Best Gay Erotica 2013
Edited by Richard Labonte
Best Gay Erotica 2013 adds another jewel in the crown to what novelist Paul Russell calls an “invaluable series.” A straight-acting Italian Stallion has a badly-kept secret in Davem Verne’s “The Pasta Closet.” Douglas A. Martin’s “Other Residences, Other Neighbourhoods” follows a young newcomer from Brooklyn to Chelsea as he chases boys and something like love. A physics major gets the hazing of a lifetime (and comes back for more) at the frat house in Geoffrey Knight’s “Fight Club.” From gay superheroes to not-so-innocent farm hands, burly bears and fuzzy cubs, Best Gay Erotica 2013 makes a nice and slow one-handed read.
I’ve been a fan of Richard Labonte’s erotica anthologies since I first picked one up about a year ago. There’s always an intriguing mix of stories set in varying locales and with an assortment of character types. Labonte pieces together anthologies that have something for every reader.
This was no exception. While there are stories that I did not care for, the overall quality was consistently high. Among my favourites are “Fight Cub,” mentioned in the back cover blurb above — it reads like a pornographic fantasy — a shy twink has hot jocks fighting over him, with the hottest of the hot fighting the hardest. “Fight Cub” is a smooth and fun read — highly sexual and erotic, but also humorous, especially since the twink helps the jock in the fight by spouting off physics laws.
Another excellent entry was “Night Visit” by Barry Alexander. This is a thinly veiled Batman and Robin slashfic. It wasn’t until the end that I began to wonder if it was the dark knight and his boy wonder — and the reference to superheroes on the back cover seems to confirm my suspicion (as no other stories involved superheroes). Retrospectively, this adds a new level of heat to “Night Visit.” Picturing Batman and Robin having a wild night creates some very erotic imagery and Alexander pulls it off well.
The stories that were personal low points for me in this anthology were by no means weak stories — they featured body types I do not particularly find attractive or sexual practices that do not tend to excite me. Despite this, I still enjoyed the “weaker” stories, so it doesn’t feel appropriate to even label them as “weak” since they weren’t weak, they just didn’t turn my crank.
I read this anthology with a bit more of a critical eye than I have with anthologies in the past, as I am preparing for a workshop in August in which I will be discussing how to write a sex scene. As part of my research, I have read a heterosexual anthology, as well as a lesbian one. I’ve found the differences between the three types to be quite interesting — and while having read only one anthology each of heterosexual and lesbian erotica is hardly a representative sample, I think it still does give a general idea of what that branch of the erotica tree is like.
Gay erotica seems to revel in the pornographic fantasy — but more toward the dark and gritty, the anonymous and nameless. While heterosexual erotica also seems to revel in pornographic fantasies, they tend to be cleaner and less often of the 100% anonymous type. Lesbian erotica, from the book I read, tended to more often feature realistic characters (as in, they’re like people you know) and generally in safer locations, such as the house or apartment. Gay erotica is often set in bathhouses, back alleys, and outdoors in relatively public places. One story in this anthology, in particular, seemed to imply unprotected sex with someone that has an STD of some sort — and this was eroticized, something which I’ve not seen paralleled in the hetero or lesbian stories. (Though, to be fair, I can’t recall ever reading of unsafe STD sex in gay erotica either.) In the next couple weeks, I’ll put together a longer post that explores the differences and similarities between these three types of erotica… I’ve still got some thoughts forming…
Back to the review: Best Gay Erotica 2013 was a fun read, full of steamy and throbbing tales. The collection has a nice variety of not only body types and fantasies, but also of writing styles and approaches. Some are a bit more experimental, such as “Other Residences, Other Neighbourhoods,” as described in the blurb above. Some take themselves seriously, whereas others, like “Fight Cub,” take themselves with a wink and a nod. This series is definitely worth the annual read.