Monday, June 30, 2014
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Thursday, June 26, 2014
by Jean Roberta
I’ve written here before about my comfortable niche in the English Department of the local university, where I teach nuts-and-bolts composition and literature to first-year students plus the occasional course in creative writing. I have access to funding for writing-related travel, which includes erotic writing conferences, readings, and award ceremonies. Every three years, I submit a Faculty Review Form on which I brag about my accomplishments, including publications. Before I compiled my list for 2011-2013 inclusive, the friendly department head told me that I don’t brag enough; he advised me to list every review and blog post I’ve written, as well as every erotic story I’ve had published and every panel I’ve sat on. His summary of my latest Faculty Review begins with a statement that I am a model of productivity for the whole department.
My personal experience leads me to hope that writing about sex is no longer something that anyone needs to keep hidden under a fake identity, complete with over-the-top pen name (Scarlet Veronica Filthy-Mind) and manuscripts/publications in a lockable trunk.
But I seem to be living in an oasis of exceptional acceptance. Here is the latest piece of evidence that scholarly endeavor, as practiced in universities, is still widely considered far above – or at least far separate from – sex-writing of any kind.
In March 2014, the friendly department head circulated an announcement to the rest of the English Department about a one-day conference to be held at De Montfort University in Leicester, England, on June 3. The event was titled Reforming Shakespeare: 1593 and After. Here is the description:
“This is a one-day scholarly symposium on the kinds of alteration that have occurred to Shakespeare’s writing as it has made its journey from author to readers and playgoers. ‘Reforming’ may take the sense of being given new shape as authorial or non-authorial adaptation, rewriting, borrowing or allusion and arguments about any of these processes in connection with Shakespeare fall within our purview. ‘Reforming’ can also suggest correction and improvement, including censorship, editing, and tidying up of text to make it conform to new conditions of reception, and contributions on those topics are also welcome. Send proposals for 15-minute papers to Prof X and Prof Y.”
My first reaction was: How cool is this! I noted that the conference was:
- Not being held at one of the ancient, prestigious British universities (Oxbridge)
- Apparently not dedicated to bardolatry, or reading/teaching the works of Shakespeare according to some time-honoured method, and
- All about work that could be described as Shakespeare fan-fic, innovative performances, parodies, and other spinoffs.
I wished I could find a way to get to Leicester for this event. But alas, I didn’t see how I could justify travelling all the way there from the middle of Canada while I was teaching an intense, six-week course.
I decided to spread the word, especially to my fellow-contributors to an erotic anthology: Shakespearotica: Queering the Bard, edited by Salome Wilde (Storm Moon Press). This collection, I thought, would fit in perfectly with the theme of the one-day conference. All the stories involve “queer” (lesbian/gay/bisexual/gender-bending) characters in Shakespearean plots, and some of the stories are quite faithful to the originals. There is much same-sex emotional intensity and gender ambiguity to be found in Shakespeare’s plays, as well as much bawdiness. He wrote plays in a time when all the female parts were played by males, some of whom continued to cross-dress when they were not onstage. Whether the Bard was “queer” himself has never been decisively proven, but there are mysteries in his life that have never been completely cleared up.
I contacted Salome Wilde, U.S. editor of the anthology, and asked if she could spread the word to the rest of the contributors. I was hoping that one of them might live close enough to Leicester to make the trip worthwhile. Salome asked me for the name and contact information of one of the organizers, so I sent it to her.
A few days later, I got this email from Salome:
“Just an update to say I contacted Prof X.” This person apparently claimed there was no way to make use of the book, “as there will be no display or way to share it, and as it is in early June, I [Salome] can’t possibly attend. . . I was even thinking of giving an eBook to everyone who attended, or perhaps sending a flyer.” Apparently Prof X didn’t see how a book like Shakespearotica could possibly be included in an event named “Reforming Shakespeare.”
Sigh. I couldn’t help wondering if I (as a Canadian English instructor/erotic writer) could have bridged the cultural gap between a British Shakespeare scholar and an American erotic writer/editor, but maybe not. That gap might be unbridgeable, or I might not be the right person to bridge it. I can’t help feeling as if I threw Salome Wilde under a bus after she graciously accepted my story (loosely based on the Shakespeare comedy Twelfth Night) for the Storm Moon anthology.
Maybe I should be grateful that Prof X didn’t erupt in rage over the proposal that a discussion of Shakespeare spinoffs should be contaminated by “smut.” Even though I remind myself in these cases that things could be worse, I don’t feel grateful at all.
William Shakespeare (or whoever wrote under that name) knew in the 1590s that sex was a part of life. I wonder when the scholars who study his work will figure it out.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
by Kathleen Bradean
I hate it when a story is written so completely around a song that if I don't know the song, the subtleties of the story are lost to me. Or worse - when I really, truly hate the song So I'm wary of talking about a tv show or story that readers of this blog might not have seen before or dislike. Given the international scope of the readership here, it makes it even harder to appeal to everyone.
A while ago, Lisabet Sari introduced me to The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. I loved that novel, so I searched for more by him and found his collection of short stories Pump Six and Other Stories. If you write short stories, I strongly suggest these to you because he write amazing short stories, but I also suggest it for a specific story The Fluted Girl. This story of extreme bod modification is amazingly erotic, in that it doesn't flinch from the eroticism, but it also doesn't seem to try to be erotic.
So go read it, then comment here or shoot an email to me and we can discuss his work.
And since I already brought up something you might not be familiar with, I have to ask
Are you watching Penny Dreadful? If you're a fan of the original literary works that inspired some of our best monster movies, you'll love Penny Dreadful. It's like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but steeped in the brooding romanticism that spawn the original tales. Sin weighs heavily on their shoulders. My god, even the house two of the characters lives in has arsenic green wallpaper! They are literally surrounded by poisonous air.
Caliban - Doctor Frankenstein's creature - is no mute, grunting zipper neck. He rages against loneliness and speaks of poetry. Then he does something terrible and you hate him. But while I always read Shelly's Frankenstein as being a warning about what happens when scientific man clashes with nature, this interpretation has me rethinking it. the problem with Caliban, why he's so terrible, is that he wasn't loved. He was abandoned. While that's not a new problem produced by the industrial age, it often feels that way.
So far, Dorian Grey has bedded three of the cast. He's debauched, but you can see the boredom. I loved the scene when he was at the theater because it reminded me so much of the scene in Oscar Wilde's novel when Dorian was on the cusp,before he turned wicked. I wonder if we're going to see him walk the line between debauchery and evil for a while. (I also wonder if he'll turn out to be Dracula).
I can't wait to find out what further sins Sir Malcolm Murry committed in Africa while he was playing at being Alan Quartermain. We know he let his son die. He's searching for redemption in trying to save his daughter Mina (yes, that Mina, from Bram Stoker's Dracula). But I suspect he unleashed this horror on the world when he was in Africa searching for the source of the Nile.
Miss Vanessa Ives - played by Eva green - is absolutely amazing. I can say enough about the demands of this role and how she unleashes her power and vulnerability in equally amazing turns. (I only wish the writers would nail down the relationship between her and Sir Malcolm, because it swings from open hostility to almost friendly and back again which makes no sense)
And of course, we're all waiting breathlessly to find out what sort of creature Ethan Chandler is. (even money is on werewolf) Oh! and Billie Piper returns!
One of the things about this show is that it takes the parts of the source material most monster movies ignore and runs with it. It's a good reminder of the comparative strengths and weaknesses of movies and novels. I know I often find myself thinking in cinematic terms when I write. That may be because of the mini-movie going on in my head of the story. But writing to a cinematic vision - so to speak - takes away from the richness of the story that can only be explored in a novel.
Monday, June 23, 2014
by Lucy Felthouse
Writing is a very solitary thing. Something you have to just sit down and do, all by yourself. Yes, you may have other people involved in the research stages, and you may have beta readers once it's finished, then editors, publishers, cover artists... the list goes on. But the specific act of getting words down on the page is a lonely task. Nobody can do it for you, and unless you're super-talented (and if you are, I'm very jealous), you probably can't talk to people while you're doing it.
Which is why it's nice to have writer buddies. Whether you know them in real life or just online, they're a valuable bunch. There to encourage, to rant with, offload on, ask questions, sympathise, celebrate, commiserate... as much as friends, partners and families may try to be and do all of those things, it's really only other writers that truly get it.
I'm very lucky in that I have writer buddies living locally, ones I see on a fairly regular basis, as well as ones I chat to pretty constantly online. Some of those I get to see occasionally, too. One such example being last weekend (not the one just gone, the one before!). A whole bunch of erotica and erotic romance writers and readers descended on Scarborough on the east coast of England for Smut by the Sea, a day of smut, workshop, socialising and fun. And fun it was! There was lots of chatting, giggling and all of the above supportive-types things going on. It's so nice to be reminded you're not alone as a crazy writer that's battling away on something that's bloody hard work, often for very little reward.
Now it's all over, I'm already thinking about the next such get-together. Which is in November. I'm sure it will be upon us within the blink of an eye. So if you're in the UK and can get to Manchester... it'd be great to see you there!
Saturday, June 21, 2014
By Lisabet Sarai
Thursday, June 19, 2014
We're just a few days from the start of summer. Let's heat things up here at the ERWA blog. It's the 19th of the month, which means this is the day to look through your manuscripts and share your Sexy Snippets!
The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.
On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you'd like.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
I’ve been meaning the write a column about our culture’s obsession with celebrity for some time, as I believe this inescapable aspect of American life affects even humble erotica writers. However, the subject always seemed too huge and I was never sure where to begin. I finally realized that I can extend the discussion of fantasy and celebrity over several installments, which leaves me the leisure to begin with an explanation my own relationship with celebrity culture.
On the face of it, I’ve always been more bemused than enthralled with celebrity worship. I first remember seeing its dangers at around age 9 or 10, when I heard that TV viewers used to write to Robert Young, the actor who played Marcus Welby, M.D. on television, asking for medical advice. How could people be so stupid as to confuse an actor with a real doctor? Yet not long after Ronald Reagan was elected president, followed by Arnold Schwarzenegger winning the California governorship in a recall election. Again I wondered how so many people seemed to believe an actor’s heroic triumphs on the screen could translate into real-life competence where there was no script, no studio pressuring for a happy ending.
I’ve never made it a priority to know which celebrities are trending or who’s the hottest new leading man or lady—in fact I’m rather proud of my ignorance. As a democrat and an iconoclast, I don’t really see why someone deserves special treatment just because they starred in a movie or TV show. Celebrities usually seem to attain their place through good looks or “lucky” parentage. (My loss of innocence as to the value of literary celebrity was a slower process, but certain recent blockbusters proved the final blow to my belief in the publishing industry as a meritocracy.)
Yet, as much as I might want to ignore celebrity culture, it isn’t ignoring me, in particular in my writing life. I first experienced this personally when I put together a book proposal about my mother’s death from the diabetes drug, Rezulin. In retrospect, the effort was as good a way to deal with grief as any, but I learned that it would be quite the uphill battle to get such a memoir published even if the safety of pharmaceutical drugs is an issue critical to everyone. Nobodies do manage to find publishers, and sometimes their books sell, but bookstore research showed that celebrities had cornered the market on personal tragedy memoirs--Brooke Shields is the voice for postpartum depression, pundit Morton Kondracke had enough recognition to publish a book on his wife’s Parkinson’s disease. Granted I surely could have worked harder to get my story published as a book, but I followed the advice of the standard agent’s nonfiction rejection and wrote an article instead.
But the secretly corrosive effect of celebrity culture really hit home when I published my first (and thus far only) novel, Amorous Woman. I’d always wondered if I had it in me to write a novel, and with a little help from my friends and numerous cases of Snapple, I managed to finish a book I felt told my truth about my experiences in Japan. Many people were very appreciative and supportive, but plenty more hit me with “Is it on the bestseller list? When will it be a movie?”—all reminders that I was not a “real” writer because it only counts if your writing makes you rich and famous.
This was more an annoyance than a dark crisis, but I do remember feeling miffed that all the effort and life-research I put into writing the book didn’t seem to count if it didn’t become a national sensation like, gee, about .001% of books published. I distinctly remember thinking how ridiculous it would be if you had to be a celebrity to matter at all. No food, no water, no basic human dignity allowed to anyone who didn’t at least have a small part in an HBO drama. In a sense, that’s what we do to writers when we assume only the rich and famous are worthy of consideration.
Maybe there are some writers who are so well-grounded that they are immune to our society’s definition of success: riches, fame, invitations to the best parties, and most important of all, having an agent who returns phone calls. I’m more than halfway to being that writer, but I still find that the assumptions of a celebrity-worshipping culture distort my sense of what to write, in particular, the value of writing to the market. I’ll talk more about this in next month’s installment, but for now I invite you to think about the ways you embrace (me: a guilty purchase of a magazine with an article on darling little Prince George) or resist (me: reading academic deconstructions of fame in the mass media age, which actually do help bring sanity).
As spinners of fantasy ourselves, the fantasy of celebrity is a relevant issue to our work and our imaginations. I look forward to discussing it with ERWA blog readers in the months to come.
Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor