The phrase “good editor” is something of an oxymoron. It’s a little like saying “honest lawyer” or “rap music.” The two words just don’t sit naturally together and, when they are combined, they produce something that clearly cannot be true.
Not that I’m trying to say all editors are bad.
I’m sure not all of them are into sacrificing baby goats, deflowering virgins, painting bloody pentagrams on consecrated ground or demanding first-born children. DLK at Erotica Revealed is surprisingly charming for an editor and I’ve never once seen her involved in a satanic ritual invoking diabolical forces in her attempt to claim mastery of the universe’s blackest powers.
I’ve not seen that once.
Yet many of the editors I’ve worked with have had sides to their personalities that are most kindly described as maniacally evil. The merciless way I’ve had copy butchered; the masochistic manner in which royalty cheques have been withheld, lost or neglected; and the downright deviant exploitation of my naïve authorial innocence has invariably been exacerbated through my contact with editors.
And it’s not just my personal experiences that make me think editors have a sinister influence on our society. Hitler only turned into a scum-sucking piece of evil sputum after writing Mein Kampf. I’d wager, if that book had been published without an editor, Hitler would have simply continued a banal existence as a petty criminal, bad moustache-grower, and mediocre house painter. However, through his contact with an editor, he went on to form The Third Reich.
Spiderman’s arch nemeses usually have the full support of newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so.
Clark Kent had to endure the orders of that despicably evil fucker Perry White. (I’m aware that most readers don’t perceive Perry White to be inherently evil but I can foresee a long-ranging story arc that shows he is either Beelzebub or the Son of Satan. How else could you explain his recovery from lung cancer?)
But, as I (hopefully) mentioned earlier, not all editors are evil. Some of them (especially those I’ve worked with over the past few months) are wonderful, charming people and it’s been an honour to work with them. And, while the phrase “good editor” does remain something of an oxymoron, I have to use it here: Basketball Bonnie and Other Erotic Stories could have used the services of a good editor.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this book. In the tradition of the Victorian erotic novel it contains short stories from a distinctly male perspective that would make a contemporary feminist want to burn her pubes in protest. The writing is conversational in style but the plot exposition is so belaboured and obvious it’s often hard to engage interest with the fiction. Whilst going through this book I found myself reading on because the writing had the ghoulish appeal of driving past a car wreck. I didn’t have any real desire to know what was going on but some twisted and macabre need inside me compelled me to keep looking.
This extract from “Checkmate” illustrates what I mean.
“Daisy took me by the hand and said, ‘Come, my dear, over to the bed. The floor is too hard. You know what I want. And I’ve wanted it for a long while. The arguments I initiated with you were just a pretense. I wanted you all along, but I didn’t want to make Hazel feel bad. I have been pretending to be indifferent to you.’
‘Well, the feeling has been mutual with me.’ I said. ‘Our arguments were superficial and really a kind of sexual expression.’”
Checkmate also contains a layman’s introduction to the game of chess, the sort of anecdotal sexual description one would expect from a drunken college student who’s trying to disprove accusations of virginity, and dialogue (as illustrated above) that is so wooden it could give splinters to Pinnochio.
But it’s not just the dialogue that makes this book so special. The description of sexual intimacy is one of the key factors in erotic fiction. Any decent author of erotica, with or without the help of a good editor, can produce intense scenes of passion that balance graphic description with literary integrity. This is part of what follows the previous extract from “Checkmate”.
“Daisy gripped me with her vaginal muscles and treated me to a round of snapping pussy. She was good and I came off deliciously. She enjoyed a strong orgasm and, shuddering, she blacked out.”
The eponymous heroine of Basketball Bonnie is named Basketball Bonnie not because of her interest in recreational sports: “Her marvellous chest inspired her name, although the persons she encountered never called her Basketball Bonnie to her face.”
As I said before: Basketball Bonnie and Other Erotic Short Stories is not a bad book. It’s just not one I could honestly recommend, except to illustrate how one should not write fiction – erotic or otherwise. The writing has the feel of Victorian erotica with all the wordy, conversational and misogynistic humour one would expect from that period. It’s easy to consider such a style dated in this age of equality, tight-writing, subtlety and authorial competence but it would be wrong of me to suggest that this book was past its sell-by-date before it hit the shelves. It just needed the services of a good editor.
I also think the involvement of a competent author might have helped.