Kittens, ten years ago this week, we published our first post on RuPaul’s Drag Race, which makes it an especially sweet time for us to announce the publication of our next book.
LEGENDARY CHILDREN: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life
And we have never been more excited about any career development in our lives. We announced this last night on twitter but we’re using this space to explain the genesis of it a little bit and to fill in a bit more information.
Last summer we got a call from our very patient and wise literary agent Monika. She’d been listening to our recent podcast where we mused about our ten years of blogging RuPaul’s Drag Race and called to ask, “Hey, have you guys ever thought about pitching a book about RuPaul’s Drag Race?”
Several lightbulbs went off over our heads.
What can we tell you? Sometimes we need a little push. This is, in many ways, a consequence of being a daily blogger for over a decade. You get up every day, you have pop culture and fashion hand you a list of topics, and you pick the ones with the most interest or the biggest potential audience of interest. There is no assignment editor and over time, we think our ability to devise or come up with book topics completely on our own had atrophied a little. After our first book was published (coincidentally, five years ago this week), we ran into some problems in our non-blogging life. In the space of a few years, Tom’s mother died, his father wound up in elder care, this site almost went under because of an attempt to sue us, and Tom had to undergo hip replacement surgery after years of chronic pain from a car accident. Whew! It all sounds so brisk and efficient when we word it that way but trust: things were a mess for a good while. We honestly don’t like to use this site to talk too much about who we are when we’re not blogging, but our point is this: No second book was happening while all that nonsense was going on. Our creative tanks were drained.
We had – and still have – a working proposal for our long-planned style book. We deliberately shelved it about a year and a half ago because part of our job – and we think, the main driver of our success as bloggers – is to read the zeitgeist accurately. And in our reading, 2017/18 was just about the worst time to pitch a book wherein two men mansplain to a female readership everything they’re doing wrong when they dress themselves. In the era of #TimesUp and #MeToo it was simply not a cute look. Obviously, we’d have worked hard to make sure the book didn’t come off that way, but a read of the room told us that the reception to it would be cool at best. Don’t worry. We still have plans for it.
So anyway, Monika comes up with this ridiculously killer idea and it took us all of about three seconds to say “WE’LL DO IT!” What followed was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve ever had in our careers. We’ll be blunt: at first, we thought this was going to be a cash-in and we’d write some sort of Fan Guide full of quotes and trivia. Us being us, we couldn’t keep things that simple and the proposal wound up with a lot of our thoughts on how Drag Race exists as the queerest show in the history of television. The proposal wound up in the hands of an extremely insightful editor at Penguin Random House, who sent a note back with a suggestion. She liked how we kept inserting little bits of queer history and short bios of queer cultural figures as references. What did we think about making that the focus of the book, rather than just a Fan Guide?
Several fireworks went off over our heads.
We’re telling you all this because in all honesty, this book would not be what it became without some very perceptive and savvy people gently nudging us in the best direction and because we think too many writers fail to acknowledge that part of the process. It doesn’t all spring forth fully formed from Zeus’s brow, darlings.
Anyway, Monika sent us the editor’s notes and asked what we thought about a more LGBTQ-focused book and our response was “We always make people cry with our LGBT stuff!” Meaning, we’ve always loved writing about queer life and history and always got a fantastic response when we did, but the nature of this blog doesn’t allow us to do it as much as we’d like. We dove back into the proposal, drew on our decades of knowledge on these matters, did a shit-ton of research and came up with the very best bit of writing we’ve ever produced. Over the years, the one feature of this blog that has received the most critical praise – and our highest readership numbers – was our Mad Style feature examining the costume design of Mad Men. Back when people cared enough about the show to interview us about this feature, we were constantly asked why it took off or how we managed to do it and the answer was always the same: It happened to be a perfect confluence of topics of which we had a lot of personal knowledge and interest, which inspired us to write passionately about it. Until now, nothing has come close to that experience of knowing you’re producing your best work because you have the knowledge and you have the joy in writing about it.
Looooong story short: Legendary Children centers itself around the idea that not only is Drag Race the queerest show in the history of television, but that RuPaul and company devised a show that serves as an actual museum of queer cultural and social history, drawing on queer traditions and the work of legendary figures going back nearly a century. In doing so, Drag Race became not only a repository of queer history and culture, but an examination and illustration of queer life in the modern age. It is a snapshot of how LGBTQ folks live, struggle, work and reach out to each other – and how they always have.
The research and writing on this has consumed most of the last 6 months and will continue to consume us for the next few, but some days, we actually cry with joy over who and what we’re getting the chance to write about; from Crystal LaBeija to Leigh Bowery, Charles Busch to Charles Pierce to Charles Ludlam, Julian Eltinge to Lypsinka, Marsha P. Johnson to Storme DeLarverie to Jackie Shane to Sylvia Rivera and on and on, with side notes on a range of topics from Polari to Elizabeth Taylor; Studio 54 to Stonewall to the formation of PFLAG. And every bit of it is tied directly to Drag Race. In fact, each chapter is an examination of a specific aspect of the show – the Werk Room, the Library, the Pit Crew, the runway, the Untucked lounge, the Snatch Game – which ties to a specific aspect of queer cultural history and/or the work of certain legendary figures in queer cultural history. We’ll explain how the Library Challenge is the culmination of a century of violence and oppression against queer folks on the street; how the Pit Crew is a salute to the longstanding relationship between drag and go-go boys; how the ghost of Elizabeth Taylor haunts every episode of the show; how the Untucked scenes pay tribute to the caregivers of the AIDS crisis; how the Snatch Game pays homage to some of the great masters of mainstream drag entertainment; how the sketch comedy challenges draw on the work of legendary drag artists of the theater and film – and way more, which we’re going to stop talking about now, lest we give away the entire book’s premise in our excitement.
THE POINT OF IT ALL: “Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life” comes out in April of 2020 from Penguin books. Please make a note of it, darlings!
Also: Please watch this space. We’ll be introducing a new “Legendary” blog category in the menu at the top of the page, which we’ll use to not only give you updates on the book itself, but to give you little bios of the people we’re covering, many of whom may not be all that familiar to you.
Also-also: We’re on a tight deadline smack in the middle of awards season. We’re working to keep this blog running on all cylinders, but at some point after the Oscars, we’ll have to scale back on our daily content in order to make this freaking book a masterpiece. Stay tuned, darlings! Thank you for all your patience and all your support. As a small gesture of our appreciation, here’s a bunch of queens, doing what queens do best (and also, where our heads have been for the last few months):
2019 Directors Guild of America Awards Red Carpet Rundown Next Post:
Cathy Cambridge Visits London Schools in Eponine