Sunday, December 5, 2010

EVENT BACKLIGHT: Steven Saylor ('EMPIRE: A Novel of Imperial Rome')

The New York Times bestselling author and "modern master of historical fiction" (USA Today) Steven Saylor introduces his highly-anticipated new novel EMPIRE and focuses on the heavy homosexual undertones only at A Different Light.

In the words of Steven himself, "I'd like to think EMPIRE is a Big Gay Book. The sex lives of the emperors is so wildly varied, the historian Suetonius felt obliged to point out that the oddball Claudius 'had no interest in either boys or men.' What a weirdo!

The widespread nature of homosexuality in the Roman Empire has been hinted at in previous fiction, but I think EMPIRE breaks new ground. The story of Sporus, the eunuch-wife of Nero, has never been told in a novel before. The boy was a ringer for Nero's dead wife, and Nero fell for him at first sight; eventually Sporus was castrated and led the rest of his life as a woman, making him one of history's first known transsexuals.

After two hereditary dynasties that ended in disaster, the Romans turned to emperors who produced no offspring—and obtained good government and stability at last. You might even say that EMPIRE is the story of 'how the gays saved civilization,' since it's the unapologetic boy-lovers Trajan (a military genius) and Hadrian (an artistic genius) who finally bring sanity to the Roman Empire.

Less well known is the ironic twist on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' found in Trajan's policy toward that despised minority, the Christians. Yes, a gay emperor decided it was best to tolerate the troublesome, gods-hating Christians, and even allowed them to serve in the military, as long as they weren't too flagrant with their perversity. (I couldn't make up this sort of thing.)"

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