Friday, October 19, 2012

GRL: The Virtual Version

This week, a bunch of writers are gathered in Albuquerque, NM to celebrate GBLTQ literature.
And have fun with activities like scrapbooking, eating drinking, meeting and greeting and putting faces to names from online.

For those of us stuck at home with only our laptops for company, I thought it would be fun to look through some vintage GBLTQ literature. These books are hard to come by, and expensive investments unless you can run across them serendipitously--perhaps when the family cleans out bachelor Uncle Jackson's attic.

Gay pulps first became available after WWII, allowing the first wide dissemination of books portraying the gay lifestyle. For many young men, perusing the paperback rack at the local drug store or five and dime yielded up these incredible treasures, this printed proof that they weren’t alone in their preferences. These pocket-size books were easy to hide, easy to read, and easy to pass along.

For example, Lonnie Coleman in the novel Sam. This is one of the genre showing a gay man in a positive light, not illustrating a bleak existence but a chance at real happiness while being true to one’s self.

Ricardo Armory’s Fruit of the Loon, and Song of the Loon. A bit tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended), but still showing a positive take.

Going forward, the genre exploded. Not all publishers were willing to take a chance on these “risky” novels, but enough did to launch the books into the population at large.
As the sixties morphed into the seventies, the “lifestyle” became more public, if not more accepted. The hippies and their philosophy of free love actually advanced the cause.

More publishers sprang up, and books became available via mail—the “plain brown wrapper” variety. These authors opened the way for the rest of us, laying down a rainbow path for us to pursue.

As time has gone by, GBLTQ publishing has grown into its own, with some houses dedicated to the genre, and other mainstream publishers opting to jump on the bandwagon and offer an imprint. The number of writers has exploded, some hoping to capitalize on the wave of interested buyers. I like to think that most writers, however, are interested in the genre for itself, and enjoy writing these books because it’s their personal calling and not that of their bank account. Along with the steep increase in the number of offerings has come a wonderful advance in the quality of stories accepted for publication. It’s competitive, and not a foregone conclusion that a MS will be accepted simply because it’s M/M.

I picture the swag room at GRL, and know it’s laden with wonderful books, interesting authors, and all sorts of treasures to bring home as souvenirs. Some of my friends will be there, hobnobbing with impunity as they meet people they’ve only known virtually up until now.

It’s something to be experienced, I’m sure. Next year, GRL will be held in Atlanta. I’m hoping to attend. In the meantime, I’m enjoying living vicariously seeing the pictures, hearing the stories, and doing my little review of how we got here in the first place.