I've often observed, both in my stories and in real life, that the most erotic moments derive from complementary fantasies. Exhibitionist and voyeur. Sheik and harem girl. Strict schoolmarm and naughty schoolboy. And of course, Dom and sub. You want to do something. Your partner wants to see/feel/taste/touch you as you do it. Each participant is aware of the other's desires. That awareness sets up an erotic circuit, each person's excitement amplifying the other's arousal.
Anneke Jacob's remarkable novel As She's Told presents an extreme case of this sort of reciprocity. Her heroine, Maia, craves complete submission. She wants to be owned—the life of a slave with no choice at all. She has harbored these desires since childhood, struggling to make her way in the world, pretending to be a "normal" person, but knowing that only this total relinquishment of her will can make her feel whole and safe.
Anders is Maia's complement, a dominant who finds the games and play parties of the BDSM scene silly and frustrating. He wants complete control over a woman—the freedom to do anything at all to his slave, to require any service, to experiment with any sort of pain or bondage that appeals to him. He wants a woman to be his belonging, his chattel,"his own thing". When the story opens, though, he has almost given up hope of ever satisfying his deep-seated desire for total control.
Anders first encounters Maia in a BDSM chat room, where she asks, in response to a discussion about negotiation: "but doesn't that spoil it?" and later adds: "I mean if a sub chooses that means control. Contradiction in terms." Anders hardly dares to believe that he might have finally found his counterpart, but when they meet in person at a "munch", mutual understanding and mutual attraction are both immediate.
The early chapters, when Maia and Anders first realize that their dreams may have come true, left me breathless. Despite their lightning attraction, Anders forces them to go slowly. Step by step, he leads Maia into a new world of unquestioning obedience. All does not go smoothly. Although she is desperate to please, Maia is also sloppy, irresponsible and occasionally rebellious. In addition, she is unrelentingly horny, and Anders rarely allows her any release for her sexual tension.
In each chapter, Anders introduces new torments or requires new adjustments. A waist chain is replaced by a tight corset, then labial piercings, then a chastity belt, then a bit and bridle and leather mitts that turn Maia into a dumb animal. In the early stages, he regularly checks with his would-be slave to make sure that she has not changed her mind. By the time they have been together for a year, however, she is truly his, and he stops asking her to describe her feelings or give him feedback.
Anders is a perfectionist, a construction contractor with a passion for detail. As She's Told is almost obsessive in its descriptions of the equipment he designs to decorate, test and torture his slave. The book includes all the familiar trappings from the BDSM canon: the slave suspended and whipped; the slave plugged with dildos and vibrators but not allowed to come; the slave used as furniture; the slave eating out of a dog bowl; the slave harnessed to a cart and forced to trot and gallop. (Ms. Jacobs also dreams up some more unusual and imaginative kinks, but I won't spoil the impact by describing them here.)
We've seen all these notions before, in Carrie's Story, in the Beauty Trilogy, in The Story of O. The difference is that in As She's Told, these are not treated as fantasy. Ms. Jacob is convincingly realistic in her depictions of what Anders does and how Maia feels. At some level, this book is still a fantasy, a thought experiment exploring how an extreme Master/slave relationship might develop, but the tone demands that the reader take the whole process seriously.
In fact, parts of this book are sufficiently extreme that they may be difficult for some readers. I found that I could not read more than a few chapters at a sitting because, despite my long-time fascination with BDSM, they made me uncomfortable.
This is not (despite some horrified reviews on Amazon.com) a story of abuse. Anders does not negotiate, but he cares for his slave and makes sure that she will not be seriously injured. When he offers his brother, cousin and several women friends free use of Maia's body, he makes sure that they use condoms, even for oral sex. He is giving Maia what she wants, and she is suitably grateful. Still, I wouldn't want Anders for my Master. He's too interested in stripping away Maia's pretensions of being human. He delights in turning her into an animal or even an inanimate object. Toward the end of the novel, Maia spends eight weeks without the use of her hands, sleeping in a stall, forbidden to speak, and worst of all, banished from her Master's bed. I can scarcely imagine this—it sounds too horrible to be endured (far worse than being forbidden to or unable to come). But then, I'm not Maia. Ms. Jacobs managed to make me believe that Maia could and would endure it, in order to please Anders.
As She's Told is not without its faults. It is a long book without much plot. Each chapter pushes new limits, but there's no climax and very little conflict. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Maia to rebel or for someone to be hurt or killed, for some revelation or resolution, but in fact nothing much happens. We're led to believe that this relationship will continue, satisfying both of the participants, as they live out their complementary fantasies together. I think that this is Ms. Jacob's point, to suggest that such a relationship could actually exist and that it could be healthy and mutually fulfilling.
I don't know whether I am completely convinced. People change. Maia is very young (she graduates from college in the course of the book) and Anders not much older. Furthermore, it seems that there must be an objective limit to the escalation Anders practices on Maia. My Master and I have debated the question of escalation, the continued pushing of limits. Clearly there must be some point when you can't push any further without doing serious physical harm. What happens then? Do the participants get bored or jaded? Or is it the case that a truly imaginative dominant will never run out of things to do with his slave?
The very fact that I'm thinking about these issues, though, is a tribute to Ms. Jacob's skill. As She's Told is a rare item, a serious novel about BDSM relationships that does not sacrifice realism for titillation. I found it exciting, disturbing and challenging. I just bought a copy for my Master.
Editor’s note: As She’s Told was the winner of the 2008 National Leather Association-International Pauline Reage Novel Award.
This collection of 22 stories has a kind of silent soundtrack of all the songs that inspire overwhelming lust in a variety of fictional characters. This anthology could also be regarded as a textbook in how far a writer can go in referring to copyrighted material without being sued. Despite the warnings that have been posted in various writers’ loops (e.g. your characters can quench their thirst with “pop,” “soda” or a “soft drink,” but nothing more specific unless you can afford to pay a fortune to a large corporation for naming their product in print), the contributors to this volume name living artists and quote both song titles and lyrics. Here are a few of the story titles that made me gasp: “Like a Prayer,” “Shania in the Chatroom,” “Cheerleading Zeppelin,” “Dancing Queen,” “Cherry Pie,” and “Simply Beautiful.” In case a reader doesn’t own a recording of a particular song and needs a memory prompt, there is plenty of “da-da-da-da-da- DUM,” and “oo-oo baby” in the descriptions.
In general, these stories do a remarkable job of describing something that is almost indescribable in words: the effects of rhythm and melody on human psyches. As the editor explains in the introduction, sex and music naturally go together. As she doesn`t explain, `playing` in one sense or another is hard to describe for anyone who isn`t in the scene at the moment. The references to real music are useful as a way to establish the mood.
The theme of this anthology is consistent throughout; every story uses music as an essential element of the plot. However, some of the stories read like catchy but quickly-forgettable pop tunes (a guy and a gal are moved by their favorite song to fuck to the beat) while some are more complex and worthy of experiencing more than once, like concept albums, fugues (consisting of several intertwined melodies), good jazz or musical comedies.
“The Main Events” by Eve Carpenter and “Musically Arousing” by Mariana Tolentino border on being groupie-masturbation fantasies. In each story, a female fan gets the thrill of a lifetime when a male musician responds to her breathless admiration. “The Main Events” is somewhat more believable, since the fan and her idol have met before, and the band isn’t wildly famous – yet. “Musically Arousing” is more of a classic Cinderella fantasy: famous rock star happens to meet girl-next-door when he stops at the gas station where she is stranded because her car broke down on her way to his concert. Of course, he finds her irresistibly attractive.
“Rock Star Baby” by Jocelyn Bringas is a variation on this theme. Roslyn, the central character, is a female rock star who snags a devoted male fan for the night. The symbiotic effects of her talent and high-energy performance and his crush on her result in mind-blowing sex. In “Silent Crescendo,” a white male guitarist goes to hear the black female singer of his dreams and is amazed to learn that the admiration is mutual.
There is a variety of sexual pairings in this collection: het-male-dominant, het-female-dominant, female-female and male-male. The same-sex couples all have more-or-less equal power, and none of these characters is more famous than the one s/he hooks up with.
The theme of a fan’s obsession with a star (rock or otherwise) meshes perfectly with scenes of Dominance/submission to a soundtrack. In “Closer” by Brandi Woodlawn, Reyna the dominatrix plays with her boy-toy, in a club, to appropriate music. In “Freedom” by Jincey Lumpkin, a woman who admires model Cindy Crawford drives herself to ecstasy while watching a video which combines Crawford’s luscious body and George Michael‘s song “Freedom.” In “The Special Fuck” by Graydancer, the male narrator plays the role of dastardly Captain Hook (from 1904 play Peter Pan and numerous later versions) torturing the Indian maiden Tiger Lily (his submissive playmate, bound to a St. Andrew’s cross) during a Halloween party. The recorded music for this event is hypnotic enough to enhance their sense of being in an alternative world. In “With Random Precision” by Emerald, the female narrator sinks deeply into sub-space while being bound with purple silk rope to the sound of a Pink Floyd classic, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
In contrast, “Dancing Queen” is not an homage to the group Abba. Not at all. A woman at a dungeon party is completely turned off by the squeaky-clean sounds of one of Abba’s signature songs, the choice of the party host. Before leaving, the woman arranges to hook up with the bartender later to play to a rougher beat. “She Loves to Hear the Music” by Delilah T. Jones is also about a turn-off or a disconnect between music and listener, as well as between a stripper/sex worker and the male customer she serves and dislikes. The title is as ironic as the dialogue between the two characters.
Emotional discordancy between band members is also featured in “Breaking Up the Band” by Jack Stratton, in which general unhappiness resulting from one-way lust is the theme song of the day. The male narrator, the drummer, yearns for guitarist Kate, whose heart has been broken by band leader Stephen’s announcement that he is going to move in with his new girlfriend. Can the band be saved? No, but their final performance is memorable.
In “Battle of the Bands” by J.M. Snyder, a fierce competition between two all-male bands perfectly captures the combination of lust and rivalry that can characterize same-sex attraction. The two bandleaders reach their own truce in a hot, spontaneous coupling. In “Barely Breathing” by Madlyn March, the emotional pain of the female narrator is almost palpable as she remembers Nadine, the lover who taught her the value of delayed orgasm, but who couldn’t be faithful.
I’ll resist the temptation to comment on every story in the collection. Suffice it to say that the ones I like best are the most unusual. “Bad Mother” by Elizabeth St. John is a lifelike portrait of the lesbian mother of a teenage daughter who doesn’t appreciate her mom’s heirloom 78 r.p.m. Mexican records, inherited from mom’s grandmother. Mom is called to the school to discuss her daughter’s behavior and meets a very attractive woman who enjoys Abuela’s sentimental music as well as old-fashioned school discipline. If only motherhood were always this fun!
“Cheerleading Zeppelin” by Zack Lindley is also a kind of school story, set in 1977. Terry, rebellious male narrator, is thrown together with Lydia, a cheerleader and honors student. At first, the two seem to have nothing in common except their love for the band, Led Zeppelin. Then Lydia, lonely daughter of immigrant parents, drops a bombshell on Terry by telling him that he doesn’t “know shit” about her. She asks him (and the reader) to guess what “happens” when she is trapped at home with a predatory father and a mother who refuses to interfere. In spite of himself, Terry cares. The heavy-metal sound of Led Zeppelin captures both the despair and the hope of the two young adults on their way out of high school, and their story ends on a movingly upbeat note.
The editor’s own story, “Cherry Pie,” fits in well with this collection, despite my qualms about editors who publish their own work. It is sweet in every sense, and contrasts nicely with the darker pieces. This anthology is guaranteed to get you moving, probably in the direction of your sound system and your music collection. Sex and music are such an obvious fit that I expect to see more anthologies on this theme in the future.
He held himself inside her until she went still.
He pulled out, and then turned to the last woman, who now patiently lay on her back, her legs spread wide.
“Nesvi olef,” she said, her voice low and husky.
Now you show me the ever-ready young space cadet who can turn down a low and husky, “Nesvi olef!” and I’ll show you a wuss. What’s more, there are no limp dicks in Lisa Lane’s flying corner of the cosmos!
Lust in Space owes very little to the 60s series, Lost in Space, but only by contrast. No one is lost on board Pandora’s Hope as it sets off on its space-bending exploration of other planets, horny humanoid species, and an infinite number of ways to fuck with and among ET’s. A far better parallel is Star Trek in that everyone does this fucking with a reckless abandon that boldly goes where none has fucked before. A couple of blood tests for terrestrial STDs and all pants are off. No one is bored on Pandora’s Hope!
That’s fine given that this book dances on the edge of an inter-galactic disco fantasy. As such it is enormously good fun. The book is divided into a trail of bizarre erotic episodes across the cosmos. These are both interesting and entertaining in themselves if you are not too fussy about the level of the science that comes with your stroke fiction. Nor is it totally outrageous to the point of being silly. Captain Nora – for, as we know, all captains must be statuesque females these days – is a bit neurotic with a depressive predilection for tequila. It makes sense if you think about it. How easy is it going to be to find executive staff who want to spend most of their adult lives fucking on a giant piece of flying hardware?
Needless to say, Nora has boy trouble, or thinks she does. That’s because sinister aliens start cloning into the form of her boyfriend even as sympathetic other (teeny, erotic) aliens ferret out the frauds. These little guys and gals have a lot of Disney Tinker Bell in them. Cute as buttons, they hum or buzz or vibrate when aroused which can be handy when wrapped around a full sized clit. Sounds silly? Well, it’s sexier than you think. They are impish little critters with a randy sense of humor and miniscule provocative attire. Unzip and clap your hands if you believe. Who wouldn’t?
I found myself reading this book very slowly because it was so much fun at bed time to come back to its lively and imaginative adventures that sometimes remind you of Rocky and Bullwinkle. It may help that my other reading is the modern history of the Middle East and a biography of J. P. Morgan. But still, you get to liking these characters a lot. They are sexy with a naïve sense of right and wrong just like bad boy, Captain Kirk. The secret is that Ms. Lane has been able to harness all the cliché’s of TV Scifi, and tease them out to an entertaining place between parody and homage. Lust in Space provides a lot of fun. It gives good lift off.
James Buchanan knows men in uniform. From smoke jumpers to beat cops, the characters have that touch of authenticity that few writers working in erotica can match. Added to that is the ability to portray unromanticized border towns and the grittier side of Los Angeles County. The combination brings to life a unique world.
Ready To Serve: Arresting Gay Erotica contains six short stories. “Pat Down,” “Speed Trap,” “Risk,” “Burn Zone,” “Coyote Crossing,” and “Fairground.” As I’ve read James’ work before, I was a little disappointed in “Pat Down” as a simple, but hot, erotic piece. It must be an earlier work. “Speed Trap,” however, was more like it. With sly humor, the owner of a highway-side bait shop taunts the local law. The lone lawman may think he’s been discreet, but in a town where everyone knows everyone’s business, and the dating pool for gay men is small, secrets have a way of getting out.
“Risk” is somewhat fascinating as the characters are from a team that specializes in cleaning crime scenes or places where people have died alone and forgotten, their bodies sometimes lying undisturbed for weeks. That doesn’t lend itself to hot sex, and the story was a bit muddy, but if angst-filled love touches you, then you’re probably a better audience for this one than I was.
Speaking of angst, “Burn Zone” features a fire captain who lost several men in a hot spot during one of Southern California’s Santa Ana fueled fire seasons. He’s gone to a fire lookout to spare his lovers his mood, but they won’t let him hide. While he’s convinced that he’s the third wheel in their relationship, they finally convince him that their relationship is a triad that can’t exist without him. I think these characters appear in another novella. I’m sure James will send me a note clarifying that. If so, I’d like to read it. These characters deserve further exploration.
In “Coyote Crossing,” Buchanan’s storytelling hits its stride. A border patrol agent catches the younger brother of his high school best friend working as a coyote who helps bring illegal immigrants over the border. While he tries to turn the younger brother’s life around, he finds out that all is not as it seems. The setting is pitch perfect, as is the attraction between the men.
The final story is “Fairground.” It has some redundant parts, and the characters have overly long conversations, which makes me believe Buchanan was trying to hit a minimum word count on the original publishing. That’s too bad as it detracts from the well-written sex scenes. I truly wish the current editor would have ruthlessly honed this down to a lean, hot tale.This collection is a good introduction to James Buchanan’s work. If you like what you see, I suggest you pick up The Good Thief, Hard Fall, or Inland Empire, to name a few outstanding novels. I can’t think of many other writers who come as close to portraying the American Southwest and law enforcement with this much accuracy, while also depicting sympathetically the conflicts gay men in those professions face.
Abraham Lincoln was once asked to review a romantic novel.
It may seem absurd to think of a wartime president being asked to do something as trivial as reviewing a romantic novel. However, whilst America was recently at war with Iraq, George Bush appeared on the TV show Deal or No Deal, so it seems there is a tradition of America’s leaders pursuing trivial pursuits during times of national crisis.
Having read the romantic novel, Lincoln said, “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” These, I think, are some of the wisest words I have ever read. As a book reviewer, I consider this pithy summary to be a mantra which I keep at the forefront of my mind when I’m compiling my own thoughts about a piece of fiction.
Trailer Park Nights V: L.A. Women Don’t Wear Underwear by Randall Lang, is the fifth novel in an ongoing series of stories. There is a prefatory notice, urging readers to start enjoying the series from the beginning. However, this is followed by an explicit prologue presented as “…a brief introduction and explanation of the events leading up to the beginning of this portion of the story.”
This prologue involves Randy, Marianne, Linda and Jordan in an entanglement of swapping, swinging, group sex and strap-ons. The scene concludes with Randy worried about the homoerotic tones of an episode of explicitness that occurred between himself and Jordan.
Randall Lang does a good job of explaining his character’s motives and reactions to such developments. Randy (the character) is presented as uncomfortable with the cognitive dissonance of receiving pleasure from an experience outside his boundaries of perceived acceptability. This is shown to the reader with the thoughtful detail of the character’s subsequent confusion.
Fortunately, Randy gains perspective with the help of his old acquaintance Terri. And, from there, he is able to help Linda move out to L.A. pursuing her dream of becoming a porn movie star.
I can’t criticise Trailer Park Nights V overtly because I haven’t read Trailer Park Nights I, II, III or IV. I can say that the writing style didn’t particularly work for me. However, I suspect the readers who have been faithfully following Randy and Linda et al from the beginning will be used to Lang’s authorial voice and comfortable with the tone. The sex scenes are explicitly detailed and competently paced, to produce an arousing effect as well as to illicit sympathy for the existing characters.
If you’re a follower of the series, and wondering what happens in this instalment, I won’t run the risk of including spoilers. Instead, I’ll quote Lang from his author’s notes at the conclusion of the novel:
This fifth book was started with the intention of introducing hard core BDSM and homosexual exploration into the storyline. But, as authors always say, the author does not write the story, the characters write the story. These characters were more interested in the pure enjoyment of sex than they were in dominating or being dominated by others. Instead, in true trailer park fashion, they opened their world to new characters and embarked upon the adventure of chasing a dream, all within a tapestry of exciting sexual encounters.
Perhaps my reservations come because I’m simply not a lover of sequels. Terminator 2 aside, I have yet to see a follow-up movie, or read a follow-up novel that matched the promise or satisfaction of the original. Or perhaps, because I came to this series of stories so late, I’m missing out on a lot of the soap-opera style qualities pertinent to the developing narrative as it follows Randy and Linda’s continuing sexual adventures.
Nevertheless, to quote the ineffable Mr Lincoln:
People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.