Supernatural erotica— be it speculative fiction or fantasy— is a genre where taboos are catnip. “Uncivilized” behavior, on every front, is the ultimate in escapist literature.
Sci-fi and horror have something else in common with erotica — they’ve both historically demonized as “harmful” and”contributing to juvenile delinquency.” They were each considered pulp fiction in the early days of the paperback revolution— subject to bans, censorship, and angry church campaigns.
In the 1950s, you used to find science fiction exclusively in clandestine collector’s shops where no “respectable” reader would be found. It cost a dime a day to check out a novel! They were outlawed at libraries and “decent” bookstores. Sci-fi authors frequently wrote “porn” without distinguishing whether one genre got them into more trouble than the other. Writing about life on other planets was just as disreputable as writing about life between the sheets.
Years later, as fantasy and sci-fi took entered the sweet spot of the the bestseller lists, the most famous authors’ arms were open to their erotic colleagues. Heinlein, Asimov, Silverberg, Bradbury— all of them were sympathetic to the writer whose sexual point of view had come under the censors’ thumb. They’d been there themselves.
Some famous fantasy and sci-fi authors are still writing erotica under pseudonyms today, because they don’t want to find themselves perpetually tarred with a scarlet letter. Bitten includes a story, “The Unfamiliar,” by a very well known sci-fi woman author who writes erotica under the pen name of “Allison Lawless.”
Ironically, the bleeding edge of eroticism has been in cable television lately, not literature. The erotic vampire writings of Anne Rice and others, so volatile in the 1980s, are now the fount of wisdom for hits like True Blood. I recognize many episode scripts from short stories I published years ago in my original series, “Best American Erotica” — again, a banned book in some quarters!
I was only a tiny bit surprised to see that a BAE alumni, Chris Offutt, was True Blood‘s story supervisor for their first season. If you had told him 10 years ago that Hollywood would be embracing his work, I don’t know if he would’ve believed you.
Sera Gamble, screenwriter for the TV cult hit, “Supernatural,” has a story in Bitten, called “The Devil’s Invisible Scissors.” She was scouted for True Blood by the producer, who’d read her horror-erotica in one of my previous anthologies.
Many pop cult experts are surprised to hear that anyone is interested in short stories today, but you can’t say that for the visionaries of the LA film and TV business. They are entirely dependent on short story writers and erotic vanguardists to give them fresh meat.
One of the most legendary of all the “eerie” writers, Francesca Lia Block, is another Bitten author. She created gothic masterpieces for YA literature, like Weetzie Bat, long before before the expression became a catchword. When disaffected youth meet paranormal circumstances— sexual controversy is inevitable. Her fantastic short story, “Lay Me Out Softly,” in Bitten, is an inspiration for a new novel she’s working on now.
One thing that bored me a bit about Gothic lore is its relentless Christian themes. Sometimes you want a taste of something different, that isn’t based on Victorian Colonial fantasies! I lucked out in Bitten, that one of my authors, Tsaurah Litzky, wrote a story called “The Witch of Jerome Avenue,” which comes out of a tradition of Jewish mysticism, where witches are gypsies and shapeshifters from another ancient world. It was such a pleasure to change the gothic lens!
What perhaps gets overlooked in gothic erotica is that when it doesn’t make you swoon, it’s exercising the most damning political and religious satire imaginable. Those Christian themes I mentioned are stretched on the rack to the breaking point, with a few cackles and unrepentant orgasms thrown in. My own personal favorite in Bitten is Ernie Conrick’s story, “Get Thee Behind Me Satan,” which elicits a spectacular downfall from the wages of sin. As a girl who spent a great deal of her childhood on her knees, in pews, worried to death about being “good—” I have to say I enjoy a little enlightened revenge.