Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Little Chocolate In My Peanut Butter

by Amanda Earl

I admit I have Fantasy envy. Most of my erotica tends toward the realistic, but I'd love to be able to create entire worlds both plausible to the reader and outrageously imaginative. I find this difficult to do in a short story. To me the fantasy genre lends itself better to the novel where there is space to create elaborate worlds, notwithstanding the fabulous sci fi/fantasy stories of Ray Bradbury, the magic realism of Jorge Luis Borges and countless other writers whose genius humbles me.  

So far I have taken only rare side trips into the fantastic, and I was able to make these forays because I worked with existing characters and imagery from folklore and mythology, rather than attempting to build a new world all by my lonesome.

I have ventured into the paranormal with stories such as The Coriolis Effect in which the sarcastic and jaded vampire Ruth Verdigris picks up stray emo twenty somethings and lures them to her bat house.

I like my vampires to be jaded skeptics. Another one of my world-weary vampires is the protagonist of a story called the Vampire Responds who is attempting to hide from social media where he has accumulated numerous fans.  

At times I'll even adapt a myth or steal characters from Greek or Roman mythology or the Bible.  I've dabbled with religious figures in  stories such as Jesus, Melinda and the Undead, which has Jesus fighting Luther, a bumbling version of Lucifier, in order to win fair Melinda who doesn't realize she is dead.

I'm very fond of taking fictional characters out of their original literary settings and plonking them into my stories and poems. Or reimagining historical figures. Eleanor of Aquitaine has wandered through the streets of Ottawa in my long poem Eleanor (above/ground press, 2007). 

A homeless woman has visions that she is Saint Ursula in Ursula, (AngelHousePress, 2008) and I've tried to fill in the blanks of well known and obscure figures from history, such as Catherine Blake, Catherine de Medici and Kiki of Montparnasse. I've also invented characters, such as an alien who has come to Earth for the first time in my long poem "Welcome to Earth" (BookThug, 2008).

I'm currently working on a poetry manuscript inspired by Edward Gorey's illustrated eccentrics.  I recently porned up Cinderella in a story called "Cinderella and the Glass Dildo."  I also wrote an elaborate and completely dreamt up story about a supernatural queen responsible for Van Gogh's lust for the colour yellow  in the Queen of Yellow.  I'd love to write a whole series of related stories called "The Court of Colour" in which I pursue the idea further.

On occasion I'll try my hand at speculative fiction, imagining worlds where the right wing agenda carries the day (not too far from reality, I know) Take for example my gender bending post-apocalyptic orgiastic tale "Successor" published on Unlikely Stories  and republished in Cream, the Best of the Erotica Readers and WritersAssociation .

It was inspired by the painting the Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix. Sarabella, Albumar, Joachim, Maliende and others seek sanctuary from soldiers whose mission it is to eradicate the queers and to repopulate the Earth by impregnating women against their will. I admit I had a lot of fun inventing the characters'  names.

Fiction that satirizes an increasingly close-minded society and takes the scenarios to their ultimate Draconian and appalling conclusions is vital as both an instrument of artistic expression and an outlet for readers. We have a need to examine what might happen if we continue along certain paths. 

I think this is one of the reasons why the graphic novel or comic book genre has boomed. People crave fiction that talks about what might happen. The comic book seems to be the perfect genre for the depiction of new worlds, both Utopian and Dystopian societies. Bless the Alan Moores of the world. We need more like him.

For both my reading pleasure and writing angst, I like a little magic in my reality, a little chocolate in my peanut butter. In some ways, I still have a childlike hope that magic exists. In my childhood, magic seemed like a very real possibility. I used to squeeze my eyes hard so that I could see the coloured lights moving because I believed that these lights were guardian angels and I wanted them to come and rescue me.

I devoured fairy tales, and was convinced a fairy hid amongst the tiger lilies behind the wrought iron fence in our front yard. I also felt sure that I could fly (away from home), if I could just figure out the right combination of movements, that my dolls became real when I slept, and that my imaginary friends weren't imaginary at all. The possibility of magic gave me hope of escape from both the mundane and the frightening aspects of daily life as a child.

But magic realism, fairy tales, rewriting Bible stories and mythology all tend to make use of existing tropes, rather than invent entire worlds. Such invention seems like a huge challenge to me as a writer, which means, that one day I shall probably want to take it on.

As to erotica reading, I am inclined toward realistic plot elements with settings in places that have existed or are very similar to existing places. Realistic but not completely real. All fiction, of course, is a form of fantasy or verisimilitude. I am fascinated by the world of Roissy created in the Story of O. The chateau, the hierarchy, the translation of these values outside the chateau. I have often imagined rewriting Roissy  in a contemporary setting.

I need a lot of grit in my erotica and such dark taboos have to come from imagined and imperfect worlds rather than fantasies about women being captured and then treated like princesses. The scenarios have to be plausible enough within their worlds to make sense. I recently started Lisabet Sarai's very hot m/m romance "Quarantine" which is set in an imagined future where a gay plague infecting heterosexuals has resulted in imprisonment for those testing positive for the homogene. It has the right mix of tension, gritty sex and characters that are not too unrealistic to  be believable although their bodies are delicious sounding. 

I am also a big fan of the speculative fiction of Kurt Vonnegut--Harrison Bergeron is one of my favourite stories--the magical realism of Robertson Davies and Isabelle Allende and recently I discovered Angela Carter whose adaptations and recreations of old fairy tales are  marvelous. Helen Oyeyemi is a contemporary writer who has updated the tale of Bluebeard in Mr. Fox and Barry Webster has written fable, horror, fairy tale and fantasy in his wonderful linked short story collection, the Lava In My Bones. I aspire to write as well and as imaginatively as these fine writers.

Now back to reclining on the chaise lounge and being fed bonbons by several scantily clad young men. [pure fantasy alas]


  1. Despite your protests, you appear to have done plenty of wandering in the worlds of fantasy, Amanda.

    Every fictional world - even the most intricate and strange - has its roots in familiar reality. If it did not, readers could not understand it. (I've had trouble with some science fiction for just this reason.)

    In writing Quarantine, I worried that my imagined world was too much like the present day, though it's set about thirty years in the future. Having seen what technology has dished out since I was a kid in the fifties and sixties, I can scarcely guess what will turn up in the next few decades. I finessed this problem by positing a decline in technological sophistication in the US (a trend not completely fictional) as newly developing countries like China and Brazil surged forward.

  2. Hi Amanda!

    You mentioned so many of my own literary heroes here, ray Bradbury and Isabell Allende, and especially Angela Carter. I think you must love language a lot, because language especially is what makes Bradbury and Carter stand out.

    "I devoured fairy tales, and was convinced a fairy hid amongst the tiger lilies behind the wrought iron fence in our front yard . . ." This also sounds like me at that age where I kept waiting for that magic moment to be befriended by a ghost or any strange thing. As we get older we have to fight to keep that magic mind.


  3. fantasy but not brand new worlds ;)
    agreed about the familiar...
    thanks for your comments, Lisabet.

  4. yes, exactly, Garce. you & i would have been great imaginary friends as kids :)

  5. Great post, Amanda. I must read more of your work, plus Lisabet's novel, Quarantine.


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