Thursday, July 5, 2012

SM Johnson ~Thursday Morning Coffee~ Men in fiction

Afternoon coffee today.

Summer is weird and screws up my schedule. Or maybe it's just holidays are weird and that's what screws up my schedule. Either way - here I am, writing about morning coffee at noon. But that's okay - I have a fresh pot brewing.

I need to remind myself periodically that I write both books and blogs for fun and entertainment, and the world won't end if my real life becomes unmanageable and a blog posts a bit later than I like.

Chilling with family and friends is important, too - although I tend to be somewhat anti-social. I like to hope that it's a writer quirk, and that I'm not the only one who'd rather isolate in the air conditioning with the computer than hang out with real people and attempt to partake in socially acceptable conversations.

One must live a little real life sometimes, too.

I need a new summer coffee cup picture. I think I was going to take a new one for July, so maybe I'll get that done today. After I do some socially unacceptable writing. Ha. (Okay, yeah, that was random).

What I want to talk about is men in fiction. Perhaps not as exciting as Men in Black, but at least it's a topic.

Collision Course
What led me to think about this topic was a book that I spent as much of the day yesterday as possible reading before, after, and in between Fourth of July parties (and instead of writing today's TMC, ahem). The book was Collision Course by K.A. Mitchell (and it's free on Amazon right this minute, on July 5th - I have no idea how long it will remain free, though). 

The genre is M/M explicit romance.

I thought it was absolutely lovely.

The main characters are a grumpy paramedic named Aaron and a princess of a gay boy child protection worker named Joey.

Aaron refers to the Department of Families and Children as the (language alert!) Department of Fuckers and Cunts. 

So, you can see right off that this relationship might have some ups and downs.

I really enjoy K.A. Mitchell's writing, and I'm positive I've read something else by this author, but can't for the life of my sporadic brain remember what that was.

I read some excerpts of other works at the end of this novel and I'm pretty sure I will happily be spending a few dollars at Amazon myself later today.

But even as I read the excerpts, and enjoyed Collision Course, I was thinking how so often the men in gay romance and erotica stories always seems somewhat less manly than men in other stories. They just seem so... dare I say it out loud? Gay. Even the hard ones (pun intended) tend to be emotionally soft. 

This isn't even a criticism, just an observation.

Compared to... say... Jack Reacher (author Lee Chidl) or Lucas Davenport (author John Sandford), straight characters who care very deeply about justice, family, and the people they love. They still come across as strong, hard-boiled, straight men.

Of course, it may be that I'm comparing black coffee to vanilla bean ice cream, and there really can be no fair comparison.

Jack Reacher #1

Jack Reacher stars in rough and tumble action-packed revenge fantasies. He often has a black and white view of right and wrong. Refuse to serve him coffee at the only café in a small town with big secrets – well, that's all it takes for Reacher to figure out that there's something about the town worth figuring out.

 And once you tell him flat-out to get out of Dodge, well, now you're in for it. Last Reacher heard, America is a free country, and he has the right to order coffee in any small town café that he happens to point his shoes at.

Once you cross Reacher, there's nothing soft about him whatsoever.

And Lucas Davenport – ah, Lucas. Man of my home state, seeker of justice, solver of heinous crimes. Lucas stars in serial killer murder mysteries – he's a BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) investigator, tough as nails, known to kill a killer in cold blood if that's the only way justice will be served.
Lucas Davenport #1

He loves his wife to distraction, and his children with a protective umbrella two cities wide. The bad guys have used Lucas's loves against him a time or two, and Lucas goes completely fucking berserk.

There's nothing soft about Lucas. Ever.

So back to my black coffee and vanilla bean ice cream comparison.

Maybe the deal is simply that the main characters of romance novels are softer and ruminate on their feelings more because that's the design of the genre.

Action/ adventure heroes chew on internalizations about weapons and strategy more than emotions – again, because that's the framework of the genre.

To fit into a genre, one has to write some variation of what the readers of that genre want.

Which is, you know, why I'll probably never make my fortune as a writer. I tend to write what *I* want, and hope for the best.

The only way to keep myself engaged in writing a story is to write the story that I want to read.

Now, say I was able to compare black coffee and light hazelnut coffee. That would come a little closer to the mark, and I could do that – compare the genres of gay romance and straight romance. Except then I'd have to actually read some kind of straight romance, and I rarely manage to finish them. Or even stick with them for more than a few pages. 

I'm sure I read a non-paranormal heterosexual romance at some point in the recent past, but damned if I can think of a single title.

I don't think Fifty Shades of Grey actually counts, because my fascination was with Christian's fifty shades of fucked-up, not all the romancey stuff going on between him and Ana.

But I will say that even Christian Grey, Dom extraordinaire, was a bit… dare I say it?


So... what say you, my dear readers? The issue of gay/straight aside, who's your favorite strong, male manly-man character in fiction?

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