Gay Historical Fiction – Awards, Competitions and Markets

So the Arch & Bruce Brown Foundation is open again for its competitions for short fiction, play-writing and novels. These are the only online awards (that I know of – would be happy to be corrected) for Gay Historical Fiction and as such deserves attention from this blog.

However, I was mildly confused by the guidelines, namely: –

All works submitted must present the gay and lesbian lifestyle in a positive manner and be based on, or inspired by, a historic person, culture, event, or work of art.

All works must be Gay-Lesbian positive and concern:

1. A historical person known, in fact, to be lesbian or gay.

2. An actual historical person for whom a lesbian or gay identity is invented (with some specific intent) by the writer.

3. A period in history which the writer populates with lesbian and/or gay characters to show the effects of that time or culture on GLBT life..

4. A historical event or events that have lesbian/gay resonance. (The characters in the story may or may not have actually existed.)

5. A historical event or events that have general significance, showing those events’ impact on lesbian and/or gay characters (either real people or fictional).

6. A historic work of art and it’s inspiration, or effect, on gay lives (real or fictional).

7. We are not interested in biographies of persons or direct retelling of events. We want your individual take on that person or event that makes your submission a creative work of art.

So Gehayi wrote and asked them what they meant, because:

“Now, I can think of lots of stories that would fit the six categories, and many ways to make the gay character or characters both believable and sympathetic. It’s the “gay-lesbian positive” requirement that perplexes me. How do you write about history accurately and find a way to make being gay or lesbian a positive thing? For much of history, it wasn’t positive, socially or legally, and I dislike the idea of ignoring or contradicting facts.

“Could you please tell me what you mean by “gay-lesbian positive”? If it’s simply a question of depicting GBLT people as believable, sympathetic human beings, then I would have no difficulty doing so. If it involves spinning history to make it look better than it truly was…I would have some problems with that.”

And she received this reply:

Positive can be shown, or at least glimmer, in negative stories.

We don’t say you have to write “history accurately”. In fact, a story detailing a time or person, as in biography, is exactly what we don’t want.

Yes, there was an Inquisition, but might one judge been conflicted? Could 2 lovers have been stoned together? We want fiction, not history.

To say I’m more confused would be putting it mildly. They seem to contradict themselves at every turn. They don’t want history? Bwhuh? Surely that’s the whole point of the competition? And to say “you don’t have to write history accurately” just makes my blood BOIL, to be honest. No wonder historians turn they noses up at historical romances.

I’m going to write to them myself because although they list a lot of winners, there is no place where one can read excerpts and I’d certainly like to see how they portrayed previous themes.

Other competitions/resources (as always if you know of others, let me know) most of these are Historical, no emphasis on the Gay – but the only way to get them to accept the genre is to submit to them, of course.

Paradox Magazine
Fish Publishing (yearly historical contest)

I’ll make a larger list and add a “Markets” page eventually.

Why here and not there?


by Fiona Glass

Reading through several of Erastes’ recent reviews, I’ve noticed anachronisms being mentioned: railways in a Regency setting, confusion over the rules of aristocratic titles, that sort of thing. In pretty much every case the book has been set in England but the author is American, and it just set me wondering why that is.

America has a rich history of its own, and for the European influx, it dates back to at least the 17th century, which would be fascinating to read about. In terms of homosexuality and social history, it shares many features with Britain. In both countries gay sex was illegal until the mid 20th century. In both countries homosexuality was generally disapproved of, and gay men had to hide their sexuality or risk arrest and a hefty jail sentence. So it can’t be a case of writers being limited to one particular country if they want to describe a certain set of historical events.

It must be a lot harder for an author writing about a country that’s unfamiliar to them, too. At the very least, it means a stack more research to do, a stack more little facts and figures to check before they can even set pen to paper – and a stack more chances to make those annoying mistakes that seem minor in themselves but can pull a reader right out of the book. At worst, it can mean trying to base a book on the unreal world presented in films and television, with all the pitfalls that can bring.

So, why do American authors of historical novels still choose to set their books in England? Is it a publisher-driven or a reader-driven demand? Is there a specific rule amongst publishers that a Regency must by definition be set in England (in the same way that Parma ham must come from Parma)?

I’d be fascinated to know!


Reality Reviews – Intro – 1

See, one of the things we’ve noticed is that the romance and erotica publishing industry is amazingly unmotivated to catch little errors. Or BIG errors. Regardless of whether you prefer fluffy happily-ever-afters or more gritty realism with your male/male love stories, we do think that it would be nice if both author and editor had done some work before the reader got there.

And so we acknowledge, and link to, the Cranky Editors–the people who do the job that no one wants, and who dare to suggest that the precious, undying prose we have so arduously scrawled actually NEEDS proofing, editing, and possibly a rewrite or three. We aren’t saying these people can’t write. We are saying that the standard needs raising.

For the sake of the readers, who deserve well-crafted, well-written, well-edited tales…we salute and praise the cranky, ornery editors who are not afraid to say that something is foolish, ungrammatical, ambiguous, or flat out wrong. The ones with standards.But we have to agree with J K Richard on Wierdly Light, who says:

“What this charade (referring to an appalling story) (and others like it) have shown me is that what the publishing industry really, really needs… is Simon Cowell.

“No, no and no Lanaia. What you have written here is utter rubbish. Do you have a day job? No? I suggest you find one.”

“I’m sorry Cheryl. You said you were a what? You couldn’t find a well written novel if it was rubbed all over a skunk’s bullocks and placed under your nose.”

“Roval publishing? What is it exactly that you’re publishing? You call that a web page?”

“Utterly hopeless.”

And so, in this spirit, we bring you the first in what will, we hope, be a series of Reality TV style critique. Think of What Not To Wear. Reality Reviews. Because sometimes the baby Jesus really wants to poke–with a very sharp stick–the people who think that grammar and punctuation are optional extras.

In this first section – yes – this isn’t “historical” fiction but that’s basically because there are far fewer m/m historicals than there are m/m everything elses. After the recent wank when we dared to criticise outside this genre, we hesitated to post this entry, but fuck it – no. Who else is trying to raise the standard?

We can’t be the only readers who are tired of writers who think that the only plot they need to worry about is the one against the audience. We can’t be the only ones who are sick to the teeth of characters who, if they were any more wooden, would be sequoias, or sex scenes as a substitute for plot, or sex scenes written by people who haven’t even bothered to check that their characters’ antics are even possible. Here, at last, you will get truth in advertising. Many of these Reality Reviews will be based solely on the excerpts posted online. We think this is fair. If we were standing in a bookstore, flipping through a book, it would not take us four hundred or so pages to know if the book was tripe. One chapter would suffice. Sometimes less. Thus it shall be here.Think of us as Simon Cowell. It takes a lot to impress us. A LOT. Also, we are not going to worry about whether this hurts anyone’s feelings. There are plenty of scam artists out there who will be more than happy to flatter, wheedle, cajole and lie about the quality of inferior work in order to cheat the naive new writers out of a buck. The truth may hurt–but it may also save time, money and heartache in the end. We will be tough. We will go through each excerpt sentence by sentence with a red pencil. If you’re published, we expect professional workmanship.We do not give a jot about diplomacy, your author’s darlings, or your fragile self-esteem. And yes, we would treat best-sellers the same way. (We may, in fact. Watch this space.)

Enough with the warning. On with the show. Our text is in bold.

Continue reading

Review: Wicked Game by Jade Falconer

Niels got more than he bargained for when he broke into a certain townhouse in the fashionable section of London. The arrogant and dictatorial lord who caught him red-handed was more than willing to take advantage of the situation. Temporarily forced into a unique form of servitude, Niels learns more than he ever expected to about the decadent ruling class that he wants so badly to emulate. Masquerading as a foreign nobleman is easy for the charming Fin (sic) who grew to manhood on the streets of London, abandoned by the only family he had. But will his experience at manipulating people and winning their confidence help him with Richard? Or get him into even more trouble?

Elements: M/M, BDSM, Historical Regency Excerpt

Review by Erastes

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad book – but I did find it difficult to read, difficult to stay with and difficult to finish. For a start off, it’s NOT a Regency. In fact I don’t blame the publisher for thinking it is, because – like so many historicals – it’s a wallpaper historical and pretty hard to work out which era this IS in. I was more than half way through the book before I spotted a mention of trains and of Victoria Station which jolted me considerably – suddenly I had to jump forward to the Victorian era and re-set the story in 1862 onwards.

But really, that’s the only clue of the era – the historical background is almost invisible (unsurprising as most of it is set between the sheets) and you could remove the candles and carriages and you would have a modern romance with about four minutes editing.

From the first page I could tell this was going to be one of those books where the sex outweighs the plot and I wasn’t wrong, and apart from the last couple of chapters you could summarise this as “sex” and “shopping.” There’s sex near enough from the first page which continues almost non stop for about 40 or so pages as the reluctant thief is seduced and shown a good time by the randy lord. It starts in a promising fashion – the lord is suitably remote and brooding, due to a bitch of a mother – and the set up was a fun way to get Niels into Richard’s bed but I was expecting a bit more than “Niels gets jiggy with it pretty quickly.”

Don’t get me wrong. I like erotica – I do! It’s just that if I pay for a decent sized book (66,000 words) – and you can call me Ms Picky if you like – I actually like some plot with it. I feel a bit cheated if I find myself skipping entire chapters because the MC’s are “at it again.” It’s like buying a ham and lettuce sandwich and finding that there’s 10 leaves of lettuce and one wafer thin slice of ham.

I quite liked the characters despite all that. Richard was, as said before, nicely brooding and Niels, albeit pretty and virgin to men, is not your typical girlie submissive. I got the feeling that they’d be switching roles at some point. They act like men too in as much as they are totally incapable of saying what needs to be said at the right time, like “don’t go.” The two minor characters are nicely done, too, but this is one of the reasons that I can’t mark the book higher, because at 66,000 words, I’d expect more than four characters – it’s the marathon sex sessions that elbow any possibility of more plot/more characters out of the way, and that’s a pity.

No – or very little -OKHomo, which was a refreshing change – the characters are aware of the illegality of their liaison and the unlikelihood of their being able to just “set up house” together without major problems. But despite that, the anachronisms are legion, a duel in the late 19th century, when the last one was at least 10 years previous – characters saying “piss off”(1950’s) and “that’s brilliant!” and “sexy” (1925) just to mention a few. Oh and “gotten” but that almost goes without saying.

There are other technical problems, subject confusion abounds – and this is caused by switches in POV that make it very hard to understand who is thinking, who is talking. Reviews of Standish pointed this “sin” out to me, and now – as I attempt to keep faithful in POV for longer sections – I’m very glad they did. Phaze should have edited these switches out, especially when it led to me going “who’s talking? what’s he talking about?”

Falconer appears to be a collaboration of writers, as s/he speaks on her LiveJournal in the royal we. I think they aren’t bad writers, but they need to tighten up in a good few aspects, and then they’d have a book I’d really enjoy to read.

Buy from Phaze

Textbook: A Gay in the Life by Erin McHugh


Read the stories of the writers and artists who <br>pushed the gay movement forward.

A Gay in the Life: A Compilation of Saints and Sinners in Gay History (Portable Queer) (Hardcover)

Erin McHugh • Alyson Publications • Release date: October 2007 • 142 pages • Hardcover • ISBN-10: 1593500335; ISBN-13: 978-1593500337

Those who have changed the face of homosexuality over the centuries are not completely heroic. Learn about the first great gay activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, read of brave men and women of the Matachine Society and of the Stonewall riot, and relive the stories of the writers and artists who pushed a movement forward. Intriguing, shocking, and ultimately hopeful!

About the author
Erin McHugh is a writer and former publishing executive. She lives in New York City and South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Buy it from Alyson Books

Textbook: Homo History by Erin McHugh


From ancient Rome to gay pride, here is a time capsule of gay history, <br>presented in quick, short takes. Strange, fascinating, <br>and historically revealing!

Homo History: A Compilation of Events That Shook and Shaped the Gay World (Portable Queer) (Hardcover)

Erin McHugh • Alyson Publications • Release date: October 2007 • 126 pages • Hardcover • ISBN-10: 1593500319; ISBN-13: 978-1593500313

From the Old Testament to the New World Order, the centuries have not always championed homosexuality. But the past has also been checkered with surprising liberal periods. From ancient Rome to gay pride, here is a time capsule of gay history, presented in quick, short takes. Strange, fascinating, and historically revealing!

About the author
Erin McHugh is a writer and former publishing executive. She lives in New York City and South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Buy it from Alyson Books


I’d like to make this a permanent page, and add to the resources as we go along, using information given by others I hope! Gynocrat sent me a wonderful link to Sodomy across the world so that sparked off the idea of having a reference sheet where writers can run to to search for gay historical facts. I won’t bother about general historical facts – I’m sure most people have sites they default to, and I have a huge page HERE so this will be specific to gay historical research.

Please let me know any others to add to this!

Androphile: World history of male love
British Slang (sadly the Slash section is down)
Information regarding the Age of Consent
Introduction to Modern Gay History (1700-onwards)
Homosexuality in Early Modern Europe
Homosexuality in History: A Partially Annotated Bibliography
John Rykener – 14th Century transvestite
The Old Bailey Online: Wonderful resource, court transcripts, sentences relating to many sexual offences
The National Archives (UK)
Polari – the old English Gay Slang. Introduction, Lexicon, history
Rictor Norton’s Site: Essential reading and a huge resource of information, particularly in regard to the 18th Century, but contains links to many other places
Sodomy Laws around the world, including legal history
Timetable for Gay History: Knitting Circle & Wikipedia

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