Triumph is closely identified with winning, defeating competitors, or odds, or one’s own self-doubts. Scoring high in a marathon, for instance, could involve all three. There’s nothing wrong with triumphing, especially if what you’ve won, like a political position or a job advancement, puts you in position to accomplish worthy goals, which would be further triumphs.
But while some people handle triumph well, even gracefully, some get addicted to it. Going from one triumph to another can be fine for a while, but letting triumph itself become the whole point can do tremendous damage. Think, for instance, of people triumphant in terms of wealth who are driven to accumulate more and more, depriving others of resources they really need, because they’re addicted to playing a game where money is the fuel of triumph, and of power, and therefore of a sense of self-worth. The worst of these addicts play not only for wealth, but for the joy of defeating others. It’s not enough to win; someone else must lose, and the more painfully, the better. I don’t know whether there are many who feel this way, but we happen to have elected one of them who sees life in terms of “negotiations” that he feels must result in triumph for him and loss for someone else. Sort of the zero-sum equation.
You knew I was going there, didn’t you. And you probably see where I’m going next. That same addict to triumph hungers for power and prestige, and has, to even his own surprise, achieved what might be the pinnacle of both, but without understanding the responsibilities involved. He loves to stage rallies with his rabid supporters, and promise them anything, but has no idea of how or whether those promised could ever be kept. He doesn’t understand the way the government works, or what the consequences of his actions or inactions can be. He needs continual assurance of approval, even adulation, without knowing how to earn those. He may not aspire to be a military conqueror along the lines of Alexander the Great, who went from victory to victory, conquering much of what was seen at the time as the known world and is often ranked among the most influential people in history, but then again, he may not know enough history to have heard of Alexander. If he has, he certainly wouldn’t want to be personally at the head of his troops in warfare as Alexander was, and has used every means possible not to serve in his own country’s military when he was the appropriate age. He does, however, want to use the military power of his country to achieve some kind of personal glory and a sense of triumph.
Enough of that. Things are what they are, and we do all we can through voting and activism to work toward our own vision of political triumph. But as writers, on a personal level, we’ve all have our few moments of triumph and of loss. I felt something like triumph when I sold my first story for publication and for real (though scant) money. I actually sold two at about the same time, but I think the first to see print was in the long-gone Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Other modest sales in fantasy and science fiction were thrills, but the first, I think, was the closest to triumph. My first erotica sale, though, to Best Lesbian Erotica 1999, felt like a triumph all over again. So did my first contract to edit an anthology, and later my first contract from a more established publisher, one who’d ignored my anthology proposals before even though I’d had many stories in their previous books, but eventually called on me because they’d had trouble with another editors and people I’d worked with by then had recommended me as someone who could handle the administrative part of editing. I guess triumph is measured by what you feel more than by any other criterion.
I’ve had what I’ve perceived as triumphs again from time to time in the way of awards for my anthologies, two of them Lambda Literary awards and five Golden Crown Literary Awards. I admit that I enjoyed the hell out of going up onto the stage to accept the Lambda awards, but with mixed feelings. One reason for that was that those awards were for my contributors, not for my own writing. Once a collection of my own work was a Lambda finalist, but otherwise I was just the name on the cover, the administrative editor, which was fine, but not exactly a cause for triumph. Another reason was that there were never as many entries in my category of Lesbian Erotica as there were in most other categories, so “triumph” didn’t mean as much.
Still, I admit that I became an awards junkie in a small way. I’m trying to get over it, and pretty much succeeding. For one thing, erotica in general is becoming less and less well-regarded. Maybe the dross of lowest-common-denominator schlock available has driven out the questionable gold. The Lambda Awards have now combined the Gay and Lesbian erotica books into one category, and the list is still pretty short. Calls for Submissions for erotica anthologies are few and far between, also reflecting the lack of interest in short stories as opposed to novels. I’ve been told that the Golden Crown awards committee is having a very hard time finding judges willing to read erotica. Sigh. Sic Transit Gloria…um, what’s the Latin for Erotica? Maybe just Eros?
Well, there are other times for triumph. Such as, finishing a novel. I’m slogging away at coping with an experienced novel editor’s edits of a novel I’ve more or less written, and when I’ve finally finished, I’ll think I’ll feel some degree of triumph mixed with the relief of being done with it, and, most likely, never get involved in novel writing again. When I think of all the short stories I could have written, wanted very much to write, in the time it’s taken me to wrestle with this 65,000 word document, it’s downright depressing. If there’s a moral to all this, it’s something similar to “choose your fights,” but more like, “choose the kinds of triumphs you can love to aim for.”
(I hope it's okay to add that I do, in fact, have a new Call for Submissions out in the usual market listings, including the ERWA one, for what should be called Best Lesbian Erotica 2019, but under new management is titled Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Volume Three. And my Volume 2 is coming out next month.)