Friday, April 17, 2015

Historical Erotica - My Confession

Well, it seems I may be the odd author out with this topic. I confess, historical erotica really is a blind spot for me. For no reason in particular, I’ve not embraced historical fiction of any kind for the most part. Some of the first grown-up books I read were Wilbur Smith’s Courtney novels, the first of which is set in the 1870s. I suppose those count as historical for that reason, though they’re far from erotica.
The thing is, it’s not that I dislike historical fiction at all. I’ve even made some covers for Regency books (Suzi Love's Regency Life series). For reading, though, historical stuff has simply never “crossed the line” for me. I started out in my childhood years reading sci-fi and comedy, and then moved on to thrillers and crime. And erotica of course. Yet even now, my choices tend to lead me to works other than historical ones.
One factor which causes me to stumble is the difference in language. Not so much the slang terms, as Giselle discussed yesterday, but the cadence and structure. I feel the same way every time I try to read Lord of the Rings – it just doesn’t “take”. It took me eight weeks to struggle through two-thirds of the original Moby Dick, and that was before I had children.
In that particular case it was the pacing and structure as much as the archaic word use which tripped me up. On one occasion, just as I was picking up some momentum, Melville essentially broke down the “fourth wall” (I realise that’s a theatre term, but hopefully ya know what I mean) to launch into a lecture about whaling, and why it was essential for us to keep murdering those great “fish”. You know, the kind of thing an editor would probably send back with pretty red lines all over it these days.
On the other hand, the smatterings of historical works I’ve been able to immerse myself in have been amazing. And in some cases completely debauched.
Anais Nin's Delta of Venus contains so many elements which are complete red flags these days – the kind of red flags which will get your book not just Adult Filtered on Amazon, but completely banned. Yet it's considered a classic.
In another vein, the far more modern "Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters hooked me in almost instantly. Perhaps due to being written in 2002, though set in the 19th Century. It's not erotica, of course, but has some delightfully erotic scenes.
In all this, though, I realise the issue is mine. Just as I can't fall asleep quickly, I can't immerse myself in historical works quickly, due to those speed humps of structure. The pressures of family and career, often self-inflicted, make it difficult to set aside the requisite amount of time for my gears to link with the story's.
My writing tends toward the contemporary, and toward the shorter end of the spectrum, due to twenty years of song-writing and several more years of flash-fiction work. Perhaps my reading is more geared in that direction as well. But I'd be more than happy to take recommendations from anybody for historical erotic works which might appeal to me. Perhaps I just haven't met the right book yet.

9 comments:

  1. Fanny Hill - The Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland http://www.amazon.co.uk/Memoirs-Fanny-Genuine-Original-London-ebook/dp/B0082XC2LW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1429259227&sr=1-1&keywords=fanny+hill. Still very fresh, although it was written in 1749, and beautifully erotic without ever becoming nasty. It's free on kindle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thank you. That reminds me that I have a copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover as well, though have not ventured deep inside her pages yet.

      Delete
  2. Hi, Willsin!

    You don't consider "Fingersmith" to be erotic? (Okay, not erotica, I'll agree!) One of my all time favorite books, a true tour-de-force - even better than "Tipping the Velvet". Actually her more recent book "The Night Watch" is also excellent, set during the bombing of London in WWII, full of erotic tension though not very explicit.

    Of course, Mary above is talking about TRUE historical erotica, that is, erotic fiction written in the past. That's an interesting twist on the topic. How far in the past does something need to be in order to be labeled as "historical", though?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, yes, it's definitely erotic, but no, I didn't think it would qualify as erotica. I think I borrowed "The Night Watch" from my local library but didn't manage to set aside the time to read it.

      Delete
  3. I don't particularly like historical fiction, either writing or reading. Of course, there are the exceptions, such as early and mid-20th century stuff. You mention Anais Nin. I really like one of her friends: Lawrence Durrell. His Alexandria Quartet is one of my faves. In fact, whenever I come across a set, I'll buy them to give to friends. Guess it's just how far back you go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a good point, too, and one that Lisabet touched on as well: when is a piece of fiction considered "historical"? And what about time travel? If we have a protagonist who travels back to the 21st Century from the 28th, does that qualify as historical? And if not...when will it?

      Ahem...I think I'll have a coffee...

      Delete
  4. Hmm. Theorizing here about this. From the viewpoint of writers, anything set in a period earlier than they can clearly remember counts as historical. That probably works for readers, too. These days the 50s and 60s could be historical settings unless you were actually there, as Daddy X and I were. i've written WWII stories that I thought of as historical, but with a hint of nostalgia, because my parents remembered it clearly, and I was exposed to some of the popular songs of the era. I have to do a fair bit of research to get details right, but I still have a personal "feel" for those times. For, say, the Elizabethan period, or the Mongol Invasion of Europe, and yes, I've written erotica with those settings, I have to do more intense research, and I'm sure I make plenty of mistakes.

    In the case of the time traveller, the hard part would be describing the future world. The 21st century part might be considered historical, though, fifty or a hundred years from now when readers (assuming there are readers by then) feel like they're living in a different world from ours. Things written in the past are historical from the perspective of the reader, while things written in the present about the past are historical to the writer as well, who has the disadvantage of relying on sources rather than experience, and the advantage of knowing how the world has subsequently changed. Or maybe that last part is a disadvantage, too, because we struggle with refraining from imposing contemporary mindsets on characters and cultures in the past. (And, of course, with remembering not to let our characters have a coffee in a period before coffee was introduced to whatever area our characters inhabit.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a good point, though I wonder if anything set in a time significantly prior to the present would be historical, whether the author can remember it or not...

      Delete
  5. Willsin, I am really digging your perspective. I have written more historical stuff than I thought I did, but I definitely identify with what you're saying here. I appreciate your discussion of Fingersmith and Delta of Venus, too!

    ReplyDelete