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.

7 Responses

  1. Quote from Site: Grants for Gay-Positive Arts Projects Based on, or Inspired by, History.

    Now I know this may make your juices go boom, but there are writers out there who write stories in historical settings, but aren’t hung up on accuracy. Sometimes I think you forget this, because of what appears to motivates you as a writer. Most times [especially in plays and short fiction] accuracy takes a back seat to the interpersonal drama that might drive the ‘plot’. Non-erotic example: Look at Poe’s the Pit and the Pendulum. It was set during the Inquisition…but is it wholly accurate? Not really–but his goal wasn’t accuracy; his goal was to scare you, not educate you about how the Inquisition operated. (^_^)

    To put it in the terms they might be looking for in ‘inspired by’: You can set a gay relationship within the confines of the Shackleton Expedition, but what is the goal of your story–to depict the loss or survival of a lover [or lovers] due to the tragedy of that Expedition–or do you want to accurately portray every aspect of the Expedition- -through the eyes of a gay man [or couple]. What’s your focus? The lovers internal drama or- the lovers experiencing history?

    Every writer is different, who’s to say you and I wouldn’t have different goals for writing the story like the one above?

  2. I would interpret ‘gay/lesbian positive’ as ‘a story which demonstrated that being gay or lesbian at that point in history was not necessarily an entirely doom and gloom experience. Maybe the love the couple discover outweighs the social prejudice, so that as they mount the gallows together they can think to themselves ‘it was worth it’. Maybe they are lucky enough to meet an older gay person who can mentor them, or they are living in a time where the court itself is fairly accepting? Or they simply struggle with their own self-acceptance and finally learn to think of themselves as people worthy of love?

    So if we’re talking about the 18th Century – when it was punishable by death to be gay – we could still write a story that focussed on the affirming qualities of the gay subculture in the Molly houses.

    I don’t think they’re talking about the world of OK homo. I take it to mean that the writer must be able to find *something* positive to say about the characters’ sexual orientation, rather than buying into the ‘omg what monsters these creatures are’ attitude of the times the novel is set in.

  3. Gynocrat: I’m not saying that people should infodump – that’s worse than wallpaper fiction, but if you write historical fiction, you should give your writers the respect that you’ve tried to get it right. If I were to write a crime novel and just started blathering on about bullets and poisons and not bothering to get the details correct, I’d be laughed off the page. It’s just as acceptable to write a story about Shackleton with masses of detail, as it is to skimp on the details and concentrate on other aspects, but if you are going to mention what are pulling the sledges, I don’t want to hear that it’s polar bears.

    It’s not a case of being hung up on accuracy, and I totally – totally – agree with your comment that it should take a back seat, but what details in there, should be RIGHT. Not having trains in Regency England, or duelling pistols in the Civil War, or side-saddles in Medieval England. If you don’t know the details or you can’t be bothered to get them out – leave them in the back seat and don’t write them wrong.

    Alex: Yes, I agree with you, I get the gay postive part, I was more concerned with their “you don’t have to be accurate” because to deny what gay men have gone through would be as wrong as denying what black people went through.

  4. I take that more as them saying ‘we don’t want a history textbook – you’re allowed to make things up’. Such as characters who weren’t documented real people, or situations which might not have really happened, but easily could have done. Like an undocumented skirmish in some war or other, or a fictional member of a famous conspiracy, or a judge being unexpectedly moved by a heartfelt plea (and a newspaper article and a death in the family) and having a moment of mercy… That kind of thing.

    I don’t think he’s asking for history to be falsified to make things sound better, but just saying that maybe *your* character – the hero – can escape before he gets put in the pillory, go to France and end up living HEA as a grower of fine wines. That wouldn’t be falsifying anything – many people did run to the continent in order to escape the noose. There could be plenty of tension and angst before-hand, but it would still provide the reader with a less bleak experience than seeing the character they’d come to love on the scaffold.

  5. I’ve come across this concept before – it was called ‘alternative history’ and I’m afraid it made my head explode.

    A recent, published example might be ‘Dancer’ by Colum McCann, which was a ‘fictionalised account’ of Rudolph Nureyev’s life…. This kind of ‘faction’ seems to be getting incredibly popular on the shelves – every other book I pick up is a missing scene from or re-imagining of some real, historical person’s life. I’m not good at telling the difference between this and RPS….

  6. (^_^) I’m going to write gay ero fic set in the North Pole, and have a big polar bear pulling the sled!

    Because teel;deer is good food:

    If it involves spinning history to make it look better than it truly was…I would have some problems with that.

    I think what they’re looking for is something that’s positive, and I don’t have an issue with that. Sure, we all know the past primarily sucked in terms of being a homosexual; the social conditions for the lifestyle were non-existent and downright dangerous, but rather than focus on characters dealing with hardships pertaining to this–they want characters depicted as human beings–having good times, despite the conditions around them–or overcoming the conditions around them through their ‘gayness’. With all due respect, there had to have been gay men out there who lived through the shitastic points of oppressive history–having moments of love, respect, caring, and positive experiences–despite the ignorance of the world around them. I think this is what they’re aiming for. (^_^) If you feel you can depict that, without compromising your integrity as a writer, then don’t submit. :/

  7. Sorry long night:

    …can’t depict that… -then don’t submit.

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