Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Hero

(cross-posted to Frequently Felt)

A great writer ... and a wonderful character!


Wiki:
Georges Joseph Christian Simenon (pronounced [ʒɔʀʒ simˈnɔ̃] in French) (February 13, 1903September 4, 1989) was a Belgian writer who wrote in French. He is best known for the creation of the fictional detective Maigret.

At the age of three, Simenon learned to read at the Sainte-Julienne nursery school. Then, between 1908 and 1914, he attended the Institut Saint-André. In September 1914, shortly after the beginning of the First World War, he began his studies at the Collège Saint-Louis, a Jesuit high school.

In the summer of 1915, going against the grain of the Jesuits' chaste teachings, the twelve year-old Simenon had the first of many sexual experiences in his long life; in this case, with an older girl of fifteen. Many years later, Simenon was known as "the man of 10,000 women," a self-confessed sex addict who "needed" to have sex three times a day. Quite a few women were prepared to humor him for nothing, nevertheless, these 10,000 were said to include 8,000 prostitutes. It has been suggested that the real number of women in Simenon's life was, although prodigious, vastly smaller than 10,000. In this he was quite different from his fictional creation, Maigret, who can be presumed to have been entirely faithful to Madame Maigret ....

Simenon's first novel, Au Pont des Arches was written in June 1919 and published in 1921 under his "G. Sim" pseudonym. Writing as "Monsieur Le Coq," he also published more than 800 humorous pieces between November 1919 and December 1922.

During this period, Simenon's familiarity with nightlife only increased: prostitutes, drunkenness, and general carousing. The people he rubbed elbows with included anarchists, bohemian artists, and even two future murderers, the latter appearing in his novel Les Trois crimes de mes amis. He also frequented a group of artists known as "La Caque." While not really involved in the group, he did meet his future wife Régine Renchon through it ....

Simenon's father died in 1922 and this served as the occasion for him to move to Paris with Régine Renchon (hereafter referred to by her nickname "Tigy"), at first living in the XVIIe Arrondissement, not far from the Boulevard des Batignolles. He became familiar with the city, its bistrots, cheap hotels, bars, and restaurants. More importantly, he also came to know ordinary working-class Parisians. Writing under numerous pseudonyms, his creativity began to pay financial dividends.

Simenon and Tigy returned briefly to Liège in March 1923 to marry. Despite his Catholic upbringing, Simenon was not a believer. Tigy came from a thoroughly non-religious family. However, Simenon's mother insisted on a church wedding, forcing Tigy to become a nominal convert, learning the Catholic Church's catechism. Despite their father's lack of religious convictions, all of Simenon's children would be baptized as Catholics. Marriage to Tigy, however, did not prevent Simenon from having liaisons with numerous other women, perhaps most famously, Josephine Baker ....

A reporting assignment had Simenon on a lengthy sea voyage in 1928, giving him a taste for boating. In 1929, he decided to have a boat built, the Ostrogoth. Simenon, Tigy, their cook and housekeeper Henriette Liberge, and their dog Olaf lived on board the Ostrogoth, traveling the French canal system. Henriette Liberge, known as "Boule" (literally, "Ball," a reference to her slight pudginess) was romantically involved with Simenon for the next several decades and would remain a close friend of the family, really part of it.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: The Four Deadly Sins, Part 4 - Violence

(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)

One in awhile someone will ask me “What, if anything, is verboten in today’s permissive, literate erotica?” The answer is that pretty much anything is fair game, but there are what are called the four deadly sins: four subjects that a lot of publishers and editors won’t (or can’t) touch. These by no means are set in stone, but they definitely limit where you can send a story that uses any of them. So here, in a special series of columns, are theses sins, and what – if anything – a writer can do with them. Enjoy!

#

In regards to the last of erotica’s sins a well-known publisher of “sexually explicit materials” put it elegantly and succinctly: “Just don’t fuck anyone to death.” As with the rest of the potentially problematic themes I’ve discussed here, the bottom line is context and execution: you can almost anything if you do it well - and if not well, then don’t bother doing it at all.

Violence can be a very seductive element to add to any genre, let alone smut - mainly because it’s just about everywhere around us. Face it, we live in a severely screwed up culture: cut someone’s head off and you get an R rating, give someone head and it’s an X. It’s kind of natural that many people want to use some degree of violence in their erotica - more than likely because they’ve seen more people killed than loved on-screen. But violence, especially over-the-top kind of stuff (i.e. run of the mill for Hollywood), usually doesn’t fly in erotic writing - with a few notable exceptions, such as Thomas Roche’s excellent Noirotica anthology series. Part of that is because erotica editors and publishers know that even putting a little violence in an erotic story or anthology concept can open them up to criticism from all kinds of camps: the left, the right, and even folks who’d normally be fence-sitters - and give a distributor a very good reason not to carry the book.

One of the biggest risks that can happen with including violence in an erotic story is when the violence affects the sex. That sounds weird; especially since I’ve often said that including other factors (such as environment, history, etc.) are essential to a well-written erotic story. The problem is that when violence enters a story and has a direct impact on the sex acts or sexuality of the character, or characters, the story can easily come off as either manipulative or pro-violence. Balancing the repercussions of a violent act on a character is tricky, especially as the primary focus of the story. However, when violence is not central to the sexuality of the characters but can affect them in other ways it becomes less easy to finger point - such as in noir, horror, etc - where the violence is background, mood, plot, or similar without a direct and “obvious” impact on how the character views sex. That’s not to say it isn’t something to shoot for, but it remains one of the harder tricks to pull off.

Then there’s the issue of severity and gratuitousness. As in depicting the actual sex in sex writing, a little goes a long way: relishing in every little detail of any act can easily push sex, violence, or anything else into the realm of comedy, or at least bad taste. A story that reads like nothing but an excuse to wallow in blood - or other body fluids - can many times be a big turn-off to an editor or publisher. In other words, you don’t want to beat the reader senseless.

The biggest problem with violence is when it has a direct sexual contact. In other words, rape. Personally, this is a big button-pusher, mainly because I’ve only read one or two stories that handled it ... I can’t really say “well” because there’s nothing good about that reprehensible act, but there have been a few stories I’ve read that treat it with respect, depth, and complexity. The keyword in that is “few” - for every well-executed story dealing with sexual assault there are dozens and dozens that make are furious, at least. I still remember the pro-rape story I had the misfortune to read several years ago. To this day I keep in the back of my mind as an example of how awful a story can be.

Sometimes violence can slip into a story as a component of S/M play ... you know: a person assaulted by a masked intruder who is really (ta-da!) the person’s partner indulging in a bit of harsh role-play. Aside from being old hack (and thoroughly predicable), stories like this can also fall into the “all pain is good pain for a masochist” cliche, unless (as with all things) it’s handled with care and/or flair.

Summing up, there is nothing you cannot write about: even this erotic “sin” or the others I’ve mentioned (under-age, bestiality, and incest). However, some subjects are simply problematic in regards to sales potential: themes and activities loaded with emotional booby traps that have to be carefully handled if the story is going to be seen as anything other than a provocative device. The affective use of these subjects has always been dependant in the writer’s ability to treat them with respect. If you have any doubts about what that might be, just imagine being on the receiving end: extrapolate your feelings if one of your own personal traumas or sexual issues was used as a cheap story device or plot point in a story. Empathy is always a very important facility for a writer to develop - especially when dealing with sensitive or provocative issues.

In short, if you don’t like being beaten up, then don’t do it to someone else - of if you do, then try and understand how much it hurts and why. Taking a few body blows for your characters might make you a bit black and blue emotionally but the added dimension and sensitivity it gives can change an erotic sin, something normally just exploitive, to ... well, if not a virtue, then at least a story with a respectful sinner as its author.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thanks, Donna!

This comes from my pal, Donna George Storey:
I've been reading and admiring M. Christian's erotica since...well, since I began reading erotica regularly, over ten years ago. To quote myself (hmm, am I allowed to quote myself?) "With his amazing versatility and silky smooth prose, M. Christian helped forge the erotica revolution of the 1990s and he’s still going strong!" Not to mention, there is no more pleasant company in which to explore the eateries of the SF Bay Area--M. Christian, Sage Vivant, my chief editor and technical advisor (aka husband) and myself have started a wonderful supper club tradition, which I hope continues indefinitely. Timidly claiming the name "colleague" with a writer I've admired so long has been a dream come true--one of the many unexpected benefits of my arduous Amorous Woman promotion efforts.

Okay, enough about me--I have an exciting announcement about sex and writing. M. Christian is offering a one-day erotica writing workshop in San Francisco this October. Unfortunately I'll be off in New York on the east coast leg of my Amorous Woman book tour at that time. But that shouldn't stop you from signing up to learn sexy writing secrets from a man who helped make erotica cool and hot! Here are the details. Be there or be square!

Sex Sells: How to Write & Sell Erotica
With M.Christian

Sunday, October 12th, 1pm - 4pm
$40 before Sept 30; $50 after Sept 30
Center for Sex & Culture
1519 Mission Steet, San Francisco
Register via PayPal (Zobop@aol.com) or pay at the door

The market for erotic fiction and nonfiction is booming! There actually is a secret to writing great erotica - and you'll discover just what that is in this fun, hands-on workshop with well-known erotica writer and teacher M. Christian.

For the beginning writer, erotica can be the ideal place to begin writing, getting published, and -- best of all -- earning money. And for the experienced writer, erotica can be an excellent way to beef up your resume and hone your writing skills. M. Christian will review the varieties of personal and literary expression possible in this exciting and expanding field. He'll also teach you techniques for creating love and sex scenes that sizzle.

Learn how to:

* Get started writing for and selling to this growing marketplace
* Free your creativity and get past inhibitions
* Avoid cliches, common mistakes, and pitfalls
* Write what editors and publishers will want to buy

Plus: current pay rates, how to write for a wide variety of erotic genres, from magazines to websites, where and how to submit your erotic writing, and more.

Students will also receive:

* Several informative handouts including a list of top-notch markets and venues for erotica, as well as funny and educational articles and columns
* A personal invitation to contribute to a special erotica project
* 50% off a wide selections of erotica books
* A free autographed copy of M.Christian's collection Filthy: Outrageous Gay Erotica=

The class is open to everyone (over the age of 21) interested in writing all kinds of erotica: gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, fetish ... you name it!

M.Christian is an acknowledged master of erotica with more than 300 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites. He is the editor of 20 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, and many others. He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, and Filthy; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll. His site is www.mchristian.com.

For more information write M.Christian at zobop@aol.com.

*no guarantees

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dark Roasted M.Christian


If you love big airplanes ... and I mean BIG airplanes .. then head over to Dark Roasted Blend for my new piece on huge flying machines:
For a few thousand years the biggest things in the skies were only in our imaginations, flying figments of myth and fable: the Roc from Sinbad’s tales, the Garuda bird from the Mahabharata, the Thunderbird from North America, the Brazilian Blue Crow, and other high-flying nightmares or soaring benevolent gods and spirits.

But then a few very clever, and rather persistent, folks got tired of only dreaming. With great inventiveness, they wanted to see what was actually above the clouds. They sought to create something as wondrously big, or nightmarishly immense, as those birds of myth and legend.

Talking about big planes is very much like talking about who should get the credit for man’s first flight –- it all depends on who you talk to. As the brilliant James Burke has pointed out, inventors rarely create something from nothing –- their successes are often the result of combining the partial successes, or learning from the downright failures, of other inventors. In some cases, it's just pure dumb luck.

The Wright Brothers are often given most of the recognition for the first powered flight but Gustave Whitehead, Alexander Feodorovich Mozhaiski, Clement Ader, and many others should get a share of the fame, too. Whoever is responsible, it wasn’t long before the skies were full of sputtering, creaking, and – for the most part – very unreliable aeronautical devices.

It took the first world war to change aircraft from a killing and maiming hobby for the rich to a killing and maiming war machine. War helped advance the science of flight and necessitated bigger planes.


The Short 184 is often cited as one of the first true bombers, a huge step up simply flinging grenades from the cockpit. Created by the legendary Short Brothers, the 184 was big enough –- a world full of fabric and string mayflies -– to carry a torpedo, which must have been a terrifying sight to battleships that, until then, had ruled the sea.

Another monster plane of that time was Igor Sikorsky's Ilya Murometz, a huge improvement over his legendary Russky Vitaz, the first four engine aircraft. But the Ilya Murometz didn't begin as a beast of the skies. Originally designed as a luxurious passenger liner featuring electric lighting, heat, a bathroom, and even a glass floor, the bomber must have been amusing as well as terrifying to its wealthy passengers.

In the years between wars, airplanes kept getting bigger. Take the elegant Handley Page HP42, for instance: a four-engined beauty with an impressive track record of no crashes while being used as an airliner -- which gives you an idea of how safe it was to fly back then.

One of the larger and more beautiful aircraft in the next few decades was the awesome 1936 Boeing Stratoliner. Unfairly called a ‘whale’ because of its chubbiness, the plane was not only huge but also state of the art; today we enjoy flying in pressurized comfort because of technology premiered in the silver flying fish of the Stratoliner.

Art and elegance may have been one of the early fatalities in the second world war, but striving to have the biggest (anything) certainly wasn’t.

To call the Messerschmitt Me 321 big is like calling 1939 to 1945 unpleasant. Created originally as a guilder, the Gigant could haul an insanely large amount of cargo. And an insane bunch of soldiers: 130 plus hardware ... 23 tons of hardware. Because the Gigant was so huge, getting the damned thing into the air was, at best, problematic. First it was towed up with a pair of Heinkel 111 bombers, which was alternatively unsuccessful or disastrous. Then they tried fusing two 111s together to make a Frankenstein’s monster of a machine –- almost as bestial as the Gigant itself. Finally the Luftwaffe stuck engines on the Me321, which made an ugly brute even uglier but at least it got off the ground.

On the other side of the war was an eagle, a silvery steel bird of prey: the huge and beautiful B-29 Superfortress. Although getting the immense B-29 up to its ceiling of 40,000 feet was a struggle, once it got up there nothing could reach it or, at 350 mph, catch it. Even if something managed to come close to it, its formidable defenses could cut any threat to shreds. Featuring many impressive advancements, and some frustrating problems, the plane was kept on active duty long into the Korean war.

With the advent of jet power, aircraft designers began to think really big. Think of your average doomsday film and you immediately picture the roaring ascent of smoke-blasting, eight-engined, B52 bombers. Like the B29, the B52 was an aeronautical powerhouse, a heavy-lifting behemoth. And like the B52, it was kept in service until … well, they are still being used today.

Unlike the B29 and the B52, which don’t show their size easily, the C-5 galaxy would look insanely monstrous even on a postage stamp. To give you an idea of the galaxy’s size, its wingspan is not just longer than the Wright Brothers’ first flight but the beast can also haul 180,000 pounds (which is about 90 tons). It, too, is still with us today.

The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy also has to be mentioned, which like the galaxy looks more like a prop from a Japanese monster movie than a real airplane. The Guppy is also high on the irony meter as it was mostly used to haul nearly-completed components -- of other airplanes.

Arguably the biggest plane flying today, or ever, is Antonov An-225, a 6-engine Russian beast that’s not only longer than the first flight in history but could probably carry one, two, or three whole aircraft museums. Numbers don’t mean much but here is an impressive one: the 225 can carry 550,000 pounds, which is 275 tons. Yes, you can say WOW.

The H-4 Hercules is the standard by which “huge aircraft” are measured –- as well as how “completely screwed up” is defined. Its one and only flight was in 1947, where it was airborne for a total of 70 feet. Originally planned as the ultimate military transport, it is more commonly known as its hated -- at least by its creator Howard Hughes -- moniker, the Spruce Goose.

We used to have the Roc, the Garuda bird, the Thunderbird, Blue Crow, and other soaring myths. Now we have machines; airplanes so big they’re even greater than those ancient, and magnificent, dreams.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: The Four Deadly Sins, Part 3 - Incest

(the following is part of an ongoing series of columns I did for The Erotica Readers & Writers Association on the ins and outs and ins and outs and ins and outs of writing good smut)

One in awhile someone will ask me “What, if anything, is verboten in today’s permissive, literate erotica?” The answer is that pretty much anything is fair game, but there are what are called the four deadly sins: four subjects that a lot of publishers and editors won’t (or can’t) touch. These by no means are set in stone, but they definitely limit where you can send a story that uses any of them. So here, in a special series of columns, are theses sins, and what – if anything – a writer can do with them. Enjoy!

#

Like bestiality, incest is a tough nut: it’s not something you might “accidentally” insert into an erotic story. Also like bestiality, it’s something that can definitely push - if not slam - the buttons of an editor or publisher. Yet, as with all of these “four deadly sins,” the rules are not as set in stone as you’d think. Hell, I even managed to not only write and sell an incest story (“Spike” which is the lead story in Dirty Words) but it also ended up in Best Gay Erotica. The trick, and with any of these erotic button-pushers, is context. In the case of “Spike” I took a humorous, surreal take on brother/brother sexuality - depicting a pair of twin punks who share and share alike sexually, until their “fair play” world is shattered (and expanded) by some rough S/M play. I hardly stood up on a rooftop and shouted, “incest is best” with a story that read like an advertisement to “love thy brother” - literally.

As with any of the “sins”, a story that deals with incest in a thought-provoking or side-ways humorous manner might not scream at an editor or publisher I’M AN INCEST STORY but rather as humorous or though-provoking story, first, and as a story dealing with incest, second. Still, once it comes to light there’s always a chance the story might still scream a bit, but if you’re a skilled writer telling an interesting story there’s still a chance quality could win over theme.

Unlike bestiality, has very, very few “stretches” (like aliens and myths with bestiality). It’s very hard to stumble into incest - in short, you’re related or you’re not. As far as degree of relationship - that depends on the story and the intent. Direct relations are damned tough to deal with, first cousins fooling around behind the barn are quite another. By the way, even though incest is pretty damned apparent in a story, that doesn’t mean the theme or the subtext can’t be touched on. Sometimes the forbidden or the unexpected laying under the surface can add depth to a story: a brother being protective of his attractive sister, a mother shopping for a date for daughter or so, a father trying to steer his son’s sexuality, a daughter’s sexual explorations alarming (and enticing) a mother or father’s fantasies, and so forth. Technically, some of these dip into incest - if not the act then at least the territory, but if handled well they can add an interesting facet to an otherwise pedantic story. It’s a theme that’s also been played with, successfully, for centuries. Even the myth of Pygmalion - a sculptor falling in love with his creation - can almost be considered a story of incest, as the artist was - at first - parent, then lover.

Conversely, incest can dull a situation when the emotions of the lovers involved become turned: as an example, where a person begins to feel more of a caregiver or mentor than a partner - so the thought or even fantasies around sexuality with the person being cared-for or taught start to feel “wrong” or inappropriate. Conversely, someone might enjoy the forbidden spice of feeling sexual towards someone they’ve only thought of as a son or daughter, mother or father figure. This is also an old plaything for storytellers, the most common being a person looking for a partner to replace the strength and nurturing left behind when they grew up and moved out - or, from the new partner’s point of view, the shock in realizing they have been selected to fulfill that role.

As with any of these “sins”, fantasy can be a factor in being able to play with these themes. Having a character imagine making love to mom (shudder) is in many editors or publishers eyes the same thing as actually doing it - but accepting and using the theme in, say, play-acting, where the reality is separated because the participants aren’t related in any way, is more acceptable. As with under-age play, S/M and dominance and submission games can also use incest as a spice or forbidden theme - especially in infantilism games, where one person pretends to be an abusive (or nurturing) parental figure. Once again, play versus reality (even imagined reality) can work where normally no one would dare tread.

The bottom-line, of course, is whether or not the story uses this theme is an interesting or though-provoking way or just as a cheap shot. If you have any questions, either try and look at the story with a neutral eye, ask a friend you respect for their opinion. But I wouldn’t ask your parents ....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Steve Williams Loves Very Bloody Marys

Muse Review:
M. Christian's excellent new gay vampire novel, "The Very Bloody Marys" has winged its way to you courtesy of Lethe Press. A tale of an undead San Francisco deputy called Valentino who's about as useful as George Bush with a rubiks cube, and how, once his boss goes missing, his life is about to get a whole lot worse as the weight of tracking down his hateful, demeaning and downright self-confidence shattering employer falls firmly on Valentino's shoulders.

Deftly, M. Christian has created a novel that is, in fact, a coming of age story in a sugary horror coating. Valentino goes through trials, such as confronting three Marys on Vespors, getting attacked by a pissed off Irish Faery called Liam - I kid you not - and having to contend with a chauffer called Mariah - please, God, let Mariah Carey play him in the movie, a zombie in drag, and she could warble all she'd like off camera just as long as, for those few seconds, she shuts the hell up (like her songs though!) - who is less than forthcoming when it comes to information or help of any kind. And so, time after time, Valentino must battle forces he has... well... to say he has no comprehension of wouldn't be quite fair. It's rather like giving an infant a blow torch and not expecting him to roast his little apple cheeks off (I'm suddenly quite hungy. Mutilation, even joking, shouldn't do that to a man).

Needless to say, there's a fair amount of swearing, some getting spanked with chains and a dollop of hard ass domineering, but you'll have to wait and see if Valintino, our underdog (who, incase anybody does want to make a film of this, I think I look quite like; hollywood, call me) makes it through this ... well, not alive... but... as dead as he was before... I guess.

M. Christian's writing really sparkles here, and his wit is obvious, and never labored. There's a lot to love, amongst characters like a talking cat addicted to cat nip, and a statue of Lincoln that is a wizard's personal butler. There were a few moments of perplexity on my part as I was reading through, but M. Christian does well in keeping you turning the page, and, whilst everything is tied up in the end rather niceley, this isn't forced and feels much better for it. In fact, I felt this one book would make an excellent start to a series, and I know I for one would be reading cover to cover.

There was one issue I had. Oh God, what an issue. I mean, really, Valantino fancying Nicholas Cage... well, I suppose, if you're a walking corpse your taste would change somewhat... but I'll let M. Christian off on that score, because Very Bloody Marys is one of the most entertaining little novels I've read in a good long while, and it does, as they say, exactly what it says on the tin.

4 Muses Out of 5! ***This Weeks Recommended Read.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Awwwww ....

Remittance Girl:
Yes, I realize that fawning doesn't suit me, and it isn't dignified, but fuck that. One of my very favourite erotica writers, M. Christian, has a new blog called "Frequently Felt". You can also visit his writer's site at "Imagination with Intelligence is an Erection".

For those of you who have never heard of M. Christian before, you are in for a rare, rare treat because nothing is ever as good as discovering someone whose writing you love and finding out that, surprise of all surprises, this one's still alive. Most of the writers I love I only discovered after they were dead - sometimes a couple of centuries after... so when you run across one that's actually still breathing, it's a very good thing.

As to Mister M. Christian, I quote from his biography "with more than 300 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites. He is the editor of 20 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, and others. He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, and Filthy; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll."

Please check out both his blogs and his books. You won't be disappointed.

Weirdsville on The Cud

Check it out: The Cud, a fantastic Aussie zine, has just posted Welcome to Weirdsville: Fear Itself.

As the archetypal bumper-sticker proclaims: "Being Paranoid Doesn't Mean That They Aren't Out To Get You."

In the world of the paranoiac, the world is nothing but a teetering rockslide: impending destruction always hovering just a moment away. Their world is one full of traps, deception, plots, conspiracies, and death where everyone is literally out to get you. Some have suggested that a daily tablespoon full of this viewpoint can actually be a survival trait: In our capricious and elaborate world a certain degree of suspicion and caution will allow us to live to be frightened another day. Others suggest that this view is nothing less than narcissism stretched to a penultimate degree — that we are so special, so unique, that the universe and it's all-present Men in Black (replete with Black Helicopter and Satellite Brain-Ray Beam gift set) have no choice but to squish us flat. But the real terror is lurking just beyond that. As anyone who has studied nature can attest, the world and all its creatures (great as well as small) really are out to get us. Some of their attacks are easy to defend. Into daily battle we go, armed to the teeth with antibiotics and the unshakable knowledge that:
— If we cross against DON'T WALK we'll be turned into chunky salsa — Milk the consistency of raw cement is not good — Playing on the freeway is bad — Sticking our fingers into electrical sockets is definitely a once-in-a lifetime thrill

With those bits of arcane law filling our grey matter, we are equipped to know how to survive to see tomorrow. Yet there are creatures on this globe that can snuff us out like a cheap candle in a stiff wind.

I don't mean the cartoon ferocity of the lion, tiger, or bear that proclaim their dangerous potential with a growl, roar, or screech. No, the critters I’m talking about lurk in dark silence, ready to strike with either the barest of warnings or none at all, and with absolutely fatal venom.

Some you've undoubtedly already heard about, and will prompt little more than a dismissive scoff. Yeah, big deal: rattlesnakes, cobras, black widows — either you can hear them coming, avoid going to India, or simply not stick your hands into dark places. "Ha!" is my response to your smug, assumed knowledge of nasty things. "Ha!" I offer up against your ignorance of the real terrors that are lurking out there, ready to strike. The truth is, rattlesnakes, cobras, and black widows are nothing but mere annoyances: fatal only to the truly stupid or very sick. Dangerous, sure, but usually deadly only to Darwin Award winners.

But there are other, nasty little things out there that are as vicious and deadly as they are quiet and unassuming. Say, for instance, you happen to be happily walking through the low surf merrily picking up and discarding shells, looking for just the right one to decorate your desk back at the office. With no warning at all, however, you feel a sharp sting from one of those pretty shells, a sting that quickly flares into a crawling agony. With that quick sting, the cone snail's barbed spear has insidiously injected you with one of the most potent neurotoxins in existence. Nerves short-circuited by this infinitesimally small amount of juice, in seconds the agony of where the stinger struck has faded into a heavy numbness. A relief, perhaps, but then it spreads and moments later the paralysis has seized the entire limb. Then the breathing troubles start … and then, simply, your heart stops beating. Yes, there are anti venoms available, but, frankly, with something that can kill in less than four minutes you'd have to carry it in your back pocket to survive. It wasn't just a fondness for these pretty shells that lead the CIA to develop a weapon using this venom to dispatch enemies.

We'll be back to the ocean in a moment, but for the next dangerous denizen we have to visit the steaming Amazon. Now I know what you're thinking, "Gee, what would I be doing out there in the jungle primeval?" To that I say that you're not paying attention to the lesson: it isn't so much that these things are where they are, but that they exist to begin with, and carry their lethality in such innocent packages.

That frog over there, for instance, that tiny, brilliantly colored tree frog. Doesn't he look like some kind of Faberge ornament, there against that shocking vermilion leaf? Wouldn't such a natural jewel look just gorgeous in a terrarium back home?

Pick him and you could be dead in a matter of minutes. One second frolicking in the undergrowth, the next spasming and foaming on the jungle floor. No stinger, no bite, and no venom: just the shimmering slime covering his brilliant body. The natives in these here parts capture these poison arrow frogs (carefully) and coat their blowgun darts with that slime — and knock full grown monkeys out of the trees with a single strike.

Back in the windswept sea, sharks announce their presence with a steady da-dum, da-dum, da-dum of background music, rattlesnakes, well, they rattle, while lions, and tigers, and bears (oh, my) as I’ve said, roar and bellow. These dangers are loud, almost comical. They parade their danger. But as paranoiacs know, these are nothing but part of the grand deception — they make us believe that everything fatal comes with sirens of intent, or brilliant warning labels. The real monsters are more devious than that; they lurk on the other side of invisibility, never make a sound, and kill you faster than the sound of that first note in John William’s Jaws theme.

Cone shells can be avoided, and brilliant frogs warn of their fatality, but there’s one last terror I’m eager to mention that doesn’t roar or display its danger at all. Let's take one final swim, shall we, this time off the coast of Australia? Incredible blue waters, shimmering sandy beaches, shrimps on the barbie … Skin divers rave about the Australian coast … those, that is, who never let their guard down for an instant.

Paddling in the crystal sea, enjoying the cool waters, the warm sun, it's easy to miss this monster, especially as it's almost as clear as the ocean. Chironex fleckeri doesn't sound so terrifying, does it? Chironex fleckeri: a tiny jellyfish found off the coast of Australia and southeastern Asia. Only about sixteen inches long, this jelly's tentacles carry thousands of nematocysts, microscopic stingers activated not by ill-will but by a simple brush against shell, or skin. Make contact and they’ll fire, injecting anyone and anything with the most powerful neurotoxin known to man. Stories abound of swimmers leaping from the cool Australian seas, skin blistered and torn from thousands of these tiny stingers, the venom scalding their bodies and plunging them into agonizing shock. The sting of a chironex fleckeri — also called the box jellyfish or sea wasp — is described by the experts to be a most horrifying torment.

Luckily it doesn't last long. Take that to heart dear, innocent reader, as you dog paddle through the ocean, walk on the beach, or trek through the forest, safe in your ignorance that the world doesn't hide terrifying, hideous deaths. The hideous agony of the box jellyfish’s sting doesn't last long.

Not long at all. In fact, the burning pain is over in just about the time it will take you to read this last paragraph (and you don't have to be a phenomenally slow reader), not even enough time to reach shore and call for help. Maybe as the venom works itself into your system, causing your nervous system to collapse, you'll realize that paranoiacs are right: that there really are dangerous things out there, things that'll kill you by pure reflex, just by crossing their paths. Thirty seconds isn't a long time, not long at all. But sometimes life, and death, lessons can come in very short periods.

M.Christian (www.mchristian.com) has written 300+ short stories, edited 20 anthologies, is the author of five collections and five novels.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Steve Williams Loves Painted Doll


Steve Williams at Suite101.com:

Examining The Dark New Book From A Rising American Genre Writer

In a future where technology is key, what do you do when you are being hunted by a volume of unknown, lethal, cyberneticaly enhanced assassins that can be activated remotely and at a moments notice, sent after you by an employer who’s reach in the world is unparalleled, and the Far East is the last refuge after the disintegration of the United States of America? Well, you might go into hiding in the very best way possible. You might change your identity, your name, your speech and become everything that you were not. You might even hide behind the thick makeup of the porcelain like Geisha.
This is the story of rogue computer analyst Claire, or Domino the Erotist as she becomes, the heroin in a wonderfully dark new novel from M. Christian, released by Lethe Press. Claire adopts the hard, frozen persona of Domino to escape the clutches of her ex-employer who believes she has been stealing from him. Claire goes into a protection program of sorts, becoming Domino, who, with her excellently conceived kit of neuron stimulating inks and large, wand like brush, is charged with giving various clients a special service: using the inks she can stimulate any emotion she so chooses and create visions of fantasy more real than anything the client has previously experienced. But more than this, the Erotist can gauge a client, and in the guise of Domino, Claire is able to discern what truly motivates them and ‘pushes their buttons’.
The character of Domino is a fascinating creation, but there are others here for those interested in the world of science-fiction. ‘Many’ is a creature capable of jumping between bodies through some sort of data transfer, and is an interesting edition to the plethora of characters. Unfortunately, we only meet Many on an ironically few occasions, but he/she is certainly memorable.
Less interesting is Claire’s love interest Flower, a girl from whom she has had to be separated from. Whilst Flower is characterized by M. Christian in such a way that she is immediately recognizable with her own distinct tone and voice, she seems to function largely as a sounding-board in Claire’s loss of identity as maintaining the persona of Domino becomes more of a threat to her emotional health. There is nothing wrong with this, but had M. Christian chose to split the narrative apart and had it from multiple points of view, rather than from solely Claire’s, it may have served to give more of a life to Flower than what she ultimately had. However, when dealing with what could be perceived as a split personality to begin with – Claire and Domino wrestle for hold over the other – this limiting of the narrative voice may have been the right move technically.
The only real problem here, and one that is easily forgivable, is that, after a while, it becomes apparent that in order to write good erotica one must avoid cliché and, if possible, hyperbole. With these limiting factors in place, there are only so many ways that you can describe an erection through the eyes of a foe-Geisha giving sexual pleasures to her male clients through some nero-stimulant paints, without it becoming repetitive. M. Christian does remarkably well however in grounding his stories in strong characters, and because of this, this problem fails to blossom into any kind of real issue. It would be apt to call M. Christian’s descriptions here minimalism on the page, and the story benefits from this greatly.
On the whole, this is a story about love, betrayal, fidelity and an exploration of the dark desires that we all have, things that are seemingly inexplicable to our waking selves, but fundamental to our being. Once again, M. Christian exposes the underbelly of his characters and shows us truths that are rarely found in this genre in which he writes so well. This is a masterful piece of work, and recommended.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bitten By Books Loves The Very Bloody Marys

Bitten By Books:

Valentino, a daylight hemosapien, is training to become a vampire cop for the Le Counceil Carmin. He has been training for over a century and his boss/trainer, believes that he is worthless. Valentino readily agrees with him.

Valentino is running late for work as usual and is worried that his boss, Pogue, will get angry with him, again. He jumps in a cab with a driving corpse and heads to Pogues home. Ombre who is a liaison for the Counseil tells him that Pogue is missing and Valentino has been chosen to look for him. Ombre believes that the Very Bloody Marys have something to do with it.

During the night Valentino must not only find his boss and the Very Bloody Marys but he needs to figure out how. As the night goes on his To Do list becomes bigger and bigger.

I had a lot of fun reading this book. It was a nice change to have a bumbling vampire and watch him fight Vespa riding vampires. He tries so hard to make it look like he knows what he is doing but in the end it is all for not. The cast of extras were wonderful additions to the story. Saul a wizard who owns a cat that talks and is addicted to cat nip, a chef who is a coroner who works at a morgue/restaurant was hysterical. A worthy under dog story.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

M.Christian at ARSE ELEKTRONIKA



If you're in San Francisco on September 26th here's a chance to hear me read with some fantastic science fiction and erotica luminaries:
Friday, September 26, 9pm, doors open at 8 -- ARSE ELEKTRONIKA READING
(@ Center for Sex & Culture / 1519 Mission Street near 11th, San Francisco)

Carol Queen, with the support of the Center for Sex & Culture and cosponsorship of San Francisco's premiere SF/fantasy bookstore Borderlands, presents a curated erotic reading evening, featuring writers who commonly explore sexual themes in their science fiction and alt-reality fiction work. While the focus of much of the Arse Elektronika conference will be a critical deconstruction of sexual tropes in SF/speculative/alt-reality fiction, the focus of this event will be to appreciate and celebrate the fiction itself. Readers include Richard Kadrey, Rudy Rucker, M. Christian, Charlie Anders, Steven Schwartz, Thomas Roche, and Carol Queen.

No charge, but we will pass the hat in support of the Center for Sex & Culture, San Francisco's unique non-profit sex education resource!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Steve Williams Loves Brushes

Steve Williams at Suite101.com:

A Look At The New Erotic Book From A Talented American Author

A sensual compilation published by Phaze Books, makes up 'Brushes', author M. Christian's new novel detailing the rise to fame of artist Escobar, ranging in points of view from his embittered wife to his estranged brother, his bile filled art dealer to a reporter hot for the seduction, and right through to the lonely artists himself.

In style, M. Christian is an artist in his own right. The pacing of his work effortlessly captures the denouement of the book’s Parisian setting, whilst M. Christian’s characterisation, seeing from the eyes of Estobar's nearest and dearest, his embittered wife to his estranged brother, his bile filled art dealer to a reporter hot for the seduction, and right through to the lonely artists himself, glides seamlessly and integrates subtle blends of the human psyche together to create rich and vibrant characters firmly recognizable as real people.

Of course, as with any compilation work, there are some stories that work better than others. The art dealer character, for example, is a truly rewarding creation to read, as we follow his need for high class call girls at the end of his working day as a means of ‘celebration’, but, quite surprisingly, he never touches them lest the illusion of perfection be broken.

Until, that is, a new girl attends him one night. She is not what he asked for, with a bob of pink, punkish hair and a body that is full where he would want it slim, unkempt where he would like it smooth, but she captivates him with her show and moves him into a realm of texture and taste.

This gives insight into the paradox of art: that it should move the soul in the experience of viewing, but remain static and untouched, fenced off and held high, because of its perfection and there in we realise it can only ever give a limited experience for anyone but the artist themselves.

The above concept is portrayed with devout finesse, however M. Christian’s like for repetition occasionally clunks a little too obviously, and there are the odd technical errors that it would be preferable not to see in a writing otherwise of such quality. None of these, it must be said, ever break the spell that this book casts and the revelation as we finally see things from Estobar's own point of view in the end chapters is both heartbreaking and intensely human.

It must be mentioned that there is also the inherent problem in any erotica or novel dealing with such a specific subject, that sexuality can quickly become monotony, but M. Christian acts with due care and attention, and whilst the acts themselves are given considerable detail on the page, we are also consistently learning about the characters too, and for this M. Christian should be applauded.

Overall, this book is of a standard that is found rarely, and structurally it is a highly accomplished piece. It would be fair to venture a guess and say that M. Christian is an author yet to reach his peak, but this current novel is a steep climb towards it.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Extraordinary Sex and Chip August

I recently had the pleasure to be interviewed by Chip August for his fantastic Sex, Love and Intimacy podcast. While the show hasn’t aired yet I wanted to rave about Chip and highly recommend his blog and especially the Extraordinary Sex Workshops he puts on with his wife, Mary Katherine "Kat" Calderon.

You can read about Chip and the workshops here and click here to subscribe to his very fun podcasts.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sex Sells: How to Write & Sell Erotica Class With M.Christian!

Come one, come all* to the definitive class in erotica writing, taught by a master of the genre

Sex Sells: How to Write & Sell Erotica
With M.Christian


Sunday, October 12th, 1pm - 4pm
$40 before Sept 30; $50 after Sept 30
Center for Sex & Culture
1519 Mission Steet, San Francisco
Register via PayPal (Zobop@aol.com) or pay at the door


The market for erotic fiction and nonfiction is booming! There actually is a secret to writing great erotica - and you'll discover just what that is in this fun, hands-on workshop with well-known erotica writer and teacher M. Christian.

For the beginning writer, erotica can be the ideal place to begin writing, getting published, and -- best of all -- earning money. And for the experienced writer, erotica can be an excellent way to beef up your resume and hone your writing skills. M. Christian will review the varieties of personal and literary expression possible in this exciting and expanding field. He'll also teach you techniques for creating love and sex scenes that sizzle.

Learn how to:
  • Get started writing for and selling to this growing marketplace
  • Free your creativity and get past inhibitions
  • Avoid cliches, common mistakes, and pitfalls
  • Write what editors and publishers will want to buy
Plus: current pay rates, how to write for a wide variety of erotic genres, from magazines to websites, where and how to submit your erotic writing, and more.

Students will also receive:
  • Several informative handouts including a list of top-notch markets and venues for erotica, as well as funny and educational articles and columns
  • A personal invitation to contribute to a special erotica project
  • 50% off a wide selections of erotica books
  • A free autographed copy of M.Christian's collection Filthy: Outrageous Gay Erotica=
The class is open to everyone (over the age of 21) interested in writing all kinds of erotica: gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, fetish ... you name it!
M.Christian is an acknowledged master of erotica with more than 300 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many, many other anthologies, magazines, and Web sites. He is the editor of 20 anthologies including the Best S/M Erotica series, The Burning Pen, Guilty Pleasures, and many others. He is the author of the collections Dirty Words, Speaking Parts, The Bachelor Machine, and Filthy; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Brushes, and Painted Doll. His site is www.mchristian.com.
For more information write M.Christian at zobop@aol.com.

*no guarantees