Marc talks about M/M VS Gay Fiction #LGBT #Spotlight


First, how weird is it when you have to talk about yourself in the third person? But yeah, ‘Marc’ will talk about this very hot-button topic, because I read about it all the time and while a lot of people have very valid points, I do think and hope I have something to add to this discussion. I just did an interview with author Larry Benjamin for the blog (which will also be posted today) and while I absolutely agree that some colors in the LGBT rainbow are much underrepresented, and certain types of characters (like flawless, muscle-bound alpha-studs) do appear quite often, I also sincerely believe that M/M Romance is not as shallow as some gay fiction authors assume.

Larry had no issue with me using his interview as a jumping point into this discussion, though and we hope you guys will have some valuable and respectful opinions you can share with us 😉

First, I should probably state what I think Gay Fiction and M/M Romance are. If I am wrong, please tell me – but this is the way I think about them right now:

Gay Fiction for me is a wide-reaching category that includes any fiction that involves at least one LGBT main protagonist. It can focus on any part of one or more characters life or show their whole life, it can have a sad or happy ending or anything in between. It has many different shades and variations and is often written by gay authors with a wide gay readership. It often directly uses the experiences that gay authors have and shows the world as they see and have experienced it. It often gets critical attention, but while there may be great reviews and awards, like many academy award pictures it doesn’t have as wide an audience as the more ‘popular’ genre.

M/M is a sub genre of gay fiction mostly focused on romance between two or more male characters. It is often, but not exclusively explicit and has a fast-growing readership that has grown so high that it is seen as its own category. It has developed from slash fiction where fans of a certain fandoms like ‘Supernatural’ desired or ‘shipped’ certain male character pairings so much that they simply wrote them themselves (I used ‘Supernatural as an example, because it happened so much in that fandom that it was acknowledged in the show itself). Especially since there is only a limited number of LGBT characters on TV, it is very popular for people to wonder ‘what if’ certain characters were together and create storylines within that universe that would allow for that to happen. Or an alternate universe that often has little in common with the original fandom, but use the actors or characters in a very original story. This is how many authors I know became popular published authors. They discovered they could write amazing stories all on their own, as did many readers discover through fan fiction that they enjoyed male/male pairings and widened their own horizons and that of those around them.

Of course I can understand that it can be frustrating for a gay author to realize that more people are interested in a romantic ‘fantasy’ than their gay fiction story that may be a harder sell for a wide audience. M/M Fiction often focuses on a specific time period, like the time one MC meets the love of their life to the moment of their HFN (Happy For Now) or HEA (Happily Ever After). The MCs are often hot (as is the sex that happens between them in most M/M stories), at least one of them is often well-off financially, the sex is often rather perfect, even if both MCs are virgins and whatever happens in the plot, some kind of happiness is usually guaranteed even to the point that cliffhangers are often frowned upon at the end of a book in a series, as each book should leave the characters off in a happy place.

So yeah, that is a lot of fantasy and I can see how some people might be unsatisfied in the realistic portrayal of their lifestyle. But in my humble opinion, those same things (popularity and fantasy) are true for M/F romance as well and M/M romance (for me) has more to offer.

It is not for nothing that the blog I founded with some of my best friends in this community has a main focus on M/M Romance (even if we are open to any LGBT Fiction). I have read about 500 books in this genre and loved it. Where M/F romance often can feel like the main character is a whiny damsel in distress or a ‘strong’ female character who defies all logic, just to be contrary and ‘strong’ and finds herself in a situation she can’t handle and needs to be rescued by her prince charming, aka angry/stupid/unconvincing damsel in distress a lot of authors in M/M Romance were unsatisfied with that as well and found M/M to be more open to non-traditional romantic storytelling.

Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing M/F Romance stories, but generally the ‘rules’ are strict and rather traditional. A lot of authors follow them and they are popular and many readers would dislike if they were broken, but to me they seem a bit repetitive and often portray women as the weaker sex, who needs a man to save them to be happy.

So, I think it is important to remember that romance has different rules and it is hard to directly compare it with gay fiction that does not focus on the romance and relationship aspect between two or more guys. If you compare it to ‘traditional’ romance, though, the difference doesn’t end at the inclusion of LGBT characters. A lot of authors seem to enjoy that they can skip the whole ‘weaker sex’ thing and have two characters on an equal playing field in a physical sense. Have two alpha males in a romantic relationship, where control has to be freely offered, while an equal standing between others remains. I agree it is hot for me as well and I find the dynamic very interesting.

But that is not all that can be found. There are many different characters with very different dynamics. Stories can be funny, heart-breaking, erotic, inspiring and many, many other things. Like the actors of Hollywood movies, the characters are often described in ways most readers may find hot and many of them would need to practically live in a gym for their body types to be realistic and porn stars could probably learn from the instant skills in bed many of them show. But the stories that are shown through them are of love and acceptance. Of overcoming challenges, getting back control over one’s life. It may show people who are hotter and wealthier than us ‘normal’ mortals are, but they have to deal with and overcome very real things.

Honestly, I have read amazing gay fiction and amazing M/M fiction in all the many sub genres that give authors the freedom to explore gay relationships in a great variety of ways. The gender of the author or the most common gender of the readers does not really matter to me. There are men and women, who write amazing M/M love stories just as there are men and women who write amazing gay fiction stories not focused on romantic relationships. I have also read terrible gay fiction and M/M stories from both male and female authors.

What really matters is the quality of the story and characters, the joy that we take from the stories. Do some authors get some aspects wrong? Sure! There are some stories which are marked BDSM, but really show abuse as they do not follow the ‘code’ that ensures all participants in such a practice are willing and safe. I think respectful criticism in such instances is very important so that readers can find books they can enjoy. And sure, not every person, male or female, can write about all the experiences in the LGBT world. It is always a risk to write something that is very different from your own experiences and there is often rather harsh criticism when authors try and fail to be more inclusive with their characters and stories. I’m bisexual, though preferring men and have been in a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend for almost 4 years. Neither one of us was ever really into the scene, and after we fell in love, we realized that we are both exclusive bottoms. When I found M/M stories, I didn’t really feel like such experiences were a part of the genre yet, but I found authors to be very open and interested and they listened to me when I openly told them about my own experiences and since then authors like Posy Roberts and Kaje Harper have written about similar situations.

Actually, I read a review of a book by Kade Boehme that dealt with this as well and the gay reviewer called it a perfect example of why women shouldn’t write about gay men, because the whole thing was a ridiculous concept and so on. Not only did his review show that he did not read the whole book, he also did not seem to realize that Kade is actually a male, gay author. For me, as someone who is in a similar relationship as described in the book, I found it realistic and loved that more and more authors take risks and tell stories of guys in non-traditional gay relationships or guys with emotional and physical flaws. It make stories much more interesting in my opinion, but there have always been and will always be great stories in this genre and I wished less people felt the need to make generalized comments putting down the genre as a whole. There are amazing writers and stories with an incredible variety of characters and plot. If anyone believes they can offer valuable insight into character groups and relationships that are underrepresented in the genre, I think a lot of authors would be interested to listen.

I think it is amazing that there are not only men, but also a lot of women who write about gay characters and open up the eyes of many about love being love, no matter what kind of relationship and love between two consenting adults they talk about. Many of the readers and writers of gay fiction and M/M Romance are at the very least allies and as such part of the community. Many are lesbian, trans or gender queer, they all have a voice that should be heard and can write about the ‘human experience’. I hate when those who are active for the LGBT community, spend their lives trying to make equality possible, raise their children to be open-minded and influence the people around them are dismissed, just for their gender and sexual orientation. I am thankful that as thinking human beings with empathy, we can put ourselves into the shoes of others and books like ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ can be written by a male author about female characters. We can create different worlds, imagine how our world might look in the future and yes, a woman can write an authentic story with a male, gay character. We are all human and there are many people who openly answer questions and many places where research can be done. If we could only write or read about things that an author experienced him/herself… it would be non-fiction. Which would be sad, because fiction and the human imagination can be a wonderful thing.

I just wanted to say that while I get the frustration of some of the gay fiction authors and many valid points are made, such points should be made in a respectful manner. I have read a few comments on Facebook and different blog that made me mad, because they were not only disrespectful to female authors or all M/M authors, but also disrespectful to me as a gay reader of M/M. Does M/M Romance often follow hetero-normative patterns? Sure! Often the guys meet, date exclusively, overcome a struggle and forever stay together in a happy, monogamous relationship. To cement their trust and happiness, they show each other their test results and start to fuck like bunnies without rubbers. Mysteriously, some kind of relative dies or in some way they become parents, marry and move into their own place and there we have it. The HEA.

Not every RL relationship (or every relationship in M/M for that matter) is like that, but saying women don’t understand gay men, because those are the exclusive desires of straight women is actually kind of hurtful to those of us who would like those things. I live in a monogamous relationship, I am moving in with my boyfriend this month and someday I would like to marry and perhaps give a loving home to a child. And btw, I love some fantasy now and again and like to read hot sex scenes with my romance, though I don’t mind if a story is non-explicit or YA. It was actually reading M/M and the same-sex love and acceptance described there that gave me the courage to come out and be true to myself, so I could find someone to love me in the way I needed.

It’s easy to dismiss something as lesser. But not always accurate. I think there are many ways in which M/M can become richer, show more diverse and realistic experiences and be more inclusive. I think it is moving in the right direction and that the genre has a great effect on the way gay people are treated in RL. Rather than saying ‘my genre is better than yours’ in a way that might be hurtful to some people, wouldn’t it be nice if we could all realize there are different tastes in the world and that different stories cater to different tastes? Some people want to have fantasy, love, romance and hot sex after a long day in the ‘Real World’ with a happy ending for the characters waiting in the last pages. But isn’t it cool that they read stories about gay characters, are active to make others see that gay people have the same right to love as any straight person and try to make those around them more open-minded, one person at a time?

I’m gay and it has been very important in my life to not only feel represented in the romance genre, but to find such an open, loving and supportive community. I have found so many amazing friends whom I can be completely open with about every aspect of my life, and who listen, because they honestly care for me. Women CAN write stories about gay men and they can do it really fucking well. Gay fiction is very important as well though and I encourage any reader to try the genre out. There are rich offerings to be found!


25 thoughts on “Marc talks about M/M VS Gay Fiction #LGBT #Spotlight

  1. Part of me wishes that everything could just be Fiction and the labels would go away. But I recognize that, for the publishers, for the authors, this would be a marketing nightmare. We need some sort of categorization for fiction – if only to be able to find it on the shelf.

    The push/pull between Gay Fiction and M/M Fiction mirrors the by-now-old friction between traditional M/F romance and literary fiction. Romance sells better. Literary fiction resents it and, at the same time, turns up its collective nose. While Romance will always have a place on the shelves and in the hearts of readers, I’m happy to see us reaching the point where all fiction with a gay couple is no longer automatically assigned to the M/M Romance category.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I agree. I think it is in our nature to categorize everything and it does help us in finding what we are looking for, though we should learn to realize that there are things not easily put in a box. Like for sexuality there are not always clear labels that fit and it is good that way. I love books that ignore labels and focus on the story the author wants to tell, even if that makes it more difficult to market. I’m also glad that some things are changing in the way this genre is perceived and accepted, though there will always be conflicts!


  2. I completely agree with everything you said, Marc. Great post. Having said that, I personally have a huge issue with labels, both in real life and when it comes to my reading. I recently discovered how very attached people are to the labels and the strict definitions attached to them and it made me a little sad. I’ve made my best reading discoveries as a result of ignoring the labels and picking books outside my automatic comfort zone.

    The one thing that makes me sad when it comes to labels though is how readers and writers of M/M and Gay fiction appear to become less flexible when it comes to them. I would have thought that people who have spent years of their lives (being an ally to those) fighting against the restrictions labels put on their personal lives, might be more flexible. It seems I was wrong. Regardless of how much I detest labels, both in my reading and in the rest of my life, the appear to be here to stay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that as reviewer we get so many very different review requests that I can discover new books and authors and subgenres everytime I check the blog email. Going into every book with an open mind, whether M/M, trans, F/F, gay fiction or whatever else there may be, has helped me to find some treasures that I might not have found otherwise. That is why it was important for me from the beginning to open the review requests up to all LGBT Fiction, even if a book is not M/M (which is still what most of our reviewers prefer). All of our reviewers take a chance on something outside of our comfort zone now and again and share it on the blog and hopefully some of y’all take the plunge with us and check out new things.

      I do think that some kind of labeling system is necessary to find and organize things, though as you say it should never be so strict that it cannot be bent or broken. I do hope that gay fiction and M/M authors can find a way to come closer together and learn from and work with each other two mutual benefit!


  3. NIcely said, Marc! I found some gay lit in a local library, and it was the men-writing-for-men kind. Or so the editor claimed. Aside from having a hard time connecting with the gay lit characters (they were generally portrayed as “gritty,” i.e. assholes), they referred to their private parts as anything you’d find in the back of a truck. I was taking notes, mind you, because as a woman I wanted to do some secondary research. So, their rampant, throbbing manhood was referred to as “junk, tackle, bait, drill, pipe, tool” and so on. It was, actually, bloody hilarious! So, Marc, tell all: do guys really call their penis all these things? Your answer will advance the verisimilitude of m/m writers everywhere 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure there are people who give their ‘junk’ a name and call it weird things, though I personally don’t. lol. I also prefer to like the main character(s) in a book (though I have watched the movie ‘Looprs’ with a buddy and we bot found both versions of the MC to be extremely unlikable until the end, so a very good story can hook you as well. But if you like the character you are much more likely to care about them. For me ‘Minions of the Moon’ would be an example of (and gritty) gay fiction(though by today’s standards it almost seems YA. In any case, for me grit means it’s not easy, perfect and ‘clean’. The main protagonist is flawed, the choices difficult, the stakes are high, the situations realistic. I should still like the character I’m reading about and care about his fate, though. Huh, I just realized. Isn’t ‘Bait & Tackle’ an amateur gay porn studio. I can see those words being used in porn, though I’m a fan of calling a cock a cock. Or prick. or dick. I do read some synonyms in gay fiction and M/M that pull me out of a story at times. ‘Babymaker’, ‘Lovestick’ and such. too much abstraction and it disrupts the flow of the scene of me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good to know I don’t need to go through our extensive tool collection and decided which hard “action items” ought to be used in my next story 😉 I don’t call my parts names, either, but with a penis and it’s occasional “mind of his own,” I can see the temptation. I’ve seen “the guy below,” “little Jack” (insert character name), “the other brain,” and so on. That’s sort of flippant, though, and suitable for first-person snarkiness only. IMHO.


  4. Having had a few conversation posts with Vastine/Carol earlier about this whole thing, I was glad to read your blog. I think we have similar feelings about this discussion so no point in rehashing. Being an artist this is basically the same thing that happens with us….who is good or bad, who understands or who is a hack. There is snobbery in all of the arts. So there.

    A quick note about what I like to read and why. I tend to read mm romance/erotic/mystery or any combo of those. I want fiction with a happy ending because there is enough of the unhappy in our world already so I don’t care if that is trite. If it’s well written with appealing characters I will love it. Thanks for a great blog.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. What an excellent and insightful blog post, Marc. When I first stumbled across M/M romance, I felt as though I’d discovered ‘adult’ romance for the first time. I know, that seems to be a bit of an oxymoron, given that most romances are fairly unrealistic.:-) But for the first time I found protagonists that I could identify with–not in terms of gender but in terms of their situations and their emotional responses to events around them. I read very little romance before discovering M/M for the reasons you name–either whiny damsels in distress or strong women who behave stupidly for the sheer purpose of appearing strong–and thus end up having to be rescued after all. And like Joy Walker Hall states here, I enjoy reading stories with a happy ending because life is hard enough. I need a happy ending at the end of the day.

    One of the things I prefer about M/M romance over traditional M/F romance is the fact that you don’t seem to have decades of tropes and sexual mores that must be overcome or else your main character is viewed as a slut. I get the impression, even as there are rules in M/M romance that must be followed, or else you risk upsetting and disappointing readers, those rules are more flexible and adventurous than those in M/F romance. It’s one of the big draws of this genre for me. I personally don’t care if the author is male or female as long as the characters are engaging and the story works for me. Honestly, I think that should be the only criteria that matters to anyone, but that’s just me.

    But I do believe that gay fiction and M/M romance are two very different beasts. You’ve provided an excellent summation of those differences and why different readers are attracted to different things.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantastic post Marc! I especially loved you mentioning that some gay men do in fact want a ‘traditional’ HEA and it’s condescending for others to dismiss that as something which isn’t valid. Just like many women don’t want the picket fence and kids. There are so many flavors to what constituates a HEA. It all boils down to who the people are. There is no ultimate, one and only, ‘gay experience’. Anyone who claims there is and speaks about their own experience as if it is the only thing out there makes me laugh. It would be like me speaking for ALL women, but only based on my experience.

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great post Marc! I have stepped out of my comfort zone of romance to read gay fiction novels and have been happily surprised. I urge everyone to read something they might normally pick so that we don’t miss other great works or fall into a reading rut. But as a lifelong lover of romance, m/m romance is my cup of tea. Frankly I don’t care if it’s not completely honest depictions of a gay relationship. In the same way that my husband has never done anything that resembled a great act of love from any of the straight romances I have read in the past. It’s fiction and we all want to believe that love can move mountains and create a better world even if we know in reality it’s not all like that. It’s fiction. I am so happy though that I did come across the m/m romance genre. I feel like my eyes have been opened in new ways to lgbt rights. I really hope that authors realize that when their target audiences are reached everyone can learn something about the world. and every book that makes people read is a good thing.


  8. Great post Marc. I love inclusive discussions like this. I have lots of thoughts on this topic, but I’m often reluctant to bring them up because I can’t predict reactions. One of the challenges of a writer is balancing realism and the demands of your genre. Romance especially, (MM or MF) is predicated on building and sustaining tension, and internal/ external conflict–that doesn’t always correspond to real life. Like you, I agree that this genre can continue to grow, become more diverse and more representative of the LGBT community, but it’s a start. This is still a relatively young genre and the potential to not only entertain but enlighten, is definitely there.


  9. When I was younger, before m/m romance was invented, I read a lot of gay fiction. I love gay fiction to this day and probably read it almost as much as I read m/m. Here is my pet peeve with this discussion. People read a gay-themed book and tend to make assumptions about all gay men everywhere. Gay men, just like women, are very diverse. Some gay men are pigs (as was recently stated in a controversial blog). Some are gritty and refer to their genitalia as “junk”, “tool”, etc. Some are effeminate. Some masculine. Some are cultured and refined and others are rednecks.

    It seems the problem that a lot of gay male readers have with m/m is that they feel the characters do not represent real gay men. But to whom exactly are they comparing these fictional characters? Themselves?

    People who are romantic will most likely prefer m/m romance over a gay fiction, slice-of-life story. People who enjoy no-strings-attached casual sex will probably prefer gay erotica over m/m romance, in which infidelity is all but taboo. People who strive to be eternal optimists probably like happy endings more and would appreciate m/m romance over Brokeback Mountain.

    We make this a gay vs straight discussion, saying that straight authors can’t possibly understand gay men. And then we make it a male vs female discussion when we say men are just different than women and female authors can’t understand male characters. But more and more, both male and female authors are writing in the m/m genre. It’s not really about the gender or sexual orientation of the author. It’s about what the reader prefers reading.

    I would encourage the gay man who hasn’t given m/m romance a try to do so. He might actually like it a lot more than he thinks. And for that female reader who loves m/m romance but is worried she won’t be able to stomach a gay fiction story, I’d urge her to reconsider. Trust me, I love m/m romance because I’m a romantic at heart, but I still appreciate the writing craft and beautiful storytelling within a gay fiction novel. We really can enjoy both, and they really can coexist amicably… hopefully someday with equal literary status.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. What a wonderful post, Marc! Your thoughts on the baggage that so often accompanies M/F romance reflect one of the main reasons why I prefer M/M romance. Anything else I’d wish to say has already been covered in the comments – which I’ve also enjoyed reading – so I’ll just add my thanks for an insightful and inclusive piece.


  11. You know what I loved about this article, Marc? How thoughtful and non aggressive you were. You simply laid out your opinion logically, and articulately. So many times when someone tackles this subject they beat the audience over the head angrily. I agree with what you said, also. But I was so happy to be able to read something that allowed me to read without feeling defensive or that I needed to feel guilty or bad about my reading/writing choices. Thank you! 🙂


  12. Great post!!!

    I won’t watch sad movie (or bitter sweet endings). I want happy>>> life has kicked me once too often and I refuse to spend time on non-happily ever afters be it on or off the rainbow. Fiction is too much of a gamble for me so I usually stick to the romances.

    Many romance readers usually want and except a comfort warm read. We know where to go for a good cry, an interesting shifter, a funny vampire. We read the authors who we trust will bring us to places we want to go and for some of us that’s what we need.

    The argument about romances written by women being ‘unrealistic’ is baffling. Some sub-genres are by their very nature ‘unrealistic’: shifters, zombies, vampires, hot rockers. Some authors write in a yaoi style which is by definition over the top. The authors are not trying to be realistic. This has nothing to do we the gender of the author and more like fulfilling the destiny of the romance sub-genre they are writing in.

    But take those out of the mix and let’s look at contemporary romance.

    *Start with the cover art. I want the cover to capture how the main characters see each other. I want to view them in the same way the other character who has just fallen in love with them does. I want to gloss over the imperfections and see the inner beauty shining through to overcome any physical imperfections. I give the average romance reader enough credit to realize this is a ‘representation’ of the character.

    *”They aren’t like real men”… says who? Let’s ignore the fact these are fictional characters… I’ve been to 30 countries, lived in 3 countries outside the USA, lived in on the East coast, West coast and now in the deep South… there’s a lot of different men in the world. I allow for the infinite potential and possibility. I want to meet unique and different characters… I don’t want to read an entire book about Walt from down the street (Or maybe I do if he’s interesting and different and has appeal…) But if I want realism I don’t look for it in my romance novels, I read the newspaper.

    I LOVE that the kids (& adults) in my PFLAG group have the opportunity to read & identity with characters who get happily ever afters. I can’t tell you the absolute joy I had at seeing how much happiness one of our kids had about there being books about people ‘like him’. Or being able to reassure an adult that no gay characters die in the end.


    Hugs, Z.


  13. “I’m bisexual, though preferring men and have been in a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend for almost 4 years. Neither one of us was ever really into the scene, and after we fell in love, we realized that we are both exclusive bottoms. When I found M/M stories, I didn’t really feel like such experiences were a part of the genre yet, but I found authors to be very open and interested and they listened to me when I openly told them about my own experiences and since then authors like Posy Roberts and Kaje Harper have written about similar situations.”
    Perhaps if more readers understood that this situation is not that unusual then more realistic attitudes could be had to stories with this scenario. Bravo to Posy and Kaje. And if it is consensual, is monogamy such a big deal here? The people are together because they love each other. Sex is a part of love but not the be all and end all.
    I would love to see mm romance tropes widened and encourage gay men to show different ways love and relationships can be expressed.
    I would also love readers and reviewers to appreciate this fact.


  14. I just found it today, thanks to a FB share. Very well stated. We are all humans who live many shared and unique experiences. I tend to write a lot of bisexual characters because I’m bisexual and it’s a comfortable place to be. I write HEA of HFN because that is what Romance deems necessary, no matter what genders are playing around on the page or in the bed (or the forrest floor or the beach). I’ve written stories without a happy ending. I actually enjoy writing them, but anytime people would read them, I’d get a nasty email. LOL.

    But I’m also one of those writers who slips between Gay Romance and Gay Fiction. The romantic relationship is not always the central focus of my stories, but there is romance in there. I wish we could blend the two. I would probably have to write less risky love scenes, but I could put some cocks and balls away. However, I don’t ever want to feel forced to fade to black when the sex scene is needed to move the plot along.

    And this is where many people would say the genres divide. I disagree. Look at all the sex James Bond had to move plots along. Heck, even Queen Amidala and Anakin Skywalker got it on to create Luke Skywalker. Sex is part of life! Why hide it? 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.