I met ’Nathan Smith (who publishes under the name ’Nathan Burgoine) in May of 2009 when Michael and I went to the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. I knew a little about him already at that point, because we’d both just had our first stories published in the same anthology, Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction, from Cleis Press. He wrote a story titled “Heart” that is still one of my favorites from him.
At this point, I should warn you that ’Nathan writes stories that will make you cry. Keep Kleenex® handy when you read him.
We spent a lot of time that weekend hanging out with ’Nathan and his husband Dan, and it kind of felt like we were going through Writing School orientation together: this is how you give a reading, this is you signing your work for the first time, this is your life slowly starting down the track that you’ve had in sight for more years than you can count. For me, it was a relief not to be going through that alone, and to have made a fast friend who could say, “I know exactly what you mean.”
The thing about my circle(s) of friends is how often their members live in farflung cities. If I’m lucky, I get to see some of them once a year. In many cases, years go by before we’re able to catch up in person. The irony, when I started grad school in Vancouver, was that though we were both in the same country (’Nathan lives in Ottawa), I was actually farther away from him and Dan here than I was in St. Louis.
Still, most every year we’ve caught up in New Orleans and talked about writing, living, dogs, cats, and why coffee is so much better than tea. (I’m kidding about that last part; we don’t talk about it, though coffee is obviously superior.)
I’m sure ’Nathan lost track of the number of times people asked him, “When are you going to write a book?” ’Nathan loves short stories; he loves writing them, reading them, telling people to pick up this fantastic anthology he’s been reading, and on and on. He’s got more than two dozen of his own stories in print, perhaps most notably in the recent anthology This Is How You Die, where his story is the lead-off in this sequel to the Machine of Death anthology. He’s so good at writing stories, he doesn’t have to write a novel, and really, I don’t think writers of stories should feel pressured or be expected to think of their work as a springboard to a novel. Stories are wonderful creations in their own right and are, if you ask me, a lot harder in some ways.
That being said, the next time someone asks “When are you going to write a book?” ‘Nathan can say, “Oh, I already did that.”
Light‘s about Kieran, an unlikely superhero. An unlikely gay psychokinetic superhero (and how often do you get to say that?) who can also refract light in spectacular and sometimes blinding ways. He has his hands full with a fundamentalist preacher/prophet who decides to bring his message of hate to Pride Week and things get violent. If that weren’t enough, there’s also Sebastien, who takes a liking to Kieran and who also has Pilot, who might be one of my favorite dogs in fiction. He’s certainly my favorite of the moment.
I can’t wait to read what ‘Nathan comes up with next.