My guest today is one of my oldest online friends, B. G. Thomas, a writer of M/M romance and an unashamed romantic in his own right. He publishes with Dreamspinner, Amber Press, Tor, Silver Publishing, and Freaky Fountain Press and has a substantial backlist of contemporary, fantasy and science fiction stories both in anthologies and as stand alones.
Today he is here to talk about his latest release “Meant to Fly” in the Dreamspinner anthology “Men of Steel”.
BG: Isn’t it wonderful! So surprised me, not at all what I thought they would do. It looks just like a comic book cover, right down to the font they used. I didn’t know who the artist was at first, so I sure looked him up online and wow! Wonderful work! His name is Keith Dolney and he understands comic books. When I Googled him I was amazed. And it looks like he has done some actual comic book covers. You should look up his stuff. He is really good!
Elin: I’m avidly following the development of The Pride a locally written and drawn comic about a whole team of gay superheroes, but I’m not really an aficionado of comic book history. I’m assuming that when I say I’ve never seen one with a gay superhero it’s just because I either haven’t read the right ones or I just haven’t been paying attention. Are there many? If not, why do you think that is?
BG: Well, I am sure part of it had to do with the marketability of a gay superhero. I am willing to bet that the companies were naïve and didn’t think there was much interest in such a thing.
I was surprised that Dreamspinner even had the idea themselves. It’s an unusual idea they’ve gone with here. Are there enough readers out there interested in gay supermen? Pirates and cowboys yes. But a gay costumed adventurer? I hope so! I hope people will check it out, because it is a remarkable anthology! Julianne Bentley, the editor, did a terrific job and the writers are wonderful.The first gay superhero I am aware of was Northstar and he holds a very special place in my heart. He was a member of Alpha Flight, the first Canadian superhero team (that I know of) and they went on to get their own comic book done by the real creator of the group, Canadian artist John Byrne. From the beginning he dropped little itty-bitty hints that Northstar was gay. For instance he had a character describing how Northstar was an Olympic skier and everywhere he went, the women mobbed him, although he didn’t seem to have any interest in them. Each appearance would drop this little bead, and eventually there were enough to make a necklace.
John couldn’t reveal Northstar’s sexuality however, because Marvel Comic’s editor-in-chief Jim Shooter‘s had a policy against openly gay characters in those days. But eventually Marvel did let Northstar come out (after Shooter left Marvel). I always loved Northstar.
And good news! I hear that Northstar is going to get married (to a man!) in “Astonishing X-Men” #51, due out June 27, 2012!
I understand that there have been several gay characters since Northstar, including the lesbian Batwoman, and DC Comics doesn’t shy away from her having sex with women. There is also (at the very least) Marvel’s “X-Factor” heroes Rictor and Shatterstar, who not only came out, but came out as a couple. I also hear that Hulkling and Wiccan, members of the superteam the Young Avengers are boyfriends. That’s pretty exciting. The times they are a changing! I highly recommend an article you can find online about gay superheroes at the site, “5 Election.” It is wonderful.
Sadly, by the time there was gay pride in comic books, I had all but given up. I’d been reading comic books since I was fourteen and I won’t tell you how long ago that was, let’s just say it was long before most of the gay characters started popping up (you should excuse the expression). Instead, I created my own gay superheroes.
In “Meant to Fly” the most powerful, invincible man on Earth is gay. I wanted the irony in that. How if ten percent of men are gay, wouldn’t it be interesting if the most physically powerful man alive fell into that category. The odds wouldn’t be horribly against it. But there is a deeper issue. My hero, Paragon, is so powerful, that he has never been intimate with another man in his life. He is afraid. Because in the midst of passion, we can easily lose control, and he could more than easily kill someone.
That is what the story is really about. An allegory, you know? How a man can be afraid to be intimate, and how he rises above that fear. For anyone afraid to be who they really are.
Elin: Do you think there’s something about superheroes that appeals particularly to male writers? I can’t help but notice that 5 out of the 11 stories in the anthology are written by male authors – almost fifty percent. What is it about superheroes that made you so eager to participate?
BG: WOW! I bet it was 95% or higher when I was reading comics. Male writers that is. I can say why I would have wanted to write them, and maybe that is that answer. Comic book writers are often those guys that wished they could be heroes. The Peter Parkers beat up in school, the guy that sucked in sports and wished he could be the school hero, those people who feel left out, ostracized, pushed away, those not in the “clicks.” But in the worlds writers create, they can be the hero! They can be the one that finds true love against impossible odds. They can save the world and live happily ever after.
Then I also have a more…romantic reason?
When I was in junior high school, a new boy showed up and from the moment I saw him my heart was pounding! I didn’t know why. I was raised so sexually repressed I had no idea what was going on. I think I fell in love with him that day (I just didn’t know it).
This guy loved comic books and was an absolutely marvelous artist. Soon we became friends. As the years went by we became a team making our own characters and adventures. I would write/script them and he would bring them to life. We came up with a whole world, me creating most of the characters and him giving them birth on paper. Eventually I came to figure out what my obsession with this young man was of course, as I realized I was gay. I came out to him and he was cool with it until he realized I was in love with him and that was pretty much the end of our friendship I am sad to say. That story has a bittersweet ending. To this day I have no idea whatever happened to him. *sad sigh* I will never forget him. He has more than influenced more than one of my stories in many ways.
But he had implanted a love of superheroes and comic books into my soul. And then one day, a lifetime later, I got to bring a few of those characters to life in “Meant to Fly.”
Elin: I know that we have talked about responding to calls for submissions. What sort of call would you be all over like a rash?
BG: I am lucky enough that I’ve reached a point where Dreamspinner is interested in me writing novels. In face, I am working on five of them! That will take me awhile to write, you know? So calls for submissions would have to be ones that call to my heart, like “Men of Steel.”
With that call, it was not only the romantic echoes of my first every boy-crush. But there was something else as well. Years ago I almost got in on the ground floor of a new comic book company. They had backing by a major sponsor and everything. I wrote a number of scripts and it looked like my dream of becoming a comic book writer was about to come true. Then it all fell through. The creators of the company were pretty irresponsible and lost their backing. It was a huge disappointment for me. Dreams shattered and all that.
Then I saw that call for submissions for “Men of Steel” and I knew, I knew, I had to be a part of it. For the boy who helped me figure out I was gay, for feelings never really lost, and for the chance to finally write a superhero story.
As for other possible calls, I would love to write more superhero stories and would jump at the chance. Also, anything to do with ancient history, especially Roman, Greek and Egyptian. I got to do a little with the latter in my story “Soul of the Mummy,” and I loved it. I did a ton or research to make sure it was accurate.
An angel call would tempt me, pun intended. And a science fiction one. If the publisher were reputable enough.
However my biggest problem with calls for submissions is the word count. They never give me enough words! Tell me to write a story that is 5k and I write 6k. Tell me 8-12k and I write 14k. Tell me, as with the recent call for submissions for “Love is Eternity,” that I can write up to 18k, and I instead write 21k. Word count XXXXXX confines me and my tale. I can tell long tales. Even my short pieces can be mini-epics. So I think it is more than time for me to embrace the world of novels and I am eagerly beginning that adventure! I am more excited than words can say. I won’t have to worry about hacking the story down or leaving plot lines on the editing room floor. I can tell the whole and complete story I’ve always wanted to tell.
Elin: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
BG: When I get an idea, I have a vague concept of where it is all going. But every time I have tried to outline a story, I never finish the writing it! If I know what is going to happen before I write it, I get bored and never finish it.
It amazes me how time and time again, my story flows naturally in the vague direction I originally intended, but not only throws me ideas along the way, not only surprises me, but I find I was foreshadowing the ending before I even knew the real ending of the story. I don’t know how that works, but I embrace the magick. I won’t read a book if I know everything ahead of time, and I can’t finish a story if I know it all ahead of time.
Elin: So, BG, which of your characters would you snog marry or avoid? Why?
BG: Callum from “Desert Crossing” is one of my favorite characters. I think in some ways he is the character that is most “me.” This is a Bittersweet Story that doesn’t have a classic HEA ending, but that is because this is only part of his story. Callum does go on to find all kinds of love in his life. And he’s hot. I’d snog him in a New York minute.
I am half in love with Luke from “How Could Love Be Wrong?” I think the story is beautiful and I was so into the journey that Clay, the narrator, goes through. I feel for him and how he keeps looking for love so unselfishly, but can’t find what he really needs until he finds it in an unexpected place. Luke is an angel, figuratively. I say that because there are so many stories out there now about real angels. I haven’t told my angel story yet! I will. But Luke is kind and sweet and oh so sexy and beautiful. I expect out of all my characters, Luke is right on the top of the snog and marry list.
I’d have a three-way marriage with Elliot and Shawn from “All Snug!” OMG! I loved writing that story. I laughed and cried like a baby watching Elliot fall for Shawn. Such a sweet story. My husband gave me the seed of the idea for the story and I wrote it because I love him and wanted to show him thanks for showing interest in my writing. SO! I guess it should be a four-way marriage, shouldn’t it! LOL! Leaving him out would be poor form.
And avoid? Why all the exs of my characters! Especially David in “Desert Crossing.” OMG! If you have never had a David in your life, then I envy you. This is the sneaking, cheating, emotionally abusive lover that destroys the very soul. That Callum somehow escapes him with a little help from a hitchhiker is a blessing.
Elin: Describe for me your perfect weekend?
BG: I work Saturdays so it would start with not having to work! LOL! A perfect weekend that I might expect to be able to have is one in nature, beautiful weather, perhaps at my favorite camp ground, Camp Gaea. Being a part of nature, the serenity and peace, and watching the skinny-dippers and creating my stories and my art.
A fantasy weekend would be in Greece or India. And since so many of my dreams are coming true, I bet those aren’t far behind!
Elin: Thank you very much BG for answering all my questions. Just one more, I promise. Can we have an excerpt please? And why this particular one?
BG: Well, this is the opening scene from “Meant to Fly,” and it shows how the “narrator” of the story meets his favorite superhero. It’s not the meeting he’d fantasized. Rest assured the second meeting is a bit…ah…sexier. And a whole lot more romantic!
And thank you for all this opportunity, Elin. I am so in-love with this gay look at superheroes. And my fantasy of how cool it might be to meet a superhero and fall in love.
MEANT TO FLY
ONE minute Daniel Atwater was living a dream, exhilarated beyond belief. A moment later he was more terrified than he’d ever been in his life—scared for his life.
He and his fellow co-workers had been pressed up against the thirty-first-floor windows of their office, watching the spectacular battle in the street below and the very sky around them. That Daniel was watching so avidly was amazing considering he was so afraid of heights he couldn’t stand on a chair to change a light bulb. He hated the fact he worked so high in the building.
However, a fight between superheroes and their villainous counterparts was not something one saw every day and was not to be missed for any reason whatsoever. This was Kansas City, after all, and not New York or Chicago where such sights were seemingly commonplace. What’s more, one of the combatants was none other than Paragon, Daniel’s favorite member of Super Heroes, Incorporated.
Just the costumed adventurer’s name was enough to set Daniel’s heart beating faster. Daniel had been fascinated with Paragon ever since he’d first appeared in the media two years before. He even had an extensive scrapbook filled with pictures and articles about the superhero. His friends liked to tease him about it—he was twenty-four, after all, and not twelve—but it was all in good fun. They’d all contributed to Daniel’s collection.
So it was a thrilling surprise for Daniel that he was actually witnessing firsthand the hero of his dreams in action. Best of all, the villain Paragon was battling mid-air was no one less than Tyrant, a nasty piece of work who by all accounts was worse than Ivan the Terrible, Charles Manson, and Darth Vader all rolled into one. With a side of George W. thrown in for good measure.
The fight Daniel witnessed that day was the real thing as well. He couldn’t have been more excited. This was no blue-screen special-effect trick. No CGI. Heart in his throat, he was watching two men defy gravity as they duked it out high above the city streets below.
But then CGI turned into 3-D when the action abruptly came all too close as Paragon and Tyrant came hurtling through the window in a glittering shower of glass. To the accompaniment of screams, Daniel and his co-workers scattered like pigeons. Just like that, the super battle was taking place inside their office.
A blast of heat fired from Tyrant’s hands passed so close to Daniel he could feel it. And then Paragon was suddenly right there in front of him.
All Daniel could do was stare. It was as if time had just stopped; explosions and beams of fire had become a muted light show in the background.
Paragon; as real as life and looking every inch the superhero.
So big were the words that went through Daniel’s mind as he looked up, and then up, at the modern-day gladiator. The pictures in his scrapbook, the videos he’d seen on TV and YouTube, had done nothing to prepare Daniel for standing in the presence of an actual superhero.
Paragon stood at least a head taller than Daniel and had a body like the statue of some ancient god, Zeus or Hercules maybe. One of his pecs was as big as both Daniel’s hands spread out (or would have been had Daniel dared touch him) and just one of his arms was easily the size of one of Daniel’s thighs. His shoulders looked as wide as a small mountain, his marvelously muscled neck completing the image. Daniel couldn’t see much of Paragon’s face, of course, what with the mask, but what he could see took his breath away. The man had a mop of dark-blond hair, a strong jaw, full lips, and he looked down at Daniel with the most beautiful, intense blue eyes Daniel had ever seen. Then Paragon opened his mouth (revealing perfect white teeth of course) and cried, “Dammit! Get down! Do you want to get killed?”
It was not what Daniel had fantasized his crush would say when he’d imagined the meeting in his mind, especially lying in bed at night.
Paragon reached out with one of his large, masculine hands and gave him a push. Daniel flew back and fell hard on his ass, his teeth coming together with a loud click. Not a moment too soon. Another heat blast roared over Daniel’s head so close he could smell his singeing hair. Paragon had saved his life. The hero who filled his scrapbook really was Daniel’s hero.
“Thanks,” Daniel managed, but Paragon was already gone, flying—literally—across the devastated office and raining punches down onto Tyrant.
Daniel didn’t need a sign. It was finally time to get the hell out of Dodge.
He scrambled to his feet and dashed for the door. The only problem was that took him directly past the fight. He thought he was going to make it. He really did. But then at the last possible second Tyrant, his dark-blue cloak swirling around him, reached out and grabbed Daniel by the upper arm, and flung him across the room…
…and right out the broken window.
Thirty-one floors above the ground.
At first Daniel couldn’t believe, was unable to believe, what was happening. Then the reality of plunging from a skyscraper was enough to throw his brain into some weird other-place. Time slowed down again, and the mouth of the broken window seemed to dwindle at a ridiculously unhurried pace. His eyesight began to fade into gray spots and only one thought entered his mind.
I am going to die.
But then Daniel, with a bone-rattling jolt that knocked the air from his lungs, found himself in the arms of Paragon. The hero had caught him mid-air and, carrying him like a baby, he rose upward once again. We’re flying… we’re flying! Daniel thought as his vision went from an out-of-focus fog to one so crystal clear he could see the pores on Paragon’s chin. A moment later they were landing, and the hero was putting him gently down on the roof of the building.
“Are you all right?” Paragon asked him.
Daniel could only nod. He was surprised he could do that much.
Paragon reached over him and grabbed the knob of a door. There was a rattle, then a metallic crunch, and the hero wrenched open what must have been a locked door. “Can you make it down on your own?” Paragon asked.
“I… I’ll try,” Daniel managed after drawing in a gasp of air.
Paragon nodded. “I have to go.”
“S-sure,” Daniel stammered, and watched as the hero lifted up into the air. Daniel’s eyes followed Paragon until he dropped from sight…
Get your copy of Men of Steel here!