The Bears of Winter is a terrific collection of short fiction celebrating big, hairy men who love other men, written and edited mostly by men. Despite the common theme of “it’s fucking cold outside”, the settings are pretty varied — there’s a historical in a work camp about guys harvesting ice in the 1870’s, a dystopian about two men from rival settlements 30 years after humanity accidentally froze the world in an attempt to stop global warming, a contemporary about a Black bear who accidentally shows up at the club on judgmental skinny white guy night and leaves in disgust only to find he needs a tow and falls for the tow truck driver, and even one set at a research station in Antarctica where a man searches for clues that a lost expedition in the 1900’s may have included a star-crossed (ice-crossed?) male couple.
It’s nice to read something in which my preferences in men are normalized. It’s hard enough being a woman who likes women without having even my impulses toward men not appear in most fictional romances.
Here’s a short peek at all the stories. I’m adding “Shira star” after the ones I liked enough that if they were available individually I’d rec them on their own. (I still enjoyed the ones without the star.)
“Warning: Don’t Feed the Bear”: a love triangle that ends in all-male poly. Contemporary, smug, cute.
I’ve given “The Psychometry of Snow” by Nathan Burgoine its own review for several reasons: it really stood out, the publisher put it online for free, and it’s queer fiction with no sex, which a lot of people have a hard time finding. Definitely Shira star.
“Little Suzie” looks like it’s nonconsensual between Santa and a stalker, but it’s not–it’s actually a consensual kinky scene between Santa and his human boyfriend, and if that’s not the cutest setup for a story, I don’t even know. Shira star.
“Snowblind”: love in a cave on a snowy alien planet while researching space tigers. Shira star.
“Mountain Bear”: two huge beardy guys meet because one wants to buy the other one’s homemade furniture, realize they’re elevendieth cousins, hook up anyway, fight off an attack from the local homophobes.
“Miles, of the Antarctic”: a playwright goes to a research station in Antarctica to work on a play about a lost expedition from a hundred years ago; he’s convinced that two of the explorers who died out there were a couple. Maybe he’ll find proof–or a new boyfriend. Or both. Shira star.
“Sleeping Bear”: paranormal. The romance in this one is actually entirely incidental; it’s totally there, but the real plot is about injustice in a small town.
“Feast of January”: the only Black story in the collection unless I missed something. The protagonist falls for the tow-truck driver who helps him out when he leaves a club in disgust from the bad vibes. Shira star.
“Truckee”: historical, 1878. A working-class man falls for his boss at an ice-harvesting work camp. I liked the slow burn on this one. Shira star.
“The Bear in Winter”: getting over a breakup by hanging out with some friends (and hanging out does include some casual “friendship sex” if you know what I mean.)
“Thaw”: It’s been 30 years since someone flipped a switch that was intended to fix global warming but instead turned the Earth into a frozen wasteland. A man from one group of people (who’s gay but has never had a chance to act on it since his group is so small and so straight) meets a man from the other group, which he’d been brought up to mistrust, but he’s too captivated by his blue eyes and emotional warmth to let that get in the way.
“World of Men”: Historical, although I’m not exactly sure of the time period. A very young gay man steals a hot air balloon and crashlands near a cabin belonging to an older man who gives him his first entry into the world of love between men.
“Cold Comfort”: another one with no sex. A m/m couple comfort their friend as his husband (partner? forgot) slips away to Parkinson’s. Shira star.
“The Balaclava”: a man gets a crush on a stranger on the bus whose face he can’t even see. This story veered into literary fiction, got very thinky, and had a lot of Narnia references.
Note that “Snow on Scrabble Creek” has dub-con and a confederate bandanna and “Romancing the Pole” has some humor that was Not for Me so I’m not specifically putting my name on a rec of those two stories (although don’t get mad at the Romancing author on my account: he’s Jewish and the rocks are coming from inside the house, as it were. It’s totally fine.)