Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Which time era do you avoid?

You know when you have one of those massive barrels of sweets – usually at Christmas over here in the UK. Quality Street’s the nation’s favourite and they have a great selection of sweets in them. Nut clusters, caramel cups, toffees, fudge etc etc.
And then Christmas is over, and you are left with a handful of sweets that no-one wants. Orange, Strawberry and COFFEE creams. BLEURGHK.
Now this is obviously only indicative of what my family like – I’m sure there are lots of people who love these flavours, but it does seem to be coffee that is the least favourite, if the brilliant Revels Roulette adverts are anything to go on.

And where am I going with this??? Well, as you probably know, or don't - I run a Gay Historical Review blog called "Speak Its Name and I have to review the books that I'm given, or are available. I don't have the luxury of saying "I don't like...." and pushing them back into the sweetie barrel, because that wouldn't be fair.
But I have found that I AM being unfair - and that about half the books I have to be reviewd are Westerns, and that's probably because I've been skipping the westerns in favour of other time eras. I hate to say it, but I’ve found that westerns are my coffee creams.
And I’m sorry about this. I don’t think there are more westerns written than any other gay historical — although, this might be the case, I’ve not done a fact-finding mission to find out — it’s just that, because I’m not mad on the genre, I tend to put them to one side and then I end up with a ton of them to do at once–which doesn’t do anything for my temper or the balance of the site.
I don’t know when I stopped being a fan of the western, either. I used to love them as a child and even went to the cinema to catch classics such as True Grit, and I was such a huge fan of Rawhide (Gil Favour for the win) but now I tend to avoid most of them, except for homoerotic goodness such as The Searchers. (Yes, really. If you don’t believe me, go and watch it again, John Wayne’s character is most certainly bisexual at the very least.)
The very worst western (for me) and one that will make me run screaming from the sofa is anything Mexican. Don’t ask me why. I like Mexico. I like Mexican food. I'm really fond of Speedy Gonzales. But give me a western set in Mexico and I bite the coffee cream in half and spit it out.
I like coffee to drink, and I LOVE strawberries and oranges so nothing really makes sense.
And my aversion to western gay fiction makes no sense either because there’s been a good few that I’ve really enjoyed. Mark Probst’s “The Filly” is a beautifully written restrained piece of fiction, Jamie Craig’s “Those Who Cherish” was highly enjoyable, and Kiernan Kelly’s “In Bear Country” duet of books have everything necessary for a reader, adventure, romance and a good historical feel.
So I don’t know why I’ve got this westernphobia. Perhaps it’s because for every good book, there’s three not so stellar with more cliches than tumbleweeds, but then that’s true of every kind of fiction really isn’t it?
Perhaps in future for reviews I’ll take a tip from the Russian Roulette advert and just pick a book blindfold and not allow myself to push the least favourites to the back of the drawer.
Is there any genre you find yourself avoiding? Is there any logical reason for it (unlike me!)
Erastes writes gay historicals, and her first book for Carina is "Muffled Drum" (set during the Austro Prussian War) out now. Her second will be "A Brush with Darkness"
Neither of them are westerns.


Anonymous said...

Just wondering what you saw in "The Searchers" that made you think John Wayne's character was bi-sexual at the very least?

Erastes said...

There were several instances throughout the film, I suppose I'm just more attuned to the hints these days than I was when I was younger. Hollywood famously put many gay referrents in films that probably are not spotted by most.

Hmm. Perhaps I'll do a post on that next time.

Charlie Cochrane said...

Please to be sending all those soft centres here as they're the ones we all fight over. *g* Medieval does nothing for me, Cadfael notwithstanding, nor vikings.

I read few Westerns, but I did enjoy The Filly and A Hundred Little Lies.

Elin Gregory said...

I'm still a bit of an m/m novice in that I don't think I've read books set in every possible period yet. But I think that the scenario I'd avoid is the type of thing typified by Catharine Cookson's books - oppressive late Victorian "Trouble at t'mill" with everyone being awful to everyone else. Obviously there are people who could write that kind of thing and make reading it a joyous experience, but I'd need to see some good reviews before I forked out hard cash for it.

I don't think I've read a m/m western yet, but I was deeply in love with Rowdy Yates when I was 3.

Lynne Connolly said...

Sadly for me, it's the Victorian era that leaves me cold. Blame university for that. We did a course on the working person in the era, and the more you know, the more you want to murder the people who exploited them.
Plus the self-righteousness and the associated jingoism. Plus the oppression of women which had never reached such a level before. Plus the hypocrisy and small-mindedness. Plus the filth caused by all that industrialisation and train travel.

Kate R said...

WW2 doesn't do much for me. Too many Nazis (in reality and in fiction).

Also any era in which my parents were alive and adults doesn't feel like history.

Amber Green said...

I never voluntarily read a Western unless it's recommended because so many are researched poorly (if at all) and are poorly written. In the vast majority of those that include nonwhite characters, those people are caricatures.

When I was a little girl, I cherished a magazine picture of Mark, from The Rifleman, for a couple of years.

Erastes said...

Hi Charlie! I have to agree with you about Vikings! Don't tell Alex!!

Erastes said...

Hi Elin! :D

Oh noes! Gil Favor pwned Rowdy! (in my mind, at least.... ) I also loved Pete Duel in Alias Smith and Jones. So I don't understand why I'm so allergic to Westerns these days.

Erastes said...

Hi Lynne, yes I agree with you, and the trouble is that so many people do ignore the exploitation entirely because they don't want their characters to condone shoving children up chimneys etc. Like Elin I find Cookson and AJ Cronin's bleak Edwardian and Victorian misery hard to read, although I'd love someone to write a gay historical in that era just to see how it went!

But actually, it was that era that started to clean up the filth. We always see Regency London as being so super white and clean for example but it would have been ankle deep in muck. bleurgh

Erastes said...

Hi Kate R

It does seem that you can't write a gay historical in WW2 without involving the worst Nazis available! I mean, there were other enemies, but no one seems to write them. I don't think i've ever seen an Italian based one, for example!

Erastes said...

Hi Amber

Yes, I think it's the taint of Hollywood that I dislike in gay historical western books--cowboys of course were nothing like John Wayne but the books take too much from the silver screen!

Janet Mullany said...

Medievals, absolutely. All that "mayhap I shall take a bath" stuff. But it's difficult to find an era where they weren't all religious maniacs or oppressing everyone who wasn't a white male.

Erastes said...

Hi Janet, thank you for popping in!

I agree with you, but then again, when it comes to England, it's hard to find an era where they didn't, either! :D

Susanna Fraser said...

First off, sorry I haven't been commenting much on this blog the past few weeks--August was just an insane month for me, in multiple ways.

Anyway, medieval romances are my coffee creams, though I enjoy a good medieval mystery and a lot of my favorite fantasy novels are set in an alternate medieval world of some kind. I've got similar quirks for other genres--e.g. I can enjoy a contemporary romance or mystery but don't usually care for contemporary fantasy (at least not in books--I loves me some Buffy and Angel). And while I enjoy reading a good Victorian, I doubt I'll ever write one. I just don't like the aesthetics of the era (i.e. I don't want to imagine my heroes and heroines in those clothes!), and in a weird way it's too high-tech for me. Once you start bringing in steamships and trains I lose interest. (Though, contrarily, I have a WWII plot bunny on my mental back burner.)

Lee Rowan said...

Oh, ghod.

Ancient Rome. I do NOT like gladiator stories. Or anything to do with the Protestant/Catholic infighting in england-- force-fed too much roman catholic propaganda as a child. If my wife's watching Ben-Hur or Spartacus or The Tudors, slashy goodness or not, I have to leave the room.

Lee Benoit said...

Too often I think the research that supports Westerns is prior Westerns (as opposed to actual primary-source research), and that contributes to the samey-ness and cliches. Normally I would say Westerns are my coffee creams (though coffee creams actually sound pretty good) but then I find myself reading something like Mark Probst's The Filly, or Mark Wildyr's Cut Hand, or Well Traveled by Mills & Ward, and I experience the same delight I felt watching Wild, Wild West or Bonanza as a kid. Only with more sexual awareness...

I tend to avoid Regencies because often I sense the research is coming from earlier fiction, but even those are often great fun.

I suppose even the coffee creams look good when the alternative is no treat at all!

Great post,
L xo

Gerry Burnie said...

I'm fairly eclectic. However, I must say that I have a jaundiced eye for contemporary westerns and westerns of the 'homoerotic' genre.

This is primarily due to my great respect and admiration for the authentic Western pioneers--i.e. Teddy "Blue" Abbott (who did have a male friend), Andy Adams, etc. I therefore get a bit wrankled when they are portrayed as ponds in a bed-romping saga.

Cassandra Gold said...

I tend to avoid anything pre-1700. Pretty much anything after that is fair game. I like Georgian, Regencies, Victorian, Westerns, WWI, WWII...I'm not all that picky, honestly.

Sometimes I'll take a chance and read something set earlier, but only for authors I really like. An author I love can sometimes make me enjoy reading about time periods I would usually avoid. :)

Alyssa Everett said...

It's hard for me to lose myself in anything with a medieval setting. Too much piety, not enough bathing or literacy.

Erastes said...

Hi Susanna - no worries! We all have lives! Hope things calm down for you from now on!

A good few people are saying medieval! I suppose it's because the alternative medievals can be cleaner and more literate!

Looking forward to the WW2 thing-there's not enough imho!

Erastes said...

Hi Lee (R)

Oh noes! I was thinking about doing a Gladiator one, too. :D But I'm with you on the Tudors. Far too overdone and even the books are becoming history like (Philipa Gregory i'm looking at you) - I was raised on really gritty realistic historical dramas. I hate the Hollywood treatment.

Erastes said...

Hi Lee (B) - thanks for popping by

Firstly, NO. For me, I would be starving on a desert island and the coffee creams would still be in the tin. Blech blech. but some people LOVE them!

I think you are right--many people use (including me) Google whereas actual documents of the time, memoires are much better.

You avoid Regencies!!! I'm crushed. :D

We will be reviewing Well Traveled and the prequel very shortly.

Erastes said...

Hi Gerry, nice to see you here!

Now, you struck another note that I should blog on - why are there no fictionalised accounts (or very few) of REAL people, real gays in the world. Tons of Oscar Wilde, some Edward II but that's about it... your guy sounds like a great example!

Erastes said...

I agree with you Cassandra--an author i TRUST will convince me to read a coffee cream,but I am wary otherwise!

Erastes said...

Thanks, Alyssa!

Yes I agree. Too much poo, too much mud! :D

JP said...

Can't think of an era I don't like reading about - and yes! you can send me all your unwanted coffee creams - yum!