DarkEcho Horror
Venus by Rick Berry

Introducing M. Christian

M. Christian often writes and edits in the dark sexual vein His short stories, some of which are collected in Dirty Words: Provocative Erotica and Speaking Parts: Provocative Lesbian Erotica, have been called "ingenious, and deeply weird...mingling strangeness and sex." His fiction has appeared in a plethora of print and online magazines and anthologies such as Mammoth Book of Best Erotica 2001, Best American Erotica 1997, Best Lesbian Erotica 2002, Best Transgendered Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica 2, Best of Best Gay Erotica, Best of Friction, Mammoth Book of Historical Erotica, Mammoth Book of International Erotica, Noirotica 1, 2 & 3; Grave Passions, Demon Sex; Song Of Cthulhu; and many, many OTHER anthologies. He is the editor of the anthologies Eros Ex Machina: Eroticising the Mechanical, Midsummer Night's Dreams: Many Stories Of One Tale. The Burning Pen: Sex Writers on Sex Writing, Rough Stuff: Tales of Gay Men, Sex and Power and Rough Stuff 2; More Tales of Gay Men, Sex and Power (both with Simon Sheppard). Guilty Pleasures: True Tales of Erotic Indulgence, and has more forthcoming. To keep up with M. Christian ever-lengthening list of credits, see his Web site.

M_ChristianChristian sees erotica as something that's possibly the most ancient genre of them all, "What makes more sense, after all -- a caveman describing to his sparkle-eyed bretheran the story of the really mammoth mammoth, or telling his buddies about the really wild time he had the night before? Sex for many writers is one of the last real horrors, something they like to flirt with, but rarely touch deeply on -- with erotica we go where monsters really fear to tread: the bedroom."

Christian offers some of advice for writing erotica in the article below. As for reading it -- try his Everything but the Smell of Lilies that originally appeared in Wetbones #1 -- but this is hot stuff and definitely for those over 18 only.


I have a confession to make: I write dirty stories.

Erotica, porno, "sexually explicit material" -- call it what you will. But one thing some don't think to call it is "a noble tradition." For a great many science fiction, horror, and fantasy writers, erotica has been a playground, steady income, proving ground, and kindergarten. Writers like Robert Silverberg, Philip Jose Farmer, Theodore Sturgeon, Samuel R. Delany, Yvonne Navarro, Anne Rice, Dave Smeds, Mike Resnick and many, many more) have all written erotica for love or money.

Erotica has even become accepted, if not respectable. Books like Susie Bright's Best American Erotica series regularly show up on bestseller lists. Erotica writers have become celebs in their own right -- as opposed to recent history when they were looked on with shame, like a cousin who can't hold a job. Now, it is not at all uncommon to see sf/f/h writers in erotic anthologies and Samuel Delany and Philip Jose Farmer being reprinted by erotica presses.

For the beginning (or experienced, for that matter) writer, erotica also offers a place to start as a writer. It's a hungry market where you can learn the publishing and writing ropes and get some nice credits under your belt. Last year I sold over thirty stories to a variety of magazines and many, many anthologies -- including BEST AMERICAN EROTICA 1997. My first published story was erotic and, in fact, sold to the magazine FUTURE SEX in 1993 and then reprinted in BEST AMERICAN EROTICA 1994.

While erotica is booming, however, it does not guarantee a sale. Like any other genre, erotica has its needs, its stars, and its clichés. Yes, it is EASIER to make a sale to an erotic publication or anthology -- but it is by no means EASY, overall.

The best way to get started writing erotica is exactly the same way as you'd start with any genre: read the best, check out the market, and see what works for you. I recommended reading Pat Califia, Larry Townsend, Cecilia Tan, Thomas S. Roche, Carol Queen, Simon Shepard, Bill Brent, John Preston, David Laurents, Susie Bright, Laura Antoniou, Michael Thomas Ford, and Trish Thomas. These folks will not only show you a good time, but also do it with a literary flare and skill often lacking in other genres.

Foreplay out of the way, here's (ahem) a quickie guide to writing sexy stories:

I'll Make Them Envious:

First off, remember that the best sex may not be the best sex to write about (the same way an autobiography can be very, very boring). Most people's lives (or sex lives) aren't all that interesting. Even if your sex life is incredible there still has to be a point of focus to the piece or it simply becomes a shopping list of tab A into slot B. The same elements that make up a great sf/f/h story also make up a great erotic one: good writing, well-defined characters, articulate expositions, etc. Use story-telling techniques as opposed to true confessions. One of the best ways to view erotica is as horror's other half: both genres have a clear-cut emotion as the hinge-pin of the work. For horror, it's fear. For erotica, it's sexual excitement.

I Like It/They'll Like It:
Many first-time erotica authors start out thinking with something other than their brains: "This turns me on so it has to sell." Remember, the fact that a horror story doesn't scare you, the writer, doesn't mean that it won't scare the pudding out of someone else. Erotica is the same.

No Spanish Fly:
Just as there aren't any true aphrodisiacs, there isn't a guaranteed way to turn the reader on. Some writers use vivid descriptions, others use a mean and nasty attitude, and others have titillation without the thrusting anatomy. Remember, erotica is as wide a description as is sf/f/h -- it goes from "Yellow Silk" to "Hooters," the sublime to the ridiculous.

The French Maid Trap:
There are cliches everywhere and erotica has more than its fair share of cheerleaders, dominatrixes, playboys, jocks, ranch-hands, and (fill in the blank). The trick is to know your market and not show yourself for a virgin. Reading and doing a little research will tell you right off if your story is new or recycled.

Going Out:
One the most interesting problems first-time erotic writers face is the question of writing outside of one's own gender, orientation, or inclination. Folks who have no problem writing about disemboweling and vampires turn snow white at the thought of straight, gay, lesbian, or S/M sex. It is not a requirement to write beyond your own bedroom preferences but it does limit your market considerably. I consider myself a writer first and foremost. I choose to write gay and lesbian erotica because I am telling a story -- the same thing I do when I write about anything else. I am always very clear that I am writing fiction. Writing for WESTERN TRAILS (gay men having yee-haw sex in the Wild West) I have no trouble with, but don't look for me in "True Coming Out Stories". If I offer any advice about writing outside your gender/orientation/inclination it would be to be respectful and knowledgeable. Write a story about people first, then juice it up with some well-researched hot sex.

Know your anatomy:
Sure, a virgin can write fairly convincingly about sex, but when you find the wrong tab A in slot B it blows the whole thing. Research, research and more research. If you're writing about S/M, for instance, you should at least know what it means and what it's basically about (hint: its not about treating, or being treated, badly). Try and avoid the kind of "silencer on the revolver" mistakes that every genre has.

Reality vs. fantasy:
One quandary the erotic writer (pro or not) always has to face is how much "realism" to toss into a story. Pure fantasy (and I don't mean unicorns) can be fun but if the reader can't suspend his/her disbelief it can fall apart. Huge everything, tight everything, perfect ... everything can be stretched only so far before an erotic story starts to sound more like a parody than a hot tale of unbridled lust. The converse is exactly the same: anyone who's had sex knows that it can be silly, ugly, embarrassing, awful and still a whole lot o' fun. Balance, folks, balance.

This is one area in which I've, alas, fallen down myself. These aren't the days of Free Love, people. Nowadays sex can have a pretty hefty price tag (even discounting HIV). Many erotic writers choose to use their stories as a place to show that safe(r) sex can be fun, hot, wild and, well, safe. Me? Yes, I sometimes feel bad that my characters are completely oblivious to Hepatitis (A, B, etc.), herpes, syphilis, etc., but I write fantasies. If you want to add that touch of very realism, I suggest a quick call to an invaluable resource (plug), San Francisco Sex Information: (415) 989-SFSI (7374) Mon-Fri 3-9pm (PT).

It's just porn:
One sure-fire way to kill an erotic story is to start off thinking that you're writing just "porn". No one likes to be condescended to, least of all an editor. Can you imagine a sf/f/h editor getting a manuscript from someone who has never written a sf/f/h story before, and is working on the (very erroneous) assumption that it is an easy market? Throw in a robot, a mad scientist, time travel and an alien planet and it's a sure sale. Same with erotica: throw in a cheerleader, the football team, a gallon of salad oil and wait for your check to arrive? Editors like to see writers have pride in their work -- that the story in their hands is good because the writer enjoyed writing it and thinks its a worthy story. Don't just try to do erotica -- try to do really good erotica.

Now go out there and have a fun time writing about other folks having a really fun time.

Just remember to use a condom.

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"Confessions of a Literary Streetwalker: The Ins and Outs of Writing Erotica" Copyright © 1998 by M. Christian; 2002 by Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved