Sunday, 25 January 2015

Satire, power, offence and SCUM.

I sometimes think the biggest constituency in the world is the well-meaning idiots. They want to do the right things and they want to think the right things, particularly now that everyone not only has opinions but is expected to express them all over the place, all the time. They are well-meaning, so they (for instance) get sucked by Britain First (no, I am not linking to them in any shape or form) printing a picture of a doggie or a dignified veteran and don't read the small print where the facism lurks.
At the moment, the well-meaning idiots are worrying about offensiveness. It's OK to disagree with other people's religious beliefs, they bleat, but do you have to be so nasty and rude about it?
The answer is yes. Yes, you fucking do. Ridicule is an effective, sometimes devastating weapon and a necessary one. Well-meaning idiots don't get satire, in the same way that they don't get fiction (all erotica writers get asked, endlessly, if they have done or regularly do all the sexy things they write about, and when you ask the latest well-meaning idiot to put the same question if s/he thinks JK Rowling attended Hogwarts herself, they get all huffy...)
Satire isn't 'nice' because satire is born out of rage. Good satire should make you uncomfortable even while it's making you laugh, but great satire actually aims to ^make things better^. The intention is to shock you into examining your own behaviour, or the behaviour of people you have allowed to hold positions of power. Being 'offended' is sometimes the equivalent of the metaphorical good kick up the arse that makes you see the world in a different way.

And it is about power, at bottom. The powerful don't satirize the powerless. They may mock, degrade, humiliate and harm them, but they don't satirize them because they don't need to. Satirizing radical Islam, by the way, is not about insulting or degrading non-white people - what is being attacked in this form of satire is a violent, homophobic, misogynistic superstition that is used to justify brutality and murder.
It's the power differential that makes the SCUM manifesto an exhilarating satirical work, whereas all those Angry Neckbeard sites about putting women back in their place may be uninentionally hilarious at times (Return of Kings you just know is written by a clammy-palmed drip from his parents' damp basement) but, because men are far more dangactually dangerous to women than women are to men, even when misogynists are insisting that they are being funny, the message that lingers is not 'Women have too much power and should be nicer to men' but 'Some men are really, really inadequate'.
Mind you, that's the point at which SCUM starts feeling less like satire and more like a Good Idea.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Sunday Snog: Black Heart

I'm normally far too lazy, disorganized or otherwise engaged to join in the Sunday Snog but this weekend I just happen to be at home, awake, and reluctant to go anywhere, so I thought all those of you in the same boat might enjoy this little extract from Black Heart - two snogs for the price of one.

Feet padded along the hallway and Gary came back into the room; at a murmured command from Rosa he knelt beside Daniel. There was another prolonged moment of silence, and then she said, ‘Look at me.’

She stood before them, smiling, at her ease, holding a multi-tailed flogger in one hand, dangling it lazy by its little looped handle. Her leather trousers fitted her perfectly, caressing her long legs; her black shirt was unbuttoned low enough to reveal a black lacy bra and the upper curves of her breasts. Daniel had never wanted a woman so much in his life.

‘So much potential,’ she said, in the same soft, dreamy voice. ‘Pleasure and pain, and both together. Stand up, both of you.’ The last sentence was rapped out sharply, and they both scrambled to obey her. When they were both on their feet, she moved up close to them, close enough to touch, and Daniel struggled not to reach out for her, though he longed to do so. But it was Gary she went to first, lifting his chin with one finger and kissing him, lightly at first, then with greater intensity. Daniel was standing close enough to feel the tremor that ran through the drummer’s body, and he clenched his fists. Waiting his turn was exquisite torture: would she kiss him, too, or would she decide it was more fun not to? He thought of the night he’d seen her beating another man, how his blazing jealousy had mixed with a strange, compelling enjoyment of his own suffering.

Then she was in front of him, twining her fingers in his hair, holding him still, and her mouth was on his. The kiss was hard, demanding, sending tiny explosions of ecstasy throughout his whole body, and it was only with a great deal of effort that he managed not to wrap his arms round her and prolong it when she finally pulled away.

‘Face one another,’ she said. ‘Hands on each other’s shoulders, lean into one another, and stay still.’

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Still dirty after all these years

Another year older and, yes, still in debt, but remaining optimistic. I do feel the need to mention that this year ended with a Significant Birthday, because such birthdays do make you stop and reconsider. I'm not living the life I thought I would be ten or twenty years ago, but in some ways it's better than anticipated. Though I'd prefer it to be like this with more money, of course.

As far as writing goes, it's been a nice, interesting year. Eroticon and Smut Manchester were both great fun, and I also got going on my own Dirty Sexy Words slam nights, which will be getting bigger and better in 2015.

My alter ego published a novella and a couple of short stories this year and I managed to get two short stories out into the world and begin on a hugely complicated new novel. Once again I am awed by the productivity of various pals who manage two novels, three novellas and fifteen shorts per annum. I should spend less time on Facebook and more time in front of Vintage TV with the little laptop, I really should.

And the wider world? Continues to be a fucking tricky place for everyone: austerity and inequality here and the most psychotically misogynistic terrorist group in the universe rampaging around elsewhere. Yet there are still daily acts of kindness, big and small. I wish you all luck in 2015 and hope for the best.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Manchester mayhem - nuns, whips, getting lost and crispy duck with pancakes

Erotica authors, it's sometimes thought, are a shy, quiet bunch in real life. Perhaps I'm a bit atypical, being a gobby old show off given the slightest opportunity, but that slightly tired trope of the diffident, timid, retiring author could be said to have taken a bit of a kicking last weekend at Smut Manchester.

I mean, all it takes is a naughty nun and the components of a bondage kit (and my own collection of whacking implements) and utter mayhem is likely to ensue.

I started my trip a bit inauspiciously by getting spectacularly lost in the Manchester suburbs. I don't have the world's best sense of direction, but decided to do my usual thing of trusting to a newly-purchased map and the public transport system, which seemed to be just fine at first, but somehow ended up with me wandering aimlessly down unpaved paths, under dripping railway arches and through a deserted industrial estate, with a bag full of whips, as the sun was going down. I reminded myself forcefully that all weird experiences are potential story material, but was definitely very relieved to set eyes on the BnB at last. 

Friday night involved a few drinks with various Smutters and what should have been an early night but translated into sitting up till about 3am with a fourpack and cracking on with Chapter 3 of what will hopefully be the next book. Saturday was Smut day proper, however. In the unavoidable absence of Kay Jaybee, who usually does the necessary chastizing when authors overrun their time slots, I got to arm myself with my favourite paddle and punish anyone who didn't stop reading when s/he should have done. The mere threat of my presence kept most of the slam participants in line, but there's always one (isn't there, Charlie?) Actually, Slave Nano went one better and pre-booked his whacking, with a reading intended to, er, climax, with the author being pursued off stage and round the room...

I had, in fact, said rather sternly to a friend that the event was 'not a play party, you know. It'll just be a lot of people talking about books.' But this Smut involved a whole lot more direct participation than usual, what with Cara Sutra letting everyone play with her bondage kit. We were divided into teams and challenged to see how many different uses we could put the items to, and as we had one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on our team, those uses rapidly got varied. If you want to check out the full range of filthy pictures, check out the various postings here. I had been slightly anxious that my own talk and demo on stuff to hit people with might be a bit of an anticlimax, but that wasn't the case, and my only anxiety at the time was whether or not I would get all my toys back at the end of the session. I did, which is just as well...

A lot of us ended the day with dinner in a very good Chinese buffet restaurant, whose staff were remarkably charming in the face of 18 people arriving to claim a table booked for 12 and having assorted rather startling conversations all night. The youthful and energetic went on to further fun and games in the town centre, but this old bird was fit for nothing but a good night's kip after all the excitement.

Excellent event, folks. Roll on the next one.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Flashbacks and book sightings: La Boudoir

Having been tipped off by the lovely Cara Sutra that the launch of the Boiler Room at La Boudoir Boutique was happening, I took myself off to the East Kent coast. Having been a student at the University of Kent I have all sorts of depraved memories attached to Herne Bay, Whitstable and Canterbury. I was therefore wildly overexcited on the bus from Herne Bay to Birchington and full of vivid flashbacks of motorbikes, men in leather, giggly post-party/post-coital stumbles homeward and all the rest of it.

La Boudoir is lovely, too: a series of beautifully decorated rooms (including the aforementioned Boiler Room which combines steampunk and dungeon aesthetics with some really good furniture and a tempting range of toys); friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere. I was also happy to record a sighting of Books In The Wild.

It's always nice to see books on shelves and do a quick namecheck/headcount to see who and what is represented - I spotted Aishling Morgan and Kay Jaybee among others.

more than one bookshelf, as well...

A thoroughly good way to spend a damp Saturday afternoon - check them out if you're in the area.

Friday, 31 October 2014

My Hot Halloween

Maybe it's just me who finds this supposed Hottest Halloween for 300 years a bit unsettling. I like roaming in the twilight on a pumpkin hunt when there's just a touch of frost in the air, and though it was quite pleasant to be sitting on the steps outside the Queen's House in glorious sunshine, it did feel a tiny bit wrong.

Mind you, I spent a very hot Halloween once, about 14 years ago and absolutely loved it.

I went to Hedo II, the then-notorious Jamaican resort for swingers. It remains the biggest and best blag of my entire writing career - the owners had sent a request to Forum for 'one of their writers' to visit the place and do a report. As the mag's club reviewer, the trip was designated all mine, and once I got over suspecting some kind of wind up, I merrily packed my bags and boarded a plane.

It just so happened that the day before I came home was October 31st and, with the majority of the other guests being American, Halloween in Hedo was a Really Big Deal. It didn't take me long to come to terms with the incongruity of sitting on a tropical beach, surrounded by plastic skeletons and carving a pumpkin in 90+ temperatures, and the evening's cabaret, costume parade and silly games led, by some route I can't quite remember, to me having a mindblowingly good bunk up on a plastic lilo right at the water's edge.

So I wish the rest of you a fun night and a sweet Samhain, however you choose to spend it. Mine is going to consist of cooking pumpkin pasta and scaring children this year, but who knows what next year might bring?


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Three Stars is Undulating

OK, if you know what song** I stole that line from, you might actually win a small prize (just post a comment and if you are correct I will contact you for your address and stick something in the post to you). 
I've been doing some reviewing lately. Mostly just of stuff I happened to have bought off Amazon, or in a charity shop or acquired, which either appealed to me a lot or annoyed me a bit. It reminded me of the days when I actually used to get paid for writing reviews of things. I have tried to be both fair to the author or authors in question and entertaining to anyone reading the review who probably isn't going to buy the book. Just like I used to do when I was getting paid. And, while reviewing, I have been reading other people's reviews and thinking various exasperated thoughts about the virtual world in which everyone's a critic. 

Yes, there are some thoughtful, readable reviews, whether the reviewer loved the book or hated it. But there are also billions of 'reviews' which consist of retelling the plot and then moaning that there were no magic worms in the book, or that one of the characters was a bit boring. Or those which awarded the author five stars and then read 'tHIs booke FUxn SUCKSSSS!' Then there are all those well-meaning, painstaking, utterly tedious reviews posted by friends of the author trying really hard to be objective and saying things like 'I was given this book by the author who is my friend. It is a lovely book. My mummy taught me to wipe my feet and not fart at dinnertime. This book was interesting and reminded me of the only other book I read in my entire life. I like caterpillars and there was one on the book cover.'
I did indulge myself a little this evening in dissing some random piece of self-published crap that had been available to download for free, but I felt a bit dirty afterwards. I've read professionally published books that weren't much better.
Perhaps the skill of book reviewing is another one that's on its way out. Hopefully not, even though it won't do to underestimate the taste of the reading public.

** If I have actually cocked the quote up and you still get the song right, you still get the prize.