September 1998

Dean's Domain: Internet Phenomenon

First, before I begin this month's article, I'd just like to thank all of you out there who wrote me about my effort last month. You confirmed my suspicions and gave me some very good ideas and feedback that I may use for future articles. And of course, it gives me something to think about for my own life. Thanks in particular to E.J. for putting up with me on ICQ chat.

All right, now for this month's topic. As you all may know from surfing around the web, there are a lot of sites for and by gay teenagers, many found in Geocities' "West Hollywood" community, as well as other places. Many of these are fine efforts, telling the story of that particular teen, often with very touching or meaningful stories. Others are in-your-face celebrations of homosexuality: "I'm here and I'm queer, so sign my guestbook," they seem to be saying in bright, rainbow-colored explosions of text and graphics. But very few of these sites offer real content, educational or entertaining, for the gay teenager. But one example of a site that does, one which stands above the rest and has, judging by the impressive hit counter and guestbook, reached a high level of popularity, is Dean's Domain (http://www.deans-domain.nu/).

Dean's Domain is the home of four smart, gay teens, three in England and one in the U.S.A. And, as a matter of fact, they form two couples, one virtual and one flesh and blood. "Eyes" (http://eyes.deans-domain.nu/) and his American boyfriend, Pat (http://pat.deans-domain.nu/), both operate lovely, primarily personal webpages with good writing. Both are worthy of a fuller description than I can give here, but because of space constrictions, suffice it to say that you should definitely check them out.

The real blockbuster at Dean's Domain is called Our Place (http://www.deans-domain.nu/ourplace/). The amalgamation of host Dean Lidster and his boyfriend Lee Clarke's respective web sites is relatively recent and the result is extremely impressive.

Lee's contribution to the site is mostly technical (although he did provide the "Moozic Section"). He created the extremely easy-to-navigate layout and eye-popping graphics. I've played around with HTML frames a little bit, and, believe me, anyone who can get them to work as well as these do is very talented indeed and in rather rare company.

It is Dean's storytelling, however, that draws in the several hundred visitors a day. Dean, like Lee and Isaac a 15 year old, has a rather large crush on the Hanson brothers, you see. (And who of our age and persuasion doesn't?) As a result of this attraction, and the frustrations and boredoms of everyday life, he began to write a semi-autobiographical sexual fantasy about a date with his (and my) personal favorite, Taylor (Tay).

"Date With Taylor" begins like many of these such stories do, as basically wanking material for bored minds: boy-meets-boy, boy-falls-in-love-with-boy, boy-and-boy-have-wild-sex-for-several-pages. Dozens of examples of these rather juvenile (if entertaining) stories (where all the people are beautiful and all the sex is unprotected) can be found in the Celebrity section and beyond of the wonderful Nifty archive (http://www.nifty.org/), where Dean's story was originally posted.

But almost at once, Dean seemed to be pulling away from the formula, which he had picked up from the (mostly older) other writers of the Nifty archive. Instead of depicting a mere brazen, lust-fuelled orgy between two young gay people, he made it into basically a perfect date story. Don't make any mistake, the sex scene is long and hot (one of the best I've read), but the emphasis is clearly on the developing romance between the international pop superstar and the quiet boarding school lad from the English midlands. After meeting on the EuroStar train (the passenger train connecting France to England through the Chunnel), they meet again for a romp at the Alton Towers, an amusement park in England. They ride the rides, eat the food, dodge teeny-boppers out for blood, and, finally, collapse into bed in a first-class hotel on the premises. Whoo! Have your Kleenex and cigarette ready before you load this one!

Clearly inspired by the success of "Date With Taylor," Dean started to write a longer, much more structured chapter to what he calls "The Hanson Saga." "Touring With Hanson" introduces the other two Hanson boys (and, briefly, their parents). Amazingly enough, we learn that Tay is not the only gay Hanson! Conservative Republicans had this sort of material in mind when they tried the Communications Decency Act: as Dean accompanies his now-official boyfriend on a tour across England, there are some outrageously explicit sex scenes, including several foursomes. But, as in "Date With Taylor," the emphasis is clearly not purely on the physical relationship between the boys: it is a romantic story, with high adventure, confrontation, coming-of-age, and some spot-on observations about the general attitudes of gay teens. And, in a big cliffhanger ending, it becomes clear that even more is to come.

I hesitate to even mention Part III of the "Saga." Written under the narcotic effect of a foreign exchange experience in Germany (the gruesome and stomach-turning details of which are also available for your reading enjoyment), this chapter, which he wrote in third-person without including himself as a character, is devoted purely to Zac and his (much younger) brother, Mackie. It has nothing to do with the other parts of the story and would really be better left out of the picture entirely. Save your modem some grinding and skip to the fourth (and best) part, "The Exchange," still in progress.

In "The Exchange" (written up to Chapter 17 at the time this article went to "press"), the three Hanson boys join Dean at his midlands boarding school. By this time, the story has almost totally transcended the pornographic nature of the original installments and is nearly a pure love/adventure tale. In addition to following the idealistic love affair of Dean and Taylor, it follows the romantic travails of the other two Hanson brothers as well. There is a lot in this story: read it carefully and enjoy the engaging and amusing prose that Dean spins out.

All in all, the "Hanson Saga," the focal point of the entire site, is an excellent effort and a worthwhile read for all interested. But there are a few constructive criticisms I would like to make: firstly, the British slang peppered throughout the story adds the necessary authenticity but also makes the story rather difficult to read for the average foreigner. Dean would do well to add a little glossary to his site so all the Yankees can find out how much ten quid can buy and what something is when it is "kack." Also, Dean sometimes inadvertently has the Hanson brothers spouting out these little expressions. Certainly you would pick up a few little tidbits after living in England for a while, but I can guarantee that no amount of immersion will ever cause an American to use the word "whilst." But overall Dean does an excellent job writing dialogue for the American characters, a formidable task to be sure (about like me attempting to write a "Full Monty" sequel).

Another complaint: the dramatic tension of the story would be increased tremendously by the addition of some straight characters. Very nearly everyone in the story is gay and that robs the story of a great deal of realism. There are a few hulkish, thug hetero characters but the addition of some slightly homophobic, but otherwise likable characters would make the story much better and add some interesting conflict. Dean has started to do this a little bit with the characters of Ash (discontinued for the moment) and Spider (under suspicion) but they don't quite do the job.

Mind that these are all fairly minor criticisms of an overall excellent story, which is a fitting showcase for one of the best sites for gay teens on the Internet.

There are other features here, too: links to some other very good sites, an accounting of the real-life activities of Hanson in the U.K., and, of course, lots of personal info on the two lovebird creators. Unfortunately, I found as a Macintosh user that some of the file formats on the site for multimedia delivery were impossible to use on my computer. I wrote Lee about this and he may be addressing it, though.

Anyhow, in conclusion, this is a kick-ass site and one that I would definitely recommend to everybody out there. Check it out. http://www.deans-domain.nu/. Stories also available for easier offline reading from Nifty. http://www.nifty.org/nifty/gay/celebrity/dean-and-hanson/.


NEXT MONTH: My review of Hanson's Pittsburgh concert (August 27th). In the meantime, keep those emails coming: flyboy313@penn.com. Love and peace

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