyed radical women, now and then.

  35. Many times, either while reading a book or just after finishing one, I've thought "it's too bad they didn't bring her in" or "why don't they have any women?" Then I'd answer myself with its supposed to be m/m, gay, no women allowed, and feel deflated and dumb. So it's rather cool to read that someone else has thought about it and wrestled, as well.

    For the record, I like Katya. And, I'm a true consumer, I usually buy a book based on the blurb and or excerpt, very seldom do I believe a book review.