Thursday, June 26, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Erotica That Reads Like Literature
I have enjoyed M. Christian’s work for a long time. His solo collection Dirty Words and his two multiple-author anthologies co-edited with Simon Sheppard, Rough Stuff and Roughed Up, are among my favorite volumes of erotica.
Which brings me to Filthy: Outrageous Gay Erotica, a new collection of gay erotic stories by M. Christian. To say this is a great book is an understatement. It runs the gamut of emotions, from anger to sadness to ecstasy to envy.
Here are capsule reviews of some of my favorite stories from Filthy…
“The Greener Grasses” in one short story captures the entire paradox of trying to reconcile a leatherfetish lifestyle into the humdrum world of 9-to-5 jobs and dishes to be washed more than volumes of scholarly non-fiction ever has.
“Flyboy” is a wistful tale of a man who has two lovers, one flesh and blood and one as big as all outdoors. Guess which one gets him in the end. You might be surprised.
“Love” reads as a tender valentine to all the gay men, imaginary or otherwise, who have inspired the author over the years to create his amazing tales of erotica.
“Suddenly, Last Thursday” is a haunting, harrowing riff on Tennessee Williams’s play Suddenly, Last Summer.
And “Friday Night at the Calvary Hotel” is an amazing tale that gets my vote for one of the top ten best short stories ever.
Filthy transcends its genre of erotica and enters the realm of literature.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
We might not agree with Clarkson on the environment, Mays on politics, The Stig on fashion, or that Hammond's new haircut looks good, but Top Gear remains one of our all-time favorite shows. Love cars, hate cars, or just not care that much about them, Top Gear is always loads of fun.
Top Gear is a BAFTA, multi-NTA and Emmy Award-winning BBC television series about motor vehicles, mainly cars. It began in 1977 as a conventional motoring magazine show. Over time, and especially since a relaunch in 2002, it has developed a quirky, humorous style. The programme is estimated to have 385 million viewers worldwide and 11 million viewers each week, with one episode (Series 7 Episode 5) having 21 million viewers in the UK on BBC Two. The show is presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig, an anonymous test driver. In 2007 it was one of the most pirated television shows in the world.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
If you like my Welcome to Weirdsville stuff then head on over to the always-fun Dark Roasted Blend for a new article on exploding lakes, busting toads, and suicide bombing ants.
This month’s Streetwalker comes from a suggestion by the wonderful Adrienne here at ERA. When I asked her for some possible topics to cover she gave me: “How about plot ideas, how to keep works fresh and unique and advice on where to look for plot/character inspiration?” If anyone else has any ideas for columns, by the way, please feel free to zap them to me and I’ll consider them.
Now I’ve sort of touched on keeping an eye out for story ideas before, but it bears exploring a bit more. Keeping your work fresh is more than a little important for any writer, especially for smut authors.
For me, stories are everywhere – and to be honest I don’t think I’m special. It’s all a matter of keeping your eyes open, but most importantly PLAYING with the world around you.
It should be obvious that in order to write about the world you need to know something about it, but what a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that sitting in a coffee shop, scribbling away in a notebook while you ponder the imponderables of human nature isn’t likely to yield anything usable. Getting your hands dirty, though, will.
By that I mean really exploring yourself as well as other people. Look at who you are, why you do what you do – both emotionally as well as sexually. The same goes for the people around you. Spend some time really thinking about them, their motivations, their pleasures, or what experiences they may have had.
Dig deep -- ponder their reactions as well as your own. Sharpen your perceptions. Why do they say what they say? What do people admire? Why? What do they despise? Why? That last question should almost always be in your mind – directed outward as well as inward: why? This depth of understanding, or just powerful examination, is a great tool for developing both stories as well as characters.
Along with studying the world, pay attention to good work no matter where you find it. A lot of writing teachers tell students to get intimate with the classics – which I agree with, but also think it’s equally important to recognize great writing even when it’s on the back of a cereal box. Read a lot, see a lot of movies, watch a lot of TV – and pay attention when something good, or great, comes along. Don’t dismiss anything until you’ve tried it, at least for a little while. Examples? Romance novels, comic books, documentaries, sitcoms, cartoon shows, old radio shows, pulps, westerns, and so forth. There’s gold all around you, if you dig around enough
Not for the fun – playing. Look at that guy sitting over there, the one by the window: Heavy, messy hair, chewing with his mouth open – easy to peg him as lonely, creepy, or even seriously perverse. Easy is a shortcut, easy is dull, easy is lazy. Instead try seeing him as something completely different than your initial assessment. Maybe his mind is lovely and musical. Perhaps his touch is gentle and loving. Who knows, maybe he’s a sex magnet – with more boyfriends/girlfriends than he knows what to do with.
Say you’ve stumbled on a particularly good book, show, series, or whatever. Great, bravo, applause – now write something like it. Who cares that the show will never, ever look at your story, or that the medium is long dead (like radio drama). Do it anyway. Have fun – PLAY! Get into the habit of automatically either writing your own version or fixing what you see as a flaw in the original. If you’re reading a book, stop halfway through and finish it in your mind – and then when you do finally turn that last page was your version better? If not then what did the author do that you didn’t?
I love coming attractions, the trailers for movies. Watching them, I always make up my own movie based on what I’ve seen. Sometimes it’s better – at least I think so – sometimes not, then I look at what the director did better than I did when the flick finally comes out.
Playing and watching, studying, that’s the ticket. If you keep your mind sharp, notice details, and examine yourself and the world around you as well as challenging and playing with story ideas, then writing a story for a very specific Call for Submission or for some other strange project will be easy and your story will be original and fresh.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Steve Williams (thanks) over at Suite 101 has given me an opportunity to try and set the record straight regarding the whole Me2 controversy:
Author M. Christian, an established and highly praised writer, talks about his acclaimed works and his career to date, offering aspiring writers his sage advice also.
SW: Can you give us some deatails about your book please?
M.C: The book called Me2, which was totally and completely written by myself, the real and bonafide 'M.Christian' and not written by some person claiming to be the real 'M.Christian'. It is a novel about identity and existence. Although the book has been marketed as a horror story, it also has elements of surrealism, humor, and plenty of social commentary. Similarly, even though the book has a gay male focus I think it would appeal to readers of any orientation, as its message is extremely universal: who are we and are we in control of our lives?
Everyone, gay or straight, likes to think they have a certain uniqueness, but do they really? 'Me2' deals with this by exposing the idea of a copy or fake, a second 'you' that appears apparently out of nowhere and begins not only to take over your life but also becomes a better 'you' than you ever could. How would you react to that? Would you try and quickly change your life, become someone less easily imitated? But then what happens when even this new 'you' is similarly copied -- or is the fraud, your doppleganger, just doing what you're doing ... down to your panicky change of life?
And it gets even worse from there.
SW: For aspiring writers, what would you say were key things they could do to improve their writing?
M.C: Boy, that's a difficult one, mostly because I believe each writer is different, with unique things that do (or don't) work for them. I have no problem advising folks on smut, for instance, because that's writing for a specific genre. But in general:
Don't read about writing and don't take writing classes (except for mine, of course). I've noticed a lot of would-be-writers spend way too much time on theory and little to no time on actual practice. A writer writes, and each time they do they (hopefully) get better. And have fun! If writing is painful then you're not doing it right. Don't try and outdo someone else or become the next Dickens or Kipling, just do things that you like and that you enjoy. Once it gets easier then you can try to push yourself even father but when you're just starting out you need to get comfortable with language, structure, flow, etc.
For God's sake don't dismiss genre fiction. Good work is good work, if it was written for The New Yorker or a Saturday morning cartoon. Learn to recognize good -- and bad -- work and learn from it. If you read something good then learn from what that writer did. If you read something bad then learn what that writer did wrong.
Play games with your own creativity. If you like a TV show then try writing an episode. You don't even have to write it, just imagine the story and the dialogue. If you're watching a movie or reading a book, stop half way through it and finish it yourself -- was your ending better or not? Why was it better or not? The big thing is to have fun!
Don't write thinking about money (there isn't any) or awards (they are like hemorrhoids, every asshole gets one), or fame. Instead just think about the books you love and do something like them -- repay the debt, so to speak.
SW: Do you see gay fiction becoming more mainstream in the future?
M.C: Only if readers buy them. Like with gay issues in our culture, queer books have become more common, but money is what matters (sigh). I think one of the best 'tricks' to further mainstream gay characters and issues is to simply make them part of any book's world or to emphasize similarities and not differences -- create a bridge between so-called 'gay' fiction and every other genre. So, yeah, I think queer books are becoming more mainstream but I think there's still some distance to go -- mainly because readers need to throw down their bucks to keep the genre going. Without money it could slip back into being just a tiny niche.
SW: Finally, do you have any new stories in the works? If so, can you tell us a little bit about them?
M.C: Thanks for asking! I already mentioned that I have two novels coming out very soon: Brushes is a mainstream/romantic/erotica novel about a famous artist and the people who surround him; and Painted Doll is a cyberdelic noir story about a woman on the run from the mob who hides under the identity of a quasi-dominatrix. In the meantime I'm working on a new novel that should be out in another year, having a great time with a wonderful artist adapting one of my stories into a comic book, and wasting way too much time on my writing blog and my fun blog of weird and unusual things.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Even Ryes from Rainbow Reviews has been tricked by my impostor!
He looks just like you. He acts exactly like you. Every day he becomes more and more like you, taking away that what was yours until there's nothing left. You may think you've met your match ~ or your double ~ but that's not even close.
Me2 is a psychological thriller about self and identity, written in a unique and interesting structure. The book starts off with an unnamed narrator who works at Starbucks. The narrator mentally labels the Starbucks customers by the flavor/cup sizes of the coffee they order and the personalities he associates with those coffees. This is not different from the way he views the world in terms of brand names. His description of himself also doesn't distinguish him from other men like him. His daily activities are routine, and he even gives his looks a name: a Boy of Summer look.
One of his Starbucks customers tells him about aliens, or clones, amongst us. They blend in with everyone else so you can't tell them apart. He starts wondering if there's someone out there trying to copy him in order to blend in. Suddenly, he starts seeing himself everywhere, and he's not sure why. Parts of the book read like dream sequences as his paranoia grows and he confuses small details like which car is his and which house is his.
The idea planted in his head about doubles and clones begins to consume all his thoughts and he comes to the conclusion that people really are copying details of himself to take over his life. As a result of all this, he begins questioning his identity and wondering what makes him different and what makes him an individual in a world operated by brand names and labels.
Me2 is set up with eleven chapters and three epilogues. Each of the chapters are titled (in order) "Me," "Me2," "Me3," "Me4," etc. The narrator of each chapter is not necessarily the same one from the previous chapters. The epilogues lead up to the publication of this novel, with an amusing letter from the editor to M. Christian (or whoever wrote this book).
Me2 is a well-written and well-thought out take on the issue of identity, and Christian writes with gripping and clear prose. He delivers the "horror" aspect without fail and executes a wonderful build-up. Me2 is an excellent novel that provokes thought and introspection; highly recommended.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
J. EDWARD SUMERAU (via Metro Spirit):
The latest offering from M. Christian — “Me2” — poses a bit of a dilemma for the average reader. While it contains an intricate plotline leading readers deeper and deeper into psychological consideration, it is constructed upon a narrative style that is often jumpy, tense and hard to follow. The end result is an intriguing argument buried in a difficult format.
M. Christian is of course a variety of voices wrapped into a single moniker. Whether found in erotic collections of the straight or gay variety or in horror compilations and psychological intrigues, Christian holds power over a voice deeply original in a time where conformity is all too common. Having found his work in collections such as “Dirty Words," “Speaking Parts” and “Best American Erotica," it was about time that Christian offered a vision of the contemporary world in the form of a longer offering.
The dilemma arises in the context of the story. The premise is simple enough: A young man works in a coffee shop, dates other men and loves his little car. He even has the common push and pull relationship many grown men have with their fathers, but he is losing his mind. The question becomes whether he is losing himself or being taken by someone else.
Such a fascinating premise based on the notions of identity formation in a world of continual conformity and over-classification makes for a startling storyline in the hands of the craftsman.
The problem for many will arise in the format. Laced with interludes that often drag on without merit and paranoid reactions to the most inane of thoughts, the pace of the story tends to slacken at times, and as a result, the tumultuous occurrences of the characters are left in some form of limbo. As a result, readers may have to carefully take notice of seemingly obscure passages to make sense of the whole, and the story is a difficult read complete with intriguing insights worthy of notice.
With its attack on conformity and modernity in general, the book is an amazing argument in the tradition of Bret Easton Ellis’ “American Psycho” and “Lunar Park," and while its premise recognizes the former, its narrative is a bristly obstacle course reminiscent of the latter work.
In all these regards, Christian has offered a fascinating view of the modern world, and for those who make it through the pitfalls of the writing style, it will be an adventure well-worth the effort.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
One of the many perks of writing for Bilerico is that we get sent things to review. That's how the book Me2 by M. Christian landed in my lap.
The book's theme is about the slippery nature of identity. The main character is a somewhat bland, generic gay man who begins to descend into madness as he thinks someone just like him, or a version of him, is taking over his life. This "copy", or whatever, of him (I won't give it away in case you read it) begins to take over his life, living it for him- and at times better than him.
Sound complicated and weird? It is. Really weird.
It book bills itself as a "horror" novel, but it is more psychologically twisted than scary. The concept is interesting, but the journey the writer takes you on to get there can be a bit annoying and frustrating.
Which might be the point.
The main character's dissolving sanity and paranoia at times make it hard to really get into the book or even care about the bland leading man. The book drives you a bit crazy with the way it is written, but at times that can be the most interesting thing about the story. You begin to go crazy along with the main character.
Each chapter begins with a kind of bizarre theory as to what is happening to the main character- ranging from evil robot copies, aliens, clones, twins, etc. It all becomes a little bit heavy and distracting, again cutting off the reader from really becoming connected with the story, except to go a bit crazy along with the lead.
It was a bit of a struggle to keep reading it times, but the over-all idea is an interesting one. I will say I found myself thinking about some of the bizarre theories and twists in the book when I wasn't reading it, but still found it somewhat tiring to read.
So if you want to go a bit crazy, then by all means, this is the book for you. It may not be the summer read you are looking for to take to the beach, but is worth a read if you like twisted, bizarre books.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Even my friend ... my friend ... Mari Adkins has fallen under the copycat's spell!
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you wake up and you're not quite sure yourself or that you're in your own home with your own personal things? M. Christian's Me2 is a lot like that. The reader is introduced up front to a superficial main character who has a superficial outlook on everything around him -- including his job, his friends, and the other people he encounters. Obsessed by how others perceive him, he goes through his days doing the same thing repetitively, almost mechanically. But then an odd man talks to him about Doppelgangers.
It's been said that every person has a twin somewhere on this Earth. Christian sets this idea on its ear and then some in his own personal style. Of course the narrator has a Doppelganger, the signs are obvious, and he is faced with the unimaginable horror of searching out his own uniqueness.
The story is engaging, although in places confusing -- and out of order. But I believe Christian has layered and sequenced his story this way for the purpose of keeping the reader unsettled, so he can't figure things out on his own or guess ahead.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
A fellow pornographer startled me the other day when she said that she wanted to be "the best erotica writer." I couldn't help but applaud and also be a bit disappointed. I mean, why stop there?
I mean erotica is fine and good and to reuse one of my favorite lines "it's been very, very good to me," but it isn't the only thing out there. Why stop with writing just smut?
Aside from the expansion of your potential sales arena, there are lots of other great reasons to try your hand at other genres. Erotica isn't just about sex, it's merged and melded with all kinds of other genres - mainstream, science fiction, horror, fantasy, and all the rest of them - or, it could be argued, erotica is nothing but those genres with the sex put back in. In any case, increasing your hand in other genres can't do anything but add something extra to your smut.
But we're still talking about smut. Okay, wanting to be great in anything is a noble effort but it's still trying to be big in a relatively small pond. Writing other things is it's own reward.
I know that's a scary thought, especially if you're either beginning to get comfortable with being an erotica writer or even building up some respectable credits. It's definitely not easy to jump into a whole new genre and basically start from scratch.
But you know what? Writing is hard. When it stops being hard maybe it's time to give up and do something else. No, I'm not saying that it never gets easier, just that writing is a process, and as with all good processes there's a good deal of stretching and straining that goes into it. Staying with just one kind of writing, or genre, is fine and fun but playing it safe and easy can make a writer lazy, and worst of all - dull.
Besides, you don't know what you might be great at. Sure you may be a fine and dandy erotica writer but you could be a real kick-ass non-fiction, horror, romance, mystery, thriller and so forth writer. You won't know until you try.
Certainly there's a chance of failure, of being rejected, but at least you would have done what few people have done: tried to stretch your ability, or writer's voice. Here's something else to think of: in all the world you're doing very few people would even dream of do, let alone have the courage to do - be a writer. That's the hard part. Trying to write something else, that's easy by comparison.