Hi, I’m Aleksandr Voinov, and grateful for the invitation here today to talk about my newest release, the third and last part of the Memory of Scorpions gay fantasy series, A Taste for Poison.
I’m an incorrigible genre-hopper inside gay fiction. My last release was an alternate universe (Counterpunch), the one before a current-day financial thriller/coming-of-age story (Return on Investment), and before that a classical romance (No Distance Too Far), and a suspense/thriller before that (Hostile Ground). I’m currently working on a historical novel, and I might also do sci-fi next year.
And still, while I write a lot of genres – and read them – fantasy is one of my first, true loves. Once I had a library card and could read whatever the hell I wanted, I did. I can’t count the Morcocks, Gemmells, Lees, LeGuins, I’ve read, plus several bookshelves worth of home-grown German fantasy that nobody outside of Germany will have ever heard from. I joined the German Fantasy Club (also known as Follow), I did reeinactment, live-action roleplaying games that involved a lot of running around with plastic swords and staying “in character” for a weekend or longer.
Then table-top roleplaying – I spent years in Germany’s roleplaying scene, wrote for some of the game companies, got my first paid contracts that way, too. Gradually, I turned from a loner to somebody who could interact with others, all in the pursuit of a shared love and hobby. Of all roleplaying games, again, I loved fantasy best—most of them were heavily inspired by earth history and mythology (the ubiquitous Central European setting with knights and castles and dragons), but once I’d gorged myself on that for many years, I began to get a bit tired of the “Classical Fantasy Setting.”
For one, it wasn’t queer. Like, at all. If there were queer characters, they were freaks and villains.
Secondly, it was starting to feel extremely same-y. (Don’t get me started on the witch/whore/mother types of female representation.)
And pre-internet, it was hard to find the other stuff. Germany’s fantasy publishers were either publishing the millionth Tolkien clone (I’d read the original and the first hundred clones, but with diminishing returns) or incomprehensive “literary” fantasy in expensive hardcovers I couldn’t afford.
I began to slowly fall out of love with the genre.
But thankfully, book distribution got better. I was now at uni and the book shops near uni had English books. Some were fantasy. I re-read some favourites in the original language. I encountered some fantasy that wasn’t translated because it was too niche or nobody had shopped the rights yet, or the books were in translation – a process that can take a year or two.
The internet also helped. Soon, people could recommend books across forums, or I met people with a lot better exposure to the English language market. A whole world opened – with some pretty innovative, cool, diverse books coming through that way. I discovered “military fantasy”, which is way too niche for Germany. Loved it. Some books featured cool women and non-villain queer characters, and a world opened. Essentially, some writers in the seventies began to question the conventions of the genre and began to queer it.
Recently, I feel, the large publishers went back to the “safe bet” in fantasy. Few things I’ve read recently are anywhere near as daring and outrageous as stuff published in the seventies and sometimes eighties, but thankfully, now the publishing industry has changed. While Richard Morgan got a lot of hate from the “fantasy mainstream” for depicting a gay main character in The Steel Remains (Gollancz), there are now small publishers who thrive selling books to niche markets. We can now publish queer fiction without being told “lovely book, but it has no market, so we regret to inform you that we have to reject this”.
We can stop catering to the lowest-common denominator fantasy reader – the type who feels threatened by everything but the same old badly-written Tolkien clones. We now can make our own market, write our own books and enjoy them. Maybe, one day, the “mainstream” will follow. But for the first time ever, we don’t have to depend on it, as writers or readers.
About A Taste for Poison
Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.
After barely surviving an assassination attempt, King Adrastes is a changed man—one who mistrusts even his allies and friends. He readies his empire for war against an enigmatic enemy, the Elder of Vededrin, but not everyone approves. While courtiers dare only to whisper dissent, an outrider called Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King.
Kendras—former lover to Adrastes and leader of the Scorpions—is sent with his elite mercenary force to bring Death to justice. But when Kendras learns who’s hiding behind the mask, he must choose between his lover Graukar, newly-appointed general to the king—and King Adrastes himself.
With no man to call master, the Scorpions could flee the danger and intrigue. But Kendras cannot abandon the man he once loved—or the man he’s growing to love—without first uncovering the real threat to the Empire.
About Aleksander Voinov
Aleksandr has been published for twenty years, both in print and ebook. He has ten years’ experience as a writing coach, book doctor, and writing teacher, and until recently worked as an editor in financial services.
After co-authoring the M/M military cult classic Special Forces, Aleksandr embarked on a quest to write gritty, edgy, sometimes literary M/M and gay fiction (much of which is romance/erotica)—the only way he can use his American Literature degree these days.
He’s been published with Heyne/Random House, Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, and others, and is an EPIC Awards winner and a Lambda Awards finalist.
Connect with Aleks:
- Website: aleksandrvoinov.com
- Blog: aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.com
- Goodreads: goodreads.com/Vashtan
Win a full set of the Memory of Scorpions series paperbacks.