Queer Lit Q&A: Michael Ampersant

Joining me today is the writer Michael Ampersant, whose name you’ve probably most recently heard as a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award this year with his erotica novel Green Eyes.

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1. Tell me about a piece of yours that you’re particularly proud of/didn’t get the attention you feel is deserved…
 

None of my pieces are getting the attention they deserve, of course, although my first full-length novel, Green Eyes; an erotic novel (sort-of) was shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award in the category Gay Erotic Fiction

I’m possibly proudest of a short story that I wrote two summers ago for a Cleis anthology themed on (gay) warriors. The project fell through but the piece got published by an Irish Webzine, Bear Review.

Well, warriors. It’s the fictional back-story of the Jet d’Eau of Geneva: my unreliable narrator John Lee, the (anti)-hero of the Green Eyes, has just arrived in the Swiss city with Alex, the love of his life (and title character of said book)—on honeymoon—finally—and they hit upon a certain Richard Zugabe, librarian of Geneva’s city archives, who appears very eager to give our boys the (otherwise top-secret) lowdown on this fountain:

He sits down, a middle-aged gentleman equipped with a Swiss-Swiss watch, watches his watch, studiously, and finally says, briefly lifting his gaze: “Two minutes.” We return his gaze, he says: “One minute.” Alex grabs my wrist, says: “Relax.” The guy keeps his eyes on his watch, then says: “Voilà.” And voila, the lake gulps, spits, and ejects a gushing column of jizz, a thick white jet rising high into the sky and beyond and back into the lake again. “Hundred thirty two gallons of water per second,” he says, “reaching 140 meters into the sky. The Fountain of Geneva. The planet’s most spectacular ejaculation. Since 2000 years.”

It turns out that the fountain was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian—the gay ruler of Antinous fame—“to commemorate the most spectacular event of his love-live.” That’s one reason I like this story: it’s classical in its design. The reader is asked to expect the impossible, and he/she shall not be disappointed.

Namely: A Nordic tribe (called the Muttoni by the locals) has settled in a remote valley up in the mountains and is making a big nuisance of themselves:

Not content to follow the sheep-raising, cow-milking example of their Celtic neighbors, the Muttoni spent their time on raids. They would maraud through the region and misappropriate everything not nailed down, including human beings—and in particular adolescent males.

We’re in 131 AD now, Antinous has famously drowned during a pleasure cruise on the River Nile, and Hadrian—roaming the empire to meet new people and get over his loss—has just arrived in Geneva and is kindly asked by the locals to do something about this situation.

What would you expect the emperor to do? Set up a punitive expedition and subdue the unruly proto-Vikings? Well, Hadrian—the wily, resourceful, over-sexed tactician—has a better idea. He invents the X-factor. He puts out a call for an I-have-erotic-talent contest—because—yes—because we’ve learned in the meantime that the Muttoni tribe appears to consist solely of males—nobody has ever seen a female Muttoni, and the theory is that the tribe survives by secondary reproduction: stealing adolescent males to fill the ranks of the next generation.

Hadrian’s call is a big success, of course (“what do you expect, most Roman careers involved the casting couch,” Zugabe explains), and soon the reader has ample opportunity to observe the educational doings of “exactly fifty specimen of the finest proto-erotici ever gathered in one place.”

There you have more reasons why I like this story. Hadrian is doing something clever and unexpected, and it suggests the graphic sex which is exactly NOT cheap because it’s motivated by the story. An example (the erotic talent has been sworn in under the name “Antinousians,” or “Guard of Antinous”) (Zugabe speaking:)

“So, Hadrian would inspect his Antinousians lined up and fitted in Praetorian garb—the spectacular helmet with a feathered, Cherokee-like crescent fitted to the top, the breast-plate of chased bronze molded to the perfect fit of toned pecs and rippled abs, and the humble belt with a loop for the scabbard and a notch to rest the shield. If the belt was not in place, everything else would fall apart, creating ample opportunity for quickies behind or in front of the bushes. 

“Newly imported slaves would see to the maintenance of the bespoke outfits. Hadrian, by the way, had by now been in residence for several months, and his entourage had grown considerably with the addition of specialists from all walks of court life: spokespeople, equerries, not to mention personalized assistants who would handle Antinousian emails.” 

“Huh?”

“Just to see whether you were still with me. So Hadrian would now select one or more of his pupils, meaning they were to join him on a dais fashioned for group activity—tiger skins, couches, cushions, ancillary toys—but the account I’m referring to is about a one-on-one from the early days of the program. The elected youth, Anaximandrius, takes Hadrian’s hand—it is his task now to seduce the Emperor—and lead him to the dais. He invites Hadrian to recline on a couch, then unties his sword. Next comes off the helmet. The now bare-headed youth tosses his hair—hair-tossing is so important—and then unbuckles the belt. Everything drops. There he stands now, naked, his genitals sparkling in the morning sun, and—apologies—his penis at rest. It was axiomatic that all Antinousians exerted erection control at all times—unless they were given leave (wait)—the willing and unwilling of erections had been an important criterion during the talent contest. So, now, Anaximandrius wills his erection, gently, gently, the rod rising counterclockwise from six o’clock to one o’clock, expanding, bulging, the foreskin retracting under the pressure of the shiny glans (few people were circumcised in those days), until the whole thing stands to the emperors undivided attention, all of its splendid eight inches, the cock lips kissing the sunlight…”

You see it coming, don’t you? Hint: the Antinousians are fed ever-increasing amounts of a mysterious drug (“Megalopeos”) and will develop a solid tolerance for what turns out to be a potent aphrodisiac. And—yes—spoiler alert—they will eventually set out and fuck the Muttoni to death. But—of course—in the meantime Hadrian has found his new love in the person of Lars-Lars, the lover of Muttoni-king Kodranson, and the most commemorable event of Hadrian’s love live—that’s his first time with Lars-Lars. Hadrian takes Lars-Lars back to Geneva and a happy ending ensues, including the construction of the fountain.

That’s another reason I like the story: the happy ending. I love happy endings. I love watching cinema audiences leaving the duplex, everyone with the same proud grin of the TAH (triumphant action hero) on their face. I’m a feel-good person.

Anything else? Yes, sure, I like the ironic anachronisms and am proud of the irreverent interpretation of Geneva’s foremost tourist attraction. Plus, there are a few literary asides—we have, for example, the American author David Foster Wallace in a cameo appearance.

2. Recommend me a novel/short story/poem/collection by someone else that you think everyone should be reading… 
 David Foster Wallace’s magnus opus, of course, Infinite Jest.
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Michael Ampersant 
started writing gay erotica a few years ago. My first M/M novel “Green Eyes,” was published recently by Lust Spiel Books. His shorts appeared in outlets such as Temptation Magazine, The Bear Magazine, Gay Flash Fiction, Etherbooks, and LustSpiel Magazine. Find out more at morefreedomfries.blogspot.co.uk/

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