Talkin’ ‘Bout Bears

J. Scott Coatsworth and Edmond Manning both contributed to Dreamspinner’s anthology, Taste of Honey, due for release in August. They chatted each other up about their own roles in the bear community and why their bear-related story somehow reflected a bit of their own unique personalities.

Edmond:  First question…why bears? With all the possible story topics in the world, what made you decide to write a short story about bears?

J. Scott:  Honestly, initially it was because I wanted to write something for each of Dreamspinner’s open anthologies. But then as I thought about it, I realized I tended to write beautiful people – and by that, I mean by society’s standards – the tall-dark-and-handsomes with piercing blue or green eyes. And I thought it would be fun to try my hand at someone a little more real. In fact, the story takes that tact, literally turning a gym bunny into a bear.

Edmond:  Oooo – I like the idea of a gym bunny who turns into a bear!

J.Scott:  LOL… me too. It was fun to write – what happens inside when the outsides change. How about you?

Edmond: As a gay man constantly labeled ‘bear,’ I don’t spend time analyzing bear culture: who we are as a people. I’m more interested in a broader slice of humanity. But I got this idea for a story of a twink (or post-twink) who is into bears and thought it would be fun to see the Bear World through his eyes…as I started writing, I began conceiving this as a fairy tale and thought it would be fun to play with the language. That’s what inspired me.

Edmond: Do you have much contact with bears? Are you a bear?

J. Scott: No, Mark (my partner) and I live in a fairly conservative community on the eastern edge of Sacramento – there’s not much of an LGBT community up here in the hills, let alone a bear community. And as for me, I’m more of an otter, though I was pushing bearhood belly-wise a couple years ago. LOL… As a gay man, I have an appreciation for all body types. For me, the story was the opportunity to look at the world through a bear’s eyes.

J.Scott:  Are you active in any bear communities?

Edmond:  No, I’m not. I used to do stuff with the local bear community when I moved to Minneapolis a few decades ago. But I found the bears a little…demanding. If you weren’t a bear, were you an otter? If you weren’t a hairy otter, were you a…wolf? A fox? A variegated chipmunk?  I didn’t like all the labeling and the need to define men as a specific type. Like you said earlier, I’m attracted to all different types of men for different reasons. I didn’t like boxing them into one narrow category. I just wanted to stand around and drink beer. Not all bears find it necessary to box men up like that. But I tend to shy away from some of the more organized activities for that reason.

Edmond:  So how does this story of yours for the anthology reflect your relationship with bears? What’s your unique twist that makes this a “J. Scott Coatsworth” original.

J. Scott:  Good question. I wish (and always have) that I was more connected with “the gay community,” whatever that really is. I read stories when I was younger about guys who lived in a gay ghetto, where all of their friends were gay, where everyone had kind of a shared sexual history. I never did that. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, a place without much of an LGBT community in the early 80′s, and when I came out, I settled down with my husband, Mark, after about 6 months. So for me, in a way, The Bear at the Bar (and other stories like it) are my way of having that connection to the community that I never got to experience in RL. I don’t even drink beer!

J. Scott:  As to my twist, let’s just say it involves being someone you’re not, and then learning that who you are wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

J. Scott:  What about you? Tell me what you can about your story, without giving away the plot.

Edmond:  My bear story is truly a fairy tale. In fact, the story begins, “Once upon a time…” despite the somewhat lyrical narration, the story is set in the very real city of Chicago, Illinois, following the adventures of Tyler the Twink who happens to be attracted to bears. He’s in search of one bear specifically, the Great White Bear. Think…Moby Dick. Heh.

J. Scott:  Oooh… funny! OK, one more question for you – is one of your characters you? I like to think mine is a little me, at least once he gets past being a bear-phobic asshole. LOL…

Edmond:  I don’t think so. One of the characters, Derrick, reminds me of a guy I dated a few years ago. He was a great guy – total slob. He defied the stereotypical gay: neat, orderly, newest, latest gadgets or foods or whatever. If he offered me a beverage, he’d have to do dishes to find a clean glass. Of course, my character Derrick isn’t quite so…messy and I added other character traits. My voice figures so prominently into the narration style that I didn’t add much of myself as a supporting character.

J. Scott:  I like that. I think we do often pick things up for people we know for our characters, or things we’ve seen on TV, read in books, etc.

Edmond:  My last question to you. What’s one thing you wish you could change about the bear community?

J. Scott:  Hmmm… Mostly I just wish all the various LGBT communities and types were more integrated. I understand the desire to group ourselves with like-minded folks, but I learn so much more when I spend time with someone who is unlike me than I do from a carbon copy. That’s one of the themes I cover in the story – understanding folks in the LGBT community who are different from you.

Edmond:  We both covered that exact theme in our stories! How cool. I guess you and I have more in common than enjoyment of hairy men.

J. Scott: Sounds like it – see you at the next convention? :-)


Taste of Honey on amazon.com

Taste of Honey on Dreamspinner’s website

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