Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Is It Me?

by Daddy X


Here’s hoping I convey the connections in this rambling piece.

Earlier this month, I gave notice that I would be stepping down from my position as editor at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, where I have served for over five years. It was something I’d been thinking about for a while. Time for new talent on the lists to take over in the new year.

It isn’t really an editor’s job in the strictest sense, but more an acquisitions editor-cum-policeman. No pun.

Well, okay. Pun.

During my November watch, a non-erotic story was posted on the Storytime list by our old friend and subscriber Henry Corrigan. He had written Money in the Mail for a speculative fiction call. It was a well-written piece with such a dynamite delivery that I conscientiously wanted to acquire it, even though a mainstream piece. So I asked my fellow editors whether non-erotic works had a place in the Gallery. In my five years tenure, the subject had never, to my knowledge, come up.

My concern was for the greater reading public who would go to the ERWA website for their dependable monthly erotica fix and find a story unwankable. We compensated by creating a special category for non-erotic works.

Henry was happy to grant permission.

Conscience clear. Temporarily.

Another story submitted was a quickie of 800 words by a different author. It also was non-erotic and quite well written, but had an additional problem. It was resolved with a very Christian sensibility. Unlike other religious-themed entries posted over the years, there was no sense of irony about it.  The author had included a trigger warning for sexual violence, but should have included a warning one on full-blown, unapologetic religious zealotry.

Now here was a bigger dilemma. As I said, it was also quite competently written, both in style and power, especially for such a short piece. Did it deserve a place in the gallery as well? Would I allow my sense of repulsion to the subject matter guide my choice of whether or not to choose it for the Gallery? That felt unfair on my part.

So I consulted my fellow editors again, just to make sure that my hesitation wasn’t simply a personal issue and nothing more. Happily, the consensus was to leave it out. One colleague referred back to my original scenario—an erotica aficionado wandering in for their monthly heat—and now, not only finding something non-erotic, but also taking away an apparent attempt at conversion. She suggested that it would certainly compound the non-erotic experience: The specter that an evangelical group had taken over ERWA.

How absurd.

But it’s not like they don’t work that way. Years ago, when Momma X was on the local Sierra Club Executive committee, there was an under-the-radar right wing group that tried to insinuate itself into the environmental movement by claiming rampant population increase was a factor of illegal immigration. (Ironically they don’t mention their opposition to birth control.) They managed to pull the wool over enough eyes to secure a presentation meeting on their position.

One look at these guys said volumes. They were NOT environmentalists. They were obvious Neo-Nazis who even brought literature claiming dedication to population control and opposition to immigration. I caught one guy handing out pamphlets, got up behind him, leaned up close to his ear (I was much younger and imposing then, managing the toughest bar in the county.) and whispered, “Get your Fascist ass and your bullshit the fuck out of here.” I picked up his literature and stuffed it in his arms as he went out the door.

Well, the rest left the meeting (rather got run out) but continued trying to get someone into a position of power, not only the Sierra Club but other environmental groups as well. They insinuate themselves into a trusted organization then throw a monkey wrench into the works.

I’m not suggesting that the author of the religious piece had designs on a scenario like that. She seems like a sweet person and sincere in her beliefs. But there are times I will allow better judgment to override my sense of fair play.




18 comments:

  1. Hmm. Would you have passed over my story "Communion" because it has serious religious content? (That's the one about the nun who gets burned at the stake as a witch because she won't reveal her BDSM relationship with her priest/master.) I think it's a slippery slope when we start to judge and choose stories based on their content.

    Now, I didn't read the story (which is why I didn't chime in with my opinion), and I agree that the fact it was non-erotic is a compounding issue. However, I'm wondering if your personal (probably justified) allergy to religion was having an undue influence on your decisions.

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    1. I don't mind religious content. I put Amanda Earl's "Dirty Little Religion in the Treasure chest. My own stories, "Bless Me Father" and "A Good Deed" are in "The Gonzo Collection". But I didn't glorify the religious aspect.

      I don't remember reading "Communion" but the BDSM element sorta puts in a different category altogether. The one I refer to is about a quite miserable woman 'saved' by faith in Jesus. I know we deal in fiction, (and fantasy) but this was just too preachy. I don't want to give that stuff any credence. Is it Me?

      Maybe I'm just too biased in that direction. It literally squicked me. And I'm not easy to squick. Maybe I am bitter about what those hypocrites are doing to our country. I see my actions as objectivity, though others might think the opposite.

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    2. I might assume that with erotic pieces (assuming good quality, ample space, and other basic editorial considerations), a story generally gets published unless there's a reason not to publish it. With non-erotic pieces, even assuming good quality etc., I might assume that the burden is more on the individual story to strike the editor as something to make an exception for (thus securing space in a very limited non-erotic section of the monthly offerings). For non-erotic pieces, perhaps "Why wasn't my piece published?" might be a less relevant question, because non-erotic pieces, by default, are not published at ERWA?

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    3. It wasn't like I was looking for an excuse for not choosing the piece. Stories are chosen as a recognition of talent. It was a conflict with my own conscience. The religious elements squicked me and I wondered if that was fair.

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    4. I should also say here that only about one in ten submissions (guessing off the top of my head) make the Gallery. We have fairly high standards as to what goes out to the greater reading public.

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  2. In cases where a readership with known tastes and expectations is involved, I think judging stories based on their content is wise. You do seem to have got a slippery slope going, though.

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    1. Isn't the slippery slope putting our faith in the ravings of madmen?

      That's not my quote. I've paraphrased Sade. Although quite mad himself, his philosophical ideas often make sense.

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  3. I just meant that accepting non-erotic work was the slippery slope, leaving you open to having to make decisions like this.

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    1. Oh- My mistake. Yes, but we've decided to not put more than one non-erotic piece in a single monthly gallery.

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  4. Was the second non-erotic piece discussed here (the Christian one) also by a longtime member of the ERWA community, as the first one was? If not, I'm wondering if that could also be taken as a relevant factor: You know, making an exception for someone like your first author above whose good faith (no pun intended!) and general dedication to the ERWA and its purpose could be trusted, which you might not do for an unknown quantity whose motives in submitting a particular kind of non-erotic piece to ERWA might be open to question (the concern about proselytization). Or, to put it a slightly different way: With person A, it might be like, "OK, you're a 'regular,' and this one time you wrote something non-erotic that you want to share with your friends here"; with person B (assuming she's not a 'regular'), it might be more like, "Why did you come here with a piece that doesn't fit our guidelines?"

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  5. Thanks for commenting, Jeremy.
    Submitter 'B' was certainly a more recent subscriber than 'A'. She joined a year or two back, but went away for a while dealing with some personal crisis. When she returned, she seemed to have changed, and although she'd not posted anything else in this vein, she had alluded to her notion that Jesus had brought her through whatever it was. When I critiqued her piece, I just mentioned that the resolution didn't hold water because of its unbelievability. As I mentioned in my post, I really like this person (and their writing) but think she's going down the wrong track. In fact, I had mentioned her as a possible replacement when I step down at the end of the year. That was before I read her Christian story.

    What bugs me about things like this is that people discount their own strength and fortitude in dealing with crisis when they attribute all their pain and suffering in working things out to some capricious God. That weakens people and makes them dependent on fantasy, which is not something to depend on. Bad things happen, God or not. I'd rather put my faith in human adaptability.

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    1. Also, subscriber 'A' had also been away for a while, so they were basically on a comparable level of participation, though 'B' has actually been more active lately.

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  6. Daddy X, I don’t think I read the story, but I suspect that if I had, I would totally agree with your decision to keep it out of the ERWA Gallery. I have encountered rapturous Christians among my students, and several years ago, the elected board that runs the local community women’s centre (which runs the 24-hour sexual assault line) went through some painful conflict after a new member kept recommending Christian counselling” for everyone, Christian or not.

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    1. The phrase 'one track mind' raises its (altered) specter.

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  7. Every group has a mandate, and if the focus of ERWA is on eroticism, however subtle or blatant, I think that is a valid reason to limit “mainstream” fiction (though it’s hard to imagine a story with no erotic subtext at all) and to avoid publicizing stories with the message that Jesus saved the author’s life. There is a Christian publishing business that would welcome stories like that.

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    1. Probably too many. I've seen Christian 'publishers' that are obvious vanity scams. I'm sure we've all seen them. There are plenty of crooks happy to take money from the naive. They already know it won't take much to put one over on them. They're already deluded.

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  8. When my Christian students find Christian messages in ever story and poem on the syllabus, I redirect them to the actual content of the piece. Was the author a devout Christisn who deliberately incorporated Christian themes & imagery in his/her writing? (Flannery O’Connor comes to mind.) Fine, then acknowledge all that in your critique. Otherwise, adopt some Christian humility and recognize that someone else’s piece is not about you, your feelings, or your philosophy of life.

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    1. See answer to your first comment above.

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