Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
Alan Daniels
Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
Vivienne LaFay
Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
Amber Lee
Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
Walter Mosley
Peggy Munson
Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
Surprise: An Erotic Fiction Anthology From Racy PagesSurprise: An Erotic Fiction Anthology From Racy Pages
Edited By: Tinder James
Rubicund Publishing LLC
ISBN: 0984371400
June 2010

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

These 27 stories are brief, crisp and snappy. Like a box of breakfast cereal, each contains a surprise: an internet "friend,” met for the first time in real life, turns out to be different (but not worse) than expected, a kick-ass babe turns out to be transgendered, a formerly-predictable spouse or lover puts the crackle back in the relationship, a person who has done wrong is horribly punished in a way that is only made clear in the last line of the story. Several of these pieces are "flash fiction:" half-page stories that are complete in themselves.

The design on the cover of the book is part of the surprise. Inside a large black circle below the book title, the reader is told: INSIDE 20+ stories you can read anywhere OUTSIDE a subtle cover. On a white background, black dots and squiggles and gold stars appear to be randomly scattered. This image invites the reader to wander through the book, picking up anything that looks interesting, while wandering past oblivious strangers in public space.

The theme of "surprise" is consistent throughout, which means that it would be hard to identify any other theme. There are characters of all genders, ages and races in this collection. The settings vary. Most of the couplings are heterosexual, but not all. There is some relatively mild BDSM, and all the stories are "realistic" in the way that truth is often stranger than fiction.

In general, the shortness of these stories works to their advantage. There is little writerly self-indulgence or digression here. In some cases, the writer "tops" the reader by delaying the resolution while steadily building tension. Every plot looks tightly-constructed.

Unfortunately, not all the stories are equally well-written. In "Temptation Like a Muthafucka," Alicia C. McGhee's attempt to capture the sound of grass-roots dialect leads her into awkward tense shifts, misleading modifiers and a jumbled sequence of events. Here is an example:

His eyes scaled up and down my appeasing frame as I watched him watching me through my shades. T-bird opened the passenger door, sliding into the seat with a stack of CDs, letting the bass carry on through the cul-de-sac road.

The plot of this story is both plausible and intense, but the writing style is a constant distraction.

The list of author bios shows that novice writers are thrown together with competent professionals in this book, and that is one of the surprises. Several of the contributors write in other genres as well as erotica, and the influence of fantasy, sci-fi and horror tropes is evident in
their work. One hilarious story, “Adam Gets Perspective” by Kyoko Church, is about a male professional writer’s need for sexual relief in order to meet a deadline: “The first draft of his manuscript was due to his publisher in two months.” His resourceful housekeeper, a no-nonsense professional herself, finds a way to use distracting noise to help him reach his goals.

In several of these stories, the surprise is physical, and it can be summarized in a punch-line. “Detachable Penis” by Stephen Smith is self-explanatory, and it seems like a heterosexual variant of “Blue Light” by Stephen Saylor (a.k.a. Aaron Travis), an eerie classic of 1970s gay-male porn. “Addiction” by Felix Baron has a female heroine with a sexual “problem” that is parallel to that of Linda Lovelace, heroine of another classic of 1970s porn, Deep Throat (novel and movie). “Enhancement” by Theodore Carter is a male fantasy focused on male anatomy.

The stories based on a single plot twist or a physical quirk are entertaining and generally lightweight. Unusual body parts, especially those that are detachable and have wills of their own, are also characteristic of fantasy and horror literature, and they suggest both a fear of dismemberment and a fear of losing self-control. Stories about women who literally can’t live without something that only men can provide seem to be part of a locker-room tradition in which “porn” appeared in magazines that were written by men for men and literally sold under the counter.

Other stories in this book are more complex, and contain surprises with far-reaching consequences. “Goddard’s Curse” by Paul L. Bates appears at first to be about a man with insomnia, but his condition is gradually revealed to be more sinister:

Each tick of the clock resounded like a thunderclap. Goddard sat stone still, his eyes peering across the gloomy living room at the desolate cityscape framed above the bookcase. As always, he made an effort not to look at the offending timepiece.

It’s 2:45, he told himself against his will.

And then he receives an expected telephone call from an anonymous female voice: “I hate you. I hope you rot in hell. Fuck you, you selfish little prick—fuck you to hell.” Goddard has so many women’s names in his little black book of past and future “conquests” that he has no idea who she might be. Goddard is a very recognizable man who is shown collecting enough bad karma to keep him awake for the rest of his shortened life.

“The Senator’s Perfect Wife” by S.T. Clemmons is another bone-chilling story that is hardly erotic at all, since the sex in it is not consensual and not satisfying for the central character. This story would fit with other tales set in a dystopian future in which convicted criminals are punished and controlled in ways that are currently not possible.

“Leslie Goosemoon Rides Again” by Giselle Renarde is one of a whole series by this Canadian author about characters with unconventional gender identities AND non-mainstream ethnic/cultural identities who don’t appear to be walking stereotypes or sex jokes. The title character in this story is thoroughly human and sexy without working at it. Other writers who strive to write erotica “outside the box” (but from a Politically Correct viewpoint) could learn from Renarde.

“Old Flames” by Keesha Marie is hot in every sense. Although fire is becoming a tired metaphor for sexual passion, the various types of fire in this story shed light on the various reasons why the woman in this atmospheric story is drawn to the man who comes through a rainstorm to hold her in the warmth from her fireplace, and why she is uncomfortable with their relationship.

This collection is definitely worth reading, and you can read it openly on the beach, the bus, or the plane. Keeping a poker face when you reach the surprise in each story might be harder to do.