Friday, 27 June 2014

Naughty naughty bitey bitey



I know it's not really funny, and it must have fucking hurt. But when Wossname bit Thingy in that football match, it did acheive the almost unthinkable - it made me actually take a bit of notice of the World Cup. I even went as far as googling 'Bitey Footballer' so I could find out that the one with the sharp teeth is called Suarez and the poor sod with the teethmarks is called Ivanovic. Or Chellini. Or something. There are limits to my patience when it comes to researching stuff, but what I did find out is that Mr Bitey is Mr Bitey Bitey Bitey - he has previous for sinking fang into other players.

And at least one other someone has speculated about whether this is demonstration of a fetish. Well, OK, that's the point at which I actually get moderately interested, though I don't particularly think it is a fetish in his case, more of a nasty habit. Despite the deranged bullshit that was the Janus Report, most people know that most people with fetishes only enact them with consenting adults or the inanimate object of their choice and don't randomly leap at the unwilling in order to gratify themselves with no warning. Suarez probably bites because he's an overexcited, overpaid, overindulged brat in a fleeting high-pressure situation. End of. If he's particularly good at football, his employers should just put him in a muzzle for the next few games.

As fetishes go, biting's one of those that's both borderline mainstream and moderately risky. Lots of people who wouldn't call themselves kinky, exactly, get off on 'paranormal romance' ie vampire porn. The original Dracula novel certainly pulsates with subtle, euphemistic sexuality, and every teenager knows the illicit thrill of the lovebite (and the combined embarrassment and pride of the morning after and trying to decide whether to flaunt or conceal the unmistakable marks). At the same time, the human mouth is actually a great deal dirtier than you think, even if you floss, and a human bite which breaks the skin is likely to become miserably infected pretty quickly.

So commiserations to Cielini or Ivan or wossname, and I hope someone was quick with the TCP when it happened. And thanks, sort of, to Suarez. Because at least now I have an idea for a good BDSM short story.

Oh, and this is not the start of the zombie apocalypse. He wasn't trying to eat the other bloke's brain.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Sex and secret identities

I was reading a series of posts by Charlie J Forrest earlier this evening while pondering some identity issues of my own. My concerns are to do with the fact that I have just landed a bit of a part time Proper Job which will demand respectability and grown-upness of me, and my most overwhelming thought is: thank FUCK my blog, Other Me's blog, both Twitter accounts and my main Facebook account are under a name which is not actually my real, legal, taxpaying-and-voting name, so no little beancounter in an office miles away is going to make the connection and fire me for the modern equivalent of moral turpitude before I've even picked up my first paycheck.

Nearly all erotica writers use pseudonyms. I can only think of a handful who write under the name that is genuinely the one on their passports and birth certificates (and no, I'm not going to say who. It's their business). In the 90s, writers tended to pick elaborate, glamorous names for themselves, simply because they could - and the recieved wisdom at the time was that while readers accepted that these names were aliases, they preferred to read the writings of Rock Steele or Violetta Harlequin-Hampstead to those of Ethel Figgins or Timmy Thompson. The other generally accepted view was, of course, that the male writer of sexy stories was better off selling them under a female identity and the majority of male writers published by Nexus etc in those days did put their work out with a woman's name attached. So my initial reaction to Charlie's concerns was a little bit more 'Calm down love, you'll hurt yourself' than 'How dare you tell such lies to your readers?'

But things have changed in the last 20 years, as I am constantly having to remind myself. Back then, the erotic writer just wrote her or his stories, the publisher published them, they got reviewed in mags like Forum, Desire, Fetish Times or Penthouse, and on the whole the readers just read them. Some readers might speculate about the actual private life of the author, and some authors might have any amount of fun dreaming up biographies for their pseudonymous selves, but no one really cared. These days, though, everyone, even the shyest of scribblers, has to have a social media presence, preferably with a picture or two, and engage in online conversation with readers and potential readers and other writers and anyone at all. And while a pseudonym is still acceptable, a pseudo-personality is not.

I'm not entirely happy about the demand to bare your whole self to the public if you want them to buy your work. I appreciate that people have been angry about a few bloggers and memoirists who invented entire alternative lives for themselves, changing age, sex, race and ethnicity, because these authors were claiming - or at least allowing others to claim - that they were telling an important truth. A fiction writer, though, is telling a story that s/he has made up. So it seems entirely reasonable to use a pseudonym if you are so inclined. Your work isn't about truth or about the unvarnished version of yourself. It;s a story. It doesn't matter who wrote it as long as it's good.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

U-Kippety-Krap

Hating on UKIP is the latest badge of righteousness, it seems.

(this image is doing the rounds on Facebook so don't know who to credit)


It used to be the BNP that everyone competed to hate the most. It used to be the BNP that everyone feared the most. Back in 2009, when Nick Griffin, the BNP's then leader, was booked to appear on Question Time, some people were acting like it was going to be the end of the world if they didn't rush down to the studios and have a big tantrum outside. In fact, putting Griffin on national television was about the best thing that could possibly have been done. Because, in the run-up to his appearance, and for some time before, there had been a lot of hand-wringing and knicker-wetting about how incredibly dangerous Nick Griffin was, because he was such an acceptable face of nasty, dimwit fascism. How easy it would be for him and his gang of obnoxious little tossers to fool people with their presentable, 'caring' niceness. There was quite a bit in the media about the dangers of Nick Griffin's 'charm'.

And then there he was, on national telly. A sweaty, squirming, smirking, not-very-articulate weirdo talking a lot of old cock. The BNP pretty much bottomed out after that. Oh, they were still a kind of handy indicator of Nice Person-ness - you could express wild and passionate hatred and contempt for them if you were having a spot of social anxiety (after maybe making a tiny-bit-racist joke or something) and still impress people with the depth of your not-one-of-them-ness, but they had stopped being a major threat to the political infrastructure.

For a while, Nigel Farage seemed much more potentially dangerous. He could do charming, self-deprecating and funny. He managed to disown the first couple of his minions to come out with blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic crap. But the thing is with raging arseholes who actually have a nasty hidden agenda is that they can't keep the niceness up. Give them enough time and enough space and they will show their real faces. Just like the lovely, caring, romantic, spontaneous new lover who suddenly smashes up your phone or punches one of your friends for 'flirting' with you.

This is yet another reason why censorship is never the answer to anything. If people who are known or alleged to hold unacceptable opinions are banned from expressing those opinions, they become more dangerous because it's easy for them and their supporters to allege that their arguments are so convincing that they will cause a revolution. Letting them speak in public means they invariably trip over their own ringpieces and reveal themselves as the idiots they are - because their arguments are fundamentally invalid and they themselves are fundamentally inadequate.

But they do serve as a handy distraction from the dangerous, bigoted, looneytunes monsters we actually have elected at the moment...

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Romance, transgression, censorship and the Eww! factor

I'm perfectly comfortable with my conviction that censorship is a Bad Thing. That's particularly true when it comes to writing and reading fiction. Fiction is making stuff up. There's no need to worry (as there might be when watching a film featuring human beings) that someone might be participating because s/he has been coerced into doing so, or lied to about what participation entails. There aren't any real participants in fiction.

That's one of the reasons I'm always a bit boggled by people who devour 'misery memoirs' of the 'Please Daddy, No!' variety and consider themselves superior to those of us who'd rather read Shaun Hutson or American Psycho. Do you really think it's better to wallow in a real person's anguish than lose yourself in a made-up story?

(You could, of course, run away and read the magnificent My Godawful Life: Abandoned, Betrayed, Stuck To The Window, of course.)

But I surprised myself by having bit of an instantaneous 'Eww!' on discovering that there's an actual booksellers' and publishers' category called Interracial Romance. Of course, all romantic and erotic fiction contains a fair bit of objectifying, but then so does fiction in general. And I certainly see no reason why an author shouldn't create characters outside his/her own ethnic group: if we didn't, then our stories would often be very one-dimensional (as a lot of hack genre fiction is anyway)

I think it's the concept of the label that unnerves me, really. I'm already a bit unthrilled with the way erotica and erotic romance seem to be going for division into narrower and narrower categories, with fewer opportunities for people to write a story with a mix of characters, different connections between them and assorted motivations for the erotic action. We don't all want to read erotica that's just about Someone Like Us getting off with Someone We Might Find Sexy - as is demonstrated by the biggest growth area in erotic romance at the moment: gay male interactions written by and for women.

I appreciate that readers want and need some sort of genre-indicator. If you don't like stuff that's unrealistic, you want prior warning that the book with the tempting cover actually has scenes of magic and elf abuse as well as snogging and shagging; if you are deeply vanilla you like to know how far any 'kinky' stuff is going to go. But I suppose the thing I find the most offputting about the concept is the realisation that it's actually such a big deal to some people that characters in an erotic romance are from different ethnic groups - so big a deal that the fact they are from different ethnic groups is the whole story.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Don't quote, just link...

Some things, while not actually unfair, are a bit fucking annoying. One of them is the matter of song lyrics and wanting to quote them in fiction.

Don't. Do. It. Not unless you are seriously minted and/or have a publisher who is. Song lyrics (unless the song was written before 1923) are copyrighted, and the normal concept of 'fair use' doesn't apply. So if you want to bung in a few lines by John Lennon or Madonna or these unjustly forgotten geniuses then you need to obtain permission from the copyright holder and pay whatever fee they ask. There's a pretty straightforward article on how to go about doing so here but it's obviously going to be a bigger problem for the little indie or self-publisher to find the money, let alone get an email answered by whoever deals with Justin Bieber's publishing rights.

It always used to nark me a bit, as I often find myself wanting to quote a line or two from either a favourite song or one I loathe, if it seems particularly apposite when I'm writing a key scene. But I do accept that people who have written a song deserve a share of the take when someone else makes use of their work
There are ways round it: the easiest is probably just to mention the song's title and say that the characters are listening to it, or have it on the brain, or even that they are singing/quoting it as long as you don't actually repeat the lyrics. At least these days the curious reader who isn't actually familiar with the song you've namechecked can usually go and find a version of it on Youtube and see how appropriate the chorus is to your story for themselves.

If that doesn't suit you, another option is to make it all up, just like the rest of the story. Invent a band or singer, scribble yourself a few lines that are at least rhythmic and maybe rhyme, and use those. Though if you are an old fart who is writing about pop music while not liking it much, this may not work at all: one or two novelists whose work is otherwise briliant turn embarrassingly awful when it comes to fictitious song lyrics.

The plan C I used in Black Heart is probably one that would only work once: a friend of mine was once in a band and I happened to be listening to his old demos around the time I was writing the middle section of the book. It then occurred to me that the band who feature in Black Heart ought to sound like my old pal's lot, and therefore it would be useful to quote the relevant lyrics - and all I had to do was email him and ask.

Probably the next move, for those of you who had actually wondered about the songs Daniel sings for Rosa, would be for me to work out a way of uploading the actual tracks to DoD so you can all have a listen for yourselves...

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Waaah! Waaah! There goes the Entitled Whiny Man alarm!

... In the shape of one David Foster wailing away in the Grauniad about how it's Just Not Fair that women object to having creepy men approach with their cocks out all the time.




Foster says 'there is a risk of comparing offensive and clumsy sexual remarks with respectful, courteous sexual advances.'

David, David, David, you silly tosser. You might as well just get a biro and write 'Creepy Fucker' on your own forehead. It's the absolute hallmark of the creepy fucker to insist that women are too stupid, humourless and paranoid to be able to tell the difference between the dangerous predator and the well-meaning idiot.

It's men who seem to have a problem understanding that there is a difference between shy clumsiness and whiny, entitled Nice Guy TM behaviour.




There are plenty of easy ways to make the acquaintance of people who are, or might well be, happy to have sex with you. There are dating websites, hookup websites, clubs, bars, parties, gigs, all full of people who are at least potentially interested in finding a sexual partner. 
If you've tried these methods and got nowhere, the problem is not Evil Feminism gluing women's legs closed. The problem is probably you
But but but, waah waah waah, women only like rich handsome men and the rest of us get friendzoned and served with restraining orders and LAUGHED AT.... You don't have to be rich or model-perfect, but it's helpful to make the best of yourself. For the really slow-on-the-uptake, that means making enough effort not to smell like a neglected laundry basket, checking there's no food stuck in your teeth, and managing a little more conversational competence than 'Hurr, I really wanna fuck all your holes'




It isn't, actually, totally impossible to connect with an attractive stranger at the bus stop or in the library, of course. But to do this successfully, you have to accept a very important truth. You are not entitled to so much as a second of this person's time. If s/he doesn't want to talk to you, you need to leave that person alone. If you're not sufficiently socially skilled and intelligent to read the signals - person holding eye contact with you, smiling at you, offering a few polite opening remarks means IT'S OK TO TALK TO ME; person reading, turning away from you, talking to someone else,  on the phone or playing Candy Crush or whatever means DO NOT APPROACH ME - then you really shouldn't be let out of the house without a minder.

It's not puritanism, sexual repression, political correctness or feminism that makes women complain about men's poor behaviour.  It's men's poor behaviour that's to blame.  When it comes to street encounters and approaches, maybe sexually desperate, 'oppressed' straight white guys should consider the social and legal rules that apply in general. Think about the chugger, the religious nut, the Big Issue seller and the individual dressed as a giant mushroom trying to tempt you into the new pizza restaurant. You hope they'll get out of your way. You try to communicate that you're not interested. But you don't expect them to call you an uptight cunt and physically attack you if you just walk on by...




Saturday, 5 April 2014

Twenty years ago? Oh come off it!

It was one of those unexpected jolts that occasionally occur even when you're, well, young at heart. A piece showed up on my Twitter feed mentioning that it was 20 years ago the Kurt Cobain topped himself and Britpop sort of began. And I thought, 20 years? Can't be right. That was only a couple of summers ago, surely.
And then I thought: 1994! I didn't even have a mobile phone, then. And though I did have a book out, sort of (it was full length but printed in 'magazine format' ie softcover A5 and sold in newsagents rather than bookshops), the main promotion I did was borrowing copies from the office and taking them round the various rock clubs of the West End to show them to my mates and deal with the delicate social ramifications of people thinking that this or that character in the story was based on them, or on their boyfriend or girlfriend. No Twitterstorms or Facebook pages for that one. It would be about another year before I even worked out what the Internet was.


I don't think there are many copies of Cathouse still in existence, and glancing through the last survivor on my own bookshelf makes me wince a bit at its many flaws, but I do remember how much I enjoyed writing it, and how incredibly exciting it was to tell all my friends that it was ACTUALLY OUT NOW! IN SHOPS!

As it is, I'm in the early preliminary stages (or at least my Other Self is) of piecing together a new book, about which I can say only that it does involve the effects of the past on the present, so thinking back is a moderately useful exercise. And music is one of the best tools for taking your mind back into the past. While I was out of my teens in the Britpop era, I was still very interested in music, still buying records on vinyl (does anyone even know what that is now?) and still, as I am even now, fascinated by bands, their dynamics, their stories, their ideas. 

I think the new book might be about to get interesting even if it's not possible to quote song lyrics without getting in a legal stew.