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Interview
Christa Faust: An Unconventional Sense of Right and Wrong

By Paula Guran

January 2003

While I admit [my novel] CONTROL FREAK is erotic, it is a story first and foremost. The sex that does take place is meant to make you think, not just make your pants fit funny. -- Christa Faust

Christa Faust began making an impression on the world of horror in the mid-1990s. Her short stories have appeared primarily in horror anthologies such as SPLATTERPUNKS 2, LOVE IN VEIN, HOT BLOOD, DARKSIDE, REVELATIONS, SUBTERRANEAN GALLERY, and THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRE STORIES BY WOMEN. Her first novel -- CONTROL FREAK, a noir-ish mystery set in the New York SM scene -- was published by Masquerade in 1998. Many writers consider the world of sex and fetish "unnatural" territory, but it was a natural one for Faust. A lifestyle Domina and bondage enthusiast, she's done professional SM sessions, modeled for fetishwear designers, and rigged (tied up models) for bondage magazines.

Masquerade stopped publishing books not long after CONTROL FREAK came out and copies quickly became a rarity. Now Babbage Press has re-issued the novel in a handsome trade paperback with a new introduction. (Read the Dark Echo Review of CONTROL FREAK.)

Christa FaustHer most recent project is an expanded, novel length version of the novella "Triads." that she co-wrote with Poppy Z Brite for Doug Winter's anthology Revelations (AKA Millennium). "Poppy had some interest from Subterranean Press and asked if I though it was something I might be interested in. She and I had talked before about how much potential there was in that story and how easy it would be to let it grow into a whole book. We tossed some ideas around and came up with a solid concept and now it's just a matter of putting a fence around it."

Faust has also gotten her own Web site, ChristaFaust.Com up and running.

Another big project that ate up a large amount of her life the last couple of years was a venture into filmmaking with her bondage adventure serial DITA IN DISTRESS. "I have always loved old black and white serials -- you know; 'Will our heroine escape her unspeakable fate? Don't miss the next exciting episode!' The heroines were always tied up and about to be run over by a train or dunked into boiling lava or some other unspeakable fate and it was a real turn on for me watching them squirm and struggle," she explains. "I basically wanted to do a fun, campy homage to these classic serials in which you get to see a little more flesh and the best part, the squirming, doesn't end quite so fast. I basically shanghaied all my friends into pitching in and sweet-talked supervixen and international fetish diva Dita Von Teese into being my star. I just couldn't picture anyone else in the lead. Her retro-pinup beauty and wonderfully expressive, silent-movie acting really made the project. The premise is that a famous aviatrix crashes her plane in the Amazon and scantily clad, tightly bound complications ensue. She is captured by cannibals, kidnapped by a wild gorilla, and nabbed by a mad scientist (incidentally portrayed with unabashed, scenery-chewing glee by artist Bernie Wrightson). She travels through time and is menaced by prehistoric beasts and nearly sacrificed by lesbian cave girls. There's even a giant spider!"

Dita in Distress Faust admits that neither she nor most of her crew really had a clue what they were doing, "I had never directed a film in my life. I had to teach myself not only how to work the editing software but how to edit. I have always watched films like a kid, enjoying what was happening without considering how it was done. Now, suddenly I had to deal with issues like continuity and camera angles and all sorts of film tech that I had never even thought about. I guess you could say it was a self-taught fast-forward version of film school by way of the deep end of the pool. I still cringe at some of the errors that snuck through, but all in all I'm very happy with the final product. I wasn't trying to be Andrew Blake, I just wanted to have fun and make the kind of bondage film I would want to watch. I think Ed Wood Jr. would be proud of us!"

(The DITA IN DISTRESS videos are available through Dita Von Teese's Web site:.

Considering her work and attitude, Faust has been labeled as "immoral" (and other things), but she doesn't see it that way. "I don't know, I consider myself very moral, it's just that my sense of right and wrong is somewhat unconventional. I think it's morally wrong to make people feel guilty about the things that turn them on. I think it's morally wrong that shooting someone is considered acceptable on TV but explicit sex is not. I think it's morally wrong to breed like a virus with no consideration of the consequences and then use your own inability to control your tyrannical spawn as an excuse to tell me what I can and can't read, watch, think or write about. In general, I believe people ought to turn off the TV and think things through a little more before they start making blanket statements about what is or isn't morally correct."

CONTROL FREAK has been described as "pornographic" or "too explicit" and found its first publication through an "erotica" publisher. "But," she says. "at the time I was writing it, I felt I was holding back in hopes of mainstream publication. It's nominally a mystery, but I think it's really more about a young woman's personal sexual journey. The murder that takes place is just a catalyst that facilitates the character's realization of her kinky, dominant nature. Since you are dealing with a kind of sexual activity that many people are not familiar with, you can't just cut to the blowing curtains and expect everyone to know what's going on."

Book Cover Faust thinks part of the impression that the book was too explicit was that "it is _about_ sex, about sexual feelings and identity. To me pornography (which I don't see as negative or bad in any way) is a book or film that's primary function is to inspire sexual activity. The stories take a back seat to erotic descriptions and scenarios. While I admit CF is erotic, it is a story first and foremost. The sex that does take place is meant to make you think, not just make your pants fit funny."

The protagonist in CF, Caitlin, is "normal." Faust wanted readers to identify with her, so that they can see this strange world that both the fictional character and they are seeing for the first time. As Caitlin becomes a Domme, they are "with" her and the readers are led to wonder about themselves. However, the author has had many readers tell her how real and right on the book is, but, "I've yet to see a headline 'Faust's CONTROL FREAK Made Me A Pervert!!!' Maybe now, with the new edition available, my evil plan to turn good decent God-fearing American citizens into degenerate sex fiends will reach new heights (lows?) in kinky mind control!" (In the interests of the free press, online division: If any of you decent God-fearing people of any nationality turn into pervs after reading CONTROL FREAK, please email me at darkecho@darkecho.com.)

Although Christa Faust wrote about a lifestyle "virgin." she's obviously a proud pervert who knows the ropes (groan). A lot of "horror" writers who don't know anything about the SM world beyond Rosie O'Donnell and Dan Aykroyd in EXIT TO EDEN use SM in their stories and novels. At best they might go to some public dungeon and interview BDSM folks.

"We were all virgins once, me included," responds Faust, "and although my intro into the scene was very different than that of my character I still had no trouble evoking that feeling of wonder and discovery when you are able to connect for the first time with others like you. It's really no different than a sexually experienced vanilla person writing about a character losing their virginity."

Christa Faust & Butch But, she adds, "On the other hand, I do want to say that as much as it annoys me when people don't get their facts straight writing about something as close to my heart as SM sexuality, I don't feel that a writer can write only what they have experienced. If that were true, there could be no horror fiction at all. After all, I'm not a monster and I have never interviewed one. I've never killed anyone or been killed and I've never interviewed anyone who has. I think part of what separates good writers from hacks is, simply put, the ability to fake it. The ability to seamlessly combine what you know and what you can imagine and make it ring true. I would much rather read something by a wonderful storyteller who makes occasional mistakes than a factually impeccable construction meticulously built from dry lumps of research. Or even worse, to listen to a bad writer excuse their mediocrity by claiming '...that's how it really happened.' I hate this new trend of gonzo porn, reality TV. Real life is boring, that's why I read books in the first place."

Faust's own fiction is notable for its effective combination of sex and the dark side. "Fear and arousal have very similar effects on the human body," she explains. "The pulse races, breath quickens, eyes dilate. And like fear, sexuality inhabits a very primitive and in our society very much unexplored part of our brains. The unknown is always both frightening and exciting. Sex and fear are mirrors. The things that scare you (as an individual or as a society) and the things that turn you on can be very telling, a key to understanding who you are. But for me personally, it's less about supernatural 'good' and 'evil' and more about the layers of gray inside us all."

The author also specifically sees parallels between horror and SM, "Horror is a place to let your fears come out and play in a safe environment. Unlike real-life situations, you know that all you have to do is close the book, leave the theater or turn off the TV and the experience will stop." She sees SM play as similar, "It give you a place to play with all manner of dark fantasies and if it ever becomes too much, all you have to do is give your signal or safe word and everything stops. Also, both horror fiction and SM play provide an outlet for emotions and fantasies that would be unacceptable in a real-life, non-consensual situation. Letting those feelings out into the open where they can be explored and discussed in a safe and non-judgmental way prevent them from building up and growing twisted and curdled inside until they burst out in the form of some violent atrocity."

But sexually explicit material and pornography have been condemned for degrading women and promoting violence. Faust finds the "idea of working a dead end job for 60 cents to every male dollar degrading. I find women passively accepting their lot as maids and baby machines degrading. The female porn stars I've come in contact with strike me as very fierce and independent women who are totally at ease with their bodies and their sexuality. Far more so than your average suburban mommy."

Attack of the 50 Foot Faust People who are prone to violence, she thinks, "can be set off by anything, a barking dog, the Catholic mass, or just the voices in their own crazy heads. In a world where sexuality of all kinds is openly and naturally discussed, no sane person would be able to take an SM film featuring a woman being beaten out of context because the difference between what is consensual and what is not will be as clear and obvious as the difference between crossing the street on the green light and the red."

"Porn inspiring rape is the claim that pisses me off the most," she adds. "That falls under that 'She was asking for it, look how she was dressed' attitude. This idea that men are so hopelessly animalistic and uncontrollably sexual that if a woman is even remotely sexy, they won't be able to stop themselves from raping her. If a man sees a woman being fucked in a movie, he will think all women want that all the time and will not be able to stop himself from doing the same thing to the first women he sees. Give the boys a little credit, willya? No sane man would make that kind of connection and we cannot childproof the universe to avoid setting off a handful of theoretical psychos. Of course this dovetails into the whole difference between movies and reality issue. If your kids don't know the difference between movies and reality, that's not the TV's fault, it's your fault.

Faust is over 30 now, an age that often brings a more conservative approach to life. Other than having a dog now, Faust doesn't feel she's changed much. "Am I too old to rock and roll? Too old to be trusted? I sure don't feel that old -- although I don't know if I was or ever will be trustworthy. I hope that I am growing as a writer but it's hard to judge from where I'm sitting. I think I'm more aware of my own mortality now so I feel more of an urgency to get down all the stories inside my head before I run out of days. I certainly don't want kids any more now than I ever did and I don't feel any kind of urge to 'settle down' whatever that means."

One change has been her separation from writer David J. Schow. Schow and Faust made a striking -- and certainly interesting -- couple. "There's really nothing to say," she answers when questioned about the split. "Things change, people get together, they break up, it's nothing new. Happens every day. People tend to put far too much importance on who a woman is sleeping with or no longer sleeping with. I don't ever want to be thought of as 'Mrs.' anyone, 'ex-' or otherwise. I would much rather talk about my work."

As open as Faust is on most subjects, she prefers not to discuss her future projects. She considers talking about still-foetal work as bad mojo. "I'll give you only one mystical Creswellian prediction of the future. I predict that in the future, Christa Faust will continue to stand fast on her refusal to discuss future projects."


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Copyright © 2003 by Paula Guran All Rights Reserved.