Read Contemporary Gay Romances Online

Authors: Felice Picano

Contemporary Gay Romances


Contemporary Gay Romances
is the third collection of short fiction by legendary novelist and memoirist, Felice Picano (
The Lure, Like People in History, Ambidextrous
). It is also his most diverse in terms of the times, places, themes, characters and situations he writes about. Filled with the unexpected, the true, and the amazing,
Contemporary Gay Romances
moves with ease from gas-lit, upper class London, to a future, climate-altered Bay Area; from semi-rural Florida to Southern California beaches, to an extrasolar planet where people have surprising existences. His characters range from ordinary American suburban housewives to extraordinary children, from grieving young geologists and memory-haunted middle aged men, to British Midlands soccer stars and 22nd Century war heroes. Picano subtitled this collection of stylish, unique, and moving works “Tragic, Comic, Mystic & Horrific,” and they are all that and more. The ten tales include prize winners as well as stories published here for the first time, and are as different from any standard “romances” as you can get, but they will linger in the mind and memory.

Contemporary Gay Romances
Tragic, Mystic, Comic & Horrific

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Also available from Bold Strokes

The Lure

Late in the Season

Looking Glass Lives

Contemporary Gay Romances:
Tragic, Mystic, Comic & Horrific

© 2011 By Felice Picano. All Rights Reserved.


ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-640-3


This Electronic Book is published by

Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 249

Valley Falls, New York 12185


First Edition: October 2011


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.



Editor: Stacia Seaman

Production Design: Stacia Seaman

Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])


Many thanks to Donna Lieberman, Susan Moldow, and Rob Arnold for their support when I was writing certain stories in this collection.


For Tom Libby


For people who keep track of things,
Contemporary Gay Romances
is my third collection of short stories, following
Slashed To Ribbons in Defense of Love
in 1983 (reprinted as
The New York Years
in 2003) and
Tales From a Distant Planet
in 2005. The latter was published by French Connection Press, in Paris, France and had a very limited distribution, although the book is still available for sale in the U.S.

The truth is, although I am primarily known as a novelist (and lately also as a memoirist), stories are my favorite way of writing fiction: whether it is a 1,750-word “amusement in prose” or a 30,000-word novella, or anything in between.

When I can know, sense, or even merely get a hint about an ending while I’m writing, I think I’m simply a better writer. Doing that with a novel usually means a five- to ten-year period of gestation before I even begin. With stories, I can start and end in a few sessions, or in the case of longer works, a month.

My first story was written when I was twelve, and my first published story (collected in
Slashed to Ribbons
) was written as far back as 1972. I’ve now written close to fifty shorter stories, of which over thirty have been published in one form, format, place or another, from magazines and newspapers to anthologies to online magazines. So far, no story I wrote ever became a novel. And only a few stories ever reached the popularity of my novels, although a few of my longer ones—novellas—did.

Among the shorter stories, only one included here was as popular: “Hunter” has been published many times in other people’s collections, and it’s amazing that readers find it as fresh and relevant now as when I first wrote it thirty-five years ago.

The stories in this volume are—with the exception of “Hunter”—twenty-first century creations. Which makes them unique in my catalogue: they were all written recently, from 2003 to 2010.

They are also “new” in another way, and thus different from my other stories: while two of them are undeniably autobiographical, the others are all stories that “came” to me as “gifts,” and one of them even is titled “Gift.”

Let me explain, if I can.

Being a lazy person (if efficient), I daydream as much as possible, and it is during these daydreams that ideas for books, plays, and stories first come to me and are developed.

That daydreaming, we now know, is a kind of Alpha-wave thinking. This has been measured by scientists. In the past, writers and musicians often sought it out, calling it their “muse”—i.e., Miss Alpha-Wave—and as often they used artificial means to woo Her, including alcohol, hashish, cocaine, hypnosis, post-hypnotic suggestion, and a bevy of other illegal substances. Unlike these forebears, I was already happily using illegal substances when I began writing. The only question was, could I write without them? Short answer: yes.

However, it was only in the past few years that my daydreams reached a level where “voices” other than my own began to intrude—distinctive voices that came along with fully formed stories, settings, other characters, etc.

Now, were I not the distinguished, award-winning author that I am, one could easily think, he hears voices. Hmmmm, that sounds a lot like schizo…

Let’s not go there. I’ve already accepted that something like that must already be part of my mental makeup. I mean, in 2008–2011 I was writing three separate books all at the same time: 1) a memoir set in the 1970s in Manhattan, 2) an epistolary novel set in Victorian England, and 3) a novel set in pre-Homeric Greece. And I would stop writing one, and move to the other with utter ease. So schizo…? Yeah, thanks, but I believe I’ve got a handle on it.

Back to the short story “voices”:

For these I believe I should thank or blame my uncle Vincenzo Picano, a person I never met. In fact, a person who died at the age of nine and a half in 1923, brutally murdered by unknown assailant(s), his body thrown into a rural pond in Rhode Island.

I discovered very late in life all about poor Vincenzo, and I began investigating his death. I have written a little and I’ve spoken and lectured a lot more about this unfortunate lad and his story, and I think somewhere in the great ether, Vincenzo was (is) pleased that the secret of his life and death was finally being made known. I’ve yet to solve it, it was so long ago and information is so scarce, but I’m getting a grip on the basic situation, and I’m developing a theory and I may still some day publish my findings to date. Partly because it caused so many revelations about my parents, my father’s family in America and back centuries earlier in central Italy.

After all that with my uncle, the “voices” began: as though I’d opened up some kind of gate to the “other side.”

Each one of the voices was so perfectly and fully formed that when I decided not to ignore them any longer, and allowed myself to become the vessel through which they might tell their story, well, they did exactly that.

Usually the story was written fast—I mean fast: two or three days, with very little backtracking, no need to check facts, and of course their narrative voices were, well, unique and indelible and individual and…perfectly formed. Did I mention that these “voices” were a little annoying until I did decide to tell their stories? Not debilitating. At best a little irksome. And that once the stories were written, I never heard the voices again?

Some of the stories were sad: one was almost heartbreaking, a few were comical, several odd, others rather sinister, and they came from different places—panhandle Florida, somewhere in the Midwest—where is Meriwether Lewis High School? Does it exist? If so, where is it? I’d appreciate knowing, as it is the only clue to the location of one story. Other places include London, England; Italy; New England; and New York City. One is set in a futuristic and pretty much sunken-by-climate-change East Bay Area, California, and another is set on a planet with no name given, circling a binary star.

In time they range from the here and now—i.e., most of them—back to 1890 or so, and ahead to about 2250
a.d.—thus they are contemporary stories.

As to “romances”—well, they aren’t your standard gay romances consisting of hot surfer guy Trey having the itch for even hotter garage mechanic Kyle, but they can’t get together for some stupid reason or another until they finally do in spastic gushes of sweat and sperm and questionable prose on page 240.

No, these are romances that can and do happen in the real world. In some cases they are “fine romances” like the song, with no kissing; in others, with plenty of kissing and other stuff too. And in other cases, they are—since my “voices” told me the stories, actual stories that happened to actual people, although who these people are (or
in some cases), I don’t know. None of them told me their real names.

So, yes, most of the stories in this book, including “The Acolyte,” “Gift,” “True Love…True Love,” “Gratitude,” “Imago Blue,” and “In the Fen Country,” are such “voice” stories, stories that came to me as gifts fully formed: for the most part I felt like a stenographer, merely copying them down and then cleaning them up a lot.

Unfazed by all this, my intrepid publisher, Bold Strokes Books, has planned a second volume of stories in six months or so, and most of those are also “voice” stories. They’re even stranger than these, and not really romances, some not even gay in any way. They’re titled
Twelve O’Clock Tales
, because around midnight is when I sat down to write most of them, and it’s a good time for you to read them too.…Boo!


Felice Picano


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