This is “Sex is Life,” a candid conversation between Benji Bright and I. I knew from the beginning that I was excited to publish Candid, but I didn’t know much about Bright himself. 5,000 words later (actually many more, but these are the ones we’re choosing to share with you), and I’m happy to report that Bright is as charming, clever, and sexy as a Queer Young Cowboy should be.
We’re bouncing installments of the interview between our respective blogs. You can find the first part over on Benji’s blog, The Erotic Ledger.
JOHNNY: Bonus points for using the word ”pastiche.” I’m currently reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and I’ve been thinking about the value of pastiches lately. Each of the nested novellas is written in the style that the story’s set in, or at least the genre it comes from.
“…Examination without implicit judgment…” I like that. I’m an analytical person; I like to turn things over and over in my mind (I think most writers do), but I’m also an admittedly judgmental person. That’s the part I have to work on. Judgement is one of those pet peeves that drives me crazy when I recognize it in another person, but I think it’s a self-conscious peeve.
The arguments around gay marriage, hetero-normativity, and gay abandon really fascinate me. It reminds me of the local punk scene when I was in high school: they raved against conformity, but rejected anyone who didn’t look and act like them. I did my fair share of raving about conformity, but I wasn’t going to take shit just because I didn’t want a black leather jacket. Conformity, shockingly, takes many forms. I know where I’m at in the gay marriage argument (I’m wearing an engagement ring as I write this), and it baffles me why anyone assumes they can infer anything from that.
There’s a lot of gay culture that I want to save, cherish, promote. I want to see it flourish. But fuck anyone who think it’s the only culture.
…and off my soapbox.
I should have known that you’d ask why I write, I set myself up for that. The kicker is that even though I know it, I can’t necessarily articulate it. Really it probably comes down to ego. Have you noticed how many times I say “I?” I want people to hear what I have to say, and occasionally that means I want to share some of my dirty fantasies with them. But mostly I write to process. Like I mentioned, I turn everything over and over in my head, and sometimes the best way to do that is to put it on paper. Or on a screen, or whatever.
I have loftier ideas about fiction, though. I think there’s real value in fiction. Our brains function in such a way that we’re constantly building and deconstructing narratives. We learn better when there’s a narrative, we retain more information. I also think that fiction storytelling allows us to remove a lot of bullshit and social expectations that come with telling the “truth.”
BENJI: About judgment, I find that I’m not terribly judgmental and sometimes that can be a bad thing. It’s easier to make friends if you’re loosey-goosey (one of the reasons I suspect that I, a chronically shy kid, became so amorphously tempered) but I think it might rob you of a solid, consistent perspective. It’s hard to completely know yourself when your judgment is slack. Even writing this paragraph, I’ve toned down the language and wording twice.
I was once at this event, recording some poetry for a CD with Planned Parenthood (random, I know), and one of the other poets/participants stopped me in the middle of whatever I was talking about (I forget what it was now) and said, “do you realize that you end so many of your sentences with ‘I don’t know’? You do know. You’ve spoken well. What’s so scary about conviction?” I’m paraphrasing because it was years ago, but that stuck with me.
Ok, so here’s another awkward segue: I have no idea about what gay marriage means for gay/queer culture. I personally don’t see myself married any time soon and I truly understand the concerns that resources have been pulled from other areas to fund the marriage equality fight, but I realize that there are others who know that it’s right for them and their families. Who am I to obstruct that? Not every person (boy, girl, or otherwise) has to find their calling on the fringes, pioneering some atypical social structure to call home. I wish the discussion were more civil though between the marriage types and the anti-marriage types. I think a lot of times the discussion isn’t even about marriage, instead it’s about sex and expectations and a whole host of other shit.
I like what you said about “[removing] a lot of bullshit and social expectation that comes with telling the “truth.”" I feel similarly. It ties into the idea of writing as something ego-driven. When I’m writing fiction, I write with all of my thinking and parts of me end up in there that I don’t always anticipate. The words coming out of a character’s mouth are both mine and not mine, and sometimes there’s something legitimately therapeutic about that.
This is a digression (surprise, surprise) but where do you see Queer Young Cowboys a year, or two years down the line? Following that, what is the manuscript that you’d love to publish? That can either be an encapsulation of what you’re looking for as a publisher, a book that you’ve read and would loved to have published yourself, or both.
You can read the next installment on Benji’s site tomorrow, or read the entire thing now when you buy Candid in ebook format!