I’m going to tell you a secret. There are only two people in the world I envy. One is the late Roger Zelazny, whose talent for an almost jazz improvisational way of writing I could never match.The other is M. Christian, for writing exactly what I’d write if only I could get off my ass. Which is to say, raunchy hallucinatory sexfuture dreams that never fail to arouse me and kick me in the gut at the same time. Good stuff.
I’ve always said that if there was someone out there who would write exactly what it was I wanted to read, I wouldn’t have to do it myself. Honestly, when I discovered M. Christian, I had that half-formed thought: gee, maybe I can quit... (of course, I didn’t).
It was the summer of 1994, if I remember correctly. I had founded Circlet Press three years before, to fill a void in the literary world. At the time, there was nowhere to publish erotic science fiction, or futuristic erotica, or whatever label you want to put on the wild, genre-bending stuff I and Lauren and others were writing. So I became a publisher, starting with chapbooks and slim little volumes of under one hundred pages. As news of the press spread to other speculative sex writers, manuscripts had begun to pour in for our anthologies. I decided I needed help getting through the growing slush pile and cajoled Lauren and some of my other authors to sit in my one-bedroom apartment one afternoon and read, read, read. We ordered Chinese take- out and delved into the manuscripts, pausing from time to time to eat a crab rangoon or read a “clunker” aloud.There were a lot of clunkers that day, and we were a pretty raucous group.
Then everything got quiet. I looked up from the story I was reading, and two of my readers were looking at each other. They then traded manuscripts: “Here, now you read this one, I want that one!” They’d found not one, but two, really good somethings. Lauren then brought the manuscript in her hand to me and strongly suggested I read it that instant, not later. “Just read the first sentence.”
I saw the words “I almost lost my virginity at fifteen, but his batteries ran low” and was hooked.
The manuscript was “Technophile” by M. Christian. Lauren had written on the comment form she handed me with it: YES YES YES. I agreed. It wasn’t just the best story we’d read all day, it was one of the best stories we’d read in the genre, ever.
The other story we received that day was “State,” a story I liked so much, I’ve published it twice. These two began a slew of stories Circlet published from Chris. At slush-readings in the future, people would go HUNTING for his name on envelopes, hoping to be the first to read something new. I’d like to say I had to break up a fistfight when “Fully Accessorized, Baby” was discovered, but that would be the fiction writer in me trying to sensationalize. (We just took turns.)
When the story “Heartbreaker” came in, my then assistant Susan Groppi read it without knowing who it was from. “A very very very good story,” she wrote in her comment form. “I often find I can’t describe what it is I like, just that it’s good.” Her editorial instincts were right on when a story just kicks ass, your initial reaction isn’t a critical one, it’s simply “woo hoo!”
One of the reasons I bought so many stories from Chris over the years is not only that the stories are consistently great, but that he has been able to write for any sexuality, from any point of view, man, woman, alien, third gender, robot, robot-wannabe... and of course sexualities and identities yet to be invented. For me, the whole purpose of combining two often formula-bound genres, erotica and science fiction, was to break out of the expected molds, to create something exciting, arousing, and provocative in all senses of the word. Chris has done that better than most who have tried their hand at it. He has a gift. And through that ability to see the world as it is not, to envision things wholly beyond our real boundaries of gender, technology, and identity, he is able to create characters that grab me. Characters I believe in. I empathize with Kusa, the rebuilt cybernetic woman-cop in “Heartbreaker.” I want to fuck Fields “the perfect love doll” in “State” and see if I can crack her facade.
Even better, Chris is one of the few writers who has been able to sell me stories where everything is not happy and rosy. I’ve always insisted on a sex-positive outlook for Circlet Press no rape, no dismemberment, no homophobia, you get the idea but the result is a lot of happy stories, where sexy people have good sex and both they and the reader enjoy it. The problem here, from a literary standpoint, is that without conflict, there’s not much of a story. Chris is one of the best at creating the kind of conflict that works best in an erotic story: inner conflict. The kind of conflict that many a writer has shied away from because it is the most difficult kind to portray believably and intriguingly. The kind of conflict that in science fiction is all too often replaced by external action, a fight, a battle, an explosion.This is why an M. Christian story is not just some of the most excellent, cutting-edge erotica around, but also great science fiction.
This is also why Chris’s stories quickly found homes outside of the specialized niche of Circlet Press. I started seeing his name in anthologies like Best American Erotica and The Mammoth Book of New Erotica. Since then, I find it hard to name an erotica market or anthology that he is NOT in.The secret is out I don’t think Chris’s manuscripts even go to anyone’s slush pile anymore. (These days they don’t even go to my office; I take them directly into the bedroom.)
There’s one more person I envy, and that’s the reader who is picking up this book for the first time. Prepare yourself to discover the intense pleasure within.
- Cecilia Tan
Cecilia Tan is the founder of Circlet Press and author of many works of erotic fiction, including Edge Plays, Royal Treatment, Mind Games, Magic University, The Hot Streak, Black Feathers,White Flames, and Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords.