Gay Lit vs M/M – FIGHT!!!

So, I’m getting back to some reading, since I’ve been mired in Stargate Atlantis marathons on a daily basis, and catching up, (getting addicted to the McShep) and my reading has taken a serious nosedive. So I’m reading two books at the same time.

Strange Meeting by Susan Hill – a critically acclaimed homosexual story set in WW1; and

His Master’s Lover by Nick Heddle – a m/m romance set just after WW2

And it struck me, as I read Strange Meeting, how very different m/m and gay literature can be. can (and it isn’t always, I consider some m/m to be as good literature as any that Andre Aciman, Ms Hill or Ms Waters can write)

So here, just for my own amusement and  are my vies on the differences between gay fiction and M/M.

Gay Fiction


The book will begin with lush, often surreal description.  Weather, landscape, internal thoughts, perhaps a journey being taken The book will begin with an introduction to the protagonist – if not both.
The first interaction between the main protagonists may take a while, and when they do meet they will have a long conversation, peppered with long pauses, more description of the landscape, and talk of nothing personal. They won’t immediately be friends. The first interaction between the main protagonists will involve a lot of mental leering, some witty banter, touches of skin somehow, and probably some stiffening. Either that, or they’ll hate each other.
There will be NO – repeat NO mention of the word homosexuality.  As the friendship grows there will be nothing more than a gradual dependence on each other and a desire to see more of each other. (alternated with much description of landscape, and possibly some weather.) Both men will be aware that they are different, (if a historical) or if a contemporary will be loud and proud.
If there is any physical contact, it will be in the form of a manly hug that is regretted instantly and angsted much over Sexual contact takes place in chapter four.
By the time the protagonist realises that he’s love!!!! with another man, all is lost and there’s nothing for it but someone’s death, or separation for their own good. After a humungous amount of shagging, the protags decide to shack up/get married.
Bleak last section with more landscape. Happy Ever After with added shaggage!

So, yes, I’m not being serious.

I love both types with a passion and am happy when they are seperate and am happy when they have the differences.

But I have to say, reading Strange Meeting, I did get a point when I just started to giggle and I said to my cat, who was curled up on my shoulders, “Yanno, if this was a m/m, they’d be shagging already – and they’d be a LOT happier.”

6 years 5 months ago

Great post Erates.

I’ve read just about all the ‘classy Oprah angst’ books I can take. I’m all about M/M and chapter 4, or page 4 really. I love a good story by a great writer and my preferences all fell into the boxes under the M/M heading. :)

6 years 5 months ago

I’m very much looking forward to your explication of Straight Fiction.

6 years 5 months ago

I love your comparative table, Erastes. It made me giggle like crazy it was so spot on.

I was talking to someone about this very topic the other day after reading “Call Me By Your Name” – seems like we all have recently. She was completely confused by the fact that there could be separate genres for m/m romance and for gay lit. After I explained it to her, her response… “So basically it’s a HEA thing”. My Mumma got it in one. Gotta love her.

6 years 5 months ago

“daffodils in january” o_O Ick! That’s a book thrower if I ever saw one! *sigh* … *grin* I’m really enjoying the “bridge” books. I can think of quite a few m/m authors who have well written descriptive and enjoyable work. Some are funny, some are fluffy, some are HFN and some are so full of angst that I cry while reading them. I just read a really sweet short with no smexx at all! Descriptive historical, tender, some angst, fear of death then a possible (because they might still die in the war) HEA. Fantastic! I’m just a greedy reader… Read more »

6 years 5 months ago

Rule 1: Bad Weather is not inherently dramatic.
Angel’s corollary: Inaccurate weather is a book-hurling offense.

I don’t mind a good sense of setting, but spare me endless landscapes. I already read Tolkien and you won’t manage it better.

There are complete differences in style between gay lit and m/m and I think it is audience and purpose that create them. Thanks for outlining this so neatly.

And yes, some of us wait until chapter 4 to have sex… because our boys aren’t THAT kind of boy. Except that they totally are and plot keeps getting the way.

6 years 5 months ago

My current ones made it as far a chapter three. They’re only a *little* bit slutty. They nearly did it in chapter one, but one of them got cold feet. (Spoilsport.)

6 years 5 months ago

Plus, use your graph and compare Patricia Nell Warren ~ The Front Runner to M/M. I personally think that’s more character driven and romance oriented even if the ending is not HEA.

6 years 5 months ago

Landscapes and weather? See, that’s why I don’t read the literary stuff. I’m all about chapter Four.

6 years 5 months ago

Oh jeez, not this again! OK, what you call Gay Lit and I call Gay Lit can be seen as two different things. I call “classic” books like Maurice… Gay Claptrap! Most of the book is all angst and emotional blackmail and stolen kisses and in the last five seconds suddenly sex breaks out followed by the required shame and eventually all the Gay Characters running away from evil repressive “society” where Gay Characters will never be happy anyway to live as woodcutters after changing their names of course. Who can relate to that? It’s as bad as suicidal queens… Read more »

6 years 5 months ago

Great post Erastes. I spent many years reading books which would be considered ‘worthy’ which contained angst filled characters who began the book feeling happy and ended the book filled with pain or dead. I’m past all that now, thank goodness. Yes, I want well written books and I even don’t mind the odd lovely bit of description but no, I don’t want to feel suicidal when I reach the end of a book any more. I just have to turn on the news or read a paper for that. So I think I’ll stick to my m/m and give… Read more »

6 years 5 months ago

Heh, that was funny and yep, pretty familiar! Though I have to say I’ve just read a literary gay novel and though there was a certain amount of angst (and with a 17-year-old narrator angst is pretty much a given!) there’s no “dead gay” nonsense. Nobody feels the urge to kill themselves at any point that I remember. But of course, there’s no guarantee of a happy ever after ending either, even when there’s not going to be a totally grim one. It was Call Me By Your Name by Andre Acimen and definitely worth giving a go, by the… Read more »

6 years 5 months ago

LMAO! This was a great post!

Srsly though, wouldn’t it be nice if there were *more* middle ground books? Hot “rip-roarin’ shag scenes” and a deep meaningful book with rich descriptions…

I frequently (o.k., almost always) want well written hot smexxin with HEA romance, but sometimes I want serious with smexxin. Call me picky!

Manly hugs? o_0

Does that go with “the single touch on the upper back that has so much meaning and fills them both with angst and makes them realize that their friendship must end”?

6 years 5 months ago


I love me a good descriptive paragraph as much as the next ex-English major, but come on . . . some of those well-turned phrases need to be put to use in rip-roarin’ shag scenes!

Manly hugs–omigod.

Great post, Erastes! I confess, you’ve piqued my curiosity about “gay lit’rature.”

6 years 5 months ago

Where is my reply??

Anyway: When it says on sleeve “critically acclaimed” warning bells start to sound in my head. THose books never end well whatever genre it is.

I read for entertainment and feeling depressed after finishing a book is not entertaining imo.

6 years 5 months ago

If it says on the sleeve “critically acclaimed” then warning bells start to sound in my head.
Those books never end well whatever kind of book it is. So I tend to avoid those books or I must be in a really generous mood.

Books I read for my entertainment, feeling depressed after closing a book is not entertaining to me.

6 years 5 months ago

LOL Very funny. And when I read Chapter 4, I thought “What the hell? Page 4 usually.” I have to confess that I don’t read “literature” and Oprah’s favorite book because I get too bored reading about the weather and the landscape and long introspective looks at someone’s thought process. I like to get to the meat *giggle* of the story a lot sooner. So I’m shallow. Thankfully there is something for all of us out there. And holy hell, I was looking for a particular picture today and actually saved the cover you used as your second picture (the… Read more »

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