Tag Archives: Erotica

His Seed: An Arboretum of Erotica – Steve Berman, ed. (Lethe Press)

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Life provides some interesting juxtapositioning. While reading His Seed, I was also working my way through a box set of Hammer horror films on DVD, those wonderfully cheesy mid-sixties campfests starring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing or–glory of glories–all three. Among the choicer morsels was Twice-Told Tales, an adaptation of three Nathaniel Hawthorne stories, including the root (see what I did there?)  of plant erotica, “Rappacini’s Daughter” (1844). Hammy, plummy, busty, lusty, and OTT, it was a perfect complement to Steve Berman’s superbly twisted collection.

Apparently, this volume grew out of a dare between Berman and designer extraordinaire Matt Bright, who took Berman’s groaner of a title as an artistic challenge. Having inspired the incredible cover you see above, Berman had to put out a call and come up with the goods. Fourteen brave souls responded with tales ranging from lyrical to pornographic. Sometimes in the same paragraph.

Proving right out of the gate that this isn’t your garden-variety (see what I di–okay, I’ll stop now) collection, M. Arbon’s “Ship in a Bottle,” details the affair between a plant-based alien life form named Redleaf and the human who rescues him from the pocket of a 129-year-old coat. That may not be the most normal scenario here, but it’s in the top two.

Since the collection is billed as erotica, you’d expect lots of sex between men and plants and you’d be right. The variety of scenarios in which these deeds are done, however, is pretty damned astonishing. From the boy who has sex with a forest spirit to cure his ill sister (Evey Brett’s “Guardian of the Grove”) to your basic fucking-a-plant-to-make-it-grow tale (Dale Cameron Lowry’s “Darling Proktiphallus”) to Keith Glaeske’s lyrical yet still erotic “Jack Pine,” creativity abounds.

One of the most creative pieces, and the only one that doesn’t imagine plant-based sex is L.A. Fields’s “King of Fruits,” which sees Perry, who lost his sense of smell and taste in college, in a heated affair with Art. Part of their foreplay consists of Art describing in gory detail the taste, smell, and texture of the most disgusting foods Perry can find for Art to consume. Century eggs. Corn smut. The meat of the story concerns a durian fruit, and I’ll just stop there.

Also of note is John Linwood Grant’s “The Jessamine Garden,” which basically queers the aforementioned Hawthorne tale, setting the romance in a poison garden cultivated by one Julian St. Claire, who entraps a young, wounded Mexican-American war vet. It’s wonderfully entertaining, both in terms of homage and on its own merits.

His Seed, then, may not be everyone’s cup of Miracle-Gro, but those who seek creative, literate short fiction should definitely give this a try. From alien plant forms to durian fruit to anally-puckered orchids, this book has a little bit of everything. Except Hammer Horror’s conception of Rappacini’s poison plant: 

Now, that’s what I call a bush.


© 2017, Jerry L. Wheeler

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Skyscraper – Scott Alexander Hess (Unzipped/Lethe Press)

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From its brevity to its cover, which I like to think depicts the view from the  floor of the book’s prominently-featured puppy cage, Scott Alexander Hess’s short erotic novel about BDSM, architecture, and rebirth revels in its own apparent simplicity. It’s less than a hundred and thirty pages. The cover is light and spare, the buildings surrounding the title transformed into wire and white space. One word title. Author name. Barely anchored into place. This is not a book that encourages frivolity or anything less than essential. It’s a potent distillation and a great read.

Atticus is a Manhattan architect badly in need of a creative renaissance. He won his current job with his first few successes in the industry but has been coasting for a while. Atticus meets Tad, a dom top with a Fight Club jones, at a leather bar. In between bouts, Tad leads Atticus deeper into the BDSM world. In this sexual awakening, Atticus finds his skills returning and soon wins an important new design project at work. Working closely with his client, Victor, Atticus discovers some disquieting rumors about a past relationship Victor had with Tad and has to find out whether or not they’re true.

Skyscraper could have been a torturously complicated book, brimming with metaphor and pretentious literary devices, with much room for rumination and a sub-plot or three. But part of its charm is that it simplifies the whole subject of midlife–or at least midcareer–crisis to a bare bones, nearly transparent narrative everyone can identify with as it hints at the individual complexities beneath.

The prose isn’t flat, but by the same token, it doesn’t go out of its way to set a scene. Similarly, the tone is dispassionate and reserved, Atticus telling us about his white hot passion instead of letting us get too close to it. That would normally come across as passive, but Hess’s choice of detail and constant ear on his voice prevent the character from slipping in that direction.

Being fond of and accustomed to the work of Jeff Mann, I thought the BDSM was a bit mild. That puzzled me at first. Hot, yes, but I expected more explicit sex and longer passages (yes, that was intended). However, the more I considered the author’s choice, the more sense it made. It’s certainly in keeping with the dispassionate tone, and the domestic breeziness of leaving casual notes for Atticus as to what kinky position Tad should find him in when he got home rather than addressing him directly adds yet another layer of removal. With all its inherent dispassion, however, it’s not a distant read. Atticus has a distinctive voice, and his willingness to plum the depths of whatever relationship he can have with Tad is well told.

Skyscraper is a little wonder of a book that packs a great deal into a small package, and it will leave you thinking about the relationship between success and failure.


© 2017, Jerry L. Wheeler

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Of Audiences, Ardor, and Attention Spans

81CXWwqNKlL._SL1280_As an author, I am often called upon to read at promotional events. I have read in bookstores and at conferences. I have read in libraries and open mic nights at bars. I have read to two people and to forty-plus. I have even, on one memorable occasion, read in an upscale boho vegetarian cafe/coffeehouse where a group of ten drunken, deaf lesbian bowlers, seated in the performance area by clueless waitstaff, vocalized their way through the entire lineup of authors. But I have never read erotica in a gay bathhouse before. Until last Tuesday.

A gay bathhouse, for those who have never been or wouldn’t be caught dead in one, has an incredibly unique atmosphere–insular, exhibitionistic, liberating, dangerously exhilarating, and highly charged with both sexuality and possibility. The process is simple: pay your money, get a locker (or a room) and a towel, strip, put your towel on (optional) and take your pleasure in the steam room, hot tubs, glory hole maze, sling room, orgy space, TV area or what-have-you. It’s hot and cold running men, and it encompasses both the best (sexual freedom, community, diversity) and the worst (predation, shallowness, narcissism) of gay male culture.

Drop into this mix one fully clothed author with an open book in his hand and a stack beside him ready to be sold, and what do you have? Well, up until last Tuesday, a big question mark. I had no idea what was going to happen or what shape this whole experience would take, and neither did my hosts (The Midtowne Spa and the Front Range Bears). All we knew is that it was something different to offer their patrons and an opportunity for me to do what every author does readings for–to sell books and get exposure. Did I sell any books? No. Did I get any exposure? Define your terms, please.

I read on a small stage backed by a mirror and facing a three-high bank of vinyl benches. The stage is usually used for the weekly j/o shows. No mic. None necessary for either me (I used to teach high school, so I can project like nobody’s business) or for Wednesday night’s professional masturbators (how would you hold it?).  As informal as the whole thing was, I just started without introduction, reading to my friend, Tony Linan, who organized the whole thing, and a few of the Front Range Bears who showed up in support. I began with a sex scene from a short story in my collection from Lethe Press (plug, plug), Strawberries and Other Erotic Fruits. Yes, you may click the link to buy. Please.

A few more patrons joined, including a cute little cub Tony had introduced me to earlier. Only now his towel had been lost somewhere in the bowels of the building and he was sitting no more than four or five feet away with a huge erection made even larger by the ball-stretcher he was wearing. His endowment did not go unnoticed by the guy sitting next to him, who bent down and began sucking away. I was clearly distracted. My voice faltered, and it was difficult keeping my eyes off the prize and on the page. However, I was an interloper in their territory. Why should they stop doing what they paid good money to do just because I was reading? How would I reprimand them, anyway? Hey! Stop sucking cock and listen to me read about two guys sucking cock!

And when you come right down to it, what else is erotica supposed to inspire? So often we write our stories and send them out into the universe without any real idea if they’re working or not. Here, I had actual proof in front of my eyes. It was empowering, in an odd way. Okay, in a very odd way. Eventually, they moved off to continue their encounter elsewhere. Other men came and went (you know what I mean), sitting for a few moments until their attention spans demanded a cruise of the steam room, a sojourn to the sling, or a turn at the glory holes downstairs. I ended up reading sex scenes from a couple of stories and then another whole story from beginning to end. Everyone applauded, and we were done. Tony said I was free to play.

And as I was undressing in my room and getting into my towel, I started thinking about the whole thing. I was unhappy with my performance on stage. I wasn’t as animated or as good as I am when reading to clothed people. And that was because I had imposed too much formality on the situation. I had forgotten why an erotica reading in a bathhouse made perfect sense–it’s all about need and drive and satisfaction, which was why I wrote the stories in the first place. I had gone into the situation thinking that reading to naked men would be no different than reading to clothed ones, but that was wrong. It’s vastly different, and if I get invited back, I won’t be onstage with that artificial barrier between me and the audience. I’ll invite them into my room, and they’ll all sit on the bed and the floor, crowding into the hallway, making it more of a communal experience. Because that’s what the environment calls for.

The cub? Oh yes, we hooked up downstairs a couple of times. In a couple of different configurations. Having lost my place once or twice because of his shenanigans, I was determined to make him pay. And he happily cooperated. So once more, a big thanks to Tony Linan, the Midtowne Spa, and the Front Range Bears. Like reading with the deaf lesbian bowlers, it was an experience I’ll never forget.

And good for a mention in my memoirs.

©, 2013, Jerry L. Wheeler

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Night Duty – Nicolas Mann (Bear Bones Books)

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Nicolas Mann is a daddybear’s daddybear,  but more than that, he’s an artist as well as an erotica writer extraordinaire. Both talents are on display is this fine collection of erotic tales, Night Duty.

You may be asking yourself what makes a good erotica writer, and I’m here to tell you there’s no simple answer to that question. So much erotica is out there that coming up with a fresh take on an old trope is difficult to do. And I’m not sure that’s necessary. What is necessary is a firm grasp (couldn’t resist that one) on the subject. Nothing takes me out of an erotica scene quicker than some physical impossibility. So, the scene has to be well choreographed. Another factor is the use of all five senses. After all, you’re using all five when you’re doing it for real, aren’t you? If you’re not, no book in the world will help you.

One thing you can’t worry about is whether or not the set-up has been done before. Of course it has. But it’s not been done your way with your characters. Take its familiarity and use it. Wallow in it. Immerse yourself so deeply in it that you find the eroticism that made it a cliche in the first place. And that’s just what Nicolas Mann does.

Whether it’s the old homeless guy in “Lost Daddy,” the priest/penitent scenario of “Bless Me, Father,” the cop encounter in “To Protect and Serve,” or the backwoods innocence of “Newt’s Lesson,” Mann knows what his audience likes and he delivers the goods aplenty. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Bear Bones release without a little fur, so the hirsute, uncut objects of ursine desire are never far from sight.

But Mann can come up with a new kink or two when called upon, as in the title story “Night Duty,” which sees a hunky university janitor indulging in some glory hole action with a wheelchair-bound professor working late at his desk. Another venture into non-familiar territory is the supernatural elements of “Ghost of Dark Oak Cottage.” No matter which story you choose, however, you’re bound for some hot one-handed reading. Mann makes the most of his scenarios by putting everyone into the scene, starting the action, and saying out of the way. No author intrusion here, but its clear that the writer has enjoyed himself as much as the reader.

So, order a copy today and make plans to spend the night alone. Or with someone you really, really like

© 2013, Jerry L. Wheeler

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