Gay themes have figured in literature since the ancient times, as seen in various accounts of Greek mythology. However gay fiction as a distinct subgenre of English fiction was a rather late development; while fictional works like Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and E. M. Forster’s Maud were part of mainstream fiction, these writers were not primarily known as gay writers even though in their personal lives, both Wilde and Forster were known to have homosexual relationships. Today gay fiction has not only evolved with an identity of its own but even given rise to separate subgenres like gay pulp fiction, gay science fiction, gay teen fiction as well as mystery, crime and horror. Some of the best known authors to have contributed to the development of gay fiction including all its subgenres are as follows in the alphabetical order.
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Cunningham is an American author who is best known for the Pulitzer Award winning novel, The Hours which was also turned into an Oscar-winning movie in 2002 starring important actresses like Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep. Even though he is himself gay, Cunningham has clearly expressed his dislike as being known as a gay writer. While his books like Flesh and Blood are deep insightful explorations of gay-based themes, personally he does not wish his sexuality to become his defining characteristic as a writer. Starting from 1984, Cunningham has written Golden States, A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours, Specimen Days and most recently By Nightfall in 2010. Published in 1995, Flesh and Blood tells the story of four generations of an American immigrant family and the various ways in which the parents cope with a gay child in the family and the gay child copes with the desire to create a family of his own. It's an ambitious book, epic in scale but at the same time sensitive in its approach to exploring various complex themes.
Michael Thomas Ford
Another American author, Michael Thomas Ford has explored various gay-based themes both through the genres of fiction as well as essays. In the latter group falls his famous “My Queer Life” series of humorous essays while his fictional works include award-winning novels like his award-winning novels Last Summer, Looking for It, Full Circle, Changing Tides and What We Remember. The last novel is written as a murder thriller and begins with the discovery of the body of a lost father and the way his sons cope with the news of the death as well as emergence of dark, family secrets. Ford not only navigates the suffocating intimacy of small-town life but also fleshes out important characters including the troubled gay younger son, Billy. In Changing Tides, Ford bridges the gap between gay romance and mainstream fiction as he deals with the coming-of-age of various characters on various levels. The Road Home is yet another portrayal of the modern gay experience in a moving story of love, family, and finding one's place in the world.
Alan Hollinghurst is a British author who apart from writing award winning fiction is also a poet, translator and editor. Hollinghurst is best known for his novel The Line of Beauty which won the Man Booker Prize in 2004. Set in Britain during the 1980s, the novel revolves around the preoccupations and personal relationships of the young gay protagonist, Nick Guest. While exploring Nick’s troubled relationship with the Feddens, the novel deals with themes like homosexuality, hypocrisy, madness and wealth, as the shadow of the emerging AIDS crisis looms before the book's conclusion. The rest of Hollinghurst’s fiction ranges from the 1988 novel, The Swimming Pool Library to The Folding Star in 1994, The Spell in 1998 and most recently The Stranger's Child published in 2011. The last was also short-listed for the 2011 Man Booker Prize on account of its magnificent, century-spanning saga about a love triangle that spawns a myth, and a family mystery, across generations. Hollinghurst is himself gay and lives in London. He graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford with a B.A as well as an M.Litt when he also did his thesis on the works of three gay writers of the early nineteenth century, Ronald Firbank, E. M. Forster and L. P. Hartley.
Christopher Rice is an American author who is well known for his sensitive exploration of themes related to homosexuality. Most of his novels have been bestsellers like A Density of Souls, The Snow Garden, Light Before Day, Blind Fall, and his latest book, The Moonlit Earth. Having come from a family of authors, Christopher Rice was also expected to take up the academic profession but even after enrolling in Brown University and Tisch School of Arts, he didn’t graduate from either and instead moved to Los Angeles to write screenplays. Rice is gay and currently lives in Los Angeles California.
Even though most of his novels contain descriptions of contemporary American life for the gay male, he came closest to dealing with homosexuality in his first novel A Density of Souls. Set in the backdrop of the hot and sensuous New Orleans landscape, this is a torturous coming of age story which deals which chronicles the lives of four youths and the complexities of their inter-relationships. With the later novels, Rice has been trying to shrug off the label of a gay writer – The Snow Garden is more of a search for identity by the novel’s protagonist while Blind Fall is more in the nature of a murder mystery thriller albeit with a secret gay love as its core.
Paul Elliott Russell
Widely praised for his deft prose and brilliant characterizations, Paul Russell has become increasingly regarded as one of the finest contemporary American novelists. The fact that he explores gay themes in his books only adds to his genius for multi-layered writing instead of imprisoning his works under the label of gay fiction. The corpus of his works include After Mariah and other stories which was part of his M.F.A. Thesis at Cornell University in1982, Vladimir Nabokov - The habit of exile, The Salt Point, The Boys of life, Sea of Tranquility, The Coming Storm, War Against The Animals and most recently The Unreal Life of Sergey Vladimirovich Nabokov published in 2010. Among the most famous of the above works is Sea of Tranquility which traces a disintegrating nuclear family across two tumultuous decades of American life - from the early '60s to the '80s - and is told in a quartet of voices: astronaut Allen Cloud, his wife, their gay son, Jonathan as well as his friend/lover.