It’s finally summer, and queer folks are out to mix and mingle . . . but do you know whom you’re mingling with? The supernatural takes an erotic turn on the pages of The Beast Without, a dark fantasy manbeast-to-manbeast romance written by Christian Baines.
Baines’s first novel introduces us to the bloodthirsty werewolf Jorgas, a 22-year-old hothead with a dark past. Jorgas, who is just starting his changes as a werewolf, seeks out Reylan, who has been living in a supernatural state for more than a century, in a Sydney gay bar. Not knowing how to manage his newfound power, an encounter involving the two manbeasts leaves Jorgas with a strange attraction to Reylan, and this keeps the werewolf coming back for more. Baines describes his story as “sexy, one that doesn’t shy away from the gore and violence and toys with your brain just a little.”
Popular fiction sees vampires and werewolves dominating as characters in books and television, often with homoerotic elements. What sets The Beast Without apart from many other supernatural creative works is, as Baines explains, that he writes the story from the monster’s perspective.
“This allowed me to really take readers behind the curtain and be fully immersed without having to go through that realization of ‘Oh my god! Vampires!’ We’re well past that,” he says. “This novel is a lot darker than many of the stories out there in terms of how the [manbeasts] deal with humans. Most humans in this story have either earned Reylan’s trust or stumbled into the supernatural world by accident, so they’ve stayed alive by adapting to it and its questionable morality. Or they just come to a bad end. The supernatural beings don’t like or hate humans; they see [us] as camouflage and a food source.”
The Beast Without is a new venture for Baines – his background so far has been writing about theatre and film, generally as non-fiction. He notes that some of the opinion pieces he has written, which have mainly covered queer topics, might offer him some insight as to what is going on in his head when he writes fiction, but that’s as deep as it gets. Originally, The Beast Without began as an erotic short story. Baines wasn't planning for it to become a novel and hadn’t read much vampire fiction and wrote the scene where we meet Jorgas. He liked Reylan’s voice, and he says that it just felt natural to keep narrating this world through this character.
"It never really occurred to me to write a ‘gay vampire’ novel. I just had this character I loved, who was a vampire, who mostly fed off men," he adds.
Baines now calls Toronto home, having arrived by way of Australia less than a year ago. After visiting Canada in 2011, he decided it was time to make the move here, since there is so much he wants to explore. He finished The Beast Without before arriving in Toronto, so the story does stay true to its Sydney setting. “There’s a scene where Reylan and one of his protégés visit this lame Canadian-themed bar in Sydney, which always gets a laugh out of readers here," he adds. "It could easily have been set around the Church-Wellesley Village rather than Oxford Street, so it’s definitely relatable."