Thursday, July 13, 2006


I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous!" And God granted it.
- Voltaire

Friday, July 07, 2006

Felice Picano's Introduction to Filthy

Thanks again, Felice!


Felice Picano

The minor league, dying performer finally hit a zinger. On his deathbed he was asked if dying was hard. “Dying is easy,” he shot back. “Comedy is hard.”

He also might have replied “short story writing is hard.” It is hard. It requires the talents of a novelist, and of a dramatist, and of a screenwriter, and of an advertising copywriter, all rolled into one. To write a good short story, you need to establish the time and place instantly. You also need to establish a “voice” instantly, meaning the voice of whomever is telling the story. And since that voice usually belongs to a person, you need to establish that character and her/his relationship to the time and place, and to other characters—also fairly instantly.

After that, you've merely got the usual problems of any fiction writer in any other medium: an original idea or significantly well-done twist on a familiar idea, a unique character, a distinct point of view, a particularized perspective on the world, a compelling narrative, and an ending that satisfies.

Oh, and you've only got two to six thousand words to do all that in.

Go on. You try it.

See what I mean? Short story writing is hard.

M. Christian's new collection of singular and satisfying short stories, Filthy, is subtitled “Outrageous Gay Erotica.” Emphasis on “outrageous.” Although each of them does deliver a more than adequate erotic charge, Christian is after bigger game here. He's writing short stories. You know, like the ones you had to read in high-school: anthologies about suburban Connecticut teens and hardscrabble poor white trash and adventurers desperate to light a fire to stay alive. The ones you had to discuss in class, using terms like “irony” and “thematic development” in those seconds before your forehead hit the top of your desk out of total apathy.

Take heart. Christian's stories are sexy, smart and a lot more fun.

Several of the tales here are entertaining take-offs of famous movie classics. “Suddenly Last Thursday” is a sly turn on Tennessee Williams' never-indisputable play, and to my mind it actually plays a lot better than the original. Reader and writer certainly have a more interesting time here, arriving at the questionable ending. I won't spoil it by spilling exactly how Christian bends it.

“Hollywood Blvd.” is, of course, the old William Holden-Gloria Swanson flick redone so that she's a he, a former Porn Star Diva. While the journalist character is, well not very distant from the original, if—like me—you never quite believed the writer's “beard” of a girlfriend in the movie. The same moral applies here as in the Billy Wilder film. But I wonder… Did you, like me, ever ponder what really went on in that big house after the star went to sleep and the German manservant was still awake—and dressed in leather?

Possibly less familiar if equally cool, is “That Sweet Smell,” based on the lurid, Nineteen Fifties model play and then movie The Sweet Smell of Success. I was pleased to see that I wasn't the only viewer who wondered what the real connection was between the characters played by drop-dead sexy (and recently revealed to be bisexual) Burt Lancaster and the still very cute Tony Curtis. In Christian's clever and very noir update, even the “heavy” cop got me wondering, as well as hot.
If like me, you like science fiction, but you like it “soft” i.e. without too many gizmos and objects (read: weapons that do everything but masturbate you while offing the entire population of a Midwest city) but with a real look at how we may possibly live and interact, then you'll like two of the longest and most realized tales in Filthy.

“The Hope of Cinnamon” begins semi-typically sci fi in that it is set in a post-apocalyptic future. What makes it totally non-typical is that its setting is an orbiting mini-world of gays known as Stonewall. The intriguing story is about the time-travel “rescue” by this new society of liberated homosexuals persecuted in earlier times. The protagonist, Gen, is concentrating on what historian Richard Plant called “Men of the Pink Triangle,” i.e. German and other European men oppressed to death because they were homosexual. Christian's story is moving, tender, and questioning, as one after another salvaged man chooses self destruction rather than life in a “perfect” and free gay society. The author's representative opts for a perilous yet surprising path to understand why.

Another futuristic narrative, “Utter West” takes a fresh look on that much iterated adolescent dystopia combined of suburbia and the family, though the old folks here are mostly absent, if only as a result of their own self-involved excesses. It's a tale of first love and wild nights, and of the first time you realize that who and what you idealized into a dream was too busy getting on with life to live up to your high criteria.

Remember those high school stories with suddenly reversed endings: O. Henry, Bret Harte, etc.? Christian does that well, too. In “The Greener Grass,” the narrator leaves his humdrum existence in favor of Mr. Lawrence, his leather master, only to receive the shock of his life. In the tightly controlled story “Bitch,” a gay man's homophobia assumes a life of its own, with a scorpion's sting.

Then there's the indefinable, “Friday Night at the Calvary Hotel,” which I'm tempted to categorize as that rarest of objects: a gay religious story. Not because of the obvious trapping of the tale, but because of the underlying spiritual investigation made by author and reader in tandem.

I could write about how clever and writerly M. Christian is. But if you've read this far you're ready to read the stories. Enjoy.

— Felice Picano, author of Onyx

What's in Filthy

Here's the stories in my new collection, Filthy, from Alyson Books:

The Greener Grasses
Hollywood Blvd.
Happy Feet
6 Inches Of Separation
The Hope Of Cinnamon
Heads And Tails
Suddenly, Last Thursday
That Sweet Smell
The Hard Way
Utter West
Friday Night At The Calvary Hotel
About The Author

Thursday, July 06, 2006

People have been asking --

-- why I haven't posted here lately. Unfortunately, I've been slammed by a few deadlines and so haven't had a chance to. But I promise to be better in the future, if anything to let you folks know what I'm working on and what's coming out next.

Speaking of, I'll be posting shortly on my first novel, Running Dry, and Filthy, my latest collection.

In the meantime, please feel free to email me ( if you have any questions.