Is Desire Enough?
By Rob Rosen
When I started writing a good 10+ years ago, the gay literary world was a very different scene than it is today. Then again, going back 20 years it was equally as different. Gay bookstores abounded two decades ago, as did gay authors, many of whom typed on a… drum roll please… typewriter or, gulp, by hand. And many of these authors became famous, and remain so today. In fact, walk into any of the few remaining independent bookstores (because good luck finding many gay novels in a chain store) and you’re bound to still find their works on the shelves.
But is that because these authors were so good or because there are so few of us left these days turning out paperbacks? Or any publishers left to even print them? Or anyone even reading books anymore? Better still, if a book falls on a bookshelf and there’s no one around to read it, does it make a literary sound?
And, lastly, is desire enough to even write a novel these days or edit an anthology?
See, when I started writing, it wasn’t to become famous (mostly) or for the money (again, mostly), but it was because I felt like I could be a writer. Felt it down to my very soul, like it was something I was born to do, meant to do. And, judging from my track record, I guess my soul was on the right track, so to speak.
But as I continue to write, as my second anthology, Men of the Manor, is about to fall onto one of those bookshelves, same for my eight novel, Creature Comfort, I pray that someone will hear it as it slams into said bookshelf. Sadly, I watch as, one by one, the gay bookstores close up shop (R.I.P. Outwrite, A Different Light, Oscar Wilde Books, and Lambda Rising) and the gay publishers trickle down to a mere handful. And, though you might be shocked to learn that I actually make more money from a sold ebook than a paperback, it just doesn’t feel the same, like something has been lost in the translation, like a whole culture is slowly dissolving into the ether (or Ethernet, as it were).
I mean, think about it. Who was the voice of our people before we had a voice of our own? Before OUT Magazine and the Advocate? Before Will and Grace and Ru Paul’s Drag Race? Who was letting the gay disenfranchised know that they weren’t alone in the world?
Yep, it was the gay author. And, ironically, how many of them did you ever see on the cover of OUT or the Advocate? Then count how many straight actors you saw instead, and you’ll see the dilemma.
So is the desire all I have left?
If there are no gay bookstores (pray for the few remaining holdouts, please!) and fewer and fewer gay readers, then what’s the point?
To tell you the truth, my very soul aches to write such words.
What’s the point?
Unfortunately, I have no easy answer to the question. Save for one, that is. Yes, desire is enough. I’m still thrilled that my books and short stories are read and enjoyed. That is the purpose of art, after all: to be enjoyed by others, despite the size of the audience, to bring forth something out of nothing, to create, even for creation’s sake.
Still, I’m sad for what’s been lost. And what will still surely be lost. For the joy of standing in a gay bookstore, gazing longingly at shelves and shelves of books that are making literary noise. Sad for all the gay authors who never will be because of all the publishers who are no longer. And for all the gay people out there who have forgotten who their voices were and still are.
So please run to that literary forest, folks. Because we’re all aching to be heard, yearning for our collective noise to reach your ears. And we’re still out there, slamming our books, our very hearts and souls, onto those few remaining bookshelves.
About Rob Rosen
Rob Rosen is the author of the critically acclaimed novels, Sparkle: The Queerest Book You’ll Ever Love, the Lambda Literary Award Nominated Divas Las Vegas, which was the winner of the 2010 TLA Gaybies for Best Gay Fiction, Hot Lava, Southern Fried, the Lambda Literary Award Nominated Queerwolf, Vamp, Queens of the Apocalypse, and Creature Comfort. His short stories have appeared in more than 200 anthologies. You can find 20 of them in his erotic romance anthology, Good & Hot. He is also the editor of Lust in Time: Erotic Romance Through the Ages, Men of the Manor and Best Gay Erotica 2015. Please visit him at http://www.therobrosen.com
The country estate, masters and servants, mystery and intrigue, sex and money—all go hand in hand in these turn-of-the-century tales of what goes on behind the manor’s closed doors. Does the master lure the butler to the phonograph room for a romp behind the sofa, or does the stable boy have a tryst with the footman while the lord longingly watches on? Does the aristocrat drop his foppish manners when the butler helps him undress? And do the classes exchange more than pleasantries when the lamps are dimmed and the ladies retire for the evening?
Rob Rosen has gathered the hottest stories of romance and sex between wealthy aristocrats and the hard-working estate staff, all with a pre-World War I backdrop, including the fashion and art and the latest inventions of the day. War is years way, the estates are huge and sprawling, the fashionably elite have too much time on their hands, while the toiling underclass are always on the lookout for a means to a brighter future — no matter whose bed they end up in. Think Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, but with enough sex to make the town vicar blush.
Excerpted from “Finsloe” by Xavier Axelson
I knew I loved Master Bryden Massingham when, as boys, he kissed me in the broom closet. He’d stolen a custard tart from the kitchen and entreated me to share his spoils. The tart broke apart, and we slurped custard from our hands.
“You got custard on your chin!” I laughed.
“I do?” Bryden swiped his tongue along his bottom lip.
“How about now?”
I shook my head.
He leaned in close. “Get it for me.”
I smelled sweet custard on his breath.
“Go on, before we’re caught!”
I lifted my finger and brushed it against his chin. Our eyes met. He smiled. I blushed.
He came closer, and when our lips touched, I closed my eyes. The kiss lasted a moment but it haunted me like a hungry ghost. I wanted more, ached to be alone with him. Whenever our eyes met, he smiled as though our secret pleased him.
I’d been in service a year by then. My pa served as butler at Massingham Place. When my ma took sick with fever and died the winter before, he pleaded with Lord and Lady Massingham to oblige his only son.
I did chores, scrambled out of the way of cooks, footmen and maids, but mostly I played with Master Bryden.
The day before Master Bryden left for university, he came to the garret bedroom I shared with Pa and Mr. Prewitt, the underbutler. Collins, the footman, had an even tinier room that adjoined ours, both visible from either side of the space allotted.
I couldn’t sleep, and stared at the shadows on the ceiling and listened to Pa snore.
I hadn’t heard Bryden enter but smelled bay rum. He started wearing the scent when he received a bottle as a gift on his eighteenth birthday. My heart pounded every time I caught a trace of it in the air.
His hand slid under the rough cotton sheet. When his hand grazed my thigh, I trembled. Pa snored louder. My thoughts ranged from fear to disbelief and excited terror. I looked over at Mr. Prewitt and hoped he was asleep.
Master Bryden’s hand crept inside my drawers and fondled my cock. It stiffened in the wisdom of a sure hand. I turned my face from the shadows on the ceiling and breathed heavily against the flat pillow beneath my head. My cock grew wet, slick with urgent expectancy. His hand stroked faster until I whimpered. I couldn’t hold back. My body shook, quivered, undulated until I cried out, my cock ejaculating. Drenched like a sailor tossed from his ship, I was sprayed with the hot, pungent stuff. I sighed as it trickled down my thighs.
It all ended as suddenly as it had begun.
Mr. Prewitt didn’t move. My pa continued to snore.
The next morning, Master Bryden was gone.
Two years later, just short of my twenty-first birthday, Pa died in service to the Massingham family. Mr. Prewitt took Pa’s place as head butler, Collins moved up to underbutler, while I moved up from page to footman.