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Pulp Transcendence

Jason Rubis' Official Blog & One-Stop Newsatorium

Like a Masterpiece
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Circlet Press just released a very attractive new edition of M. Christian's collection THE BACHELOR MACHINE.  High time, too. These are deftly-rendered, beautifully nuanced stories, most with a cyberpunk flavor, but all worth reading & savoring multiple times.  A book for anyone who needs reminding that sexual science fiction can be done with style and substance...or anyone who loves good fiction, period.  Particular favorites of mine: "Bluebelle" and "Everything But the Smell of Lilies."  Consider it recommended--like highly, daddy-o.

www.circlet.com



The Problem of Susan
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Before I say anything else…my dog up there looks sort of like Aslan, doesn’t he? Don’cha think? Hmn?

No?  Well, screw you…heretic.

So okay, this weekend, for my Sunday night just-before-bed treat, I read Neil Gaiman’s beautiful, disturbing story “The Problem of Susan.” It’s a meditation on a particular element of Lewis’s Narnia books, the idea that Susan, the second-oldest of the Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, was essentially banned from Paradise (Aslan’s Country) because she became more interested in “lipstick and nylons and invitations.” J.K. Rowling, bless ‘er ‘eart, put this more pithily as “because she became interested in sex.”

It’s something that’s bothered other writers—and doubtless many a reader—as well. Philip Pullman got really mad about it. I didn’t actually agonize over the matter when I read the books as a kid, but I do definitely remember noticing it. Poor Susan, I thought. It didn’t seem fair. Kind of mean, actually.

Yet, I kinda/sorta understood what was going on there, and when I recently ran into these comments by other writers, I was kinda/sorta surprised. After all, the Narnia books, if not actually Christian allegories, as some have labeled them, are informed by a profoundly Christian mentality. I’m not a Christian myself (I’m ex-Catholic, which many Christians, I have learned to my relief, believe doesn’t qualify), but in the nondenominational services my wife drags me to every Sunday, I’ve learned one thing: it’s not about the World. It’s about God. God, God, God. Christ, Christ, Christ. Bible, Bible, Bible. It’s not about watching Law and Order or some nice bloody anime on the Funimation Channel (the wife and I like Claymore lately), or reading Borges or unwinding with a glass of wine and some cool jazz. Or with lipsticks and nylons, I guess. You have to be thinking about God and working on your relationship with God every day AND NOTHING ELSE or you’re gonna end up with Susan Pevensie in…well, I guess the nondenominationals would consider it hell, though as far as I’m concerned if they’ve got girls in nice nylons there, it’s probably not all bad.

So, to reiterate, I got all that, slow as I usually am. I wasn’t crazy about it, but I considered it a part of the books (like Aslan’s betrayal, death & resurrection) that could be ignored if you didn’t like it. But as I say, a lot of others don’t accept Susan’s fate and don’t especially feel like ignoring it. Some, like Neil Gaiman, embody their irritation or ambivalence in a story. Others, like Pullman and Rowling, will talk about it, in articles or interviews. And many, many others will just be deeply, wordlessly angry. Or hurt. Or unhappy.

A co-worker of mine, at my Beloved Day Job, got into a conversation with me when the first Narnia movie came out a few years ago. She’s Jewish, and loved the books as a kid…and apparently she had only just heard or read that the books were considered “Christian.” It may sound surprising that she’d only just heard this, but after all, most of the stuff about Narnia-as-Christian-doctrine is encountered in CCD and Religion in Literature classes. You’re not as likely to hear about it elsewhere and if you’re in another faith, and haven’t reread or thought too much about the books in your adult years…yeah, I can see it.

Anyway, my friend was—I think quite rightly—as angry about this as Philip Pullman was about Susan. Because on some level they were HER books (just as all books belong to everyone who loves them), and here she was being asked to believe that Aslan was Christ. Right after she’d just gotten through Christmas, too.

So what we’ve got here is a bunch of people who, when they are really brought face to face with the “Christian” elements of Narnia, respond with—perhaps not rage, but with an immediate irritation. A negative response. I find that very interesting. Most Christians probably would see it as another example of the all-pervasive “political correctness” that’s Ruining the World.  But I suspect there’s something deeper going on.

It should be pointed out...there are a lot of elements of the Narnia books that just do not jibe with Christianity…especially the Evangelical God-God-God flavor. I mean, the Son of Man is a talking lion…right there, we sort of part ways with Pastor Mike and his crew down at Reston Bible. The Biblical notion of man having dominion over animals is completely overthrown by all these talking animals…I mean, you’ve got three-foot-tall mice who talk like Sir Walter Freakin’ Raleigh. And all the various fauns and nymphs and giants and witches…but see, that’s part of what’s made the books so popular. We WANT to talk to animals in the same way we want to fly. We want castles and monsters that need fighting. We want magic and beauty. We might, dare I say it, want a little lipstick, maybe the odd invitation.  We DON’T want everything being doled out to us and regulated by the God-God-God people.

If Aslan is Christ, he’s a medievalist’s version of Christ, he’s a King you don’t just worship mindlessly, but serve…not in any abject way, but with all the strength and wisdom and abilities that YOU have and have grown in yourself over the course of your life. In the Nondenom services that form such a large part of my wife’s happiness, union with Christ is essentially about groveling. With Aslan, you get a sword. Guess which one I’d pick?

Lewis said that in order to be good Christians, people might first need to be good pagans. I think that’s fantastically interesting. It just goes to show you that religion—even when confined to Christianity—is an enormous topic, as big as the human beings who created it. And you know, I find that immensely reassuring.

So...seriously.  My dog.  Aslan...?  Eh?  Eh?

Go Mario! Go Mario! Go Mario!
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I just got word (my aide snuck into my library and whispered it in my ear--ha! Yeah, RIGHT) that Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa recently took the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Part of my reason for neglecting this blog lately has been a general disgruntlement with the current state of "erotica" and "erotica publishers." I'm sure I'll be bitching about this up, down & sideways in future posts, but for the moment...it's a real relief to turn for a moment from the haze of ebooks, epromotion, eromance, and general e-crap to someone who can actually write, and with style and wit and a knowledge of the writers who preceded him.

Probably the books that actually got him the Nobel were CONVERSATION IN THE CATHEDRAL and THE TIME OF THE HERO and like that, but to me Vargas Llosa will always be the author of IN PRAISE OF THE STEPMOTHER and THE NOTEBOOKS OF DOM RIGOBERTO, very elegant books to which the word "perverse" might actually be applied with a straight face. As a "literary writer" who occasionally turned to the erotic, Vargas Llosa is up there with Junichiro Tanizaki & Iris Murdoch...in my book, at least. Reaaly reeely good writur. Serious. You should totally read his ass.

J

News
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I just realized the last post I made on this blog was back in May. That's pretty bad even for me.

So here are some quick updates before I get back to posting random mind-spasms:

Pure Obsessions, a new audio romance company run by the very lovely Oceania, will be featuring a spoken-word version of my story "Sharassa's Song" in the near future. Watch for it at www.pureobsessions.com.

BEST S/M EROTICA 3, edited by the excellent M. Christian, is now out from Logical Lust. Not that this'll send anyone running to Amazon, but it contains my story "Dreams from a Black Chrysalis."

"Now I Live on the Street of Women" is in BEST EROTIC FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION from Circlet Press, which is now out in a very nice print and (probably) electronic edition.

The big news hereabouts is that, thanks to the good offices (literally) of M. Christian, a collection of my short fantasy/sf/horror-themed erotic fiction will soon be in print from Renaissance E-Books. The title is STRANGELY MADE, and I'll post a cover as soon as I have it. Ren-E has been doing some great work bringing back into print classic pulp genre fiction, so it's a cool company for my first collection. Thanks once again to Chris, who'll be providing the introduction!

That's it for now...more to come in the near future...

Obscurer and Obscurer
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For the past year I've been working, on and off, on a novella for Circlet Press to be called THE OBSCURER'S TALE. It's SF, in sort of a noire/baroque/"probably would be cyberpunk if I knew what I was doing" way. I've had a hell of a time with it; the current version on my hard-drive is Numbah Five.

I've always had a hard time with anything over 7,000 words. I envy the hell out of writers who just bust out 80-120K monsters their first time out, like it's the most natural thing in the world. The problem I've been having with OBSCURER involves covering all the bases so that the final product feels like an actual story, instead of a bunch of random crap strung together. Then there's the problem that this is supposed to be an erotic story...I thought that wouldn't be a problem, given that a major part of the plot involves a race of people descended from genetically-engineered prostitutes. I guess there's a difference between sex and eroticism. But I already knew that, didn't I?

One reason all this drama has been so disappointing is that I really like the hero - a hulking gangster with telepathic powers and a fondness for androgynes. It's just that I can't quite see him clearly, so I sort of wonder WHY I like him.

Going to North Carolina this weekend, with the wife & dogchild to visit my dad. Maybe sun and surf and the conch stew my dad's partner has promised to dish up (mmmn...conch stew) will get me back on track.

feh.

Anthology News: "Now I Live on the Street of Women"
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I got word this weekend that my story "Now I Live on the Street of Women" will be featured in Circlet Press's upcoming BEST EROTIC FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION anthology. Not only that, but it won third place in the contest Circlet was running alongside the submission call for the book. My "Circe House" also won third place in the first BEST FANTASTIC EROTICA. Can't wait to see who else is in this edition - keep your eyes on circlet.com and of course this space for more news as it pops.

Speaking of more news, Ravenous Romance's m/m fairy-tale antho BEDKNOBS AND BEANSTALKS just got a great review at the Whipped Cream Romance blog; my story, "Ashes and Crystal" got singled out for some very kind remarks, so I'm quite happy. Read it here at http://whippedcream2.blogspot.com/2010/03/bedknobs-and-beanstalks-by-em-linley.html

J

OUT NOW: Kneel to Me
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Circlet Press's KNEEL TO ME, an e-anthology of speculative fiction with BDSM themes, is now available for purchase. Circlet is as of this writing having some trouble with its credit-card processing whatsit, but you can buy it from any of the usual suspects: Amazon, Smashwords, Allromance, Square Deal Mumford's House of E-Rotica...okay, I made that last one up, but you get the point.

Final TOC is:

» The Lord of Misrule byKannan Feng
» KATT by Smotp
» Romans by Joe Nobel
» Raiders from the Stars by Jay Starre
» Exceptional Acts by Argus Marks
» Personal Benefits by Elizabeth Thorne
» Scenes in a Beijing Hotel by Jason Rubis

My story had a gestation period of well over ten years. The original impetus came something that happened to me when I was living in Seattle: I was home sick with a cold one day and went down to check my mail (we had email back then, the dinosaurs having just gone extinct, but most writers still lived and died by snail-mail). A very pretty Japanese girl, fashionably-dressed with red-tinted hair was strolling around the building's lobby, which in the middle of the afternoon was totally vacant.

My nose was runny and I was in a huge, tatty sweater...in other words, I wasn't either looking or feeling my best...in fact, I was feeling my most Smeagol-ish, so I was perfectly happy to slink away from the Pretty Young Ladyses (gollum) before she saw me. She DID see me, though, and proceeded to interrogate me on the building, the rent, the kind of service you got from the front office (which, not that you're interested, SUCKED), etc., etc.

I answered her as politely as I could, expecting that she would accept the bare minimum of information needed before turning away from my sick self in revulsion (a perfumed kerchief pressed to her rosebud lips, no doubt). But the inquisition went on and on...I had the weird feeling that she was not going to let me go, and that I COULDN'T leave until she actually let me. When she finally did, with a little nod, I really did feel I was being dismissed, though not in an unkind way. Off I scampered, much relieved and a little weirded-out.

It wasn't exactly an erotic situation and it had me mulling over the mechanics of dominance and submission rather than drooling over fantasies of hot young Asian mistresses (gollum). But I eventually forgot about it...it came back to me (for no good reason) years later when I was going through my Bergman Fanboy period (of which I am not proud), and was digesting imagery from PERSONA and (especially) THE SILENCE. The title "Scenes in a Beijing Hotel" struck me good and hard, and became one of those titles associated with a vague series of memories and images that you mean to eventually turn into a story, but seldom have the opportunity or time to.

Well, Lauren Burka & the folks at Circlet gave me the opportunity. Now the story exists. Lucky you (gollum).

J

Back to the Poem
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I got word that a short poem of mine, "Terata" (the title may change)will appear in a chapbook called THESE APPARITIONS: HAUNTED REFLECTIONS OF EZRA POUND from Bandersnatch Books. It's a collection of dark fantasy/speculative takes on Pound's "In a Station of the Metro." This is one of the better things that's happened to me in the last couple of weeks, and I'm actually kind of pumped about it, modest as it is. I haven't written or published any poetry in quite a while, not since I was living in Seattle in the mid-90s. It was shortly after that that I began publishing fiction semi-regularly, and it seemed like everything I'd been trying to say in poetry could be said more directly in fiction. A few months back, paging through Charles Platt's DREAM MAKERS 2 interview collection, I found a sf-inspired poem by D. M. "White Hotel" Thomas, and I sort of caught the bug again. It wasn't until I found the Bandersnatch call for material that I really sat down and hammered out a real, honest-to-Aku POEM-poem.

I'll forego quoting anything here until the chapbook comes out. You can check out Bandersnatch's website at http://www.bandersnatchbooks.com.

And I mean that.

J

R.I.P. See More Glass
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Well, it's finally happened. Now we get to find out if the pile of novels he supposedly wrote & never showed anyone will really be published.

I read CATCHER IN THE RYE in high school, about the same time I discovered Vonnegut. NINE STORIES, which I read a year later, in college, ultimately meant more to me, but CATCHER was something special, no question. Now all the conservatives will be coming out of the woodwork to tell us how Salinger ushered in 'the culture of the adolescent.' But CATCHER was a cry of very articulate rage against that betrayal that's so basic to every human being: WE WERE TOLD X WOULD APPLY, BUT IT DOES NOT. X IS, IN FACT, NOWHERE IN EVIDENCE. That rage is by means limited to adolescents, nor should it be. Culture of the Adolescent? Culture of Liars is more like it. Does embracing lies signal maturity? Does a new wardrobe? Does buying a new lifestyle at Thirty entitle you to call yourself an adult?

Just this morning I was thinking about Holden Caulfield, about him saying sometimes books speak to you so you wish you knew the author. So you could just call him up out of the blue and say, "Hey, that was a great book."

Sleep well, J.D.

"AVA-TA-ARRR!!"
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I can't help it--from the very first moment I became aware of James Cameron's 'This Will Change the Way You See Movies' SF epic (I think I stumbled onto the trailer while looking for porn on Youtube)I've kept thinking of Ralph Bakshi's 'This Will Change Your Mind About the Wisdom of a Free Jazz Soundtrack on an Animated Vaughn Bode/Tolkienesque Fantasy' epic WIZARDS. Specifically that moment where the President (or whatever he is) keeps screaming the good wizard's name trying to get his attention. And yes, the good wizard's name is...

Anyway,the wife & I finally ventured out of the compound the other night and saw it...not in 3D, but a reasonably big screen, anyway. I was a bit leery, partially, I'll admit, because of Nick Mamatas' damning-yet-so-ho-ho-funny blog-review (I can't find the link...demmit). Even so, I have to admit I had a good time. Am I a bad person? I mean, they spent so much money on this thing, when people are like starving, and, and it's really not in any way original, it's just a head-on collision between THE WORD FOR WORLD IS FOREST and A MAN CALLED HORSE with some old-fashioned Alan Burt Akers/Lin Carter Sword 'n' Planet sprinkled in for good measure...

Okay, look...it's PRODUCT, people. Like hamburgers...oh, that's right, you don't EAT hamburgers. Let's try this again...

Yes, the story's been done before in actual SF books (most recently Tim Zahn's THE MANTA'S GIFT, I think) since the 50s. So? Look at the commercials for this thing...the ones linked to commercial tie-ins like "projector phones" and (yes) hamburgers...who are they aimed at? Not SF fans, though most people would automatically assume that's the case ("Oh, you SF fans," they'll titter). Heck, the Sci Fi Channel (or "Syfy" or whatever the hell it calls itself these days) isn't even really aimed at SF people, just couch-potatoes who like vampire movies and paranormal "reality" shows. No, those commercials are aimed at people who (judging by the actors chosen and the writing) never read a book or used their imagination once in their lives.

Think about that. Never. Once. In Their LIVES. No Tolkien, no Burroughs, they have NO idea who Lovecraft was, they think TREASURE ISLAND is some kinda franchise-concept Disney came up with in the 50s to kill time until Johnny Depp came along. They've never imagined what it would be like to, say, fly a dragon. Even their GIRLFRIENDS never heard of Anne McAffrey...now imagine hitting someone like that with the flight sequences in AVATAR.

After remembering the Ralph Bakshi movie back when I saw the trailer, my first thought was, "This is gonna do great, 'cause those CGI panther-people make it look like those Poser covers the e-Romance publishers keep putting on their books." True. And the storyline, with its amiably PC yet still ass-kicking imagery goes right along with that. The point is that it does it WELL. The story hits all the sweet spots, and doesn't stop for a moment to let you think, "Have they found and despoiled other planets besides Pandora? Cause they don't talk about them, but if this is the first inhabited planet they've found you'd think they'd be more excited..." And so on.

And besides, when John Q. Public comes home after a hard day's work, he doesn't wanna think, he wants to be entertained, etc. etc.

So there you go. Leave AVATAR alone. Or as John Lydon put it in another context, "Enjoy or Die."

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