Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who Is M.Christian - And Why Won't He Shut Up?

Check out this wonderful interview of my humble self with the very great Jennifer Blackmore over at the Circlet Press site:

M.Christian has been called “one of the greatest living writers of erotica” (mostly by himself) and a “hack who shouldn’t quit his day job” (by everyone else). The author of more than three hundred short stories, he’s appeared in pretty much every “Best Erotic” anthology there is, from Best American Erotica, to Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many others. He is the editor of twenty anthologies including Confessions, Amazons, and Garden of the Perverse (with Sage Vivant) and The Mammoth Book of Future Cops and The Mammoth Book of Tales of the Road (with Maxim Jakubowksi). His stories have been published in five collections: Dirty Words (gay erotica), Speaking Parts (lesbian erotica), The Bachelor Machine (SF erotica), Filthy (more gay erotica) and-–coming soon–Licks & Promises (the straight stuff). He is also the author of five novels: Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll. His site is www.mchristian.com.

How did you start writing erotica and/or how did you start writing sf/fantasy?

The answer is the same for both, really: after trying to get published for about ten years I took a class from Lisa Palac, who was editing the magazine FutureSex at the time, on a whim. At the end of the class I gave her a story I had written, a fun little SF thing, not really expecting much of anything. I was shocked a few days later when she wrote to say that she wanted to publish it. “Intercore” was then picked up for Best American Erotica–-and everything just sort of took off from there.

Is there something particularly compelling to you about combining sf/f with erotica?

Well, I’ve been a pretty hardcore geek/nerd/fanboy for a long time, so wanting to write SF has always been in the back of my mind–though a lot less now than when I first started to write. Mixing the two was really just a marriage of convenience: editors and publishers seemed to want erotica so why couldn’t I try to mix them?

Beyond that, I’ve always felt that, except for a few rare exceptions, sex has been the one thing that SF really hasn’t speculated about. After all, how many future shock stories have you read where the world has been completely transformed by technology or social change yet the characters still get it on like a pair of teenagers in the backseat of a Plymouth? Just think about how things have changed in the past few years: AIDS, Viagra, gay rights, the Net, implants… Our sex isn’t our grandparents’, or even parents’, sex so why shouldn’t it be even more wild/radical/amazing/scary in just a few more years? And who knows what it could be like in a decade or the next century?

To be fair, I haven’t really worked to push those boundaries myself–I still have to sell my work to people of this century–but I’ve always wanted to really have fun and experiment with what sex might eventually become. One of these days… One of these days….

How does your real life experience get translated into erotic sf?

It does and it doesn’t. It doesn’t because even though I write a lot of gay fiction as well as gay erotica, lesbian fiction as well as lesbian erotica, bi fiction as well as bi–well, you get the idea–I actually a pretty simple guy, sexually. Sure, there’s that Michael Rosen picture of my ex-wife and I, but when the lights are low I’m not that sexually complicated.

But it does because even though I haven’t had gay sex, and am simply not equipped to have lesbian sex, I do put a lot of my emotional self in what I do. I can’t say I know what the sex feels like but I certainly can write about what it feels like to be excited, frustrated, disappointed, ecstatic, etc. I also take a lot of pride in the fact that I treat my subjects with dignity and respect, that I try exceptionally hard to make my characters as three-dimensional as possible. After all, no matter [what] our genders or orientations [are] we have more things in common with each other than [not]. I’ve been lucky–so far–that folks have been very kind about my attempts, and some have even made me very happy by saying that my work has touched them, but being thought of as rude or disrespectful is still is something I worry about.

Is writing erotic sf different from writing other genres?

Well, aside from what I already mentioned (that it’s hard to SF-up sex without completely losing your reader) I think that SF erotica is different–for me at least–because I always try to put in social commentary, which is what many of the SF greats have used the genre for as well.

There’s always a bit of pressure to world-build, which can make the process a bit tougher than simply writing about modern people having modern sex. Sometimes, though, putting in a bit of SF can make everything easier, like with the book I have coming out very soon from Lethe Books, called Painted Doll. I knew I wanted to make it noir-SF but didn’t want to make it really heavy-hitting technology-wise. I also wanted to add a new dimension to what sex could become, so I thought of giving the dominatrix-type lead character a neurochemical brush she could use to paint her clients with sensations and emotional cues. What happened was very fun because it meant I could also make her a storyteller as she painted, so what she told would add a whole new level to the story. What she was telling her clients could also reveal her state of mind to the reader.

What is your writing process like?

Ah, here’s where I really am a weirdo. A lot of writers I know have to have the room dead quiet, or only have on classical music or such but, because I first started to write without any privacy at all, I’ve gotten used to working with a lot of stimulation. Right now, for instance, I’m watching the Japanese henshin series Garo while answering your questions. Often I pick a vid to match what I’m trying to do, to set the mood. I don’t have a lot of DVDs but the ones I have I must have seen dozens of times: Wender’s Hammett; Frankenheimer’s Seconds, Seven Days In May, and the Manchurian Candidate; Paul Dini’s Batman and Justice League series; the wonderful new French film Renaissance; lots of anime; The Avengers TV series; lots of J-Horror (especially Uzumaki) and lots of others I can’t remember, and I’m too lazy to get up to see what else is on my shelves.

I’m also very lucky to have a fantastic partner-in-all-things, who also happens to be the writer Sage Vivant. I’ve said this a few times but it’s always worth repeating: writing can be … Hell, it totally is a vicious, awful, ugly, and emotionally devastating business and every writer needs, and deserves, someone in their life to be there. I am very damned lucky to have found my one special person.

What’s it like sharing your life with another erotic writer? How does that affect your creative process? How much input do you to have on each other’s work?

WAITAMINUTE! Are you saying… Are you IMPLYING… That my girlfriend is some kind of a pornographer!? I’m shocked, I tell you, SHOCKED!

Okay, I’m kidding. I’m tremendously lucky to have found Sage, and thank that fortune every day she’s with me. Writers are–for the most part–completely bonkers. It’s the business that does it: we expose our hopes, dreams, fantasies, and the rest of our so-fragile stuff to people who only care about money, or to other writers who’ve been smashed up the same bad experiences. It makes us insecure, competitive doubtful, depressed, and even arrogant… Like I said, bonkers.

I’ve always dreamed I’d find someone who was at least creative, a person who understood how much fun it can be when it works, and who’d understand how much it hurts when it doesn’t. Not in a million years did I think the person I’d fall head-over-heels for would also be a writer, let alone a writer I admired.

I can’t say that enough: not only do I love Sage but I respect her tremendously. For close to ten years she ran Custom Erotica Source, where she wrote stories for over one thousand clients. That alone is totally remarkable but it still doesn’t say enough: the stories she wrote not only touched people but were also so brilliantly well-written [that] editors and publishers snatched them up for all kinds of anthologies.

But she is also just a wonderful person: kind, funny, supportive, smart, as well as totally gorgeous — absolutely my partner in all things. We work very well together and, even though she just sold CES and is taking a break from writing, her help, opinions, and support are a huge part of my writing life… Well, every part of my life, period.

Are/were there authors who influence your writing?

I feel like I’m always learning from, and trying to be as good as, the folks I admire and respect. I wish I could say those were high-end classic writers–and, sure, a few are there, like Steinbeck, Kipling, Dickens, Hugo, and such–but for the most part I adore and want to be as good as modern comic writers like Alan Moore, Adam Warren, and Grant Morrison; classic SF writers like Bester, Dick, Sturgeon, and Zelazny; and non-fiction writers like Karl Taro Greenfeld, Paul Kirchner… And a few others I’m, again, too lazy to get up and go to my bookshelf for. I’m weird in that I actually don’t read a lot of erotica–unless I have to when I’m editing an anthology–and [I] don’t read any new SF, mostly because I rarely have the time. Again one day I hope to… One day….

Do you have a favorite story or work of yours, and why that one?

Not really–I don’t like to look back. It kind of scares me, actually, to read something I wrote–especially when I think it’s good because then I worry if I’ll ever be able to write that well again. It’s kind of pat but I like to say that my favorite thing is what I’m going to write next. I do think my book, Me2, recently out from Alyson Books, came out well (even though there’s some debate going on [about] if I even wrote the damned thing), and I really enjoyed writing my new and upcoming books Brushes and Painted Doll. I just hope the book I’m working on right now will come out well, but so far–fingers crossed–it’s been fun.

There’s a common theme in many of your stories and novels of showing what goes on behind-the-scenes in an erotic scenario, whether it be elaborate sex play or something constructed by a professional sex worker. What fascinates you about this flip-side? What do you think this has to say about the nature of sexual fantasy?

I’ve always been fascinated by the faces we wear. Like a lot of folks I don’t think we have one personality. This “voice” for instance–the one you’re reading and I’m writing–it isn’t “me,” at least not the “me” that’s the voice in my head, and it’s not the “me” that talks out loud. It’s not the “me” in my fantasies, and it’s not even the “me” that is my sexual self.

Maybe I’ve been doing it too much and it’s time to change my schtick but I like experimenting with how those faces can work against or compliment each other. Like with Painted Doll, where the main character has been forced to hide under a false personality, where one self looks like an opposite but is actually more of a different “flavor;” and how those interactions change the character, revealing a lot about her true self, and if she, and we, really have one.

I also love to play with identity and how it’s formed by those internal “faces” but also by everyone around us. In Brushes, we’re exposed to this notion of one bastard of a painter through the people in his life. (What is it with me and artists anyway? They keep showing up in almost everything I do…) But is he really such a bad guy or have everyone’s impressions been twisted by misconceptions and illusions? If I did write Me2 (and I ain’t saying) I would have done the same kind of thing, having fun with who we are and if we are really unique.

On your blog you wrote that you wished that erotica as a genre would end, and that sex writing would become integrated into other genres. If this happened, how would that effect you as a writer? Which genres do you think you would like to explore?

I guess it might put an end to my luxurious and so well-respected career, but it’s something I honestly wish would happen. Not because it would mean the death of the genre but because sex is a part of life and it should be a ubiquitous part of literature as well. Why do we have books that clearly have, or are even about, sex but you never see it? Why shouldn’t the sexual self of the characters be on stage like their other selves? The moment we actually show sex in a story it gets shunned or buried behind a beaded curtain in the back of the store. No wonder we have such a screwed up culture! I’ve said it before but it’s always worth repeating: what kind of a world have we made where giving head gets an X but cutting someone’s head off only gets an R? One day, perhaps, we’ll be honest and happy about sex… One day….

As far as where I want to go, I really don’t have any burning desires. I just love to be wanted, so I’ll do pretty much whatever someone wants… Writing-wise, I mean. I’m not being passive, it’s just that many of the best things that’ve happened to my writing have come as complete surprises: erotica, gay fiction, non-fiction, etc. Sure I’d love to write a Great-American-Novel kind-of-thing, and then there’s that book on movie villains I keep playing with, but for the most part I love working with a challenge and seeing what fun things might come out of it.

Do you have anything new coming up that you want to tell people about?

Let’s see… Me2 is out there (if I wrote it, that is) and doing pretty well. It’s a gay horror/thriller/comedy thing from Alyson Books. Brushes, a romantic/erotic book just came out from Phaze Books. My gay vampire horror/comedy, The Very Bloody Marys, just got reprinted from Lethe Books and coming soon, also from Lethe, is my SF erotica novel, Painted Doll. I also just sold a new collection to Phaze, called Licks & Promises and I’m working on a new book, a gay/horror thing that should be out next year sometime.

Beyond that I’ve been having fun putting cool stuff on my site at www.mchristian.com and digging up erotic things for my sex blog at frequentlyfelt.blogspot.com and REALLY wonderful and strange things for the site my brother and I do: meinekleinefabrik.blogsopt.com. Come check them out and feel free to write me at zobop@aol.com.

No comments: