MLR Press Authors' Blog

The Little Lost Lamb(da)s –Some thoughts by Victor J. Banis

by on Sep.26, 2009, under Author Posts

The Little Lost Lamb(da)s

Some thoughts from Victor J. Banis

The recent brouhaha regarding submissions for the Lambda Literary Awards had my computer smoking for a day or so, with posts back and forth, some of them reasoned and some silly, some of them angry and some of them, frankly, downright ugly. Now that the dust has settled a bit, I want to take a further look at the subject and at some of the points that were raised.

First, for those of you who weren’t in on the follies, word got around that the Lambda folks had changed their submission guidelines to exclude submissions from heterosexual authors—a move interpreted by many (I suspect correctly) as an attempt to bar the women writers of today’s M/M fiction. A number of these women announced that henceforth they would not be submitting nor in any other way supporting the foundation.

Fair enough. I certainly wouldn’t expect Laura Baumbach (MLR Press) to continue to support this organization the way she has in the past, which is certainly generously, though I confess to be dismayed to think that she will not be submitting either the I Do anthologies or the soon upcoming The Golden Age of Gay Fiction. In the first case, I think even the Lambda people would have to give it a nod, it’s in such a great cause. In the second instance, that Golden Age doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in a Chinese kitchen, I just think it should go in on general principles. But, maybe the editors can submit these books? I’ll pay the fees, if you do the paperwork, fellas.

Some of the posts I got were funny, if bitterly so. One individual who described himself as “in gay publishing in NYC” and whose name I won’t divulge, was surprised to realize that there was so much ill-feeling abroad toward the Lammies. Uh huh. Welcome to the real world, Mr. When Did I Fall Asleep and Where Did I Wake Up.

And in his innocence lies a problem that afflicts the world of gay publishing muchly. If the New York publishing world is a small town (and it is, very small), the gay publishing establishment is more like a Native American village. These people haven’t a clue what lies beyond their tent poles.

Yes, dear man, people enter the Lammies in the hope of winning, and because an award can mean increased sales. I doubt that very many enter it thinking good thoughts about the Lambda Foundation. Out here in the hinterlands the Lammies are apt to be greeted with the same kind of scorn you like to heap on those of us you consider as “outlanders.” You know, the ones who aren’t members of your little in-clique.

Not so very long ago a group of lesbian authors and publishers, unhappy with the judging at the Lammies, broke off and formed their own awards group, The Golden Crown Awards, which is doing very well, thank you. Does that sound like everything is rosy in La-La-Land, Sugar?

My mail also included lots of discussion of whether the Lammie rules had in fact changed at all. Several persons, including some members of the Lambda Foundation’s Board, pointed out that the submission guidelines had always been worded this way. I was informed that The Lambda’s are “for glbt writERS not glbt writING.” Never mind, as I pointed out, that this attitude would have barred Annie Proulx from winning for her wonderful Brokeback Mountain (Yes, yes, I know it was only a short story, but the point is valid just the same. Great writing isn’t based on gender.)

“But how,” I asked, “Is the committee supposed to know anyway? With writers like Pat Brown, J. P. Bowie, Josh Lanyon, Jordann Castillo Price, to name a handful, who determines which of these are men and which women, let alone who’s hetero and who’s queer?”

“Why, the writers self identify,” was the answer I got. No bed checks, I was assured, to my great relief. If a writer submits as a queer writer, then the Foundation takes him/her at his word and accepts him as queer.

Hmm. Just like the U.S. Military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy. You can be queer and serve in our armed forces so long as you’re willing to pretend to be heterosexual. And, yes, you can be a heterosexual woman and submit to the Lammies, so long as we all understand that you are declaring yourself to be queer. And they wonder why folks don’t hold them in greater respect?

I also got a really vicious letter from a well known gay male writer whose name again I won’t divulge. He said in part:
“…I don’t appreciate a bunch of homophobic straight women who fetishize gay sex for the titillation of other straight women trashing the work of LGBT writers, editors and publishers, or our history. I don’t appreciate those same women pretending that gay fiction did not exist until they started writing it. They have no idea who you are, for example…”

Uh, hello? When Haworth dropped their fiction line and reverted right on my The Man From C.A.M.P., MLR Press grabbed the rights and immediately reissued the book, even though I actually warned Laura that the sales at Haworth had been very slow. MLR has that previously mentioned anthology coming out in October, edited by Wayne Gunn: The Golden Age of Gay Fiction, which celebrates the great tradition of gay fiction from the sixties and seventies, a book that promises to be a major event in the industry.

And as for not knowing who I am (waves to Zam, to Kris, to Wave, to Laura, to all my many friends here) that is a genuine snort. These gals have been interviewing me, reviewing me, chatting about me on their blogs and in Yahoo groups. If there’s anybody left out there in the world of M/M who doesn’t know who Victor J. Banis is, she must have been in a coma for the last several months. It seems to me that, if anyone, it’s the Lambda Foundation who doesn’t know who I am. They have steadfastly refused to acknowledge me in any way over the years (which in my opinion says more about them than it does about me.) I’ve never gotten anything but respect from the M/M writers here and around the internet.

“And I’m sorry,” this writer goes on to say, “I will fight till my dying day to keep homophobes from winning awards from us.”

Oh, Honey, not to be rude, but I’m thinking maybe you need to wake up and smell the dildoes. No doubt you’re reading stuff I haven’t gotten, but I have yet to see anything in the world of M/M that sounded even remotely like homophobia. And believe me, if there’s one thing I know, it’s homophobia. That old devil and I go back a long way together, and I’ve got the scars to prove it.

What’s truly sad, though, is there’s a major downside in this for the entire field of gay oriented fiction (whether you label it gay or M/M or chili con carne) and it goes smack dab back to the gay publishing establishment in NYC (including the Lambda people, who seem to come from the same gene pool), and that individual who was so surprised to realize that not everybody loves them.

I’ve written before on the demise of the gay novel at the hands of today’s gay publishing establishing. Yes, I know, there are many reasons for the decline in readership, but I think a goodly share of the blame rests right smack on their doorsteps. Their world has become so insular, indeed, incestuous, that they have lost all sense of what readers outside of their little set might want to read.

I believe there is still a market for entertaining gay-oriented fiction. People still like to read for pleasure. And the results of those publishers demonstrate the same truth. Books by Maupin and Sedaris – books which people read for sheer enjoyment – sell very well indeed. The books that go nowhere are the ones that no one outside their increasingly shrunken world cares a fig about and which they continue to grind out with mind numbing regularity. The same old queens writing the same old dreck for the same old editors to publish, to be read by the same old queens, who give themselves the same old awards over and over. And periodically they get together over sherry, wring their hands, and wonder why no one buys their books. Must be that there is just no longer an audience for gay fiction, huh? Or, darlings, can anybody say “bo-o-o-ring!”

And the Lambda people, year in and year out, work to validate this miniscule view of the glbt world. Ruth Sims, author of a simply wonderful novel, The Phoenix, commented that she has long noticed an anti-female writer bias with the Lammies, and said wistfully that she knew she’d never get one of their gay fiction awards. I wrote her back that the problem was not her gender, she could put any name on it she liked as a byline, and she still wouldn’t get an award because it is a brilliantly entertaining piece of historical fiction – and the key word there is “entertaining.”

To be sure, the Lammies have their mystery and erotica categories (and Felice Picano’s condescending remarks last spring as he introduced the mystery category said exactly how they regard them) but the major fiction categories are meant to be vedy, vedy serious. They aren’t intended to be enjoyed by the readers. Serious reading isn’t about pleasure, you know (sniff, sniff) it’s meant to be edifying.

And here is the great tragedy. (Be prepared for fainting and smelling salts.) The Lammies and the whole gay publishing industry in NYC, need these M/M writers. Yes, there are some guys writing good books too, damned good books. I tip my hat gladly to Rick and Dorien and William and a whole bunch of others – who also, let it be said, are steadfastly ignored in those rarified circles. I read the reviews, the blogs, the comments from readers. People love Rick Reed’s books. I love Rick Reed’s books. Everybody loves Rick Reed’s books…well, except for the you know what folks. To the best of my knowledge, which may well not be complete, Rick has never even got short-listed for a Lammie. How is this possible? Is everybody else in the world wrong? Or is this another example of how out-of-touch with the real gay world the Lambda Foundation is? You guess.

And by the way, it’s worth mentioning that many, maybe most of those guy writers are being published by women – the same houses advancing the M/M field. If there’s a single publishing house in the field that would turn down a book because it was written by a man, I’ve never heard of them. Would that we could say the same in reverse. So much for homophobia.

But it was the recent advent of the M/M women that made me think there is a glimmer of hope yet for my beloved genre. Maybe Laura’s books and Zam’s and Pat’s aren’t “great literature” – whatever in the hell that is; I don’t know, and I don’t think those precious people do either – but they are many of them damned good reads. Dickens didn’t set out to write great literature, he set out to entertain. Same with the Brontes. Same with Flaubert and Balzac and London and…well, I could continue that list for the rest of the day and the night. The point is, many if not most of the writers whose works we regard today as classics had one thing in mind while they were writing – tell a good story, mesmerize the reader with the magic of your words. Try, do try, luv, not to put them to sleep.

Get your heads out of your mole-holes, guys. All this whining and wailing about the lack of market for gay fiction is crap. Maybe there isn’t the market that there was back in the glorious sixties, but there are still people out there who like to read good stories and quite a few of them like a good story about guys doing the boom-boom, and I for one don’t give a rat’s patootie whether it’s a woman or a man reading my books, the fan mail gives me the same glow regardless. I’d make a guess that 80% of the people who write to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my Deadly Mysteries are women. Good on you, girls. Fetishize me all you want. I’m yours.

All this huffing and puffing about straight women “invading” our turf is on par with the cow patties we used to pick up in our pasture when I was a lad. We used them for fuel, too, but they still stunk.

The reality is, we are an endangered species, and we’re going to hang together or we’re going to hang separately. Katherine Forrest posted quite recently, in defense of the anti-woman policy, “Our books are taken from the shelves of libraries all over the country and even from the website of Amazon.com this year. It is more difficult to be an LGBT writer now than it has been in many decades, more difficult to make any income from our written words, much less a living. Publishers have closed, stores have closed, the markets seem to be shrinking with each passing day.”
Well, I’ve already addressed that shrinking market business, and as for the other complaints, it seems to me all of that applies just as well, only more so, for the women writing M/M fiction. They have to deal not only with the general prejudice against gay fiction but with the prejudice of the gay community as well.

And, hey, wait a sec there, kiddo. As I recall, in that Amazon debacle, it was the women who raised the hue and cry, who sent up flares and organized petitions. It is my belief that it was the entire community standing up together that made Amazon back down, and not just a letter from the Lambda Foundation, though I have no doubt that helped too—another demonstration of what we can – could – accomplish if we started seeing ourselves as partners rather than “the enemy.” We’re all in the same boat. I think we’d go a lot further if we started rowing rather than throwing one another overboard.

Instead of sniffing and looking down their noses, these folks need to reach out and wholeheartedly embrace what is happening in our neck of the woods – because in large part it’s a helluva lot better than what’s coming down in theirs.
And if that means we don’t qualify for the Lammies, then I’ll go back to what I said earlier about my situation with these people – it says way more about them than it does about us.

Just some thoughts from an old word junkie.

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56 comments for this entry:
  1. Lex Valentine

    Edifying words indeed, Victor. Not boring and rather succinct. I doubt anyone could put the issue into perspective any better than this. Must be why we M/M women writers (and readers) love you so.

  2. Elisa

    Great post Victor, said by a straight woman who read gay novels, and who doesn’t wonder on the genre of the author. And who was the first to warn Christopher Rice of the Amazon “glitch”: he wrote to me that day to thank me of my commitment. Since I’m not a writer and I will never be, probably I should not be affected by all this, but in a way I felt like someone slammed a door on my face, don’t know, it’s an odd feeling.

    BTW I knew who you are and what you wrote and still write, way before I knew a LLF existed.

    Elisa

  3. charlie cochrane

    Victor

    Thanks for making these points.

    *mwah*

    Charlie

    PS Mark Probst – all man and all gentleman – was involved in sorting out Amazon fail, too. he was the guy who originally contacted them and got the nptrious answer about categories being taken down.

  4. What Would Victor J. Banis Do? | The Naughty Bits

    […] That person would be Victor J. Banis who just wrote about this matter. […]

  5. William Maltese

    Ahhhh, Victor! Such a way with words! And it’s always a pleasure to find something of mine nestled somewhere within something of yours; I’m referring, here, of course, to my name within your essay (unless, of course, the “William” mentioned is one of the “others”).

  6. Jeanne Barrack

    Great post, Victor. i could comment more but you said it all and brilliantly

  7. Storm Grant

    Great post, Victor. I’m going to link to it from my own blog, and tweet the link, too.

    I’m a straight women writing gay fiction. I, too, was dumped by Haworth and picked up by Laura of MLR. I was a major player in fighting #amazonfail. I donated a story to “I Do”. I am part of and accepted by the “literary” gay community of Toronto. And yet, I can’t win a Lammie?

    Before they announced the rule change, my big concern was they had no humour category. I think that might be part of the problem. They have no sense of humour.

    Very sad. It feels like the olde guard putting up walls as the last defense against the winds of change. What they need is fresh blood. I wonder if they’ll get it or just dry up and blow away.

  8. Erastes

    Thank you, Victor. I read this with tears in my eyes. Perhaps it is time that we had a brother to the Golden Crown.

    Well said. It’s great to have supporters–honest to goodness gay male supporters, like you, Teddypig and many many others.

  9. Alan Chin

    Enjoyed your post, Victor. You hit the nail on the head. We’re in this together, so why discriminate against fine writers who are advancing the cause of glbt literature? Can we say, shooting ourselves in the foot when we’re already bleeding from the head?

    Keep writing and keep ranting you old word junkie.

  10. Lee Rowan

    Thank you, Victor. I was going to post about this brouhaha on my LJ, but I think I’ll just link to yours, if you don’t mind. I agree with everything you’ve said but I suspect those who need to hear it will only give credence to a testicle-carrying member of the Gay Guy Writers population. (Who am I kidding? The ones who really need to hear this won’t.)

    And I will refrain from doing any more than pointing out that there are 10 awards each for G and L and 1 each for B and T… Fair to the “community?” Oh, really?

  11. Lloyd Meeker

    Thank you, Victor, for your clear argument. Attempts to preserve a status quo, or maintain the way things used to be are doomed. Exclusivity is self-defeating.

    The flow of progress and change pushes past what may have once been the Official Reviewers’ Stand for the parade, but the stand is only important in terms of the parade. Without the parade, the self-appointed officials can mutter all they want as they gaze out on the empty, littered street bemoaning that the bands no longer play for them and the little folk no longer crowd around them. Hint – people show up for the parade, not for the officials reviewing it.

    Homophobia seems most ugly coming from those who decry it and ostensibly work to eliminate it.

    Lloyd

  12. Alex Beecroft

    Great post, Victor. While I’ve got no problem with the LLFs doing whatever they like with their own award (though I really hope my publishers won’t nominate my book now, because I’d have to publicly withdraw or something), the thing that really irks me in this fallout is the attitude of your correspondent that all of us women are homophobes entirely in the genre for titillation. Way to alienate your allies!

    One of the things I love best about the m/m romance world is that our community is so mixed and accepting, and – to me at least – it doesn’t seem to matter what your gender or orientation is. We’re all in it together. I’d like to see that expanded rather than contracted, so we can all work together on expanding markets and raising the profile of GLBT lit no matter who writes it.

  13. Vashtan

    Great post, Victor. While I’m “queer enough” for Lambda, I take offense at them hitting my straight friends. I collected my thoughts here:

    http://vashtan.livejournal.com/598419.html

    The madness is that they alienate straight women, who, by and large, buy more books than men, and have been reading that stuff for a long time. I’m sick and tired of gay fiction being mostly AIDS memoirs and tales of suffering and woe (tragedy has it’s place, but it shouldn’t be 100% tragedy). The best of the m/m writers run circles around what Lambda wants to acknowledge. Fuck’em – let’s do our own awards.

  14. Ruth Sims

    Brilliant, post, Victor! I read it right after I read Erastes’ equally outstanding thoughts on the subject.

    I had intended to write something, but like some others I believe I’ll just link to yours and Erastes’ posts because between the two of you, you pretty much covered everything.

    As usual, you found your target and went to it like a smart, well-trained pointer. “There it is! Get it!” I don’t know if anyone at LLF will read it or even care after they’ve read it. Probably not.

    I’ve said many times they can do what they want with their award (I have a suggestion but not a nice one)because it IS theirs. But they need to be honest about it. Maybe this last bit was their attempt to be honest, even though it was as someone said “clear as mud.” It seems they have moved on from being against women writing about men to being against straight people writing about gay people. Prejudice coming from people who have been victims of it is disheartening. I take it for granted, though, that if any of us non-gay authors wanted to contribute to the LLF they’d take our money.

    The Golden Crown folks have a great thing going. How did they get started? Maybe there is a way to set up a competitor to Lambda. I’m not a business person and have as much sense as a potato, but somebody must have an idea how it could be done. Maybe something could will come out of Lambda’s peeing on their own shoes.

    Thank you again for the post and your always witty barbs. And double thanks for the unexpected mention of me and The Phoenix!!! Bless you.

    Ruth

  15. Z.A. Maxfield

    Hear, hear Victor. Like Alex I believe that the Lammies are Lambda’s awards and they may do with them what they like. I didn’t go into this with the idea (as you rightly mentioned) of writing great littrahture, dahling. I simply want to tell the stories that I had in my heart, and having read thousands of m/f romance novels I felt that I might like to write a romance novel featuring a male protagonist and a male love interest.

    I’m impressed that this could be thought of as fetishizing gay sex or homophobia by anyone, that’s quite a stretch, and I feel badly that it can be taken that way. Worse still that I might be seen that way because it’s the farthest thing from the truth.

    It make my head spin, and as always, you clarify. And OH! *squee*, you said my name… *sighs*

    I’ll never refresh this page again!

  16. Jennifer Thorne

    Thank you, Victor. (I’m relatively new to the genre and only just found out who you are… but you have to start somewhere!)

    I have nothing to add except my support of your statements above.

  17. LB Gregg

    ::clapping::

    Thank you Victor.

  18. Maura Anderson

    Great post, Victor. As an editor and writer of m/m romance, I’m truly a bit boggled by the message the LLF appears to be giving.

    I don’t feel my writing is fetishizing gay sex. In fact, my most recent release has been criticized because the two main characters never actually have sex! I write romance because I want love to win out over all – prejudice and homophobia included. I’ve never set out to write “great gay literature” and have no desire to do so.

    Whether or not I’m technically eligible to enter the Lammies, I now won’t. At least in my mind, this is exactly the kind of sexual prejudice I’ve been fighting for all these years – It just happens to be the kettle calling the pot, instead of the other way around.

    Judge the work, not the worker…. and wouldn’t having more people read m/m stories help to remove some of that prejudice and remove the blinders from some people who might otherwise still wear them? It’s approachable and readable – and not a huge downer in a time when real downers crop up every day.

    I guess I just don’t get it.

  19. Kiernan Kelly

    Beautifully said, Victor, although I wouldn’t have expected anything less from a very talented writer.

  20. Rick R. Reed

    Thank you, Victor, for putting into such eloquent words what many of us have been thinking since this Lammie controversy blew into town. I was going to blog about this, but, as someone else said, I think I will probably just steal your thunder with a little note of my own. After all, I don’t think I could say it better.

  21. Jane Davitt

    Thank you for this post. I’d heard bits and pieces about it so it was helpful to get an overview.

    I was one of the authors whose books were affected in the Amazon debacle and I was touched by how everyone rallied to redress the situation. A clear and visible injustice can be felt by anyone, no matter what their sexual orientation.

    Fetishize me all you want. I’m yours.

    Good to know 🙂

  22. Mark R. Probst

    Thank you Victor for this well thought out post. Count me in as another gay male writer who is appalled by Lambda’s exclusionary policies against our hetero allies.

    Mark

  23. Clare London

    Beautifully and thoughtfully said, Victor. I’m thrilled by the individuals I’ve met, and admire the fiction I’ve read over the last few years. And I’ve always felt it’s coming from people’s hearts, not as some academic exercise and/or subversive action. I suspect we we don’t need an award to praise that. 🙂

  24. Abby Allwynn

    Victor – Thank you for writing this blog today. I’ve been a little behind in things, and just found out about it last night (thanks to twitter!)

    Let me bore the masses for a moment… (I promise there is a point to this tale)

    I am a ‘prepublished'(hopeful) M/M author.

    Am I male? Am I female?

    Am I a breeder or family?

    I have been reading and writing gay romantic suspense stories since I was 16! (I am now 45.) I have marched in every Gay Pride parade in the state that I lived in since 1982.

    In the 70’s, I got suspended for three days from school because I handed in a book report that was based on one of William Maltese’s books! I also was in the hospital with injuries, as I and a friend were attacked because we “looked like the homo type.” That was the same year that I was nominated to write the school play for my junior year – and I played the part (minor as it was) of a gay character.

    In the 80’s, I started and maintained a three year run on an underground gay newsletter/fanzine when I was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC (this was right before the don’t ask, don’t tell.) This serviced Pope Air Force Base and Camp Lejeune (Marines) as well. When Desert Shield/Storm broke out, military G/L/Bs who were ‘known’ to the underground and the local gay bar (Cloud Nine) were sent regular ‘goodie’ boxes and notes from the underground still at home (by this time, we had civilians helping out).

    In the 90’s, I volunteered to write simple memoirs of gay men dying from AIDS. I would sit by their bedside and pen down thoughts they wanted to leave behind for their friends and families. For some, this was the only gift they had left to give. For others, I was the only one who would listen. Later, I set up and ran a monthly support group for transgendered people and their families (my ex transgendered.) I stopped all writing during this time because of all the stress transgendering can bring to a family and loved ones.

    A 2007 I started writing again, this time playing around with slash fiction on the Internet. Oh, and my son came out, telling me he was bi.

    Currently, I am a group leader at the local gay community service building for our aspiring GLBT writers. For the last year, I have been getting serious about my own m/m writing and helped out with the formation of The Rainbow Romance Writers (part of RWA.) This chapter created has been a stronghold of information and encouragement for the GLBT writer – beginning or seasoned. Oh and hey! It was spearheaded by a bunch of straight married ladies! (with their determination, I never want to oppose them!)

    I shared all this information NOT to put you to sleep – but to show what I have done in regards to writing and the gay community. Nothing fancy or award winning – yet if I was to write piece that was good enough to be submitted to the Lambda Literary Awards, I would either…

    1) Be accepted only because I wrote a damn good piece and that I’m ‘gay enough’ by their standards.

    2) Be rejected on the basis that I am NOT ‘gay enough’ by their standards and they wouldn’t even consider reading my damn good piece.

    3) Be insulted if I was a married straight woman who dared (gasp!) to write a damn good book on gay men having sex.

    This award isn’t judged on your merits as a writer – but the value of your sexual orientation.

    So I ask again – based on what you know about me, am I straight or am I gay? Am I a guy or a doll?

    All I gotta say is as a writer who passionately pens what my heart song sings, who the hell cares as long as I produce a good quality, entertaining and fulfilling read!?!

    I cast my vote with the folks who said we need to have our own awards. Grass roots people! We could start by asking questions from those who started Golden Crown. We could ask for help/ideas from the Rainbow Romance Writers. Heck, I’ll even go to my local RWA chapter and ask how they started their awards programs (which is our chapter’s biggest fundraisers of the year.)

    If anyone wants to start drumming up ideas, I’d like to be notified so I can contribute to the cause.

    Allwynn, Abby/George
    georgetalwin@gmail.com

  25. S.J. Frost

    Bravo, Victor! Can’t thank you enough for this eloquent and brilliant post!

  26. Neil Plakcy

    Very well said, Victor. I think this past year’s Lambdas were a poorly organized farce; I was a finalist, but they had no name tag for me, no place for me to sit, no recognition whatsoever. And I was insulted by Felice Picano’s patronizing remarks, especially because he himself has written gay mystery.

    The LLF is clearly out of sync with many GLBT writers, who welcome the contributions to our literature from our straight allies.

  27. mistry89

    As I am only a reader, this “thing” affects me only in that it touches upon something about myself I can’t change (and don’t want to), I’m a straight female. I have always read books that many regard as “mere pulp” (my father still doesn’t understand why people read SF/SFF, but he snaffles up Clive Cussler ..) and although straight girl cooties on books may be anathema, it seems odd to hear about an organisation/award aimed at promoting and celebrating fiction that does not want my money. I confess that many mainstream awards and “picks” send me running the other way (I don’t watch Oprah, but I suspect the only book I’ve read that made it as an Oprah Pick was probably Brokeback Mountain), but I’ve bought books over the years from the Lammie Lists (the nominated list .. mmm, that’s interesting!). I don’t care whether a writer has purple skin, is shorter than my cat or has bad breath, as long as the story they tell is entertaining and drags me out of my daily life into someone else’s world. Although I appreciate any real-world trivia and truth inside this fantasy world, as they help ground the story in the other-reality, I look to non-fiction to expand my knowledge or to challenge my thoughts, as a rule. Additionally, for a long time I’ve avoided anything with a smack of “literary merit” (unless personally rec’d by a trusted friend), as this always seems to involve a tragic story involving people I don’t much like in a journey that has no ending. True to life? Maybe, but I’ve got a real life of my own and prefer writers to finish the tale, rather than leaving me with a grown-up version of “You chose the story”.

    Would be delighted to see m/m fiction with an awards structure, the cross-publisher/sub-genre groups it would embrace would be a fabulous find for my TBB (and disastrous for my wallet).

    Thank you, Victor. I adore you almost as much as I do Stanley. 🙂

  28. Sally Miller

    As a small publisher who nominated a book for the Lammies two years ago, I found it gratifying to see it listed under those nominated — but that’s the furthest I went with the foundation and their causes.I have no clue whether the author is gay, straight, bisexual, or transexual — well, I guess I know about that — he appears to be a man in his street clothes, anyway! But who knows? I’m not sure even he knows what he is. He and I both identify with the LGBT community in some way, but beyond that identification, who cares who we sleep/slept with? Or are partners with? Why is is so necessary to label everything we do and everyone we know???

    I have read Victor’s books, and those of many of the authors above, and I have no clue which are gay, which are straight, which are men, or which are women, unless I’ve corresponded with them and they have told me. Who cares? How the book holds my attention (and being an editor, how many mistakes do I find) is much more important. It helps my own writing to read others, no matter what their background or orientation.

    So Victor, thank you for writing this. I wrote invididually to LLF with a copy to Charles, but nothing so brilliant as yours. I sent them two essays from my upcoming collection “The Truth According to Sally Miller,” one called “Labels” and one about self-identified groups called “Hairy Women.” I do hope you sent them a link to this! I will now have to think about whether I can even send this year’s nomination in.

    Sally Miller, Synergy Press

  29. Jules

    I only have a couple of things to say, and I’m afraid that they won’t be very popular.

    The first thing I have to say is that the worst part of this entire debacle has been to see both sides outright attacking each other. It’s given me some very uncomfortable feelings regarding authors whose work I normally enjoy, and I hope that we all come out on the other side without permanent scars.

    The second thing is that, darling, not all women writing m/m are straight.

    The third thing is that awards and scholarships and so on have been having eligibility requirements for as long as they’ve existed. Some have to do with the content of the material, others have to do with the characteristics of the writers. The Coretta Scott King Award only goes to African American authors and illustrators. Surely this doesn’t mean we think that other-raced authors who write African American characters are being excluded? And anybody, the LLF included, who thinks that the Lambda Literary Awards are the only awards out there, or even that it’s all that terribly important… well, I don’t guess I understand that.

    I understand where people might feel excluded by this, but I don’t think it was a move *against* any certain group of people, so much as it was attempting to build up a marginalized community. They may not have been doing it in the best way possible, but I can only believe they were doing it with the best of intentions.

    Also, I have to admit I was just a little put off by your negatively comparing NYC publishing to “A Native American village” that has no idea what’s going on beyond their tent pegs. Maybe I’m just over-sensitive, but that seemed unnecessarily rude toward Native Americans. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but it’s certainly how it came across to me.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to say that I think straight, cis-gendered writers of GLBT literature aren’t valid or anything like that, but it is distressing to me to see how easily all this has turned into unnecessary line-drawing, attacking, and downright mean-spiritedness. I had hoped we could be above that.

  30. Jules

    Oh, I forgot to mention: Unless I’m wrong, I thought LLF has awards specifically for their straight allies as well, in publishing and in authorship. Don’t they?

  31. K. Z. Snow

    Eloquent post, Victor.

    “Our own” — chilling phrase, that.

    In spite of the fact most straight (and usually female) writers of non-hetero fiction have embraced GLBT persons, and causes, as “our own,” we’re not afforded reciprocity.

    Although I don’t give much of a rip about awards, this mindset saddens me.

  32. Selah March

    Your words brought a tear to this breeder’s eye.

    Thank you, Victor.

  33. Kalita Kasar

    I’m possibly a minority within a minority here, being a lesbian writer of M/M fiction, so the homophobic fetishist tag gave me a a giggle.

    I wanted to just add my personal “Bravo” to this post and to the comments of those who came before me. I’ve got nothing to add to the conversation that’s not already been said, except a hearty “Hear! Hear!”

  34. Lexin

    Thanks for this, inspiring stuff.

  35. Lee Benoit

    This is a marvelous post, Victor. Thank you for taking the time and finding the words to get to the heart of the matter.

    I encountered a really clear illustration of the chasm that separates “literary” traditional publishing from actual GLBT readers this past summer at a Pride festival where I ran a book table on behalf of Liminal Ink, a writer’s collective. Lots of folks were thrilled to see books at Pride in the first place, and many who stayed to chat admitted they’d love to read more GLBT fiction but everything they found in bookstores was either too “high-flown” or “depressing.” What they wanted, many said, was more gay romance, more gay mystery, more queer science fiction and fantasy, more lesbian everything, and more trans anything! Readers wanted what the big houses weren’t providing, and I was thrilled to be able to tell them where to get it!

    It seems to me that LLF is as out of step with eager and enthusiastic GLBT readers as the big houses are. It’s too bad. As you say, Victor, the market isn’t shrinking; the scope of the GLBT “literary establishment” is, at their own peril. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  36. Stella

    I’m seeing some references here and there, to a notion of an award for MM fiction that is restricted to straight women. There’s a “that’ll show them’ remark here and there, but more often, the notion has been advanced to show that LLA is bad and wrong to restrict their award based on gender.

    It seems pretty obvious that Victor, and really everyone else that I’ve heard talk about this in substance, is talking about an award for GLBT popular fiction– that portion of ‘literature’ that isn’t serious, that might be escapist, romantic, read for enjoyment. The gender of the writer would not be important, merely the quality of the writing.

    Seems like a good idea to me!

    It’s pretty obvious as well, that GLBT writers would not be excluded from an award of this kind.

  37. authenticity and audience redux « Kate McMurray

    […] female m/m writers. TeddyPig sums it up pretty well: they’re idiots! Victor J. Banis also weighed in. And Jane and Sarah F at Dear Author also have some things to say. Maybe we can all agree that a […]

  38. Serena Yates

    THANK YOU, Victor! Your post was wonderful in its thoughtfulnes and it, plus te many reactions to it, has restored my faith in this community. I have only joined it recently but have (overall) found it to be enormously welcoming and more diverse than any other group I had previously been a part of.
    Did I mentioned that I like, support and thrive on diversity?
    Your statement “for the women writing M/M fiction [ ] They have to deal not only with the general prejudice against gay fiction but with the prejudice of the gay community as well” summarizes my feelings after yesterday’s brouhaha exactly. I thank you for making it clear that you (and many others) understand that.
    I hope that we can all find a way to avoid the mistakes the ‘homophobic’ majority has been making for years: judging a book by its cover (pun intended).

    THANK YOU!!!

  39. Wave

    Victor this is a wonderful post and I will link it on my website. As you know my site is 100% M/M and I don’t discriminate about the books we review. The sex of the writer is unimportant – only the content of the book is important. Whether Lambda changes its mind or continues to apply this new policy is not relevant – M/M and gay books will continue to sell with or without their endorsement, and in the grand scheme of things awards don’t really matter.

  40. Ingrid

    I want to add my “great post” here. It seems to me that with the new technology the opportunities for NY publishing houses are endless.
    Awards may not matter but just like a glowing review it is nice to see that a book you are tempting to buy has been thought of well by others.

  41. Elle Parker

    Thank you for this.

    I’m a bi female writer, married to a man from a fairly young age, who never really knows quite where she belongs. I write characters that appeal to me. Most of the time, they happen to be gay. It’s nice to be assured that I’m still welcome in the place I feel most comfortable.

    Elle Parker

  42. George Seaton

    Insightful post, Victor.

    Admittedly, I’ve never purchased a book solely because it had received a Lambda award. Actually, I’ve never really cared whether or not the Lambda folks had permitted their imprimatur to appear on the cover of a particular book that caught my interest. And, I’ve never had any thoughts, one way or the other, whether or not a GLBT themed book was written by a straight woman or man, gay man or lesbian, bi man or woman, or transgendered writer. It was for me, and always will be, about the writing, the story.

    I must admit, however, that my introduction to and continuing interest in GLBT writing was/is captured by the literary bent of the likes of Holleran, White, Picano, Capote, Cunningham, Hollinghurst… Well, you get the point. The early work of most of these writers is what I sharpened my own pencil on…so to speak. The later works of many of these folks, has–to put it bluntly–been, for me, a study in the demise of creativity; a proclivity to rehash their egoistical stuck-in-the-mud past, significantly ruing the emergence of the bogey man (AIDS), and the devastation the same visited upon THEIR lives, THEIR fun, THEIR trek through their own charmed existence.

    I suspect many of those I mentioned represent the “Old Guard” of the Lambdas, the coterie of those who, for many years, have defined what, in their view, “worthwhile” GLBT writing is. These are literary types, if you will, who–quite apart from being GLBT writers–comfortably accommodate the corncob-up-the-ass mentality that literary trumps all. I love literary. But, ahem, it is not the holy grail of writing.

    Now, I must admit, I’ve begun reading Banis, Lanyon, Reed, Baumbach, Maltese… Again, you get the point. I do believe the “Old Guard” of the Lambdas have had their time, have reveled in the panache of their influence, their output. But now, just for a moment–a moment inspired by your thoughtful post–may we at least begin to consider the worth of the contributions of so many others, who have worked for so many years to provide a massive and influential body of work, of writing that enriches the story of ourselves, our lives, our GLBT existence…whether those making the contributions are gay, straight or little green men or women dancing on the ceiling; all writing well, prolifically, sensually, insightfully.

  43. Elfwreck

    This post has been included in a Linkspam roundup.

  44. Brenna Lyons

    So far, I only have one M/M in my rather extensive writing resume, but in answer to the writer who feels straight women writing gay fiction are somehow out to denigrate the market and gay writers, let me share my experience.

    When I wrote my story, I was damned nervous about whether what I wrote was believable, fantasy or not. So, what did I do? I asked a friend who happened to be a gay writer to read it before I submitted it and give it to me with both barrels. If he said he hated it, I’d end it right there and store the story in the bottom of the closet. He loved it, I submitted it, and it sold…now to two separate publishers.

    That writer shares three publishers of my six with me. Some of his publishers that we don’t share include Cleis and Alyson. Hm…sounds like a real chasm between the two to me. NOT.

    Brenna

  45. Lynn Lorenz

    Great post Victor!

    And for those who know about the RWA chapter Rainbow Writers (that’s Romance Writers of Amercia) – I’m one of many on a recently formed committee to hold a chapter contest for GLBT work. Hopefully, we’ll have more info about the contest in the near future, once we’ve determined all the bits and pieces. (Keep an eye on our website for more news and info.) http://www.rainbowromancewriters.com

    And no, this contest was thought of long before the LLA mess – it was one of the first things the membership of the Rainbow Writers asked for when it was formed earlier this year – a contest for GLBT content.

    Such contests are held each year to raise money for chapters – to invite (and pay) for workshops, speakers, and instructors.

    For me, the LLA can put whatever rules they want into place, it’s their contest.

    More and more contests are opening up to GLBT content, and I’d like to thank those RWA chapters who have said, “sure, enter, and we’ll find fair and equitable judges” and to those who were honest enought to say “don’t bother.”

    The times are changing…

  46. Deacon Maccubbin

    Just to keep the historical record clear, when I founded the Lambda Literary Awards in 1988, they were specifically intended to honor “the writers, editors and publishers of gay and lesbian literature”. There was no litmus test of the sexual or affectional orientation of those writers, editors and publishers. It was only necessary that a nominated book be of interest to gays and lesbians (and, later, to bisexuals and transgenders as additional categories were added). That was true for the first five years of the Lammy Awards. I believe it was true even after we turned the awards program over to the new non-profit Lambda Literary Foundation; I don’t know at what point the criteria might have changed, but I think it would be wise to return to the original vision.

    Also, in those heady early years of the Lammys, they were definitely not New York-centric. The awards program was developed in Washington DC under the auspices of the Lambda Book Report and Lambda Rising Bookstores. It was built on the extensive framework of more than 200 glbt and lesbian feminist bookstores that then existed around the country, who helped gather nominations and also provided a large number of the judges, chosen in part for their geographical representation as well as their experience in the literary marketplace. That’s the way the Lammys operated over its first five years under my guidance and, I believe, for some years after. But I have not been actively involved with the Foundation in recent years, haven’t been able to even attend the Lammy Awards for several years, and have no insight into its current operations.

  47. The Founder Of The Lambda Literary Awards Speaks His Mind | The Naughty Bits

    […] is his entire comment he made over on The Little Lost Lamb(da)s –Some thoughts by Victor J. Banis Deacon Maccubbin September 30th, 2009 on 9:43 […]

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