I have been doing some research lately in several different genres. When I explore a new genre that I am unfamiliar with, it usually doesn’t take long before I find a list of recommended source materials. Usually these are book or movies that are either held up as a superb example of the genre, or as something that might not be known to the masses but are influential on the people who create this genre work.
You don’t see a lot of that when it comes to erotica. This has been bugging me lately. I think of first time erotica writers and it would be nice if I had a list of books they could read so that they could get a better grasp on the genre. If zombie fiction, apocalypse fiction and spy fiction has a list, why can’t erotica?
I think before we create such a list, we have to create some standards. Most lists of classic erotica books include the most famous erotica books like Fanny Hill or Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The problem with this approach is often the most famous erotica books are famous not because they were good, but because they were banned. They went to court. They had big public battles. They didn’t necessarily have to be good.
I say this not to diminish such classics like Fanny Hill but merely to point out that sexuality is a fluid changing thing. Fanny Hill can mention in passing that sex happened and it was scandalous for its time period. I clearly remember missing a sex scene because the abundant euphemisms completely bypassed my reading comprehension. Maybe the problem was that I was too stupid to enjoy Fanny Hill but I suspect the real problem is that the style was just too old for me.
So if we toss out the classics that are famous for being famous, what real standard can we apply? Quality seems like an easy choice but erotica is a fickle bitch. Readers always disagree on which books are better than others but because erotica depends on sexuality, it is even more influenced by personal tastes. What is exciting and interesting to one reader might seem ludicrous or down right offensive to others. That doesn’t take into account that BDSM is a different beast from slut stories which are utterly different from romance porn.
At this point you have to fall back on just picking erotica that is well written. Good luck with deciding that subjectively.
An even uglier thing to consider is just how freaking huge erotica is. Thousands of books have been published and many of those were printed on a smaller run than most mainstream books. “My Wife the Golf Slut” might be the greatest erotica book of 1982 but if it was only released to dirty bookstores in the Midwest; odds are most readers will never encounter it.
That is only considering printed works. The internet has been steadily pumping out erotica since I believe the 2nd day that the internet was in operation. I would not be exaggerating to say that there likely millions of erotica stories out there at this moment.
What the fuck to do? You want to list erotica that is either really good and lets a writer see the genre at the best of its form, and you want to include erotica that serves as almost a blueprint for aspiring writers to understand. You need a list that is not only a “best-of” but is instead a “this is how it is done”. You need books that inspire writers to write their own tale.
Such an undertaking sounds like a pain in the ass to me. Therefore I plan to make it my goal for 2013.
I think I will need to create another blog that is solely dedicated to this concept. I will call it Appendix X. I think I need a target number, like say ten prime stories that capture what you can do with erotica. Oh man, the hubris of typing that last sentence is overwhelming. Who am I to judge the best stories that exemplify erotica?
Oh wait, I’m a reader and a writer. Also, if people disagree, then they are free to disagree. Dialogue makes anything better. A blog will help make it a true group effort.
This is going to be a really big pain in the ass