Resisting the Apocalypse: Telling Time in American Novels about AIDS, 1982-1992

(Doctoral Dissertation by Lisa Garmire, UCSB 1996)






The experience of living with AIDS lies at the center of the narratives of these contemporary American novels.


Bishop, Michael. Unicorn Mountain. New York: Arbor House, 1988.

This novel interweaves Native American and unicorn mythologies to trace parallels between a virus that plagues a herd of mysterious unicorns in the Rockies and AIDS, which assails and ultimately kills Bo, one of the novel's main characters. Though ending with Bo's death, the novel moves beyond death by incorporating Ute mythology about spiritual afterlife and depicts Bo's journey to "Over There."

Black, Jeff. Gardy and Erin. Stamford, CT: Knights Press, 1989.

Gardy and Erin tells the story of a successful businessman, Gardy, and his experiences during the course of a year. The narrative is framed by two AIDS-related suicides: early on, Gardy's lover commits suicide following an HIV+ diagnosis, and toward the end of the book, Gardy witnesses his friend Stan commit suicide and die with dignity rather than suffer any longer from AIDS. Gardy ultimately copes with these losses by assuming fatherhood over a neglected little girl, Erin. AIDS and death are linked by suicide in this novel.

Bourjaily, Vance. Old Soldier: a novel. NY: Donald I. Fine, 1990.

This novel describes a fishing trip that the old soldier, 60-year old and just divorced Joe makes with his younger brother and musician, Tommy, whose AIDS prevents his lungs from working well enough to play bagpipes. The novel culminates in a shootout, when AIDSphobic nearby campers burn their camper and fire weapons on Tommy. Tommy drowns himself in the river rather than subject Joe and "little Joe" (Tommy's son) to a slow death. The novel ends with Joe telling his grandson that Tommy died a "clean death."

Bram, Christopher. In Memory of Angel Clare. New York: Fine, 1988.

This novel traces how a group of friends copes with the loss of their mutual friend, Clarence, who has died of AIDS. Interspersed within this narrative is the recollection of Clarence's life with his lover, Michael, and Clarence's developing illness and then death from AIDS. This secondary narrative tracks the apocalyptic trajectory of AIDS but is somewhat alleviated by the primary narrative's depiction of the surviving characters' emotional growth beyond mourning.

Davis, Christopher. Valley of the Shadow. New York: St. Martin's, 1988.

This poetically written story is told in a form of stream-of-consciousness, first-person narration, that remembers and celebrates a life of love and health. Though the novel ends with the first-person narrator sick with AIDS, by concentrating on the past and memories of life and health, it resists looking forward toward death.

Duplechan, Larry. Tangled Up in Blue. New York: St. Martin's, 1990.p>

Though none of the characters in this novel has AIDS, the narrative revolves around the fear of AIDS as deadly, with two of the main characters, the married couple, Maggie and Dan, afraid they have contracted HIV, and with the third main character, Crockett, learning to cope with having ARC. The plot involves the untangling of the intimate knots tied between the three characters, when Maggie discovers that several years previously Dan had been Crockett's lover.

Feinberg, David. Eighty-Sixed. New York: Viking/Penguin, 1989.

Eighty-Sixed is divided into two parts. The first part, "1980: Ancient History," traces first-person narrator BJ's initiation into gay sexuality, and in the second section, "1986: Learning How to Cry," AIDS looms larger and larger as people everywhere in BJ's life seem to be dying of the disease and BJ finally must face it. The novel ends with his "learning how to cry."

---. Spontaneous Combustion. New York: Viking, 1991.

The first-person narrator of Eighty-Sixed continues to tell his life story in Spontaneous Comustion, in a series of linked episodes from 1985-1990. AIDS continues to impinge on BJ's life, as friends now get sick with AIDS. In a section, "Despair," BJ finally takes the Test, and subsequent episodes describe various issues related to living with HIV, from sex, to experimental drug therapy, to AIDS activism, to telling his family his HIV status. The novel ends with a humorous appendix, "After the Cure, 1996." In his two AIDS novels, humor is both a weapon and a shield that Feinberg uses to deal with the enormity of AIDS.

Ferro, Robert. Second Son. New York: Crown, 1988.

This novel tells the story of Mark, who is sick with AIDS. Second Son opens with the death of Mark's mother and describes the strained family relations, relations complicated by his being "second son" and so unlike the rest of the conventional, successful family. As the novel unfolds, we see Mark develop a close and loving relationship with another PLWA, Bill, and by the end of the novel, Mark's family reaffirms its love for him and resolves to stand by him as he tries experimental treatments for AIDS.

Graham, Clayton. Tweeds. Stamford CT: Knights, 1987.

At the heart of this bildungsroman is the story of the relationship between Scot and the first-person narrator, Cory, and the misunderstanding that they are both straight. In a culminating scene, they reveal their love for each other, only for Corey to find out that Scot has AIDS. The novel then traces their evolving relationship, from Corey's learning not to be homophobic, to their wedding, and ultimately to Scot's death. The novel ends with Corey talking to a new friend, Mark, about Scot, and through this talking and remembering, Scot's death is somewhat mitigated.

Hoffman, Alice. At Risk. NY: Putnam's Sons, 1988.

At Risk tells what has become a classic story of a suburban family who must deal with AIDS when daugher Amanda develops AIDS from a prior blood transfusion. Her family must confront the emotional trauma of her impending death as well as the social difficulties of the local community's ignorance and AIDSphobia. The novel ends with her leaving for the hospital and focuses on her younger brother's living on.

Huston, Bo. Remember Me. New York: Amethyst, 1991.

In Remember Me, the 30 year-old, HIV+, unnamed first-person narrator, describes in present tense the events of his life in a small town over the course of year, framed by the his submission of a pornographic novel for publication and his learning that the novel will not be published because XXX Press has filed for bankruptcy. Not only is the narrator's life "on hold" because he's waiting to hear about his manuscript, but his life as a gay man also feels on hold, his HIV+ status isolating him from the other gay men he encounters. Through the course of the novel, his HIV disease progresses. He is eventually hospitalized with full-blown AIDS and then discharged, the doctor telling him, "'it looks like maybe you won't die for a while yet'" (133-4).

Ingegno, Alfred. Shared Legacy. New York: Birch Brook Impressions, 1992.

 One of the only novels to describe the experiences of a woman with AIDS, Shared Legacy begins with Sharyn discovering that her unfaithful fiance has infected her with HIV. The novel then follows her life over the next couple of years, during which her ex-fiance dies and her new boyfriend, Rob, both cheats on her and ultimately rapes her. The novel culminates in a trial, at which she is accused of infecting Rod with HIV+, but the case is finally thrown out. The novel concludes with her birthday, and though sick with AIDS, she is surrounded by friends.

Klass, Perri. Other Women's Children. New York: Random House, 1990.

This novel depicts the experience of a pediatrician, Amelia, who is also a wife and mother. Scenes oscillate between the hospital and her home life, between her own healthy, growing son and Darren, the black child under her care at the hospital, who is sick with AIDS. The novel describes the agony both pediatrician and parents suffer, helplessly witness to the unrelenting suffering of terminally ill children. Though Darren dies toward the end of the novel, Amelia retains her hope, and the novel ends on her son's fifth birthday and with the eternal hope of a pediatrician, "Imagine them all getting better" (284).

McGehee, Peter. Boys Like Us. New York: St. Martin's, 1991.

As a "slice of life," Boys Like Us describes the lives of a group of friends one summer in Toronto. The novel opens with the first-person narrator, Zero, going to care for his best friend, Randy, who is sick with AIDS. The novel then traces the events of that summer, from Zero's love interests and Randy's unstable health to the end of the summer, when Zero takes Randy to the airport and Randy departs Toronto to make a movie.

Monette, Paul. Afterlife. New York: Crown, 1990.

Afterlife describes the responses of three HIV+ men, Sonny, Dell and Steven, to living in the "afterlife" - the life after their lovers' deaths from AIDS. While Sonny resists coming to terms with his HIV status by continually focusing on hopes for the future, Dell cannot recover from his grief over the past. Unlike the other protagonists, Steven makes peace with the past and the future, and the novel ends with him in a growing relationship with his new lover, Mark.

---. Halfway Home. New York: Crown, 1991.

This novel interweaves two plots, a love story and a family reconciliation. Though the first-person narrator, Tom, is living with AIDS and the daily degeneration of his body, the novel resists depicting him as an "AIDS victim." Instead, Halfway Home shows him successfully falling in love and reconciling with a once homophobic brother and his family.

Moore, Oscar. A Matter of Life and Sex. New York: Dutton, 1992.

Interweaving "fact" and "fiction," Moore as narrator recounts the life of Hugo (a man who has just died of AIDS) who originally told Moore his life story as they shared the same hospital room in the AIDS ward. In its depiction of Hugo's life, progressing from Hugo's youth, to his sexual development, to his HIV diagnosis, and finally to his death the narrative enacts the apocalyptic paradigm.

Redon, Joel. Bloodstream. Stamford, CT: Knights Press, 1988.

Bloodstream recounts the return home of Peter, a 26 year-old from a wealthy family, as he marshals his forces to fight AIDS. Though the novel ends with Peter emphasizing the importance of living with AIDS, much of the novel deals with his condemnation of his past sexual behavior. The intimate relationship he develops with another PLWA named Yale does not contain sex and it ends with Yale's death.

Reed, Paul. Facing It: a Novel of AIDS. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1984.

As the first novel to be published in the United States whose central theme is AIDS, Facing It provides a classic example of an apocalyptic AIDS plot: it traces Andy's life, as he is diagnosed, gets sick and ultimately dies from an AIDS-related illness.

Ryman, Geoff. Was: a Novel. New York: Knopf, 1992.

Was incorporates aspects of fantasy and reality to interweave three story strands: Jonathan's struggle against AIDS and his increasing dementia, of Dorothy's story in The Wizard of Oz, and of Oz author L. Frank Baum’s childhood. The narrative moves toward a convergence of the three narrative strands to a place in Kansas. Jonathan disappears, Dorothy walks away after the tornado, and L. Frank Baum promises to remember his childhood.

Weir, John. The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket. New York: Harper and Row, 1989.

 In this novel, the story of Eddie's irreversible decline and death from AIDS is framed by chapters narrated in the first-person by Saul, who relates his impressions of Eddie and his feelings about his own relationship to his lover, Merritt, who has had a brief affair with Eddie. Besides Eddie, none of the other main characters has AIDS and none of them die.



AIDS occurs either in a subsidiary plot or as a simple plot device (typically as a convenient "closure" mechanism) in these contemporary American novels.


Borgman, C.F. River Road. NY: Plume, 1988.

River Road spans more than fifty years, telling the story of Eugene's sexual life, from his childhood in the fifties, through his career in the 80's as an artist, to the early decades of the twenty-first century, in which he has moved to Brazil with his Brazilian lover, Octavio. AIDS enters the novel in the 80's, as friends of his begin to die. By projecting the novel into a future in which AIDS is no longer a problem, Borgman can portray the sexual fulfillment Eugene and Octavio are now able to obtain in their relationship.

Bryant, Dorothy. A Day in San Francisco. Berkeley: Ata Books, 1982.

This novel tells the story of feminist, Clara, returning to San Francisco after a fifteen year absence to visit her estranged gay son, Frank, who is sick with hepatitis. Clara is concerned with the promiscuity and openness of the gay community of San Francisco and during lunch with an old gay friend, hears about a mysterious "gay cancer." The final confrontation between Clara and Frank ends with her denouncing his promiscuity and his demanding that she leave.

Calhoun, Jackie. Lifestyles. New York: Naiad, 1990.

Primarily a love story, Lifestyles describes Kate's burgeoning romance with Pat, a neighbor at their vacation cabin where Kate has retreated to sort things out, having separated from her husband. In the latter portion of the novel, Kate's brother Gordie, who is dying of AIDS, comes to stay with her. They begin receiving threatening letters and are harrassed by an anonymous terrorist about Gordie because he has AIDS. When Gordie dies, the terrorist leaves, and ultimately, Kate and Pat are alone again and in love, planning to move in together.

Champagne, John. The Blue Lady’s Hands. Secaucus, NJ: Stuart, 1988.

AIDS is only one more experience of pain that the first-person narrator of The Blue Lady’s Hands suffers in his life as a gay man. The novel describes his quest for love and his repeated experiences of failed relationships with other gay men who cheat on him, use him or abuse him. “The Blue Lady’s Hands” are those of the Virgin Mary, which persistently pierce his heart and cause him tearing pain as she asks, “how much room?”

Chappell, Helen (Larry McMurtry). Acts of Love. New York: Pocket Books, 1989.

This novel describes the 20 year college reunion of three girlfriends and how their lives have changed since their college days in the late 60's. AIDS provides a convenient ending to the novel, when Emma reveals she has AIDS and is planning to kill herself. One of the male graduates of their college, Remy, a billionnaire, convinces her not to, and he whisks her off to show her the world in her remaining time.

Cunningham, Michael. A Home at the End of the World. New York: Bantam, 1990.

This is a well-written bildungsroman of three characters who form an alternative family structure to traditional families. AIDS enters the picture toward the end of the novel when Jonathan's lover, Erich, comes to live at their house before he dies of AIDS.

Curzon, Daniel. The World Can Break Your Heart. Stamford, CT: Knights, 1984.

Like a bildungsroman, this is a coming-out story that describes the childhood, adolescence and sexual coming of age of Benjamin, who spends the majority of his life trying to come to terms with his homosexuality. In the final portion of the novel, he walks out on his family, renounces the Catholic Church, moves to Hollywood in the hopes of becoming an actor and discovers the pleasures and availability of gay sex. He is eventually diagnosed with KS, and the novel ends with him taking in a former trick, Jim, who has been left homeless because of his AIDS. A letter, addressed to an imaginary sister and written some time later, concludes the book and reveals that Jim has died and that Benjamin waits, not very hopefully, for a cure for AIDS.

Diamon, N.A. Castro Street Memories. San Francisco: Persona, 1988.

Castro Street Memories describes the wonderful memories the first-person narrator has of his gay coming-of-age during the 70's and early 80's and his moving from New York to San Francisco. AIDS is only briefly mentioned toward the end of the novel, when the narrator describes some of the homophobic outfall of AIDSphobia and his own changes in sexual behavior in the age of AIDS.

Dunne, Dominick. People Like Us. New York: Crown, 1988.

This novel primarily describes New York City's high society and its jetsetting, scandalous, wealthy members. AIDS enters the novel  periodically, with references to members of this society who have died or are dying of AIDS, though none of the main characters is significantly affected.

Fast, Howard. The Dinner Party. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

The Dinner Party traces the course of one day in the life of the aging senator, Richard Cromwell, which culminates in a dinner party, during which his son, Leonard, breaks the news to his family of his HIV infection. Leonard explains to his father that he has reconciled himself to his condition by drawing from eastern philosophies that emphasize the importance of the here and now: "Here was holy ground. Here was eternity" (250).

Hall, Brian. The Dreamers. New York: Harper and Row, 1989.

Set in Vienna, “the City of Dreams,” this novel is primarily a love story that describes how the first-person narrator, a young American graduate student named Eric meets and falls in love with an Austrian woman named Jutta. The novel traces the tormented twists and turns of their relationship, complicated both by Eric’s HIV+ status and by both of their emotional problems. The novel ends with Jutta dead and Eric marrying her roommate in order to obtain Austrian citizenship so he can adopt her five-year-old son, Timo.

Harris, E. Lynn. Invisible Life: a Novel. 1991. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.

This novel tells the story of first-person narrator, Raymond Jr., as he struggles to come to terms with his sexual identity as a black, bisexual, Christian man. AIDS enters Raymond's life through the figure of Candance, the best friend of his girlfriend, Nicole. Candance was infected by Kelvin, Raymond's first lover from years ago, and she dies of AIDS. While Candance is hospitalized and dying, Raymond reveals his bisexuality to Nicole, who then breaks up with him. Through the course of the novel, Raymond reflects on how the clandestine bisexuality of black men threatens their unsuspecting female sexual partners.

Hayes, Mary-Rose. Amethyst. New York: Dutton, 1989.

This novel describes the love and intrigue in the lives of four wealthy white women, who met at an English boarding school. One of them, Victoria, can tell the future using a magical amethyst ring. AIDS comes in at the end of the novel, when Victoria's gay brother, Tancredi, dies of AIDS and bequeaths his vast financial empire to her.

Indiana, Gary. Horse Crazy. New York: Grove, 1989.

Though the first-person narrator's previous lover died of AIDS and he confronts his own HIV status at the beginning of the novel, the narrator's story primarily involves his obsession and complicated, ultimately failed relationship with the much younger, gorgeous and enigmatic character, Gregory, who apparently is hooked on heroin.

Joseph, Bertram. One-Way Passage. Jerusalem: Good Times, 1988.

Though published in Israel, this novel describes the life of an American doctor, Roger Stanwyck, and his various travails, from his inability to cure AIDS to his problematic love-life with women. AIDS reenters the picture briefly toward the end of the novel, when his new wife overcomes her AIDSphobia to adopt an HIV+ boy.

Maso, Carole. The Art Lover. San Francisco: North Point, 1990.

This novel develops a complex interplay between a fictional and an autobiographical narrative, both of which struggle to cope with a multitude of personal losses, from a mother's suicide, to a father's stroke, to a close friend's death from AIDS, which ends the novel.

Maupin, Armistead. Babycakes. New York: Harper and Row, 1984. [Vol. 4 of The Tales

of the City series].

As one of the Tales of the City series, Babycakes recounts the intertwined lives of a cast of characters whose primary geographical locus is 28 Barbary Lane, a house in San Francisco. This particular novel contains two primary story lines: the first includes Mary Ann's machinations to have a child, though her husband has no sperm count; the second involves Michael, who is mourning the loss of his lover, Jon, to AIDS. He travels to Death Valley and to England in an effort to pull himself out of his depression. The novel ends with Mary Ann obtaining a baby and with Michael returning to Barbaray Lane.

---. Significant Others. New York: Perennial Library, 1987.

Another of Maupin's Tales of the City, this novel gives yet another "slice of life" account of the characters who live at 28 Barbaray Lane. AIDS enters the novel when Brian, one of the protagonists, finds out that an old lover Geordie has AIDS, which she got from an IV-drug-using boyfriend, and Brian waits for his test results, worried he may have spread it to other women. At the end of the novel, his gay HIV+ friend, Michael, attends a wake for someone who has died of AIDS, but the wake serves simply as an opportunity for him to find out that a new love interest returns his feelings.

Moore, Patrick. This Every Night. New York: Amethyst, 1990.

This Every Night describes one week in the life of an anonymous first-person narrator, in which he moves from silent nocturnal pursuits of anonymous sex to political activism, when he gets swept up one night in an ACT UP demonstration and rediscovers his own voice. AIDS figures on the periphery, when he remembers all those who have died, and he considers ACT UP's slogan that silence=death.

Morales, Alejandro. The Rag Doll Plagues. Houston, TX: Arte Publico Press, 1992.

The Rag Doll Plagues is divided into three historically discrete sections, past, present, future, tied together by the theme of plagues and a consistent first-person narrator, named Don Gregorio in the first section and Gregory in the last two. The second section describes contemporary history and Gregory's intense love relationship with a hemophiliac woman named Sandra, who ultimately gets sick and dies of AIDS.

Munoz, Elias. The Greatest Performance. Houston, TX: Arte Publico Press, 1991.

 A poetic novel of exile, The Greatest Performance recounts the life stories of two friends, lesbian Rosita and gay Mario, from their childhood in Cuba, to their separate journeys to the United States, to Mario's testing HIV+, to the final section of the novel, in which they sit together in a bar in California, recalling their lives. The novels resists both a linear recounting of events as well as "truthful," fixed, recollections of the past. Indeed, the end of the novel calls into question the "truth" of any of what has gone before and that "a plague hasn't broken out..." (150).

Musto, Michael. Manhattan on the Rocks. NY: Holt, 1989.

AIDS plays a secondary role in this novel, which primarily recounts the socializing of the first-person narrator, Vinnie, in New York City's fast life. In the final chapters, Vinnie becomes involved in an AIDS activist group that stages a demonstration at the funeral of an influential social figure who has died of AIDS.

Nava, Michael. Howtown: a Novel of Suspense. New York: Harper and Row, 1990.

This is one of Nava's murder mysteries, featuring Henry Rios, the first-person narrator, who is a 38 yr-old Chicano gay lawyer. In this novel, Henry is called upon to investigate the murder of a man suspected of producing child pornography. AIDS figures in this novel only secondarily in the figure of Josh, Henry’s 25 yr-old Jewish lover, who is HIV+.

---. The Hidden Law. New York: Harper/Collins, 1992.

In this Henry Rios mystery, Henry is called upon to investigate the death of a state senator. Framed within the murder mystery is the story of Henry's personal life and his failing relationship with Josh, who is HIV+. Josh has become quite involved in AIDS politics and ultimately dumps Henry for his lack of participation in the fight against AIDS. After the murder mystery has been solved, Josh contacts Henry for help in writing his will, because he now has CMV and is dying. The novel ends with Henry entering a new relationship with a part-time lover named Lonnie.

Puccia, Joseph. The Holy Spirit Dance Club. Austin, TX: Liberty, 1988.

This novel is primarily a recollection of the first-person narrator's relationship to a wild dance club and its orgiastic drug frenzies during the 80's. In the final section of the novel, the club is threatened by dropping enrollment, due to AIDS, the war against drugs, and by an invasion of straights. The novel ends with Harold's decision not to go anymore being challenged by a Japanese lesbian, who urges him to help preserve the club by sharing it with straights.

Purdy, James. Garments the Living Wear. San Francisco: City Light Books, 1989.

This novel is reminiscent of an 18th century comedy of manners and describes the lives of a group of thespians in New York City and their rich patrons. AIDS enters the novel in the figure of a religious fanatic named Jonas, who apparently has AIDS. He falls to his death, when he mysteriously, spontaneously combusts in a public address to his followers.

Rabushka, Jerrold. The Omega Boys: a Gay Novel of Realistic Dimension: A Tale of

Love, Violence, and a Rather Bad AIDS Play. Clayton, MO: New Universe Productions, 1990.

This short novel (55 pages) begins with the first-person narrator, a Jewish gay man named Terry, picking up a man named Reed down by the river in St. Louis. The novel describes the growth, difficulties and ultimately the failure of their relationship, which is told in conjunction with the story of Terry's friend, John, putting together and producing a play about men with AIDS. The novel ends with a successful performance of the play and Terry resisting Reed's attempts to reel him back into the relationship. Terry’s psyche is haunted by AIDS, when he remembers his friends and his last lover who have died of AIDS.

Rees, David. The Wrong Apple. Stamford, CT: Knights, 1988.

The Wrong Apple describes the entanglements of three people's love lives, which become increasingly complicated when the first-person narrator, David, finds out he's HIV+ and his bisexual male lover, Kim, dumps him for Katya. The novel ends with them all reuniting at a dinner party, in which David and Kim make peace with Kim's bisexuality, and David is embarking on a more emotionally mature and yet sexually satisfying relationship with his new lover, Simon.

Rule, Jane. Memory Board. New York: Naiad, 1987.

Memory Board describes the reunion of the elderly twins David and Diana after 40 years of estrangement due to David's wife's homophobia. With her death, David reestablishes his friendship with his sister and her lover, Constance, though each now suffers from old age: arthritis, deafness and memory loss. AIDS is only one manifestation of mortality in this novel, when David's nephew is diagnosed with AIDS.

Schulman, Sarah. People in Trouble. New York: Dutton, 1990.

This novel describes the lives of Kate, her husband Peter, and her lesbian lover and AIDS activist, Molly, over the course of a year. Molly’s participation in an activist organization, Justice (akin to ACT UP) forms a subsidiary plot that gains prominence toward the end of the novel. Though Molly's gay friends are dying of AIDS, the emphasis in this novel is on other people involved in the AIDS epidemic, especially those who fight for social and political justice for PLWAs.

Stephens, Jack. Triangulation. New York: Crown, 1989.

Besides the opening chapter, in which the protagonist teaches a class on epidemiology and AIDS, the novel describes events in his middle-aged, academic life; AIDS never reenters the narrative.

Uyemoto, Holly. Rebel Without a Clue. New York: Crown, 1989.

The first-person narrator, Christian, describes the events of the summer following his highschool graduation and his life in the Hollywood fast crowd of drugs, sex and parties. Toward the end of the novel, his best friend, Thomas, a successful model, reveals to Christian that he has AIDS, and the novel ends with Christian's reflections about Thomas and AIDS.

Wolfe, Tom. The Bonfire of the Vanities. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1987.

This is a novel about the high life in New York City. Chapter 15, entitled "The Masque of the Red Death," plays on the reference to Poe's short story and links it to AIDS, when Wolfe describes a guest at the party (apparently afflicted with AIDS) addressing the partygoers with Poe's dark, prophetic vision.



Either by telling futuristic stories or by focusing on the intrigue involved in the medical research on AIDS, these works of science fiction and/or intrigue all represent aspects of the paranoia surrounding the AIDS epidemic.


Bryan, Jed. A Cry in the Desert. Austin: Banned Books, 1987.

This is a futuristic vision of what happens to the gay community of Las Vegas, when extensive AIDSphobia triggers the quarantining and imprisoning of gay men. By the end of the novel, the protagonist, Carl, is able to rescue and be reunited with his lover, Larry, though the evil, homophobic mastermind, Botts, is still on the loose.

Buck, Charles H. The Master Cure. New York: Jove, 1989.

This is a futuristic account in which an AIDS vaccine has already been invented but a new virus is being developed by a mysterious U.S. organization and being experimented with on Africans. The two main characters, heterosexuals Gloria and Joseph, battle these mysterious forces, obtain and convey the necessary data to stop the new epidemic and the evil masterminds are killed.

Busby, F. M. The Breeds of Man. New York: Bantam Spectra, 1988.

Book one of this science fiction novel begins in the near future, with AIDS spreading rapidly and threatening the world population in Book One. Cogdill, the protagonist of Book One works for a company that seeks to produce an AIDS vaccine. The last two books of the novel move forward in time beyond the AIDS epidemic to describe a new plague, has arisen from botched attempts to develop an AIDS vaccine. Book Three is told from the point of view of Troy, a member of the new species of human that is beginning to phase out the older species. Called Mark Twos, members of his species periodically undergo physical sexual transformation, shifting between both sexes. Fixed gender categories become obsolete and the world promises to become a better place.

Fisher, James N. And Into Death’s Spiral: a Novel. Santa Barbara, CA: Collective

Creations by Fisher, 1990.

And Into Death’s Spiral (AIDS), a self-published novel by a doctor in private practice, tells a futuristic story of how Metamorphea Virus (a virulent mutant strain of AIDS) has become the “Plague of the Twentieth Century,” killing over 50% of the world’s population. The novel centers on the life of Joe, a doctor who struggles to help patients who fall victim to MV and die. By the end of the novel, though Joe has survived and a cure has been found, he has lost his wife and a child to the Plague. The novel ends at January 1, 2000, the beginning of a new millenium in which the world’s population has vowed after the devastation of the Plague to live in peace and good will.

Johnson, Toby (Edwin). Plague: A Novel about Healing. Boston: Alyson, 1987.

 Plague traces the conspiracy of an organization to spread AIDS, though this organization has the means by which to cure AIDS. The novel ends with the protagonist and several other characters undergoing spontaneous remission of AIDS due to a change in their philosophical attitudes.

Mains, Geoffrey. Gentle Warriors. Stamford, CT: Knights Press, 1989.

Gentle Warriors laments a time gone by and details a presidential assassination plot by a group of "gentle warriors," gay leathermen decimated by AIDS and enraged by the lack of governmental response to the epidemic. The assassination attempt ultimately fails when the assigned sharp-shooter collapses and dies of AIDS.

Subbarao, Aragam. The Riddle of AIDS. New York: Carlton Press, 1991.

This short novel speculates that AIDS was a mutant virus created by the Russians, who were using Haitians as guinea pigs to experiment with viral warfare. This global and political storyline is framed by a more personal story - the quest a middle-class, white American father named Robert embarks upon to discover how his son, Peter, has acquired HIV through a blood transfusion. Ironically, at the end of the novel, it turns out Peter’s first test for HIV had been a false positive and that the more accurate Western Blot test now reveals that he does not actually have HIV.

Warmbold, Jean. June Mail. Sag Harbor, NY: Permanent, 1986.

First-person narrator, Sarah, is a reporter investigating the disappearance of Dr. Winslow, a genetic engineer she once dated. The novel exposes the possibility of an enormous coverup, that AIDS was originally a virus developed as part of a biochemical war game. Winslow disappears, her evidence to the prove her story is stolen, and the novel itself finally serves as her testimony to the "truth" of the events she relates.



These murder and thriller novels use AIDS as a tool to fuel their plots.


Coben, Harlan. Miracle Cure. New York: SPI Books, 1991.

In this thriller, the heterosexual duo of Sara, the gorgeous newsanchor, and Michael, a private eye, is on the of Dr. Harvey, a Dr. Mengele-like character, who uses homosexuals as disposable guinea pigs for his research into an AIDS cure. In the end, Dr. Harvey is in jail and reads a newspaper excerpt that describes the birth of Sara and Michael's son.

Cook, Robin. Godplayer. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1983.

This novel reads like a murder mystery, with strange cases of SSD (Sudden Surgical Death) being investigated at Boston Memorial Hospital. Cassi, the diabetic protagonist, has recently married the hospital’s top surgeon, named Thomas, and they both work there. One of the key patients to die of SSD is a man named Jeoffrey, who has been diagnosed with AIDS. There is a controversy about treating Jeoffrey's heart condition, because several doctors think energy should be spent "saving" cardiac patients who do not have terminal illnesses. It is Jeoffrey's blood that when analyzed contains a suspicious precipitate, which reveals foul play. In a final showdown in which her husband tries to kill her, Cassi confronts Thomas’ addiction to prescription drugs and his desire to play God.

Dawson, David. Double Blind. New York: St. Martin's, 1990.

In Double Blind, the psychiatrist, Dr. Snow, investigates a medicaly mystery, which involves gay men experiencing some kind of strange dementia. Through the course of the novel, he solves the mystery, discovering that the dementia is a side effect of an AIDS drug, sees the evil men killed and gets the woman.

Hansen, Joseph. Early Graves: a Dave Brandstetter Mystery. New York: The Mysterious

Press, 1987.

This is one of Hansen’s murder mysteries featuring the middle-aged, gay detective, Dave Brandstetter, who in this novel investigates a series of murders of men who test positive for HIV. During his investigation, Dave encounters various homophobic people on the police force and struggles to work through his relationship with his much younger, black ex-lover, Cecil. The serial killer, who is shot while being apprehended, had AIDS and had been killing the men who had possibly infected him. Further investigation reveals that the one man not murdered by the serial killer had led an evil life, not only infecting his current wife with HIV, but had also previously abandoned another wife and a son. It turns out he was killed by this enraged son, who finally tracked him down. The novel ends with Dave and his ex-lover reuniting.

Mayes, Sharon. Immune. New York: New Rivers, 1987.

Immune opens with the mystery of why a woman named Suzanne committed suicide. Through the course of the novel, it turns out that all of the primary characters, through their sexual entanglements, have been exposed to AIDS and that Suzanne killed herself when she learned of her HIV status, due to her fears of dying from AIDS.

McBain, Ed. The House that Jack Built. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 1988.

AIDS figures only tangentially in this murder mystery, in that the murdered man, Jonathan, tests positive for HIV. As Matthew closes in on his investigation, it turns out that Jonathan had led a nefarious life, living off his brother, abandoning his child, and he was finally murdered by the child’s mother, when he tried to extort money from her.

Nava, Michael. Goldenboy. Boston: Alyson, 1988.

The first of Nava's Henry Rios murder mysteries, this novel begins with Henry being asked by his friend, Larry, to take a case of his, because Larry is dying of AIDS. The case involves defending a young man named Jim who has been accused of killing a man who had treated him homophobically. The story grows more complicated, when Henry meets Josh, who had worked at the restaurant where the murder happened. With Henry's help, Josh comes out to his family and together they deal with Josh's HIV+ status and what that means for their sexual relationship. In the end, it turns out that Jim was an innocent stooge for the machinations a villain, who is ultimately killed.

Turnbull, Peter. Two Way Cut. New York: St. Martin's, 1988.

One of a mystery series, Two Way Cut describes the investigations of the Glasgow police officer, Phil Hamilton, into the mystery surrounding a beheaded corpse. AIDS figures marginally in the story, when Phil's investigations lead him through an AIDS care ward.

Wydra, Frank. The Cure. New York: Dell Publishing, 1992.

In this medical thriller, disease specialist, Luke Chinsky, takes over the project of his murdered boss, which involves finding a cure for AIDS. In the course of events, he encounters a deadly killer, who stalks him and Brenda Byrne, a gorgeous reporter, who helps him. In the end, it is left unclear whether the data Luke acquires will cure AIDS.



Most of these novels are written by women for a young adult audience and serve to teach moral lessons about AIDS.


Arrick, Fran. What You Don't Know Can Kill You. New York: Dell, 1992.

This novel opens with a family giving blood to help an injured friend, which leads to the discovery that daughter Ellen is HIV+. The novel then details the emotional responses of the family and community, as well as teaches the dangers of unsafe sex, since Ellen wrongly assumed that her boyfriend was also a virgin when they had sex. The novel ends with Ellen assuring her sister that everything will be okay.

Cohen, Miriam. Laura Leonora's First Amendment. New York: Lodestar, 1990.

Nerdy, brainy and Jewish, Laura struggles to survive the difficulties of life in junior highschool, caught between the moral codes of her family and her own desires to fit in with her schoolmates. This conflict culminates in the end of the novel, when a boy with AIDS begins attending school and AIDSphobia infects both her homelife and her school life. Laura learns something about herself, when she stands up not only to her schoolmates but to her own family and sits beside the boy in the cafeteria at lunch.

Durant, Penny. When Heroes Die. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1992.

This novel describes first how Gary, the seventh grade protagonist, learns that his favorite uncle, Rob, has AIDS and then how Gary gradually comes to terms with Rob’s impending death. During the course of the novel, Gary is learning how to approach the girl he finds attractive and Rob offers advice. Before Rob dies, he reveals to Gary that he the reason he had never married the girl he had loved was because he is gay. Following Rob’s death, Gary begins dating.

Hermes, Patricia. Be Still My Heart. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1989.

This novel is primarily a love story, describing how the protagonist, a highschool sophomore named Allison, is in love with David, one of her classmates. AIDS enters the novel when school gossip insinuates that the husband of one of the teachers, Ms. Adams, has AIDS. Allison, David and several of the other students resist the paranoia and AIDSphobia of the other students and the parents. They make everyone read the Surgeon General's Report and Allison comes up with the idea that Mr. Adams should come and talk to people at school so they can get to know him. He comes and everyone likes him. The novel ends with David and Allison dating.

Humphreys, Martha. Until Whatever. New York: Scholastic, 1991.

In this novel, Karen learns to stand up to the ostracism of other highschool kids and to the class bias and AIDSphobia of her mother in order to remain friends with Connie, who is from a poor background and who has AIDS. They will remain friends "until whatever."

Hunt, Angela E. A Dream to Cherish. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992.

In this novel, the first-person narrator, Cassie, has returned to her old highschool to find that she no longer fits in with her old friends, many of whom are boy crazy. She meets a new student, a beautiful senior, Arien, from California and they become friends. Arien tells people that she has AIDS, though the novel does not detail how she acquired it sexually. Cassie has to confront her fears and the prejudices of her school and community. The previous year, her boyfriend had converted her to Christianity and now Arien is receptive to his talk about the Bible. Though Arien dies from AIDS at the end of the novel, because of her Christian belief system, Cassie believes Arien is not dead but saved.

Kerr, M.E. Night Kites. New York: Harper and Row, 1986.

In Night Kites, the first-person narrator, 17-year old Erick, learns a lot one summer, when his older brother, Pete, both comes out to their family and reveals that he has AIDS. Erick must then deal not only with his father's homophobia but also with the AIDSphobia of his own girlfriend, Niki. By the end of the novel, Erick breaks up with Nicki and grows closer to Pete.

Levy, Marilyn. Rumors and Whispers. New York: Ballantine Books, 1990.

This novel is unlike many of the other young adult AIDS novels that treat teenage sexuality either generally or euphemistically. Highschool senior, Sarah, has just moved from Ohio to California with her family and she has to attend a new school. The novel describes her developing sexual relationship with another senior and their negotiation of safer sex. The novel also describes her older brother's coming out to the family, her father's kicking him out, and his lover, Terry. AIDS becomes an issue when it is discovered that her art teacher, Craig Hill has AIDS. There is a school meeting about Craig and the novel specifically describes the ways in which HIV is transmitted. The novel ends with Sarah’s admission into a school of design located near the college her boyfriend will be attending in the fall.

Micklowitz, Gloria. Good-bye Tomorrow. New York: Delacorte Press, 1987.

Good-bye Tomorrow opens with Shannon beginning her first day of junior year at highschool and meeting a guy named Alex, who is new to the school. They become involved and have sex together for the first time. As the novel unfolds, Alex becomes sick with AIDS-like symptoms, and a year ago, he had been injured in a car accident and had had two blood transfusions. He stays out of school during this time and breaks up with Shannon, not wanting to burden her with his sickness. Her HIV test comes back negative, but she'll have to be retested. Someone leaks the story to the newspaper that a student with AIDS will be returning to school, and the novel ends with Shannon and several other friends greeting Alex at the parking lot and escorting him to school.

Young, Alida. I Never Got to Say Good-Bye. Worthington, OH: Willowisp, 1988.

Highschool sophomore, Traci has to deal with her dad's kid brother, Mark, developing AIDS. He'd been infected with HIV from a blood transfusion he’d had four years previously, when he'd been in a car accident in South America that had killed his parents. Mark drops out of college and comes home to live with his brother and family in Los Angeles. Mark's symptoms grow increasingly severe and Traci has to deal with the AIDSphobia and prejudice of the people in town and at school. Unlike other young adult AIDS novels, this novel describes her family attending an AIDS support group and depicts other people besides her brother living with AIDS.


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