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From SciFi to Man on Man

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Gay-fiction writer Jessica Freely looks just like science fiction author Anne Harris, and for good reason -- they're one in the same, yet distinctly different.

Where as Harris dabbles with gay characters (1998's Accidental Creatures won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for best science fiction, fantasy, or horror novel), her alias -- Jessica Freely -- creates graphic scenes of gay love and sex. Freely's Instinct, the sequel to Virgin (both part of the Awakenings series), was released this past summer to favorable reviews. And Freely's latest, Rust Belt, is off to a good start.

The bisexual author found her inspiration to write m/m fiction -- stories involving gay sex and love that are often written by women -- after stumbling online upon fiction about a sexual encounter between the Kevin Smith characters Jay and Silent Bob.

"Prior to that, I didn't know much about slash at all," Harris says about the slash genre, which is fan fiction that portrays gay couplings involving ostensibly straight characters from popular culture. "I have, since that time, branched out into other pairings -- Snape/Hagrid [characters from the Harry Potter novels and films] being a particular favorite. Sadly, these days I don't have time to read much slash at all."

Where Harris is concerned with speculative ideas, like genetically altered beings and colorful characters, Freely writes predominantly about love between two men, and preferably with their clothes off. Some of Harris's fans have crossed over to Freely; others probably never will.

"A number of them are pleased that I am getting more work published, and have followed me over to erotic romance," Freely says. "I haven't had anyone actively angry with me about the move, certainly. Romance is not everyone's cup of tea, of course, so there are some who are probably hoping I will do more science fiction one day, which I'm not ruling out."

Freely's first novel for Loose Id (a slash fiction imprint), Virgin, is a paranormal thriller well-populated with shape-shifters, hustlers, and pimps, and it has a virginal main character, Joam, who is unknowingly slated for a sacrifice by a cabal of dark sorcerers. Joam meets and falls for Blake, a man on the run, and doesn't stay a virgin for long. This displeases the members of the cabal, and now they want their revenge. In Instinct both Joam and Blake are on the run.

As the appeal of m/m grows, there is the possibility for a mainstream breakthrough (the L.A. Weekly featured the burgeoning genre in a cover story last month). Freely adds there is a reason both straight and gay women love to read slash fiction -- a chance to explore untested fantasies. "I think they read it for some of the reasons I write it," she says.

Her upcoming book, Amaranth & Ash, is a gender-bending romance novel set in a world of the future, combining her sci-fi and gender play tendencies in a single story. As an experiment she posted the novel in serialized form -- save the ending -- on her blog. She found it an effective way of reaching out to her online readership.

"Writing m/m gives me access to parts of my personality that our gender-segregated society tends to deny women," Freely says. "And it's hot."

Which means those graphic scenes on the page aren't just words on paper -- she really gets into it. "I don't think that my work as a romance writer would be any good if it weren't hot to me when I write it," she says. "I really don't think you can succeed with erotic writing unless you're writing the things that turn you on."

Click here for free fiction by Freely, plus discussions of m/m news and culture.

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