I love serialized novels. Even at their most literary, serials deliver guilty pleasure of the just-five-more-minutes-mom, reading-under-the-covers variety. When I was a kid my mom and stepdad moved us to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, light years from most of the extended family in New England. Those were the oil-crisis years, years of visiting once a year if we were lucky. Long-distance calls were expensive, but even kids like me whose parents didn’t believe in weekly allowances could get their hands on postage stamps. I wrote short, desperate letters to my maternal grandfather: “Write me a story!” And he did: rapturous, silly adventures featuring a protagonist called Fat Ivan and doled out in half-ounce doses via air mail. Born in 1914, as a kid my granddad had spent the nickels he earned delivering ice in movie houses where newsreels, cartoons, and yes, serials, preceded the feature. I didn’t realize until years later that my granddad’s stories had a lot (a really awful lot) in common with C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales. Back then I didn’t care. I lived for those letters, but I didn’t fall in love with the epistolary form. Nor did I develop an affinity for telenovelas, soaps, or series TV. Nope. I fell in love with serialization.
I delight in the narrative hooks that cannot be denied. I barrel toward each cliffhanger with no plan B, no parachute, nothing but the delirious faith the storyteller will catch me before I hit bottom. I wonder about the reckless abandon with which I embrace serialized fiction, and after a bout of navel-gazing I have an answer of sorts. In the decades since my granddad’s Fat Ivan stories I’ve learned a lot about myself.
I’m queer, and I’m kinky.
I’m a bisexual (who’s discovering pansexual leanings) with strong submissive tendencies, a masochist streak, and more than a dollop of the size queen about me.
These traits influence my reading choices, of course, but why serials? Here’s what I came up with:
Authors of serials control the scene. They’re the literary version of a skilled mind-fuck Dominant. They draw me in with their seductive hooks, ramp me up with a tightly paced arc, and then – divine monsters! – edge me for installment after installment. My newly installed goddess among author Dommes is Cecilia Tan, whose incomparable The Prince’s Boy is now complete and available serialized at the Circlet Press site, in two ebook volumes, or in a collector’s edition. The Prince’s Boy is a fantasy quest romance fueled by sex magic and wonderfully fluid, affecting prose. It’s not to be missed, and I’m still mourning the end of almost two years of faithful weekly updates.
Something about genre fiction lends itself particularly well to the serial format; science fiction, fantasy, horror, sure, but also romance (think Dickens if you want the long view). M/m favorite Jordan Castillo Price offers serials through her monthly newsletter and web sites, and in very 21st century fashion has invited reader involvement in the development of new plots and characters. Her completed Zero Hour is a masterpiece of dystopian-futurism, a cracking good adventure yarn, and a moving romance all at once. Reading her new installments (now also available as an ebook) and knowing I’ll have to wait a month for the next one is the cognitive equivalent of orgasm denial, and my mental masochist adores the pain.Then there’s the readerly size queen in me. I cut my teeth on queer serials with Trewin Greenaway’s four-fat-volume Cronnex series about a pair of horny and confused demigods. (Sadly The Cronnex is no longer available but you can read my review of it on the GLBT Bookshelf.) I have a subscription to Matthew Haldeman-Time’s fantasy soap opera In This Land which is still going strong at over 250 chapters. Gimme more! (Another in this category is Maculate Giraffe’s hurts-so-good Slave Breakers series which includes three novels and numerous side stories. Long and wide, if you get me.)
So there it is: devotion to serial fiction for the submissive pain-slut size queen. Reading as kink. It’s not an original idea, but the connections tickled me. What about you? Are there queer serials you’re following? What keeps you coming back for more?