May 2017

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Annoying Dream:
For some reason, I've lately been having dreams in which I somehow end up in a wooded park and find myself getting lost and running into dead ends as I try to navigate its trails and roads. This park is a real place from my boyhood, a fairly large and heavily wooded park in the town in which I was born and lived until I was thirteen. It had (and I presume still has) hidden trails, a couple of weird bodies of water, an old stadium, a police shooting range, some assorted attractions like a public swimming pool and a dirt-and-gravel road that cuts through its back regions, but which doesn't really go anywhere--it just loops back around to where you started. But in some iterations of this dream, I am either walking or driving that road and somehow just can't quite find my way back out of the park. The road forks in strange ways, generates long sidepaths that dead-end in the woods or run into a large lake (there was in real life swampy flooded lake-like algae-choked area of water there that one could get to by following a dead-end path from the main road--and where it was believed that teenagers would go to fuck in their cars--but nothing nearly so large as the dream lake). In last night's version of the dream, instead of following the endless ever-changing road, I got similarly disoriented on a trail that cut through the woods and followed a narrow shallow stream. This trail and that stream were real things back in those days, too. During the summer when I was twelve, I frequently ventured down this trail by myself and masturbated. I enjoyed doing this outside so much that it became a nearly daily habit that summer even on rainy days, always standing in the same hidden spot and squirting on a clump of milkweed. It's amazing that I was never caught doing this because, while the path itself and my favorite spot on it were quite hidden from view, it was still traveled pretty frequently by other kids who liked to use it to cut aross the deep foresty middle of the park and feel some kind of sense of adventure from doing so. But I always got away with it. In fact, the only thing I was ever seen doing with my fly open was pissing in the stream that ran next to the trail, but that was totally non-controversial as it was absolutely standard for every boy who ever went to that part of the park to piss in that stream as if it were a long public trough-style urinal. In this dream from last night, I was on that same path, and I remember so many vivid details of it that makes me feel like my old impressions of it had risen whole and unchanged from some deep geological layer of memory. In the dream, I didnt jerk off and wasn't in the least bit horny enough to want to do so anyway, because I was intensely frustrated at how long circuitous the trail had become, and how it seemed that no matter which direction I went, I was just getting farther and farther away from the park's exit. At one point, I decided it would somehow be faster to simply go back the way I came and quit trying to find the end of the trail, but then the way back had changed, as if the path had been reworking itself behind me as I trod the woods' depths. Eventually, I made myself wake up. I can't always do this, but occasionally I have the ability to realize while in dream-space that I am probably dreaming and can just put an end to whatever dumb situation is going on by waking myself up.

New book project:
I am well into the editing and revision phase of a long project that I will probably release through (the long dormant) M-Brane Press hopefully later this year as both a series of ebooks and a single big print volume. It's a gay pornographic science fiction thing with elements of planetary romance and cosmic horror, set in a fantasy version of the Solar System several centuries from now, centered around a cast of specially-endowed characters that work almost like a Doc Savage-type secret organization to save the world again and again from various insidious threats (while continually getting their rocks off). I started it last summer, and added over fifty thousand words to it as my NaNoWriMo project last November, and it's been kind of growing gradually since then. I may release it pseudonymously, not because of its content but more because its built on the conceit that it's an assembly of several dudes' diary entries put together by an editor many years after the events described. So I think I will credit the book to its imaginary editor. It's become a lot more complicated, elaborate, nuanced, weird and just plain longer than what I had intended at the outset (which was just to knock out some quickie Kindle porn really fast and see if anyone would actually buy it), so I am months behind my own deadlines on it. The original idea was to release it as a bunch of ebooks, each "book" really just being a chapter in a serial. Typically these erotic Kindle books on Amazon tend to really just be four or five thousand-word short stories, and sometimes even shorter than that. My project is currently mapped out to have twenty-seven of these "books", each with a number and a lurid subtitle (I was kind of inspired to that number by Mark Danielwski's The Familiar, which he intends to tell in twenty-seven massive volumes). These individual book segments tend to be clocking in at around ten to twelve thousand words (and they get longer as I lard them up with "scholarly" footnotes) so a bit longer than is typical for the Kinde erotica format, but that's for the best, I think. I find a lot of that stuff to be too brief and not sufficiently fleshed out (and just plain awful) anyway. The final number of chapters may change by the time I am done, because a few of the unfinished ones seem to not need to exist anymore, while a couple of new ones that weren't even in the original outline have grown up and become important to the story arc. Also, I a few months ago, I had more or less decided to kill off one of the characters and excise him from the whole storyline because he didn't seem to be doing much of anything important, and I thought I maybe had too many major characters anyway (nine of them). But more recently, I kind of fell in love with the lad when he suddenly needed to be at the center of a couple new plot threads due to his special ability (he paints and draws stuff derived from prophetic visions). So he stays.
So, in last night's post of random thoughts about Delany's Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, (the heartrending conclusion of which I'd just reached), I stopped while still wanting to consider to what extent the novel is science fiction and to what extent it is pornography, the genre labels which its author affixes to it (and we already stipulated that it is Real Literature based on the fineness of its writing and the lovely architecture of its narrative).

If SF is still supposed to be that genre where differences between the current real world and the world of the fiction are expressed in terms of scientific and technological changes that may happen in the future (or in an alternate history), then Through the Valley... fits genre-well in that its timeframe reaches into the eighth decade of this century (the Future), and indeed there are a number of science/tech advancements that affect the lives of future people, even if Eric and Shit remain rather isolated from them, quite on the sidelines of it all. But SF has also been far too rigidly, even ideologically, defined as a literature where the entire story and everything about it hinges totally on a principle of science or future tech without the presence of which the entire enterprise collapses and it is no longer, by definition, science fiction. Or: if the same, exact story could be told without the science/tech element, then it's not SF. I have to say that this narrow conception of the genre hamstrung for many years my own attempts to write in it, made me feel I couldn't even try to tell such a story if I didn't have some kind of plausible, ironclad scientific linchpin holding the whole thing together--as if a cadre of real scientists were going to review my work and denounce it as impossible. If SF were to be defined so dogmatically, then maybe Delany's book doesn't make the cut. Because the same story could certainly be told without the futuristic details that abound as the narrative moves later into the century. He could have had the 2030s and 2070s look exactly like our own present year and completely ignored the likelihood that tech and the way people behave around each other may evolve, that cultural norms may shift, that things--as much as they stay the same--will still look different. But that would have been weird, and maybe ridiculous, and certainly detrimental to a story that really must start when it does in real-world years and end when it does in future years. No, what Delany wrote here is SF whether or not it fits a strict Golden Age/Old Men of Science Fiction definition of the genre. And, besides, he's bent the hell out of that old mold for fifty years and is one of the best practitioners of the genre ever. Doubt it? Then read Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, one of the greatest achievements of space opera ever and packed with more "science" stuff than most writers and readers can easily apprehend in a single book. So, science fiction: check.

But is it also pornography just because it has a lot of graphic sex in it? And it really does have a lot of graphic sex in it, almost, maybe more than is really reasonable even for a novel such as this, so much that the individual scenes occasionally seem far too long and too back-to-back and too repetitive of stuff that happened earlier (but this may be on purpose, pushing the reader to slog through it, because within all this surfeit of bodies and fluid are constantly-discovered little gems about the characters as real people--but you have to work for them, all the while reading about a lot of cocks and cum and snot). It's also a range of sexuality that seems designed to push pretty much every single reader outside his/her comfort zone--even a nearly-no-limits fag like me. The Venn diagram with the deeply purple-shaded area that represents the overlap of every single kink and predilection depicted in this novel's sex-content probably, in real life, contains no one at all (maybe the author himself? But I wonder). So is it porn if its intent/result is not just to titillate, arouse, induce masturbation? As sexy as some of it was to me as I read it, I never responded to it as I might to something tailored as porn for my particular biases and kinks. But if porn is a form or sub-genre within the fantasy genre, then maybe this is a giant accomplishment in that genre.

[Wait, what's fantasy? The intrusion of un-reality? magic? suspension of consensus-reality rules?]

Because in this world that Delany describes, the sex ain't ever bad. It is always consensual and pleasurable--even when among immediate family--and it is always available in the most unlikely locations and at the weirdest times. If you are horny in this world, you will get promptly laid. If you like it with multiple partners at once, they are at your disposal. Any kink you can imagine getting off upon will be available. A truck stop and a giant movie theater are well known as places for public sex among men and they exist openly, totally un-harassed by the law and society (save for some occasional interference from the ineffectual background villain Johnston). Likewise a "Gay Friendly Rest Room" at the market (which scene, by the way, involves some seriously funny comic writing). The protag Eric has a fetish for piss, and so there exists for a while a bar that is designed to make his  fantasies real, almost as if it were put into business years before specifically anticipating his arrival in town. This is why the porn of Through the Valley... is a whole different thing than the porn of Delany's earlier novel Hogg (written way, way back even before Dhalgren but not published until many years later). There's no horror, coercion or brutality in this newer book. Instead, it's a sex utopia. Fantasy, even if it's not your particular personal fantasy. So, if porn is fantasy-about-sex, then this novel works easily, almost silkily and insidiously, within that definition. 

But is a utopia (science-based or sex-based) of any kind, where everything's easy, inherently boring? I think I just read about one that's not. 

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Finished this evening reading Samuel Delany's Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. I did this while baking chicken that was later to join avocados and tomatoes and radishes and cucumbers and scallions in a salad for our dinner. I'm glad I didn't finish it earlier this afternoon, when I had the book in my hands while doing laundry. Because then I probably would have been weeping in public at the laundromat instead of alone in my kitchen (Jeffy was away in the front room). 

And I look again at its last page--its very last paragraph, which is this:

--and woke, thinking, in the dark. No. I have a bit more time. He relaxed before the rumoring sea.

And that's not sad at all. It's a relief. But the pages that preceded it, that last awful movement of the shared life story of the two protagonists, those moments before the two together became one alone, were extremely hard to take. I knew what was coming hundreds of pages away and didn't want to experience it, but I needed to know the details anyway because I adored those characters. It's not the common novel that follows two people in life and love from their teens years all the way until their late eighties and end of life in the late 21st century. 

I worked for a couple of years as the cook for a residential (and end-of-life) facility for people with dementia. I thought of them a lot as I read about Eric Jeffers' and Shit Haskell's final days together. I have a grandmother who, at 96 years of age, still lives in reasonable health but has less and less memory as time passes, particularly of anything that happened more recently than three decades ago. And less still of anything that happened today. 

The last couple hundred pages of the book, read over the last few days, which dwell more and more upon aging (and which are almost interrupted from time to time by funerals for and mentions of the deaths of characters from earlier in the book), have made me feel older. No, that's not true. It's made me think about being old more than I normally do. Age--my own aging, if I actually live to be truly old--has always been a dismaying abstraction that I'd rather set aside. But what will it really be like, and what will it really be like for me and my partner should we grow that old together (as I increasingly suspect we will)? The characters in this story, Eric and Shit (I won't sanitize it here by using his "proper" name Morgan--he didn't like it and, at his own insistence, nobody hardly ever called him that) live, in their youths and well into their middle-age and later years, a fantastical (possibly preposterously so), sex life with each other and with others, much of it rendered for the reader in detail that Delany himself always calls not "erotica" but rather "pornography." It's a distinction that I am not sure matters, but this book makes me wonder about it. I think about how my partner and I, together for almost thirteen years now, did not ever have anything approaching that crazy a sex life even in the early days (and know we never will in the future) and I wonder if we missed something. Would we have even wanted, in the most excessive fantasy mode of mind, to have had anything like the carnal world that Eric and Shit had? I don't think so. It's over the top. Theirs is a fantasy--it's speculative fiction. The novel becomes science fiction to some extent later in its course, but it's out-and-out fantasy early on. I think so anyway. But not sure if I have reasoned that out completely. 

There's an obnoxious 1-star review of Through the Valley... on Amazon (note to self: keep up with the policy of avoiding user comments on stuff) in which the poster complains generally about the porn element of the book  (I think because he doesn't think it's "hot"), and expresses incredulity that Delany is a published author of a number of books (revealing that he hasn't heard of Delany's long and broad career) and generally bagging on the quality of the writing. He then goes on to suggest that if one wants to read some REALLY interesting and transgressive shit, then one should read some other authors including Dennis Cooper. Years ago, I happened to select for back-to-back reading Dennis Cooper's Frisk and Poppy Z. Brite's Exquisite Corpse, two fairly contemporaneous examples of creepy and squicky horror/murder-porn involving gay characters. Brite's book--regardless whatever any of its detractors may have said about it--didn't blink. It was a fucking horrifying story with a godawful climax and a horrendous denouement, a total success in its mode. Cooper's, on the other hand, did blink. It ended with a sort of "just kidding" or it "it was all a dream" wrap-up. When I read that one, I wondered if the author had planned something else but then fell too much in love with his protag to let it happen. I guess I don't have anything else to say about that other than anyone who thinks that Cooper is a better novelist than Delany needs to read a lot more books. I respect Cooper's work...but damn, he's no Delany.

I gather that part of the aesthetic intent of Through the Valley... is to fuse the contemporary "literary" novel with science fiction and pornography. That the book is Big L literature is plainly apparent, but whether it is also really science fiction or really pornography might be open to discussion. I might take that up in a later post, but not now (cuz not quite done wiping away tears and snot from how sad those last few pages were!)
My current work-in-progress—that novella that I have posting section of on Facebook and on my LJ—involves a Lovecraftian cult in the background of the story, and I decided to talk about the sexual practices and mores of this cult. I thought some kind of “magic” involving sex would be fun to add into the mix. So yesterday, I was looking into the matter of “sex magic” and “auto-erotic” spiritual practices, including those promulgated by the occult groups with which Aleister Crowley was involved in the early years of the 20th century. Somehow my research got a bit sidetracked, and I stumbled upon a gay porn site, one of the really funny ones that evidently originate in a non-English-speaking country, but where all the text on the site has been translated—very poorly—into English. The site contained several rather wordy paragraphs of text, supposedly describing various videos that one could see a preview of or download. Oddly, all of the pics accompanying the text blocks were on a single theme: medical examinations, randy doctors and their lovely patients. But the accompanying text described a much wider range of activities, or at least seemed to from what I could glean.

As I read through these bizarre paragraphs of near-nonsense, weirdly computer-translated, I found them strangely interesting in their syntax and word choice. There were broken sentences of 12 or 15 words of sheer gibberish, but then this might be followed by a phrase or clause that seemed almost lovely. I started to imagine that this text could work for live performance if one wanted to present a ridiculous parody of a pretentious Beat poetry or slam poetry reading. I imagined William S. Burroughs sitting in a smoke-hazed café somewhere in 1960, stoned on heroin, listening to a young poet reciting this text, someone in the background tapping on a bongo drum.

So I copy/pasted several paragraphs of text from the porn site, and spent about ten minutes editing them into the following gay erotic “poem,” overbearingly titled “Learning My Opener-Word: Nut-Fogged Impressions of the Orgy Years in the Twink Gay Fora…A Found Poem.” I did not add any language to what I snagged from the porn site. All I did was delete words and add punctuation, emphasis and capitalization occasionally. I didn’t even rearrange the order in which I found it, or mix sentences from different paragraphs. What follows is exactly as I found it, in the order I found it, just with my minor edits. Now, I would like for someone to perform a live café reading of it and capture it on video and post that video online. Then it will be Art, man!

The piece itself contains some sexually explicit language, so reader discretion is advised. Oddly, however, considering its source, it ended up not being as crazily pornographic as it might have been.

And now, without further delay, my newest work, “Learning My Opener-Word: Nut-Fogged Impressions of the Orgy Years in the Twink Gay Fora…A Found Poem.” 
 
Read more [adult content]... )
 
 
On those rare occasions when I just say "fuck it, I'm sleeping for a long time tonight," and I end up getting about eight or nine more or less uninterrupted hours (usually a couple on the couch until Maus, the cat, ushers me to bed), I tend to have very weird and very long and drawn-out dreams of great detail and complexity (and usually with frustrating story-lines) during the last hour or two in bed. I haven't kept up on these dream journal entries lately (though old ones can be found by the tag below) but this morning's sleep-borne vision was so crazy and so genre-related that I must report it. Readers of more sensitive tastes should leave the room now, for this dream was imbued with the essence of Picard/Riker slash.



I'd imagine that anyone geeky enough to read my LiveJournal knows about slash fiction. But if not, a working definition: a fan-written fiction based on characters from TV, movies, and books centered around a couple of those characters having a (usually homo)sexual relationship with one another. Star Trek slash, centered on Kirk and Spock (K/S was the fanzine genre abbreviation in the old Universal Translator and Datazine guides, and that's where the "slash" came from), dates back almost to the beginning of Trek. 

So, back to my dream...I don't remember everything that happened during the several subjective days that this dream transpired over, but I vividly recall a sequence where I was in bed and naked with another dude. In the dream context, I understood without any difficulty that I was Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D. And I knew that my bed partner--while he did not look anything at all like actor Jonathan Frakes--was, in fact, Commander Riker, my "Number One." So while I looked basically like I do in real life, and while my bed partner looked basically like he does in real life (will not be saying who that real life person is publicly), we were, in fact, Picard and Riker. Except we also had a LOT of tattoos, way more than in real life. But here's where it gets weird and frustrating and starts to bear all the hallmarks of an early-morning dream: I am trying to, ya know, get it on with my Number One but the fact that our bedroom opens into the bridge of the Enterprise proves a constant distraction. People are continually trying to report stuff about the Romulans and some kind of nonsense from the Judge Advocate General's office and facts about the Medusans and shit about the DS9 wormhole, and my "Riker" is very, very interested in all of this minutiae, and I am continually cock-blocked. Until I finally woke up from this crazed Trek-sexual fantasia.

I hope someone reads this and then writes the slash-fic based on it.
Content advisory: this post contains mild references to pornographic media...

I was perusing a few homoerotic websites this morning--purely for purposes of research into a new fiction item that I am contemplating, you know--and I noticed some hilarious oddities in the descriptors posted along with a number of video clips. I wonder if these sites are compiled somewhere abroad and then translated not by actual people with really shaky English, but by computer. A few of the weirdest:

Read more... )

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Oddly, this morning started with an email from someone I sort of know--not really well, but sort of--the subject of which was yaoi and gay hentai imagery. This person wished to make sure that I was aware of the existence of such material, because he suspected that I would find it extremely enjoyable and that it would be a major oversight on my part of I didn't know about it.  Hmm. Well, I have indeed known about these forms of Japanese cartoon sexiness for many years. Really, I would be surprised if there is a genre of gay porn that I have not yet heard of. But I'm not, in fact, a big consumer of erotic imagery and videos. I find that my imagination is quite a bit hotter than most of what shows up in pics and vids. If I am going to spend time with porn, I'd rather read something. A few years ago, Jeff and I were shopping with our friend Emily in a store in St. Louis which had a fairly extensive gay porn magazine selection. Jeff and I decided to make purchases, so we would have something fun to leaf through over mimosas during brunch. I chose an issue of the digest Cherry Tales. This magazine had a single image, on its cover, and the whole interior of it was nothing but text. It looked kind of like Analog, but filled with "true" first person accounts of boys who has just turned eighteen that day losing their virginity. Emily said something like, "Of course you're getting the porn mag that doesn't have any pictures!" Dork!

Read (and see!) more... )
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