Please join us in welcoming author Christian Baines, whose novel The Orchard of Flesh was just awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Rainbow Awards. I love Christian’s guest post today, so check it out as well as the giveaway he’s sharing with readers.
FEAR, FURY, AND A GAY TARANTINO MOVIE
With a Trump presidency giving LGBTs plenty of reason to get mad, will someone finally make that gay Tarantino film I’ve always wanted to see?
So, the US election is over and for those who’ve spent the last 18 months on Mars, 1) I envy you, and 2) Things didn’t go so well for LGBTs or our allies. I have no desire to rehash the whole catastrophe here.
Yet I do have one post-election question, now that people have had their few weeks of panic, disbelief, bouts of ‘Oh dear God, what now?’ and faint hope that a recount just might undo it all. What does this result mean for LGBT and allied writers and other artists? What do we do when the forces that threaten our families, our livelihoods, our homes, and sometimes our very lives, get a resounding, democratically elected free kick at our expense?
LGBTs are in one way quite privileged, in that we make up a disproportionately large section of the world’s artists. That gives us a voice, even in times and places where that voice is officially silenced. And when faced with circumstances that put us under threat, whether it’s our privacy and freedom during McCarthyism, our lives while Reagan and Thatcher ignored AIDS, our humanity and families while Bush Jr and co made a wedge issue of them, or…whatever comes next, we do one thing extremely well.
We get busy, and we get vocal. We take our fears, hopes, and fury and pour it all into the art, only on a much grander scale than normal. A scale that can’t be ignored.
In my interview with The Novel Approach earlier this year, promoting The Orchard of Flesh, I said that writing and reading LGBT fiction and romance is a political act. Even if you think you’re apolitical, or you hate politics, this is true. No matter how light and fluffy the plot bunny, by reading it, you’re celebrating love that bucks the norm. Even though we’ve made so many great strides with persistence, great allies, and a hell of a lot of sacrifice and loss, not to mention the work of ‘troublesome’ activists like Harry Hay and Larry Kramer, who were repeatedly shut down and attacked for being too provocative and too rude (usually code in activist circles for ‘getting shit done’), the very fact that our humanity, our morality, our fitfulness to be parents, the legitimacy of our families, our desirability, or the value of our very lives might be considered topic for debate at all in 2016 is fucking horrifying. If it doesn’t appall you, you’re not paying attention.
(And in case it’s in any way unclear by this point, no, I have no interest in making this a ‘polite’ post.)
So, where do the artists and writers go from here? With the sweet, eight-year progressive honeymoon of the Obamas practically behind us, the years during which we became so assured in our faith that each new season of TV or movies would produce a bevy of wonderful new LGBT characters, that our jobs and homes and families were safe, that we could now marry without question (Okay, seriously? Australia? Germany? Seriously?), that there would be vast strides for gay rights throughout Europe and the Americas, along with unprecedented visibility in Asia… Despite the backward steps and struggles, these have been good years to be LGBT in many parts of the world, though certainly not all, as we’ve seen in Africa and Russia, in particular.
Part of me wonders if the explosion of gay romance that’s flourished during this time would have happened in any other environment. Could it ever have happened during the paranoid, persistently homophobic Bush Jr years? Obviously, some authors were doing it, but certainly not at the level we see now. For such a large, mainstream, and inherently optimistic genre/subculture to have flourished in the 90s, with AIDS panic still riding high seems almost unthinkable. Yet in 2016, here we are. We are established, and bigger than anyone ever thought we’d be. Men and women of all orientations and gender configurations, all writing with truth and passion about the LGBT lives we care about.
As the gay writers of the 80s and 90s reacted to the worst crisis their community had ever faced, a health crisis that brought out the worst in those who’d already despised them for decades, how will we respond to the fights to come under Trump and his troglodytes? Is the answer to show more love than ever? To resist the darkness of reality with even more happy endings and escapism? Or does the answer lie in confrontation? To pour our anger, fear, and frustrations onto the page and see what happens?
I think of one film that changed the way I thought about gay romance, Gregg Araki’s The Living End (1992), in which the two HIV+ ‘heroes’ decide the answer to their problems is to drive to Washington DC and kill Bush Sr. The film was infamous when first released for its frank violence and sexuality, and for the cheers that went up when the duo killed a homophobic assailant. A year later came the novel Tim & Pete by James Robert Baker, which took the premise even further, only to destroy Baker’s career (again, he was considered ‘too provocative’ and ‘too rude’). The sense of empowerment that fictional (keep it fictional, peeps!) violence can give us is undeniable. So do we need to see more of this, more anger in our literature to get us through what’s coming? Tougher, more ruthless LGBT characters who aren’t to be fucked with, and who don’t necessarily have a gooey centre underneath it all, just waiting to be uncovered by the right lover?
I believe the answer is both. We are going to need more happy endings and fluffy plots than ever. We will need our escapist fantasies that give us a chance to breathe. On the flipside, we will also need to vent our rage. There’ll be plenty to get angry about soon enough. Hell, there’s plenty to get angry about now, but that opens wondrous creative possibilities. For instance, will we see more LGBT action stories than ever? Honestly, I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for someone to make a gay Tarantino film! Hell, the Wachowski sisters made probably the best lesbian romance or heist movie ever in Bound, so why not?
Wherever you sit right now, either as writer or reader, thinking about the future and how bleak it may look, know this. The LGBT community is now larger, stronger, more open, more supported, and more powerful than we have been at any point in our history. We have more allies. People are better informed about us, and we have each other. We are no longer ‘the other’ in society. That’s what’s motivating those who still despise us to be so vocal and toxic. They know they’re losing. But we also didn’t get to this point by being passive. LGBT literature has always, and will always, play a vital part in our progress. If good art is supposed to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, then that tells us exactly what we need to do next as things get tough again. As scary as that is, it’s also an exciting opportunity.
(And if anyone has an ‘in’ with Mr Tarantino’s agent, drop me a message.)
About the Orchard of Flesh
Blurb: Reylan’s last assignment for The Arcadia Trust brought a rebellious human servant under his roof, and a volatile werewolf lover named Jorgas into his bed, leaving the self-reliant Blood Shade–known to the outside world as vampires–in no hurry to risk his immortality for them again.
But when a new terror starts disappearing humans from a bad part of town, Reylan must do everything in his power to keep Sydney’s supernatural factions from the brink of war. Having an ambitious, meddlesome human in the mix is only going to make things worse…especially when that human is Jorgas’s father.
Reylan will need all his determination and cunning to keep the peace under his roof, between the night’s power brokers, and in his lover’s troubled heart.
About the Author
Australian Author Christian Baines has written on travel, theatre, and various aspects of gay life. Some of his stranger thoughts have spawned novels, including The Arcadia Trustseries, and Puppet Boy, which was a finalist for the 2016 Saints and Sinners Emerging Writer Award. He is also a four-time finalist in the Sydney Mardi Gras Short Story Competition.
He now lives, writes, and shivers in Toronto.