Arts·Queeries

The Queer Film Classics book series is back — and looking for new writers

Thomas Waugh and Matthew Hays are resurrecting the queer film monographs with a new publisher.

Thomas Waugh and Matthew Hays are resurrecting the queer film monographs with a new publisher

The Queer Film Classics editions of Arabian Nights, Scorpio Rising and Female Trouble. (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. It won the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada.

This Halloween brought with it a most welcome resurrection: Queer Film Classics — the wonderful series of monographs on various LGBTQ movies — has been announced as undead.

Earlier this year, the series was declared complete with its 19th edition, R.L. Cagle's take on Kenneth Anger's wild 1963 film Scorpio Rising (which is essentially about gay Nazi bikers preparing for a race). But series editors Thomas Waugh and Matthew Hays have moved the series from its initial publisher Arsenal Pulp Press to a new home with McGill-Queen's University Press for a new set of books to be released between 2020 and 2025. And Waugh and Hays are on the lookout for contributors.

"We're looking for passionate writers — both those with established track records and relative newbies are welcome to apply — with their choice of an LGBTQ2IA film and their rationale for according it book-length analysis/attention," Waugh and Hays — both Montreal-based queer film writers and scholars — said in a press release. "We hope you have a queer classic film that you've always wanted to write a slim volume on and will send us an expression of interest by January 1 2020."

Queer Film Classics launched in 2008 with three inaugural titles: Noah Tsika's book on Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters, Jose Quiroga's on Pedro Almodovar's Law of Desire and Jon Davies on Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol's Trash. It would go on to feature a diverse mix of Canadian and international voices writing on films like John Greyson's Zero Patience (by Susan Knabe and Wendy Gay Pearson), Deepa Mehta's Fire (by Shohini Ghosh) and Jennie Livingston's Paris is Burning (by Lucas Hilderbrand).

"We have had a strong representation from cinematic canons of both Canada, given our publishing and funding context, and the global south, and have explored most of the letters in the day's current alphabet acronym LGBTQ2IA, in terms of both our authors and our focused film titles," Hays and Waugh say.

The pair notes that the series was originally an imitation of the BFI Film Classics series, but that they and the authors they worked with developed their "own identity and impact." They will, however, continue to exclude any films covered by BFI or similar series like "Cultographies" and "Devil's Advocate." So what does that leave if you're interested in proposing? Quite a lot, actually. Hays and Waugh came up with a non-exhaustive list of eligible titles that includes everything from Shirley Clarke's Portrait of Jason to Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Querellle to Barry Jenkins's Moonlight. In fact, it's much easier to just list the films that are not eligible:

The cover of Lucas Hilderbrand's take on Paris is Burning. (Arsenal Pulp Press)
The cover of Robert Schwartzwald's take on C.R.A.Z.Y. (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Arabian Nights
Brief Encounter
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
C.R.A.Z.Y.

Caravaggio 
The Crying Game
Daughters of Darkness
Death in Venice

Distant Voices, Still Lives
Les Enfants du Paradis
Far from Heaven
Farewell My Concubine 
Fear Eats the Soul [Ali; Angst Essen Seele Auf]
Female Trouble
Fire
Flaming Creatures
Forbidden Love
Gods and Monsters
Grey Gardens
I've Heard the Mermaids Singing
If...
Ivan the Terrible
L.A. Plays Itself/Boys in the Sand
Law of Desire
Manila by Night
Meet Me in St. Louis
Meshes of the Afternoon
Montreal Main
My Beautiful Laundrette
Nosferatu
Paris Is Burning
Queen Christina 
Queer as Folk 

Rocco and His Brothers
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Salo
Scorpio Rising
The Servant
The Sound of Music
Strangers on a Train
Sunrise
A Song of Two Humans
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
Trash
Victim
The War Requiem
The Wizard of Oz
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Word is Out
Zero Patience

If you're interested in writing about one of the films not listed above, Waugh and Hays say that they will be evaluating a prospective proposal "on its own merits as well as on the significance of the selected film, and on the overall composition of the series in relation to national origin and cultural representation (i.e. we don't want a series on ten Randal Kleiser films)."

Although the series will focus on feature fiction films, they do hope to include "some documentary and experimental work and perhaps porn." Given the series' embrace of "classic," Waugh and Hays will also likely continue their practice of not prioritizing films made within the last decade "except on an exceptional basis" and will otherwise leave the definition of "classic" to be "defined and negotiated by our individual authors." Each edition in the series will run roughly 30,000 to 50,000 words, and will be peer reviewed and subject to approval on scholarly grounds based on those peer reviews.  But as with earlier Queer Film Classics books, "they will equally distinctive for their accessibility, avoidance of jargon, and openness to a crossover trade readership of buffs and non-specialists." 

Interested in contributing? Send an "expression of interest" by January 1, 2020 to thomas.waugh@concordia.ca and matthew.hays@sympatico.ca as well as to MQUP Editor in Chief Jonathan Crago at jonathan.crago@mcgill.ca.

"We hope you will seriously consider joining us on this renewed pleasurable and momentous publishing adventure," Waugh and Hays encourage. As readers, consider us seriously in for whatever gets published.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which won him 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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