Best Gay Romance 2014 in store
Carmichael’s Bookstore, Louisville, KY (Bardstown Road location.)

Seeing rave reviews for BJ Novak’s short story collection One More Thing (62 stories in 288 pages made me skeptical right off) and then being, shall we say, underwhelmed by the digital samples, made me realize just how spoiled I’ve become, reading what I have been for the past couple of years. The stories being put out by Bold Strokes Books, Cleis Press, Lethe Press and others are rich, complete stories. Stories that introduce you to characters who feel real, and who you grow to care about in the space of a few pages. The situations they are in enlighten, move, and frequently incense.

Here is a fresh batch.

“Strange Propositions” by Eric Gober from Best Gay Romance 2014 (Cleis Press)

Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.

I had to laugh when it was revealed that the love interest of the main character of this story is a prop master for the movie industry, because I earned my living as half of a theatrical properties department for nineteen years. I know the novelty store setting of one of the scenes in this story very well. It’s where you can find starter kits for projects and also run into your inner child, lingering by a box of rubber “desert island castaways”, or standing mesmerized by a mural done up in glo-in-the-dark paint in a room illumined only by blacklight.

Kenny hopes his boyfriend Trevor will follow him from Kansas to Hollywood. He also hopes that when he gets there, he will start paying him some attention. Also, that he’ll become capable of publicly acknowledging that they are in a relationship. That’s a tall order, and it’s not surprising when we’re told it isn’t going to happen. But right before he learns that he meets someone new, Nate Murphy, the aforementioned prop master. When their paths cross a second time, Kenny’s future brightens considerably.

Lighthearted, romantic, and fun, this was a great start to this collection.

What I liked best about this and all the stories presented is the way the sexuality of the characters was taken in stride. This first story contains nods to non-acceptance, notably the whole Prop 8 disgrace, but it’s mainly presented as something that happens in places where people are behind-the-times. Backward. We’re shown bigotry against the LGBT community as something that’s receding into the background, becoming a distant memory.

Please, let that continue to be true.