Thursday, April 30, 2009

In Praise of Feminist Smut

I've appeared at a lot of writers’ conferences in the past 6 months (Romantic Times, Las Vegas, San Diego, Florida, ) and am set to do a bunch more (Writer's Digest, Lori Foster's, Necon, Killercon). I usually end up on an editors’ panel where I try to explain where Ravenous Romance is coming from editorially, and what sets us apart.

I got a phone call today from a major trade publisher, who is buying a number of our titles for reprint. He gushed about how much fun our books were to read, and how he thought he knew what to expect and yet was pleasantly surprised. He also said that the sex in the books was as good as any erotica he'd ever read, and he's been reading erotica for decades.

Whenever I do one of these panels, I always tell people that I have wanted to start an erotica company for women since I was a teenager coming of age in the 70s. I was completely blown away by Anais Nin and her Delta of Venus and Little Birds (and later read her diaries, twice), as well as Nancy Friday's various sexual fantasy collections. Erica Jong and Marilyn French didn't grab me as hard, but I was fascinated by the burgeoning genre of “clit lit.” The Anne Rice Beauty books came out when I was in college, and I was sure feminist erotica would soon rival that of the bad boys of American letters - John Updike, Philip Roth, Henry Miller.

But then there was nothing. Or more of the same male erotica, but nothing more by women, for women. Where was the feminist “smut”? I kept on reading the New York Times Book Review, but couldn't find a thing.

And then, out of left field (or, more accurately, Ohio) emerged Ellora's Cave. As a reader, I was thrilled to find this empowering online bookstore of erotic stories for women.

I was also looking for the thread that would link this new erotic readership to the not-so-distant literary tradition of erotica, but this new material was more about opening the bedroom door in the romance novels of my teens, which I also endorsed.

At Ravenous, we want to merge these two powerful (and commercial) erotic sensibilities, widening the readership of this female-pleasing (even if they're M/M stories) entertainment. We are reaching the readers of explicitly erotic romance, as well as the erotica reader, offering a guaranteed Happy Ending (which is what both these forms of fiction demand).

And I firmly believe that if Anais Nin were writing today, she's be writing for Ravenous and other digital erotic romance publishers, and making a small fortune

3 comments:

cmkempe said...

Hurrah -- I agree, of course!

ryan field said...

Good post.

Ann Vremont said...

"reaching the readers of explicitly erotic romance, as well as the erotica reader, offering a guaranteed Happy Ending (which is what both these forms of fiction demand)."

And yet I can think of nothing that would be more awesome than a fully eroticized retelling of Jude the Obscure, Tess or Brave New World.

Oh well. Some day. Some other publisher.