Winds of Change…
I’ve been a horror fan all of my life- movies, books, comics, games, I love it all. I knew I wanted to write horror the moment I read the classics in school- Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. This was before I had even discovered Stephen King! I knew from a young age that I wanted to write horror and instill that sense of fear, wonder, delight and rapture in others.
I also realized from a young age that I was different, I was gay and that made reading and writing even more important to me. It meant that I could escape being me and create any world that I wanted. I didn’t have to think about pretending to be straight or avoiding awkward questions until I began to notice that I didn’t read about many characters like me in the horror fiction I loved. There were few if any to speak of in horror movies as well. If they were there they were a victim or repressed or a really deranged person. There weren’t that many that were overtly gay. Sure, you could read between the lines but for the most part, I missed them. I took this as a cue in my own writing.
When I first started to take my writing seriously and try to get published, I avoided writing about any gay characters. All of my characters were straight, or at least they appeared that way. I was under the impression that gay characters wouldn’t sell and that it would hinder my writing career. For a while I was probably right. Everything I had experienced had told me there was no market for this. To that measure, I hid all personal information about myself in my bios. I never told anyone outside of family and close friends that I was gay. Again, I thought it would be the end of my writing. So that was that, I had accepted that horror fiction was a straight world.
Then something happened. I discovered Clive Barker. A gay writer! He wrote about monsters, serial killers, demons, he made movies! He was popular. People loved his work and some of his stories featured gay protagonists like in his Books of Blood. That was the first time that I noticed that gay characters were beginning to creep into mainstream horror and movies. Stephen King had Tom in his novel Cell. Brian Keene had a lesbian character, in his book The Conqueror Worms, who was nearly seduced and killed by a monstrous siren—how cool is that!
Gay fiction began popping up everywhere with books titled Queer Fear, Triptych of Terror, Night Shadows and more. Gay authors were making themselves known and putting out amazing fiction, which I’m sure they always had but for me this was a great time and my favorite genre was becoming inclusive. It was a turning point in my own writing and that meant… it was on.
I finally wrote my very first story with gay characters… Majestic. It was the tale of two soldiers who fell in love while facing impossible odds at the hands of supernatural foes. It was never officially published but that didn’t stop me. The floodgates were open. I began to spin out more and more gay-themed tales and was getting them published!
My story A Strange Turn of Events is about a gay man returning home from a one-night stand gets more than he bargained for when he stops to help a woman being hunted by a serial killer. It was published in the anthology Dark Things II published by Pill Hill Press.
Beauty Ritual is about a gay man who faces the ultimate horror- growing older. He turns to extreme measures to avoid this at all costs and keep his younger boyfriend at his side. It was featured in the anthology Ante Mortem by Belfire Press. It has been republished in my newly released collection: Best of Shadow Tales, more info on that later.
The Longing is about a long time gay couple that is once again rejected when they attempt to adopt children. Heartbroken and angry they turn to supernatural means to have the children they have always longed for. Scarlet Galleon Publications published this story in the anthology Dead Harvest.
My tale of a lesbian witch and her partner doing battle with an ancient wraith appears in my co-authored collection Space Stations and Graveyards by Double Dragon Publishing. The story is called The Red Book.
Then there is Just the Three of Them at the End of the World, my gay zombie tale. Three gay friends sharing an apartment in the 80s face the zombie apocalypse together while growing closer and expressing the love they never dared share before. This was published in Library of the Living Dead’s Zombiality anthology.
I was no longer afraid to include gay and lesbian characters in my stories and books, and I would no longer hide who I was as a person and an author. It was like a Pandora’s box of gay horror had opened and it wasn’t closing anytime soon. Finally, the inclusion of gay characters in fiction began to spill over to TV, comics and games. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teen Wolf, The Vampire Diaries all featured gay characters and storylines, even Supernatural, one of my favorite shows, had gay hunters in one of its seasons. Superheroes were coming out in comic books, you could play as gay characters in video games and other genres were following too, like the Sci-fi show Torchwood, a spinoff from Doctor Who.
Even in social media I’ve seen fellow authors asking for advice on writing gay and lesbian characters with many sincere replies on keeping the characters true to themselves and true to the writing. It has been great to see such a huge shift in today’s fiction and art and to log into social media and see readers and writers who are actually craving more of this. Things have come a long way since I first made the decision to write a creepy story for a school assignment and I have many more stories, with both gay and straight characters, just waiting to come out. Wink-wink. I can think of no better time to write these tales than now. I’m proud of where I’ve come from and who I am and both have made my fiction what it is today.
Check out my work on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. My most recent release is called Best of Shadow Tales, named after my own website/imprint, it is a collection of twenty of my previously published works of horror and dark fantasy.
Visit me at the links below for more information on any of my titles.
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/John%20Grover/e/B004B7MHG8
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/johngroverdarkfictionauthor/
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