In the wonderful introduction to Best Bondage Erotica 2013, Graydancer promises truth – truth that can be embarrassing or uncomfortable as well as thrilling, truth that transcends the overt activities of bondage and discipline celebrated in this collection. I gave a mental nod, understanding the point exactly. I know, from personal experience, how deliberately choosing restraint can shatter fears and defenses, deliver new insights, rearrange reality. I was eager to dive into the book, anticipating more than just the clever and creative kink Ms. Bussel reliably delivers in her anthologies.
Best Bondage Erotica 2013 partially fulfills Graydancer's promise. Some of the tales touched me deeply. Some of the others left me feeling a bit cheated, focused as they were more on the actions of bondage and submission than on the emotional impact.
Of course, after the introduction, I had, perhaps, unrealistic expectations.
I particularly appreciated Valerie Alexander's “The Moons of Mars,” about a non-traditional relationship between a charismatic gay astronomy professor and his female assistant, who is hopelessly in love with him. Their strange accommodation partially fulfills the fantasies of each, and in the process binds them more closely to one another than most lovers.
I also loved“Public Spectacle” by D.L. King, an exquisite vignette that provides an inner snapshot of a female dominant using her slave in public, highlighting the love and trust that illumine the humiliation and pain.
I can sense the people around us. I know they can feel the transformation too. They have seen the plain Jane you wouldn't look twice at on the street transformed into an object of desire. As her submission deepens, she will become even more desirable, and I will become even more desirous of her.
Evan Mora's “You Can Look...” is another deliciously depraved F/f tale in which the most important bonds are the ones that connect the dominant and submissive protagonists.
“Tying the Knot” by Tiffany Reisz, in which a dominant fiancé is summoned on the eve of the wedding to remind his frantic and nervous betrothed what's really important, uses humor to expose the way submission can be a mechanism for coping.
War is a terrible truth. Three of the twenty two stories in the collection have military themes. All deal, in different ways, with the healing power of BDSM. In “This is Me Holding You,” by Annabeth Leong, a female soldier struggles with guilt, fear and incipient despair as she prepares to return to duty. Andrea Dale's moving tale “Steadfast” features a heroine trying to reawaken the desire for dominance in her wounded, Iraq-veteran husband. Louise Blaydon explores the out-of-time quality of BDSM encounters with her story “Interlude for the Troops,” in which an Army captain seeks the solace of surrender with one of his comrades.
Peter says nothing, but then,Tom doesn't expect him to. They both know that. His hands are bound at the small of his back with a length of rope that rasps at the skin, and the position thrusts his shoulder blades up and out painfully, like thwarted stubs of wings. The floor of Tom's little medic's hut is hard and unyielding under his knees and yet, somehow, these are comforting pains, compassionate hardships. Tom controls them, after all. It is out of Peter's hands.
The original bondage in Giselle Renarde's “Tree Hugger” involves bungee cords and a huge, rough-barked tree trunk. Ms. Renarde's vivid descriptions pulled me into the story, even as the sensations bring her protagonist into a new kind of communion with nature, and her lover.
“Passion Party Purgatory” by Logan Zachary stands in a category of its own. This totally filthy, over-the-top fantasy (that's a compliment!) features a sadistic and highly inventive host (Charles) who “entertains” the husbands of his wife's friends in his basement recreation room while the women are upstairs enjoying a Tupperware-type sex-toy party. Is there truth here? I suppose the fact that the Charles' straight-as-an-arrow victims discover that they're aroused by bondage, pain and homoerotic activity might count as a revelation. Anyway, the story definitely made me sweat.
The editor's own story “Foot and Mouth” concludes the collection. Rachel Kramer Bussel paints a chilling but arousing portrait of deep masochism and its perverse satisfactions.
It's not the wealth of lovers he's had before me on whom he's honed his Dominant skills, either. It's that he wants each time to be better than the last. He wants it to matter. He wants me to feel it not just on the tender surface of my skin but inside, deep down, all the way, where it counts. When he takes out his knife and traces it along the swell of my breast, he wants me to wonder, even for a split second, if he'll be careless – or, worse, careful – and break the skin. He wants me to wonder, when he tells me he's bringing guests while I'm all trussed up, if he really is, and how many. He wants me to be uncertain whether he'd actually try to get his gigantic fingers insight my tight but eager ass without lube.
Ms. Bussel's truth is uncomfortable indeed – both literally and figuratively – and yet in it's own way transcendent. I couldn't identify with the particular physical torments her Dom inflicts, but I definitely recognized the emotions.Overall, Best Bondage Erotica 2013 offers BDSM aficionados a wealth of kinky fun – with sufficient instances of deeper insight to satisfy even a picky reader like me.
Opening up an anthology from Richard Labonte is like snuggling into a comfortable blanket you’ve had for years. I know exactly what I’m going to get – a quality anthology with solid narratives (and spicy moments, if it’s the yearly Erotica anthology). I was a little surprised to find the introduction – by Paul Russell – talking about editing the anthology. Then I remembered to put my trust in Richard, and read through Paul’s introduction, and was left with the impression I was in for a treat.
Paul Russell’s introduction was wonderful – a reminder of how furtive and lost we gentlemen of a certain age were before the grand invention of the internet. Finding anything gay used to be so impossible. Physical books, magazines, and actual films projected on actual screens were miles away from where many of us were, and even if we were in the grand metropolitan areas we still had to be so careful.
Now the digital gay offerings are huge. Easy. So, Russell asks, why would we still bother with print?
The answer – and the story, and the memories from that story – was a minor delight that was unexpected from an introduction (and I won’t ruin it). Unintentionally or not, the bittersweet tone of the introduction set up a vibe for me that carried throughout the anthology. Not in a bad way – I’m of the opinion that a bittersweet romance (or a bittersweet erotic romance) is one of the harder things to pull off well, but all the hotter for the admixture of potential loss. There’s also a great sense of triumph in the stories – often coming first from a more forlorn place.
I’m not saying that Best Gay Erotica 2013 was sad. There were definitely some fun and flirty stories (“The Farmer’s Son,” by Karl Taggart, made me giggle at its own self-efficacy), but it was in the tales that had that bittersweet yearning that I really found the collection gained cohesion. It’s not often you can say an erotica anthology was moving, but this one was.
No surprise that Jeff Mann’s “Daddy Draden” was so erotically charged with a BDSM flare that walks the line between poetic and visceral – but the aching tone of probable dissolution in the story was stunning. I had to pause and reflect after the story, and felt – as always – a little in awe of Mann’s ability to take his tales to so many different emotional places.
The first story, “The Pasta Closet” by Davem Verne, had a kind of sad victory to it. Again, this didn’t cheapen the story at all – quite the contrary – instead infusing it with a powerful image of those grown men who live in the closet, and those who find ways to give them release.
Not bittersweet, but still on the theme of the passage of time and how things change was Larry Duplechan’s “Big Chest: Confessions of a Tit Man.” I adored this short biopic, and the glimpse into the life of an (to be quite frank) incredibly hot fellow that had more of that sense of triumph to it.
Tom Mendicino’s “A Little Night Music,” and FA Pollard’s “Game Boyz” and Erastes’ “Drug Colors” move through different times and places and – again – these aren’t exactly joyful tales, but they’re erotic, and well put together.
I’ve often said that one of the things about living my gay life openly, of which I am most proud, is being one of the walking wounded. None of us are unscathed, and though I’ll quibble with the oft-spoken “that which does not kill you” platitude, I will say that there’s a real sense of coming through as well as coming out to all of these tales, and I’m glad to have read them. I may need to go find something fluffy and light now, but I certainly don’t regret the time with this anthology in the least.Thank you, Richard and Paul – that was a great collection.
Oh, I am a happy reader tonight! Best Lesbian Erotica 2013 sits on my Kindle, just finished, and I’m in the warm afterglow of some great stories. How to choose which ones to talk about?
I’ll admit to being a flat out sucker for stories like “La Caida” by Anna Meadows, “Homecoming” by Anamika, and “Crave” by Fiona Zedde that take me to other landscapes so rich in sensual delights that I can smell the air and the food. I share a longing for older butch women as the narrator in Sonya Herzog’s “I Have a Thing for Butches,” or younger butches with active imaginations as in Penny Gyokeres’ “Morning Commute.”
If you’re in a more reflective mood, “She Never Wears Perfume” by Sid March is lovely. “The Invitation” by Maggie Veness also evokes longing, but not quite as melancholy. “Daffodils” by Sally Bellerose is sort of also about lost love but the part that enchanted me was the recognition that even comfortable sex with a longtime lover can be renewing.
As much as I enjoyed the offerings in BLE this year, my two favorite stories were, surprisingly, paranormal tales. It’s so difficult to world build in a short story but both “Woman-Time,” by Rebecca Lynne Fullan and the unusual but effective “Underskirts” by Kirsty Logan managed to create wonderfully evocative tales.Every year I wonder how the Best of Collections are going to measure up, but with the guest editors helping to choose stories a theme always emerges that makes it a very different experience each time. Once again, Kathleen Warnock has brought together an anthology worth your attention.
Good book. Great stories. Must buy.
Cleis Press make a quality product. The content is skillfully selected and meticulously edited by a competent expert in matters erotic. The stories themselves are written to the highest standard by authors of renown.
Best Women’s Erotica 2013 is no exception.
Including stories from the likes of Janine Ashbless, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Alison Tyler and Charlotte Stein, it’s a collective of respected names and powerful, passionate prose.
I’ve been fortunate enough to review several Best Women’s titles over the years. Having enjoyed each of these books I thought that this time I would dip into the work of an author I hadn’t previously encountered.
Thank you Violet blue for introducing me to the writing of Krissy Kneen.
Krissy Kneen’s story, "Susanna" first appeared in Triptych; an Erotic Adventure, published by Text Publishing Australia. It’s a complete story that deals with one young woman’s association with the erotic world through Auslan – the Australian sign language used by the deaf community.
I happen to be fascinated by sign language, so this story hooked me instantly. I am intrigued by the relationship between hand movements and cognitive understanding. To some extent I suppose this is a non-verbal extension of the Saussurean relationship between the sign and signifier. But, in truth, I’m simply fascinated by the idea of communicating silently and studying an interlocutor with the rapt attention I normally reserve for Shakespearean plays or high quality porn.
Kneen’s story seems to accommodate this level of prurient interest.
David was a good lover, expressive. His fingers demonstrated to her what he could not say. His mouth, passive throughout the day, was put to better use in the evenings. His lips formed shapes that spoke to her body as words could not. His tongue found ways to express his desire without the use of vowels and consonants. She learned from him a language of love that was as utterly different from the general machinations of sex as Auslan is different from English itself.
It’s an innovative approach to an erotic story, made all the more powerful because it makes the reader focus on the content of communication rather than way communication is expressed.
And, because verbal communication is such an integral part of our sexuality, the following is far more visualised, as the reader is shown the physicality of this powerful scene where Susana loses her virginity.
He seemed amazed by her, amazed by her virginity and her body’s impatience to be rid of it. His face so close to the part of her that no one else had ever seen, watching her. He made the sign for slow down, both hands held out as if to measure the surface of something reclining, the right hand tilting up as if to halt her progress. Slow down, slow down, but even the act of signing was too much of a pause for her. Susanna lifted her hips, taking the stop sign of his hand and pressing it into herself. So much slipperiness. So much sensation, the joy and pain of it fused, too much to bear, her blood slick on his fingers, his body quickly pressing forward into the path that they had newly discovered. He shifted; the gorgeous pressure of his pubic bone pressing where only moments before his tongue had been. Blood on her chest where he took her breast in his fist, blood on her face where she kissed him. She opened herself to him in a pact of spilled blood and when he came there was a second tearing, the condom destroyed, the pact sealed with the jet of his seed finding its way into her, a glorious tragedy, and they remained fused like this, slippery with sweat and blood and ejaculate and every movement of his hips fed her hunger again.
There’s a lot of damned fine writing in Best Women’s Erotica 2013. Susana is only one of eighteen sensational erotic stories that make this anthology a perfect way to start the new year.Or, as I said at the start of this review: Good book. Great stories. Must buy.
There are some books aimed at such a specific audience (though in this case quite a wide-spread one) that a warning may be in order. With Christopher Pierce’s Winner Takes All: Master/Slave Fantasies, pay attention to that subtitle, and to the small print at the top of the copyright page that says, “Winner Takes All is erotic fantasy not intended as a guide to real-life Master/slave relationships.”
At this point you’ll know whether the subject matter is up your alley, so to speak. If you want gay male Dominant/submissive scenarios populated by impossibly macho studs (and beautiful slaveboys) who could have stepped right out of the art of Tom of Finland, this is where you’ll find them. If your reading experience is enhanced by being told the height, weight, and general build of each character, as well as more personal measurements and details, you won’t be disappointed. And if you prefer your erotic literature to be gritty, visceral, over-the-top, and well-written as well, you won’t be disappointed on that score either.
The sixteen short stories here, and the first parts of the concluding novella, were all published previously in magazines that specialized in gay Master/slave porn, which is not to say that Pierce’s work is “merely” porn. An Editor’s Note here calls the writing “Value-Added Porn,” and “porn-plus,” both terms I rather like. He also tells us that the original stories were extensively revised to “take them up to the next level” for this collection.
I won’t speculate on which parts are enhancements, although my guess is that the emotional and psychological aspects of submission get more emphasis here. They don’t interrupt, or dilute the constant action, or take the reader as deeply into “sub-space” as they might, but most of the submissive characters get turned on by feeling that their only purpose is to give their Masters pleasure, that they themselves don’t matter at all, and that’s the way they want it. Hard as that mind-set may be to understand by those of us who don’t share it, some people I know well have described their feelings in just that way.
Pierce clearly knows just what he’s doing here, and just what readers he’s doing it for. Considering the tightly focused theme, the stories vary enough to keep up interest, and the author’s remarkable range of “dirty” words enables him to reel off strings of descriptive names for body parts and bodily fluids without seeming repetitious. The first-person submissive characters are not differentiated as much as the dominant men seen through their eyes, but for this kind of fiction that may be the norm, so that the reader can put himself more deeply into the scene. The sex and “punishment” are, of course, over-the-top, just what the reader needs to get the thrills without the actual bruises. It’s all fantasy to one degree or another, and in a few cases it’s fantasy-fantasy, like the faux-medieval setting of “The Executioner’s Boy” in which rape fantasies can be indulged with impunity. Actually, the term “rape” is used rather casually and loosely from time to time, which bothered me a bit, but it’s always from the viewpoint of a very willing “victim,” so I can accept it as just a trope of the wider “scene” mentality.
The final piece, a five-part novella that gives the collection its title of Winner Takes All, does, I think, achieve “the next level,” as the editor put it. The last two parts were written expressly for this book, and I assume the first three were re-written to make a convincing whole—convincing, at least, if you’ve already suspended any disbelief as to the physical improbabilities of most of the action. The length allows for even more sex and punishment, making room for both the expected moves and more inventive measures, while the relationship is developed on a slightly deeper level, and the point-of-view character is allowed to step outside his role-playing and see himself as a real person. In jerk-off fiction slaves have no rights, no opinions, no decision-making power, and no feelings, he muses, as he comes to terms with what he really wants.
M. Christian, whose opinion I respect, wrote the foreword for this book, worth reading in itself for his discussion of the erotic potential of power exchange, which is really at the core of the whole Master/slave dynamic. Christopher Pierce fleshes out the concept with no-holds-barred jerk-off fiction unashamed of its origins, and unashamed to be written with literary skill and style. If this is the sort of erotica/porn/porn-plus you’re looking for, you’ve found it here (and you know you’re not alone.) If it isn’t your cup of sweat and semen, well, you’ve been warned.