amongst books

amongst books

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Erotica's Bad Reputation

Recently Nigel Beale pointed me to an interview with graphic book writer Alan Moore about his new book, Lost Girls. Here's his quote about erotica:

“Certainly it seemed to us [Moore and Gebbie] that sex, as a genre, was woefully under-represented in literature. Every other field of human experience—even rarefied ones like detective, spaceman or cowboy—have got whole genres dedicated to them. Whereas the only genre in which sex can be discussed is a disreputable, seamy, under-the-counter genre with absolutely no standards: [the pornography industry]—which is a kind of Bollywood for hip, sleazy ugliness.”
—Alan Moore, interview with Science Fiction Weekly


I wonder if this man has read any modern erotic fiction. I wonder where he gets this stuff from. Like every other genre, erotica has its crap. You only have to take a look at some of the web sites out there to feel that Moore has a point; however, there are also scads of excellent novels, stories and on line sites dedicated to publishing great erotica.

What’s this about no standards? When I submit stories to a publisher, I have to comply with certain guidelines, more so than in mainstream fiction that I’ve seen: no bestiality, no rape, no incest, for example, along with standard editing requirements for good writing.

Some of the best contemporary fiction I’ve read lately has come from the genre known as erotica. Take a look at Mike Kimera’s book of short fiction “Writing Naked.” This is a man whose insights into human frailty make his characters as compelling and complex as any Casterbridge or Kurz.

How about the powerful imagery in a story called “Come for me, Dark Man” by Anne Tourney in Lisabet Sarai and Seneca Mayfair’s Sacred Exchange? The humour in Patrick Califia’s Mortal Companion? The originality of a story like How Takai Found His Wings by Hilary Jaye in Garden of the Perverse?

I don’t know what the hell Moore is reading but it isn’t contemporary erotica. Even if he goes back in time, there are so many wonderful and well-written erotic novels and short stories, such as the Story of O by Pauline Reage, Anais Nin’s Little Birds, …the list goes on and on. These books have gone on to be considered as literature today, and are studied as such.

In an interview, Moore claims to have been reading erotica for the past sixteen years, but then goes on to talk about sexual repression and shame in American culture without mentioning any specific erotica he's read. I think he's blending erotica with American culture, when the erotic genre is not part of mainstream culture, but on its fringes, much more anarchistic and threatened by the prudish American authorities and right wing Christian fundamentalists.

My own stories deal with sex openly and treat it as something to be celebrated, not to be ashamed of. And I have no trouble getting them published by reputable publishers who also publish mainstream fiction.

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