Violet Quill

These days, it is hard to turn around without falling over the latest queer novel, story collection, even poetry. Hares and Hyenas has a whole wall full and even mainstream bookshops usually manage to stock the latest offerings.

It wasn’t always like this. Until the 1980s, homosexual fiction (leaving aside your best friend’s latest sexploits!) was a rare event, and it was possible to read pretty much everything as it rolled off the presses.

What changed all this was the Violet Quill, a gathering of gay male writers in New York. Although this group met only a few times over 1980 and 1981, their work launched gay writing.

The works of such soon-to-be-famous writers as Edmund White, Andrew Holleran and Robert Ferro were something quite new. Heavily autobiographical, with gay experience at the centre of the narrative, these writers wrote for gay audiences. No apologetics, no censoring the sleazier bits of gay life, no tedious explanations of drag, the beats, or bitchiness required.

Published initially in gay journals, these stories appealed immensely and immediately to the burgeoning gay subculture which started to read and to buy them. And suddenly publishers were interested. A whole series of volumes – Men on Men – appeared, each more popular than the last.

A host of other groups in the community followed suit – stories by and about lesbians, young people, racial minorities appeared, giving us all an insight into the rich and remarkable community that we have constructed – and which these writers have helped shape.

Brought to you by the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Posted in History Bites.