Brian Lam is the publisher of Arsenal Pulp Press, based in Vancouver, Canada.
Q (Matt Cheney): What did you think when you first read ManBug?
A (Brian Lam): I immediately liked it -- I've always liked George's work, though, beginning with his contributions to some of our anthologies such as Contra/Diction: New Queer Men's Fiction. There is a sense of inquiry about his work that is gentle yet persistent.... George always wishes to challenge himself as a writer, and I really respect that.
Q: What was the editing process for the book?
A: It was a very amiable process -- George was willing and able to work on the book editorially, to hone the characters and make the narrative as compelling as possible. From an editor's point of view, it was excellent because the original material was so good.
Q: Did marketing considerations come into play at all? Was there a particular sort of audience you thought would be receptive to the book, or one that you wanted to reach for?
A: I think positioning a novel as "gay" has both advantages and shortcomings; obviously it is a core audience and we need to identify the novel as such to that audience, but at the same time we don't want to ghettoize it, because the book's themes are universal. There is a double-standard about so-called "gay" literature that believes such works only resonate for gay readers, but that is absolutely not the case. The best "gay" novels are ones which touch on issues that have meaning for everyone. The Hours is a good example of that, which made more people talk about it, since its themes are universal, but could be construed as lesbian, and was written by a gay man.
Q: Is gay fiction a real category or a desirable category or a passe category or...
A: There will always be a need for "gay fiction" as a category because gay men and lesbians often first look to literature in order to better understand themselves and to give meaning to their lives. It isn't merely a marketing ploy. But again, there is a risk of ghettoizing, which doesn't happen with other books about minority communities. Would anyone suggest that Alice Walker only appeals to black readers? Of course not.
Q: Are there challenges to publishing in both Canada and the U.S.?
A: The main challenge as a Canadian publisher is the need to find an audience outside of Canada, since the country is so small--its population is less than California's. We wouldn't be able to publish the kind of literary books we do without having access to the US market.
Q: Are there similarities and/or differences in audiences between the two countries?
A: I don't think there are any measurable differences in audiences, but as Canadians we do look for books that speak to ourselves, being inundated as we are by American cultural products.