I outgrew Tolkien-like fiction in my teenage years. As bad as Vampire erotica is common now, in the 80’s it was all about the party of adventurers against a big evil. Fake societies, fake languages and fake laws of magic abounded. As a kid I loved them all until one day I realized I could barely remember what happened in some of the series I had read. They blended together in my memory into one long three book cliche.
I moved onto other genres. The grittier, and much shorter, Sword and Sorcery genre captured my interest. I went through a sci-fi phase, a mystery phase and even a Vampire erotica phase to my current science fiction gothic phase. I understand that my phases last until the books begin to repeat themselves. I understand that these phases last until my own sense of patterns start to write the books before I read them.
In the past I have rarely returned to a genre once I grow out of it. That has changed lately for unexpected reasons. As a nerd, I tend to over research something I am interested in. If I discovered David Edding’s Belgariad today, I would feel compelled to read Tolkien and anything that predates him. I would trace the literary line backwards, soaking in everything that influenced Eddings and then everything that influenced the people that influenced him. I assumed all writers do that.
What I am finding lately is that while writers may over research, readers may not. I realized this playing Dungeon Runners of all things. It’s a free-ish MMO that is terribly basic in it’s mechanics but very funny in it’s execution. It is a mockery of Everquest and World of Warcraft and filled with jokes at their expense. What started to seep into my head was that all the jokes were aimed at people whose only fantasy experience was playing those games. There were no jokes about Dungeons and Dragons. There were few jokes about Tolkien, and if there were, they were jokes about the movies. It made me realize that the audience they were shooting for was not one with a limited amount of experience, but one with an entirely different kind of experience.
That inspired me to start writing my Nighthammer stories. For the first time in ages, I had an interest in a genre that I had burned out on. My first story was a parody on quests. My second story was a parody of a famous scene from the first Conan movie. My third story wasn’t a parody of anything in particular, it was just a natural evolution of what had come before. I can never really forget all the fantasy I have read, but I can push up my point of reference until it becomes interesting again.
I feel like I have discovered a great secret about erotica. I always wondered how erotica kept staying around when other genres burn out and fade. I used to also lament the lack of erotic scholarship in that most people only focus on the erotica of their generation. I see now that this forgetting of the past is what keeps reinventing erotica. The milkman stories of the past become traveling salesman stories which become desperate housewife blogs. I don’t think it’s evolution, I think it’s a form of literary amnesia.
What really intrigues me about this is BDSM. In my not-very-humble opinion, modern BDSM both in practice and fiction is slavishly linked to it’s past. There is a deference that is given to older and wiser practitioners of kink that is great for educating on safety but deadly in advancing BDSM as erotica. Safe, Sane and Consensual might be physically healthy but it strangles the thrill that erotica needs as fiction to entertain.
For the good of BDSM erotica, we need more people who have never read ‘The Story of O’ and who’s entire BDSM experience has been the movie ‘Secretary’ and kinky episodes of Battlestar Galactica. We need more BDSM bloggers who are unafraid to indulge their fantasies about power dynamics that appeal to them, and not to some sort of universally approved power structure. Maybe then we can actually come up with a BDSM visual that has been essentially unchanged since the 50’s.
We need to burn down the chateau of bondage. We need to replace the collar with a symbol of our own making. We need to create our own language of power and lust.
I’m not sure where I came across the image but it has certainly evoked my imagination.