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The Inside Reader: Lynn Flewelling

Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir Mitchell
I "met" Lynn Flewelling for real once, in September 2008 at YaoiCon. I was in the audience of the panel she had on gay characters, and the discussion shifted on why women read gay themed novel. Truth be told the audience was a little shy, and when Lynn asked our opinion, few of us had the courage to lift the hand. At first I didn't want, my spoken English is way worst than my written, but in the end I did (maybe surprising Z.A. Maxfield (zamaxfield) and Clare London (clarelondon) who were sitting near me ;-) Hi Ladies!). Anyway I remember that Lynn told me (and she confirmed it some days ago) that my theory can have some points. Personal remembrances aside, I'm really happy to have Lynn as Inside Reader this week. Enjoy her wonderful list!

1) Fire From Heaven & The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. As I recall, Renault's work was my first experience of queer content literature. I discovered her books in high school because I love Greek history and mythology, and here if I first found gay characters in the mainstream of the plots, often as the heroes, in the process. In Fire From Heaven, Alexander the Great comes of age, and falls in love with his best friend, Hephaestion, just like Achilles and Patrocles. It was all so beautiful and heroic and exciting. I believe that comes out in my own work and I thank Renault for that early influence. As for the Persian Boy? Well, who doesn't love a sexy slave boy story? I know this one shows up on a lot of people's list of favorites. Seriously, though, the history is well done. That's right; the history.

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Vintage (June 11, 2002)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375726828
ISBN-10: 0375726829
ISBN-13: 978-0375726828
Amazon: Fire From Heaven

“Written with her usual vigor and imagination...Mary Renault has a great talent.”–The New York Times Book Review. Alexander’s beauty, strength, and defiance were apparent from birth, but his boyhood honed those gifts into the makings of a king. His mother, Olympias, and his father, King Philip of Macedon, fought each other for their son’s loyalty, teaching Alexander politics and vengeance from the cradle. His love for the youth Hephaistion taught him trust, while Aristotle’s tutoring provoked his mind and Homer’s Iliad fueled his aspirations. Killing his first man in battle at the age of twelve, he became regent at sixteen and commander of Macedon’s cavalry at eighteen, so that by the time his father was murdered, Alexander’s skills had grown to match his fiery ambition.

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Vintage (February 12, 1988)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780394751016
ISBN-10: 0394751019
ISBN-13: 978-0394751016
Amazon: The Persian Boy

“It takes skill to depict, as Miss Renault has done, this half-man, half Courtesan who is so deeply in love with the warrior.”–The Atlantic Monthly. The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander’s life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but found freedom with Alexander after the Macedon army conquered his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes-mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper. After Alexander’s mysterious death, we are left wondering if this Persian boy understood the great warrior and his ambitions better than anyone.

2) Chrome by George Nader. I stumbled across this classic of gay SF in the front bookrack of the local bookshop in my little hometown during my college days. It was pretty obviously a gay book but it wasn't relegated to a back rack, special section (gay lit sections didn't exist in those days in the wilds of northern Maine) or worse yet banned. There it was, in plain sight, just waiting for me to discover the weird and sexy story of Chrome and his liege, Lord Vortex. Not exactly the Persian Boy, but there was definitely a taboo power dynamic going on. It's been years since I read it, but as I recall, something was wrong with Vortex's arms, which were encased in tubes for healing, so Chrome had to help him with lots of things. Romance ensued.

Paperback
Publisher: Jove Pubns (July 1979)
ISBN-10: 0515048461
ISBN-13: 978-0515048469
Amazon: Chrome

George Nader (October 19, 1921 – February 4, 2002) was an American film and television actor of Lebanese descent. He appeared in a variety of films from 1950 through 1974, including Phone Call from a Stranger (1952), Congo Crossing (1956), and The Female Animal (1957). During this period, he also did episodic television and starred in several series, including the unique NBC adventure offering, The Man and the Challenge (1959–60). However, his best-remembered role may have been as "Roy", the hero who saves the world from the clutches of "Ro-man" in the low-budget 3-D sci-fi romp Robot Monster (1953). In the mid-1950s, rumors about Nader's private life began to surface. Nader's companion was Mark Miller who would later become Hudson's personal secretary. Nader's career in Hollywood was ended. He and Miller moved to Europe, where Nader found steady work in films. A notable role during this period was as U.S. government agent "Jerry Cotton" in a German film series where he became the number two most popular film star in Germany behind Lex Barker. In the mid-1970s, Nader was involved in a serious automobile accident. He suffered an eye injury which made him particularly sensitive to the bright lights of movie sets. After damage to his eye made it difficult to endure an acting career, Nader began a career as a writer of science fiction. His groundbreaking 1978 novel Chrome is probably the first science fiction novel to center on a homosexual love affair, and the first to have substantial homosexual erotic scenes.

3) Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. Ah, male costume drama! I saw the Masterpiece Theater series first, and forever imprinted on the cast. The book was lovely, fraught with not-so-thinly veiled homoeroticism, angst, and pathos. I remember the acerbic scenes between Charles and his father being a deliciously vivid contrast to his dreamy Oxford days with Sebastian and his teddy. Watching Sebastian's slow self destruction was heart breaking, as was Charles' projection of his forbidden feelings for Sebastian onto Julia, with tragic results.

Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books; Later Printing edition (June 23, 2008)
Publisher Link: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/books_9780316042994.htm
ISBN-10: 0316042994
ISBN-13: 978-0316042994
Amazon: Brideshead Revisited

This is the most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, "Brideshead Revisited" looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmain family and the rapidly disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian at Oxford then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognize his spiritual and social distance from them.

4) Maurice by E.M. Forster. Male costume drama with a happy ending! I loved Forster's skewering of the Victorian British social hierarchy, contrasting Maurice's strangled, hamstrung relationship with the self-hating but socially equal Clive, with his ultimate, willing conquest by the Pan-like game keeper's son, Alec Scutter. Caught between the two, tossing and turning on his bed in Clive's house, Maurice finally throws open the window and shouts hopelessly, "Come!" And Alec does. And so does Maurice, in short order. And did I mention that it actually has a happy ending? Good movie, too.

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. (December 17, 2005)
Publisher Link: http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=12811
ISBN-10: 0393310329
ISBN-13: 978-0393310320
Amazon: Maurice

"The work of an exceptional artist working close to the peak of his powers." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times. Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father's firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, "stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him": except that his is homosexual. Written during 1913 and 1914, immediately after Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy. "Happiness," Forster wrote, "is its keynote. In Maurice I tried to create a character who was completely unlike myself or what I supposed myself to be: someone handsome, healthy, bodily attractive, mentally torpid, not a bad businessman and rather a snob. Into this mixture I dropped an ingredient that puzzles him, wakes him up, torments him and finally saves him."

5) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. This was my first gender-bending book, and it had and has a deep appeal for me. What if people did change genders monthly? What a wonderful, equal world it would be! 'Nuff said!

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Ace Trade (July 10, 2000)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780441007318,00.html?The_Left_Hand_of_Darkness_Ursula_K._Le_Guin
ISBN-10: 0441007317
ISBN-13: 978-0441007318
Amazon: The Left Hand of Darkness

Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can change their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter's inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters. Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.

6) The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey. Soon after my agent sold my first m/m novel, Luck in the Shadows, in 1995, she urged me to read Magic's Pawn, saying it reminded her of my book. I could see some similarities, and was flattered to have my writing compared to Lackey's. I enjoyed the first two books very much, but was sorry to see how she ultimately destroyed her hero in the end. In writing the Nightrunner books, I had vowed that I would let my gay main characters be strong, heroic survivors, who emerged from terrible situations—if not unscathed— then at least victorious. They would not be victims. There are quite enough of those in literature and film already. After reading LHM, I also established a tongue-in-cheek "no pink cape" cover clause with my editor at Bantam.

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: DAW; later printing edition (June 6, 1989)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780886773526,00.html?Magic's_Pawn_Mercedes_Lackey
ISBN-10: 0886773520
ISBN-13: 978-0886773526
Amazon: Magic's Pawn

In Magic's Pawn, an ancient age in the history of Valdemar comes to life--an age when the kingdom was ravaged by the ungoverned fury of bandit warlords, ferocious ice dragons, and the wild magic of wizards. A new addition to Lackey's Valdemar kingdom--and her most powerful series to date!

7) At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill. Set on the eve of the 1916 Irish Easter Rebellion, this is the story of the romantic friendship between two boys of differing backgrounds interwoven with dramatic historical events in Dublin. It's a fascinating window on the culture and history of that time and place, and the development of the boys' relationship is beautiful and ultimately heartbreaking.

Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Scribner (February 25, 2003)
Publisher Link: http://books.simonandschuster.com/At-Swim-Two-Boys/Jamie-O'Neill/9780743222945
ISBN-10: 0743222954
ISBN-13: 978-0743222952
Amazon: At Swim, Two Boys

Set during the year preceding the Easter Uprising of 1916 -- Ireland's brave but fractured revolt against British rule -- At Swim, Two Boys is a tender, tragic love story and a brilliant depiction of people caught in the tide of history. Powerful and artful, and ten years in the writing, it is a masterwork from Jamie O'Neill. Jim Mack is a naïve young scholar and the son of a foolish, aspiring shopkeeper. Doyler Doyle is the rough-diamond son -- revolutionary and blasphemous -- of Mr. Mack's old army pal. Out at the Forty Foot, that great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the nude, the two boys make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim to swim, and in a year, on Easter of 1916, they will swim to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves. All the while Mr. Mack, who has grand plans for a corner shop empire, remains unaware of the depth of the boys' burgeoning friendship and of the changing landscape of a nation.

8) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. This very funny book, which opens with "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." is about a good many things, including Greek relatives, genetics, gender, , silk worms, and Detroit. The main character is a hermaphrodite. Simply one of the best books I've ever read.

Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (June 5, 2007)
Publisher Link: http://us.macmillan.com/middlesex
ISBN-10: 0312427735
ISBN-13: 978-0312427733
Amazon: Middlesex

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license...records my first name simply as Cal." So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

9) Song of the Loon by Richard Amory. I found this title on a list of recommended titles from the history of gay lit. Published in 1966, this book was considered very daring and ahead of its time. It is not great literature, but it is an idyllic, almost innocent, if lusty frontier romance, in which 19th century outdoorsman Ephraim MacIver travels and makes sweet, sweaty man love across the American frontier. It's incredibly romantic. If Walt Whitman had written a novel, it might have been like this.

Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press (May 1, 2005)
Publisher Link: http://www.arsenalpulp.com/bookinfo.php?index=219
ISBN-10: 1551521806
ISBN-13: 978-1551521800
Amazon: Song of the Loon

Published well ahead of its time, in 1966 by Greenleaf Classics, Song of the Loon is a lusty gay frontier romance that tells the story of Ephraim MacIver, a 19th-century outdoorsman, and his travels through the American wilderness, where he meets a number of characters who share with him stories, wisdom and homosexual encounters. The most popular erotic gay book of the 1960s, Song of the Loon was the inspiration for two sequels, a 1970 film of the same name, at least one porn movie, and a parody novel. Unique among pulp novels of the time, the gay characters in Song of the Loon are strong and romantically drawn, traits which have earned the book a place in the canon of gay American literature. With an introduction by Michael Bronski, author of Pulp Friction and The Pleasure Principle. "Song of the Loon―the novel, not the skittish film version thereof―changed my fantasy life forever. My friends have never understood why I drag them on canoe trips, dash naked into rivers and recite poetry to them at the drop of a hat. Arsenal Pulp is making an inestimable contribution in bringing Richard Amory's monumental novel back into print after these momentous decades, just in time to replace my tattered original edition that is still handy beside my bed after forty years. Michael Bronski's comprehensive introduction is an important bonus, a superb delineation of the historical and literary context. Of course the New Age flakiness has dated as much as the dubious native ethnography, but that's part of its magic, and this new edition is certain to have the same impact on the today's generations of queer young cowboys as it did on mine." ―Thomas Waugh, author of Hard to Imagine, Out/Lines, and Lust Unearthed

10) Male Colors: The Construction of Male Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan by Gary P. Leupp. Leupp, an Associate Professor of History at Tufts, has written a well researched and highly detailed overview of this interesting period in Japanese—and gay—history. Constructs of class and age were incredibly rigid—the seme and uke roles were immutable—which led not only to a highly mannered and restricted society, but also to a thriving world of art and culture. It's a very interesting read.

Paperback: 317 pages
Publisher: University of California Press (May 15, 1997)
Publisher Link: http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/6442.php
ISBN-10: 0520209001
ISBN-13: 978-0520209008
Amazon: Male Colors: The Construction of Male Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan

Tokugawa Japan ranks with ancient Athens as a society that not only tolerated, but celebrated, male homosexual behavior. Few scholars have seriously studied the subject, and until now none have satisfactorily explained the origins of the tradition or elucidated how its conventions reflected class structure and gender roles. Gary P. Leupp fills the gap with a dynamic examination of the origins and nature of the tradition. Based on a wealth of literary and historical documentation, this study places Tokugawa homosexuality in a global context, exploring its implications for contemporary debates on the historical construction of sexual desire. Combing through popular fiction, law codes, religious works, medical treatises, biographical material, and artistic treatments, Leupp traces the origins of pre-Tokugawa homosexual traditions among monks and samurai, then describes the emergence of homosexual practices among commoners in Tokugawa cities. He argues that it was "nurture" rather than "nature" that accounted for such conspicuous male/male sexuality and that bisexuality was more prevalent than homosexuality. Detailed, thorough, and very readable, this study is the first in English or Japanese to address so comprehensively one of the most complex and intriguing aspects of Japanese history.

About Lynn Flewelling: Aside from pondering otters, Lynn Beaulieu was born on October 20, 1958, in Presque Isle, Maine, which--contrary to common assumption--is not an island, or anywhere near the ocean but deep in the North Maine Woods with lots of lakes, mountains, and potato farms. Her mother's people were from the coast, however, and she spent a great deal of time on Frenchman's Bay. She has travelled the world and found no more beautiful or inspiring place.

She received her undergraduate from the University of Maine at Presque Isle, where she majored in English, minored in History, and received a teaching certificate she had no intention of ever using. She married Douglas Flewelling in 1981. Since then, she has studied literature, veterinary medicine, ancient Greek among other things, and worked as a necropsy technician, a house painter, an office worker, a freelance editor, a freelance journalist (Other Writings), and yes, even as a teacher now and then, an instructor of workshops--on creativity and fiction writing. Her article "the Complete Nobody's Guide to Query Letters" has recently been reprinted as a chapter in Moira Allen's excellent book, Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals.

She is available for lectures and workshops. Contact her at: http://www.sff.net/people/Lynn.Flewelling/

Her fantasy novels have received worldwide acclaim and currently appear in twelve languages.

The White Road by Lynn Flewelling
Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Spectra (May 25, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553590098
ISBN-10: 055359009X
ISBN-13: 978-0553590098
Amazon: The White Road

The White Road is the fifth book in The Nightrunner Series. It will be published by Bantam Spectra on May 25th, 2010.

The official summary given at the end of Shadows Return implies that the plot will deal with the Hâzadriëlfaie, a group of Aurënfaie who have cut themselves off from everyone else. They are Alec's ancestors, from his mother's side. In Shadows Return, there is foreshadowing that the Hâzadriëlfaie will attempt to seek out and kill Sebrahn, a child born from Alec through alchemy, and what they call a white child.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
clarelondon
Feb. 12th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
A great list of books. And a lovely reminder from Elisa of the fun we had at Yaoi Con that year! :)
elisa_rolle
Feb. 12th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)
I was so tempted to read George Nader's book and I even don't like sci-fic ;-) Elisa
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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