Something happened to me on Sunday; something that hasn’t happened before; at least not like this.
Reading out loud, standing up in front of a room full of people and speaking is tough, no doubt about it. It’s something I’ve got better at over time (I’m way better now than I was when I gave my babbling incoherent presentations at university) and there are moments when I’m tempted to feel smugly superior, like I’ve got this shit nailed.
For example at last year’s Nineworlds erotica slam where I performed a piece from memory whilst simultaneously performing a striptease… (and no of course I don’t have an exhibitionist streak, what made you even think that?). But on a base level I’ve never screwed up; I’ve never had a complete meltdown; I’ve always at the very least been able to sit, detached, reciting words from a page.
Then there was Sunday.
On Sunday I was reading something a little different. First up I was reading from the Woes of Nelly. This little collection is one that’s a little darker than my usual and often sat a little uncomfortably with me. Yes there’s a happy ending, but it touches some quite dark places along the way. Perhaps not dark for everyone, but dark for me at least. It’s one of those stories that really meets Chuck Palahniuk’s rule of if you haven’t written something you wish you hadn’t you’re not doing your job.
So, on Sunday I started reading. It was a bit towards the end of the first story (featuring a chastity belt, strap-on and oversized dildo). As I started to read the words my brain kept glitching. As I scanned the page I thought to myself, “I can’t read that; people will think I’m some kind of pervert!” So as I read I kept pausing, skipping over and frantically editing out the bits that were too unusual too… me?
You see this is why, for all my smugness, I don’t tend to read the good bits, the really filthy bits. I like the foreplay, the to-and-fro the banter and the awesome humour to be had on the way to the sex. Or perhaps I should read more of the good bits… food for thought.
For the uninitiated, this is a drinking game in which everyone takes turns to stand up and declare something that they have never done. Anyone in the group who has done the decreed act then stands up and takes a drink. If nobody stands up then the person who stood initially then has to drink.
Needless to say the primary purpose of this game is to stitch up your friends by saying things like:
“I have never run headlong into a pond.”
“I have never taken a dump in a bath because I was having trouble finding the toilet.”
To which only one person stands… to the collective hilarity of all and the shame of the one.
Well things get interesting when playing this sort of game with kinksters. Leading to statements like:
“I have never, upon setting off a smoke alarm at two in the morning, left a naked and collared sub and immediately fled the property, leaving the doors wide open.”
“I have never, upon hearing a smoke alarm go off at two in the morning and my play partner flee the room, chosen to cover my collar and only as an afterthought considered putting clothes on.”
“You love and you leave,
Yeah you lie and deceive,
How do you sleep at night?
Say you’re just having fun,
We don’t think we’re the one,
What you’re doing just ain’t right.”
So goes the lyrics to part of a song by an utterly forgettable vaguely rock-y boy band from a decade ago. It’s been stuck in my head for most of the afternoon and this has been driving me bloody nuts. The smug selfish attitude, the petty moralising, and the presumption that statements like “What you’re doing just ain’t right” actually make any sense. It’s crass, it’s stupid and I wish I’d never borrowed the album from the library and copied it onto tape bought it.
Except it’s not the song that’s really bothering me, well ok a bit. Nor is it really the smug self-righteous band that sang it. No, it’s more insidious than that. It’s the fact that the song plays upon a standard narrative that, to be blunt, it conjures drama when no drama need actually exist.
Let’s presume the song was based on an actual break-up. It’s clear that there was, at the very least, some miscommunication. The narrator in this instance thought that they were in the preliminary phases of a potential long-term relationship but the other person (the ‘you’ in the song) was after something a little more casual and apparently didn’t do a good enough job of communicating this to prevent the narrator from getting butt-hurt and writing an angry damning song that counts on the listener’s sense of moral indignation. That is, it counts on the listener having the understanding that all relationships should be entered into with the presumption that it’s with the potential of forming a long-term, maybe even lifelong relationship; that anything more casual is fundamentally bad, and by extension anyone who wants one is bad.
What. The. Shit?!?
And this message has been wheedling around inside my head all afternoon. The lesson? I don’t know, I’m tempted to say be careful what you let yourself listen to but I’m far to big a fan of some pretty un-PC bands for that to be even remotely viable. Perhaps just that sometimes it’s worth taking a step back and looking at frequently occuring narratives from a different standpoint.
Knowing how to handle drop is a really great thing. For the record I generally don’t advise going to work, staring blankly at a computer for 8 hours, and realizing the most emotionally honest conversation you’ve had all day is with a possibly magical slug.
This is sort of the background to my thoughts today post-Eroticon.
Two themes that ran, hand-in-hand through the conference (and headlong through my brain) were subversion and transgression. I’ve been worrying a little lately that some of my writing hasn’t been scratching that deep cathartic itch I get.
There’s a trio of stories I wrote a while ago under the rather daft title “The Woes of Nelly” (I’m currently looking for a freelance title-writer-generator, preferably one who’ll work in exchange for slugs). I’ve been in two minds about them ever since I wrote them. A friend once described them with the fantastic line “I’m not reading that you fucking weirdo!” and I’m rather inclined to agree. Except that, unaccountably, I’ve never carried out my plan of pulling them from the shelves. In part it’s because the damned things sell better than all the stuff I’m prouder of. But I realised this weekend that there’s something else. Something drove me to write these uncomfortable stories and to hide them away wouldn’t just be cutting out a well-performing set of products, it’d be hiding something away, perhaps something that’s better off dragged out into the light, like a fat slug on a summer morning.
I just came home from a wedding. It was a lot of fun and everyone there had a very nice time.
Amongst the many and varied conversations of the weekend (including someone inserting lyrics into the Jurassic Park theme) was a conversation that bugged the crap out of me; to the extent that I walked away from it. I’m not even kidding, I full on walked away, even clambering out fo my chair in order to do so. The conversation, perhaps unsurprisingly, was about rape.
I had made a comment about the rape conviction statistics being appalling. The man on the other side of the table took a certain amount of umbrage about this.
“But I know somebody who was falsely accused!” he said.
“Oh my goodness!” I said, “You have anecdotal evidence, I immediately revert my opinions.”
What followed was a strained couple of minutes wherein he attempted to convince me of the absolute legitimacy of his friend’s story, along with sweeping generalisations about “feminists”.
I walked away.
Now, to be clear; I’m not saying that false accusations don’t happen, or that instances of rape shouldn’t have the burden of proof established under criminal law. But it’s the wrong conversation to be having. Not only that, but I’ve ended up having precisely the same wrong conversation ten years ago. Ten years!
It’s an age old piece of wisdom that the one who picks the battlefield will be the victor. You can see this time and again in politics (and why the ‘rise’ of UKIP played into an election victory for the Conservatives). So by even engaging in a conversation about false accusations, the argument is skewed in the favour of anyone wanting to make a point about feminazis, false accusations as and generally turning a blind eye to one of the most frequently unprosecuted crimes in the country.
It’s not that there isn’t a place for such discussions, but they presume a conversation has already been had, that prosecution of rape is treated justly and fairly, and that some new allowance should be made for those who are wrongly convicted. But the time for that is not now. And until it is I will continue to walk away from conversations like that. Maybe in another decade, I most sincerely hope so.
There are several genres of erotica that I basically refuse to write in. Anything with vampires and/or werewolves is right out. I mean, not unless you’re going to do something really cool and interesting with them. Much the same goes for anything too vanilla or straight-laced. Don’t get me wrong I have a soft spot in my heart for a classic romance story, but it’s not enough to capture my imagination so far as writing goes. Dinosaur porn can just shit right off.
Another thing that doesn’t sit very happily with my writing is the genre of “dubious consent”. This, along with “pseudo incest” is a sort of fig leaf to make something more acceptable. A common example of this in action is in translations of some Mangas and Animes where difference in publishing law means the prefix “step-” slips into descriptions of family members, making the ensuing abuse of a position of trust more palatable? I guess? Maybe?!?!????? Or not really at all.
Dubious consent is typically written from the perspective of the person who is not initiating the encounter. The reason for this is that the writer can then paint a very clear picture that the protagonist actually is enjoying what is happening and does want it to happen, even if explicit verbal consent isn’t sought or obtained. I find such writing generally clunky and uncomfortable, not necessarily just because of what it is, but of what it’s trying so desperately hard not to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel that rape is something that shouldn’t be discussed in fiction, but I very much feel that all things should be given their appropriate weight. Although this of course this also depends on context. For example a murder is a horrible thing… unless you’re writing a darkly humorous tale in which case it can be dealt with flippantly. But rape does not sit happily with me in an erotic context. That’s why I will, at least in my contemporary fiction, always put an emphasis on ongoing enthusiastic consent.
Except it’s not so simple as that.
Stepping down off the soap box there’s a very real problem with my stance on consent in fiction; the problem being human nature. There have been numerous times in my life where I’ve been torn apart inside between wanting and not wanting things. Parties where I wanted to talk to people and at the same time leap out of a window and run for the horizon, theme parks where I wanted to go on the big scary ride, whilst wondering if the swan boat ride was more my kind of pace. You see one of the fun ideas that can be explored when writing about BDSM is the idea of power exchange. The idea of giving control to somebody else. Taking away the stress of queueing for the big scary ride because it’s not a choice anymore. It’s a fascinating dynamic and one that sits pretty close to the heart of my erotic imagination.
But my goodness doesn’t that sound similar to “dub-con”?
Just a quick note to say that the goddess of the internet (you know who you are!) has been kind to me and after some issues that will be the subject of an angry ranty post in the very near future, this is to confirm I’m back.
How’ve y’all been?
OK, enough about you:
So, I have a new story that’s in the closing stages of editing and forms one half of a couple of rather foolish bets that my buttocks will not be thanking me for (for more info check out the Kinky Brits Spanking A to Z challenge).
Boy it’s been a while. I’ll not bore you with excuses, but life has been happening (and yes you can substitute the word ‘life’ with the word ‘rope’).
I just got back (ok not just got back, it was yesterday but you can take what you’re damn well given!) from Scarborough where I had an incredibly fun weekend with some very good friends and all the awesome folks who came to Smut by the Sea.
I’m not going to give a full run-down of the event. Firstly because you can look at an itinerary of an event and that’s great but it’s a bit like trying to live vicariously by reading a menu. I guess you had to be there. That said there have been some very good debriefs that do give a little bit of a flavour of the day (such as Cara Sutra). I’ll also just add that the boot-shaped paddle really fucking hurts!
What I will say is that these events are really great for generating ideas (there are workshop ideas from both last year and this year that will definitely be being made into full stories at some point… the crossdressing Richard E Grant tale is one I’m particularly looking forward to). But more than that, it is great at giving you a thorough kick up the bum. I’ve actually got some words down today for what feels like the first time in months and its great. So yes I’m taking a little break from the novella and working on getting some smaller but perfectly formed stories out… not least because I may have entered into a faustian pact that means if I don’t there will be… consequences.
A note to all, this post is not going to be sexy, it’s not going to be fun, and quite possibly it’s going to be too much information.
I’ve been thinking about saying something for a while, and I keep getting deterred because of a couple fo different things, not least of which being that, when I write it down, it doesn’t make any sense. But here goes:
I cry sometimes.
There it is , in three words. Having written it down it looks ridiculous, trivial, yet my finger is still itching to go back and delete them. But there’s something else, it’s an incomplete sentence. What I want to say is something more like:
I cry sometimes; and that’s a good thing.
My grandmother died last year. It was sad, but expected, and the family really came together in the best kind of way, celebrating and remembering her life. But the thing that sticks in my mind was that at no point, either before or after the funeral, did I see my father cry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cry; and I don’t know how I feel about that. Yes there’s a generational thing going on, and as the eldest of his siblings he always had to be the most dependable of them. But I also feel like there was something missing, something that we couldn’t be trusted with. And I guess that hurts.
So where does this leave me? Well, I’m someone who tends to cry relatively easily (I’m really not kidding, the end of Fast & Furious 7 had me dabbing my eyes with the sleeve of a T-shirt). There are times when I actively want to cry for the catharsis of it. But it’s unlikely I’ll ever do it in front of you. But if I do, just know that it’s a good thing, because it means that I trust you.
I make no apologies for the crudeness of this metaphor, but I think my writing is rather like my penis, well-rounded, disappointingly short, and with an overuse of colons.
My writing is something that is sensitive, of which I am proud and, in the correct circumstances, can make me feel fucking amazing. One such example being the tremendous fun to be had performing at the Smut events (tickets still available for 7th of March in Luton :-D).
Another good example of the correct circumstances is in my experience of self-publishing. I treat things carefully, get them edited, and try to make a point of never reading the reviews (although “I’m not reading that you fucking weirdo!” is totally going to be a cover quote at some point). Coming back to the penis analogy, it’s a bit like having a wank. Safe, fun, reassuringly familiar. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s not doing anyone any harm.
So, if self-publishing is like masturbation, then being published by a real publishing house should be like sex then, yes?
I submitted a short story to an anthology, and was accepted (yaay!). All was good, until I got the contract through to examine. The contract specified a single payment for the story (that worked out at considerably less than $0.01 per word) and seemingly made no provision for the payment of royalties. I requested clarification and, in return, got very non-specific mention of a potential print edition and royalties “Depending on sales.”
This bothered me, so much in fact that I have had to withdraw my submission as I am unable to sign the contract. You see I simply cannot see any good reason why specifics for ‘depending on sales’ cannot be written into a contract. Even under the most punitive terms (say, 0.001% of net profits on all units beyond the first million), this can be set out in a way that is clear and, most importantly, legally enforceable. The following forms part of my dialogue regarding this matter:
“Without specifics on royalties and the potential of a print edition (I’m really unsure why this cannot be put into words) I am forced to consider the likely option that these will not be forthcoming.
In which case I can only look at the single payment described in the letter of agreement. This is for the sum of $[XXX] that equates to [Less than $0.01] per word. Put simply I cannot, in good conscience, accept these terms.
I hope that you will understand this isn’t a matter of my personal finances (I have a paid day job and, in all likelihood, would be prepared to let a good piece go unpaid potentially for the publicity it may receive). However, this is always with there being an outside chance of something becoming a runaway success and effectively paying for itself. In this instance there is no such possibility. Were I to accept the money offered it would work out at about a [short period of time] at minimum US wage (a little less at UK minimum wage). As I’m sure you will agree the work presented represents a considerably larger investment of time and effort than this.
As stated above this is not a decision based solely upon my own personal circumstances but upon the wellbeing of other writers. Put simply I feel I have a duty to value my work as I would those of other writers at least at the level of fair recompense for the time and effort invested. If I were to accept this offer it would, I fear, unfairly prejudice other writers who may not be in as fortunate a position as myself.”
To return to the penis metaphor, this isn’t really like the warm, soft embrace of a bodily orifice, but more like a toilet roll tube full of sandpaper and snakes.