THE KAOS THEORY talks exclusively to Noah's Arc writer John R. Gordon about his new novel, Faggamuffin.

So what's Faggamuffin all about then?

It’s the story of Cutty, a gay Jamaican who flees the country after a violent homophobic attack. He comes to the UK and stays with an acquaintance, Buju, a petty drug-dealer on the rough West London White City estate, and his resentful girlfriend Cynthia, who quickly gets sick of this ‘wasteman’ crashing on her couch. Cutty starts to fall for Buju, and starts to believe his feelings might be reciprocated – and they are, in the course of a house-burglary. Cutty and Buju start a deeply down-low relationship, but it’s when Cynthia catches them having sex that Cutty’s troubles really begin… So it’s a pacey, action-packed tale, but on another level it’s about the down low, and the particular risk of it: that it can cripple the spirit and make love impossible. Cutty and Buju have to fight to make a life they can live, and in that sense it’s about finding the heroic in the midst of the tragic.

Faggamuffin gets pretty steamy. Were you ever worried readers wouldn't be able to read it on, say, the Tube?

I did think about how graphic I wanted the book to be, as I know straight folks can get a bit upset reading gay sex – and my mum loyally reads all my books too. But I didn’t want to self-censor, and I think it goes to character: what sort of sex do these repressed and self-consciously intensely masculine guys have? It’s not more graphic than, say, Alan Hollinghurst. I hope people do find it sexy.

You're not a native Jamaican - was it hard to get Cutty's dialogue right?

It’s intentionally ‘patois lite’ anyway, as I wanted non-Jamaicans to follow it easily. I hope I’ve caught some of the rhythms and phrasings: black British chums of Jamaican descent who read it seemed to feel I had, and helped me with spots where I’d gone wayward here and there. I had Damian Marley playing a lot of the time I was writing the book, and have some Blue Mountain theatre tapes that helped me find the register and structures. But I’ve loved patois ever since seeing The Harder They Come when I was a student, and I was listening to a lot of reggae back then.

Faggamuffinwas adapted for the stage, wasn't it? I caught the performance - (black gay singer) David McAlmont was in the audience! Tell us about that.

Yes, by me for [the] Louder Than Words theatre event. Nathan Clough, who played Cutty, and is himself black British of Jamaican descent, actually said the language was somewhat of his father’s generation, and that modern patois is much more infused with African-American slang. I’d registered that from listening to music, but tended to play that aspect down for fear of creating the impression that I was writing an inaccurate mish-mash of Jamaican & black American registers.

I stupidly thought that as I had the plot and characters, turning the book (which is full of events) into a play would be quick and easy. It was in fact painfully slow and total torture, and on the day of the performance, I cut five pages near the end – and suddenly the structure snapped together, and it was really very successful. I had a great cast, which helps. It was a diverse audience, and it was interesting what moments sparked a very different response across racial lines. For instance in the play there’s a moment where Cutty punches Cynthia in the face, knocking her down. She at once jumps back up and carries on dishing him. This would make black people (mostly) laugh; whereas white people seemed more just shocked. Not because black people don’t care about violence: they just instantly liked Cynthia’s moxy & refusal to be a victim.

I ended the play with a ritual declaration of the power of love, and during rehearsals I wasn’t sure it would work, but as the actors were declaiming someone in the audience called out, ‘Amen!’

It was lovely that McAlmont came to see it, and took the trouble afterwards to say he’d enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of his music, in all its varied manifestations, from indie-rock to jazz.

With the election of the seemingly pro-gay equality Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica's in the (gay) news at the moment, isn't it?

Yes, and how wonderfully encouraging it is: she made these very clear statements, and she won by a landslide! What’s great is that progressive-minded straight black folks here, in the Caribbean and in Africa, are starting to assert themselves; to say, simply, that reactionary religious zealots or malignant dictators like Mugabe don’t speak for them. It was great to hear, for instance, Wole Soyinka speaking up on behalf of tolerance when the situation in Nigeria is so bad right now, and when he so easily could have said nothing – or Desmond Tutu, who again could have ducked the issue, but has spoken out courageously and repeatedly in favour of equality.

It made me worry that I might be making Jamaica look bad in Faggamuffin, but I was representing things that were – and are, for all the signs are encouraging for the future - really happening there today; and of course the emergence of a strong liberal voice doesn’t alter the broad way gay and lesbian people are perceived. As someone astutely said, victory would be a hate crimes bill that included LGBTIQ people. As far as my book goes, I’m writing as best I can towards a black audience, so there’s no intention to, as it were, offer up Caribbean dirty laundry to a bien-pensant white middle-class audience for them to scold Jamaicans over. In any case, my intention is to have readers relate to people – a refugee; a petty criminal – they might normally not think about, or not think of as having complex inner lives. Or, if they are those people, to see their lives for once placed centre-stage in a tale, and taken seriously.

Black gay representation has always been all about America. Why do you think there's so few black gay books and films from the UK and Europe?

One thing is sheer numbers. A tiny percentage of any group become writers (or film-makers). There are, I think, about 30,000,000 African-Americans; by contrast there are about a million and a half black people in Britain. Black Americans developed a substantial middle-class out of segregation; black people in Britain are mostly working-class, and writing fiction is generally fairly much a formally-educated activity – though of course there are always exceptions. There was a whole black film industry in America in segregation times too. And then, thinking of here, the world of publishing has its establishmentarian gate-keepers who are unwelcoming to newcomers, and not interested in voices who want to speak to audiences in their own communities. Interestingly in the late 80s and early to mid 90s black gay playwrights emerged in some numbers – perhaps in part because you can scrub some money together and put on a play with relatively little permission from the establishment. Paul Boakye, for instance, and Oscar Watson, whose play Battyman Blues starred a pre-Wire Idris Elba in a gay part.

Mind you, black gay American writing seems to have settled into somewhat of a middle-brow rut, very much in the mould of E. Lynn Harris or the (straight) women’s writer Eric Jerome Dickey, somewhat conservative and written with half an eye on a female readership. Nothing wrong with that (the largest numerical audience for Noah’s Arc was straight black women) but there does seem to me a lack of more serious and demanding work. Though African-Americans have the same challenge as the rest of us over getting work published and out there.

Faggamuffin is your first novel since 1998's Warriors & Outlaws - where have you been?

My publisher GMP went under just after that, followed by a whole lot of other small presses, so I lost that outlet, though I kept on writing novels. I had a grim moment turning 40 when all my options seemed to have shrivelled up. But just after that – literally within six months - Noah’s Arc came along. I edited on the first series, wrote episodes on the second, and co-wrote the feature-film, and in between that I wrote the Bobby Blake autobiography, so I was keeping busy. I wrote a novel, Colour Scheme, which we’re going to bring out next year with Team Angelica, and then Faggamuffin, which we decided to bring out first as it’s timely and provocative and should help the imprint make an impact.

You were pretty instrumental in the writing of Noah's Arc. Why do you think it ended so abruptly? Is there any hope for the future?

Money was a big thing. Logo (the cable channel) was always only modestly funded (by Viacom), and original drama is always the most expensive sort of thing to make. Noah’s Arc was a ground-breaking show that helped put the network on the map and give it credibility, but they wanted to make other narrative shows too, understandably, including lesbian shows, and they could only afford one show at a time. Also, due to if nothing else that passive racism that takes no interest in those different from itself, they didn’t manage to sell the show abroad (unlike their other big success, RuPaul’s Drag Race). Having said that it always sold ‘surprisingly’ well on dvd in the States, hence we got to make more episodes. If you’re wondering how the good sales could always be a surprise you’re right, it didn’t make much sense.

Series two looked more expensive but was cheaper because it was filmed in Canada, not LA, (bar I think Patrik was allowed two days to shoot exteriors in LA). We ended it on a huge cliffhanger (the car-crash) to try and make the network give us a third series, but behind the scenes money was getting tighter. So a third series was off the table. But once again good dvd sales perked up Logo’s interest, and they came to Patrik with the idea that as they could only afford half a season’s worth of episodes, why not make a 90-minute feature-film instead? Patrik started off in features (debuting with Punks, starring Rockmund Dunbar and Seth Gilliam [Oz, The Wire], which he wrote, directed and co-produced), and liked the idea.

A storyline was agreed on (by Patrik, me and Q. Alan Brocka). Patrik took a long time to deliver a script, and was then told that what was needed was a much cheaper, single-location story. He couldn’t face going back to the drawing-board and at the eleventh hour I was asked to come up with a totally new script, which I did, writing very fast. That got the production back on track, and with Patrik cutting, trimming and interpolating various scenes, the film was shot about six weeks later. It turned out well, and he promoted it with great adroitness, and it got noticed, and both cinema and dvd sales were once again ‘surprisingly’ good. It won a GLAAD award and the script got a NAACP Image Award nomination, of which I’m extremely proud.

Logo then floated the idea of a spin-off show, one that would see some of the core characters in a heterosexual world, which would fit in with their rebranding themselves as not a gay but a ‘gay sensibility’ network. This had the potential for a nice fish-out-of-water comedy-drama project, but unfortunately during the lengthy development process the entire Western banking system collapsed, and that was the end of that.

Since then Patrik’s been promoting various projects, (including singing in the band Fol Chen), and has gone back to his indie roots with a new feature-film, The Skinny, which he’s completing at the moment, and in which Darryl ‘Noah’ Stephens has a cameo, but that’s not a project in which I’ve had any involvement.

Some of your work has been taught in American universities, hasn't it? Tell us about that.

Yes, I’ve been taught in courses in race and sexuality in literature at the University of Santa Barbara, California, and Bodean College in Massachussetts. My work is teachable. Skin Deep stands out because it’s one of the few modern gay novels really exploring interracial relationships; and Warriors & Outlaws because it’s unusually concerned with the intersection of sexual and racial and revolutionary politics. I’ve been sent some of the students’ essays, and they’re quite fascinating, and sometimes suggest a brilliance in me I wish I could take credit for! For instance, on the first page of Warriors & Outlaws there’s a brief description of a child’s bedroom wallpaper – pink mice and blue elephants – which ‘foreshadows the debate on gender roles’ between the two protagonists (one macho, the other a flame queen). I was delighted with my own subtlety...

Tell us about your literary influences?

The writer who first made me see writing as a moral vocation, and whose work spoke to me so intensely it was almost physically painful, was James Baldwin. I loved his fieriness, his political engagement, and his fusion of the social and analytical with a near-mystical belief in the redeeming power of love. His writing just had this burning power, and I had a sense of nearness to subtle, intangible yet visceral things reading it: yes, writing could do this. The other writer who moved me in his intensity of language and vision was William Faulkner, the tragedian of whiteness, and I retain a love for the Southern Gothic. I’m also very influenced by the social realism of Richard Wright and the earlier novels of Chester Himes (who as a person I completely love): they had that fusion of harsh social commentary with the grip of a thriller that I very much wanted to get in Faggamuffin – though in Faggamuffin I also needed a Baldwinian uplift and affirmation of humanity. Himes’ later Harlem thrillers are brilliant too.

In poetry, Essex Hemphill above all.

I also feel a peculiar kindredness with Amiri Baraka and William Burroughs, though not really stylistically: they both speak to me somehow as people, as writers, as does Raymond Chandler. Before I found my subject or began to really understand myself and my particular vocation I found a great youthful pleasure and stimulation in the horror fantasy of H.P. Lovecraft and Mervyn Peake, both of whom made me want to put down words to create some sort of effect, and in Tolkien, who I still love for the sweep and strength of his story-telling.

How do you feel about e-books?

I think they’re the future, or a big part of it, but I can’t get past the feeling that they don’t really count. I don’t think I’d feel I’d published a book if it never had any physical existence and was just a file on the internet like any other file of words. Also Amazon’s deal for Kindle isn’t very good. But they’re certainly here as a substantial adjunct to the physical book, and already academic journals, for instance, have become largely on-line affairs. Perhaps we’ll end up with a similar scene to what we have now for vinyl records: afficianados will buy physical books while most of us just get the download.

What are you working on now?

A novel called Souljah, about a gay African former child soldier who is persecuted by local youths who just see him as an effeminate victim. He bashes back and begins a complex relationship with one of the youths. It’s also a strong look at religion and the damage faith can do, and the search for meaning and transitions on the road to manhood in our alienated society.

And I’m working on a new festival of new plays, to be given staged readings in (currently I think it’s) March and June at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East. We dramaturge and develop them with the writers.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading Faggamuffin?

That they’ve had an exciting read, and that at the end of it the reader realises he or she has thought about things more deeply than they realised they were doing at the time; that they entered into a world most likely unfamiliar to them and saw the humanity of the people living there; or, if they are closer to that world, that they saw something hopeful there that they could use. That embracing our diversity makes us free.

John R. Gordon was speaking exclusively with THE KAOS THEORY. Faggamuffin is available now, from Amazon and all good book stores.

True rebels after all, are as rare as true lovers,and in both cases, to mistake a fever for passion can destroy one's life

men, in pictures


a news compendium
with a gay bias
WEEKLY | Issue 111 | January 2012 | FREE | be.told.


< Terrell Owens strips for the February 2012 GQ. But ESPN asks, What did Terrell Owens not spend his millions on?


> This is 14-year-old Phillip Parker. He's the latest gay teen to take his own life after a campaign of homophobic bullying at his school. And a pastor said he should "pray the devil out him, so he could be straight".

||||| Robert Champion death: Hazing or hate crime?

||||| Are the Boy Scouts of America turning over a new, more accepting leaf?

< This is Cody Renegar and Thomas Staed, a couple from Arkansas. Their local newspaper has refused to print an announcement about their commitment ceremony.

||||| Ben Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, calls for GBLT and civil rights groups to work together.

||||| Children raised by gay parents more likely to live in poverty, study finds.

||||| Starbucks pledges support for gay marriage.

||||| A 16-year-old boy claims he took part in the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl because of gay bullying.

> That decapitated head found by the Hollywood sign belonged to a gay man, named as Hervey Medellin.

||||| The American Family Association has got the hump about Indiana's GBLT license plate.

||||| The law and economics of employment discrimination.

||||| US troops in Afghanistan record It Gets Better message.

||||| Fox Nation commenters spew yet another deluge of racism at Sheila Jackson Lee.

< The shipping industry's bad year continues...


> John Sentamu, the Church of England's second most senior cleric, says marriage must be between a man and a woman.

||||| Count gay suicides, Stonewall urges British Office of National Statistics.

< Peter Tatchell at 60: The first 60 years. "Tatchell's first campaign, his kiss-in success, outing the bishops, election failure and the Mugabe moment."

||||| Peter Tatchell at 60: The next 30 years. "Veteran gay activist Peter Tatchell on Africa, switching aid to punish bigots, the challenges facing LGBT rights and the power of social media."

||||| Peter Tatchell at 60: The personal cost. "Tatchell talks about the 300 attacks he has endured, the people he’s helped, why he doesn’t have a relationship and his six-pack at 60."

||||| London residents group fear Pride festival "undesirables".

||||| Homophobic teacher struck off.

< Calls to save London East End pub amateur gay strip night.

||||| Don't expect the Tories to regret this bloody battle over benefits. "Will they be embarrassed by the galloping poverty they're creating? No."

||||| "Witch torture" trial: Attack on 15-year-old Kristy Bamu was "feral".


||||| RUSSIA: Nationalist jogging event mistaken for gay Pride rally‎.

||||| GERMANY: Man dismembered, cooked after sex games.

> GERMANY: This is what the Memorial to all victims, planned for Munich, could look like. "The structure would commemorate all unnamed victims of war or violence in the city, specifically those caught up in conflict they didn’t choose to participate in."

||||| Costa Concordia disaster: Hopes fading for Minnesota couple Gerald and Barbara Heil.

< Costa Concordia disaster: Evacuating a cruise ship.

||||| Costa Concordia disaster: Rich Russians bribed their way onto lifeboats by stuffing wads of cash into crew members pockets.

||||| Costa Concordia disaster: Was the Costa Concordia's captain a coward?

||||| Costa Concordia disaster: Titanic, Costa Concordia, and the collapse of Western civilisation.

||||| Costa Concordia disaster: Stricken ship becomes a tourist attraction.

||||| Costa Concordia disaster: Ship had structural problems, Captain Schettino claims.

||||| Costa Concordia disaster: American Express wants you to "Immerse yourself".


< JAMAICA: GBLT activist Maurice Tomlinson forced to flee Jamaica after death threats; to receive first David Kato LGBTI award in London.

||||| BRAZIL: Jean Wyllys, Brazil's first openly gay MP, takes fight to the religious right. "Stance against homophobia has made former Big Brother contestant a hate figure for religious zealots, but he has vowed to keep battling."

> BRAZIL: São Paulo City Metro launches poster campaign against homophobia.

||||| ECUADOR: "Gay cure" clinics investigated, shut down by government.

||||| COSTA RICA: Abelardo Araya, one Latin America's leading GBLT-equality advocates, is dead. He was 42.


< UGANDA: Activists in Kampala have commemorated the first anniversary of the murder of David Kato. Call Me Kuchu, a documentary about Kato, will premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February.

||||| UGANDA: Former South African president Thabo Mbeki denounces Uganda's anti-gay bill.

||||| SOUTH AFRICA: Did Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini call gays "rotten", or was it lost in translation?

> SENEGAL: Anti-government protestors in Dakar, 27th January 2012.

||||| TUNISIA: Interior Minister Ali Larayedh in gay sex prison video scandal.


||||| What's it like to be gay in Tajikistan?


< AUSTRALIA: Embarassing scenes as Prime Minister Karen Gillard flees Aboriginal protesters demonstrating for indigenous rights. Gillard was celebrating Australia Day; Aborigines prefer to call it Invasion Day.

||||| JAPAN: Big Tokyo earthquake likely within the next few years.

> PHILIPPINES: Man pours acid on cheating boyfriend, tries jumping from high rise.

||||| VIETNAM: Gay movie opening minds as well as eyes in Vietnam? "Lost In Paradise hopes to end homophobia in conservative Vietnam. But is gay equality any closer?"


||||| The invention of the heterosexual. "The history of straightness is much shorter than you'd think."

||||| Gaydar and facial symmetry: Is there a link between sexual orientation and faces?

||||| How about left-handedness and homosexuality?

||||| Latin America facing gay HIV crisis.

||||| Staying positive with sport. "How HIV positive people can improve their physical and mental health through exercise."

< New bus shelter installations target young, black gay men in New York City's Harlem and Bronx.

||||| Erectile function can be restored with stem cells.

||||| Introducing new web series ADTV RAW. In episode one, Metrell talks about being raped by his father...


< Blue Marble 2012, a stunning high definition image of our planet, taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite, Suomi NPP. There's a huge 8000px shot on the NASA Flickr page.

||||| NASA have another striking image for us: 130 years of global warming, mapped.

||||| The world's biggest cities: How do you measure them?

White blackbird.

< Abandoned pygmy elephant rescued in Malaysia.

||||| A dog park — from a dog's point-of-view. Brilliant.


||||| Storage sites unnerved by Megaupload action cease filesharing.

Anti-gay Twitter hashtag hijacked by "Gaystapo".

||||| Facebook initiates mandatory Timeline roll out.

||||| Troubled Yahoo's revenue continues to slide.

||||| Vimeo unveils website redesign.


||||| Another gay bookstore closes its doors for good - this time, Atlanta's Outwrite. Tragic.

||||| Joe Orton: The life and crimes of a great playwright. "Fifty years ago, Joe Orton and his partner were jailed for defacing library books. Now the dust jackets and the trial are being re-examined."

||||| Armistead Maupin confirms ninth Tales of the City book. The Days of Anna Madrigal will be published in 2013.

< Review: The Fairoaks Project: Polaroids from a San Francisco Bathhouse, by Frank Melleno. "Provocative, empowering and beautiful as these images are, they evince something of perhaps deeper importance: The Fairoaks Project helps us to remember."

> Review: Folsom Street Blues: A Memoir of 1970's SoMa and Leatherfolk in Gay San Francisco, by Jim Stewart. "Despite the compelling content, [Stewart] lacks detail that allow readers to truly experience the world he wants to show us. Ultimately, what Folsom Street Blues lacks in polished narrative, it makes up for in heart."

||||| Essential Tumblrs: All Things James Baldwin.

Bruce Davidson's photos of teen gang the Jokers in 1950s Brooklyn.


> Mozart's opera Don Giovanni will go gay when it premiers at London nightclub Heaven this April.

||||| "Obscene, pornographic, gay, anti-national and anti-Hungarian." Attacking the theatrical bloc in Europe.

< Review: Men in Motion, Sadler's Wells, London. "Runaway Sergei Polunin bounds all too briefly into boys-only pop-up."


> Yikes! Here's a Hungarian poster for sex addict flick Shame. The poster was, not surprisingly, banned.

||||| If Oscar nominated movie posters told the truth. Brilliant! Here's a few of my favourites...

Watch clips from Love Free or Die, a new documentary about gay Bishop Gene Robinson, which premieres at Sundance this week.

||||| Review: The Love Patient. "The laughs are more sporadic than consistent, plus the pacing is ropey on occasion. That said, the film is big on entertainment, engaging turns and is crazily kooky enough to hold the attention for an hour and a half. An impressive feature debut."

||||| You Are Not Alone - a documentary on depression in black gay men - needs help. Kick start it here.


< Plastic boy-man Lucien Laviscount gets naked for GayTimes magazine.

||||| The DL Chronicles tries again for funding, after failing to raise enough on KickStarter.

||||| Langford on Soaps: Hip-hop lovers on the down low on The LA Complex. Anthony D. Langford is back with his round-up of gay storylines in soaps from across the globe! Watch Tariq and Kal's sizzling story line from The LA Complex:

> There's an interview with Ben Watson - who plays Tariq - here.

||||| Gay actors say coming out affects roles they get. "Equity survey finds only 57% of gay actors feel they can be open about their sexuality to their agents."

< Blanche would be proud of ya, Rose. Betty White scores some Dan Cortese in Hot In Cleveland.

> Mario Lopez strips off on Ellen...

...And Dlisted wants you to caption this.

||||| Joan Rivers defends use of the word "tranny" and Tracy Morgan's anti-gay jokes.

||||| Robert Hegyes, the actor best known for his role as Sweathog Epstein on Welcome Back, Kotter, is dead. He was 60.

< Nick Santino, the actor best known for his roles on American soap operas All My Children and Guiding Light, is dead. He was 47. Santino committed suicide on his birthday, after being forced to euthanise his pet dog.


> UK boyband The Wanted target the gays of New York.

||||| Jill Scott celebrates as Seal breaks free from white whore Heidi Klum's icy embrace. (Let's hope he makes some decent music once again, 'cos the stuff he's come out with since being married has been an epic fail.)

||||| Drake wants to play Obama the movies.

||||| Gay X Factor runner-up Marcus Collins' debut single, and for your enjoyment: Ken Dahl's If This Pussy Could Talk.


< OMG! DeAngelo Jackson and Logan Heart. Together. On ThugBoy. Sigh.

||||| Sean Cody files first copyright infringement lawsuit for $US18 million.

||||| Ask Anthony! Romero, that is. One of porn's nice guys answers your questions.

> Here's a photo of porn God Trey Turner (far right) with some other overly-inked porn stars. Please Trey, no more ink.

||||| Mason Wyler and bareback inspiration.


||||| Footballer Michael Ball fined for calling Coronation Street actor Anthony Cotton a "fucking queer" on Twitter (where else?) But why wasn't he sacked like Lee Steele?

< The silence over gay footballers. "There are currently around 5,000 professional footballers in Britain, but none are openly gay. Amal Fashanu, niece of Justin Fashanu, asks why no gay player has followed in her uncle's boots in nearly 25 years."

||||| There's an interview with Amal here.

||||| Football in the dark ages on gay players, Britain's leading publicist Max Clifford says.

||||| Matthew Mitcham: Gay Olympic golden boy. "Why gay diver Matthew Mitcham is one of Australia’s best gold medal hopes in the Olympics and an icon for gay sportspeople."

||||| Martina Navratilova wonders if gay hate peddler Margaret Court has "feelings for women".

||||| Did Tennis Australia censor shots of Navratilova wearing the rainbow flag at the tournament?


> Stone Angels wallpaper.

||||| Texting while walking: an etiquette guide, and why I will always beat you:

Issue 111: 22-28 January 2012
Cover art: Benjamin Charles Watson in "The LA Complex".

Read the last edition.

Remember what was going on this time a year ago? No? How about a reminder? Read Issue 85.

Visit us on Facebook.

ka-os|theory is not responsible for the content of external websites.

© 2012
◄Design by Pocket