It’s fair to say that most people see change as something inspiring nervousness at the least, or outright fear at the worst. People don’t often do well with change, and people like things to stay the way they are. I think that’s something we queer folk can understand – the oppositions we face are generally built upon that fear: different is scary, change is unwelcome.
So allow me to tell you that there’s a major change with Best Gay Erotica 2014, and that you shouldn’t fear anything.
Richard Labonté is a literary hero of mine. The man has been at the helm of the Best Gay Erotica titles since 1995, and I’ve long known that any anthology I pick up where Richard has had a hand involved is going to be a good one. More, I’ve been lucky enough to work with him a few times, and every time his guidance as an editor has been fantastic. Cracking open a Labonté book is a happy habit, and one I’ve grown accustomed to.
Richard has hung up his hat for the series as of this anthology.
I read that in the introduction by Larry Duplechan with my mouth a bit open. In my head I was still stuck at the notion that Richard Labonté wouldn’t be leading me through the anthology, and it took a bit to get past. I gave myself that moment, then read the rest of the introduction.
I’ve read Larry Duplechan in more than a few anthologies, and I know to expect great things from his stories, and by the time I got into a few of the tales in the anthology, that knot of worry about change had unraveled, and I was happily enjoying the collection that Duplechan has built. Moreover, the judge for the collection is none other than Joe Mannetti, which definitely strikes the right tone, no?
This anthology, like the many Best Gay Erotica titles that have come before, has a solid mix of well-known writers and new (or new-to-me) authors. There’s a real range present, and I was quite happy to see that range get some really fresh takes.
“The Piñata Conquest” springs to mind here. Boot LS puts together a really fun scenario here, and fans of spanking and bondage will all have a good time with this story of a fellow who is made to endure the gang-spanking (and reward thereafter).
Some of the stories drive a straight line (pardon the pun), such as “The Power Man,” by Lee Hitt, which involves a blackout and a hot electrician flipping all the right switches, but even those straightforward tales of men hooking up in moments of kismet are enjoyable and well-written.
In fact, I found myself smiling through many of these stories. There’s even a lovely conversation-free comic mid-way through the book, “Everybody’s Doing It,” by Dale Lazarov (script) and Jason A. Quest (art) that is sure to make you smile – the ending is nigh upon heartwarming.
Similarly, my day-job in the mall made Huck Pilgrim’s “Five Finger Discount” chuckle-worthy, with a hunk of a mall-cop and a petty thief getting his come-uppance in more ways than one. If only the mall-cops in my mall looked that edible.
None of these stories are misses. Fans of threesomes (and moresomes), bondage, hairy fellas or smooth fellas, hook-ups and long-term relationships, and lovers of a fine range of kink are all going to find something here, and it’s all done with a strong eye for flow and cadence of the tales in the greater whole.
Am I sad to say goodbye to Richard Labonté? Of course. It feels like the end of an era to me, and if it wasn’t for Richard championing the first collection in which I ever had a story printed to Cleis Press, I doubt I’d have even begun my own writing career. I’ll probably always have a wee pang at the lack of his name on the cover of this beloved series. But change doesn’t have to be scary or a bad thing at all. And Larry Duplechan proves that beyond a doubt with his debut turn at Best Gay Erotica 2014.
Give him a hearty welcome. It’s obvious he cares about the job.