Last Call was published in 1993 and is set in the then-present day, so it’s now a period piece. The most fascinating part of reading it came when the protagonist had to cross-dress as part of a disguise. Nowadays that’s no big deal. In the book he is so repulsed by the idea that he seriously contemplates a far weaker disguise that would likely get him killed. Take a great-than-50% chance of being killed, vs dress like a queer, was actually a serious dilemma. He’s grossed out by it, and he gets non-stop harassment from everyone. Literally random people on the street threaten him simply for being there. A cab driver first extracts a promise that the protagonist won’t rape him before he agrees to drive him anywhere.
It wasn’t because Tim Powers is homophobic or anything, this was required to make the story believable in its day.
I was reminded of the pilot episode of “Friends”. I saw it when it first aired and laughed. When I saw it in reruns years later, a scene jumped out and punched me in the face. Chandler and Joey had to share a blanket/bed for some reason, and one of them had to quickly assert that this doesn’t mean he’s gay (because back then sharing a bed made you insta-gay), and that the other one should not take this as an invitation to butt-rape him (because that’s what gay people do!). The other guy quickly asserted that he was also absolutely not gay, and he’s also expecting no queer stuff! Studio audience laughs.
This was just good family fun back in the day. It was so ubiquitous that I apparently didn’t notice or think anything of it in 1994. It was only watching it later that the insane homophobia of the joke was apparent, and I felt awful that I hadn’t seen it before. Even at 14 I should have seen that.
But this is the same series that later on had the napping episode, pictured above, where the guys discover that cuddle-napping on the couch is the best thing ever. During “Friends” 10 years on air, the culture shifted that dramatically. That’s kinda surprising. We’ve come a long way, and I’m old enough now I can even see some of the progress in my life time. It’s weird.