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Friday, December 03, 2004

Book review of…

The Noble Generation Volume II: Stories of the American Experience
The Noble Generation Volume II: Stories of the American Experience




Senior writers from all over Texas (including here in Lubbock) share memorable moments from their childhood or early adult years. This book captures great stories that we might otherwise lose. Those stories range from comical to sad to simply nostalgic. Most of them appear in prose form, but a few writers used free verse poetry or traditional verse.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

I recently discovered a gay web site that promotes and sells gay ebooks.

GBookEbook—Gay eBooks. “Our website is designed to help gay writers (Gbook) convert their writing into eBook format, and then assist them in marketing their work.”

Ryan Kelly, author of the gay novel Octagon, The Early Years, founded the site, which also includes an exciting ebook project, "Q&A - New Voices." That project invites gay readers to answer a series of interview questions, all designed to help nongays understand us better and see the diversity of our community.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Science Fiction and Fantasy

View a teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Preview the comical fantasy The Return of Innocence.

Press release: Scifi novel joins gay marriage debate.

Read about Serenity, the movie that continues the Firefly saga.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure.




  • “In Degranon, author Duane Simolke establishes his voice in gay genre writing by combining current concerns revolving around queer culture with a world of dimensional doorways, advanced technology, and distant planets.” X-Factor, October 1, 2004 issue.

  • “A must read.” Joe Wright, a reviewer for StoneWall Society.

  • “A reminder of the danger of fanaticism.” Mark Kendrick, author of the gay time-travel romance Stealing Some Time.

  • “Duane Simolke's latest offering is a fascinating scifi excursion into a world as unique as his singular vision.” Ronald L. Donaghe, author of Cinátis, Uncle Sean, and Common Sons.



Monday, November 08, 2004

Book review: Twilight of the Gods: Cinátis: BOOK ONE COMPLETE by Ronald L. Donaghe
Review by Duane Simolke

After reading Book One of Twilight of the Gods: Cinátis a while back, I kept looking forward to reading Book Two. Now both books appear in a single volume, as author Ronald L. Donaghe originally intended. Two Brothers Press released the single-volume epic, and also released a single-volume version of The Early Journals of Will Barnett, which includes Donaghe’s novels Uncle Sean, Lance, and All Over Him.

However, Cinátis represents a major departure from Donaghe’s examinations of gay life in rural eras. In fact, he takes us out of this world for a grand, high-fantasy adventure.

Young Jeru leaves his farm in Omoham and hopes to use his connection with the ground to learn about a danger threatening his people. That connection isn’t unusual, because many of Jeru’s people are felders—individuals with deep links to particular elements.

Eríl, a new friend, teaches Jeru more about their world’s history, and about his own growing power. They fall in love, and set out on a quest to learn about the plague that threatens life as they know it. Unfortunately, others want to stop the plague by oppressing anyone who disagrees with certain doctrines, while Jeru himself might become a new threat to the very world he wants to protect.

The ensuing conflicts include epic battles and a great deal of magic, but Donaghe keeps his focus on character development. The love between Eríl and Jeru seems no less real than the love between Joel and Tom in Donaghe’s classic gay novel Common Sons, or between any of the other characters in his other novels. Donaghe brings humanity and deeply felt emotions to his fantasy novel; on that level, maybe Cinátis doesn’t represent such a departure from his other works after all. But the fantasy elements certainly let Donaghe explore his interests and concerns in a new and exciting way.

Donaghe’s Twilight of the Gods series will continue with Gwi’s War and conclude with War Among the Gods.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Anti-war poem. Essay about writing. Instinct Magazine. Degranon.

Children in the Streets, a poem from my book Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems, appears in the Fall 2004 issue of Writers Against War.

I recently posted an updated version of my essay
How the Internet Changed My Writing Career.

Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure receives a comical mention in the October 2004 issue of Instinct.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Trip.

DVD reviewed by Duane Simolke for This Week In Texas


This epic starts during the seventies and follows eleven years in the lives of two gay men who seem totally wrong for each other: an outgoing gay activist (played by Steve Braun) and a repressed, closet-case Republican (played by Larry Sullivan).

Not surprisingly, hilarity ensues, especially with Alexis Arquette and Jill St. John in flamboyant supporting roles. Still, The Trip offers much more than comedy. It also shows how love matters more than any differences, and it offers insight into how the political climate of two decades affected gay communities and gay individuals.

The Trip received numerous awards during its trip through film festivals and eventual wider release. The DVD’s many extras make it even more appealing.
Sordid Lives.

DVD reviewed by Duane Simolke for This Week In Texas


In writing my West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories, I knew that West Texas offers more colorful characters than anyone could believe. I’ve met much stranger folks here than I ever created. I keep hearing the same about Sordid Lives when I watch it over and over with other West Texans. Frequent comments include “I know these people,” “That’s my home town,” and “Those are my relatives.” Such comments border on scary, considering how bizarre this little movie gets.

I can’t imagine anyone watching Sordid Lives and not laughing, but writer/director Del Shores also offers compassionate looks at his eccentric characters. Never mind the low budget filming, or the little flaws that some viewers will catch with repeated viewings. The fact remains that most people will want those repeated viewings.
Food of Love.

DVD reviewed by Duane Simolke for This Week In Texas

Based on David Leavitt's book The Page Turner, this charming and well-acted film brings viewers around the world as it follows the story of a young man who turns pages for a famous pianist. The young man falls in love, but numerous complications make their relationship seem impossible. Some people will hate the ending, but will probably still love the music, the locales, the romance, and the emotional journey of eighteen-year-old Paul.

The DVD extras include interviews with David Levitt, director/producer Ventura Pons, and members of the cast. As with the DVD of And Then Came Summer, I enjoyed learning about the movie’s background almost as much as watching the movie itself.
And Then Came Summer.

DVD reviewed by Duane Simolke for This Week In Texas


Jeff London wrote, produced, and directed this simple but touching story about gay love and the many ordeals that gay teens face. Anyone who ever felt different or rejected should enjoy this film.

Cameron Cutler directed the photography, and the peaceful, coastal environment creates a counterpoint to the internal struggles that two teenage boys face as they realize how they feel about each other. The DVD’s extras, however, reveal how the movie’s settings resulted largely from London’s lack of budget. The interviews show his great enthusiasm, shared by his actors, to make this little film happen. The film’s alternate beginning, also included, would have provided more foreshadowing, but I liked slowly discovering the backgrounds of the characters.

Some of the actors give somewhat wooden performances at first, but London manages to draw more emotion from them as the tensions escalate. I wish I could say the same for The Last Year, a movie London directed and produced, but that movie’s plague of bad acting ruins a strong screenplay by Russ Williams. Jeff London deserves great actors, and a better budget.
Angels in America.

DVD reviewed by Duane Simolke for This Week In Texas


Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece actually encompasses the separate plays Part I: Millennium Approaches and Part II: Perestroika. After seeing a wonderful performance of Part I at Texas Tech University, I kept wanting to see Part II performed live. Instead, I saw both on HBO, adapted for television.

Mike Nichols, the director of Biloxi Blues, The Graduate, The Birdcage, and many other hit movies, brought his considerable talent to Tony Kushner’s screenplay. The resulting mini-series deserves the many Emmy nominations and awards it received.

As with the plays, some of the actors play multiple roles. Jeffrey Wright reprises his stage roles, joined by famous movie actors like Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson, as well as underrated independent movie actors like Justin Kirk and Mary-Louise Parker.

Examining how AIDS affected and changed America, Angels offers dreamlike story-telling and emotional performances. Despite its sometimes surreal vision of life during the 1980s, it encapsulates the human capacities for betrayal, denial, survival, acceptance, and compassion.

Jeffrey Wright used his Emmy win to call attention to how AIDS continues to devastate both Africa and African Americans, as well as to a need for films that deal with those issues. Hopefully, such projects would attract extraordinary talents like viewers will find with Angels in America.
Latter Days.
DVD reviewed by Duane Simolke for This Week In Texas

I wanted to see this movie from the first time I heard about it. Proving itself more than worth the wait, Latter Days easily ranks up there with gay favorites like Torch Song Trilogy, Sordid Lives, Jeffrey, Friends & Family, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It will doubtlessly make its way into countless DVD collections, and not just among gay viewers.

C. Jay Cox, best known for the screenplay of the gay-friendly comedy Sweet Home Alabama, makes his directorial debut with Latter Days, which he also wrote. Dealing sensitively with a romance between a gay man and his Mormon missionary neighbor, this comedy quickly takes dramatic turns. If I explained too much of the plot, it would sound contrived, but Cox uses serendipity to show how people’s lives interconnect and change each other. (Besides, I wouldn’t want to ruin the plot twists!)

The DVD includes, among other features, a fascinating documentary that explores the film’s history, from the planning stages through its making and into the early months of its theatrical release. I hope C. Jay Cox will write and direct more great films like this one!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Book review: Mission Child, by Maureen F. McHugh

A colonized world develops a unique identity and culture. Years later, one of its citizens develops a unique identity as well, adapting to her culture by taking on the identity of a man. Soon, she finds that her gender-blurring actually appeals to her in ways beyond what her situation demands of her.

I love Mission Child as much as McHugh’s more popular novel China Mountain Zhang, which received the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Locus Award for Best First Novel.

McHugh is a great writer who can involve readers in any scene, regardless of how much or how little action that scene contains. The language seems descriptive to an extreme, but she still manages to tie those descriptions into the thoughts and feelings of the characters.

Before reading her work, I read reviews that included complaints about her supposedly not focusing on plot. Readers can find countless formulaic, plot-driven science fiction and fantasy novels, but they won’t find many original and evocative writers of McHugh’s caliber.

McHugh’s other novels include Nekropolis and Half the Day Is Night.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Gay mayors, governors?

In “Mirrors: A Blackmail Letter,” one of the tales from my story cycle The Acorn Stories, the closet-case mayor of a Texas town launches a “family values” crusade that targets an artist with whom he had a gay sexual encounter. Please don’t confuse the mayor of Acorn, Texas, with the governor of Texas, or with any other real person. A gay mayor is one thing, but no one would believe the idea of a gay governor! Come on, this is Friday the 13th, not April Fools Day!

The International Herald Tribune: Governor steps down after disclosing gay affair
SignOnSanDiego.Com: New Jersey governor resigns and admits gay affair
New York Post: N.J. Governor Resigns Over Gay Affair With Aide In $5m Blackmail Flap
The Independent Media Center: "It's OK to be Gay, Governor Perry"
The Texas Triangle: Perry Winkles
The Austin Chronicle: Naked City: The Real Sins of Gov. Perry

Monday, August 09, 2004

The cover image from The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer is the current group photo for the Yahoo! Group An All Around Writing site. An excerpt from the group’s description follows: “Here, writers of all kinds can get together and discuss their books, poetry, lyrics, things read, and even get a chance to meet with some publishers and agents.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Science fiction this summer….
 
I always look forward to the USA’s summer series The Dead Zone. Now they’ve added another science fiction series for the summer: The 4400. I don’t know why they don’t just show these programs on the SciFi Channel, which they own, but both shows are good. (NBC now owns USA Networks, so USA and SciFi Channel programs are benefiting from extra publicity.)
 
Read about Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure in two blogs this week: AMERICAblog and the gay travel/entertainment blog towleroad
 

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

More about gay marriage, multiculturalism, and/or the anti-gay constitutional amendment.

The Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage 'Wedge issue' isn't grabbing conservatives
Black religious leaders and activists rally in support of gay marriage
The National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Organization
The Two-Spirit Tradition in Native American Experience
Equality Center California
National Black Justice Coalition
AMERICAblog
Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems
Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure

A related excerpt from Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure follows.

Her gray eyes sparkled like no eyes Hachen had ever seen. Actually, she had broken the law by secretly telling him that her eyes were light brown, but, unlike his gifted spouse, he couldn’t see in color. He couldn’t even see the redness of her skin, though he knew from history class that most people on Valchondria have red, brown, or black skin, and some of the people who had once lived there had yellow or white skin. To him, everyone simply looked white or black.

During history classes, before the Maintainers expunged certain anti-glory facts from the school curriculum, Hachen had learned about how white-skinned people and yellow-skinned people faded from existence. After the Supreme Science Council realized that those two races contracted certain illnesses that no one else contracted, they worked with the Maintainers to pass a constitutional amendment, banning any two members of those races from marrying. The measure supposedly protected Valchondria’s families and stability. Within three generations, both races ceased to exist; only the red, black, and brown races remained obvious, or some mixture of the three.

That time in Valchondria’s history brought outcries of shame, and the government vowed to never again use the law to promote bigotry. But then, little more than a hundred years later, the SSC found that obesity caused many illnesses, adding to increased national healthcare costs. So another constitutional amendment passed, this one allowing the Maintainers to fine people for not keeping a healthy height-to-weight ratio.

And after the virus came, the Maintainers and the SSC passed yet another constitutional amendment that promoted discrimination. That one made the ridiculous assertion that discussing colorsightedness posed a heavy hazard threat to traditional values, and that claiming to be colorsighted was nothing more than a plea for so-called “special rights.” It amazed Hachen that a civilized culture could keep taking away people’s civil rights. It also hurt him, because the woman he loved was the target of that bigotry.

And the new forms of bigotry kept emerging. Next came legally permitted language, initially called “socially recommended rhetoric,” creeping slowly into schools and the media and then into the law. And then Maintainer cameras came. And freedom left. All in the names of preserving traditional Valchondrian values. All suffocating Valchondrian creativity, thought, and progress.

Copyright 2004 Duane Simolke. Excerpt used by permission.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Thursday, June 17, 2004

After previously winning three Pride In The Arts Literary Awards from StoneWall Society, I’ve been nominated for three more. A link to the 2004 Pride In The Arts nominations appears near the top of that page. Click through for Literary Awards, then further for the voting form. Please support my work! Voting is open, one vote per person. StoneWall Society promotes gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender artists and causes.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Disclaimer

To avoid any confusion, I need to clarify that Bette Midler does not write this blog.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Movie review: Saved!

A student at a Christian high school wants to save her gay boyfriend by having sex with him. Another student there seems to see herself as God’s head cheerleader. Right away, this film shows its irreverence and its outlandish humor.

However, despite what the previews and the first half of the film suggest, this movie isn’t anti-Christian at all, but rather anti-hypocrisy and anti-bigotry. Too much prejudice parades around in the cloak of religion, and this little comedy tears that cloak off.

With a brilliant and mostly young cast that includes Jena Malone, Macauley Culkin, and Mandy Moore, Saved! calls us to laugh at our arrogance and ultimately feel more compassion toward those who might not fit into our world view…as well as those who mistreat us.

Some will dismiss Saved! as simply an attack on religion in general, while some others will see it as a specific attack only on fundamentalist Christianity. I wouldn’t call it either, and I speak as someone who attended Christian colleges and immersed himself in the culture this movie depicts: a culture of often-tacky Christian merchandising and a culture that centers around the constant politics of exclusion.

I would call Saved! a funny, enjoyable satire that might challenge us to show a little more love. And isn’t love the one virtue that Jesus stressed the most?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventureicon: Reading Group Questions. I wrote down the following questions to possibly spark discussions, for reading groups, etc., or just anyone who likes talking about books.

What are the central themes of this novel?

If you read Degranon’s limited, first edition, how is it different from the second edition, Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventureicon?

How are the planets Degranon and Valchondria alike or different?

In which ways does this novel relate to real life?

How do Degranon’s themes of race and racism matter when all of the characters are people of color? How would this novel be different if all, most, or even some of the characters were white (Caucasion), or would it have no impact?

How do the characters’ religious views differ from or relate to each other’s, and to your religious views? What about their values and ethics? How closely connected are their values and ethics to religion?

Within the novel, which groups face discrimination, and why?

How does being colorsighted relate to being gay? How does being gay in the novel differ from in real life?

Are Valchondria’s laws and Degranon’s laws believable? Could those laws pass any place on Earth? Have they?

Which of the characters do you like the most or identify with the most? Why?

Can you point out the allusions to Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451? How does that novel relate to this one? Can you find allusions or parallels between Degranon and any other books?

How does Degranon relate thematically to The Acorn Stories? To Holding Me Together?

What is your favorite scene in Degranon, and why?

Which of the romantic storylines is your favorite?

Please mention and discuss other books or movies with gay or diversity themes.

Discuss Degranon at GoodReads.

Keywords: science fiction, scifi, gay science fiction, science fiction adventure, multiculturalism, diversity, fanaticism, God, religion, religious freedom, religious right, liberty, civil rights, gay, lesbian, queer, racial, people of color, racism + homophobia, racism, homophobia, weight discrimination, discrimination, prejudice, bigotry, Utopia, terrorism, Middle East, American history, free speech, romance, love, family.



Top Science Fiction & Fantasy Books

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Tuesday, May 4, 7 PM (central): Len Rodgers, founder of the gay organization and website StoneWall Society, will interview me for the Internet radio program Q'd Up w/Len, on StoneWall Society Internet Radio. Listeners should follow that link ahead of time, to download a free player from Live365. Please tune in!

Special thanks to Hastings, 5005 50th Street , Lubbock, Texas, for hosting my book signing with Shawna Chandler. They might still have some signed copies of my books in stock.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

This is my 150th blog entry, but I have even better news!

Author William Maltese has just posted reviews of The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer!

Read Maltese’s review and other reviews of The Acorn Gathering at Amazon.com.

Read Maltese’s review and other reviews of The Acorn Gathering at Barnes & Noble.Com.

Track The Acorn Gathering On the Web With All Consuming.Net.

Preview or Order The Acorn Gathering at iUniverse.Com.

I edited and co-wrote The Acorn Gathering, a fiction collection. My talented co-authors and I are donating all the royalties to cancer research. Please read about The Acorn Gathering. As Maltese points out, it isn’t some depressing book about cancer, but rather a unique and important project.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Book review: The Brentridge Gold: The Pleiades Portals Series by W. Lambert III

While I usually won’t read Westerns, the idea of one involving “Ancient Astronauts” intrigued me, because I love science fiction! The science fiction and adventure elements keep sneaking into the narrative, along with hints of possible supernatural activity. Still, author W. Lambert III stays tightly focused on the Western-style hero, David Brentridge.

In fact, David takes up most of the ink in this book. We often see only him, or just him with brief appearances from the other characters. Fortunately, Lambert makes David a unique and fascinating character who slowly reveals more and more about himself and his family through his actions, dialogue, and thoughts.

The people who keep crossing David’s path in one way or another might want the Brentridge gold, and he rarely can decide which of them to trust. Lambert even holds back from the readers why the gold involves so many secrets, far beyond any obvious fortune, but he gives us fascinating hints and glimpses through David and an ancient shaman. He also gives a fast-paced, unpredictable read.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Gay romance, gay relationships

Gay men, please read Home, a gay love poem from my book Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems. Just above Home, you’ll find a link that says “Email.” You can use that link to send Home to your partner and/or your friends, as a free e-card (electronic greeting card). It would make a great gesture, for Valentine’s Day, or any day. Please tell others about that poem! With certain people trying to pass legislation and even a constitutional amendment to discriminate against gay couples, we need to remember the love that exists within gay relationships.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Another honor for my books!

My publisher, iUniverse, recently added Holding Me Together and Degranon to their “Editor’s Choice” series, thanks to the StoneWall Society awards those books received. The Acorn Stories was already a part of that series.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Articles About Fred Phelps’s Westboro Baptist Church visiting Lubbock in Jan. 2004.




Some of the best and earliest coverage came from Fox 34, but their website is under reconstruction.

KCBD.Com: Kansas Church Brings Protest to Lubbock

Lubbock Online: Picketers Only Want to Provoke

ABC 28: Tech Radio Station To Ask For Donations Amidst Protests (Note: that event was cancelled, due to possible FCC problems.)

ABC 28: Controversial Minister To Demonstrate In Lubbock

The Austin Chronicle: Beyond City Limits

HubStuff: Hate is NOT a Family Value (In PDF file of Volume 2, No.3: January 9, 2004. May require free download of Adobe Acrobat. A follow-up article appears in Volume 2, No.4, January 16, 2004.)

KCBD.Com: Anti-Gay Group Schedules Protest in Lubbock

My Announcement from Rainbow: Lubbock

Texas Triangle: Boise Rejects Phelps’ Monument of Hate, Lubbock Next (Scroll to bottom of page.)



My comments:

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church marched with anti-gay signs (God hates fags, etc.) or anti-American signs (God hates America, Thank God for September the 11th, etc.), with at least one member literally stepping all over an American flag while dragging it on the ground. Pastor Fred Phelps, who kept bragging about his plans for Lubbock, didn’t even show up with his followers.

Though the invaders made themselves look bad, Lubbock made itself look good. The Westboro Baptist Church invasion only brought more unity and visibility to the local gay community, as well as more unity between the local gay community and the larger Lubbock community. RAINBOW Project outnumbered WBC tenfold (about 150 to about 15), protesting peacefully and sanely.

Metropolitan Community Church, PFLAG, Queers & Allies, and various others raised money for charities such as South Plains AIDS Resource Center (SPARC), the South Plains Food Bank, and the United Way, transforming all the attention on WBC into attention on more important matters.