Preston, John, 1953-....

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Epithet: of Shepscombe

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Epithet: Tailor, of Norwich

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Title: Baron Tara

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Epithet: witness of Wolley Ch vii.79

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John Preston, an author of gay erotica and gay-themed nonfiction, was born December 11th, 1945 in Medfield, Massachusetts. He recognized his orientation early in life and as a teenager began experimenting with his sexuality, an activity he would later write about in several of his more personal works of nonfiction. In 1963 he moved to Illinois to attend Lake Forest College and afterwards moved back to Boston in order to pursue an openly gay community. Prompted by the suicide of a lover, Preston decided to come out as a member and advocate of gay society and moved to Minneapolis to help establish the "Gay House" and the accompanying Gay Community Services. He emigrated from major U.S. city to city during his life, moving to Los Angeles during the 1970s to become an editor for the gay magazine The Advocate and later re-establishing himself in San Francisco and then New York City to experiment in various sexual movements. During this time, Preston became deeply involved in the Leather and BDSM subcultures, which he celebrated in several of his written works. After stints as a sex worker and an S/M underground enthusiast, he began writing erotic fiction and become known for his stories describing the sexual escapades of fictional character Aristotle Benson in an erotic series known as Mr. Benson. Preston pushed for the development of better quality gay erotic writing, which he regarded as a genuine art form, as well as gay nonfiction in general. He received the Lambda Literary Award and the American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award for his nonfiction anthologies, which included Personal Dispatches: Writers Confront AIDS, Sister and Brother: Lesbians and Gay Men Write about their Lives Together, Member of the Family: Gay Men Write About Their Families, Friends and Lovers: Gay Men Write About the Families They Create, and Hometowns: Gay Men Write About Where They Belong. Preston moved, once again, to Portland, Maine in 1979, where he continued writing as both an author and a journalist and working as a gay activist. He pioneered a safe sex erotica movement and edited a safe sex-themed anthology titled Hot Living, which was published in 1985. He also co-founded the AIDS Project in Southern Maine as a part of his efforts to increase awareness of the disease and worked as a safe-sex instructor for the gay community. In 1987, Preston was himself diagnosed as HIV-positive and took a hiatus from writing in order to come to terms with his illness. He resumed, however, and continued writing until his death in Portland on April 28th, 1994 from AIDS complications.

During his life, Preston corresponded frequently with writer Anne Rice (with whom he collaborated on his anthology Flesh and the Word: An Anthology of Erotic Writing) as well as several other well-known authors and gay activists. He published many significant works of GLBT-themed fiction and nonfiction during his lifetime, including I Once Had a Master and Other Tales of Erotic Love, The Big Gay Book: A Man's Survival Guide for the Nineties, Franny, the Queen of Provincetown, the Alex Kane series, and Hustling: A Gentleman’s Guide to the Fine Art of Homosexual Prostitution. He did much of his writing under pen names; these pseudonyms included Jack Hilt, Mike McCray, and Preston MacAdam. He rejected the categorization of his work as "erotica," deeming it elitist, and preferred instead to call it pornography; a lecture he gave at Harvard on the subject entitled "My Life as a Pornographer" was later turned into an accompanying essay collection of the same name. His posthumously-published anthology Winter's Light dealt with Preston's struggle to cope with both his own status as a victim of AIDS and the loss of many of his friends and fellow writers to the epidemic. Preston's work remains well-regarded today as both an advancement in the world of gay literature and a strong example of activism in the GLBT community.

From the guide to the John Preston papers, Preston (John) Papers, circa 1973-1995, (John Hay Library Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Grant British Library
referencedIn Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 1761-1904. Harvard University, Houghton Library
referencedIn Alexander Mackay-Smith Collection, 1689-1827 University of Virginia. Small Special Collections Library
creatorOf John Preston papers, Preston (John) Papers, circa 1973-1995 John Hay Library, Special Collections
referencedIn Sylvere Lotringer Papers and Semiotext(e) Archive, Bulk, 1973-2000, 1960-2000 Fales Library & Special Collections
referencedIn Vol. LXX (ff. 342). Dec. 1815.includes:ff. 1, 144 Charles Henry Coote, 2nd Baron Castle Coote: Correspondence with Sir R. Peel: 1812-1818.f. 2 John Preston, Baron Tara: Letter to Sir R. Peel: 1815.f. 4 Colonel Augustine FitzGerald, 1st Baronet ... British Library
referencedIn John Mason Brown papers, 1922-1967. Houghton Library
creatorOf Vol. VII (ff. ii+259). N-Skinner.includes:ff. 1-6 George W. Napier, hymnologist: Letters to D. Sedgwick from George W. Napier: 1863-1876.ff. 7-12 John Mason Neale, hymnologist and translator: Letters to D. Sedgwick from John Mason Neale: 1862-186... British Library
referencedIn Harvard University. Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Portraits. ca.1852-ca.2004. Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Arnie Kantrowitz papers, 1958-1995 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Mathematical theses, 1782-1839. Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn E. E. Cummings papers, 1870-1969. Houghton Library
referencedIn LEASE for 80 years from Henry Gray, "miles," Thomas Hevenynham, "armiger," John Smyth, "clericus," Nicholas Ovy, gent., John Dussyng, "clericus," William Crosse, "capellanus," and John Preston, of Norwich, tailor, to John Selot, "clericus," Master of... British Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Alexander Mackay-Smith person
correspondedWith Brown, John Mason, 1900-1969 person
associatedWith Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee corporateBody
correspondedWith Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962 person
associatedWith DeRoche, Celeste person
associatedWith Gay Activists Alliance corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard University. corporateBody
associatedWith Hild, Jack person
associatedWith Hinand, Gail D. person
associatedWith Holleran, Andrew person
associatedWith Kantrowitz, Arnie, 1940- person
correspondedWith Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882 person
associatedWith Lotringer, Sylvère person
associatedWith Lowenthal, Michael person
associatedWith MacAdam, Preston person
associatedWith McCray, Mike person
associatedWith Prescott, Jack person
associatedWith Rice, Anne, 1941- person
associatedWith Steward, Samuel M. person
associatedWith Witomski, T. R. person
associatedWith Wood, Roy F., 1946-1986 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Ketleston, Derbyshire
Seething, Norfolk
Thwaite, Suffolk
Sisland, Norfolk
Loddon, Norfolk
Norwich, Norfolk
Nells, Meath
Rockland, Norfolk
Mundham, Norfolk
Mallow, Cork
Heege, Derbyshire


Birth 1953




Ark ID: w62w2qd7

SNAC ID: 65199606