Saturday, December 27, 2008
More Than Human (1953)
By Theodore Sturgeon
A true, and very well deserved, science fiction classic, More Than Human is brilliantly original and, as with pretty much everything Theodore Sturgeon did, astoundingly well-written.
To detail what I mean by "brilliantly original," More Than Human is a series of novellas exploring the birth, and growth, of the next stage in human evolution. In the first novella we’re introduced to Lone, “the idiot” who is actually an incredible genius; Baby, whose mind functions like a computer; Bonnie and Beanie, who can teleport; and a young telekinetic girl named Janie. That’s great and all, but the brilliance and originality of Sturgeon’s masterpiece is that each of these people are not the single next step but all parts of one super-entity, a gestalt. There’s a problem with this new, emergent, being, however: it needs a conscience.
Sturgeon’s genius is throughout More than Human: the characters are engaging, never heavy-handed or simplistic; the science fiction elements are experiential and totally real-feeling, never embarrassingly melodramatic; and the story has a real impact because Sturgeon embraces a true understanding of humanity with all it’s glory as well as flaws, and so the book is never feels cheap or lazy.
More Than Human is one of those books that should be read by everyone, science fiction fan or not: it’s a true work of art.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice, The Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution, The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling, The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History, and Its Role in the World Today -- as a writer I’ve naturally been fascinated by weird and wonderful books like these (winners of the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year).
Some of the earliest unusual books have got to be the celebrated illuminated manuscripts. First created in such places as Ireland, Constantinople, and Italy by amazingly diligent monks, illuminated manuscripts reached their height in the Middle Ages. Very difficult to create, and so very expensive, they were mostly created as “altar Bibles” for churches or cathedrals or for very wealthy patrons. What’s fascinating about illuminated manuscripts, beyond their elegant and beautiful craft, is that often the text was almost neglected for the artwork, which explains why many illuminated Bibles contain simple typographical mistakes.
With the advent of Guttenberg and his press, as well as the immense cost and workmanship required to create illuminated manuscripts, the market for them dropped off. But that didn’t stop other artisans from creating works less beautiful yet still extraordinary in their right.
Take, for example, the book that’s in Mandalay, Myanmar (which used to be called Burma), specifically the Kuthodaw Pagoda. Guttenberg is commonly considered to be the man responsible for bringing cheap, affordable books to the European masses, but King Mindon of Myanmar didn’t have portability in mind when he commissioned the creation of his book in the middle of the 19th century. His Tipitaka Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism is the world’s largest book, and it’s not going anywhere -- each page, and there are 1460 of them, are marble, with the lettering done in gold.
Alas, in the late 1800s, the British invaded and much of the pagoda’s treasures -- including the book -- were damaged or stolen. But, fortunately, the structure has been restored, as much as possible, and the world’s largest book is still on display in all its non-paperback, non-portable majesty.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the copy of Chekhov's Chameleon owned by the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. This special edition isn’t preserved against invaders, looters, or erosion, but instead a stray breeze: at .9 by .9 (that’s millimeters, by the way), the book has been authenticated by Guinness as being the world’s smallest. Just to give you an idea how small .9 by .9 millimeters is, next to this Chameleon, a kernel of corn is like a mountain: the book is about the size of a grain of salt.
But if you want to talk about weird, you have to connect these three words: KISS (the rock band), Marvel (the comic book publisher) and human blood. If you happen to own a copy of KISS’s Super Special comic book, published in 1977, then you own more than just a mediocre promotional gimmick. You actually own a tiny amount of Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, and Paul Stanley: namely their blood, which the foursome had extracted and was subsequently added to the ink used to print the comic.
To stay on this somewhat morbid topic, there’s an anatomy book in the possession of Brown University that’s more than just a book detailing how the human body’s put together. In fact there are two weird things about this particular book. The first oddity is that while the cover might feel and look like fine leather it didn’t come from a cow -- it came from a human being.
The second odd -- and more than a bit creepy -- thing about this anatomy book bound in some person’s skin is that it isn’t at all rare. In fact many prestigious universities, museums, and certain private collectors have books also made from human skin. Mostly made from criminals or people too poor to afford a burial, the practice was fairly common in the 1800s. One 1816 edition even had the cheek to be titled The Dance of Death.
So the next time you pick up some bestseller -- or just a book I wrote -- think about how books themselves are worthy of many interesting books, and very unusual sizes as well as bindings.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
A great review for The Very Bloody Mary's from my pal, Colleen Anderson:
From the title you might think this is about drinking, or murderous monarchs. If you thought one of these, you’re close to the heart of the matter. But really it’s both, about bloodthirsty vampire queens. Some are not so much queen as just murderous gay vampires. If you’re familiar with M. Christian’s work, you know he’s a prolific writer, and his writing includes erotic tales straight, gay, lesbian, etc. He’s very versatile. So I confess to thinking this book would be about gay vampires with a lot of erotica thrown in. Though it has sensuous details this is more the tale of a gay vampire trying to gain experience as a detective. It’s a murder mystery with the supernatural thrown in.
While vampire detectives are not necessarily new, a gay vampire detective is. Valentino is thrust into the crime scene on a personal level, since his mentor is missing. And the crime scene: Vespa scooting vampires are killing the folks of San Francisco and risking the outing of all vampires, who tend to live by a code so that they aren’t hunted down. Coupled with mentor Pogue’s disappearance, Valentino has two mysteries to figure out.
The book opens with three different beginnings as Valentino tries on his authorial voice. This sets the tone, and gives this character high twinkiness. Valentino is a flamer, vapid and vain. The character was so irritating and flittythat I nearly put the book down, but his way in the world was intriguing. I think M. Christian might have cut it down a bit but then I realized there is a good reason about a quarter of the way into the book on why Valentino is acting this way. He comes to discover what’s been done to him and his personality deepens as it’s unlayered.
Valentino relies on other supernatural help and Christian’s writing uses some very descriptive phrases. For being an undead guy, Valentino is vibrantly alive and given to over verbosity that doesn’t stop in describing his zombie driver: “One time–big shudder here–I had caught a look at his eyes, two puss-filled boiled-egg eyes staring, unblinking, straight ahead, and didn’t sleep well for a week.” Of course that should be pus-filled not eyes with cats in them, but I blame the publisher for not putting a proofreader on it or maybe they did and missed it. There are very few typos, which is a good thing.
You get a good sense of Valentino’s world as he sees it. “Finally, the Brass Ass of the Great Emancipator (Abraham Lincoln) led me through silverfish heaven to a narrow doorway between the piles…In it was Saul, tarnished silver hair, rainbow sweater unwinding in spots into primary colors, brittle bones showing where unwinding yarn couldn’t hide it, eyes like bleached robin’s eggs, Indian blanket in his lap hiding the bones I knew weren’t just brittle but also didn’t work, and, because of those legs, an ancient wheelchair.”It took me a moment to realize he meant realbones, not bony legs; the visual setting is very concrete.
Much of Valentino’s descriptions go into overdrive, with buckets of adjectives. They hit their height when he’s talking about his lover, Julian. “Oh oh oh Julian Julian Julian–beloved, adored, venerated companion, compadre, mate, playmate, partner, betrothed, idol, best friend, love, lover–oh oh oh Julian Julian Julian…” A bit much? Yes, but then this is the turning point for Valentino.
Events pick up with dire and catastrophic discoveries. I don’t want to give it away but let’s just say the Very Bloody Marys are brutal, relentless, sociopathic, fashion sensitive vampires. As the fog clears from Valentino’s eyes he finds his world isn’t as he suspected. Sure it still has a few supernatural beings but all is not what it seems. He still richly describes things but there is a darker vein now to the vampire detective’s perspective. “The inky blackness didn’t so much as run as steadily walk out of that doorway. A pooling, a billowing, a smoking, and then up and into arms and legs and a wide-brimmed hat pulled down over hooded eyes.”
When Valentino runs into Ombre, even the supernatural shade notices something has changed though the gay vampire tries to hide it. “It’s just that you seem different somehow. The flippancy is still there, that much is clear, but it’s like something else is missing.”
And Valentino has changed on several levels. In the process of discovering what has happened to Pogue, being threatened with permanent annihilation and in stopping the brutal gang, he earns his wings. He solves the mysteries, stops the Marys and finally grows up a bit after 200 years. M. Christian wraps up the tale in a very satisfying and unpredictable way. It’s one of the many bright spots in the story; very little is predictable. You won’t see this as another tired take on the vampire trope. It’s refreshingly bright and if not a complete happy ending, one with suitable revenge.
If you’re looking for a good, fast paced read, or if you like mystery or fantasy or gay fiction. Or if you just want something different and new, this book will be as satisfying as a vampire’s first drink of blood.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
A sultry tale of dominance and submission through bondage, from the delectable pen of M.Christian.
We are lured into the dark world of Syvia's dungeon seductively, as through Christian's protagonist we experience the fulfilment and relief of total obedience to a patient, yet wilfull mistress.
There are no bonds here, just a promise. No whips, no chains; no manacles whips or restraints. No pain. The subject is simply forbidden to move.
It's a journey of self awareness, understanding, learning and resistance.
He's exposed, naked. He can blink; he can breathe and that's it.
It's a gentle story of humility and the freedom of relinquishing control told in M.Christian's beautiful prose.
An exquisite story.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I'll be honest, this is only the second time I've bought an e-book or e-story, which is silly, really, considering I'm stuck in a country with no proper bookstores. I think I've been suffering from the same, stupid prejudice as many people - if it's not on paper, it can't be any good. If you feel this way, then the sooner you rid yourself of the prejudice the better, because otherwise, you're missing a lot of good writing.
I just purchased, downloaded and devoured M. Christian's Hack Work, from the Logical Lust site. No one asked me to review it, so I have no idea if he'll thank me for this or not.
Hack Work is a short work of speculative fiction set in the city of New Orleans in an unspecified future. The main character, Moss, is a woman who hires out her body to "fares" who pay to have experiences through her - using her like a remote sensing device. Although she's been at her job for some time, the client who hires her on this occasion, prompts her to question her assumptions of complicity, accountability, and confronts her with her own reactions as a "puppet" in the process.
As with all M. Christian's work, it is exceptionally well written: spare where it needs to be and lushly original where it matters. He pulls you down into the humid, forsaken city expertly. His "taxi" girl is elegantly introduced through beautifully economical language. It's rare to find a short story writer who does this so proficiently, especially because having a good sense of who this woman is is integral to the story. It is her identity, her agency, or the lack of it, that sits at the crux of the tale.
Hack Work has both the elements I consider essential to good erotic fiction: sexual heat, of course, but also moral ambiguity. It touches tantalizingly on universal issues of free will and responsibility. The main character approaches and withdraws from her own involvement in the acts her "client" demands that she perform, and - rather intelligently, I felt - she leaves us without having reached any firm conclusions.
The title itself is a challenge. It brings up images of writer as "hack" and the old word for the driver of a Hackney Cab. It sews them together again, reminding us of how writing is a guided, mediated experience for the reader, and something akin to channeling a voodoo god, for the writer.
Beyond the enjoyment of the story itself, Hack Work stands as an excellent example of how to do intelligent, erotic, short fiction right.
Hack Work, by M. Christian, can be purchased HERE
Monday, December 08, 2008
Prolific erotica writer M.Christian has been described more than once as a literary chameleon, and with good reason. Although he is straight and male, Christian has published single-author collections of both gay (Filthy) and lesbian (Speaking Parts) erotica. His books include a scifi erotica story collection (The Bachelor Machine), gay vampire thrillers (Running on Empty and The Very Bloody Marys) and the peculiar Me 2, which has been praised as insightful social criticism and panned as a poor-taste publicity stunt.
I was flattered when he wrote me asking if I’d give him press quotes for not one, but two books that he had coming out soon. Flattered, and jealous, given my own glacial rate of publication. Sure, I told him, but I’ve got to read the books first. Within half an hour, I received digital Advanced Reader Copies of Brushes and The Painted Doll.
If I didn’t know that these two books had been written by the same author, it would be difficult to tell. Brushes is a fascinating literary exercise, a novella in which each chapter presents the perspective of a different character. The various narrators are linked by their connections, casual or intimate, with Escobar, a fabulously popular painter hailed as an artistic genius. Escobar is hardly a person for these characters. He is a mirror, a distorted reflection highlighting their failings, magnifying their inadequacies. His sexual charisma, his incandescent talent, his elusive insight into the souls of his subjects, all are legendary. Everyone craves his attention. Everyone envies his success ....
Friday, December 05, 2008
These six quick-read stories offer something about anything for anyone -- gay, straight, lesbian, BDSM ... you name it - including stories that have never been previously released or published!
"MOVING" - Straight BDSM erotica
In Sylvia’s dungeon, when you’re told not to move you’d better not ...
"TWO MEN IN A BOAT/ON THE SCREEN" - Includes gay erotica
Two steamy tales, of two quite different types of passion!
"HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD" - Gay erotica
Sometimes meeting your big screen hero doesn’t end quite the way you wish ...
"HACK WORK" - Speculative, futuristic, straight erotica
In the future, we may use others remotely for our own pleasures, but what of the one ‘taking the ride?’
"SUNLIGHT" & "HER MASTER'S VOICE" - Includes gay and BDSM erotica
Another two scintillating tales of sensuality, both quite different.
"A LIGHT MINUTE" - Lesbian erotica
Online, Sasha has breath-
M.Christian is an acknowledged master of erotica with more than 300 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites. He is the editor of 20 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, and others. He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, and Filthy; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll.
M. Christian is the chameleon of modern erotica. One day punk, another romantic; one day straight, another totally perverse and polyamorous. But always sexy and and gripping.
- Maxim Jakubowksi, editor of the Mammoth Book of Erotica series
M. Christian is to erotica what Swarovski crystals are to Liberace: essential.
- Clint Catalyst, author of Cottonmouth Kisses
M. Christian's stories are the fairy tales whispered to one another by dark angels whose hearts and mouths are brimming with lust. He goes beyond the pale, ordinary definitions of sexuality and writes about need and desire in their purest forms. Readers daring enough to stray from the safety of the path will find in his images and words a garden of delights to tempt even the most demanding pleasure-seeker.
-- Michael Thomas Ford, Lambda Literary Award winner and editor
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Some things are amazing because of their size. Others, no less amazing because of their lack of it.
Doll House enthusiasts usually trace the origins of their fascination to European “baby houses” of the 1700s, though kids were kept far, far away from these elegant treasures; they were more a status symbol than a real plaything.
If you want to use a broader description, though, miniatures more suited for children to play with arguably have roots as far back as the ancient Egyptians, if not further.
True doll houses, mixing elegant miniaturization but still letting the kids play with them, really began to come into their own with the industrial age, around the turn of the 20th century. The finest makers of houses, and naturally the furniture to go in them, were usually German (before the first world war) and then the British and Americans (afterwards). Dolls and their houses existed before machines took the place of skilled craftsmen of course, but only rich kids could get them -- and then only played with them very, very carefully.
Some of the kids who enjoyed them grew up and transformed their childhood fun into a seriously wonderful hobby, if not magnificent art.
One of the more celebrated doll houses lives in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Created by legendary silent picture actress Colleen Moore with the set designer Harold Grieve, the fairy castle is a magnificent work of art as well deliriously scaled precision. Towering more than eight feet tall, the house features murals painted by someone you may have heard of (Walt Disney), chandeliers with real diamonds, the tiniest Bible ever written, tapestries featuring the smallest recorded stitches, a library of more than 100 hand-printed books, a pure silver bathtub (with running water), and still more amazing treasures and exquisite details.
Being a screen queen gave Colleen Moore an opportunity to create a magnificent fantasy castle, but if you want true opulence in small scale you have to … well, let’s just say it’s good to be the queen.
Created in 1924, Queen Mary’s doll house has a pedigree worthy of any stately home in England; the queen’s cousin, Princess Marie Louise, commissioned the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to construct it.
But the Queen’s dollhouse was more than a plaything. It was, and still is, a frozen moment in British history, a miniature collection of the pride of the empire with works and features showcasing the best the country had to offer. Like Colleen Moore’s castle, the library had an extensive collection of handwritten books, but because she was the queen, after all, the royal doll house’s library had unique works by Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Moore’s house had running water, but the queen’s house not only had that but a flushable loo, too. And that’s not all: the floors were done in fine woods and marble, the kitchen sported a working coffee mill, and even the wine cellar featured bottles containing real wines (and not just the cheap stuff, either). Many of the rooms were also mirror copies of rooms in Buckingham Palace, which is where the Queen’s doll house resides.
There are simply far too many curiosities and small-scale wonders to talk about in one article – from immaculate working steam trains and gasoline-powered racing cars. Nevertheless, I want to close with a fun little oddity: the biggest of the smallest.
Sure, some might argue about its standing as the biggest/smallest but you have to admit that the model of Shanghai in that city’s Urban Planning Museum is magnificent and, despite it’s scale, simply staggering.
A three-dimensional depiction of what the city might look like in 2020, the model fills a vast room bigger than 1,000 square feet in size. What gives you a headache about this incredibly detailed model is that, yes, the model is huge, but only because it’s a scaled reduction of the city itself: the largest model of what will be the largest city ever to exist on the planet.
Makes you feel small, doesn’t it?
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I'm doing for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)
Should you blog? Yes.
What, you want reasons? (sigh) Okay, here are a few good reasons why you should immediately –- or close to -– start your own blog and what you should put in it.
First of all, as I said last month, everything’s changed, especially in the writing world. Understand that these days, in this new world, anyone can be a writer, which is the good news as well as the bad news.
While publicity and exposure have never been things a writer could ignore, or did so at their peril, they’ve now become absolutely essential. You have to find some way –- any way –- of standing out from a growing throng of people who are also yelling at the top of their literary lungs for the attention of editors, publishers, or even readers.
Blogging is a great way to do just that: it’s free, easy, fun, and a good way to show off your work and build an audience. Frankly, there isn’t a reason not to blog, aside from the seduction of spending too much time on it, thereby keeping you from what’s really important, which is your fiction writing.
Two things to think about before you start: one, decide on a program or platform. Some people like Wordpress but many (like me) don’t like the HTML headaches. Others (like me) prefer Blogger since it’s amazingly easy to set up and use, and also features a lot of cool features that Wordpress does not.
Two, you have to decide what your blog’s about. It’s tempting to make it a personal thing, a site to show off your writing. Although that approach is fine and good, those types of blogs can (at best) sometimes be a bit dull or (at worst) make a writer feel obligated to constantly post new content. I recommend either a blog mixed with a hobby as well as your writing, or two separate sites, one for your writing that you don’t update a lot and one you post a lot of fun stuff to. Say, for instance, that you like food. Then do a sex and food blog that mixes your work with food-related stuff. (Donna George Storey does this well with her Sex, Food, and Writing blog.) Or you could do sex and movies, sex and travel, sex and … well it’s really up to you.
Just do what you feel comfortable doing because that's the only way you'll continue to blog.
Personal experience time! I’m not an expert but I’ve had a lot of fun with my own blogs –- and they seem to be going fairly well. I've created three separate blogs:
• www.mchristian.com is a site where I post my writing stuff (reviews, stories, essays like the one you’re reading right now, book announcements, and such)
• Meine Kleine Fabrik (http://meinekleinefabrik.blogspot.com) is the site my brother and I started to share the fun and weird stuff we’ve collected over the years or just stumbled across
• Frequently Felt (http://frequentlyfelt.blogspot.com) is where I post funny and strange sex stuff as well as work by writers who I’ve either contacted or who have sent me great things to post (and you can do the same -- just write me).
I recommend posting at least once a day, and consistently; people forget very quickly about dead or slow sites. You have to keep things flowing to keep people interested and reading. Once a day works for me, as I can post to all three blogs in about half an hour, which leaves me a lot of time to work on my fiction writing. I also cheat a bit in that I rarely write fresh content for my blogs, preferring to repost older material instead of spending precious time writing new stuff. I'm fortunate to have archives bursting with material, but I realize not everybody will be in a similar position. Basically, do what you can to prevent the blog from sucking time away from your "real" writing!
There are lots of sites out there with hints and techniques for running a successful blog so I won’t go into much detail about that topic here (besides, as I said, it’s all new and changing anyway). Here’s a quick rundown of things to remember, though, when you’re blogging.
One of the biggest, and most confusing, things about running a blog is posting content that isn’t your own. Technically, and legally, you should always get permission from the original source but that’s too often a huge headache and/or impossible. This is where what you should do (legally) and what most people go (realistically) part ways. Since I always try to be a law-abiding citizen … stop laughing … I must advise you to follow established procedure. There’s lots of sites out there that can help you with your copyright questions. Check out the U.S. Copyright Office's list of resource links for more information. I feel Creative Commons offers some of the best (and simplest) solutions and resources to make this topic less confusing.
Beyond the fun of figuring out what’s legal, a common mistake bloggers make is not putting an email address on their site(s). Yes you’ll get spammed (we all do) but what’s worse: spam or not hearing from some editor, publisher, or reader? I’ve tried to reach out to many writers only to find no way of reaching them on their site –- and so they’ve lost an opportunity. These days writers can’t afford to lose any possible gig or connection.
It’s also important to play with gadgets and gizmos. Blogger has all kinds of cool modules you can add to your site: video clips, sound clips, RSS readers, you name it. People expect multimedia these days—pages and pages of text is a kiss of death for blogs.
Checking out other blogs and sites is essential. There’s nothing wrong with learning from other’s successes and doing to your own site what they’ve done to theirs. As long as your content is different, no harm done. And the afore-mentioned gadgets and modules make it very easy to add or subtract features. Just experiment and see what works, or doesn’t, for you.
I could go on (and I will in future columns) but this should at least give you a start. Think about what you want to do with your blog, settle on a focus you can play with for a long time, and then set it up. Once it’s done and you feel good about sticking with it, then you can begin to reach out. Again, more on that very soon.
But in the meantime always remember that blogs are like writing and life itself: if it’s not fun, if you’re not enjoying yourself, then you’re doing something wrong. So have yourself a blast with this great exposure and publicity tool –- and blog away!
Friday, November 28, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
From The New York Post:
THAT although we didn't think it would be possible to silence Ann Coulter, the leggy reaction- ary broke her jaw and the mouth that roared has been wired shut . . .
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)
Before I get into this month’s column, I want to impart some hearty gratitude toward those who took the time to write about last month's column. I'm glad I inspired debate concerning the risks we all might face in electing to launch into a career that explores the literary limits of sexuality.
If any of you have any thoughts on the matter, or want to suggest future topics I might address, please do not hesitate to write me (email@example.com).
This month's Streetwalker comes from part of an email I received from "Jill" (thanks!) who wrote about words we might have to teach our spellcheckers. This immediately reminded me of a little piece I wrote a long time ago -- "How Much?" -- about living the life of an pornographer: "My spellchecker has grown unwieldy from the words I have stuffed in its tight, resistant, pulsing, memory: cocksucker, cunt, mons, asshole, pubes, motherfucker, felch, testicles, dildo, lube, S/M, she-male, latex, faery, jerk-off, cunnilingus, fellatio, flagellation, flogger, Saran Wrap, cunt-licker, assfucker, and on and on and on, etc., etc. I ran it over a letter to my landlord and 'broken mail slot' became 'she-male slut.' Now he looks at me funny and the damned thing never got fixed."
Aside from making me chuckle at my own cleverness, I do have a point: very few genres have their writers picking and choosing -- often very carefully -- what words they can, should, or must never use. In erotica, word choice basically comes down to two questions: what's appropriate to the story, and how important is it to work around limitations.
Believe it or not, certain editors and publishers have a verboten word list that includes certain slang terms or spellings. The question of whether to argue with them isn't an ethical one -- at least not completely. Your preference for "cum" rather than "come" or your use of "pussy" when the editor doesn’t favor it isn't really the question. Your main dilemma is simply this: how much you want to see your work in print? Editors will insist you take it out or publishers will often change the word without your permission, so really, how attached are you to these words?
For the record, I believe an anthology should be consistent in its spelling -- so while I respect a writer's preference for "come" instead of "cum" I don't blink, or blink that much, when my publisher suggests a change so the word is the same in every story. In the second instance, if an editor or publisher simply doesn't like a word ... well, I suggest the editor go into therapy, and that the rest if us simply try not to sweat it when they take the word out. And we can always just not work with them in the future.
Now appropriate word choice, that's another matter. Certain words either aren't correct or don't feel correct in the context of a story. The problem could be historical, for example the word "sex" as a term for female genitalia is tolerable (barely) when you're doing a historical piece but when your character is a Gen-X, Y, or Z person, how appropriate is it? It might be technically correct but “sex” is often used as a ‘safe’ way of describing what’s between a woman’s thighs. My own rule is to use terms that feel right for the character. If someone is depicted as repressed, using words like "cunt" or "twat" is jarring. Same for an older man using clumsy slang for his own genitals, like "member."
I applaud people for doing research, by the way. Nothing adds a flavor of realism more than slipping in a good word choice for sex or the active biology of sex. One of my own favorites is a 19th century term for female genitalia, "Old Hat," because it was 'frequently felt." Yes, you may wince. I certainly did.
While I'm on the subject of vocabulary, I should repeat myself a bit and talk about ... well, repeating yourself. I know what many writing books say to avoid a small vocabulary, to use instead many unique terms instead of the same word over and over again. Sound advice, except when it comes to pornography: penis in the first paragraph, then a cock in the second, pole in the third, shaft in the forth, member in the fifth, lamppost in the sixth ... get where this is going? For smut, using just one, or maybe two, words for the same thing is fine -- better than a spiraling descent of ridiculous metaphors and more and more obscure terms.
Back to history. One thing I like to see in a story has little to do with the words of sex and more to do with the view of sex. Assuming that characters in a story set in Nero’s Rome view sex the same way we do today can result in some clumsy word usage. Certain "types" of sex were rare or seen with disfavor – such as in the case of Rome, where noticing or even admiring women's breasts in a sexual context was a sign of weakness. Just look at the Pompeii mosaics; the prostitutes depicted -- no matter what they were doing -- kept their boobies wrapped. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to spend too much time waxing poetic on some Roman woman’s tits if your story was set in that time period.
The bottom line is that certain words and ideas work and others don't. The trick to picking the right ones has little to do with the power of them at this moment or your own personal preference as it does with their relevance within the story. "Naughty" words shouldn't be ones that reach the modern libido but instead be used to continue to keep the reader within and enjoying the story. Because when you get down to it, an erotic story isn't about the words but rather what you are saying with them.
Friday, November 21, 2008
This is a toughie - not because this isn’t a great book, or that it’s hard to define - but because it’s one of my all-time favorites. You know: ‘stuck on a desert island with only three books’ kind of favorite. That’s the tough, you see - I know why it’s a great book, the trick is trying to find a way to tell you, out there, how good it really is.
So ... let’s start with the basics: Alfred Bester, the legend. Winner of the first Hugo for "The Demolished Man", established Grand Master of SF with such ground breakers as "Fondly Fahrenheit", "The Stars My Destination", and - later - with "The Deceivers" and (you either loved it or hated it) "Golem 100". Bester is also a legend in the radio and comic world, having worked on scripts for Charley Chan, The Shadow, Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern - in fact the Lantern Oath ("In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight, let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light") is Bester’s. Alfred was the original writer’s writer: he wrote for everyone, everywhere - but it’s his SF that he’s most known for.
For the longest time, the only place you could find Bester’s stuff was in the dusty halls of used book shops. Now you can pick up some of his best: "The Demolished Man", "The Stars My Destination", "Virtual Unrealities" (a collection of his marvelous short stories), "The Computer Connection", and even the book he left unfinished (and Roger Zelazny completed), "Psychoshop".
Even though his books are available it’s still sad that people don’t know Bester. Sigh. It’s especially disappointing when I hear people praise the stylistic endeavors of certain popular SF writers - when Bester blew them all away decades ago. As Harlan Ellison correctly states in his introduction to the "Computer Connection": “Bester was the mountain, all the rest of us merely climbers toward that peak.”
So what is it about Bester that just absolutely delights me? Well, man, you just have to be in the groove, capiche? You gotta plug in and ride the crazyhouse currents. Y? Y! Reading a Bester book is a trip, a stroboscopic madhouse of ideas, brilliant concepts, delightful characters, crackling language, and just plain fun. Now I don’t mean the kind of empty-headed fun you get nowadays - no, Bester’s fun is multi-language word play, obscure (but still understandable) references, and absolutely incredible, mind-boggling inventiveness.
Take, for example, "The Computer Connection" (also called "Extro" or "The Indian Giver"). In one blistering romp we have immortality, time-travel, cyberpunk (long before Gibson was born or computers got personal), cloning, an Amerinds nation in the toxic dump that was Lake Erie, characters like the nymphet Fee-5 Graumans Chinese (so named because she was born in the fifth row of the theater and is kinda of snotty about it), Dr. Sequoya Guess, a trip to Titan, a merging of man and computer, and, and, and ... overload!
Our hero is one Ned Curzon; a delightful fellow who’d been transformed into an immortal through an strange accident involving the explosive destruction of Krakatoa, and a member of an extended family of same eternal and eccentric folks: Nemo, Herb Wells, The Syndicate, Hillel the Jew, Borgia, Jacy (yes, that J.C.), Sam Pepys (not their realsies, you understand, just their ‘nom de years’). Ned, it seems, has been nicknamed Guigol (Guig for short), for his attempts to indoctrinate other people into their unique group. The problem, you see, is that to become immortal you have to go through a lot of terror and pain - and a lot of folks just don’t make it. Guigol as in Grand Guigol.
Then, right out of left field, the Group has a new member, the brilliant Amerid scientist Dr. Sequoya Guess - but an unforeseen side effect slipped into the immortality process as well, a side effect that has linked Guess to the Extro, the planet-wide system of intelligent machines and has given him incredible abilities and a lethal intent towards Guig and the members of his delightful group. As the back cover puts it: so how do you kill an immortal?
Stop, wait - I’ve sinned: you can’t describe a Bester book like you’d give a pitch for a block-buster flick. His ideas are mercurial: slippery and brilliant. Each page - no, each paragraph - sparkles with insane wit and crackling imagination. Now that trick - pyrokinetic writing - isn’t all that hard, but the miracle is that when Bester does this he also makes you care for these people. When characters get hurt, die, you might have only known them for a few lines, a few pages but - damnit - you feel the tears start. You really want to know these people, this glorious family of immortals and the various other folks that dance and cavort in any of Bester’s books. Bester was never a ‘hard’ SF writer - his science is as slippery and quick as his style - but then you don’t read his books to see if he crossed all his t’s or dotted his i’s ... no, you read Bester to take a wondrous trip, to be told a story by one of the few true masters of science fiction, of modern literature.
Well, I tried folks - tried my ever-lovin’ darnedest to pin down the beautiful brilliance of Alfred Bester. I gave it my best shot, trying to capsulize the effervescent, freeze-frame lightning. I guess there’s only one way to find out if I succeeded or not: go out - now - and pick up a copy of any of his books and see. It’s more than worth it.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I've been reading M.Christian's blog for a few months now, rather voyeuristically as I digest every word of his thought provoking posts. He's such a well respected writer and I have to thank Alison Tyler for turning me on to him. I recently left a comment on his blog. I felt compelled to do so, and he replied to me via e-mail, so graciously. He thanked me for stopping over; letting me know how much he appreciated the support - inviting me please stop back again. "Really, it was all my pleasure." I sighed to myself.What I learned from our brief e-mail conversation was that M. Christian has another erotic blog which is filled with what he calls, trivialities, oddities and the miscellenous - Frequently Felt. If you're anything like me, you're always looking for new ways to expose yourself in public, rather exhibitionistically, I mean...uh, ahem...gain more exposure for your work. The Frequently Felt blog is a fun little place to set yourself free; to streak across an open field and show the world what you got! Go check it out.
Voyeuristically and Exhibitionistically yours,Neve
p.s. The binocular pendant pictured above can be purchased via Etsy here.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Good science fiction is fun to read. Great science fiction says something. Fantastic science fiction changes the way you think.
The Cosmic Rape by Theodore Sturgeon is good, great, and – most of all – fantastic. Sturgeon’s writing is (as always) fun and engaging, the story addresses identity and individuality, and – best of all -- Sturgeon changes the way you’ll think about one of the most common science fiction bug-a-boos: the idea of collective consciousness, a human hive mind.
Originally published in Galaxy Magazine as a novella called To Marry Medusa, the Cosmic Rape is initially told through a series of characters, each one separated from everyone around them and the rest of the world by shame, miscommunication, guilt, fear, and inexperience. Paul Sanders is a empathy-less sexual opportunist, Guido is a teenage musical genius trapped by an abusive history into a life of violence against the music he subconsciously craves, Dimity Carmichael is a self-satisfied abstinent getting off on the sexual sufferings of others, Mbala is a tribesman fighting his own fears along with the demon stealing yams from his family’s scared patch, Henry is a boy living a life of unrelenting fear, and Sharon Brevix is a little girl lost in the middle of the desert.
Flowing, separately at first, between these characters is the skid-row loser Gurlick who just happened to have bitten into a discarded hamburger – a hamburger containing a scout seed from a galaxy-spanning hive mind called Medusa.
But Medusa has a problem: every other lifeform it’s absorbed into itself has been in some way a shade of its own collective consciousness. Humanity, though, is different: here everyone is separated and alone, disconnected and unique.
So, thinking that humanity must have been together at one time but then broke apart, Medusa the alcoholic out to find a way to "put people’s brains back together again" by promising the smashed-up and broken Gurlick whatever he wants.
Like everything of Sturgeon’s, The Cosmic Rape is brilliantly written: the characters are rich and full and alive, the language is equal parts lyrical, poetic, and carefully structured and classical. Also like everything else of Sturgeon’s, the story is bright and clear, a sneaky trick that takes you completely by surprise without ever resorting to cheap devices.
Here too are Sturgeon’s favorite subjects: the explosion of what is sex and sexuality (as in Venus Plus X), the careful and perceptive look at humanity (as in Godbody) and especially the reinvention of what consciousness is and could be (as in More Than Human).
There is a part of The Cosmic Rape that lays it all out: the fun reading, the perfect ‘something’ that great science fiction has, and especially the way Sturgeon changes how we think but I won’t just excerpt it here because that would be … well, wrong. Like – maybe, just maybe overdoing it a bit -- pasting in Michelangelo’s God Creates Adam without the whole of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. You have to read it yourself, but to give you an idea of what happens in that chapter, as well as the whole conclusion of the book, just think about the idea of a hive mind, a united human consciousness.
It’s an old science fiction cliché, from Star Trek’s borg to the Flood of Halo: "resistance was futile" and all that. Lots of folks lay awake at night and shudder at the thought of being merged, combined with something else, of losing their identity to some monstrous and hungry collective. But what Sturgeon did with The Cosmic Rape is to take that idea and twist it, turn it upside down and make it not hideous and frightening but warm, welcoming and wonderful: a humanity without judgment or fear, loneliness or shame, a united mankind of acceptance and understanding.
I can’t recommend The Cosmic Rape enough. It's fun to read like all good science fiction, it says something important like all great science fiction, but best of all it’s fantastic because Sturgeon manages to change the clichéd terror of a collective humanity into something that, like the book itself, is brilliant and wonderful.
Friday, November 14, 2008
For most of us BOOM, KABLAM, KABLOOIE mean a mushroom cloud and a cute little animated turtle talking about ducking and covering – as well as the possible End Of All Life As We Know It.
But, unfortunately, not every monstrous explosion began with J. Robert Oppenheimer saying “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Even putting aside natural blasts such as the eruption of Krakatoa, which was so massive the sound of it was heard as far away as London, the earth has still to be rocked by more than it’s fair share of man-made, non-atomic BOOMs, KABLAMs, and KABLOOIEs.
One of the more terrifying non-nuclear explosions ever to occur was in 1917 up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Back in December of that year the Mont-Blanc plowed into another ship, the Imo, starting a ferocious fire. Ten minutes later the Mont-Blanc went up, creating what is commonly considered to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in earth history.
The Mont-Blanc was a big ship carrying a lot of extremely dangerous cargo -- almost 3,000 tons of munitions bound for the war that was then tearing Europe apart. What happened that morning, which lead to the blast and the nightmarish loss of life, reads like a textbook example of whatever could go wrong, did. To avoid being torpedoed, the Mont-Blanc wasn’t flying any dangerous cargo flags, so no one except for her crew knew her cargo was so dangerous. When the fire got out of control, the Mont-Blanc’s crew tried to warn as many people as possible – but they only spoke French and the language of Halifax was English. Not realizing the danger, crowds began to form to watch the blaze. The Mont-Blanc, on fire, also began to drift toward a nearby pier … that was also packed with munitions bound for the war.
When everything finally came together – the criminal negligence, the miscommunication, and worst of all the fire and the explosives – the blast was roughly equal to 3 kilotons of TNT. The fireball roared up above the town and the shockwave utterly destroyed the town and everything within one mile of the epicenter. Metal and wreckage fell as far away as 80 miles from the blast and the sound of the detonation was heard more than 225 miles away. The explosion was so huge it generated a tsunami that roared away from the epicenter and then back into the harbor again, adding to the death and destruction.
It wasn’t until days later that the true horror of what had happened was realized: Halifax was completely gone, erased from the face of the earth, along with every ship in the harbor and most of the nearby town of Dartmouth. Approximately 2,000 people died from the explosion and another 9,000 were injured.
Unfortunately Halifax wasn’t the first such explosives-related accident in 1917. Unbelievably, before the Mont-Blanc destroyed the town, 73 people were killed in the explosion of a munitions factory in Silvertown in West Ham, Essex. The sound was heard as far away as 100 miles. A year earlier, the Johnson Barge No.17 went up Jersey City. Although only a few people were killed, the explosion managed to damage not only Ellis Island but also the Statue of Liberty. There were many other blasts as well, but these are only a few of the more dreadful highlights.
You’d think after these nightmarish explosions, caution about things that go BOOM would have sunk in a bit, but the second world war also saw more than its fair share of explosive accidents. In 1944, for instance, the SS Fort Stikine went up while docked in Bombay, India. When her cargo went up, the blast killed 800 men and injured 3,000. The fire that followed took more than three days to control.
Also in 1944, the UK experienced what is commonly considered the largest blast ever to occur on British soil when 3,700 tons of high explosives were accidentally detonated in an underground munitions store in Fauld, Staffordshire. The explosion was so massive it formed a crater ¾ of a mile across and more than 400 feet deep -- and destroyed not only the base but a nearby reservoir (and all the water in it).
But one of the biggest blasts – aside from the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan – was also one of the largest in human history, and one of the most tragic.
Once again in 1944, on July 17 to be specific, munitions being loaded onto a ship in Port Chicago, California, (very close to San Francisco) detonated. No one knows what exactly caused the blast, but the damage was biblical. All in all, more than 5,000 tons of high explosives, plus whatever else was in the stores on the base and on any ships docked, was involved. The explosion was so massive it was felt as far away as Las Vegas (500 miles distant) and people were injured all over the Bay Area when windows were shattered by the immense pressure wave.
320 were killed immediately and almost 400 were seriously injured, but that’s not the real tragedy. Most of these men were African American and this single disaster accounted for almost 15% of African American casualties during that war.
Still fearing for their safety, the remaining men, who had just spent three weeks pulling the bodies of their fellow sailors from the wreckage, refused to load any further munitions. The Army, in a characteristic show of support, considered this an act of mutiny and court-martialed 208 sailors, sending an additional 50 to jail for 8 to 15 years.
Fortunately, the ‘mutineers’ were given clemency after Thurgood Marshall fought for them, though the final member only received justice in 1999 in the form of a Presidential pardon by President Bill Clinton.
Today in Port Chicago there’s a marker on the spot and it states that the event was a step toward "racial justice and equality."
And all it took was one of the largest non-nuclear, man-made, blasts in the history of the world -- and the deaths of 320 sailors.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
• reprints of some of my short story collectionsKeep your fingers crossed that at least some of these work out!
• a new gay-erotic-thriller novel
• a new collection of my straight erotica
• an on-going series of classic science fiction reviews
• new anthology projects
• participation in a wonderful new shared universe project
• a collection of my science fiction stories
• a movie!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
But America has a very long way to go.
Celebrate all you want but read the following from Brenna Lyon and remember that we are still a country ruled by stupidity and bigotry:
I'm seeing red, with good reason. Why?
One of the best selling subgenres of erotic romance is M/M. At least three erotic romance publishers have reiterated to me in the last few days that M/M is their #1 bestselling subgenre, bar none. People are buying. A large portion of the erotic romance market is accepting of M/M.
In addition, we've had laws against hate crimes for a couple of decades. We've had (supposedly) tolerance taught in the schools. You'd think the majority of thinking adults would be properly taught to simply walk away from what they don't "approve of" or "want to try."
So, what did I wake up and find this morning?
Terri Pray and her husband Sam are part owners of Under The Moon/Final Sword Productions Terri and Sam were set to buy a house in Greene, Iowa. They had their loan approved, the bid on the house accepted, but Greene has a requirement that they have to have the final sale approved by the town. They weren't approved.
Now, why were they turned down? Terri and Sam, as I noted, are part owners of UTM/FSP. A portion of the business is run out of their home and a part out of the office, as it is with many indie presses. Between the two sides of the company, they have dozens of books out and contracted, everything from straight genre military fiction, horror, and fantasy to erotic romance of all sorts. To be honest, the lion's share of their books aren't even erotic. They have several major gaming franchises, including Honor Harrington gaming. They sell t-shirts and even audio CDs.
What does this have to do with the price of beer? It's simple.
ONE book, out of their entire stock, is a M/M erotic romance anthology, titled SACRED BANDS. While the townspeople of Greene, Iowa found the M/F erotic romance perfectly acceptable, they called the M/M erotic romance "gay porn." Some of them further stated (now, mind you...these aren't older people...these are 30-45-year-old people, which makes it all the more deplorable, in my mind) that publishing SACRED BANDS was "morally corrupt" and that choosing to publish the anthology demonstrated "questionable business practices."
In short, Terri and Sam lost their house, because the people who live in Greene, Iowa are a bunch of backward, homophobic dinosaurs. They lost their house, because (out of hundreds of items available from their business) one book is M/M erotic romance. The deliberations ended with the comment that Greene, Iowa didn't want to be "known for harboring a publisher of gay porn." KUDOS to Greene! You're now exposed for being a bigoted backwoods bunch of rednecks.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
But I do try to put interesting stuff up on my other blogs every day:
Meine Kleine Fabrik is where my brother, s.a., and I share the weird, wild, wonderful stuff we've come across. If you like unusual history, great movies and books, or just the generally bizarre it's the place to go.
Frequently Felt is where I post fun - and very often twisted - erotic strangeness ... and it's the place for you if you write erotica: just send me something fun and I'll post it.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
As the old saying goes: "If at first you don't succeed." But there's also the saying: "The line between genius and insanity is a fine one." In the case of aeronautics the success of early pioneers like Gustave Whitehead, Alexander Feodorovich Mozhaiski, Clement Ader, and - of course - those bicycle mechanics from Ohio seem to have been a combination of both trying a lot and being a bit nuts.
We remember Whitehead, Mozhaiski, Ader, and the Wright Brothers because they did what they sought out to do, with varying degrees of victory: get themselves into the air. Alas, there is a while world of people who kind of, sort of, just barely did the same - or even sometimes not at all. But certainly not for a lack of trying.
Like with whole actually flew, what actually counts as flying is a matter of debate. The Wrights took their bows for the first heavier-than-air controlled flight, but there were a lot of other inventors who flew, but didn't have any control. For instance:
* In 1848, for instance, John Stringfellow flew a short distance in a steam-powered craft - wowing the crowds at London's Crystal Palace.
* Jean-Marie Le Bris is credited as flying higher than where he lifted off from by using a the very terrestrial power source of a horse to pull his elegant glider into the air. This was in 1856
* The affor-mentioned Clement Ader made his way into the record by taking his Avion III more than 30 feet in 1897 - but it depends on who you talk to as what he did is a matter of some debate.
Then there's the inventors who flew machines that were (sort of) controlled but not exactly heavier than air”
• The legendary Montgolfier brothers were the kings of the skies for a long time, notably around the middle seventeen hundreds, when their hot air balloons gave people their first taste of flight.
• Jean-Pierre Blanchard did the brothers one better by adding a motor to a balloon – though it was a hand-cranked one.
• Henri Giffard, in 1852, added steam to a balloon making, for many people, the first true powered airship.
But then there’s one special person who not only tried and tried again but who also skated very near that edge separating brilliant and nuts: the man who flew without power, without much control, and heavier than air.
Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages, I give you the flamboyant, the amazing, the possibly-crazy Samuel Franklin Cody!
What Cody flew isn’t all that new, but his showmanship and dedication to his own unique way of defying gravity certainly is. The Chinese, after all, had been putting men into the skies with kites for a long time (just read Sun Tzu's The Art of War), but Cody was a human-kite flying zealot.
Cody – who took his moniker from that other great showman Buffalo Bill Cody – went from a music hall and wild west show star to sky when he became fascinated by the idea of using human-carrying kites in all kinds of unique and imaginative ways.
Determined not to just talk a good game, Cody used his natural flamboyance to drive the point home: around the turn of the century he crossed the English channel in one … though it was towed by a boat the whole way. In 1906 Cody was tasked by the British Army to develop his kites for military uses and soon was using his designs to set world records like getting a kite to a incredible 1,600 feet. So impressed with the Brits with Cody’s kites they used them successfully during the first world war to spy on the Germans – until airplanes became more reliable and Cody’s kites were shelved.
Not to be undone, Cody mixed power and kits and began to leave the ground, and his tow-rope, behind. In 1908 he created his imaginatively created named British Army Aeroplane No 1 and successfully flew it an impressive 1,390 feet – which, according to some, was the first heavier than air flight in Britain.
Cody went on to become a real legend in the early days of flight, winning the Michelin Cup in 1910 and an military flying contest one year later.
A perfect capper to his larger-than-life career with kites and then planes Cody met his end at the controls of one of his machines. In 1913, while flying his unique seaplane, he and a passenger were killed.
Even though he is sometimes cruelly dismissed as just a showman, Cody deserves respect and admiration – one of those early fliers who never gave up, and who used their crazy brilliance to get them higher than anyone had been before.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
(I'm very happy to again be writing a monthly Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker for the wonderful Erotica Readers & Writers Association. Enjoy!)
It doesn't seem that long ago. When Adrienne here at ERWA asked me … or did I ask her? … about a writing column when I'd only been a ‘pro’ for five or six years. I loved writing those years of Streetwalkers, because doing it was kind of a strike against all the bad writing books I'd read and the awful classes I'd taken—a way to say what I wish someone had told me when I was just starting out as a writer.
But not having enough time, not having anything left to say, and general this plus nonspecific that, I stepped away from doing my Streetwalker column a few years ago.
But now Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker is back. Not because I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands, or that general this plus nonspecific that went away, but because everything’s changed in the world of publishing and erotica.
Sure, I know: Change Happens, The Only Thing Unchanging Is Change, and all those other bumper stickers, but what’s happened over the past few years is pretty shocking. Disturbing in some ways—okay in a lot of ways—but there are also new and unique opportunities. It’s a totally new world.
And what’s what I'm going to write about. Well, mostly what I'm going to write about; I reserve the right to go on the occasional tangent. That, at least, hasn't changed.
Why should you listen to me? Well, aside from checking out at my full biography—that Adrienne will, no doubt, put a link to somewhere in this sentence—I can pretty easily say I've written quite a few stories, edited some anthologies, have more than a couple collections and novels on the shelves.
I'm going to use whatever space I have left here to give you some idea of what I plan to talk about in future columns:
- Why a blog or a site is essential (and common mistakes to avoid)
- The more-important-than-ever need to develop good relationships
- When you need to write about yourself – and when you need to shut up
- How the erotica genre has changed over the past few years – and where it might be going
- To podcast or not to podcast
- New erotica writing opportunities you might not be thinking of
- Print is dead, or at least not the only game in town – and why that’s a good thing (including what to look for in an ebook publisher)
- New publicity techniques for the new world of erotica
- Believe it or not, sex has actually changed – so erotica has to, as well
- and much more ….
As with the first incarnation of Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker, please feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments and suggestions, and definitely check out my pro site at www.mchristian.com and my fun sites Meine Kleine Fabrik and Frequently Felt.
Hang on, folks: it's going to be a wild, weird, and informative ride as we explore how the world of writing and publishing, especially erotic writing and publishing, has evolved over the last few years.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The Person from Porlock was an unwelcome visitor to Samuel Taylor Coleridge who called by during his composition of the oriental poem Kubla Khan. Coleridge claimed to have perceived the entire course of the poem in a dream (possibly an opium-induced haze), but was interrupted by this visitor from Porlock (a town in the South West of England, near Exmoor) while in the process of writing it. Kubla Khan, only 54 lines long, was never completed. Thus "Person from Porlock", "Man from Porlock", or just "Porlock" are literary allusions to unwanted intruders.
Coleridge was living at Nether Stowey (between Bridgwater and Minehead). It is unclear whether the interruption took place at Culbone Parsonage or at Ash Farm. He described the incident in his first publication of the poem:On awakening he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
My October Pick of the Month is M.Christian's blog. His tagline is "Imagination is intelligence with an erection." Typical guy, right? Seriously, though, M.Christian is an amazingly versatile writer who likes to mash genres together. He can write raw or tender, scary or futuristic. Definitely one of my favorite authors!
Monday, October 20, 2008
M.Christian is an acknowledged master of erotica with more than 300 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites. He is the editor of 20 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, and many others. He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, and Filthy; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll.
His site is www.mchristian.com. You can also get a glimpse into M. Christian through the blogs MEINE KLEINE FABRIK and Frequently Felt.
Once again, acclaimed author M. Christian writes of the art of seduction. One of the pleasures of a dystopic future is the erotists, professionals who paint their clients' bared skin with neurochemicals that induce sensuality. Erotists offer landscapes of ecstasy, pain, joy, and delight. Few citizens can afford the skills of the talented Domino. Fewer still know her identity is but a mask.
Beneath the facade, Claire hides from a vicious crime lord who would not only kill her but her childhood lover. But the mask of Domino is beginning to crack...
Painted Doll is futuristic noir tale, a wildly imaginative erotic adventure, exploring who we are and the sexual awakenings that occur when we become someone else.
From Chapter Two, Painted Doll: An Erotist's Tale:
On the banister going up, winding down the paired columns at the top, lizards were marching in a tightly twisting single file, preceding tails barely touching the tips of a following hissing tongue. Round and round, up and up, each lizard behind the other. Under her fingers, sliding smoothly along the silken lacquer, scales, dagger teeth, and clawed toes, were almost too precisely carved, too excellent. Their realism a soft whisper of perhaps, maybe, could-be movement.
Claire didn’t like the walk up those carpeted stairs, another parade of tiny reptiles woven into the border in careful golden thread, because of that banister. Didn’t like putting her hand on the smooth pillars on the upper landing, either; that long dead Malay, Indonesian, or Chinese wood carver’s art too haunting, ghostly shivers up her arm.
One step, a pause. Another, and then another, and another of each: closer to the top with each careful, controlled, ascent, each cool hiatus. Hand out, holding the railing with each rise, the wood carver’s art was just a decoration, the thing that gave the Salamander Room its name. Domino, not Claire.
Vaulted in an upward sweep of beams that seemed transported from somewhere else, the room was warm, looming to be even hotter later in the day. But that was a long time to come, and the client had only paid for any hour. Two pieces of furniture, one piece of baggage: an opium bed, frayed fabric from generations of smokers, trim and tassels missing or discolored. Next to it, a high octagonal table, rosewood glowing from different generation’s use. On it, a leather satchel, low and square, showing early signs of wear at the corners but otherwise anyone’s carry-on, containing almost anything.
As Domino reached the top, the man on the bed rolled to one side; he looked back at her, she saw him.
“K-Konichiwa,” he stammered, with a sharp dip of his chin, eyelids lowering. Young, but not a boy. Dark hair in a corporate apprentice pudding bowl, growing out in a soft bristle around the ears meaning an approaching graduation to junior salariman. A few months before a move from the dormitories to a single men’s building. Student larva cocooned before emerging as a fully-formed and valued worker.
Flowing slowly into the room, the hushing of her kimono was her only answer. A celebration then. A promise to himself, a reward for memorizing the company manual, no doubt standing in the rain, pattering ice water on his bare shoulders, and singing their anthem until his voice had cracked, then broken.
Naked then, more than likely; naked now, clearly. Hairless and smooth, with nipples the color of his bloodless lips. Between his legs, no sign of a penis. Tucked between his thighs in a reflex of Japanese decorum. He could have been as sexless as a bee.The Question: Reflect on the stories you have written – the stories waiting to be written. What themes, topics do you find your writerly mind pushing you to write?
How do these themes, topics portray themselves through you as a male writer?
I’m a weird critter – writing-wise – in that I’ve written a lot of work beyond my own (ahem) direct experience … male or otherwise. To put it another way I’ve had stories published in Best Gay Erotica (but I’m not gay), Best Bisexual Erotica (but I’m straight), Best Lesbian Erotica (but I’m not … well, you know) and even have two collections of gay erotica, Filthy and Dirty Words, and one of lesbian erotica, Speaking Parts. I’ve also written many similar novels, Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, and (recently) Painted Doll that are gay-themed. By the way, I’ve also published straight stories and novels, such as Brushes and the upcoming collection Licks & Promises, so I’m not just a “not gay but write guy stuff” writer.
What does this have to do with being a male writer? Well, I’d like to say that it doesn’t – or shouldn’t. After all, writers are professional liars in that it’s our job to convince people we’re telling the truth when we’re not – and we succeed when there’s very little, or no, doubt about that. I’m tremendously lucky – and tremendously touched -- that my work in the gay community has been so well received. I’m not alone, of course. Many writers have told wonderful stories about characters and situations far removed from who they really are.
The key, I think, is to respect your audience and your subject matter. People often ask me about how I can write about something like being gay or lesbian without have done (ahem) ‘field research.’ Sure I might not have direct experience but I do know what love, hope, fear, excitement, and disappointment feel like so I try to bring as much of that ‘reality’ to whatever I’m doing – and always approach whatever I’m doing with a serious hope of touching my readers.
The bottom line is that while I’m a guy I’m always working hard to stay true to what joins us together: that we’re more the same than different.