One of my newest favorite authors is Paul G. Bens, Jr. His writing reaches right out and grabs your heart and doesn’t let go until you admit you’ve been touched, and loved and wounded and thrilled and made happy–all of it. If you read Bens, and you aren’t seriously emotionally moved, then someone needs to call your family because you’re seriously damn dead.
Today I dropped by Ann Somerville’s wonderful blog, and she noted that Paul had written another story, a free one. And, this part is very cool: For the price of merely acknowledging you read it (drop Paul a note here), Paul will be making a donation to one of his cherished charities, the Names Memorial dedicated to the thousands of Hawaiian patients who were sent away to live in isolation and despair on the Kalaupapa peninsula from 1866 to 1969.
A few weeks ago, I read Pauls’s wonderful Mahape a ale Wala’au, (available as a download from Torquere Press), and I was so blown away by that story, that I was eager to read his latest, Me ka Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou.
You don’t have to like the story, you just have to let Paul know you read it. (Note to Self: Try not to guffaw derisively if someone says they don’t like the story, and by all means, don’t call that person a Stupid.) (Second note to Self: Most people don’t put the article “a” before the word stupid, but most people don’t realize that “a Stupid” is a particular kind of stupid involving equal measures of regular stupid plus incredibly, probably hopelessly, bad taste. You know who you are.)
Paul’s story is simply beautiful. He says he wrote it very quickly, and that it might suffer from the effects of current events (food poisoning, the holidays and having to defend why he thinks the book title Beautiful C**ksucker is offensive to gay men, and women, and him). (He didn’t add, by the way, that the title is offensive to most sentient beings on the planet, but I will). Despite that perfect storm of dreariness, I assure you that his story stands as a beacon of light and hope to anyone who ever had to do their “coming out” alongside a beloved best friend who was not gay. The story was exceptional for its pacing as well as its clean, sparse landscape that, ironically, leaves one feeling as though one has just spent the day on the grounds of the Huntington Library in San Marino, with its beauteous, bounteous, glorious gardens. Indeed, Bens’ ability to impart so much emotional punch with such precision and brevity of dialog imbues the storyline with a rich fabric of of color, scent and touch that is all the more palpable for being suggested rather described. I love that. Bens writes about Hawaii, its heritage, its culture, its people, and he clearly loves his subject. It all shows in his mastery of the art and craft of writing.
Bens has written dozens of short stories, and later this year, his short story The Beheld will be published in Dark Discoveries magazines. His much-anticipated first full-length novel, Kelland, will be out in the Fall of 2009 from Casperion.
You’re going to hearing a lot more from and about Paul Bens. He has serious talent, and I predict his writing will go way beyond sub-genre reader appeal. Writers in the m/m category can be proud that Paul Bens (and others to be reviewed here soon) are creating the kind of universal appeal work that expands the exposure and elevates the quality of the category, which I believe will be a substantial growth area for publishers and a major Romance category. Regardless of whether or not official organizations, such as Romance Writers of America (to which I belong) ever give it the props it deserves, m/m fiction (and the m/m/f and f/f variants) are going to be a huge part of publishing’s future. Any publishing, academic or professional organization that does not appreciate the degree to which this category has almost single-handedly forced publishing to consider abandoning its medieval business model in favor of a major make-over that rewards authors for their talent rather than penalizes them for the company’s own dereliction of duty with regard to distribution, promotion, pricing and variety of format and categories will be left in a pile of dust covers of irrelevance and antiquity. —TTThomas