Tuesday 23 May 2023

(Not Quite) 80 Gays Around the World: 3) Atlantis, Bigfoot and Awards

Previously on "80 Gays": A retelling of the myth of 3) Ganymede was written by 4) Felice Picano (b.1944), member of the Violet Quill Club with 5) Edmund White (b.1940), 6) Christopher Cox (1949-1990), 7) George Whitmore (1945-1989), 8) Andrew Holleran (b.1944), 9) Robert Ferro (1941-1988), and 10) Michael Grumley (1942-1988).

9) Robert Ferro and 10) Michael Grumley met in 1967 when they were both studying creative writing at the University of Iowa. Michael Grumley was an Iowa native though had studied at several universities before landing back. Although a member of the Violet Quill, which was primarily concerned with writing gay fiction, Michael had a secondary interest outside the lgbt+ community.

The 1960s and 1970s saw an explosion of interest in esoteric topics such as ancient astronauts, mystic faiths, and the paranormal. While not having any extreme beliefs himself, Michael became a notable contributor in two of the more popular subjects – Atlantis and Bigfoot.

Michael Grumley only collaborated with his partner Robert Ferro on one work, “Atlantis: The Autobiography of a Search”, published in 1970. Officially marketed as non-fiction there are some critics who regard the book as being semi-fact.

What is contained in “Atlantis: The Autobiography of a Search” is the odyssey taken by the Ferro-Grumleys (as the couple were called from their Iowa university days) from Italy to the Bahamas, following a trail of clues and prophecies that led them to the Bimini Road, an underwater ridge of natural rock which has been clamed as the road to Atlantis. There may be elements of literary license and elaboration on the Ferro-Grumley’s part, but their book has become part of the Atlantis mythos itself.

Robert Ferro didn’t collaborate on Grumley’s 1975 book “The Are Giants in the Earth” about Bigfoot, the American forest-dwelling Yeti. Several years ago I included Michael Grumley in my piece “Queer Cryptids”. “There Are Giants in the Earth” expands Grumley’s take on Atlantis to include other ideas such as a hollow earth and lost races of humanity.I shall be returning to these ideas in another episode of “80 Gays” later this year. Although I am highly sceptical of such ideas I am fascinated by them and how they develop, or can develop, if you let your imagination run free. For instance, by combining some ideas in “There are Giants in the Earth” with others from a book entitled “Santa Claus: the Last of the Wild Men” by Phyllis Siefker, I can make a claim that Santa Claus is not based on St. Nicholas but is actually based on a Scandinavian Bigfoot called a Stallo.

Despite being such an enigmatic and elusive creature, Bigfoot ranks as one of the most internationally well-known cryptids. It’s no wonder books about him become best-sellers. When it comes to fiction cryptids provide ready-made fantasy creatures (the Harry Potter books rely primarily on established cryptids). One recent novel about Bigfoot gave a new spin on the creature. The novel is called “Pamela Wants To Cuddle”, and is written by 11) Samantha Leigh Allen.

Spoiler alert: The following paragraphs contain plot details about “Pamela Wants To Cuddle”. If you are currently reading it, or intend to, I advise you to skip to the last paragraph below so that your enjoyment of the novel won’t be spoilt.

Samantha has worked primarily as a transgender journalist, writing for such publications as The Daily Beast, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Out, and CNN, amongst others. She has a PhD in Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and wrote “Real Queer America: LGBT Stories From Red States” in 2019.

Just before that Samantha thought about writing a novel. From a germ of an idea grew a novel that has been described as “bizarre” and “bonkers”. In effect, what she came up with was a slasher-movie/dating-show combination.

“Patricia Wants To Cuddle” is set in Washington state, USA, where stories of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, seem to be common. The Patricia of the novel’s title is a female Bigfoot. Like all creatures who live in the wild, Patricia is very protective of her territory, so when a television cast and crew arrive to film a dating show Patricia “despatches” these intruders, one by one, in her own inimitable style. It’s all very tongue in cheek and satirical, like “Slumber Party Massacre”, the slasher novel by Rita Mae Brown (number 57 in that first “80 Gays” series). But “Patricia Wants To Cuddle” has one last twist, which I’m not going to reveal.

Let’s get back to Michael Grumley and Robert Ferro. After the deaths of both partners from AIDS in 1988 their estates were used to set up the Ferro-Grumley Foundation. In 1990 the foundation created the Ferro-Grumley Award, an annual prize given to the best lgbt+ fiction of the year. Three fellow Violet Quill members have won this award – 4) Felice Picano in 1996,8) Andrew Holleran in 1997, and 5) Edmund White in 2001. The winning author received $1,000 and a two-week residency at the Art Workshop International in Assisi, Italy, which was founded by 12) Bea Kreloff (1925-2016) and 13) Edith Isaac-Rose (1929-2018).

Next time on “80 Gays”: We turn our attention to art in Italy.

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