October 26, 2008

The Desire to Create Smut


I've been writing erotica for more than twenty years. To my great delight, I have never lost the desire to create smut. Reading, editing, and publishing porn is my calling. Finding stories that excite me is a greater thrill today than back when I was naive and innocent, because I've read enough dirty fiction by now to have seen plots A through M. I'm not jaded, but I do give extra points for originality.

Yet while I don't miss being a chicklet, I do miss the simpler time of not knowing anything about the people who were writing for me. When I started editing, I had an easy job. I read stories and accepted them or rejected them. Sure, I had my share of Divas. (There was a woman who turned in a story written entirely in lowercase with no punctuation. None. Not a period. Not a comma. When I told her I liked the story, but had to format the piece to match the others in the book, she explained that she would not use "the man's" English.) For the most part, however, I didn't know the pornographers in my collections.

Over the years, I've become friendly with a slew of writers—which makes life less lonely. But this closeness has also thrown me into my recent funk. Why? Because I cannot stand the way certain writers are treating their peers. What do I mean? Say I know that one writer has eviscerated another on a review site. Now imagine that the review was of a book by an author I am close friends with. Someone I go out to coffee with. Someone who has been to my house. I have that information in my head when I am putting my next book together. I'm human. I don't expect my writers to get into bed together. I don't need them to fuck for my personal viewing pleasure. But if I were to hold a reading, I wouldn't want any blood letting.

And yet it goes beyond that.
I'm talking about human decency here.

The erotic world isn't an ocean. Or a lake. Or even a bay. It's the shallow end of a swimming pool. We're all standing knee deep in the turquoise water. And with the anger and hate that is going on in the world right now, I think it's terrible that our little group of players cannot get along without making waves.

Personally, I don't believe erotic writers should negatively review their peers. Why? Because there is so much baggage that accompanies a bad review. If a writer is demolishing an anthology—readers have to wonder: is this a book the reviewer could not get into? If a fellow writer gives a novel a bad review—well, one needs to ask different questions: Does the reviewer have any novels in print? Has the reviewer received no traction at that particular publishing house? Is there jealousy involved? In my opinion, the reviewer had better be fucking brilliant before pissing on another writer's talent.

I'm not saying people should positively review books they dislike. I'm saying if you hated a book written by a fellow writer, why not pass on that one and find a book more to your tastes? And before I receive a box filled with "there's nothing wrong with honesty" emails. I will add this. There is a certain type of person who uses the term "honesty" in order to be cruel. "I was just being honest," these people like to say. They are the same people I have discovered who will put "LOL" or smiley face emoticons in their emails after saying something mean. Or they will post anonymous snarky comments—putting a little hate into the world without taking responsibility, like whichever idiot tried to make the winner of my kissing contest feel bad.

There's honest and there's honest. If I honestly dislike a story, I don't tell an author, "Your piece made me throw up a little in my mouth." I say, "Sorry, this didn't work for me."

Now, back into the pool. I've got stories to swim with.

XXX,
Alison

P.S. Image originally posted with this piece has been removed. New one coming.

8 comments:

Neve Black said...

Hi.
I read your blog entry a couple times today, before scribing comment. BTW: I'm fascinated with the image. It looks a little like a dream to me.

For what it's worth, I'm still treading water in the shallow pool amongst many proficient Olympic swimmers. I'm just happy to be here. Thank you for letting me get into the pool. It feels great and I like it here.

No one is immune to rejection. It happens to everyone. I think it's more important not to lose sight of the what's important: We get to write. Yes, it's often difficult juggling jobs, families and other daily pressures - but hell, writing is the dream that came true. Right?

With all that said, I say stand up and cheer when a fellow writer/swimmer does a back-flip, and don't forget to offer your water wings to someone that needs a little help.

EllaRegina said...

That is one ominous-looking carousel. I'd probably still hop aboard, though.

More and more I believe in the words of the painter Paul Cezanne. He said: "Don't be an art critic. Paint. There lies salvation."

Well, I cannot speak for the salvation part but in terms of artistic criticism, whether it's in public or in private to the creator of a piece, I am of the "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all" camp. What good does negative "criticism" do? It surely does not help the artist/writer.

And I agree, if a book doesn't work for a reviewer because of her/his own prejudices, admitted, or not, s/he should hand it over to someone who would be unbiased.

And people being mean? I just don't get it.

Ok, back in the pool, kids. Just make sure it's been 20 minutes since you've eaten those hot dogs.

Smut Girl said...

Amen and hallelujah. When I did regular reviews for About.com we had a category called "Unreviewable". If I felt I could not be positive in some way, I passed it on. If that reviewer also felt the book had no hope--the book was simply passed over and not reviewed. It did not receive bad publicity or harshness, just no review.

I think people lose perspective of that fact that they are gutting hours and hours of someone's time, effort and love (for most of us). And they are taking food out of people's mouths and the mouths of their families. In these times, that is just cruel, I think. So think twice, review once, and if it stinks like bad fish on a hot day...pass on it. No harm, no foul. And to be honest, when I see a cruel and over the top review, I think poorly of the reviewer, not the writer. I'm willing to think I'm not the only one who thinks that way.

There's enough negative energy and bad karma out there. Don't add to it.

XOXO
Sommer

Ben said...

I love the picture's foreground color and lights against the gray sky and cold walkways. The carousel seems an oasis of color, light and probably music. Much like a receptive audience serves as an oasis for creative endeavor. It is a pity that the dark side of human nature gets in the way of the golden do unto others as...

Many thanks to Alison for creating an oasis with her contests. A safe place where novices like myself can play in the pool with the big kids.

EllaRegina said...

Smut Girl said...

I think people lose perspective of that fact that they are gutting hours and hours of someone's time, effort and love (for most of us).


Precisely! And in the meanwhile, as we are dealing here with creative and often sensitive souls who toil in worlds of their own imagination, we have a writer, an artist, a whatever, who maybe hasn't developed thick skin yet -- perhaps never will -- who, as the result of some crappy review, is in his/her bed curled into a ball.

There are famous reports of well-known people who never read their reviews -- actors, writers, artists... I think it still stings even if you're at the top of the ladder. It's just so unnecessary, and, as you say, only compounds the already plentiful bad karma.

And to be honest, when I see a cruel and over the top review, I think poorly of the reviewer, not the writer. I'm willing to think I'm not the only one who thinks that way.

You're surely not, Smut Girl. I usually see a person with some kind of "issue," and that they're "projecting" it. Yet, even knowing that doesn't make it better for the producer of the creative piece. It's hard to be objective when you've just been sucker-punched.

Also, the problem is that many people use reviews to show them the way: what to see, where to go, what to do, even how to think. These things are so subjective anyway. It's really just one person's opinion, whether it's positive or negative, but a reviewer is supposedly trying to winnow choices for a potential audience -- vet the list.

As a result, there are many prospective viewers/readers/ticket-buyers who won't see that movie, won't buy that book, won't go to that art show, won't see that play, et cetera, all because a reviewer deemed it not worth seeing/reading/whatever.

Angell said...

I'm with neve.

I've been a regular reader and commenter here for more than a year. And I love it here. I've done more writing since finding Alison than I had in the previous four years. And it's getting better, simply from the vibes of being around such talented people.

I was the victim of a nasty annonymous message when I entered one of Alison's contests, and it upset me so much that I almost stopped entering, and wasn't even going to claim credit for my story.

But with Alison's help, I realized that I had nothing to be ashamed of.

I am so proud to be here. To be in Frenzy, which I can't WAIT for it to be released.

So thanks for letting me stay at the party guys - who's having Margaritas?

And neve? I love this

With all that said, I say stand up and cheer when a fellow writer/swimmer does a back-flip, and don't forget to offer your water wings to someone that needs a little help.

Brilliant.

jothemama said...

I adore the turquoise water line. Gorgeous. Splishy splashy.

It's funny, I had exactly the honest/rude and callous and hurtful argument on a group blog last week.

I think it's entirely possible to say what you think without hurting feelings. People need to think about the human on the other end of the review, I agree. s

jothemama said...

I was just talking to my husband, who feels the same about music reviews, and I ahd a revelation. We were saying how easy it is to write in that style, that flip, superior, 'reviewy' style and I suddenly realised, it's like the episode of theSimpsons when Homer becomes a food critic.