May 5, 2020

Interview with David Cantero

Take it or leave it; that seems to be the chief maxim for erotic gay comic book author David Cantero (Cartagena, Murcia; 1972), regarding not only his work but also his life attitude in this unsettling world. Just find out by yourselves.

SPANISH GAY FICTION: As for your work as a whole, you seem to have specialized in erotic comic book. Thus, what led you to create Boxing Julián?

DAVID CANTERO: I have always been interested in sex. I think there is no story without sex. Sex moves the world more than we think! [Laughs.] With Boxing Julián, I wanted to show how difficult it is for some people in this society to live with themselves, with their sexuality.

SGF: How was the response to your comic book?

DC: I had a very nice feedback from readers; some of them recognized themselves in the character, and they shared with me their personal experiences. I felt touched by these testimonies.

SGF: How important is Boxing Julián to you?

DC: My stories are all special to me. Back then, I was very happy with the character design for this comic book. Today, twelve years after, I cannot even look at it! [Laughs.] I did it a long time ago, and now I just see errors everywhere! [Laughs.]

SGF: Have you ever been familiar with a similar situation in real life?

DC: Yes! Unfortunately, it is a pattern that repeats itself too many times in our society ― Maybe not so extreme, but in different degrees.

SGF: Do you think that there is always a tormented homosexual behind a homophobe?

DC: [Laughs.] Not always! But yes! It is usually true!

SGF: The world of fiction has always found boxing appealing as a theme. What is your opinion about this sport? Is there any previous work that has been inspiring for Boxing Julián?

DC: I chose boxing because it is a very manly sport with a lot of physical contact. It is brutal and direct. It fit very well with the character, and it was perfect for channeling his rage. The movie Rocky really helped me, actually!

SGF: Ben’s quiet attitude towards Julián’s aggressive behavior is really painful. Why did not he report Julián to the police?

DC: I did not want to delve into Ben’s nature that much; I just wanted to show a nice guy. We never know if he is gay. . .We never know why he did not sue Julián. . .I like this kind of endings, making the reader think!

SGF: Do you feel that the toxic couple relationship that Lola and Julián represent is still recurring nowadays?

DC: In my opinion, these situations will never end while education and religion still continue to create strong stereotypes for men and women.

SGF: Do you think that Julián will eventually do to Lola what his father did to his mother?

DC: Of course! Even worse! [Laughs.] I had an idea for a sequel to this story, where we would see Julián, Lola and their son twenty years later ― Maybe I will do it!

SGF: You have previously worked in collaboration with other scripters. Why did you create Boxing Julián alone?

DC: In general, I work alone. I have many stories and series. It is rare that I make collaborations. At present, I am (sometimes) collaborating only with Patrick Fillion for the series The Brigayde for Class Comics Inc.[1]

SGF: How would you define your style as illustrator?

DC: My style is a mix of European comic books (such as The Adventures of Asterix), Marvel comic books, and Japanese animation. I am in love with the line; inks are very representative of my style. A definition for my style? Well. . .I do not know. It is just the way I like to draw!

SGF: Julián is a dreaded character; however, his design is really alluring. Did you make this contradiction deliberately?

DC: Sure! There is nothing more disturbing than someone to hate and desire at the same time!

SGF: Are your characters physically based on actual people?

DC: The characters are not real persons; I created them according to their personality. . .I always think of details for the characters because they make them strong.

SGF: Apart from the fact that you were born in Cartagena,[2] I feel a Mediterranean air throughout the comic book. Did you want to depict a lifestyle that you know first-hand?

DC: I created this story when I was living in a village near Tarragona.[3] This place was full of Juliáns!!! [Laughs.] I thought that this background was perfect for the story!

SGF: Can you tell about your upcoming projects?

DC: Right now, I am drawing the episode 7 of the series The Brigayde, written by Patrick Fillion. You can see my working progress at Patreon. This year, I will be working on my series Exodus (Volume 5), and probably Dibearcity (Episode 2). I am also working on my children’s books for my other publisher, La Cantera Editorial: my next book, Sky and Heart, is just in process.

[1] Owned and operated by Patrick Fillion and Robert Fraser, this independent comic books publisher has specialized in gay erotic-themed comic books since the beginning of the 21st century.
[2] This tourist Spanish destination is located in the autonomous community of Murcia, by the Mediterranean south-eastern coast; it is famous for its Roman Theatre, the naval base, and the Carthaginian and Roman parade, among other attractions.
[3] Port city located in northeast Spain on the Golden Coast by the Mediterranean Sea; the location contains significant remains from the Ancient Rome.

May 3, 2020

The Beast in the Beauty

On David Cantero’s Boxing Julián

This time in we present quite a disturbing experience: a 2008 comic book dealing with the most ultra-violent homophobia.

In the first pages we find Julián, a promising small town boxer achieving an easy victory in a fight; when in the locker room, he is praised by Paco, his boxing trainer, and Lola, his sexy fiancée. When they leave Julián alone, he cannot help jacking off by looking his magnificent nakedness over closely; after this, Julián punches the wall furiously: it means the first indication for the reader that there is something about Julián.

Paco decides to hire the services of Benjamín, Ben; a hot, blond, angel-faced physical therapist. All of a sudden, Julián shows an unexpected rough-and-tumble towards the boy, trying to hide (or should I say making clear instead?) a powerful sexual attraction. From the very beginning Julián wants to leave proof of his discomfort: he likes neither queer nor sassy people who would ever dare to contradict him. Paco will need to mediate so that Ben does not quit promptly after an abrupt, vehement outburst from his protegé. . .resulting in Ben exhibiting his mouth-watering chest after Julián stretched the gorgeous therapist’s tank top.

Lola pays a visit to her man at the gym; the moment she lays her eyes on Ben she openly claims that the cutie is really stunning. Immediately afterwards, Julián calls her bitch and menaces her. After this, he pushes Lola to the restroom, and there he fiercely attempts anal sex ― vainly: Ben is in his mind, so Julián loses his erection. Lola meekly tries to give him a blowjob, but Julián’s reaction is hitting her hard.

After a massage session, Julián asks Ben whether he is a fag; Ben avoids the question. (As a matter of fact, Ben’s sexuality may be the biggest mystery of the comic book.) Later, Julián jokingly encourages Ben to give him a blowjob, but Ben leaves the room all annoyed ― has Ben got tempted to do it, at least for one second?

During a fight, our cocky boxer remembers how his father used to attack him physically and verbally when he was a weepy child; his father justified himself by saying that he hated pussies, and he told his harassed sonny to have big balls to face life. At the end, Julián gives his opponent a cruel beating, and Paco threatens to leave: Julián has to stop fighting that dirty in the ring, since he has been about to finish his rival off.

In the middle of the subsequent massage, Julián bitterly tells Ben to go away: he does not want Ben to see that he has cummed all over himself while Ben was squeezing him.

Through another journey to the past, we see that Julián was witness to his mother’s dying at his father’s hands. Young Julián took hold of his savage daddy’s gun ― he was a policeman ―and shot him. This memory heavily seizes Julián while having sex with Lola, to the point of almost choking her to death. When Lola gets over, Julián apologizes groaningly and tearfully; Lola, mad about her macho, forgives his bad manners.

The time of the final combat is coming, and the prize money will do Julián good for the upcoming wedding ceremony. He keeps teasing Ben with insults such as queer. Like Lola, Ben also forgives and keeps a submissive attitude towards the ferocious fighter.

Julián eventually wins the fight, and they all go out partying. In the disco, Lola asks the psyched-up victor to stop drinking, as it turns him aggressive. Julián tells her to leave with Paco, and Ben promises Lola that he will help Julián be back home safe and sound. At the wee hours of the night, on their way out, Julián gets audacious sneakily and lewdly: he beats and assaults Ben in a dark, lonely place.

The ending of this dreadful story is just terrible. Lola, oblivious to what is happening around her, is making the guest list for their wedding, and she suggests her betrothed to invite Ben. Julián flatly refuses, basing his resolution on Ben’s ultimately leaving him high and dry. The image of a bruised, wounded Ben walking down the street and exchanging glances from a distance with a sinister (and defiant) Julián puts a terrifying end to this troubling story.

No doubt this is a significant story about homophobia and violence, depicted by Cantero in a brutally visceral way. His illustrations are as attractive as disgusting, leading to a flawless portrait of Julián’s double identity: a bewitching object of desire on the outside / a frightening demon on the inside. We find particularly worthy of the most enthusiastic praise the pages concerning Julián’s recalls about his shady past (his monstrous father; his miserable, dummy-like mother); there, red, black and a blazing white are the cardinal, over-suggestive colors to show the ultimate horror.

The design of the main characters is also creditable; the contrast between the pair of hot men, the shiny Ben and the shadowy Julián, smoothly reveals the central conflict of the story. Regarding the details, the tattoo that Julián shows on his arm ― the name of his girl on a bleeding heart pierced by a sword ― is too meaningful about Julián’s darkest instinct, Lola’s cursed fate, and the comic book’s overwhelming lesson: Violence begets violence. In sum, a provocative work of art.

April 24, 2020

Once Upon a Honeymoon Suite

On Ana Diosdado’s 321, 322

Ana Diosdado
(Buenos Aires, 1938 - Madrid, 2015)
An interesting innovation was posed by playwright (and novelist and actress) Ana Diosdado when 321, 322 premiered in 1991. Unlike Noël Coward’s Suite in Three Keys (1966), or Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite (1968) and California Suite (1976), which showed different occupants of the same hotel suite in each act, Diosdado’s two-act play stages what is happening in both suite 321 and suite 322 at the same time. No, we are not meaning a scenic design split in half; the whole stage represents both suites, so their occupants share the same space (i.e., during performance, the actors playing characters from one suite take no notice of the presence of the others throughout the show).

Regarding what is the predominant interest for us here in, we are going to respectfully ignore the events in suite 321, and focus on what is cooking in the other suite. Let’s take a sneak peek. . .

Jorge and Sara are newlyweds: both young and beautiful and shiny happy at first sight ― what could be wrong with them? They love playing charades envisioning what their marriage would become several years from then. . .and the audience can soon notice through these games an obvious underlying dialogue dripping unexpectedly disillusioned, disquieting thoughts for honeymooners.

Sara seems far from being the typical bride. In her opinion, the wedding has been ridiculous: both her mother and Jorge’s quickly took charge of the plans, preventing the bride and groom from making any single choice. Why the rush after only a three-month engagement? Jorge told his mother that Sara was pregnant; his family is a wealthy traditional family, so the wedding had to be celebrated. Concerning Sara, she does not care; just living with Jorge and remaining unmarried is OK with her, but ― given her working-class background, the in-laws presume that she has married Jorge so as to climb the social ladder. Is she really that ambitious?

The truth is that Sara is not expecting. How could she? They have never had sex with each other. Sara has been waiting for tonight to ask Jorge the reason of his unjustified respect for her all along, as Jorge has already been in the know that she is sexually experienced. Jorge is reluctant to answer but, after Sara’s strong insistence, he shyly admits his genuine virginity. His wife finds it peculiar, so she suggests whether Jorge may not like women at all; Jorge gets serious and claims that he does indeed. The wife gives in (for the time being) and blames his unspoiled status on his mother’s hidebound influence. This controlling lady even makes an urging call to her sonny that night: Thou shalt not covet thy own wife. . .until she gives birth!! On account of the official version stating that Sara is only at her second month of pregnancy ― Just do the math. Now that the bride and groom can enjoy the sweet advantages of marriage, Jorge wants it to happen pronto; as if it were about a surgical intervention the patient is hoping to end soon. . .

Another of Jorge’s singularities is that he usually interacts with an invisible St. Bernard called Buby. According to him, Buby sleeps every night at the foot of his bed, and tonight is no exception. Sara has always been understanding and gone along with Jorge, but she also wonders whether this delusion of his should last much longer ― It seems to be the night of disclosure, so Jorge reveals that Buby truly existed in real life; his late father gave it to him when he was a child, and some years later a truck ran over poor Buby and. . .Back then Mother explained that heaven is no place for canines, therefore Jorge determined that Buby would stick around, though unseen. Sara gets emotional, and you can see in her disposition that she will never try to change her husband’s mind again; Jorge sees her resolution as a bigger act of love.

Jorge’s life goal was becoming a professional musician, but his mother persuaded him to get a degree in business administration instead; furthermore, an occupation in the family business and a brand-new sumptuous flat are waiting for him after the honeymoon. As long as they stay together, Sara does not mind Jorge’s career decision. On the contrary, Jorge feels that his wife got captivated by the flawless property acquisition, exposing her feigned attitude of unselfish girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Straightforwardly, Sara questions her husband whether he believes that she is a gold digger. Jorge does not bother to deny; then Sara breaks out and asserts that his only aim is acting as a regular heterosexual guy in his mother’s eyes, since Jorge secretly loves his gay friend Chema ― What a bomb! Jorge gets incensed; he opts to take Buby for a walk, and the woeful wife shuts herself in the bedroom.

Later, Jorge comes back to the suite under the influence, seeking after Sara into the bedroom. After a while, Sara emerges furiously: she condemns Jorge’s disgusting macho behavior there in, as if he needed to prove his cojones. Jorge suggests that they would rather pretend nothing happened and give it another shot; Sara agrees. . .but this time she will leave the bedroom all disenchanted.

Subsequently, Sara remembers how gleeful Jorge looked the happy occasion when they two and Chema danced avidly all together; now it is about time that Jorge must choose only one dancing partner. Eventually, Jorge confesses that he has been in love with Chema; Sara reacts proposing a separation. He worries about scandal, and vows to be always faithful. But now Sara is positive that Jorge got married because this is a much comfier position for him than an openly gay relationship;[1] she recommends Jorge to quit the family job and go on tour with his band, of which Chema is also a member. Some months later, when Jorge will be back, they can discuss their future; right now he must leave Sara alone in the suite and book another one ― tomorrow he shall take Sara back to her family home.

All is over for this young couple. . .Or at least that is what it seemed; before tomorrow comes, Jorge enters back the suite determined to talk Sara into not throwing in the towel for now. Jorge agrees about the tour, but with a difference this time: one band member less ― yes, that one ― and for good. Sara is finally at ease now; so the reunited are ready for their first breakfast together as a married couple. . .and Buby can wait outside. THE END.

However ― what will become of these poor guys? Why should Sara trust that her husband will never break his vow? How can Jorge be sure that he will never fall for another man again? Are they really going to make each other happy, or devastatingly frustrated instead? Well, life is too complicated ― we all should agree about that. While we keep caught in this web of mingled yarn, Diosdado’s characters decide to put the ill aside. It might only take the time they are enjoying their breakfast, but no one can refuse to this pair their right to esteem that they have found Prince Charming in each other for a while ― the rest of their lives? Not our business.

We are not going to conceal that we have an annoying feeling with this play. Jorge’s homosexuality is more or less subtly related to an absent father and a possessive mother; thus, Jorge is depicted as quite naïve and confused. . .He even stays friends with an invisible dog from childhood now in his twenties! ― No problem so far: a positive picture of a gay man does not need to portray a kind of absolute superman. But we find rather controversial the idea that his sexual orientation is just a childish stage from which one could get over with the little help of a regular woman with a down-to-earth viewpoint that Sara (arguably) represents. We are dealing with a piece of literature from the last decade of the 20th century here; not too distant from our times and customs ― that is why we expect a less therapeutic, more normalized treatment of the topic.[2]

Anyway, our reading might be much more serious than what Ana Diosdado could probably expect when she wrote the play: the stage directions suggest an unreal atmosphere, so let’s think that the author was, just like her creations, fooling around.

[1] Remember the fact that 321, 322 premiered in the early 1990s, when same-sex marriage was a still-to-be-legalized right to fight for.
[2] We can find a similar situation in Diosdado’s script for a popular Spanish TV series: Segunda enseñanza (“Secondary Education”), 1986. In episode 8, “Tabúes” (“Taboos”), a female student, Sisi (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), expresses her feelings for her female teacher Rosa (Ana Marzoa); in response, Rosa hopes that Sisi’s homosexuality is just a teen phase that she is just going through ― if not, the girl will have a friend in her, in any case.

April 15, 2020

Interview with Antonio Heras

Fetishism, pornography, self-publishing, prejudices ― and sports! They are some of the issues that Antonio Heras (Jaén, 1979) talks about with regard to his gay erotic collection Un blanco fácil. Please be our nosy guest.

SPANISH GAY FICTION: You have opted for self-publishing. What advantages and disadvantages do you find in this way of publishing?

ANTONIO HERAS: I was very reluctant at first. I wanted to become a writer the conventional way: supported by a publishing company. And they did for some years; Armado de impaciencia (“Armed with Impatience”),[1] my first book, was published in 2014 by a traditional publishing company. And in 2016 a company specialized in e-books launched my novel Tus palabras sin sentido (“Your Meaningless Words”).[2] However, when these contracts were over, I decided to launch these two books on my own. On one side, to try my luck; on the other, to enjoy more control and information over the product contents, ways to reach the reader, etc. I liked the adventure, though in the last few months I am up to move my books from Amazon to Lektu,[3] a platform that seems to be friendlier to both users and authors. In short, my experiences in both self-publishing and traditional publishing do not differ much: the sales were way low on both occasions.

SGF: How was the creative process of Un blanco fácil?

AH: I uploaded the title story of the collection as an experiment. People bought and I got driven. “What if I add another story?” Thus, I recovered a couple of old stories, and people kept buying. Then I said to myself: “What if I add another story for every purchase?” And that is what I did ― though there was a moment when more than twenty stories had to be included, so I stopped. Anyway, it helped me assemble the current collection ― which finally consists of nine stories (some produced just for the book) ― and I really loved the experience. My idea was that the original purchasers could update their eBook, but I am afraid that it has been impossible for some people, and Amazon has not offered me the right solution. In any case, if these readers ask me, I will send the complete book. Besides, the printed book, that some friends of mine have been demanding, will be for sale in some weeks.

SGF: Nowadays accessing to visual material with pornographic content is easy and usual, and most users do it for the sole purpose of getting horny. Does erotic fiction just fulfill the same function?

AH: Generally speaking, I think it plays a different role. Or at least it has a different sense of timing. If someone wants to jerk off, they just need to search for videos or pictures online: there is a world of massive pornography at their disposal. Conversely, literature needs something else from the reader; it requires more attention, and it is not that straightforward. It can work for getting excited, of course, but in a different level, I guess; perhaps more up in your mind rather than down in your underwear. Quality in literature is hard to achieve, no matter the genre; as an author, I have learned not to cry with anger and impotence every time I read my writings again.

SGF: There is a common denominator in all the stories: gay eroticism. However, each story belongs to a distinctive genre, as a means to avoid reiteration at any cost.

AH: That is right; in my stories I wanted to avoid a succession of clichés and topical scenes: they meet, they fuck, the end / they meet, they fuck, the end. . .As an author, I had a wonderful time mixing genres on the common base of eroticism; I wish the same to the reader.

SGF: Is there any author or piece of erotic fiction that you esteem as an example in your writing?

AH: I do not usually like reading erotic literature; at least, not the mainstream. However, I remember Almudena Grandes’s The Ages of Lulu[4] ― a brilliant novel ― and also the works of Marguerite Duras, Henry Miller. . .I do not know whether they can be considered as erotic fiction writers, after all. Perhaps they can. Oh, wait! I almost forget the immense Marquis de Sade (whose painful depravation is beyond words), Dennis Cooper, my favorite (living) author, and Jean Genet, my favorite (dead) author.

SGF: Does gay erotic fiction have a wide audience?

AH: My works do not sell well. If I had to live off my book sales, I would have died from starvation years ago.

SGF: There is a common leitmotif throughout Un blanco fácil: the sportsman and his equipment. How important is fetishism in creating erotic fiction? What is your personal attitude towards fetishism?

AH: Fetishism can be a very useful tool for erotic fiction, indeed. Whatever it seems, I am not quite kinky; I choose the person rather than the object.

SGF: In the title story you pun on the real names of famous footballers. According to you, why has no elite footballer come out publicly at this stage in the game?

AH: It is a shame that no foremost male footballer has opened out about a sexual orientation different from heterosexuality in our days. The blame may fall on sponsors and football clubs mainly, but also some mossbacked supporters (at least, the prevalent voices on the media). Anyway, this is an individual choice; the courage to show your self should be stimulating enough. Elite sportsmen from many other disciplines came out DECADES ago, serving as big examples for generations of fans of all ages. In a society in which football is such an important and popular and profitable business, a top-level footballer daring to make the first move would be a turning point. I know no case in real life other than a famous event that happened years ago: there was a player ready to come out on the cover of Zero magazine,[5] but they said that his club eventually prevented him from doing it.

SGF: And the reason why you selected the names for your characters from the list of Real Madrid CF players is. . .

AH: The reason was truly banal: they were just the ones that I felt physically attracted to the most; at least, the late 90s/early 00s squads. Besides, I found funny the double meaning in blanco fácil.[6] The story was originally written for a website in which users romanticized about the hottest footballers of the hour, and they even produced (mostly pornographic) stories about meetings in locker rooms, showers, etc.; to sum up, jerk-off material. A couple of years ago, while searching for other stuff on my computer, I accidentally found the file and occurred to upload it online.
I do not like laughing at anyone by branding them as gay; for me, that is a homophobic, counter-productive attitude. The theory that homophobes are repressed homos underlies too latent homophobia, and it really does not help the LGBT cause at all.

SGF: The story “Homo Sci-Fi,” in which the female character is flicking the bean while peeping into two guys having sex, reminds me of a trend in American erotic fiction: women writing M/M fiction for other women mainly. Why has not this movement repeated in our country?

AH: I honestly have no idea. I think that it is an interesting kind of fiction; it reminds me of the yaoi and bishōnen concepts: erotic and romantic Japanese comics featuring gay boys whose main audience is young girls.

SGF: Regarding the story “El cuarto de la plancha,” imagination helps break the barrier between the labels homo and hetero. Do you believe that human beings are actually bisexual?

AH: I feel that personality and closeness are key facts in sexual attraction; in that sense, there may be a moment when that presumably self-imposed barrier dividing your likes and dislikes might fade away.

SGF: In “Con-tacto” you depict a common place in erotic fiction: getting fondled by a stranger at the subway. Have you ever experienced it by yourself?

AH: Yes, it happened to me once, but I spare you my reaction.

SGF: Concerning the story “Hermanos,” have you ever known of any case of brother-brother incest personally?

AH: No. If I knew, I would not see it disgusting; I would try to get to know them ― though I would feel a kind of awkward, or curious about their living through it, no doubt. I think that this issue is still quite taboo, at least in our society.

SGF: In “El colgante,” when the male protagonist has sex with his friend, you say: “It is his pureness what he likes the most; there is nothing artificial around him. Nothing surrounding him, squeezing his body; there are no watches or necklaces, no earrings or makeups” ― Can it be considered the very author’s declaration of principles?

AH: No, there is usually no declaration of principles in my writings; not that clear, at least ― there must be principles, for sure, though accidentally ―. Anyway, it is the character’s thoughts what is shown in that quote. He seems to have a too narrow view of the circumstances around him; it may be a sexist, or at least patriarchal, view. Connecting falseness to the image of a woman is something absurd and old-fashioned: from ancient times, almost from original sin.

SGF: You work as a member of the protection staff in a museum. If any given day you had to face a situation like the one narrated in “Artistas terroristas,” what would be your reaction?

AH: People who must handle visitors daily in their workplace know from experience that surrealist situations are commonplace, and you meet people who could inspire a short story or a short film, at least. In “Artistas terroristas” I tried to invoke a recurring fear: visitors trying to damage the exhibited works in a fit of madness ― though they do it in such a strange way in my story. In that case, my reaction would be like anyone else’s, I guess: I would get scared and use my walkie talkie to call the security guards.

SGF: The portrait of a sexy man with a small penis in a non-negative, non-problematic way seems to be a taboo in erotic fiction.

AH: Hot men with small penises, with no six-packs, of a certain age. . .There are so many taboos and prejudices, and we must break them all down; not only in erotic fiction (not only in general literature, in fact) but also in real life, in the way we interact with the others.

SGF: Tell us about your upcoming projects.

AH: I have finished a vampire novel full of blood and glitter, now being tested by beta readers. If everything goes as planned, it will be launched after summer. If published by a company or myself (in that case, it would be on Lektu), that remains to be determined. Besides, during this quarantine period I am back to another unfinished novel; it deals with criminal investigation and investigative journalism on serial murders in a small town where corruption is king. I hope that the draft will be completed this month or the next one. Also during this confinement I have finalized the script for a web series, and the filming could start this year. I keep managing my two blogs as well: Armado de impaciencia and Gayumbos Ezine. And I will continue to upload unpublished material on Lektu.

[1] This short story collection won publishing company Luhu’s 1st queer literature contest award.
[2] Romance novel set in the 19th century London.
[3] New online marketplace for selling digital (mainly e-books) and physical products with the aim of becoming a meeting point for the rights of authors, publishers, and readers.
[4] Original title: Las edades de Lulú, 1989. Grandes’s first published novel, astonishingly successful back then, is a highly-praised erotic narration about a woman’s sexual awakening. A homonymous film based on the book was released the next year.
[5] Spanish LGBT-themed monthly publication, extremely popular during the first decade of 2000s, which served as a suitable platform for coming out nationwide. The cover boys? From show business celebrities to priests and soldiers; quite a stink in certain circles.
[6] The pun has already been explained in the post reviewing the book (footnote 1).

April 13, 2020

This Sporting Lust

On Antonio Heras’s Un blanco fácil[1]

Cover design by
Héctor Valdivia
Here in we believe in the old saying that if life gives you lemons, make lemonade; just put an end to foul mood all along this quarantine period with this recently-published collection: nine short stories in kaleidoscopic tones displaying a wide range of gay erotic amusement. Are you ready?

In the first story, “Un blanco fácil,” we meet Tidiane, a French footballer of a leading team from the Spanish league first division, who usually suffers sexual touching when tackled by other players during both training sessions and matches. In one of those matches Tidiane trips up a player of the rival team, and this guy vows revenge. When the game is over, Tidiane is pushed into a dark room; he is afraid that he is going to be forcibly assaulted ― nothing could be further from the truth: the rival makes the most of Tidiane, who has a great time in turn. This very first homosexual experience rouses our superhot hero’s deepest desires; he needs to repeat with another guy. . .why not a sexy teammate?[2]

“El cuarto de la plancha” (“The Laundry Room”) narrates a constantly interrupted vague dialogue between two 15-year-old boys; they use to shut themselves in the room which the title reads to jerk each other off. One of them finds the situation awkward; moreover, they are cousins. . .The other boy advises him to think of his dream girl in the process ― May it eventually work?

“Hermanos” (“Brothers”) shows how two apparently antithetical siblings behave by themselves when parents are away for the weekend and friends pass up a gathering for a wild house party. Heaven knows what this chance for intimacy may come―

In “El colgante” (“The Pendant”) eroticism and horror are all mixed up due to a supernatural event: a woman runs into a strange pendant lying on the street, and immediately she feels a quirky fascination; she does not even imagine that this moment will make her life all upside down, eventually leading her boyfriend into the loving arms of the most unexpected bedmate ― By contrast, the woman will face a much more different fate.

“Con-tacto,”[3] the shortest story, tells an anecdote with a comical result: an office worker rides the subway after a hard working day; he feels a hand on his right thigh, and he initially thinks it belongs to a pickpocket. Wait! Is that another hand? ― To sum up, let us say that this man is eager to go back home and make use of his own hands. . .while taking a steamy, satisfying shower.

“El tenista yugoslavo” (“The Yugoslavian Tennis Player”) is Mirko Kerkovich, who is said to be really nasty. Ricardo, a gay physical therapist for elite players unceasingly repressing his lust for his patients, has got the short straw: today he must render his services to that brute. More closely, Ricardo will realize that barking dogs never bite; the session will result in a really exciting party, at which Kerkovich’s Dunlop racket will be the king!

“Cruising Interruptus” has the same atmosphere as a good mystery novel. A properly concealed huge drainage pipe is used as a discreet cruising point for many anonymous lovers in a park. However, a series of bloody, atrocious murders committed in the place will wholly empty this locus amœnus, since every man fears for becoming the next emasculated victim. Months go by and the police still do not catch the killer. . .Nevertheless, a hot Moroccan called Moha is determined to look into by himself; his scheme cannot be riskier: Moha will use himself as bait ― Whatever the means so that new homo generations can enjoy a peaceful spot for cruising.

The title of the next story is explicit enough: “Homo Sci-Fi.” A starship commanded by a woman travels to a space station on a scientific-business mission, the author says. The crew: two men. One of the guys, the scientist, alters the anaphrodisiac pills B-13 so that the other one, a 19-year-old boy, can feel sexual appetite again; they need to take advantage of a few days left before a long-lasting hibernation!

The last story in the book, “Artistas terroristas” (“Terrorist Artists”), deals with a weird wave of terrorist attacks on museums worldwide. Singular is the word for the offense: they jerk off and shoot the seminal fluid against mankind’s biggest works of art ― even the religious-themed ones! ―; to make things worse, the corrosive sperm destroys the pieces hopelessly. Is there any possible way to stop this chaos?

Isn’t it grand? Isn’t it great? Isn’t it swell? Isn’t it fun when a single book includes a miscellany of genres? Horror, romance, mystery, satire, fantasy, queer. . .The great achievement in Antonio Heras’s incisive style is injecting an outstanding humor into his detail-oriented erotic fiction; Un blanco fácil is the puissant combination of a kicky exhibition of sexual activities ― sport fetishism is predominant throughout the book ― and a delightful illustration of skillful writing. In short, an invitation to relax and enjoy yourself.

[1] The title is a pun based on the plot of the title story. Blanco means target as well as white (like the color of the protagonist’s team uniform; i.e., a synecdoche for the player himself); fácil signifies easy: like the English term, it can express both not difficult and promiscuous. Thus, the title can be translated as An Easy Target, and also as A Promiscuous Player.
[2] The whole story is a funny joke grounded in the use of names that thinly disguise the real players from Real Madrid CF’s galactic era ― as it was popularly known ― in this fictional República de Madrid squad: apart from Tidiane (a.k.a. Titou), we can find Rigoberto, Oker (the goalkeeper) and a Portuguese player called Filipe.
[3] The author inserts the hyphen in the original term contacto (“contact”) to make a play on words: con tacto can be translated as courteously, making clear the character’s agreeable impression when being fondled.

April 30, 2019

Interview with Julia Ortega (Niamh Byrne)

Under the pseudonym of Niamh Byrne we find an old friend of this blog: Julia Ortega (Barcelona, 1971) strikes again! LGBT rights, social media, class difference, or sexism in education are some of the current topics discussed. Please do not miss out.

SPANISH GAY FICTION: Why did you decide to publish Contigo hasta el infinito under a pen name?

JULIA ORTEGA: This is my first novel set outside of Spain entirely. I use this pen name, which is of Irish origin, from this very year on for all those novels that do NOT have Spain as the main scenario.

SGF: On the dedication page you acknowledge all the people who work continuously to make visible and legitimize LGBT relationships.

JO: LGBT community rights must continue to be claimed today as much as when I started the novel. Back then I was assigned this project—another challenge of mine—, and it finally has come into existence. If I can make Frankie and Gigi win not only LGBT readers’ hearts but everybody’s, I will have achieved my goal.

SGF: Your book portrays a long-distance relationship built through social media. What is your opinion about this new, increasingly more common way of maintaining a love relationship?

JO: So-so. New technologies have made the world smaller, and now people are closer—and more distant at the same time! Let’s say that social networks help those facing actual problems to mix with in their most immediate context. That is the case of Gigi, who was pathologically shy during adolescence and would not in her wildest dreams have dared to approach someone like Frankie. Personally, I think that social networks remove these barriers and make communication easier between apparently incompatible people.

SGF: Frankie believes that opposites attract. . .Do you think the same way?

JO: No doubt. May that relationship last or end over time, that is another story.

SGF: It is very curious that neither Frankie nor Gigi had lesbian experiences before meeting again. Do you have knowledge of other similar stories in real life?

JO: To me, Love has no gender. This is not a question of being lesbian or heterosexual. In this case, we are dealing with bisexuality instead of homosexuality. I do not mention it in the novel, but I would say that Gigi had no kind of sexual experience until her mid-twenties, when her relationship with Frankie begins. This is also quite believable since she is more romantic and, as I said before, she finds harder to mix with others.

SGF: When these class differences happen in a real-life couple, is it harder for the low-class to adapt themselves to the environment of the high-class, or vice versa?

JO: Everything depends on each one’s intentions, their good will to solve certain conflicts. Although today’s class difference is not as noticeable as in past centuries, it remains. The problems are different, but the relationship still means a challenge for both extremes.

SGF: Which one do you identify yourself with most: Frankie or Gigi?

JO: Both. I am much more cynical than Gigi, and that makes me more similar to Frankie. Anyway, Gigi is a dear, one of the few people who still believe in human kindness.

SGF: I remember that in the previous interview we talked about social tolerance towards LGBT community, and you mentioned that there was so much hypocrisy about it. Do you still feel the same?

JO: There is everything under the sun. It may do not have to do with the topic but the beholder. It seems as if only a few people are able to talk about the subject discerningly (i.e., high-profile authors.) And what about us? We cannot have knowledge, an opinion, and if we can, they do not read/listen to us. That is the way it was years ago. Fortunately, things are changing and, yes, I have to thank the social media phenomenon, you see?

SGF: Why did you choose Glasgow and Amsterdam as the settings of Contigo hasta el infinito?

JO: Back then I happened to see both cities as opposing settings reflecting the mood of each of the protagonists somehow. I am not sure but I guess that, as it took a long time to write the novel, my feelings now the book is finished are therefore not the same than the ones I had when I started it. This may be a clichéd view, but what story is not at some point? By the way: unlike the plot of Caprichos del destino, there is nothing autobiographical in this story.

SGF: When I stop to think of the easy-going relationship between Frankie and her ex Dutch boyfriends, my conclusion is: “This would not have been possible years ago.” Do you think that in our society, and especially among younger generations, there is a much laxer view of sexuality?

JO: Much the same: it takes all sorts to make a world. My book is not setting a precedent, seriously. If I describe a very, very, very laid-back relationship among Frankie, Jan and Björn, that is because I have seen similar things in some films, other novels, or even people that I know or have known sometime in my life.

SGF: It seems that you are eluding the most melodramatic ways of romance novels throughout the book. Was it a voluntary decision?

JO: That is because this is not a romance novel. This is a love story, but it deliberately departs from all the (rigid) straits of the genre. I like love stories, but I dislike some—if not all—of the (obligatory) patterns so frequently found in bodice rippers. It also has to do with extension; Contigo hasta el infinito is a novella/novelette. I could not expand on certain aspects which, furthermore, are not relevant and can distance the reader from the main theme: the relationship between the two women.

SGF: Was anyone an inspiration for the arrogant Brianna MacFarland? 

JO: There are so many Briannas around the world, controlling people who want everybody to dance their tune only; people who do not accept other alternative ways of living/loving/feeling. It is not necessarily a question of money or power, though in Contigo hasta el infinito those elements are more recurrent. The outstanding point is that Gigi eventually stands up to her mother and takes the reins of her life. After all, we are not talking about teen love, but a relationship between adults who know what they want.
I have not been inspired by anybody in particular. If you want to put a face to Brianna, I myself visualize Cate Blanchett.

SGF: When Karen learns that her daughter Frankie is a lesbian, her only regret is that she would have liked to become a grandmother herself. The MacFarlands also had other expectations for their daughter. Do you view parents as generally thoughtless of their children’s own aspirations?

JO: Well, here we are back to the topic of the hypocritical society to which you must please, no matter what; always dictating the rules, imposing the standards; it states whom you have to marry, how many children you need to have, their future occupations, and a long et cetera. If someone defies the rules, he is pointed out and not for the good precisely. In the long run, this causes unhappiness, and no parent wants it for their children. “Behave well, and you will be happy and live quietly.” That is the mantra. “Do not rebel, otherwise we all will suffer the consequences.” This seems very much like the 19th century, but it unfortunately still applies in some families, especially those (like Gigi’s) which, because of affluence or social position, are in the public eye.

SGF: When will Frankie be totally honest with her mother and confess that she is not a lawyer?

JO: We may never see that [Laughs.] Everyone can imagine a continuation in their own way. The story is self-conclusive, so there is no sequel. By the end, the two of them are living their relationship freely, and that really is a happy ending in every sense.

SGF: You describe Ethan as someone who has not enjoyed too much family love just because he is a man. Do you feel that those gender differences in education still occur?

JO: Well, Ethan is a very peculiar character that has not too much relevance because, as I said before, I did not to want to mislead the readers from the pairing Frankie/Gigi. Does he deserve his own novel? Maybe, but I have not considered this so far. I do not rule it out, but it cannot be possible in the short run. And, yes: less and less, but there are still certain differences between boys and girls in respect to education. It has to do with society and parents—the main educators—as well.

SGF: Both the boisterous Hannah, Jan’s last fling, and the young customers of the store where Frankie works are portrayed in a very sarcastic way. At your age, is there something that you would like to preach them?

JO: Not at all. Youth has its peculiarities, and maturity has its own. My descriptions are not intended to be critical, only anecdotal and fun; just a reflection of the current society, but with no condemning tone by a long shot. Hannah’s episode is one of the multiple ways of introducing Jan. Sometimes anecdotes and experiences tell a lot about their protagonists.

SGF: In Frankie’s mouth you put a wish that in the Obama era the film industry will show more homosexual relationships and different types of families. In hindsight, do you think that it happened like that?

JO: I cannot say for sure, but if I were an American film producer and an African-American becomes the President of the United States, I would know that I have to reflect it in some way, as this is not just an ordinary change. It represents an unprecedented historical and social milestone. That must be explained, especially to the younger generations, in order to show them that another freer world is possible. I saw The Princess and the Frog[1] and I loved to see an African-American protagonist in a Disney movie. And, like Frankie, I bet that we will see a homosexual relationship in upcoming animated films.[2] But now we are in the time of Trump. . .

SGF: Can you tell something about your upcoming projects?

JO: OK, it will be a psychological thriller set in USA and published under the pen name of Niamh Byrne again. That is all I can tell.

[1] This Walt Disney picture was released the very same year of the first inauguration of President Obama: 2009.
[2] For instance, in 2012 we had the opportunity to see an animated film with a gay (supporting) character on the big screen: Mitch—voiced by Casey Affleck—in ParaNorman (Focus Features-Laika Entertainment)