Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Carpe Fermentum

I don't have as much to say on this as I did several years ago when I first began writing here.  There was a time, pre- Fifty Shades of Grey, when writing erotica - or porn - depending, could get you in a world of hurt if you were outed.  There was a time if you brought marijuana through an airport in your suitcase no one cared, but if you had a paperback of "Tropic of Cancer" you could go to jail.  People cared.

When my novella "The Color of the Moon" was picked up by Whisky Creek, my very first sale, Lisabet asked "What's your pen name?"  "Pen name?"  "You'd better have a pen name if you're going to write this stuff and you'd better protect it."  So I made myself a pen name modeled after my literary hero Gabriel  Garcia-Marquez.  For years I cringed nervously in its shadow, guarding my writing and not showing it to anyone, not even my family.  It was bittersweet when "Color of the Moon" saw the light of day, I was a published author at last, and I couldn't tell anyone.  Not even my family.  Especially my family, as if there were some dark shame instead of triumph.

Now these books are in supermarkets and public libraries.  They teach Henry Miller and Anais Nin in college.  "Ubiquitous" I think is how our more well mannered literary writers would put it.  Which brings up the only remaining problem, "When are you going to write something serious?"  I still get this.  A story of mine recently won the Porter Fleming literary jury prize and the response became louder - "When are you going to write something serious (read: socially acceptable)?" even after I already had and was given a respectable check for it.

I don't think we're in the business of being socially acceptable.  I think we're in the business of providing fermentable materials for more respectable writers.  Ray Bradbury grew up on Buck Rogers and Tarzan then wrote space opera classics that people will be reading for a hundred years.  Dostoyevsky voraciously read the blood drenched Police Gazettes and gruesome penny dreadfuls of Czarist Russia and wanted to create his own murder mysteries of axe fiends and prostitutes.  Except of course he's Dostoyevsky.  How is this possible?  Fermentable materials.  Feed your head Fyodor until something bubbles.  I feed my head on pulp magazines, horror stories and erotica and so on until things in my head begin to bubble.  That's how its done.  Great literature doesn't ferment all that well.

I myself may never be all that respectable, but I think being Little Richard to someone else's Paul McCartney is a perfectly respectable profession.  In its way.


  1. Now this is an interesting concept, Garce. I wonder if my writing is fueling the imagination of some future literary genius. Doesn't seem too probable, but who knows?

  2. We never know. Thats the mystery and the joy of life and art.

  3. I think this is another example of lowering your standards as you get older. It just takes so much energy to strive to be discovered, and that energy can be spent writing instead. But then one labors in obscurity. What to do? Convince yourself that it's all for the best, I guess.

    I used to want to be the best English teacher anyone ever had. Now I realize that no one will even give me an interview anymore, because I'm older than the retiring teachers. I was a damn good mom, but the pay just isn't there. So I take what I'm given, in order to pay the bills.

    I've spent years raging, being angry, and crying. I think it's similar to the stages of grief. The death of my youthful plans, I guess. Now I'm trying to be more accepting, at least, if not gracious. So I can't least I'm allowed to sub, to be a smiling face for students who might need that. I tutor young kids, telling them they're smart and getting smarter every day. Don't we all need to hear that?

    So I guess I will start trying to look at my writing your way. Maybe my words will be read by someone with more talent than me, and will inspire her/him to greater things. I guess that's something.

    By-the-by, Little Richard is famous in his own right. He's also been an actor, as well as a musician. True, he never made the scad-zoodles of money that each of the Beatles did, but he is a star in his own right. I'd love to have even a tiny fraction of the fame that will be rewarded to this unknown future writer, in order to know my books are being read. We can dream, right?

  4. I'm sure we're fueling imaginations, and if you go with the so-called Butterfly effect, that will in some ways affect the future, but I'm not counting on being actually remembered. Sigh.

  5. I detect a note of despair, which emotion i'm familiar with. As we get older we feel the doors of mortality squeeze in on us. I find different ways to resist but its hard. The work you do with kids is important I think not only for the kids but for you. Its good for the soul. I find that in my cnurch. I'm seriously thinking about learning how to give a class on writing a spiritual autobiography. Think about it.

  6. Hi saki sacchi! I dont know, there is something about the internet and how people communicate that makes me think this stuff will be around a while. In t the end we serve the story first.

  7. An intriguing post, as usual, Garce. I suppose we might all influence readers in ways we can't foresee.

  8. "I think we're in the business of providing fermentable materials for more respectable writers."

    I think this idea of fermentation is really interesting, though I'd take out the caveat about respectability. I think we all read others' work and then let it ferment, and that's a really cool thing.

    Also, I don't think erotica is as acceptable as you're saying. Sure, 50 Shades can be purchased in the grocery store. However, I realized that a lot of what I always have with me is dangerous in Russia (homosexual "propaganda," excuse me, literature). I write it, read it, store it on my devices, and it could really cost me if I were caught with it there. This isn't an immaterial or academic concern—my partner has family there, and I've decided I don't feel safe going to see them. (I was, however, willing to go to Ukraine.) There are places all over the world where erotica—especially queer erotica—is dangerous to produce and possess. To say nothing of the personal cost of having it/writing it right here in the US.

    Like lots of things, I think erotica breaks out into more and less "respectable" forms. There's plenty people still sneer at even if they'll accept 50 shades.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.