Titanic: That Sinking Feeling
This weekend, the 100th anniversary of the fate of that little toy boat called the Titanic is set to sweep American media culture. On movie screens, bloviating director James Cameron’s Titanic returns in 3D. On TV screens, writer Julian Fellowes moves his Downton Abbey to Titanic, the high-end, four-part ABC miniseries.
This Sunday, April 15, also marks the publication of Titanic: The Untold Tale of Gay Passengers and Crew, 100th Anniversary Collectors’ Edition (Palm Drive Publishing, paperback & e-book), literary erotica by author and editor Jack Fritscher. "For a number of years, I have been planning on this 100th Anniversary to publish my short novel which reclaims and transforms Titanic history because, in all the Titanic stories told as far as I know, that history has always been straight," said Fritscher. "Although nothing in the text makes the connection, I was personally impelled to write the novel years ago, in 1986, as a subtle parable of us gay people struggling to save ourselves during the onslaught of HIV.
"In movie-newsreel footage shot three days later on the deck of the rescue ship Carpathia immediately after it docked in New York, a dozen of the surviving Titanic crew, mostly sailor lads in tight white pants hiding little, showing lots, can be seen in very intimate horseplay, camping around, and posing in life jackets, pretending to faint. Of the 885 male crew on Titanic, 693 (or 78%) died. Altogether, 1,352 men perished. If, according to Kinsey, one out of six ordinary men is gay, then 225 gay men died. If two out of six in the travel industry are gay, 450 gay men died, making the Titanic an overlooked but essential chapter in gay history."
Here’s more, from publisher Mark Hemry ’s preface to the book. "Breaking the straight trance of received Titanic history, San Francisco author Jack Fritscher reclaims gay history by writing a pitch-perfect sex epic of gay survival. Titanic outs the forbidden gay love story of the world’s most famous cruise, featuring the Unsinkable Molly Brown, the posh lovers Michael Whitney and Edward Wedding, and the working crew including the rugged Balkan Stoker , the redheaded Royal Purser Felix Jones , and the ship’s second carpenter Michael Brice and Third Officer Sam Maxwell.
"Titanic was first published in Honcho magazine (1988), where it was reader-tested as a serial novel nine years before James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), and 24 years before Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey filmed his own Titanic (2012). It’s available in trade paperback ($9.95), Kindle or Nook edition ($2.99). The e-book has active links to YouTube footage of Titanic survivors and crew ’camping about’ on the rescue ship Carpathia immediately after docking at Chelsea Piers in New York."
Fritscher designed the book’s cover, seen here, as an homage to the huge rainbow scarf trailing from the roof of the bus in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. We’d say it does Titanic lore proud. Meantime, if you’re the type who loves to do artsy-craftsy things, then Taschen has just the book for you: Build Your Own Titanic, a do-it-yourself model kit in the form of a softcover book ($14.99). "Calling all Titanic buffs, hobbyists, and ship-lovers," says the ad copy: "You’re invited to build a cardboard model of the formidable and notorious vessel!