Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Slightest Scratch

Obviously by 'Augustish' I meant 'September'. Long-term readers will be aware of the temporal dilation I experience whenever I set a deadline, and compensate accordingly.

I grew weary of all the talk of Fifty Shades Of Grey pretty quickly, having once managed a successful erotica section at Waterstone's and knowing poor quality smut when I see it. Nobody should be avoiding the word 'cock' when writing porn, and they certainly shouldn't spend entire chapters on contractual clauses.

Erotica, like science fiction, is a tricky genre to pin down. Erotica is not porn: the latter is the graphic representation of sexual acts, the former must be (not merely have) a story. I once read a definition of science fiction that I have clung to ever since, despite its circularity: a science fiction story is one which, were you to remove the science fiction element, would no longer work. Star Wars, it could be argued, isn't really science fiction - the setting could just as easily be medieval Europe and the skeleton of the story would remain unchanged.

Similarly, bad erotica is a story that doesn't need the sex to tell it. Fifty Shades is a romance, albeit a clunky and shallow one, with a handful of sex scenes bolted on for fun. It's Mills & Boon, which serves a purpose but should not be mistaken for erotica. Erotica falls apart without the sex: it uses sex as a storytelling method, as dialogue, as plot, as conflict. Erotica can't be told any other way.

Twilight wore me out for different reasons. Bella is the worst role model a young woman could have - sappy, wet and passive beyond measure, her choice of Edward over Jacob (and her eagerness to change herself into a dead person to suit him better) would be a childish phase for most women but is an actual life decision for her. If Fifty Shades succeeds at all, it is in throwing her annoying limpness into sharper relief - Anastasia swooning and having panic attacks because a wealthy man spoke to her borders on parody.

A pity, because the vampire/werewolf/human love triangle is a fascinating device. My favourite werewolf movie is Jack Nicholson's Wolf, because it explored the notion of lycanthropy as a behaviour rather than a physical condition: I've always found the archetypal nature of mythical creatures to be more interesting than the horror aspect. I wrote a short treatment for a TV series many, many years ago that involved psychevores - vampires in all but name, they were merely people who drained the energy and attention of others, feeding on it. We all know people like that.

As so often happens with writing these ideas mixed and shifted in my brain for a long time without reacting, until a blue-eyed muse ignited them: the book that resulted is dedicated to her. There are werewolves and vampires, but they are personality types rather than creatures; there is a female protagonist torn by love, but she is neither a virgin nor a teenager, with power and strength of her own; and there is sex, plenty of it, because there was no other way to tell the story.

It's called The Slightest Scratch and is available for Kindle, as an ePub (iPad/iPhone compatible) and as a paperback. It has a cover photo by old friend and fellow blogger Kavey, and its own website where you can test yourself for vampirism, lycanthropy or humanity. I hope you enjoy it.

1 comment:

Kavey said...

Ooh ooh ooh it's ready?! Woo!