• .: About Ron Jackson Suresha :.

    WELCOME!
    Ron J. Suresha
    is a Lambda Literary Award finalist for his anthologies, Bi Men: Coming out (2006) and Bisexual Perspectives on the Life and Work of Alfred C. Kinsey (2010).
    His most recent book, coauthored with Scott McGillivray, is FUR: THE LOVE OF HAIR, from German publisher Bruno Gmünder. He also authored a collection of Turkish folk Tales, The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin, , which was named a Storytelling World Honor Book.
    Suresha self-published his first book, Mugs o' Joy: Delicious Hot Drinks, when he was 39. In 2002, he authored his first trade softcover, the nonfiction Bears on Bears: Interviews & Discussions. Under the name R. Jackson, he has edited the anthologies Bi Guys: The deliciousness of his sex (also a "Lammy" finalist), Bearotica, Bear Lust, Bears in the Wild, and Tales from the Den, published by Bear Bones Books, a Lethe imprint for which he serves as Acquisitions Editor. He also solo hosts and produces an occasional podcast for the adult men's Bear community, Bear Soup, which runs on BearRadio.net Monday & Wednesdays 10pm Eastern / Pacific.
  • Life In the Round World: The complete interview with author Dan Oliverio

    Posted By on July 2, 2016

    Life In the Round World:

    Author Dan Oliverio explores relationships at the intersection of love, sex, and fat

    An interview by Ron J. Suresha

     

    Dan, please tell us about your background as a speaker and educator and how you became a fat activist.

    You know, I can understand why sometimes I’m called an activist, but all I’m really after is a world where people are free to be who they are and love what they love. And sometimes who they are or what they love is fat.

    For the last eight years, I’ve been writing and speaking about the issues that come up for people when obesity intersects with sexuality. So, that includes dating, relationships, body image, self-empowerment, and sexual kink. I’m not a psychotherapist, but my clients and seminar participants tell me that I’ve been more helpful to them in one session than weeks of psychotherapy or couples counseling. I’ve talked to hundreds of men and women over the years, and people tell me I have a unique insight into the challenges that fat people and their admirers face. And a lot of traditional therapy doesn’t address our unique dating and relationship issues because most therapists know nothing of the round world, as I call it. Even many gay therapists have a blind spot when it comes to fat and certain sexual kinks.

    TheRoundWorld DOliverio

    Why did you write The Round World and what does the title signify?

    The Round World is my name for the place where fat people and their admirers interact. As the subtitle explains, it’s about Life at the Intersection of Love, Sex, and Fat. Many of us have a strong attraction to obese partners, but what’s it like to have an attraction that the rest of the world finds disgusting, unhealthy, and quite literally unspeakable? On the other hand, what’s it like to be a fat person and be admired for a quality that you may not like about yourself and wish you could change? But in a greater sense, the book isn’t just about being fat or having a sexual attraction to fat. The book is about loving yourself no matter what your size or sexual desires.

    DanOliverio

    I sense your book will appeal to men, women, and others regardless of size, or sexuality. But are sex and gender completely irrelevant in considering the personal and social issues that fat folks experience?

    People often say to me, “Isn’t beauty only skin deep? Isn’t the person more important than the packaging?” And that sounds so great, you know? And we really wish that were true. But if we really believed that, then we wouldn’t care whether we dated a man or a woman, or whether they were gay or straight. And not only do we care, but we feel justified in caring: No one today would tell a gay man to marry his favorite gal-pal because, “Isn’t the person more important than the packaging?” No one would tell a straight woman to get over her bizarre fetish to date only people who have a penis. We accept sexuality and sexual orientation as valid parameters for our romantic relationships. But what if there were other sexualities beyond just gay/straight? What if gender were not the top category used for eligibility in a romantic relationship?

    In the book, I make the case that there is such a thing as a fatsexual, someone who considers obesity a primary sexual characteristic. Now, does this mean that gender or sexual orientation is irrelevant? No, but there are a lot of people who don’t see their partner’s gender as a deal-breaker when it comes to dating so long as their partner is fat. Even in my own case, I have never dated a woman, and I consider myself exclusively homosexual. However, when I lead seminars at BBW [big beautiful woman] events, my jaw drops looking at the size and stunning beauty of some of these women. Now, I’m not going to start dating fat women, but I have to tell you, for an exclusively homosexual man, those feelings are kind of surprising! I’ve never had that reaction to a thin woman.

     

    So some people have a sexual attraction to size that’s bigger than gender (pardon the pun). But, as a bisexual men’s activist myself, I can say for certain that there are sexualities beyond gay and straight. Many bi / poly /pansexual men and women, and certainly trans folks, do not care whether they date a man, woman, or some gender that altogether different.

    Yes, but the fatsexual cares about fat.

     

    Can you see the struggles of Fat people as a Queer issue, meaning, are there aspects of being fat that intrinsically relate to GLBTQ life and/or Queer Studies, for example, the politics of liberation, or body shame?

    Historically, fat has been seen as mostly a woman’s concern. In fact, one of the seminal books on the subject is titled Fat is a Feminist Issue. If a university teaches Fat Studies, it’s usually part of the Department of Women’s Studies. But if you were to judge by the few books and articles about fat men, you might conclude that either there are no fat men or that being fat is no big deal for men, which of course is far from true.

    The Round World is the first book to explore obesity from the perspective of the people who find it erotic and seek fat people as romantic partners. It transcends all the little boxes of male, female, gay, straight, and so on. To do that, I tell a lot of stories about myself and people whom I’ve met over the years. The book is a kind of travelogue, where you’ll meet a wide range of people with different backgrounds who all live in this place I call the Round World.

    Now, of course there are differences when we talk about men and women, or about gay and straight, but really the issues are the same when it comes to a sexual attraction to fat. People just have different ideas about what or who is to blame. I lead seminars to both gay and straight groups, and it’s amazing how the straight groups (Big Beautiful Women and Fat Admirers) have a tendency to assume their conflicts arise because of male/female dynamics while the gay men (Chubs/Chasers) tend to assume their conflicts arise because of being fat. And both groups are quick to blame everything on men and so-called male sexuality. The lesbians, of course, tend to blame so-called female sexuality.

    To address your question more directly, I do think there is a historical parallel between being queer and being or liking fat. In the book, I make many comparisons between what we used to think about homosexuality and what we currently think about obesity. Fat people and chubby chasers often face the same social stigmas and scientific prejudices that gay people did in the 1950s and ’60s. For example, chubby chasers today often don’t realize the depth and strength of their desires for a fat partner until they’re already in a relationship with someone who isn’t fat. What these couples go through—the language they use and the emotions they feel—is exactly the same as a 1960s couple trying to understand how their spouse could be attracted to someone of the same gender. The guilt, longings, shame, confusion, and fears are the same.

    Here’s another parallel. In the 1950s, the medical profession used to consider homosexuality a mental illness to be cured or at least treated. Fifty years later, however, no credible doctor would diagnose a patient’s illness as homosexuality.

    I suggest that science is coming to look on obesity the same way—less like a disease to be eradicated and more like a complex metabolic process that is poorly understood. Actually, I’d say the state of science with obesity today is where science was about homosexuality in about 1980—I don’t mean in terms of social acceptance. I mean medically with respect to health and morbidity. People forget that we used to think of homosexuality as an unhealthy lifestyle that led only to an early and lonely death. At one time that was a well-documented medical fact.

    Today, we have the same sort of medical facts about the supposed morbidity of obesity, despite a vast array of evidence to the contrary. It’s something I call fat fundamentalism—an unchanging dogma based on the exclusion of all other contrary evidence or arguments. But as with the medical view of homosexuality in 1980, the view of obesity today is evolving.

     

    What do see as the next phase in the state of Fat Liberation now in this country and in the world?

    I think if people are to have more freedom and power in their lives, we need to give up making each other wrong. So much of the dialogue in the world today is cast in negative language. We see on Facebook all the time click bait like “7 Things You Should Never…”

     

    Just a few days ago there was one of those that seemed to drive everyone in the “Facebear community” completely insane, “5 Harmful Lies About Gay Bears That Need to Stop.”

    Exactly. And we attack each other with these lists, telling one group what they shouldn’t do or say or think about another. While the intention is to bring understanding, the result is to bring acrimony. You can’t create understanding through censorship and telling people their ideas are unacceptable. You only drive the conversation—about race, fat, gender, money, whatever—deeper into taboo. So fewer people are comfortable talking about it, and more people end up angry about it. We’re all in this together. The reason gays have so many straight allies is that our straight friends recognize that the same ideology that keeps gay people in the closet also keeps straights in restrictive gender roles and unhappy marriages. My work is about everyone and anyone making peace with their body and their sexual desires. Believe me, most of the so-called thin oppressors have the same issues with their bodies that many fat people do. Some straight male chubby chasers have the same feelings of guilt and inadequacy as A-gay circuit boys.

    The next step I suppose is transcending what I call the Taboo Conversation. In the last section of my book, I talk about what the Round World has to do with people who aren’t fat and who don’t have an attraction to fat. I think that when we talk about any taboo subject—about race, money, gender, sexuality, cancer, disability, and so on—we’re actually having the same conversation. The topics may vary by time or society, but all conversations about a taboo share three basic characteristics, which I discuss in the book.

     

    Please identify the three basic characteristics of taboo conversations.

    Well, that would take a while to explain. But I think the salient point is this: the taboo conversation is based in identity, which is why we get so upset. Why it feels so personal. In fact some of us live in a taboo conversation—or more than one. That’s not the same as being a minority or marginalized group. For example, when the taboo is money, both a rich person and a poor person might live in that taboo conversation. I’m a fit bodybuilder, but I live in the taboo conversation about fat. Only when we transcend the taboo conversation can we have authentic conversations about what’s really important to us and who we are. I don’t believe in an us-against-them struggle. We’re all in this together.

     

    Well put, Dan. Thanks for your time introducing us to your new book, The Round World, and best of luck with it.

    My pleasure.

    ~

    Explore The Round World at Dan Oliverio‘s website. The Round World is releasing June 30th from Antrobus Group.

    This is the full interview which is excerpted on Huffington Post.

    Readings & book events 2016

    Posted By on March 17, 2016

    Readings & book events 2016

    Need some big big BIG loving? Come to one (or more) of these readings for the new anthology, The Biggest Lover. Some events may even have an extra contributor or two. Schedule subject to change: check back for new dates and updates.

    April

    Monday, April 4th, 6 – 8pm

    NYC Premiere of The Biggest Lover

    with editor Ron Suresha and contributor John Genest

    Rockbar NYC

    185 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014

     

    Connecticut Storytelling Festival

    April 29, 30

    Connecticut College, New London, CT

    ~ will have signed copies of Extraordinary Adventures of Mullah Nasruddin at bookstore and attending festival events, not reading

     

    July

    West Coast Conference

    Las Vegas

    July 7 – 10 (11)

    ~ Seminar / reading to be announced

    ~ Vendor Booth July 10, 9:30AM – 5:30PM

    http://bgmowest.org/

     

    Provincetown Bear Week

    Thursday, July 14th

    ~ 10am-3pm Bear Market

    ~ 7:00-8:30pm “The Biggest Lover” Reading & Book Signing

    Provincetown Public Library

    ~ Books available at Provincetown Bookshop

    Toronto

    Sunday, July 24th, 2:00 – 4:00 pm12661984_1049596421748616_4429447191009057927_n

    Glad Day Bookshop

    Reading and reception

    with TBL contributor ‘Nathan Burgoine

    Light refreshments
    Sponsored by Chubs at the Tubs, Bears in Excess, & Glad Day Bookshop

    August

    Orlando Convergence

    August 30 – September 5th

    ~ Vendor Booth

    ~ “Fat Gay Lit” seminar panel

    with Dan Oliverio and Philip Barragan

    Friday September 2, 4:30 – 5:30 pm

    http://www.orlandoconvergence.com

    “Adventures in Fat Gay Literature” discussion with Philip C. Barragan

    Posted By on March 16, 2016

    Adventures in Fat Queer Literature

    A discussion on fat queer literature with Ron J. Suresha and Philip C. Barragan. A shorter version of this interview was featured on the Lambda Literary website.

    PrintI’m chatting this afternoon with Philip Barragan, author of the new novel, Fatizen 24602, now in print from Branch Hill Publications, which I read with great interest and delight. In turn, Phil agreed to review my new book, The Biggest Lover: Big Boned Men’s Erotica for Chubs and Chasers, and to discuss fat literature and our books.

    Hello, Ron! Glad to be here.

    Thanks, Phil. I really enjoyed reading your semi-graphic novel. Of course, it’s actually a novel with illustrations, but the drawings by Mason Arrigo are so compelling, I found them to be an integral part of how I read your book. There’s nothing quite like seeing fatness (or anorexia, even) in the flesh, so to speak — though it is pen and ink.

    PrintI’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the illustrations and the story. My husband is the artist, and he had a clear vision of how the Fatizen world looked and was excited to do a complete graphic novel of the story — which is still a work in process. But when we went to print, we decided to include 18 full-page illustrations from the graphic novel in the book. I felt it was a bit of a nod to those novels with the occasional artwork throughout the story. And it worked, as you said.

    I’m curious to hear about your plans for adapting the work later, but first I’d like to know: what inspired you to write your novel, and how long did it take you to complete?

    I had this story idea in my head for years about a world where fat athletes ate themselves to the death in eating matches much like Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. And the story built itself around that.

    This was a seven year work of love. I started with a short story in undergrad (I returned to school to complete my BA in my late 30s) and turned it into my sole writing project in grad school. I continued working on it daily for three years after getting my MFA.

    Why the fascination with fat athletes?

    I have been bemused by fat for as long as I can remember. I’ve always seen fat men and women as the embodiment of beauty and strength. And in my youth, I was an athlete, a swimmer/water polo, and I worked hard to stay thin while loving larger companions. I’ve also always been captivated by the transformation of the individual into something larger than ordinary. I wanted to write a story where the fat man or woman was the hero, the one who made things right in the face of adversity. And I wanted to show the power and strength in being a fat person, and the potential for creating change that can be found in each one of us regardless of our size.

    What was the most challenging part of writing your first novel?

    One of the toughest things to do, I found, was to learn how to write a novel while you are writing a novel. It was a great learning process, and I loved every moment of it, even when it drove me mad in the revision process-which seemed never ending.

    The world in 2075 that you created in Fatizen certainly seems dystopian and bizarre at first, but then the grounding element is food. Where there’s fatness, there’s gotta be food, and I found that was a key element also in some of the stories in The Biggest Lover.

    Yes, the sharing of meals was key part of Fatizen. In our society, that’s a universally sacred time to gather and commune for holidays and religious observances. It seemed a natural place and time for my characters to connect. And food and drink take on an entirely different aspect in the second and third sections of the story taking the reader on a grim ride into the darker side of human nature.

    I noticed that food was a pivotal element in several of the stories in your collection. I found the entire book a fascinating, intriguing and rather exciting read. What motivated you to pull this collection together?

    RJackson3On the suggestion of Lethe Press publisher Steve Berman, I first started thinking about editing a collection of chub-and-chaser erotica at least five years ago. Often an idea for an anthology theme take years to germinate, during which I talk with my publisher, my husbear, and writer friends, do research into the prospective readership and marketing considerations, and contemplate what sorts of stories and which contributors I’d like to include. I ask myself, Is this a topic that is being overlooked, but has the potential to reach many underserved readers? Is it a book that nobody else has done, or could do? If the answers are clearly in the affirmative, then I’ll obtain a contract and issue a call for submissions. After that, it’s a matter of waiting to see what comes in, and deciding what fits your target word count. Anthologies are a fun way to gather a lot of creative ideas and authors and form a small sort of literary community.

    I felt the introductory statement was excellent: “It is my hope that readers who felt denied of attention and affection will read these stories and realize that love has no weight limit, no threshold, and neither should self-esteem.” Was that your own experience?

    Absolutely — though that sentence was written by the publisher, Steve Berman, whose idea it was to do a chuberotica collection. I almost always have some sort of literary activism in mind in putting out an anthology, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction or poetry. At first it amazed me that nobody thought to do a gay men’s chuberotica book before. Or maybe they did and decided there was no market for it. Another significant factor is that most of the best-known fat activists and authors — of fiction, nonfiction, and academic writing, queer or otherwise — are women.

    That is so very true. I found that out years ago when I co-founded Girth and Mirth Long Beach in 1996 with a friend of mine. I wanted to create a group for fat gay men that could also engage the community on an activist level, but it became a purely social group — which was what the guys needed, but there was no sense of activism like I had hoped.

    True, that is an unfortunate trait that some bear clubs inherited from G&M, the divergence from activism into social and sexual venues. Not to say that socializing and sex aren’t valuable, but there was a distinct lack of political motivation among such organizations.

    Many folks, myself included, feel that bear community is a second generation of these sorts of groups, G&M and gay leather/motorcycle clubs. But I want to ask about your biographical sketch in Fatizen, which describes you as an author and activist. I’m intrigued to learn how you see your work — and specifically the writing of your novel — as activism.

    My own experience as a lover of men of size and then becoming a fat man (I use the word fat on purpose — many people shy away from it but I find it empowering) as an adult has helped me understand the difficulties fat people go through on a daily basis. While it is true that you don’t have to be a potato to know how to cook one, it wasn’t enough for me to just prefer the company (intimate and social) of fat men and women. I felt compelled to become fat myself for many reasons, the most important of which was a fulfillment of my own personal aesthetic. And in my life, I found that society treats the obese as second-class citizens. Even lower than that, actually, and that’s wrong. But it’s often seen as permissible, and without consequence since so many fat men and women carry so much shame for being fat and often allow those hateful and hurtful anti-fat slurs to be slung about so freely. I choose to be a voice against fat prejudice and through my novel, shed more light on this subject, and to hopefully contribute something positive to the national conversation on obesity and help diminish the demonization of the state of being fat.

    Fatizen certainly takes the idea of fat prejudice into the realm of fascism (fat-scism?). Chubs are abused, oppressed, and rounded up into camps. It’s a harsh society that takes many of the dogmatic fat-hating and shaming screeds and turns them into motivational speeches by the antagonist, Mimi Masters, who is a pathetic case study in fatphobia. On the other hand, your heroine, Delilah, does everything she can to speak out against and combat that ignorance and hatefulness.

    Thank you for noting those elements of the story. Yes, I wanted to take all of the common fat-hate statements that critics make about the obese and take them to the extreme. If this is the kind of world they want, then let’s see how it could really play out. That’s the joy (or horror) of writing speculative fiction. My antagonist, Mimi, was a terrifically fun anti-fat character to write. She embodies all of the horrible traits I could imagine. And I wrote Delilah as the embodiment of the ultimate fat activist.

    PrintAlthough the focus of Fatizen is on size-acceptance, there are clear and intended parallels to the WW2 concentration camps in Germany and the internment camps in the U.S. There have been recent calls from the conservative evangelical right to gather all gays on an isolated island or a gated camp somewhere in the U.S. And though we chalk those up as mere “crazy talk,” we can’t ignore those completely. As a fat man, it has been important for me to take a stand against the disparaging actions of others. And sometimes that ugliness comes from our own LGBTQ community. But social groups like Girth and Mirth and the Bear groups across the country have made a difference by creating a safe place for the larger man to find strength in numbers and self-acceptance for who and what we are.

    Now, I have to ask: whom would you like to see playing Delilah and Mimi, if your book were to be turned into a movie?

    <Laughs> It’s funny you ask that, because I have been asked that several times, even at the book launch last year. And truth be told, we have had a few discussions about it. I think Delilah could be played well by Melissa McCarthy or Rebel Wilson, and Mimi could be Jodi Foster or Gwyneth Paltrow.

    Ron, in speaking of extremes, in your book, The Biggest Lover, I was curious, how did you choose the final collection? Was anything off limits? The stories run from tame to extreme, yet they all seem to compliment each other. In their review, Publisher’s Weekly called the book “a delicious panoply with something for every bear.” And that is so true. But was that planned?

    Definitely. There were some things I wanted to avoid, such as anything fat-phobic or body shaming, intense descriptions of feeding, unsafe sex, and sex with minors. But M/M romance and erotica is relatively easy to judge: a story has to tug at your heartstrings and make your pants tighten. The latter aspect is usually quite easy to judge if it’s working!

    That is so eloquently stated. And true! I wanted to know if, in putting this splendid collection together, did you learn anything new?

    Great question, Phil. Though I’m considered a bear community pioneer, I’m new to the gay/bi/queer chub community. Though any superchubs and many chubs would laugh, while editing the book I went through a mini-crisis when none of my size 34 pants would fit me, and I was outraged that many clothing manufacturers don’t make pants in size 35! So you have to go up two pants sizes, which is no big deal, really, but while I was reading these stories, that experience did force me to do some self-contemplation and come to terms with what seemed like a new phase in living with my maturing, aging, thickening body.

    That’s terribly honest, and thank you for sharing such an intimate experience. That leads me to my next question: Was there any hesitation in doing this project? Any fears?

    TBL TheBiggestLover RJackson frcoverThis is my eleventh anthology, so there’s not much I haven’t dealt with before, or any fears other than the dread that not enough great stories will come in, or that there just isn’t a market for a book like this. But I spent a lot of time researching what was available in fat lit, and there was this lacuna I became aware of, and then in shopping the idea around to some of my regular erotica contributors I saw how enthusiastic some of them became. I was at lunch at a writers’ conference with authors William Holden and Dale Chase when I tossed the idea out. Bill said immediately, “I know exactly what I’ll write about!” and by the next morning he had sketched out his piece. That was a very auspicious sign.

    It must have been an exciting process to pull together. It was fascinating to see how differently these authors explored fat sexuality. I think that’s what I enjoyed more than anything. Writing sex scenes is a tricky thing. I took classes on it in grad school, and it’s not easy. The entire collection is very well curated, and I am thrilled that you have put it out there for our community.

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I also heartily recommend your excellent novel and wish you the best with it. You also have a cool YouTube trailer for the book: https://youtu.be/_3aNbjboFdA. I want to ask in closing about your plans for doing a fully illustrated graphic novel and if you’ve entertained any ideas about adapting the book into a movie.

    Thank you for asking about the next steps for this project, and for mentioning the book trailer. Those were great fun to produce, and for those trailers, we used the art from the graphic novel that will be released by chapters starting this year 2016. We are exploring publishing options right now, but we are work on it daily. And as for the movie, I have yet to write the screenplay, but there has been expressed interest by a few production entities, so things are definitely happening in both of those areas. Any new news will be made available on the official website: www.fatizen.com.

    I wish you the best with all your efforts for Fatizen 24602. Thanks again for having this conversation with me, Phil.

    Ron, it has been a pleasure to chat with you, and I appreciate it! Good luck with your book, The Biggest Lover!

    +
    Philip C. Barragan’s website is <http://www.philipbarragan.com>.

    RJS on The Underbears Podcast — Jock night

    Posted By on March 8, 2016

    Interview with The Underbears Podcast

    TBL TheBiggestLover RJackson frcover

    I went on the Underbears podcast for their “jock night” to talk about The Biggest Lover.

     

    This is what I was wearing for the interview:

    12819198_10207588474522666_4604199548576745975_o

     

     

     

     

    “The Birth of Girth and Mirth” interview

    Posted By on February 7, 2016

    BoB2 frontcoverTo celebrate the release of The Biggest Lover, I’ve dug out from the archives a seminal piece of Girth and Mirth history, an interview with G&M co-founder, Reed Wilgoren. Sad to say, Reed passed away April 14, 2014.

    This interview was conducted in person at Reed’s Boston-area home, November 3, 1999. A brief excerpt from the piece was first published in American Bear magazine in April 2000; and another section was on the website, resourcesforbears.com, in August 2001.

    This is an excerpt (Chapter 6) as published in my book, Bears on Bears: Interviews & Discussions, revised edition.

    Copyright 2002, 2009, by Ron J. Suresha — all rights reserved.

    ~

    The Birth of Girth and Mirth

    An interview with Reed Wilgoren

    More than a decade before Bears and grizzlies and cubs were even a twinkle in some gay men’s eyes, there was Girth & Mirth, the now-international organization for big men and their admirers. Yet even before that, one such big man, Reed Wilgoren, came out into gay life the year after he graduated high school in Boston, 1969: the same year as the Stonewall Revolution.

    Reed became involved with the informal network of Chubbies and chasers on the East Coast. When he moved to the San Francisco Bay area in the mid-’70s, he was at the forefront of the network that was to become the first Girth & Mirth group there. When Reed later returned to Boston, he also founded Girth & Mirth of New England.

    ~

    First of all, where did you grow up and go to school?

    Reed: I grew up in the Allston-Brighton area [of Boston], and graduated Brighton High. Then I lived in the Brighton area well into the ‘60s. I came out into gay life in 1969, the year after I graduated high school, probably eighteen or nineteen years old, and lived on my own mostly ever since. Then I worked and went to school in the Boston area until I moved to California.

    What was gay Boston like then? What was your main venue for meeting folks?

    Reed: People, even back in school, always said there were places where gay people hung out. They would say uncomplimentary things, like “Oh, that’s where the fags hang out.” In those days, there was a bar called The Punchbowl, which was closed by the time I came out, and two others called The Other Side and Jacques’ [both since closed], which were in the Bay Village area of Boston. Those bars [had that reputation], so when I decided to come out and look I went to The Other Side, which was formerly The Punchbowl crowd of people. That was a very eventful evening, to say the least.

    It must have been, judging from your smile! Was coming out relatively easy for you?

    Reed: Yes, and no. I knew that this was what I had tendencies to do, although I’d had relationships with women all through school — when I was a junior in high school, I was almost engaged, much to my parents’ delight! Then I went the other way, and I decided to come out in 1969. When I went into the bar that night, I encountered a very varied group of people — lesbian women, older and younger gay men, drag queens, transvestites, the whole nine yards.

    What was the hard part?

    Reed: The difficult part was that people were telling me, “You’re a good-looking fellow, but you’re overweight, you’re a big man. That’s going to be held against you, coming out in the gay world.”

    How big were you then?

    Reed: When I came out, I was perhaps 200–225 pounds. I had a football-player-size build. I did in fact play football in high school.

    Was it doubly hard, being gay and being heavy? It was still very much stigmatized then.

    Reed: Exactly. It was difficult, not so much because there was shame at my size, but because of the reaction I got from other gay people in the bars and community. They considered it a stumbling block. There was always that unspoken feeling, “Oh well, jeez, you’re really nice, and you’re really nice looking, but you’re so big.” Only slim gay men were considered attractive in those days.

    My first night out, the first man that I met in the bar was very gay, very out, but also had a cultured side. He was a schoolteacher, and he was determined to show me around. He said, “If you want to put yourself in my hands for the evening, I’ll show you the ropes.” So we went all around Bay Village. We went from The Other Side to Jacques’ to see a drag show, and from there we went to … oh, the other bar that just closed down [in 1998] …

    Napoleon’s?

    Reed: Napoleon’s. It was very relaxing and clean, with a group of people definitely varied in age and size. Instantly I felt more comfortable there. Then from there we went on sort of a driving tour around Boston. This fellow, Jim, showed me the cruising areas, the other bars, where to go, where not to go …

    Jim spent the rest of the evening with me until he drove me home. I considered myself fortunate to meet somebody as kind, decent, and trustworthy as he to hang out with my first night in gay life in Boston. My experience wasn’t bad because of him. However, he said negative things about my size, such as that it would be difficult as a big man to meet people.

    Did you take that message to heart, or were you able to just let it go?

    Reed: Probably, to some extent. I didn’t think much of it. At The Other Side, there was a piano player and singer, Ellie Boswell, who sang blues and all kinds of music. She was a big black woman, and she told me, “Some night, somebody will come in here and you will be the one that they are looking for, and everything you think about your size and what you look like will mean nothing. I hope I’m here when it happens.” I replied, “Ellie, you’re an eternal optimist. I’m taking your word that this will happen.” And about three weeks later, it did happen — right at her piano!

    Please tell me about that — you were at the bar, near Ellie at the piano?

    Reed: Yes, this man walked in the door, turned his head and spotted me, and it was like somebody discovering cheesecake for the first time. And he looked at me with every bit as much desire.

    Discovering cheesecake — I love that analogy!

    Reed: He wasn’t too hard to look at, himself. He was very well dressed, very handsome. When I was younger, I hoped in my heart of hearts that I would find somebody older than myself, and Bob was certainly that. He walked over to me, offered to buy me a drink, chatted with me for half an hour or so, and then proceeded to unbutton my shirt, maybe halfway down. Ellie, the piano player, was watching all of this, and making little subtle eyes at me in the background, and then launched into one of her blues songs which she had composed herself and had a lot of gay innuendoes. The song was entitled, “Hot Nuts,” and they were very hot for both Bob and me at that point.

    She played that song just for you.

    Reed: Yes. Being a big gay man and being young and inexperienced, I never in my life had anybody come after me like that. I discovered what a “Chubby chaser” was, and how that would affect my life.

    Well, it was a very eventful night, because this man, Bob, invited me to go with him to Napoleon’s, to hook up with some other friends of his. I had no idea that I was about to enter the most notorious circle of Chubby chasers. In the old days, Chubby chasers existed all over the country. This was pre-Girth & Mirth, pre-Bear. This was a telephone and mail network of Chubbies and chasers, and this fellow Bob, and the people he introduced to me in the other bar, were the key players on the East Coast. And I was the innocent young big guy about to be devoured, literally, in their midst.

    They used that phrase, “Chubby chaser,” themselves?

    Reed: Yes, that was the term of that era, and there were bars in all major cities — New York, San Francisco, LA, and other places — that were known to be “Chubby and Chubby chaser bars” per se.

    Was it then a particularly gay term, or something that women and straights would have used?

    Reed: It has spilled over into those groups now, but back then it was pretty much considered a gay term, for big men and the guys who like them.

    So, this informal network of big gay men preceded not only the Bears but also the entire “fat-acceptance” movement in America. Please continue now.

    Reed: When I walked into Napoleon’s with Bob that night, he introduced me to his friends, and we proceeded to go to the upstairs bar, which was what we then called a “conversational bar” — very low-key music, a place to meet people in a very informal setting. As we began going up the steps, Bob walking in front of me, another man whom I didn’t know at all, who’d been sort of lurking in the shadows, was following me and feeling me up! This man was destined to become my first lover. [Both laugh.]

    Very interesting! And his name?

    Reed: His name is Harvey; he’s now living in the SF Bay area. I came into his life at a very precarious time: his gay life was very much closeted, and I was so young. It was all very exciting for me, but he had to be very wary of what we were doing. And I was scared myself. I’d never been alone with a man before that evening, and it seemed to be all happening to me at once. At one point, Harvey was on one side of me and Bob was on the other, and they were both running their hands all over my body, from my head all the way below my waist down to my knees and back up again. I felt just like the expression, “I didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.”

    Stonewall hadn’t even happened, or had just happened months before.

    Reed: No, none of that. And then they introduced me to the rest of the crowd, and they consisted of Bob’s lover, Taylor Reed — an actor and singer on Broadway from the [entertainer] Jimmy Coco era who has since passed away (as has Bob) — and a few other people. So they invited me to go back to their hotel room. That was a whole other part of the evening.

    They took me to a hotel called The Avery, right in the middle of the Combat Zone, where you could meet anyone from a businessman to a transvestite to a prostitute and everything in between. They had very clean, decent rooms where you could have an inexpensive fling. So they took me to their room, and I had no idea what was in mind, but they knew. They proceeded to orchestrate this orgy in the room.

    With just the three of you? Or with more?

    Reed: There were five of us: Bob, who had initially met me at The Other Side; Harvey, who was to become my first lover; and Bob’s lover, and another friend. They were all in the room, wanting me in their respective ways, or rather, wanting to have their way with me, as it were. I made it very clear that that wasn’t going to happen but I was still curious enough to engage in part of the evening, doing what I felt comfortable doing. When I was no longer comfortable, then I asked to leave, and Harvey drove me home, but I didn’t let him take me right to my house. I had him drop me off a block away at a strange house, because I didn’t want him to know where I lived with my parents.

    I don’t think it was an uncommon gambit in those days, dropping off a block away. I remember doing the same thing in college.

    Reed: But I was never the same, after that evening.

    You were affirmed very early in the coming-out process.

    Reed: Yes. Well, Harvey and I became quite involved, spending all of our free time together — vacations, weekends away to Provincetown, Vermont, New York City. We had a very illicit romance for maybe four years. And I was growing as a gay man and a big man through my experiences with him along the road. Eventually I realized that he wasn’t ready to have a lover, and that it was time to move on to something else in my life. He said, “If things don’t work out between us, I hope that we’ll remain friends. And I’ll also give you other introductions to other Chubby chasers and other people I know on the West Coast, if that’s what you’re looking for.”

    In the meantime, though, you had your entré into this world pretty much all the way up the Eastern Seaboard.

    Reed: Yes. And they were a pretty affluent group of people.

    [Reed’s first lover, Harvey, later introduced him to “one of the most notorious Chubby chasers in the country,” Tony diGenova, who invited Reed to stay with him in his posh Oakland house. So, in the early ‘70s, Reed quit his job in Boston and moved to Oakland, where eventually he met his next lover, Bob.]

    So, what was your life like then?

    Reed: I was unemployed, young — nineteen to twenty years old — big, and good-looking to whomever was looking for a big young man at that time. And as far as Chubby chasers were concerned, during that period in San Francisco, the world was my oyster. Ha! I never realized that I would meet so many significant people for friendship, fun, and sex, all of which would then also evolve into a picture-perfect relationship with my lover Bob (who since then passed away from a heart condition), and everything else that went along with it, from 1971 to ‘85 and the coming of AIDS… .

    When did you move in with Bob?

    Reed: In 1973.

    And you were together for six years.

    Reed: Yes. A couple of years after I met Bob, Girth & Mirth came about. Charlie Brown, the founder of the group, put an ad in a gay newspaper eliciting interest in a big men’s organization.

    I spoke with Charlie on the phone, actually. By his telling of the incident, it was in February 1976 that he took out an ad in the Berkeley Barb. He described it to me: he had gone in there with a friend, to help his friend place an ad and, on kind of a joke, or dare, Charlie decided to place an ad himself. He titled his ad, “Chubbies and Chasers, Unite!” And he called it a “clarion call.”

    Reed: And clarion it was. It was like, telephone, tell-a-friend, tell-any-Chubby-chaser-and-Chubby-that-you-know! This was a Saturday or Sunday morning, and people were still home in their robes and slippers, drinking coffee and reading the morning paper when they got the call. It was like electricity went through everyone, thinking, Finally! It’s happened!

    So, everyone was calling everybody else, asking, “Have you heard? Have you heard about this?”

    Reed: It was just amazing! What excitement it stirred up in all of us in the Bay area at that moment! And the person who had called me had already called Charlie Brown and his lover and spoken to them, and everyone was just brimming over with enthusiasm and anticipation as to what we were going to do with this. And within a very short time, we organized our very first meeting in San Francisco. The core group of people that showed up was already friends and had been in this network of Chubbies and chasers, pre-Charlie Brown, but of course, had Charlie not put this ad out, we never would have been. So he was definitely in the forefront of Girth & Mirth.

    There was already a network there, but it was —

    Reed: — loosely organized.

    Yes, an informal network. And the ad served to give it some cohesion. Charlie said to me, “I get credited far more than I should.”

    Reed: He’s still a very modest man, and very boyish in his own right, although he’s now in his late forties. He’s still very shy and doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he did to change the course of events for big men, and eventually, Bears.

    So, please continue with your story from there.

    Reed: Well, Bob and I went to the first meeting and were amazed at how many of our own friends showed up that night. As we looked around the room, we realized that, other than Charlie and his lover, we knew almost everybody there. We had a very interesting evening indeed, exchanging ideas, discussing where we wanted to go. We collected enough money that night just to give the bar owner something for his trouble. We also did come up with the name Girth & Mirth that night.

    So, aside from the connotation of the words mirth and gay, you had Santa Claus for an archetype?

    Reed: Exactly. Big and jolly and bearded as well. A segue to Bears, actually.

    How did the organization become formalized? Did you appoint officers, and a council, and have regular meetings, and the like?

    Reed: Yes, we set up officers, and planned meetings in people’s homes, and picnics and outings. About a year or two after we organized, we decided to participate in the first real Gay Day parade in San Francisco.

    Was that the same year — 1976?

    Reed: Yeah, right around then, May or June of ‘76. I’d bought a ‘64 Ford Galaxy convertible and was restoring it when they asked Bob and I if we’d enter my car as the Girth & Mirth float. I would be the Chubby and Bob would be the Chubby chaser, sitting up on the back of the convertible, and Tony diGenova would be the driver and his then-lover was the passenger.

    I did not know what to expect, but when we pulled out into the mainstream of the parade onto Market Street, it seemed like, for that moment in my life, the whole world was gay, and we were an incredibly significant part of it all. We had no idea how it was going to change all of our lives as big men, and eventually as Bears. It was truly amazing how well we were accepted and encouraged to be there at that moment! We were in tears, and we were smiling, we were laughing, crying, all through the whole parade. It was a very moving experience — and still feels so, even to talk about it at this moment… .

    I can tell.

    Reed: The following year we actually made a real statement, and had an information booth set up to disseminate written information, because we already had a newsletter organized by 1977.

    Great. So did the group then expand exponentially?

    Reed: Well, we had an ongoing ad running in the Berkeley Barb, and the gay weekly newspaper Bay Area Reporter listed us as a viable group along with the meeting places and times, which always varied. We started off at just one bar, but then, over the years, met in many different places, other bars, churches, meeting halls, and various places in the City. Finding a meeting place there that was affordable, and accepting of our group was not easy in those days. There were no formally organized gay and lesbian centers, or anything like that. We had to fend for ourselves. But eventually we were more financially viable and could afford a better meeting place, and our activities became more organized.

    Did you and the other San Francisco men contact your friends back east in New York when your group was formed?

    Reed: Oh, definitely! It spread like wildfire all across the country, through this already-established network, as I said, of people, mostly friends, who were Chubbies and Chubby-chasers. .

    Here I’d like to add another voice to the oral history from the Girth & Mirth–New York website <www.gandmny.com>:

    In the mid 1970’s there was an unauthorized list of big men and their admirers that was being circulated throughout the U.S. Used solely for “contact” it was a list some of us found ourselves embarrassed, and pissed-off, to have been included on. This list, however, was the primary source with which the eventual founders contacted people who lived in the New York Tri-State area to inquire if there might be an interest in participating in the formation of a club. They also networked with their own private contacts, using the little black books of friends and acquaintances. Three of these founders, Ernie Harff, Ed Plunkett and Ben Schack, are still active members of G&M–New York.

    Reed: Ernie Harff just passed away a week or two ago [November 1999]. The other two people are still involved and living. … The next group to come about was the New York group.

    Right, which, according to their website, started up in June 1978.

    Reed: There was a solid core group of Chubbies and chasers already in place in New York, just waiting for something like this to happen. This group had many more affluent members, much like Tony diGenova in San Francisco, who were icons of the big-men’s and Chubby-chasers’ world. And because they had money to put into this effort, the New York group became, and still is, one the largest Girth & Mirth contingents around the country.

    After New York got going, we decided to have the first Convergence.

    The ABC [Affiliated Bigmen’s Clubs] website says that “in 1986 the first ABC sanctioned ‘Convergence’ was held in Seattle and in 1988 G&M–New York was its host.” So, from what I can tell there were several less-formal Convergences before this. Is that correct?

    Reed: Yes. There have been many Convergences held across the country, most of which I try to go to — at least every other one.

    The current President of ABC, Aron Ahoronian, told me about EBMC [Europe Big Men’s Clubs], which is a very strong association centered out of Belgium.

    Reed: Yes. They have their event right around Valentine’s Day, I believe.

    What were the early Convergence gatherings like? Was it basically just “social hour” for two-and-a-half days?

    Reed: Well, socializing, and a lot of sexual contacts made too. It was a place where big men and their admirers could really let their hair down and be what they wanted to be. The environment allowed big men to feel the elation of all these guys really seeking, loving, and appreciating them for who they were, as well as their size.

    They could let out their belts a couple notches, so to speak?

    Reed: Yes, exactly. The Chubby chasers, the admirers of big men, could also be in an environment where they didn’t feel like freaks or out of the ordinary. They could also admit to and freely demonstrate their admiration of other big guys in this open environment and know that they had the support and the numbers. Being able to act that free together was a tremendous feeling.

    You said that, at that time, there was a fairly rigid stereotype of what gay men were supposed to look like, and how they acted.

    Reed: Exactly. The advent of big men was something that definitely needed to happen.

    This was before there were “Castro clones” or “leather Daddies,” right?

    Reed: Yes. When we became visible, in cities like San Francisco and New York, it wasn’t always with open arms. There were many nasty comments made in those days by the “body beautiful” types, and those looking for them, when they saw us en masse. It was like, “What is this?!”

    Can you give an example?

    Reed: I remember a group of us walking down Castro and 18th — pretty much in the heart of the Castro — and there was a very popular bar there called The Elephant Walk, and it opened onto the sidewalk. We came to the corner and were looking around, and somebody made a comment, called me a “fat slob” or a “fat pig.” And the group heard and acknowledged it, but didn’t say anything back. Well, I stepped back and found the person in the window within hand’s reach, and I said to this person, “Would you like to repeat what you said, to me and to us, again?”

    How brave! What happened?

    Reed: I said to him, “I don’t think that was a very complimentary thing to say. Would you like to repeat it again?” He said, “No, I wouldn’t,” and just quietly shrank down into his chair. I think my girth definitely put a little fear into him, as a physical threat, although a physical confrontation was not what I had in mind. Still, that comment definitely needed to be addressed right then.

    That’s a wonderful story. It was great that you stood up for yourself, yourselves —

    Reed: As time went on, the more we were seen and thus became a viable group within the City, the more we were accepted and welcomed by other gay men in other clubs. “Oh wow, here’s the Girth & Mirth crowd, let’s welcome them.”

    That was definitely a crossover point, a goal to reach: to not look like the Castro clones, to be able to walk down the street as a big man with your lover, and to hug and kiss and have him run his hands all over your body.

    To have as much pride as the next gay man is very important. Anyway, after the New York group got underway and there were other clubs that formed around the country, how involved were you with the organization of the Bay area and other groups?

    Reed: Originally I was a Board member and a planning person for the San Francisco group. When I started my own group here in Boston in 1985–86, I became their ABC rep.

    You moved back in 1985?

    Reed: Yes. I thought that starting Girth & Mirth of New England would be a vehicle to reintroduce myself into gay life in Boston, since being gone for fourteen years, I pretty much had to start all over again. It was a great vehicle for making friends and establishing a lifestyle.

    How did you go about setting up the group here in Boston?

    Reed: I contacted somebody at [Boston gay newsweekly] Bay Windows, and they did a cover story, complete with a picture of me, that went all the way back, from the beginning of Girth & Mirth in San Francisco through my moving here, and starting a group here in Boston. They were extremely helpful.

    Girth & Mirth of New England was a thriving, viable club from ‘86 through ’91. Our first Convergence in Boston was very successful. Unfortunately, after that event the group headed into a downhill spiral: we lost meeting places and our population of members, and it just whittled down to the point where we couldn’t stay in operation any more. But just as we were becoming almost nonexistent, the New England Bears came into existence.

    Bill Sanderson’s group, which started around 1992.

    Reed: Yes. The Bear movement had become very visable and viable, here and in other cities. A lot of Girth & Mirth of New England members spilled over into the New England Bears. We were happy that, even though we were breaking up, there’d be some continuity for us. Even though it wasn’t Girth & Mirth, there was a place for us to go. Yet there was quite a big difference between the Bears and Girth & Mirth.

    How so?

    Reed: When the group started, if you sat a big man up next to a Bear, you’d see a difference — in size and age and mindset. Now, of course, it’s changed a lot over the years. As the Bear groups progressed, they included other bigger men, older men, men of different nationalities and backgrounds. Still, in the early days they were very typecast.

    I belong to several different groups now. When I celebrated my fiftieth in July, I went to some of the Bear meetings in San Francisco. I also went to my first Bear Hug parties, which were really neat because people come together in a meeting place that can range from social to sexual and everything in-between.

    Of course, not everyone in these groups is looking for a particular type, but some of them are very type-casting. Some big men won’t think of another big man as attractive; they’re only looking for, say, a young jock type, chasers, or Bears. Then there are other big men that, like myself, cross over a wide spectrum. I’m physically attracted to folks anywhere from twenty-five years old, 150 pounds, all the way up to men in their sixties, maybe 350 to 400 pounds. It depends on who the person is and what they’re all about.

    Do you feel that the Bear groups largely absorbed Girth & Mirth men?

    Reed: Somewhat. I found it kind of difficult to cross over into that group, to be honest with you. Coming from my own personal life experience and being very well accepted, socially and sexually, as a big man and then going into Bear groups was definitely quite a different experience for me. I felt, and still do feel sometimes, that age and size are definitely a discriminatory factor with Bears. It’s lessening, though: those attitudes in general have improved greatly.

    I would hope so.

    Reed: People still are coming out into this whole scene; Bears and big men and their admirers need to have this acceptance. Moreover, there needs to be a place for us in gay society as well as society in general, for now and for the future. Just as people are coming out every day — men and women realizing their sexuality — new Bears and new Chubbies and new chasers are also evolving in the world. There have to be people waiting to embrace them and show them the way, much as people showed me the way, who helped me to become what I am and who I am today.

    Copyright 2002, 2009, by Ron J. Suresha — all rights reserved.

    Interview on The Biggest Lover with ‘Nathan Burgoine

    Posted By on January 24, 2016

    Reprinted with permission from ‘Nathan Burgoine’s Sunday Shorts:

    “The Biggest Lover” Q&A with R. Jackson

    by ‘Nathan Burgoine

    Anthologies don’t always get a lot of noise, and one of the things I try to do here with my Sunday Shorts series is point out some awesome anthologies that are out and about (or about to launch) by speaking with the editors and authors of collections. Quite a few authors and editors agreed to chat with me about anthologies hitting the shelves in the next few months—so many, in fact, that I have enough people to carry these Sunday chats all the way through to next June, which is kind of awesome.
    Today starts the first of these anthologies I’ll be showcasing, The Biggest Lover, an upcoming anthology from Bear Bones Books, and I’m chatting with R. Jackson. What’s The Biggest Lover?
    We have all heard the term Rubenesque as a compliment for plus-sized women. The baroque painter Sir Peter Paul Rubens was fond of painting women of the day that were curvaceous and full-figured. The men in his art were not. What is the comparable term for men? Because not every gay man is obsessed with twinks who list the number of visible rib bones on their Grindr profile. Or men who can remember the number of reps at the gym but not their phone number. Some of us appreciate buying in bulk and that includes looking for love. Or just plain sex. Thank goodness for Bear culture which embraces girth. During Bear Week in Provincetown the stores do not even bother to sell clothes smaller than an XL and a man’s virility is often like the potency of moonshine: the more Xs on the jug the better, so XXXL is a chub in high demand.
    It has taken too long for an erotica anthology to feature such men. As Girth & Mirth founding father Reed Wilgoren stated, “Just as people are coming out every day—men and women realizing their sexuality—new Bears and new Chubbies and new chasers are also evolving in the world. There have to be people waiting to embrace them and show them the way, much as who helped me to become what I am and who I am today.” It is our hope that readers who felt denied of attention and affection will read these stories and realize that love has no weight limit, no threshold, and neither should self-esteem.

    NB: Welcome! I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: you’re a force of nature for bi-visibility and bear culture. When I first saw the call for The Biggest Lover, I realized that I hadn’t actually seen a collection like it before. On reflection, I wasn’t surprised I hadn’t; you talk about that a bit in the introduction, how the focus in gay erotica is so much more often on the slender twink or the uber-fit (and don’t even get me started on the lack of chest hair). Obviously, there’s an overlap with bear culture here, but where did the spark for The Biggest Lover come from?
    RJThank you for inviting me to this interview, ‘Nathan! Thanks also for your excellent story in the collection, and for your kind words about my work.
    I started thinking seriously about editing a collection of chub-and-chaser erotica at least five years ago. As I pointed out in my 2001 interview with Girth & Mirth founder Reed Wilgoren in Bears on Bears, bear clubs are really an offshoot of the earlier big gay/bi men’s clubs (as well as queer motorcycle/leather clubs) that were formed at least a decade earlier. I kept thinking someone would do an anthology on this theme years ago, but nobody must have thought it a worthwhile or lucrative project.
    Often an idea for an anthology theme take years to germinate, during which I talk with my readers, my publisher, my husbear, and bear and writer friends. I research scholastic and marketing considerations to determine the prospective readership, and contemplate what story themes and contributors would be fun to include. Sometimes I consult the tarot and my Magic 8-Ball, and pray to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, art, music, and learning. In my meditation on the subject I ask myself, Is this a topic that is overlooked and underexposed?  Does it have potential to reach many underserved readers? Is it a book that nobody else has done? Is this a book that I’m qualified to put together? If the answers and omens are clearly positive and the stars and planets are in the auspicious positions, then I’ll obtain a contract and issue a call for submissions. After that, it’s a matter of waiting to see what comes in, and deciding what fits my target word count.
    NB: I had a blast writing my story in no small part due to being able to include both a bigger man and a chaser with the knowledge their depiction wasn’t going to come back with edits making them more “traditionally sexier” (whatever that might mean). I remember one piece I wrote, quite a few years back, where the editor wanted to cut out arm hair references, struck out a line or two about laugh lines, and asked me if I’d consider dropping the age of one of the characters below the forty mark so the two characters would be within a decade of each other in age. I’m curious: did having The Biggest Lover‘s atypical theme for erotica also translate to any other welcome surprises where the authors explored something you weren’t expecting?
    RJ: I’m so delighted to have your story “A Slice of Pi” in The Biggest Lover, your third Bear Bones Books anthology. Obviously I liked it enough to place it at the end, thus giving you the last word in the story series. Anthologies are a fun way to gather a lot of ideas and authors together and form a small sort of community and a dialogue that transcends geographic and demographic boundaries. Stories came in from all over North America and the U.K., from male, female, and trans* authors, including a diverse handful of stories by bears of color. Welcome surprises? I expect every story that is submitted to be a welcome surprise in some manner. It should do something different, even if it doesn’t necessarily succeed, something more than A meets B and they meet C and then they all do XYZ. A good erotic story should grab me by the balls and not let go.
    NB: Canada Post hasn’t delivered my copy yet, so I’m salivating at the chance to read it. Okay, question number three is a boomerang question from my discussion with Tom Cardamone that I’m going to revisit with all the editors. He brought up how in collections, the author (or editor, in an anthology) have to select and order the tales, and how it’s such an important part of the process, but we rarely hear anyone talk about it. Also, Publisher’s Weekly mentioned that the stories in The Biggest Lover cover a lot of genres, which definitely intrigues. How did you approach the selecting and ordering of the tales in The Biggest Lover?
    RJ: This is my eleventh anthology, so there’s not much I haven’t dealt with before. My greatest fear is the dread that not enough great unique stories for a book will be submitted.
    As I researched what was in print in fat gay lit, I discovered this gendered lacuna of men as writers and as subjects. Same situation with my earlier books on bisexuality: most of the fiction, nonfiction, and academic writing available had been by bi women.
    So I put out a private call for submissions to a few dozen writers I’ve worked with before. Some of my regulars are incredibly dependable, so that’s nice, to have a stable of writers to call upon.
    I didn’t want it to be too much the same styles as my other bearotic anthologies. Men’s chuberotica is really a new literary topic but some writers are so versatile they can handle any topic thrown their way.
    Yet it’s important and necessary to include at least half new/er writers, because you have to keep it fresh for your regular readers and you have to support and develop young/er writing talent.
    In shopping the idea around to some of my regular erotica contributors I saw how enthusiastic some became. I was at lunch at a writers’ conference with authors William Holden and Dale Chase when I tossed the idea out. Bill said immediately, “I know exactly what I’ll write about!” That evening, they told me they’d already been plotting out their stories together. By the next morning, Bill reported that he had already sketched out his piece. Nothing like the feeling when your idea for an anthology theme sparks a talented writer and you watch their story ignite.
    As far as nays, I avoided anything body shaming and fatphobic, intense descriptions of feeding, unsafe sex, and sex with minors. Positively, I embraced stories of chuberotic romance that turns our preconceived notions of fatness into affirmative sexual feelings.
    Certainly now, romance and erotica seem relatively easy for me to judge: a story has be literate, of course, but it also has to tug at my heartstrings to be romantic and to make my pants tighten if it’s erotic. The latter aspect is usually quite easy for me to judge if a story is working!
    When I’ve collected enough solid stories, first I decide which are the strongest pieces to start and end the book. Then it’s just a matter of shuffling the rest around to vary length, tone, subject, and genre, until I get the right mix. I do try to curate the reader’s experience so that each story in progression is the next perfectly unexpected tale.
    NB: Well I for one can’t wait. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.
    You can get your copy of The Biggest Lover directly from Bear Bones Books (an imprint of Lethe Press) here, or—as always—check out Indiebound for your closest local brick-and-mortar, or look wherever quality LGBT books are sold.

    RonRon Suresha is a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, including his anthologies Bi Men: Coming out (2006) and Bisexual Perspectives on the Life and Work of Alfred C. Kinsey (2010).
    He coauthored with Scott McGillivray Fur: The Love of Hair, from German publisher Bruno Gmünder. He also authored a collection of Turkish folk Tales, The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin, , which was named a Storytelling World Honor Book. In 2002, he authored his first trade softcover, the nonfiction Bears on Bears: Interviews & Discussions. Under the name R. Jackson, he has edited the anthologies Bi Guys: The deliciousness of his sex (also a “Lammy” finalist)BearoticaBear LustBears in the Wild, and Tales from the Den, published by Bear Bones Books, a Lethe imprint for which he serves as Acquisitions Editor. You can find him online at RonSuresha.com.

    The Biggest Lover — now in print!

    Posted By on January 18, 2016

    Now in print from Bear Bones Books:

    The Biggest Lover

    TBL TheBiggestLover RJackson

    A gutsy, groundbreaking collection of romantic, lusty tales for big guys and the men who love them!

    Praise for The Biggest Lover:
    “[Editor R.] Jackson’s anthology of 21 titillating quickies covers a variety of genres, but all the stories embrace those who like to live and love large. … a delicious panoply with something for every bear.” – Publishers Weekly
    “The stories in this anthology are a must-read for any guy who’s ever felt left out of the gay scene because of his size or his desire for a man of size. This wonderfully curated collection includes works that are sweet, sweaty, and just plain hot.” — Dan Oliverio, author of The Round World

    ~

    The Bear Bones Books imprint of Lethe Press proudly presents its 28th title, The Biggest Lover: Big-Boned Men’s Erotica for Chubs and Chasers, edited by noted gay and bi men’s erotica anthologist R. Jackson.
    This groundbreaking anthology of 21 compelling stories of big masculine love — including outstanding fiction from renowned, award-winning authors as well as fresh voices — is sure to entertain, inform, and stimulate everyone who desires big men.

    ~

    Contents

    • Furball | Hank Edwards
    • A Man of Substance | Dale Chase
    • What the Hell?! | Ben Bauchlein
    • The Last Gift | Jeff Mann
    • Bulk City Gym (Boys to Men, Men to Giants) | Jack Fritscher
    • Temet Nosce | John Genest
    • Rainy Day | Charles Ov Lyons
    • He’s Five-One, He’s Beautiful, and He’s Mine | Jay Neal
    • Filled | Tom Farley
    • Burning on the Edge of the World | Matthew Bright
    • Hustler’s Endgame | Landon Dixon
    • Golden Walrus | Jerry Rabushka
    • Dionysus Tamed | Jay Starre
    • Coming in the Night | Skye Eagleday
    • Heavy Set | Shane Allison
    • Tag Team | Larry Faulkner
    • The Nip Man | Daniel M. Jaffe
    • The Story Next Door | Karl Taggart
    • Moby Dick | William Holden
    • Indivisible | Dylan Thomas Good
    • A Slice of Pi | ‘Nathan Burgoine

    Version 2About the Editor: A gay Bear community pioneer and bisexual men’s advocate, R. Jackson is Editor of the men’s fiction anthologies Bearotica, Bear Lust, Bears in the Wild, Tales from the Den, and The Biggest Lover, all published by Bear Bones Books; with PJ Willis, Kink, from StarBooks Press; and Bi Guys, from Lethe Press, a Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Bisexual Literature.

    ~

    THE BIGGEST LOVER

    Big-Boned Men’s Erotica for Chubs and Chasers
    R. Jackson, editor
    Bear Bones Books / Lethe Press

    Now in Print!

    Full release: February 14, 2016
    Categories: Gay Fiction, Anthologies, Erotica
    ISBN-10: 1-59021-545-1 ~ ISBN-13: 978-1-59021-545-6
    264 pp., 6 x 9 inches
    Paperback: $18.00 ~ eBook: $6.99

    ~
    Ask your local bookseller to order it for you, or order it from these online retailers:
    ~ The Biggest Lover on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27367117
    ~ The Biggest Lover in softcover on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1590215451
    ~ The Biggest Lover on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01AK9B2H0
    ~ The Biggest Lover from the publisher: http://www.lethepressbooks.com/store/p134/The_Biggest_Lover_.html