Saturday, April 30, 2016

Quick Thoughts - The Puppies Are Not Exceptional (in any sense...)

At these moments I normally find myself drawn back to this poem that I wrote a rather long time ago now. It's perhaps a bit dramatic, but there it is.

I think the danger in all of what has surrounded the Hugos is to assume that it's gotten substantially better overall. That even if the Puppies get shut out of nominating process, even if they don't manage to fuck things up somehow, it will mean that the field as a whole is open and accepting and affirming. Which is not to say there aren't amazing, wonderful fans and writers and editors out there. Which is not to say there aren't amazing novels and stories and films and shows and graphic novels out there. Which is not to say there isn't hope. But it is to say that the Puppies are not part of some vocal minority of fans working to ruin everything for everyone else. They obviously make up enough of the fan population to succeed in fucking with the Hugos year after year now. They are here. They have always been here.

For me, it is easy to forget that sometimes. Maybe because I want so badly to believe it's not the case, that the Puppies are part of some outlier group that are simply refusing to die quietly. And maybe because sometimes I _can_ forget it. Sometimes I can squint my eyes and see all the stories that I love and that I myself can sell some fiction and have people even say nice things about those stories and I can pretend that's what the world is. But part of that arises from the fact that as a white cis-man my world isn't really all that bad and there aren't that many people trying to really take my voice, and I get praise and attention and affirmation as general background noise, as a sort of ether I can tap into at almost any time. And the other part of that is that I actively seek to avoid media and people that I'm pretty sure I will hate and that seeks to silence, erase, and oppress me (something that, again, is way easier for me to do and STILL I CANNOT COMPLETELY SUCCEED AT).

So no, the Puppies are not the problem as much as Trump is not what is wrong with American politics. They are symptoms of the problem—symptoms of widespread hatred and the idolatry of a sterilized and false past and present monoculture. "Make SFF Great Again" might as well be the rallying cry of the Puppies (if it's not already), but it's a story as speculative as the weirdest alt-history where Hitler won the American Civil War. SFF was never great. Sure, there were great writers, great stories, but there was never overwhelming equity or justice. There still is not. The call might as well be "Make SFF Great." But perhaps first the call should be "Make SFF Decent." That would be a nice first step. Unfortunately in a business where purchasing power is equated with "will be treated with human dignity," even that's not easy. The truth is that "fairness" is being used to describe "anyone can pay to play." But money is not fair. Who gets access to money and who does not and what people have to spend their money on to live and maintain their freedom is not fair. There is no justice in making people "vote with your wallets."

So how do we change things? How should we do that? I'm not sure. I'm going to get back to reviewing, and writing, and (yes, even though it's not fair) spending what money I can on stories and books that I want to read. What stories and books I love. And talking about stories and books, and trying to not be an asshole. Like always, the goal will be to reform what can be reformed and destroy what cannot be. And to try to carve out a space where people can be safe, and can tell the stories and read the stories they love. But also not to forget (and this goes pretty much only to the people who _can_ forget) that this is not some isolated incident. This is still where we're at in SFF.

Which, while I'm on the subject of stories I love, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Rosarium's campaign going on now. Seriously, $100 will get you print copies of 3 great-looking short story anthologies, 3 great-looking single-author short story collections, and 3 great-looking first issues of comic books (only $50 for ebook versions). Plus just so much good to check out. Tade Thompson's Making Wolf and Keef Cross' DayBlack and just lots of amazing work. Think about buying some stuff.

Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, April 29, 2016

Quick Sips - Tor dot com April 2016 Part 2

Woo, my constant passive aggressiveness must finally be paying off as the final story of Tor dot com's April was not the month's longest (*does little dance*). And okay, friendly jibes aside, the stories of the second half of the month...well, they move. Through darkness and through death and through change. These are stories about transformations. Some good and necessary and some...well, there are layers of consent and institutions of misogyny or oppression or both. And there is an attempt to tear them down or circumvent them or resist them. These stories are not happy, really, but they are hopeful. Reaching. And very good. To the reviews!

Art by Ashley Mackenzie

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Quick Sips - Fantasy Scroll #12

A new issue of Fantasy Scroll has dropped and this issue seems to me to be all about frustrated simplicity. Thinking something will be simple, will be easy, only to find that when you start pulling it apart there's all this…mess. All these angles that weren't considered and situations that weren't foreseen. Things go from bad to worse in some, from bad to better-but-not-great in others, from bad to still-rather-bad, and even from not-all-that-bad to oh-fuck-no!!!! These stories (and graphic story) around about having something in your grasp and then finding there's no ground beneath your feet, and either learning to fall well or trying to fly. Lots to look at, too, so I'm going to jump right in! 

Art by Jonathan Gragg

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 04/18/2016 & 04/25/2016

April is nearly over and before May rears it's head I wanted to look at the latest offerings from Strange Horizons, which includes a story, two poems, and a piece of nonfiction. As always, there's more to explore in terms of nonfiction that I recommend everyone check out, but time being what it is I'm just looking at the one piece this time. It's a nicely balanced bunch of content, a story that is equal parts funny and poignant, poems that complicate and hit and refuse to go down quietly, and a nonfiction work that does what I always appreciate--points me in the direction of some great books. So let's get to those reviews!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Quick Sips - Terraform April 2016

Well after sort of missing the majority of March's Terraform content because of a tagging issue, I've been super cautious to make sure I don't miss out on any April stories. And good thing, because they are an interesting bunch, a mix of dystopian visions, each with their own particular flavor. From social media obsessed to decidedly punky to sci fi slavery and beyond, there's a little something for everyone. Politics, extinction, and technology merge in these stories. To the reviews!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Quick Sips - Uncanny #9 (April Stuff)

Spring might be in the air but Uncanny Magazine is keeping things in April rather fucking dark. In the best of ways. These are stories that hit and hit hard. Some of them very hard, with characters that shine but situations that are a bit outside their control. Where tragedy seems like that rolling boulder in Indiana Jones and the characters are quite fast enough to...well, the stories and the poetry mix tragedy and happiness, love with loss. It's a challenging issue but also a very good one, with exciting worlds to explore and emotions to feel. So time to review!

Art by Katy Shuttleworth

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Quick Bonus - Private Altars

So Sundays are a weird thing. I really need to get a Quick Links together because it's been a while but I don't have the energy at the moment. And Smutty Sundays is totally going to be a thing, but I'm not through anything right now and so that will have to wait as well. Instead, I present a slightly modified poem that appeared in the university arts magazine where I went to school. I actually wrote lots of poetry during college (much more than I write more), but not often SFF poetry. This, however, I think counts. It's kind of funny, actually, how obvious a poem I find this now, but in college I was still not incredibly open with myself or others about anything so no real surprise that I came up with this kind of a poem. But yeah, sorry about being behind on everything. Hopefully you enjoy the poem. Thanks for reading!

Private Altars
by Charles Payseur

at dusk I secret the bricks away
from the edifices of the sun--
one by one,
breath quick and hushed--
and build up my altar,
my house of worship.
hands bleeding, back straining--
it grows like a mountain toward the stars,
like a thorn
poised beneath an unsuspecting finger.
and in the shadow of my work
I sing in a voice
suddenly unafraid,
willing to share with the night
what the sun does not condone--
and I dance, and rage
with feet that dread the day
and stomp the stars
into their beds.
at dawn I tear it down,
brick by brick,
and talk in quiet tones,
timid steps
under the sun's hot gaze,
exchanging quick glances
with everyone--
wondering if they can see
the night in my eyes,
looking for it in theirs.

(I actually also had a story in the same issue that this poem appeared which featured a man who had embezzled a bunch of money and then set fire to his building when the cops showed up for him having a conversation with a duck and it. is. RIDICULOUS! I kind of love it even as it makes me do all the cringes. I like this one part, though, where the duck is trying to convince the guy to fly away. Guy, incredulous, thinks it's impossible, and duck returns with this gem: "You just have to see that up isn't always up. Sometimes, if you look at it closely, up is down, and then all you have to do is fall." I am Team Duck on that one. Slap that on a tee shirt. Anyway, thanks again! More actual reviews tomorrow, I swear!)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Trickster69

People this is it. My Thor/Loki erotic SFF story is out in the Torquere Press anthology "A Fool for Love"! 

It is also available as an individual ebook! (With it's own sneak peak!)

Perhaps you're asking yourself how this came about. How are we living in a world where Thor/Loki erotica is a thing that actually sold to an actual press and where I actually got/am getting paid for it? First, and biggest disclaimer (and one I had to answer a few times during this), it's not fanfiction (not that I have anything against fanfiction. I love fanfiction. And if one looks at it like this is fanwork from the myths, then I could almost see it, but as that's public it doesn't quite count as fanfiction IMO). I like Marvel and all, but this story has absolutely nothing to do with those characters. This is my own take on the Norse myths through the lens of Loki wanting to pull a prank on Thor and the two men finding something a bit more interesting to do instead. Really what happened was I was thinking out pranks and pranksters and Loki was just the obvious choice. And the obvious choice of who to prank would be the almost-too-easy Thor.

I would be lying, though, if people's fascination with the pairing from the Marvel properties didn't in some ways inspire me to explore how I might view a relationship between the two. Because in my mind you have Thor who's very sort of living the Norse lifestyle. Big battles and big drinking and sort of being a big idiot sometimes. He loves to fight and fights for the glory of Odin. All on the up and up. And Loki…well, Loki likes to play pranks and is a bit anti-establishment in that he's from the other side of the Bifrost and hangs with some of the darker elements of the mythology and yet also hangs out with the Asgardians all the time. So he's there, sort of a troublemaker that no one can deal with because he can just change into a horse or something and he's clever. But to me he's also like a lot of jokers and kinda sorta looking for some attention, wanting people to see him.

So yeah, it's something that I play with a bit in the story, and part of why I loved writing it. Because it is ridiculous. There are bar fights and ice storms and shattering windows and (as the title hints) some mouth sex and all of it was just great. These guys are all over the top with their emotions, neither of them really hiding away. And both obviously admiring the other because I see the Norse as liking a good prank. Of course Thor would laugh at a prank, and even appreciate the ones that are done to him. So the whole antagonistic thing going on between Thor and Loki is also sort of courtship. Which, again, fun as hell to write. Look at the sample and you might be able to see how I was sort of having a lot of fun with the language, the dialogue, the everything.

I hope that the humor comes through in this story. I rarely know how my stories are going to be received and I know a lot of romance/erotica readers are not exactly into SFF getting into their not-expressly-SFF anthologies (a sin I am guilty of all the time). I wanted something big and loud and hopefully funny. And taking place in Wisconsin, because write what you know. Valhalla Falls is actually not real (gasp!), but is an awful lot like Eau Claire, where I live. Really, this story was written at a time when I needed to write something ridiculous and amazing. And I'm very glad that it found a home and that people will have a chance to either love or hate or be bored to tears by my rendition of two Norse gods fucking. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #197

Sometimes I just can't predict where Beneath Ceaseless Skies is going to go with its stories. There are issues that are steeped in blood and tears and darkness. That enjoy looking at the frayed, gray edges of morality and stare boldly into the abyss. And then there are issues like this one, which brings a breath of life and fun and joy into the air. That celebrate how entertaining SFF can be without being sad, without being tragic, without being hopeless. These are stories that are clever and funny, with characters that are plucky and who manage to win some rather unambiguous victories. Especially for people who have noticed the at-times gloom of tragic stories in SFF, this issue might offer a glimpse of some unashamed happiness. To the reviews! 

Art by Geoffrey Icard

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quick Sips - Tor dot com April 2016 Part 1

Okay well when I said last time that maybe Tor dot com was slowing down to normal levels of output (like one story a week), I wasn't aware just how wrong I was. The first week of April alone saw three stories release, so I'm splitting up the content again, looking at the first four stories released so far. Two of the stories are extensions of settings and series that have appeared elsewhere, which offer teases and glimpses into deep worlds while maintaining a light-hearted sense of adventure and fantasy. The remaining stories dive into darker waters, revealed different takes on our own world, one through a fantastical lens and another with an eye to the future. Both show people dealing with growing older, seeing the world with different eyes, and yearning for something undefined. It's a very powerful batch of stories, and I'll get to those reviews! 

Art by Richie Pope

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Quick Sips - Apex #83

The April issue of Apex Magazine is out and with it come a number of stories and poem that, by and large, orbit around religion. Old gods and religious guilt and growing up with religion and really giving a lot of angles on a very interesting element of life and SFF. The two fiction pieces are incredibly well paired, looking at family and religion and space and loss. They're quite different, one a sci fi almost-Western and the other a contemporary weird fantasy, but they work hand in hand to examine how siblings are effected by religion, how they relate to each other through a faith (or are damaged by it). There's just so much to read and enjoy that I need to shut up and get to those reviews!

Art by Sarah Zar

Monday, April 18, 2016

Quick Sips - Nightmare #43

This month's Nightmare Magazine certainly knows the value of slowly building tension in speculative horror, with two stories that don't rush right to the climax. Instead the stories climb meticulously, deviously, taking the reader to a pinnacle of horror before giving them a shove and turning out the lights. These are stories that know when to drop the curtains, with endings that hit and linger. They're methodical and tightly built and quite good and so I'm going to get to reviewing!

Art by Yana Moskaluk

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Quick Thoughts - "Ey Who Kissed the Sun"

So if you didn't know, I have a new SFF poem out now at Eye to the Telescope: "Ey Who Kissed the Sun."

This is only my second SFF poetry publication (the first appearing at Strange Horizons back in December). Apparently, like with short fiction, what I do well is mixing a bit of smut into things. Which I am completely okay with. I mean, I have SFF poems that have nothing to do with sex or queerness and maybe someday I will sell those too. For now I will admit I really like writing about sex and about longing and here's a poem that explores both.

The story for this poem is actually kinda funny. It was originally a different poem entirely, and then when I saw the call for this issue of Eye to the Telescope I decided to expand that other poem into a longer piece. The previous poem became the first of five parts of the narrator's journey through a world that had lost the sun and the various encounters they have along the say. "Ey Who Kissed the Sun" is technically just the third part of that longer story. Which is cool although the decision to break up the poem was a difficult one because I don't really know what to do with parts 1-2 and 4-5 now (parts 1-4 were the narrator meeting different people and part 5 was sort of a coda). I suppose I could write up a completely new part three and probably tweak part 5 and see if I can't still sell the whole thing. Or I could wait until I get rights back for this poem and try to sell it as a reprint? Poems are weird.

But the poem. As I said, there's some story missing in this part. The sun has disappeared and the narrator has been travelling around. It's a poem about borders in some ways, and leaving and being left. The narrator is left in part 1, leaves someone in part 2, and here in part 3 there's more of a mutual departure because the narrator realizes they can't be part of a very vital part of the titular character's life. Part 4 begins to bring the narrator to a more stable place before part 5 offers up some vision of a happily ever after. The work as a whole is titled "Those I Found in the Dark." And for me it was a way to explore bisexual desires and relationships. I don't gender the narrator but I do the characters in each section (female, male, genderqueer, male) and part of what I didn't want to do was to class each of those relationships only by pairing. If the narrator is male, for instance, I didn't want there to be any "oh, he goes from straight sex to gay sex to queer sex to no sex (the part 4 relationship is not sexual)" because really regardless of partner this is all expression of bisexuality.

But I am rather super excited that even this section of the poem is out, and with such a great ToC. I've reviewed poems by many of the writers who I appear with and it gives me a swell of pride to appear in such company. And maybe it will help me be more confident about sending out poetry. I'm a slow and infrequent poetry writer, but it was what first got me into writing (really terrible middle school poetry ftw!). So yeah, thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Monthly Round is UP!!!

The Monthly Round, where I pair my favorite stories of the month with adult beverages, is up now at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together.

The stories for March are:

Tasting Flight:

"A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers" by Alyssa Wong (
"Braveheart's Homecoming" by Dilman Dila (Mithila Review)
"Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station" by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed)
"Chimera" by Gu Shi, translated by S. Qiouyi Lu and Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)
"Polyglossia" by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus)
"The Portal" by Debbie Urbanski (The Sun Magazine)


"The Marriage Plot" by Tendai Huchu (Omenana)
"All Souls Proceed" by K.J. Kabza (Flash Fiction Online)
"Fylgia in the City" by Ian Rose (Plasma Frequency)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 03/28/2016, 04/04/2016, & 04/11/2016

Today I'm catching up a bit with Strange Horizons, with three weeks of excellent fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. The fiction seems to be rather...familial in theme, exploring the relationships between mothers and children, especially, and challenging parental expectations and childhood autonomy. It's some complex reading, to be sure, paired with poetry that looks to the stars as well as inward, that speaks of creation and gives a few meta comments on poetry and art. Plus a piece of nonfiction that's very interesting, especially in light of the fiction that's featured here. But before I ruin everything, to the reviews!

Art by Galen Dara

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Quick Sips - Mithila Review #2

The second issue of Mithila Review is out and it's even bigger than the first, with three stories and eight poems and a slew of nonfiction content (that I'm not reviewing here but recommend you check out). Like with the first issue much of these pieces are reprints but as I hadn't read any of them I decided to once again review all the fiction and poetry regardless. At some point I might drop down to just the original content but for now I'm quite enjoying the publication, it's position on the border of things, exploring visions of life at the border. It's an impressive collection of creative work, and I'm going to get to those reviews!

Art by Britney Schmidt And Dead Pixel Fx, University Of Texas At Austin

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus April 2016

This month's GigaNotoSaurus features some genuinely strange visuals and a great style, and fits in with the spring, with the idea of rebirth and renewal. It's long but not too long, tightly plotted with enough exposition to give a sense of place and back story but not slave to that, able to weave an interesting and rather mysterious story where the veil is never fully lifted. And really, it's a good read that I'm going to review now!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #115

Well with just four original short stories one could almost think this was a light month for Clarkesworld, but with three of them tipping the scales at over ten thousand words, you'd be a bit premature. These are stories that have some legs and that take their time. Most of them are focused on journeys and distance. Most of them are also focused on people learning to empathize with people on the surface very different from themselves. And finding there a commonality. A bond. The stories show sweeping views of strange lands and sights. Virtual realities and alien worlds and the heart of America and the depths of space. There's a lot to see and as long as you don't mind taking a bit of time to get there, these stories will not disappoint. To the reviews! 

Art by Rudy Faber

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Out and Away

Hi everyone! Just a little bit different plan today as I am not in my home state and don't have a lot of time. And no big new news or anything like that, so life's just been doing reviews like a small SFF tornado so that most of the trip could be obligation-free. Mission mostly successful for that. Anyway, as I'm away in Florida trying not to burn my pale, Wisconsin skin, I thought today could just be about getting away.

I'm a weird kind of vacationer. This trip to Florida is mostly about family, which is nice in ways. But I'm an introvert and it's difficult to interact with people and that goes almost double for family members. Not that it's bad, but that's stressful. I'm very glad that there's been some time to just wander around and geocache and watch the sunrise. Not that there hasn't been "work" related stuff to do, as there are ever and always edits and proofs and that sort of thing when writing, but so far the warmer weather (it snowed on the 1st, 2nd, and 5th of April in Wisconsin where I live) and the sun and the not having to do so much has been nice.

Really, the only thing I'd want to add is a few stories accepted to make this all the sweeter :p

But partner and I have been out to some old sugar mill ruins and seem Dummit's tomb and seen a sunrise over the Atlantic. We're being proper tourists and stopped at a used books store (and now have to ship books back to WI). And okay, said bookstore was doing a 10 hardcovers for $5. No special pricing. We got a signed 1st edition Andre Norton and 1st editions of an L. Sprague de Camp, a Stephen R. Donaldson collection, and The Cat Who Saw Stars. Also I got a hardcover copy of The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay of the printing that I have books 1 and 3 of that trilogy so my bookshelf will look a bit nicer. Plus 2 new Tiptree books! Ahem, yes though, vacations are all about books, right?

And I finished up Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, which was an interesting read. Still hoping to get to the Beyond Anthology and Show Yourself to Me (which might just be featured on a new Smutty Sundays edition of Regular Sips that I want to start doing at some point. Not all Sundays, but some occasional smut reviews). And maybe I'll even get some writing done at some point. Or at least get some ideas for when we get home. We shall see. Anyway, sorry for the vague sort of fluffy thoughts this week. But I'm on vacation, so deal. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, April 8, 2016

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #71

It's the first full month of spring and at Lightspeed Magazine it means a mix of superheroes and dragons, half-alien births and knobby giraffes. The issue is filled with new beginnings and happy endings, or at least the hope of happy endings. The stories have a fair amount of darkness but also a rising brightness, a sort of defiant laughter against the lingering feelings of winter. The results are a bit of a mixed bag for me personally, but there's still a lot here to like and certainly a lot of ambition in tackling some big issues and ideas. So get ready for some reviews! 

Art by Sam Schechter

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Quick Sips - Shimmer #30 (April Stuff)

It's stories like those that appear in this issue of Shimmer Magazine that remind me why I love the publication. There's such a depth and a darkness, a weight to these tales, that make them linger like bruises. They impact. From the science fictional vision of the first story to the fairy tale stylings of the second, these stories are linked by an atmosphere of oppression and magic, exhaustion and hope. The characters are dealing with situations beyond their control, really, bound by circumstance, and yet both refuse to give up, to give in. Both find ways of fighting on and, in some ways, fighting back. Finding hope and pulling it screaming with them through the world. The stories are haunting and powerful and I should just get to those reviews. 

Art by Sandro Castelli

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online April 2016

The editorial in this month's Flash Fiction Online says that the issue is kind of about celebrations. Holidays. But I think that language might be a stronger element binding the stories together. And, more specifically, language that's not language. A language of taste and a language of song and a language of touch. Ways of communicating that not only step outside the bounds of traditional discourse but need to in order to be expressed, because they point at a central failing of traditional language, that for all that it brings people together it also is a tool of separation, and the stories all seek a more universal form of communication. A way to share meaning that goes beyond what might be found in a dictionary. It's a great common thread and one that will come up in my reviews. So let's get to it! 

Art by Dario Bijelac

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #196

Beneath Ceaseless Skies does not always make life easy for a reviewer. Releasing an issue on the last day of the month is sort of a low blow, especially in a month that has seen two larger-than-normal releases. As always, though, the quality of the stories means that I can't exactly be upset. Really, more great stories to read? I guess I'm okay with that. Seriously, the stories of this issue are all about losing power and living in the aftermath. Balancing the crushing loss with hope for the future. Tending to your own mental health with care and with compassion and finding that you still have something to give, still have love and still have dreams. The stories are about life, and getting old, and are sweet and very good. To the reviews!
Art by Geoffrey Icard

Monday, April 4, 2016

Quick Sips - Omenana #6

A new issue of Omenana is officially up! It's been a little while since the last issue launched in October 2015 and this issue marks a return to the more regular format, with a mix of flash fiction and longer works and even a piece of nonfiction to chew on. The stories are vivid, expertly crafted, and carry with them a splash of humor even in some very dark circumstances. And amid the intolerance and the brutality that is sometimes present in the stories is a hope, a resistance, and a rebellion. A push to do better and to be better and to create a future worth living in. And I'm going to get to reviewing this fine issue!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Sex, Sexuality, and Erotic SFF

This isn't the first time my weekend thoughts have veered over toward erotica. I am unashamedly biased in favor of it because I'm drawn to it as a reader and a writer. So in way of disclaimer I will say that I am not impartial when it comes to talking on the subject. But then, any fan of speculative fiction is hardly unbiased when it comes to the genre, to the landscape. Everyone has different inroads to speculative fiction and yes, one of mine was erotic fanfiction (no shame!!!) which was speculative in nature. But anyone who grew up reading SFF is biased about it. And good, yes, our bias is our love and our love hopefully means we won't be assholes to each other. Broader than that, though, I also want to talk about sex in SFF and sexuality in SFF. Because there's been an awful lot flying around the internet recently about tragic queer love stories and depictions of queer love in SFF (mainstream and otherwise). And I want to speak to that.

Perhaps because my first experience with erotic SFF was with speculative fanfiction, much of my first experiences with erotic SFF were also with queer SFF. Because, let's be honest, that's where a lot of queer content gets pushed. I've written about that as well, and I don't think it's a surprise that fanfiction is such a large thing that's been around basically as long as there's been an internet. Because the barrier for entry is so low. But with a low barrier for entry (just having a computer with internet access), a number of things happen. Respectability comes in, and image, and power and rank and privilege. Low barrier is equated with low class, with low quality. And yes, with something that is largely uncurated the value and quality of work can vary greatly. It's the same argument that's used to justify when the same publications in SFF seem to rack up nominations year after year. This has seen some radical changes in the recent-ish future, but still, historically the stories winning awards each year appeared in publications that you had to buy. Only recently has there been a populist push toward stories that are provided to the internet free of charge, and there has been such massive pushback against that (and to the "loss of prestige of awards and shit") that we have something of a fractured fandom.

And of course the blade of contempt that is used to cut down publications not operating enough as profit-making machines is also used to cut down things like speculative erotica, which are pretty focused on turning a profit. Most SFF erotica, for example, is not given away for free. But instead of being viewed in a similar light as SFF anthologies, they're often not looked at at all. And I understand that part of the reason is that "regular SFF" readership and "erotic SFF" readership are rather separate. But fuck you'd think that "regular SFF" would see that hey, maybe there's a chance to expand the readership. Because erotic stories are rather popular. There's a market for them and a want for them and that does go for speculative erotic stories as well. Maybe actually putting erotic SFF and non-erotic SFF together would actually help rise all boats, instead of insisting that non-erotic SFF is just fine the way it is thank you and then secretly hoping that erotic SFF disappears so you won't have to think about it.

But non-erotic SFF has some serious issues when it comes to sex. And especially queer sex. It seems like where erotic content is not expressly discouraged in submission guidelines (normally along with comments about not wanting stories about rape or brutality against children), erotic content is treated like it's treated on television. Which is to say that it had better be pretty messed up in order to be considered "artistic." Like having positive depictions of sex (and queer sex in particular) will lead the kids these days to all ditch school to do unspeakable things with each other. Ignore the fact that violence is still incredibly common. Ignore the fact that pushing messed up depictions of sex at kids but not just, you know, some happy feeling good, as artistic just gives them a really messed up perspective on sex and sexuality. Ignore that ignoring sex (and queer sex in particular) will just lead people trying to explore their sexuality to take chances they shouldn't have to.

I understand that some people aren't comfortable with sex. I understand that many people don't want to have sex. It's not a universal. But that doesn't mean it's not rather important to a great many people. And sex is already in SFF. It's just…well, it's not often depicted in a way that…makes it seem like it can be part of a healthy lifestyle. And that should change. That should be better. I want, desperately want, more erotic content in SFF stories, and not just really messed up erotic content. You can have erotic content that is positive and still complex. There are tons of examples of amazing erotic SFF stories at Circlet Press and many other publishers, and I really, really want to see more positive depictions of erotic content make the leap over into mainstream SFF. Young readers should see that. Older readers should see that. Everyone should see that. It goes double for queer erotic content. Not that I don't also love messed up queer erotic SFF stories as well, but those shouldn't be the only ones present in more mainstream SFF. It's being written. And I want to read it. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

Friday, April 1, 2016

Quick Sips - Harlot Media March 2016

I said recently that I wanted to review more erotica, so when I saw this story I immediately thought it was about time to put my money where my mouth is. Because it's a stand-alone story published for free at an online venue, the time commitment is rather low and the quality of the writing and the presentation (lots of non-erotic artwork and a slick website design) is quite high. Indeed, Harlot is filled with a lot of great nonfiction work, and if this first venture into fiction is anything to go by, I'll gladly be tuning back in to see what they serve up. There's nothing specifically spec about the site, or its goals, but the story itself is decidedly near-future SF with a great aesthetic and I should probably just get to my review. Here we go! 

Art by Ben Passmore