Living in the Eighties by Cecilia Tan
It was the time of Just Say No. MTV still played music videos. HIV and AIDS were making headlines. Prozac was brand new. Cell phones weren’t in anyone’s pocket yet.
To a lot of us, the 1980s doesn’t sound long enough ago to be “historical” fiction, but if what you’re writing is gay or lesbian romance, it’s very definitely a different era from the present, and definitely a different world.
And an exciting world. In the 1980s two main forces were shaping the lives of queer folks in America: the continuing civil rights movements spawned in the 1960s and the AIDS crisis. While many people remained in the closet for fear of persecution, losing their jobs, being ostracized, and subjected to physical violence, more and more celebrities were either coming out voluntarily or being forcibly “outed” by activists who believed raising the visibility of gay people was the only way to gain acceptance in the mainstream and save our youth from suicide.
It’s in this atmosphere that I have set the tale of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, the story of a young, gay guitarist on a search for fame and love. When the story begins, Daron is deeply in the closet and very weighed down by internalized homophobia. He thinks there’s something wrong with him, because that’s what his family and society have taught him all along: being gay is wrong. Despite that, he tries to make it. He believes in his musical talent, if nothing else.
It’s tricky, writing Daron’s story, because not only do I have to get the gay culture references right, I have to get the musical references right. At the time of the novel, Freddy Mercury (lead singer of Queen who died of AIDS) was still alive. So was Kurt Cobain, but Nirvana didn’t exist yet. “Alternative” music was only played on a few scattered radio stations around the country and on college radio. Satellite radio and MP3s didn’t exist yet–heck, the compact disc was still a new thing!
Daron copes with fear of AIDS at one point in the book. He goes to get tested and is confronted with a medical disclosure form. I took that detail from my own experience getting tested in that era. There was a time when you could lose your health insurance for testing positive for HIV. Daron also copes with a music industry that is constantly trying to fit him and his band into a box that doesn’t fit and drive them in a more commercial direction. But fortunately for music fans (and readers) Daron can’t “sell out” on the music any more than he can make himself straight.
If you’re intrigued to read this “historical” work, I’ve been serializing it free on the web. You can read it by starting from Chapter One, here:
If you prefer ebooks or a printed book, I’m running a Kickstarter campaign now through May 21st to raise the money to print a paperback edition. If just 130 people pre-order the book, it’ll be fully funded, so please do check it out at
You don’t have to like 80’s music to like Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, any more than you need to like wearing corsets to enjoy regency romances, but if you do, here’s a little quiz for you.
Match each 80s guitarist with his lead singer:
Eddie Van Halen
Little Steven Van Zandt
David Lee Roth
Jon Bon Jovi
No Googling! Comment with the correct answers and I’ll choose one winner from among the correct answers to win a set of all three DGC ebooks!
Cecilia Tan is “simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature,” according to Susie Bright. In 1992 Tan founded Circlet Press, a category-busting independent press that mixes science fiction/fantasy with erotica, and which added an erotic romance line, Clasp Editions, in 2011. Tan is the author of many books, including the romances Mind Games, The Hot Streak, and the Magic University series. Her short stories have appeared in Ms. Magazine, Nerve, Best American Erotica, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and tons of other places. She was inducted into the Saints & Sinners Hall of Fame for GLBT writers in 2010 and won the inaugural Rose & Bay Awards for crowdfunded fiction in 2010 for Daron’s Guitar Chronicles. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats.