I tend to get odd looks or a stack of questions when I tell people I grew up in East Germany. Usually the kind that start lengthy comparisons between there and here. And sometimes, people are amazed that I have good things to say about growing up in what was supposedly a hugely oppressive, regimented society.
I do have good memories from that time. I have bad ones, too, but that’s beside the point. What matters is that I grew up believing I could be anything I wanted to be. An astronaut, if that was my fancy. A soldier. A police officer. As far as “society” was concerned, being a woman didn’t limit my career options. And I was never once told that it did.
The other thing I’m only now starting to appreciate is… inclusiveness / openmindedness, maybe? I’m new to writing in the m/m genre, not having a huge number of friends who are gay or lesbian and for years have only been aware of many issues from the sidelines. I have a reasonable idea why the main character in Job Hunt turned into Jack Horwood, but I couldn’t ever explain what prompted me to explore m/m literature or homosexuality in fiction in general.
So there I was, trying to work out what the first m/m story was I’d read and why I would have picked it up. I was dithering between Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner Series, chosen because of artwork by Miguel Coimbra and Crescendo by Rachel Haimowitz, picked on the back of a recommendation from cover artist Nathie, when it suddenly dawned on me.
This was years too late! I actually read my first bit of m/m romance in a YA sci-fi novel in 1982 or so! The book was Michael Szameit’s Dragon Cruiser Icaros (titel translation: mine). The thing had a wonderful cast, handled some serious issues and was a hell of a lot of fun to read. And in the middle of all the juicy, joyous goodness was a guy nicknamed Schnuckchen, who was not just out and proud, he was outrageous and proud. And he fell in lust – and fairly explicitly into bed – with the supposed villain of the piece. Just like that, without fanfare or trigger warnings or much ado of anything at all. It was just something that happens in real life depicted in a story…
Makes me feel sad, somehow, to think that we now need a whole separate genre to write love stories. And it reminds me of John Barrowman’s comment about Torchwood and the things people complained about. Growing up in East Germany may have had some advantages… we maybe didn’t make a fuss of things that just are.