Friday, October 31, 2014


Spencer Dryden
Once again I was stuck on first sight. Disbelief. It's not a word I use regularly. I had to play around with it for a while before remembering suspension of disbelief. Oh yeah, that's a really important thing. They (that great mass of experts) say that suspension of disbelief is essential in writing science fiction. I think it is present in all fiction to some degree, and essential for daily living.
They (there they are again), they say that we are defined by our beliefs. Fanatics of all stripes like to recite beliefs boldly, loudly. Pledging allegiance is a good thing, most of the time, but I didn't know what 'pledge' or 'allegiance' was when I first learned to recite the bit.
For any of you who are old enough to remember, back in the fifties, when nuclear war seem inevitable, there was a movement to put permanent ID bracelets on all children. I can still see the bracelet.  The front had identifying information. The Pledge of Allegiance was on the back. I'm doing this from memory and not research, but as I recall, the Catholic Church had a fit, claiming it was the the feared mark of the beast from the Revelations (13:16). (No doubt there were other groups with similar reservations.) Secondly, a Roman Catholic in good standing could not embrace any organization that claimed affiliation with the almighty. We could not, for instance, belong to the YMCA or the Masons, because both secular organizations had ties to the deity. They (once again, that disembodied group) capitulated and made a special bracelet for Catholic kids that omitted the Pledge of Allegiance. The bracelets were also made removable, which defeated the whole purpose. Can you believe it? A little disbelief would have been in order.
Disbeliefs put order in our lives just like beliefs. I don't believe in zombies or vampires. I do believe in UFO's, alien encounters, and time travel.(As well as the Oxford comma, which I just demonstrated in the last sentence.) I don't believe in reincarnation, but I do believe there is a spiritual realm beyond, or just out of reach of this one. I do believe I have a muse. I try earnestly to disbelieve in critics-even when they are right. I embrace conspiracy theories for the sheer thrill of it. Unfortunately I don't believe the Masons rule the world, even though I want to. They let my brother in. He's a shrine clown who rides around on a go-cart, invading children's peaceful dreams. Maybe in that one sense Masons do rule the world, the world of our childhood fears. Who really likes clowns anyway-besides other clowns? (Sorry if offended any of you clowns, but stop scaring people will ya.)
I believe in the power of marketing. I only wish I was better at it. Talk about suspension of disbelief; the idea that long legged, narrow hipped, large busted women will love me for the beer I drink is a billion dollar delusion fostered by the NFL. Roger Goodell (NFL Comissioner) does rule the world, attended by a host of clowns. It's really frightening. I wish that enjoying football could be detached from the tawdry elements of the game behind the game. But they (damn, will "they" ever go away?) they say that by writing pornography we are feeding the chain of sexual enslavement. Our disbeliefs help us make sense of our paradoxical choices. Here in Minnesota we gave a billion dollars of public funds to a couple of clowns who own our football team so they could build a new stadium where we can pay ten dollars for a beer. The pitch was economic development. Mercy. I'm only asking for a buck for one of my books. I wish I could get that kind of suspension of disbelief going for my stuff.
It was big trouble for the Church on the day it was announced that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around. I'm quite certain it didn't happen in a day. I think at the 700 Club they still believe it. They are looking for Noah's Ark and trying to explain away dinosaurs. They are also one of the voices that condemns our craft.
It's going to be a big day of rethinking when we finally admit that we have been visited by aliens and worse, that the seeds of life didn't spontaneously arise here, they blew in with cosmic dust. Carl Sagan used to say we were made from 'star stuff' but that means organic as well as inorganic. I can't recall which Kurt Vonnegut story gave the perfect explanation, that an alien craft dumped their holding tanks here and life arose from that primordial compost. They don't want us to believe it. Roger Goodell will have the NFL rights in an instant, if he doesn't already. Send in the clowns. Suppose the aliens are really here for the beer and big breasted, long legged women? They could do worse.
When auditioning for a spot on an inventors TV show I signed a contract that gave the producers rights to the universe, for eternity, to languages and media not yet in existence. Maybe they'll want my grill on the planet Mongo. Or worse yet, some alien group is going to sue me for patent violation. Maybe my grill is a meme like the Clovis point ,racing though the space time continuum and it just landed in my head.   If it ever gets written, my third installment of the Gueschtunkina Ray Gun series uses this concept to explain how the weapon gets across space and time. I'm still working on the suspension of disbelief for that notion. But why not? Really, when you keep breaking it down, everything is just vibrations. Why couldn't vibrations migrate across all kinds of barriers we only think exist but in fact don't. Check out the Multiverse Theory sometime.
Well, I see its time for Thursday Night Football. Nice visiting with you all, but there are some large breasted women and cold bottles of Coors that need my attention.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Day I Went Into Shock Because of Something Someone Said to me on the Internet

by Giselle Renarde

I've wanted to write this post for months, but I could never work up the courage.

Of all the messed up shit that's happened in my life, nothing has impacted me quite this deeply. In fact, despite having been majorly depressed in my early twenties, this June's event marked the first time in my life when I ever considered killing myself. (Don't worry! I'm not going to do it! I know you guys worry about me! Hence the exclamation marks!)

It all started when I had a guest blog to write for All Romance Ebooks' AReCafe. It was Pride month and I'd always wanted to do up a little post about homophobic and transphobic language people use without seeming to realize how offensive those words are. What particularly sparked this idea was the casual use of the word "tr*nny" in popular culture. There have been times when fellow authors have used this word around me, and when I've explained to them that it's an extremely derogatory term they've been like, "Oh, no, it can't be because I hear it all the time."

So I figured I'd write a post called "The Top Three Word You Might Be Saying (And Definitely Shouldn't Be)."  Since it was Pride Month, I focused on derogatory words that get thrown at LGBTQ people even by those who think of themselves as allies. Since those top three words were all gender identity-related, I decided to do an in-conversation type post with my girlfriend. I didn't want be all like "look at me, speaking on behalf of trans people" when I had this great opportunity to bring a trans woman's voice to the masses (at All Romance Ebooks).

I don't know how much of this I can emotionally handle delving back into, but while I got a lot of tweets from LGBTQ people and allies saying "Thank you for this post," I also got one that wasn't so positive. The person (who was/is a stranger to me) took issue with my girlfriend's statement that throwing the T word at a trans person is like calling a black person the N word. The twitter person told me this this statement was offensive. I cut and pasted the first two tweets this person sent me in the comments of my original ARe Cafe post because I wanted to give voice to their opinions.

At this point, I want to interrupt my story to talk about anti-racism anti-oppression training. Because, through my work in domestic violence, I've been to a lot of it. And I LOVE ARAO workshops. Truly. They are extremely challenging, but also very enlightening and you always leave a more open person. You're never done with this kind of training.

If you're not familiar with working within an anti-racism anti-oppression framework, the crux of it is acknowledging that certain peoples have inherent privilege because of various aspects of their identity. On the other hand, there are aspects of identity attached to oppression. And of course we all have so many different aspects of identity. Some are fixed. Some are in flux.

A lot of people like to think they're not racist, they're not sexist, they're not homophobic, they're not transphobic, they don't look down on poor people, they don't bash followers of any given religion. And maybe they're not those things in loud and noticeable ways, but we ALL have our moments of unfairness. We're all oppressors and we're all oppressed in one way or another. I know I'm an open-minded person, but does that mean I never have some random thought that's based on stereotyping? Nope. When we have those thoughts it's very important to have an open dialogue, even if it's just within ourselves, about where that thought came from.

I repeat: this is hard work. It's NOT comfortable.

I'm fortunate in that I was raised in a family where nobody said things that were racist or homophobic. My grandmother credits her openness to the fact that her line of the family has been biracial since the 1920s. Her family saw a lot of discrimination growing up, and she never understood why (for instance) she, as a white person, could go to the beach but her black brother couldn't. (YUP, there was segregation in Canada. We like to pretend that never happened here, but YUP it did. That's something I never learned in school.)

So, getting back to the event that made me suicidal, when a stranger on Twitter felt something I had published was racially insensitive, I took it to heart big-time. I would never even think to shut down a suggestion like that or reject it outright. I would never think "black people are my family, so I couldn't possibly say something offensive." That's just silly. My reaction is always to do an internal check on the issue.

Then I made the mistake of wanting to have a conversation with my detractor.

That was a mistake. Big mistake. Huge.

First off, Twitter isn't the best place to have a conversation with anyone, let alone someone you don't know who is already upset with you. The last thing I was looking for was an argument. I really wanted to hear this person's opinion, but they seemed to take everything I said as an attack.

I no longer remember which tweet sent me into shock, but my god... I remember sitting on my couch, looking at my laptop, and suddenly my hands started shaking. Then my arms started shaking. Then my whole body started shaking. I was in such disbelief that this person could think so ill of me and my intentions that my body started shutting down.  My ears started buzzing. My vision blurred. Aside from the full-body shaking, I couldn't move for hours. I lost my vision and didn't regain it until the next morning.

The only other time anything close to this has happened was a few summers ago when I sliced my finger open. The cut was so deep I blacked out and fainted in my kitchen. But THAT I recovered from. This, I haven't. And I probably never will. I think about it every day. I think about this person on the internet who thinks I'm a horrible racist horrible horrible person and then I start wondering if I am all those horrible horrible things.

In the week that followed that event, I understood why people killed themselves.  I've never done a drug in my life, but I understood that as well.  I would have done anything not to have to feel the way I felt. I couldn't talk to anyone about it because it would make them wonder about me. After all, people only accuse you of being racist if you ARE racist, right?

This has been a long post, but it's been a long time coming.  Since June, I've pretty much stopped blogging except here at The Grip because I'm so afraid of my words being taken the wrong way. I've retreated into myself, where I'm constantly asking, "Were they right about me?" And if I've offended someone, does right and wrong even matter? To me, in my heart, all that matters is that I hurt somebody. I can't get over that.

Obviously I haven't come to terms with this. I'm still in disbelief and I haven't yet found a way out.

That's all I have to say, I guess. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Sugar in my Bowl": A Story of disbelief

When she opened her eyes in the dark, the room was silent enough.  But if her eyes were open it meant surely the attic people were back again.

She lay in the dark, on her back.  Ronnie the cat lay with his heavy weight across her thighs.  He woke her sometimes with his neediness but after years of marriage, now widowhood, she needed the presence of a warm body in her bed to sleep well. 

They could not be ghosts, the sounds that came from the attic. How could the cozy two story townhouse built in 2009 be haunted when no one had had the opportunity to die here?  Yet?  Bert had died wrapped around a guard rail on Interstate 20.  So it had to be something less exotic.  Foundations settling.  Mild earthquakes.  Maybe frakking.  A sink hole about to swallow the house.

A groan of wood overhead.  The silhouette of Ronnie’s peaked ears and head lifted to the sound, alert.  A whisper off the far edge of hearing. 

She didn't believe that life went on after death.  It smelled of human wishfulness and she suspected wishfulness.  Like the old expression, she believed in the sound of the wind in the grass blowing over her grave, no more.

But Ronnie was hearing something.  The wood in the dark overhead creaked under ethereal weight. 

What a stupid place to be a ghost.  Why haunt a place as lonely and dreary as an attic?  Why not a brothel, a Honeymoon Suite, or a night club, someplace where things were happening?

But now she was awake.  Sleep was gone.  Gone always means gone.

She shifted her knees.  Ronnie jumped down with a thump as his padded paws reached the floor.  She listened to the dark, felt the absence of Ronnie in the room without knowing how she knew or how the dark could whisper in voices out of hearing.

If she asked them of Bert and they whispered and she did hear, then what?  Would she have to believe then? 

I just want to sleep.  A dead person wants to be dead.  A sleeping person wants to sleep.  She turned over on her side to take the ache off her lower back, and her breasts spread warmly over her arms as she looked into the edge of the pillow. 

If this had been Saturday morning, only a month ago, even now Bert would be shifting to his side with her, throwing an unwashed arm around her belly, fingertips wandering up to her breasts to cop a feel, snugging his groin up tight to her so she could feel his morning boner knocking solicitously at her rump, offered without preliminary kisses. Morning sex was always charity sex, something to get out of the way like making the coffee.  When she wanted something she wanted it all.  Proper.

Would she ever want it again?  Wasn't it better to let the whole business weaken and subside; let age and hormones fade all that hot and bother away?

She looked at the clock.  Four thirty seven.  Any other day it would be the abyss of an hour to cross before getting up for work anyway, but this was still Saturday and nowhere to go.

Either way, she wasn't sleeping.

Wood creaked above.  Whispers, over there.  But not there.  Shapes of sounds that seemed like they wanted to manage to become words and could not.  At the edge of knowing so that you strained harder to know and could not.

Stupid way to spend eternity.  No wonder ghosts make themselves annoying.  They're probably bored as hell is all.

Ronnie was at the door, yowling to be fed.

For a moment she thought of staying where she was and masturbating.  Maybe with release she would sleep.

But Ronnie was yowling to be fed.

It bothered her that she would rather feed Ronnie than masturbate.  That was a bad sign.  She had read a book on Taoist yoga advocating masturbation as a meditation practice to keep the Yin female energy force alive and active as a secret of immortality in women.  A virtuous practice to take up like eating whole foods and jogging.  Maybe people died and became ghosts because of insufficient masturbation.

She threw aside the blanket and swung her legs over.  Ronnie turned and padded down the hall.  Barefoot she followed him down the stairs to the kitchen.  She flipped on the light and noticed his tail was fluffed out thick.  Something had upset him.  The old cat turned in the light, ignoring his dish and looking around furtively. 

Entering a kitchen in the early morning was like stepping into the memories and karmic debris of the day before.  The dishes in the sink.  The empty wine bottle in the trash.  Food dried out on a plate. 

There used to be a flurry of cockroaches also.  When Bert had been killed, she took to slaughtering roaches with a murderous rage.  Poisoned, swatted and sprayed them by the bushel basket.  A Buddhist friend told her to forgive the roaches.  Stop killing them.  Let them go.  She forgave them and stopped killing them.  The roaches went away by themselves.  Which made no sense.

She shook some cat chow from a bag into his dish.  Ronnie stopped scanning the room and went over to eat, his tail still fat and tense.

Whispers.  She feared.  Her mother had suffered from schizophrenia.  She dreaded the signs of madness would appear like blood smeared on a door step.

She heated water on the stove and spooned coffee into a French press and sat at the table waiting.

And did the wood boards of the kitchen floor creak just then?  Just now?

Yes, Ronnie looked like he thought so.

The floor.

And a thickness in the air as though she could float and swim in it.

The kettle whistled.  She went to the stove and filled the French press with water.  She brought it to the table with a cup.  She went to the fridge and brought out the plastic bottle of cream. 

Cream.  She didn't use cream.  She always drank it black.  She pushed down the plunger of the French press.  Sugar.  A bowl of sugar.  Like the old song.  I need a man to put some sugar in my bowl.

She felt it between her legs.  Maybe she would go back to bed after all, entertain herself a while and fall asleep. 

I want to find the goddess who invented sex and ask her what she’s working on now, she thought.

Sugar in my bowl.

And was the air around her heavy and full?  And were her breasts heavy and full?

Sugar in my bowl.

And was the other chair which had been tucked into the table, now pulled out?

Pour it, whispered the cool and heavy air.


I want to watch you pour it.  Slow. 

Her nightgown was open.  Her left nipple, ripened by the cool night air was escaping.  She drew the nightgown closed, felt the air shiver and poured some coffee into the cup.

And why be modest?  And for whom?  She unfastened the nightgown, lifted it open and tucked it open under her arms letting her nipples feel the air and jut. 

She crossed her legs, squeezed her upper thighs a moment and waited, feeling the tingle she had made down there.  The kitchen was silent but for the tick-tock of the kit-kat clock on the wall.

Feel my cream pour down deep in you.

She took the bottle with its nevo-eliptical spout and popped it open.
Bert had a thick penis.  Stubby, thick and ridiculous like a cigar butt.  When wanted, it expanded and thickened miraculously. She loved to watch it happen.  She had only been with three men in her life, seen only two penises up close, and the expansion of them was fascinating.  Something so small could swell to so much, so stiff so fast, from a cigar stub to something long enough to knock at the back of her throat, or give a good singing cunt stroke like the deep draw of a bow over a cello.  The act of this swell was in itself a demand for action.  Such a miracle should not be wasted.  Bert’s penis was uncircumcised.  On a good night he would put tiny beads under the foreskin before diving in, to give his thick cunt strokes an extra bang, something he had read men in Thailand did.  If he stroked shallow she could feel it hitting on her G spot.  It felt enormous on a good night even though the beads sometimes worked their way out.

Bert you are dead.

You are dead and done gone, and gone is gone and gone stays gone.  Dead as Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ and deader than God.

So why don’t you leave me the fuck alone?

The bottle was in her hand, hovering over the cup.  And didn’t the spout hole look like the pee hole of Bert’s very thick, very excited dick when it was held close to her face?

She was holding it in both hands, how had it gotten there?  Holding it from the bottom with the left hand the way she had held the bottom of his dick, and held near the top with her right hand the way she would stroke him there on a good night.  A woman’s conjuring act, the raising of the serpent, is that why witches were always depicted as women, riding their dear rigid broomsticks of wood?  Did men so fear women for the powerful spell they cast which men so longed to go under?

I want to watch you pour it.  Pour it for me.  Don’t hurry.

Thick, white clots of cream pulsed from the little hole into her cup, landing with hot splashes that reached the nipple of her left breast.

She set the bottle down, looking long and long at the drips of white that dropped from the rim of the little hole, hung and trailed down the side of the bottle.

Dead is dead.  Surely.

She shifted her ass, barely thinking of it, opening her legs just so, resting the weight of her body deliciously on her pudendum centered on the pointed corner of her chair. 

Without using a spoon, she lifted the sugar bowl and shook a heaped mound into her cup where floated like an iceberg, slowly melting at the edges. 

Bert didn’t watch me fuck near the end.  When we were young in marriage he used to lift up on his hands when he was on top so he could look down and watch himself slick sliding in and out of me down there.  It made him moan.  Then he stopped doing that.  I liked it when he did that. I felt like his private porn star.

The sugar vanished and foamed.

She lifted the cup, up to her lips, the bittersweet steam filling her nose.  Brought the rim to her lips, let it sting her as she parted her teeth.

In the beginning she had lifted his engorged thickness to her lips, making him wait, held it to her lips, making him feel the waiting, his stiffened heavy prick trembling in her hands like a warm baby bird.  That left hand stroking his vulnerable balls.  Then letting in the heat to the tip of her tongue, holding it there, brushing the salty rim of it with her teeth. This made him flinch back endearingly, almost apologetically as though he felt suddenly his sinking under the power of her spell over him, the spell of women.  And how she loved to startle and bewitch him, what power there was in her generosity of strokes, sucking hard the glans, tormenting the sensitive underside with the flat of her tongue.  At first he seemed to struggle to resist his own joy, then surrender under it, melting and foaming, and finally the touch of his hand on the back of her neck as he began to move with her.

Folding her lips over the rim of the cup.  The coffee coming in hot but not scalding the roof of her mouth.

He came to expect it, that act, even after the thrill of perversity was gone. The enemy of a woman’s magic was routine. She came to resent his expectation of her performance now that the spell was no longer possible or required. 

The coffee’s bitter zing suffused her body.  A sigh that was only a shade above a moan as she pressed herself into the corner of the chair below and rocked herself gently left and right.

Ronnie was staring in her direction but not at her.  His tail was fluffed and angry.

Coffee in her mouth, washing the back of her tongue, slap stinging the back of her throat as she swallowed to keep up with it.

Too fast.  You’re doing it too fast.

The tide rising below in urgency. To a swelling wave.  Not yet, not yet.

Sweet, sweet, sweet swell rising.  Swallowing it down, swallowing fire. 

The wave below possessing her, squeezing her eyes shut and a shuddering sigh.

The cup was empty but for a soggy hill of sugar in the bottom.  She let it drop and watched the pieces fly as it exploded on the floor.  Ronnie ran from the room. 

Sweaty and raw, she stood up shaking and braced her hands on the table, her breasts swinging down in space.  The corner of the seat glistened wet.

The whispers began again, painting the air only this time closer and clear.  Her name.

To bed.  To bed.

Dead is dead.

To bed.  To bed.

Dead is dead.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Suspension Thereof

By Lisabet Sarai

Our topic for the next two weeks is “Disbelief”. As the contributor who always posts first, I usually attack the most obvious interpretation of a new theme, leaving more creative or surprising interpretations for those who come after me. So be it. Today I plan to talk about the tension between realism and fantasy in erotica, or between belief and disbelief, if you will.

A significant proportion of people who read erotica do so, I think, in order to get away from the real world. They approach our stories wanting to leave the possibly frustrating aspects of their own sex lives behind -- to vicariously experience the forbidden, the outrageous, the exquisitely pleasurable situations and actions we dream up for them. At some level our readers understand that we’re ramping up the heat, exaggerating the sensations, ignoring the risks while focusing on the rewards, but they push that understanding to the back of their minds while they’re consuming our lust-full tales. Of course they know that many men aren’t ready for another go ten minutes after they’ve come. At some level, they’re aware of the implausibility of sex on a ferris wheel, sex under the table in a crowded bar, sex while sky diving, and all the other naughty scenarios we create. Their personal history might remind them just how uncomfortable it can be to fuck in the back seat of a car or on a dank, sandy beach.

They deliberately put aside that knowledge, though, because they want to believe what we offer them. They’re eager to descend into the maelstrom of desire and be battered by a delicious assault to their senses.

It’s a delicate balance for us authors, however. It’s all too easy to push things too far. All it takes is one absurd detail, one truly impossible act or ignorant mistake about procedure, and we’ve broken the spell. The reader remembers it’s all a silly fantasy, that although sex can be transcendent, it’s all too often the same moves with the same person at the same time every week... if it happens at all. The nature of that critical slip can differ from one reader to the next, also. Reader A will bristle at something Reader B swallows hook, line and sinker.

So how can we reconcile the impossible extremes which turn us and our readers on with a need for some modicum of realism? It’s a tricky problem. Each of us approaches it a bit differently.

Some authors – Remittance Girl comes to mind in particular – don’t try to varnish the reality of sex. Most of RG’s stories – well, the ones that particularly stick with me – present sexual interactions that are as confusing, conflicted, imperfect and problematic as sex actually can be. Her genius resides in the fact that she can still arouse the reader (or at least, this reader), despite eschewing the exaggeration and candy coating so many of us use.

Other authors come right out and tell you not to believe a word of what they’re offering. Greta Christina’s searing tales of willing abasement fall into that category. Her fabulous collection, Bending, begins with a preface in which she warns that her filthy and disturbing tales should be considered as total imagination, and that the reality of dominance and submission is normally quite different. She concludes the book with an extensive list of resources for people interested in safely exploring their kinky desires - something her characters definitely do not do.

In contrast, most of my erotic work at least pretends to be realistic. At the same time, I’ve penned some pretty unbelievable scenes in my time. My technique, such as it is, involves a gradual transition from realism to fantasy. I focus squarely on my hero’s or heroine’s perceptions and reactions, trying to show that the wild activities that finally ensue flow naturally from the characters’ mental and emotional states. As the characters accept what’s going on, I invite the reader to do likewise – to join in believing things that are unlikely at best.

I’ve got an example for you, the lead up to one of the nastiest scenes I’ve ever written. In this excerpt from Incognito, my sexually-frustrated heroine Miranda wanders into a seedy bar. She doesn’t intend to get fucked on the billiard table by two extremely shady characters – it just sort of happens. I cringed when I re-read this chapter – unprotected anal sex with strangers, penetration with foreign objects, voyeurism and exhibitionism, the works. But I slipped into it so gradually – even my disbelief was suspended, while I was writing!


A faint breeze ruffled her hair. Looking around, Miranda found that she had walked almost to the waterfront. She was in the no-man’s land between North Station and the North End, a region of narrow streets, dingy brick warehouses, and seedy ‘cafés’. In fact, there was a typical place across the road.

Bill’s Bar had a sickly green wooden façade, pierced by a couple of small, neon-lit windows. Several motorcycles hugged the curb in front. Country music drifted through the open door.

I need a drink, thought Miranda. She resolutely suppressed any other thoughts as she entered the joint.

Inside, it was surprisingly spacious, with a bare, scarred floor and a ceiling crisscrossed by pipes and ductwork. A bar hugged the right wall. Wooden tables and chairs were scattered around the rest of the periphery. It smelled of stale beer and cigarettes.

The middle of the room was dominated by a pool table, a well of brightness in the otherwise dim interior. Two men, apparently the only customers, were engaged in a game. They did not look up when she entered.

She settled herself on a bar stool and ordered a beer. They did not sell wine. The bartender was a slender, nerdy young man who seemed out of place in these rough surroundings. He put the amber bottle in front of her, and then retreated to the opposite end of the bar. From there, he cast furtive glances at her while he polished the glasses.

Miranda turned her attention to the two pool players. Their looks were much more in keeping with the environment. Both wore tight jeans and T-shirts that had seen better days. Both had lurid tattoos on their biceps. One of them was small, lithe and wiry, with a drooping moustache and a red bandanna on his head. The other was a huge, bear-like man. He had a luxurious mop of ragged, greasy-looking black curls. A livid scar ran down one of his cheeks, giving him a disquietingly crooked smile that was almost a grimace. As if responding to her attention, he looked up from the game and directed one of those smiles at her. His teeth were sparkling white.

Miranda felt strange, hot and cold simultaneously. She felt her nipples tightening, pushing out the fabric of her top. Moisture gushed into her panties. Normally she would find these men frightening, or perhaps faintly disgusting. Tonight, she saw them quite differently.

“Hey, baby!” said the thin one. “Come on over and play a game with us.”

Without hesitation, she picked up her beer, slipped off the stool and strolled over to the billiard table. She was acutely aware of the way her hips swayed, clad in tight denim. She felt her unfettered breasts bounce with each step. I must look like a slut, she thought, ridiculously pleased with herself.

“Hello, guys,” she said. “How’s the night treating you?”

The burly man winked at her. “Better all the time,” he said. “So, you know how to play pool?”

“More or less. You try to get the balls into the holes.” Miranda smiled archly, and her companions snickered.

“Yeah, right, using one of these sticks.” Gypsy-hair handed her a cue, and pointed to the white ball on the green baize. “Go ahead, babe. Give it a try.”

Miranda took her time. Slowly, she rubbed the little blue nugget of chalk over the tip of the cue, as if she were rubbing her finger over her clit. The image had the expected results. Her sex throbbed in time with her pulse.

She bent over the table to take aim, her buttocks in the air. She found it hard to concentrate on the shot. She could feel the denim riding up over her thighs. Her bikini panties were probably visible. Did her companions catch a whiff of her musk as she leaned forward? She could swear she could smell herself.

A lock of her long hair fell across her shoulder, interfering with her aim. Before she could react, Bandanna lifted it with one finger and flipped it back. He smoothed her rippling mane down her back, then brazenly fondled her butt. She looked him in the eye and smiled. “No fair. You’re messing up my concentration.”
Bandanna grinned. “Sorry, baby. Go ahead, shoot.”

She made one last calculation, and sent the cue ball precisely in the desired direction. The six ball caromed off the far rim and headed straight into the closest pocket. The seven ball rolled directly into the corner pouch, just as she had intended.

Her audience applauded. “That was some shot! You’re really good.” Their lascivious stares seemed tempered by genuine admiration.

Miranda looked from one to the other. The heat between her legs was unbearable. She hiked herself up so that she was sitting on the billiard table, and spread her thighs wide. “Boys, you have no idea how good I am.”

The two bikers looked at each other in disbelief, then back at her. Impatient, Miranda pulled her skirt to her waist, lifted herself off the table, and pulled off her underwear. Playfully, she threw the wisp of silk at Gypsy-hair. “What are you waiting for?” she said. “I haven’t got all night, you know.”

Bandanna had his fly open first. His cock was slender and smooth, rising up from a nest of reddish frizz. Miranda took hold of it and began to pump, feeling the already swollen tissue grow even harder.

The bigger man was not far behind. He grabbed her other hand and wrapped it around the erection now jutting from his jeans. His cock was like the rest of him, huge. Miranda could not encircle it with her fingers. He was uncircumcised. His foreskin slid back and forth over taut, veined flesh.

Miranda worked them simultaneously, revelling in their grunts and moans. Meanwhile, her juices ran out of her, staining the felt under her bare behind. She caught a glimpse of the young man hovering behind the bar, his eyes wide, transfixed by the scene. She smiled to herself and stroked the two cocks more vigorously. “Enough!” groaned Bandanna. “I’ve got to fuck you, baby.”
I thought you’d never ask,” said Miranda. “Come on!” She lay back on the table, her legs spread wide. The moustached biker climbed on top of her and positioned his cock at the entrance to her cleft. With a grunt and a jerk of his hips, he was inside her. She was so wet by now, there would have been no resistance even to a cock as large as Gypsy’s.


So what do you think? Is this too much, too fast, too over-the-top? (It gets worse – or maybe better!)

Or have I made a believer out of you?

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Wheels on the Bus

by Jean Roberta

Getting a formal education that includes diplomas is both a quest and a journey, similar to immigrating to a new country to find new opportunities. Just as my ancestors travelled from England, Ireland and Germany to America in the nineteenth century to escape from poverty and Napolean’s armies, my parents earned university degrees on scholarships to rescue themselves from the hardships of the Great Depression and World War II. The price they paid was the cultural distance that opened up between themselves and their working-class families.

Growing up in my parents’ intellectual household was like being the first American-born child of immigrants. Everyone else in my parents’ extended families thought I read too much and showed too little respect for authority and traditional values.

Going back to the world of my parents’ childhood was impossible. In any case, higher and higher levels of education seemed to be required just to get an entry-level job.

When I was thirty, the bottom fell out of my life. As a divorced mother, I moved myself and my child into a low-income co-op for single parents and discovered that the clerk-typist-receptionist jobs I used to rely on had largely disappeared. I had not been granted the Bachelor of Education After Degree that I had counted on. Sex work brought in quick cash, but it was hardly a long-term career. I finished the coursework for a Master’s Degree in English without much trouble, then worked on my thesis.

No one warned me that a writing project that was supposed to take one year or possibly two would stretch on to eight years. First, my advisor rejected my whole first draft and told me to start over.

Then the Faculty of Graduate Studies, in the person of the Associate Dean, a biologist I thought of as the “snake lady” (snakes were her specialty), began to threaten me with expulsion from the program for taking too long to finish. On a regular basis, I received warning letters which had to be followed up with in-person interviews.

Several times, I explained to Snake Lady that my advisor in the English Department had failed to give me feedback on my latest chapter for several months at a time. Snake Lady would point out that the professor was an esteemed academic, and therefore I had no right to imply that he was at all responsible for my failure to complete a thesis in time.

Once, I told her, “This situation is worthy of Kafka.” She was not amused.

Throughout most of a decade, I seemed to be wandering in a desert, seeking a route to the nearest oasis. I was terrified that my advisor and Snake Lady would simply kick me out so they would no longer have to deal with me. They could always justify their decision on grounds that they were defending the standards of the university against my inferior mind.

Then, one magical summer, everything fell into place. Someone must have lit a fire under my advisor, because he suddenly became available and encouraging. A date was set for my oral defense.

By then, I knew that universities are essentially late-medieval institutions. (The oldest were founded in the 1200s.) The way to prove one’s intellectual worth in such places is to joust with senior opponents, whose job is to play the devil’s advocate. If they couldn’t unseat me from my philosophical position, they would grant me a place in the Ivory Tower.

Even after eight years of revisions and delays, there was no guarantee that I would survive. My father was teaching in another department, but being a faculty brat hadn’t opened any doors for me.

I brought the latest version of my 200-page thesis to a typist who responded to my need for an absolutely flawless copy by telling me she used spell-check, which would screen out all typing/spelling errors. I knew it wouldn’t. Finally, she had finished typing the thing according to regulations, with a wide left margin so it could be bound in dark-red leather, with the title and my name to be embossed on the front cover. I had proofread it several times, and asked her to make changes.

Where I had explained that a certain couple in the novel under discussion had married for the sake of convention (the bride was pregnant by a former boyfriend), the typist had typed that they married for the sake of “conversation.” (That seemed like a good-enough motive, but it was not what I wrote.) I was not amused.

When I brought my bound thesis to the university for the examining committee to pick apart, I was travelling by city bus. I proofread the whole thing, page by page, one last time.

Ohmygod, ohmygod. The typist had substituted the word "form" for "from" in several places. Of course, spell-check hadn't alerted her to her mistake because both of them are standard English words. I had failed to notice this problem before.

I was so filled with adrenalin that I thought I could fight an actual duel. Or maybe I would just throw up on the sidewalk after getting off the bus, and this would be a prelude to further humiliation. I had never experienced such a bumpy, nauseating bus ride. I could feel the big, mindless wheels turning under me, following the same route they followed every hour.

Few people on earth seemed to care whether I was going to be chewed up and spat out by a committee of scholars. Certainly, no one else on the bus cared. Some of them were just going home from work, and had no interest in anything that took place in the university, that haven for the strange and the nerdy.

I felt like a doomed loner from literature: Hamlet, Joan of Arc, Jude the Obscure. I brought my thesis to the committee member who was waiting for it, and babbled an apology for the transposed letters. I probably sounded drunk. The prof didn`t seem concerned by the horrible typos, even after I had pointed them out.

When I entered the room of my ordeal, the committee seemed welcoming, and I took hope from that. After a discussion that went at a brisk pace and ended sooner than I expected, the inquisitors voted unanimously to give me a Master`s degree.

Over a traditional lunch in the Faculty Club, a member of the committee casually mentioned that my thesis was beautifully written. All the rest agreed, as though this fact were self-evident. I could have fainted.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Achievement Unlocked

by Annabeth Leong

I've been a gamer all my life, and so I'm trained to think of quests in very specific ways.

The way it works these days in video games, I run my character around and explore every nook and cranny of the world that's been designed. Quests are marked on the map with little arrows, or with exclamation points over characters' heads.

I want to think about the character I'm playing and whether he or she would be interested in doing the things that are offered. For example, would my goody-two-shoes mage, who turned his own best friend in during the prologue for breaking the Circle of Magi's prohibitions against forbidden magic, actually agree to help hide bodies for a shady organization based in the capital city? I'm guessing no, but I'm not incentivized to have that much integrity.

If I refuse the quest, I'll miss out on experience points, which I need in order to make my character more powerful. I'll also fail to get the achievement the game offers for helping out these shady people. (It's amazing how much motivation an animated plaque can provide). Besides, I won't get to discover that part of the game. The statistics that mark what percentage of the world I explore will wind up flawed. There will be conversations I didn't have, people I didn't kill.

There's also a great coldness to the way quests work in video games. Your character is assigned to save, say, five slaves from a dungeon. You run in, and the game has provided you with an abundance of slaves. No need to wait around or search too hard—there are plenty to choose from. You save your five, and then you get out, because anything else would be a waste of time. Never mind how weird and inhuman that behavior is if you think about it from a different perspective. (The web comic Penny Arcade famously lampooned this mechanic in the controversial strip, "The Sixth Slave." The core criticism in the comic is spot on, though I do see why there was trouble over the callousness of the humor employed to make the point).

All this, however, represents a twisted version of the true concept of a quest. According to my dictionary, a quest is "a long and arduous search for something." According to what I recall from Arthurian legend, that search may not lead where it was supposed to, it may not end when it's supposed to, and it may not be summed up neatly by progress bars, percentage points, and achievements.

Maybe we're not all heroes, but I think we're all on a long and arduous search to figure out what the hell to do with our lives, or if what we're doing with our lives is meaningful or satisfying or useful or positive in any measurable way. I've played enough video games that I think of this life quest in video game terms, even when that's destructive for me.

Let's talk about grabbing quests, for example. In real life, indiscriminately accepting every opportunity that comes one's way is a great way to waste a lot of time and obliterate one's sense of self. There is a part of me that wants to write for every anthology call I see, but what about the times when that's not right for me? Sometimes, that's because of personal reasons or because of my interest or lack thereof or because of my need to protect my own time. Other times, it's because of my beliefs.

A while ago, a publisher put out a call for an anthology that would sport a cover image of a woman with very serious thigh gap. I've read fairly extensively about body image, including a lot of really disturbing stuff about the current obsession with thigh gap. I was interested in the concept of the anthology and even started a story for it, but I kept feeling uncomfortable about that cover image. I imagined posting it on my blog and talking about how beautiful it was (because I do like cover art a lot, and usually make a habit of doing that). I couldn't stomach the thought. I imagined critiquing the thigh gap issue when I posted the cover, then worried I would be seen as unprofessional. In the end, I decided not to grab that quest. Maybe I gave up some gold (heh) or experience points as a result, but in real life I'm not going to get the 100 percent exploration achievement, and I care more about defining my character and values than I do about reaching arbitrary statistical markers.

It disturbs me how often the desire to grab a quest tempts to me to violate my own values for what is likely to be a very small reward.

I've got to think about who I am, what I really want, and what purpose I've got. I'm not a character in someone else's world. In a game, I'm missing out on opportunities for fun by refusing to do things. In real life, there are plenty of great reasons to refuse things all the time.

Achievements are another twisted thing. In video games, I'm wild for those progress bars and percentage points and little shield icons. I want to level up. I want a high GamerScore. I thrill to the sight of the words, "Achievement unlocked," and when my numbers reach X/X, I feel a real sense of, well, achievement.

As a writer, I've unlocked some achievements, too: Story publication. E-book released. Novel out in print. Story singled out on an anthology's back cover. Invited to contribute. As in games, some of the achievements are negative: Bad contract. Deep disappointment. Cruel review. Laughable sales.

I think, though, that this idea of achievements is what saps a lot of the soul from my writing. If I've achieved this thing, then I should feel this thing. If you've achieved this thing and I haven't, then you're beating me. If you've been struck by a negative achievement that I've managed thus far to avoid, that means I'm somehow cleverer than you.

That's not the person I want to be. I don't want to think that way at all. I don't believe in measuring my life in sound bites and neat, pat phrases. I don't really believe in simplicity, either.

What's been even more poisonous for me than the idea of achievements is the idea of measuring progress the way a video game does. Some writers put progress bars for their novels up on their websites, as if a novel is a file downloading at a speed of, say, 1,667 words per day. (With NaNoWriMo approaching, that example speed seems apt). I've learned from writing to daily word count goals, but at a certain point I learned I needed to let them go. I'm not saying it's okay to fool around and pretend to be working when I'm not. Writing is a lot of hard work, and I believe in putting in the time. I'm not a machine or a program, though, and I've done myself a lot of harm by expecting myself to work as if I am. I've done myself grievous harm by expecting my quests—especially the quests as personal as digging a novel out of the collective unconscious and seasoning it with pieces of my soul—to proceed in neat, measured ways.

So many of my expectations for myself and my quests amount to techno-babble. They're not true to what we really know of story, if we stop to think. They're not true to what our fairy tales tell us.

Writing is a tough act of balance. Me versus you. Fulfilling reader expectations versus delighting and surprising. Listening versus speaking (or reading versus writing). White space covered by black words, which need the space or they won't sing. Working toward goals versus allowing room for exploration and discovery.

I don't want to write for maximum efficiency, because there's no joy in that. I need forward motion, yes, but I don't want to see it as a waste of time if I stop for the sixth slave. A real quest involves a lot of time logged in the wilderness. There are many hours when the compass seems broken and the map seems to have been drawn for another land altogether.

Lately, my writing is changing, and I'm not sure how. I am trying to balance the need to keep working and fulfilling my obligations with the equally important need to let myself develop and search. The only way I know to survive is to keep the older, mythical concept of a quest in mind. The video game concept of a quest can be fun, but it provides so much false comfort, and all too often it reveals how hard it still is for us to simulate the deep truths of the world in which we live.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Great White Whale

By Daddy X

In 1970 a friend back east telephoned Momma and I, then living in San Francisco, saying he’d just rented an 18th century farmhouse in Bucks County Pennsylvania, out in the country near my home town. Would we like to come and live in another communal situation?

San Fran had been good to us for over a year and a half. We had our own place, I had a job downtown, and Momma’s health had somewhat improved thanks to the medical care at UC hospital. We probably wouldn’t have considered the move, but my boss at a major retailer was being investigated at the time for embezzlement and theft. Between the two of us, we’d relieved an international conglomerate of $20,000 worth of merchandise in my four months working there. I’d recently driven the guy, his wife and two kids, across the state line into Nevada. It was as good a time as any to get out of town, so we decided to sell everything we owned at yet another moving sale. Early on, Momma and I did that sort of thing regularly.

We flew back to an idyllic scene in the Delaware Valley near Carversville, Pa., living with two other guys—both rock musicians—and their rotating girlfriends in a historic Revolutionary War area. Washington had crossed the Delaware to engage in the Battle of Trenton, the acknowledged turning point in that famous rebellion, only a few miles away.

We didn’t own a car when we arrived, so transportation became tops on the list of things to do with our limited funds—before the stash got frittered away.

One day, driving around, I spotted a 1948 Chevy five-window pick-up truck for sale, newly painted white. The massive black diamond plate front bumper, 18 inches high, boasted three hard rubber projections. A description on the windshield stated the 6-cylinder engine was recently rebuilt, and that the beast had been used for years to push crippled vehicles around a mechanic’s lot.   

What’s this? Only $225? I’ll take it! The perfect vehicle to make a living with! At first, I was tempted to paint across that wide-ass bumper, in large white letters: “AIN’T GOT NO INSURANCE”, then thought again in a rare fit of pragmatism.

For months, I ran an ad in the local paper for ‘light hauling’, generating enough cash with the Great White Whale to keep Momma and I in rent and victuals, with the help of an ever-morphing succession of wandering hippies, musicians and various other questionable actors who shucked and jived through the farm that summer. Many of them never were very successful, and didn’t need much to get by either. My friends’ band, The Little Flowers, hadn’t had a steady gig since their year and a half run at the Night Owl in Greenwich Village. Back in the mid-60’s they’d opened for virtually every group to come through that venue.

Visitors who had made good and showed up at the farm, situated right between New York and Philadelphia, were folks from The Allman Brothers, The Doors, Tom Rush, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs’ entourage, Youngbloods, many of their roadies, groupies and inevitable and incestuous hangers-on.

After we got thrown out of that place, we moved across the river to another farmhouse, this time in Flemington, New Jersey. That’s another story. But suffice to say the first time it snowed laid the groundwork for a planned u-turn back to San Fran for Momma and me. It doesn’t snow here.

Good old California. We had the Great White Whale to get us back. It was a really dependable vehicle. Even in the cold and wet of the eastern winter, it started every time. That’s saying a lot for a six-volt electrical system. The three-quarter ton Chevy carried a wide bed and rode high above 17-inch wheels. Big industrial tires. The newly restored bench seat was a comfort, as was the knowledge that in low-low gear, I could pop the clutch (without pressing on the gas) and not stall the motor. The powerful monster would grind on and on.  

In my great wisdom, I charted a “southern route’ to avoid frigid February on Rt. 80, across the northern part of the country, through places like Denver in the Colorado Rockies. Hell, they call it the friggin mile-high city for chrissakes! No sir. We’ll take the southern route, thank you.

Despite what we’d heard about the south and what had happened to the Easy Rider guys. Get some kicks! Go across on Route 66. We may have been too smart for ourselves. In both Tennessee and New Mexico, the temps fell below zero F. overnight.  

There were luxuries the White Whale didn’t have. For one, it didn’t have a heater, radio, or a working gas gauge. Nor did the odometer register miles traveled. You sort of had to guess how much gas you had. We worked out a system where we’d fill up every three hours, no matter what the terrain or distance traveled. The vacuum-operated windshield wipers were somewhat less than efficient, and we managed to keep them going with sheer will. That and trying to de-ice the windshield by concentrating the combined heat from our co-joined minds. (That actually did work, I must say, even as skeptical as I can be of spectral folly. Some things we experience cannot be denied.) Our gallon jug of water froze.  The cat we’d brought along for the ride almost ditched our sorry asses, and for a time, we thought she had, but we found her up in the springs of that new bench seat. Momma’s feet still give her trouble from frostbite she incurred on that trip.

Due to the fact that the gearing in the Whale was so low, it topped out at 45 miles per hour. We’d be violating many states’ minimum speed laws on freeways, so we decided to avoid such thoroughfares for country roads whenever we could. It was still possible back then; I don’t know about now. Because Momma was in poor health for so long, she no longer drove, so the entire job would be up to me. 

Contrary to our predispositions regarding the south, we encountered wonderful people on the road, despite our appearance. Here we were, two sorry-ass long-haired hippies, far from home, freezing, our knuckles red, stiff and sore. Waitresses at truck stops offered coffee refills and called us ‘sweetie’. In Little Rock, Arkansas—an infamous symbol of civil unrest at the time—a gas station attendant gave us each an old pair of work gloves. 

For the entire drive I swallowed women’s menstrual pills, things called Dapersils, given to housewives of the era for relief from monthlies. First you were slammed with a combo of Milltown, an early, crude tranquilizer—mixed with some kind of heavy speed. Once taken, if the recipient could hold his/her shit together and not go unconscious from the Milltown, along would come this welling amphetamine rush that’d take over for five or six hours or so to keep a person wide awake. Ahem ... or so. Of course, these doses and effects could be adjusted to the rate warranted. For the entire trip I maintained a well-adjusted warp rate, perfect for the job.

And what a job it came to be, like a Zen exercise. I wound up driving the width of this country solo, accomplishing the job in three shots. I drove 36 hours, slept 12, another 36, slept another12, then 18 hours. I hallucinated deer, reptiles, Elvis Presley, and assorted spacey critters on roads across West Virginia, Arkansas and Oklahoma. I slammed the brakes to a screeching halt one dawn on a freeway winding through Albuquerque to avoid crashing into a stalled blue and white 59 Buick convertible (top down) that wasn’t really there. Albuquerque turned out to be a good time for one of those 12-hour naps. ;>)

Three thousand miles I drove and drove the Great White Whale, until she blew a head gasket somewhere below Paso Robles, about 200 miles south of our destination. That meant if I turned the key off, chances were the motor wouldn’t build the compression to start again. We limped into SF feeling like the Joads, busted head gasket blasting like she had no muffler, everything we owned stuffed behind us under the living room rug.

When we look back at such behavior, it can seem to convey a certain frivolity, a sense of ‘it don’t matter to me’ syndrome, perhaps an echo of the times. But if not for that voyage of apparent disregard for creature comforts, Momma X may not have rejoined with the U.C. California medical system.  In time they saved both our lives.

At least the Dapersils lasted. Got us here, partnered with that Great White Whale.