The Best American Erotica 2003

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Overview


Special 10th Anniversary Edition

More Stories
• More Sex
• Author Interviews
• Readers' Poll Results

There's a party going on in here. Please come.

Lick the icing on this cake: from the raunchy to the sensual, the 10th anniversary edition of The Best American Erotica ...

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Overview


Special 10th Anniversary Edition

More Stories
• More Sex
• Author Interviews
• Readers' Poll Results

There's a party going on in here. Please come.

Lick the icing on this cake: from the raunchy to the sensual, the 10th anniversary edition of The Best American Erotica includes the most esteemed and lascivious writers at work today.

Dorothy Allison explores the wonderful, mysterious abilities of the human hand, Chuck Palahniuk opens the door on a carnal meeting in a church bathroom, Susanna Kaysen takes us inside that sensual moment before two lovers touch for the first time, and Zane's corporate tigress plays mind games that make other office shenanigans look like mere games of Candyland.

In candid Q&A's the authors reveal that they are great-grandfathers, prostitutes with Ivy League diplomas, and former lunatic asylum attendants. Here, too, are the results of the readers' survey. Straight, bisexual, or gay; dominant or submissive; kinky or just curious, you're sure to be turned on by the steamiest Best American Erotica ever.

* CONTRIBUTORS

Martha Miller, Chuck Palahniuk, Susan St. Aubin, Mel Smith, Greta Christina, James Williams, Robert Irwin, Susan Volchok, Myriam Gurba, Vaginal Davis, Bertice Berry, Dorothy Allison, Susanna Kaysen, Jack Fritscher, Lisa Wolfe, Zane, Scott, Jill Soloway, Tennessee Jones, Alison L. Smith, Paula Bomer, Dagoberto Gilb, Tsaurah Litzky, Aaron Travis, Nicholson Baker, Rose White and Eric Albert, Ivy Topiary, William Harrison

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Editorial Reviews

Advocate
If Bright collected pennies as efficiently as she collects sexy stories, she'd be a zillionaire.
—Robert L. Pela
Joshua Green
In The Best American Erotica 1999 you'll find all manner of the dirty deed, from sex on the bus (Anne Tourney's "How to Come on a Bus") to sex on the phone (Marian Phillips' "Three Obscene Telephone Calls") to even sex with an Idaho potato (Cecilia Tan's "Penetration").

But credit editor Susie Bright for delivering more than just literary luridness. Though she certainly has an eye for the unusual, Bright strikes a balance between traditional and avant garde erotica that readers have come to expect from this yearly anthology. In this edition, two of the unlikeliest stories are also the most captivating: Ben Niehart's parody of sexual perversity in the record industry ("The Number One Song in the Country") and Robin Sweeney's well-paced account of chatroom lesbian disciplinarians ("Picking Up Daddy").

The best stories in this collection don't merely describe sex, they offer something in the way of character, plot or humor. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in "Je t'aime, Batman, je t'adore," Kelly McQuain's achingly funny tale of gay superheroes. With a sublime sense of parody, McQuain takes Saturday Night Live's "Ambiguously Gay Duo" to extremes by revealing Robin's animal lust for a smoldering but oblivious Batman. Plagued by the Joker and a series of ill-timed "Bat-boners," Robin's plight told through McQuain's crackling prose transcends any previous notions of erotica.
Playboy.com
New York Times Book Review
She's like a big sister eager to usher you into a forbidden world of free-range fantasy.
—Margot Mifflin
Publishers Weekly
There's always something for everyone in a Best American Erotica anthology, and this 10th anniversary edition of the long-running series serves up the usual "it takes all kinds" m lange. Edited once again by connoisseur Bright (Susie Bright's Sexwise), this collection features a soft-focus excerpt from Susanna Kaysen's memoir The Camera My Mother Gave Me as well as stories from relative unknowns exploring s&m, transgender issues and voyeurism. Greta Christina's "A Live One" is a seductive tale of a peep-show sex worker and her satisfying interaction with a customer behind glass. "Ponyboy" by James Williams showcases the world of submissive men ("ponies") and their "riders." Paula Bomer truly surprises with her combination of emotional honesty and raw sex in "Fucking His Wife, Four Months Pregnant with Their Third Child." In addition to 23 tales culled from various publications (including Penthouse, Paramour and Zyzzyva) over the last year, this collection also boasts two bonus features. Bright includes the results of an author questionnaire offering sociological data about 137 of the BAE contributors from the last decade: ages, occupations, colleges attended, hobbies enjoyed and crimes committed are candidly revealed along with contributors' thoughts about censorship, anonymity and the stigma attached to erotic writing. Bright has also surveyed readers to compile a list of the favorite 100 BAE stories of the past 10 years, five of which are reprinted here. This enormous range of subjects and styles is what makes the anthology shine, although some of the stories sacrifice good prose for steamy effects. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
If the tenth anniversary edition of Bright's sturdy annual isn't all things to all men, women, and warm-blooded animals, it's not for lack of trying.

Now that the indefatigable impresario (Full Exposure: Opening Up to Sexual Creativity and Erotic Expression, 1999, etc.) has left behind the focus on fetishism and identity politics that made several of her earlier collections seem pat and mechanical, the 23 new stories here are less wide-ranging but more heartfelt and emotionally appealing even for readers who may not be gay, lesbian, transgendered, or sadomasochistic themselves. If Lisa Wolfe's "How to Make a Cake" is nothing more than a deliciously straightforward paean to X-rated baking, Susan St. Aubin's "The Man in the Gray Flannel Tights" rings some unexpected changes on crossdressing; Tsaurah Litzky's "End of the World Sex" lives up to its label; even Martha Miller's fleet "The Baby-Sitter" takes off from the time-honored fantasy suggested by its title to plumb the erotics of spousal jealousy. Meanwhile, Susan Volchok's deadpan "How We Did It" amusingly sends up the Insert-Tab-A tone of some of the selections from bygone years. The most interesting features of the volume are the ones that offer evidence of the series' growing pains: the obligatory inclusion of mainstream authors like Chuck Palahniuk, Dagoberto Gilb, and Susanna Kaysen; extensive excerpts from Bright's interviews with the authors of all the first ten annuals ("Q: Do you have any collections we should know about?" A: Accordians"); the results of a readers' poll that identified the 100 favorite stories from earlier volumes; and the reprinting of the top five vote-getters, which are all, in their very different ways,hot stuff indeed.

Though Bright can't decide whether she's broadening, legitimizing, or kidding erotic fiction, and her indecision sometimes seems awkward, the escape from pigeonholing it may be the best indication of the genre's health, and that of its legion of readers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743222617
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 1/6/2003
  • Series: Best American Erotica Series
  • Edition description: 10th Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 10
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 0.83 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Susie Bright is the editor of The Best American Erotica series and host of the weekly audio show In Bed with Susie Bright on Audible.com. She has been a columnist for Playboy and Salon, and has been profiled in USA TODAY, Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, and Vanity Fair, among other publications. An international lecturer on sexuality and feminism, she won the 2004 Writer of the Year Award at the Erotic Awards in London. Ms. Bright lives in Santa Cruz, California.
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Read an Excerpt


Introduction

Happy anniversary, everyone. This is the tenth year of The Best American Erotica, and in the last decade we've enjoyed some of the most memorable erotica ever published in the English language. We've been on best-seller lists and shit lists; we've been hailed both as the decline of fine literature and as the end of hallowed traditions in mediocre smut. We are the only "Best of..." series, in any genre, to stay in print for all ten years we've published.

I suppose our dirtiest secret is that we've had an awful lot of fun.

This year, I decided to interview as many of our BAE author alumni as I could find, and discover a little about their writing lives and history -- as well as their sexual opinions. Out of the 257 authors I've published in BAE, I spoke to 137, and researched another 50 or so from previous interview material, Web sites, and editors' notes. Four authors had passed away since we began the series, much to my sorrow. The ones I didn't get my hands on, as they say, "remain at large." If anyone is offended that they don't see themselves included, I can only say -- we understand you're busy, but your mom says she wants to talk to you, and there's a check waiting for you at your last publisher's office.

In addition to interviewing our authors, I talked to hundreds of fans about their favorite stories of the past ten years. At the end of this edition you'll find "Readers' Choice: The Top 100 of the Past Ten Years," your favorite BAE fiction of the decade.

I loved tallying the results, and at the same time, I have a tender spot about any sort of contest -- I wanna give a trophy to everyone. After all, fans voted on over 300 different stories, so virtually every BAE story was somebody's favorite. Hunter Thompson, who I had no idea was a BAE reader, called me at three in the morning to tell me that "The Queen of Exit 17" was his favorite BAE selection. And yet it didn't make the Top 100. Many superb stories didn't make the cut, but I'd never call this poll the final arbiter. My favorite part of BAE isn't any one story -- I could never narrow it down -- but rather the unprecedented variety of expression and sexuality we bring under one cover. It doesn't happen anyplace else.

Finally, in lieu of cutting a big enough cake for all to partake in, I'd like to thank a few people who have worked with me on The Best American Erotica since we first began the series in 1993.

My managers, Joanie Shoemaker and Jo-Lynne Worley (favorite stories: "Horse Heaven" and "Quiet Please"), are always the first to report that BAE is selling at a new small bookstore in a town ordinarily known for selling more Bibles than erotica. They've negotiated with six different editors and two publishers since the series began, and they've taken BAE to places as far-flung as Beijing (where I hear I have quite a following if I ever want to make an appearance). Their experience in every facet of publishing and the entertainment business has meant all the difference in how my editorial work has developed -- and their loyalty and insight have kept me going through every political and artistic hurdle.

My father, Bill Bright (favorite story: "Sweating Profusely in Merida"), has been the best reader and editor this series ever had. I've never taken a formal writing course, but every time my father edits one of my books, I feel like I'm receiving a master class in the English language -- as well as the many other languages that crop up in BAE storytelling! Bill has been a writer and editor in linguistics, anthropology, and poetry for decades now. When I was little, he would let me get into his big oak desk chair and look over his manuscripts with a red pencil, to see if I could find any typos. I remember the glee I felt when I found a mistake -- even then, I was an editorial sadist. He said when I got good enough, I'd be able to use a red pen, but frankly, I've never let go of the pencil -- it reminds me that he's still there, to look through the pages one more time.

Since I began BAE, my partner Jon Bailiff (favorite story: "Je t'aime, Batman, je t'adore") has had a thankless, and occasionally exhilarating, task -- to live with a woman who takes every story so to heart that he never knows who's going to emerge from her writing studio at the end of the day. Jon's tastes in literature and smut are equally fine; he always has the right instincts. He nurtures this series every year by loving me well; and he is the one with whom I share the most laughs and curses along the way.

I'm sorry, but nostalgia makes me sentimental. There is one last piece of cake to honor, the piece with the hard bean hiding inside it -- which will probably break the tooth of whoever bites down hard. That prize would go to the notorious and plentiful critics of erotica, the people who said:

"Literature and sex don't mix!"

"Women want romance, not smut!"

"Men want crotch shots, not stories!"

"Great writers don't write filth!"

"When it comes to erotica, people only want to read about themselves!"

"Why's a nice girl like you doing a dirty book like this?"

and,

"But you can't say that!"

Yet we did say it, and we wrote it, and we've lived to see a banquet of inspiration come out of it. Thanks to everybody, for making it taste so sweet.

Introduction and compilation copyright © 2003 by Susie Bright

Talking with The Best American Erotica Authors

What do people think of erotic writers? The stereotype is that they are spectacled horndogs, nerdy nymphos, or the "A" students into kink. To a certain degree, BAE authors proved this to be true. Most of them confessed they were overeducated, and the National Merit scholars, grade grubbers, and stuffy literary award winners are too numerous to list here. They overachieved, and suffered the consequences.

What people don't know about erotic writers, according to my interviews, is how sexy, wholesome, daring, brave, strong, tough, and hilarious they are. What you'll find below are my ordinary questions to them, and their extraordinary answers in return.

Q. Have you ever won an award for your writing? How about any sort of prize for your talents, no matter how silly or awful?

I've led a remarkably award-free life, although, of course, I realize that virtue is its own reward. -- Marian Phillips

I won "Best Mom" for an essay I wrote about my mother in 1972 and "Top Pop" for an essay about my father in 1973. And I won a $50 U.S. savings bond for my essay about "What America Means to Me" in 1975 (I cashed it last year and it was worth almost six hundred bucks). -- Chuck Palahniuk

I am the reigning queen of our local hamburger chain's beauty pageant -- I get free burgers and fries for life, plus my poster all over town. -- Ivy Topiary

I am a Knight of the Garter of the Order of Mark Twain (a group in Hannibal, Missouri). I hasten to add that the Miss Universe Contest won by Carter Wilson, the contestant from Virginia, in 1973 was the other Carter Wilson and not me. -- Carter Wilson

I have won boxes and boxes of awards for high school debate and made it to the state quarterfinals. Once a team forfeited when I walked in the room. ("Oh my God, it's her! Never mind. We give up.") -- Jess Wells

I was one of the "50 Most Intriguing Women" in Boston Magazine in 1996. Hee hee hee. -- Amelia Copeland

I came in second once in a competition for shortest hot pants. -- Nalo Hopkinson

I have never won any awards, trophies, etc., unless you count, to my intense embarrassment, winning the Howdy Doody look-alike smile contest when I was ten. My mother sent my picture in. -- Tsaurah Litzky (who has appeared in more BAEs than any other author -- ed.)

Martial Arts

Working on my third Dan, Shotokan Karate. -- Susan Volchok

Musical Achievement

I used to be a classical mezzo-soprano -- I won the George Whitfield Chadwick Medal for contemporary music performance, and I was a fellow in voice performance at the Tanglewood Institute. -- Hanne Blank

Twice won "Best Bassist in Boston," according to our local magazine, The Noise. -- Margaret Weigel

I was a bassoon player, a double reed man, a player of Stravinsky's "Berceuse," from The Firebird. I wanted to be Brahms but I wasn't. -- Nicholson Baker

Special Awards

In the late seventies, I won the PIG award, from the National Organization of Women, for the most chauvinistic advertising of the year -- I was the only woman to receive it that year. I was the one who created "The Maidenform Bra Woman: You never know where she'll turn up next." -- M. J. Rose

I got a pair of engraved handcuffs for being the top academic graduate in my police academy. -- Mel Smith

"Most Christian Day Student" award for my leadership of the Missionary Committee. -- Charles Flowers

When I was twenty-two I won the Wormwood Award for "most neglected book of the year." Shit, that should have told me what the rest of my career would be like. -- Greg Boyd

Have I ever won an award of any kind for my writing? Other than being worshiped by disenfranchised teenage girls, disturbed grown men, faded strippers, runaways, would-be presidential assassins, and volunteers for chemical castration -- No, not that I remember. -- Maggie Estep

I won an award in fourth grade for the "Best Arbor Day Essay." It went, "Trees are happy, trees are gay, if they could talk here's what they'd say..." My brother Buddy won the same award eight years before me, so I just copied his essay! Did you know my brother has never read a book cover-to-cover in his entire life, except for mine? -- Lisa Palac

School Daze

I won lots of baseball trophies, and many track and cross-country awards, all of which I threw away after I became a hippie. They were all won for years and years wasted running and running in the cold, dark nowhere day after day. -- Bart Plantenga

I never won an award for anything, not even my beauty, which is surprising because in an unlit room I'm frequently mistaken for Juliet Prowse. In fact, one guy once looked at me naked and the only compliment he could come up with is "You have beautiful testicles." I did win a five-pound bag of sugar at a fair once. -- Brandon Judell

Q. How old are you?

25-35: 26%, 36-49: 46%, 50+:21%, 60+: 7%

Next month I'll be a great-grandfather -- so there! -- Bill Noble

Q. What sign are you?

I asked about authors' astrological proclivities as an afterthought, thinking that some might be insulted, or shake their heads at me. Some of them did just that, but out of the almost 200 people I interviewed, over 100 not only volunteered their sun sign, but also offered their rising sign and moon position.

Some interesting results: Pisces, Sagittarius, Libra, and Capricorn all scored in double digits. I was one of only six shocked Aries. Lowest scores went to Scorpio, known for her sex appeal, yet secretive nature, and also to Taurus, a terrifically sensual sign who sometimes just can't get off the couch.

Q. What occupation do you hold, or have you held, besides being a writer?

I was an attendant at the lunatic asylum for about ten years. -- Lars Eighner

The Top Ten Professions

1. Teacher 56

2. Editor 39

3. Waiter/Waitress 36

4. Secretary 25

5. Film/TV Production 19

6. Cook 17

7. Reporter 16

8. Retail 15

9. Publisher 14

10. Bookseller 12

Some BAE authors were willing to admit to more unusual occupations, as long as their names were not used. Such discreet positions included one bill collector, an EPA inspector, a "notorious shoplifter," four drug dealers, and two stockbrokers.

Other authors were outspoken about their unique job history, like Mel Smith (former hot-air balloon artist), Shar Rednour (vice president, Girl Scout troop), and Thomas Roche (veteran soda jerk). Alison Smith was happy to reveal that she'd been a switchboard operator at a convent, but unfortunately, she didn't keep any tapes. Two authors confessed they had been go-go dancers, but wondered if such a job description dated them. Wendy Becker spoke for a lot of devoted spouses when she gave her occupation as "Butch girlfriend -- hey, it's a full-time job sometimes..." Sometimes! -- C'mon, Wendy, you needn't underestimate the task.

Military Veterans

Robert Olen Butler, U.S. Army

Shaun Levin, Israeli Defense Forces

Marc Levy, U.S. Army

Bob Vickery, U.S. Navy

Patricia Williams, U.S. Navy

Q. Have you written and published in the following genres?

Children's or Young Adult: 20, S/F: 33, Mystery/Crime: 26

Romance: 6, Poetry: 60, Plays: 23

I have a total mobster fetish. I love the concept of having to be loyal and do the right thing or getting your thumbs taken off with a garden shears. I even drive a Lincoln Town Car -- black with tinted windows, of course. -- Amelia G

Q. Are you now, or have you ever been, a sex worker?

Most of the professions that BAE authors have pursued are either the sort of things that everyone does when they're young, or reflect their interests in working with words, whether as teacher or typist. They're the kind of jobs that any writer might take up, regardless of the genre they write in.

The one exception is sex work. Erotic writing is probably the only genre where you'll find writers who began to write because of their profession. Their work in the sex trade -- as hookers, porn actors, phone sex voices, vibrator-peddlers, pornographers -- often inspired them to write about what they saw. One inexplicable wrinkle: of the working prostitutes who are BAE authors, the ones who went to college were all graduates of an Ivy League school. Two from Yale, another from Barnard, Vassar, Harvard, etc. Go figure.

Twenty-six BAE authors said they work, or have worked, in the sex trade, which puts them below teachers in our profession poll, but way above cooks. About half are active in the business today, but many of them spoke with some hindsight.

Yes, I've been a sex worker. [Before my gender change] I appeared in an educational movie about female masturbation, and I made a movie for a fetishist's private collection (it featured two girls rubbing their stocking-clad legs together in mock wrestling poses), and I was briefly a professional dominatrix. I think sex work is a hard job; you earn every single damn dollar. My favorite client was a guy who kneeled down in front of me and followed my instructions to push his money under my spiked heel with his tongue. I had him straighten up, I cinched a dog collar around his neck, and he came in his pants. He was also visibly sweating. He said, "That's more than I can handle," and ran away. Poor thing. I hope he eventually managed to find a way to act out his fantasies so he could have more than a five-minute scene. -- Patrick Califia

In publishing, the other side of literary erotic fiction is straight-ahead smut writing. What professional writers know is that the exact same story can be published in both venues -- packaging and marketing are the only places where art becomes porn, and vice versa.

Forty BAE writers reported that they've written for unapologetic porn mags -- 'zines like Juggs, Leg Show, Adam, Penthouse Letters. Older writers like Robert Silverberg have dozens of pulp novels under their belt.

I'm the one who gets hired to write the "socially redeeming" material for porn magazines. -- Michael Bronski

But the past ten years have seen the end of old-school porn, whose main benefit, aside from happy readers, was that it paid fairly well. The drawback of magazine writing was the insipid list of formula constructions every author had to follow -- just as in the nonerotic magazine trade.

I'm becoming uncomfortably restricted in what fiction I can sell to people due to prior censorship. Publishers frequently say that they won't accept works of fiction that have any violence, nonconsensual sex, or underage people in them. What do you write, given these restrictions? "Today, I had consensual sex with someone who was over eighteen. The end." I wish we weren't doing the censors' work for them. -- Lauren Burka

The Web, by comparison, has a virtually censor-free -- as well as pay-free -- environment for sex writing. Many new Web writers honestly don't know whether the sites they deal with are considered pornographic or erotic -- that's old-school thinking, headed for the dustbin, along with movie ratings and nipple-counters.

"Porn"? I'm not sure what you mean by the characterization. I've never really bothered to separate out the smut I write into divisions of acceptability; it's all acceptable to me, and I don't worry too much what others think. -- Todd Belton

Q. Who knows about your erotic writing? Your peers, friends, parents, children?

My mother, who passed away a few years ago, was incredibly supportive -- although I don't think she really looked much at [my erotic magazine, Libido]. Still, she would send subscriptions to her friends, who would freak out...She'd just shrug and say, "If this bothers you, it tells me more about you than it does about my daughter." -- Marianna Beck

When I asked BAE writers if their peers knew about their sex writing, only six people said it was a secret. Typically, these folks work in government jobs, where their social and creative lives are quite separate. It seems like the federal government is the last place where you cannot admit to being a sexual creature -- at least until you get to higher posts where you can confess tabloid-style and possibly be redeemed.

Family relations were a different matter altogether. Forty-six authors reported that their parents would not want to know about their sexual writing. Mom and Dad are out of the loop, and everyone concerned is determined to keep it that way. Some gay writers say that their sexual preference, their professional life, and their erotic writing are seen as one and the same family scandal...the assumption being that if they were heterosexual, they would never think of writing about sex.

I don't think anybody in my family has ever read anything I've published. For the most part they are devout Mormons and small-town heterosexuals. They find me very scary. The most scary thing about me is that I am a therapist. After that, it's the writing, and at the bottom of the list goes my queerness. -- Patrick Califia

More commonly, there was every variation in family reaction: mothers who know, fathers who don't, and vice versa. Bragging rights at one family get-together, and a cloak of silence at the next. The famous "knowing, but not knowing."

After she found out about my erotica, my mom told me my grandmother had supported the family during the Depression by writing for True Confessions and other confessionals. She was always a bit proud yet ashamed of that, too. It was kind of a family secret. -- Susan St. Aubin

Most authors with children said their kids were too young to know anything beyond Winnie-the-Pooh. Interestingly, those with grown children found them to be discreetly more tolerant than they might find their own parents to be.

My twenty-six-year-old son knows about my erotic writing but has not read the porn books. The tacit assumption is that we don't want to share our sexual imaginations that closely, just like we don't smoke dope together and I don't tell him the kinds of anxieties I share with my girlfriends. He has read one of my romance novels, which has some steamy scenes, but no (well, almost no) S&M. He was a fine, fair, and generous critic. -- Molly Weatherfield

Finally, we had the baker's dozen of authors who said their parents -- or their grown children -- were their biggest fans, the ones who throw them book-launch parties and offer them encouragement when the publishing world looks dim.

My parents not only know about it, when my mom threw a book party for me when Black Feathers came out; she invited all my relatives, godparents, high-school teachers, neighbors, etc. I sold about two cases of books that night, and toward the end of the evening she told me, "You know everyone is waiting to hear you read." So I had to get up and read an erotic story in front of them all. They loved it. -- Cecilia Tan

Q. How many books have you written and published?

A healthy minority (forty-five) of BAE authors have not published their own book -- yet. What's more surprising is that it is even more rare to publish only once, and never return to commit the crime again.

A mere sixteen respondents have published one book and quit before the compulsion came over them twice. Most BAE writers did not have the good sense to stop bookmaking before it consumed them. The saddest cases, detailed below, were the compulsive book-doers, the authors who may be admired and worshiped by the outside, but who are known to their family and friends as "out of their minds."

Over 20 Titles: Cecilia Tan (39), Edo Van Belkom (22), Marge Piercy (35), Mike Ford (43), and Sam Delany (24+).

Over 100 Titles: Robert Silverberg, who has written 186 major novels, 80 minor ones, 76 major nonfiction books, and 15 minor nonfiction ones.

Q. Did you attend college? If so, which one? What was your major?

BAE authors went to college -- way too much, and for far too long, according to their reactions. They attended every sort of institution with no discernible pattern whatsoever except that nine of them graduated from Brown -- the only school to have more than four BAE alumni (that honor goes to U.C. Santa Cruz). Both schools are known for their liberal traditions, but in that sense they are a minority, since most of the other authors who responded went to colleges where granola never really caught on.

My alma mater no longer exists, so I'd prefer not to mention it except to say that it was an evangelical Christian college where, among other things, we were required to abstain from the use or possession of playing cards and "attending the theater as a way of life." My major was English literature, and I would describe myself with the phrase "least likely to attend my Bible classes." -- Mike Ford

When it came to a course of studies, the group finally showed some predictability. Fifty-two of their diplomas are imprinted with a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature or Creative Writing. Psychology and Theater were next down the list, with six graduates, while Philosophy claimed five.

Q. Has any of your work been produced in popular music, film, theater, or art?

Authors today are not purists in any medium or genre -- neither sexual nor artistic labels stick to them easily. Nearly everyone I spoke to had "crossed over" in some fashion with their words -- as lyric, dialog, rant, or performance. Their accomplishments were remarkable, and often a surprising contrast to their erotic literary contributions.

Permanent Midnight, 1998. I also co-wrote two porn classics, Night Dreams and Cafe Flesh, under the pseudonym Herbert W. Day, which is known to anyone who admits they ever watched late-eighties porn. -- Jerry Stahl

I get royalties from Rhino records...and Bill Moyers made a video of my poetry and interviewing me. Does that count? I didn't dance or show my belly button. -- Marge Piercy

Rollerball, 1975; A Shining Season, 1979; Mountains of the Moon, 1990. -- William Harrison

A chair I made from seven hundred chocolate biscuits appeared on the cover of Australian Art Monthly. -- Linda Jaivin

Fight Club, 1999. -- Chuck Palahniuk

I used to have a scandalous theater life -- in the sense that I acted in TV commercials and soap operas in my late teens and early twenties. -- Dani Shapiro

A Thousand Acres, 1997. But it wasn't popular -- a bomb, actually. -- Jane Smiley

I created My Mother's Imaginary Husband at the Knitting Factory, which relates the absolutely true story of how I helped my mother build a small altar to the actor Brian Dennehy. -- Martha Garveywriting as Nell Carberry

Girl, Interrupted, 1999. -- Susanna Kaysen

I co-wrote the narration for The Times of Harvey Milk and Common Threads, which both won the Oscar for Best Documentary. -- Carter Wilson

My video documentary of New Orleans painter/photographer George Dureau is in the permanent collection of the Museé de Photographie et Vidéographie in Paris. -- Jack Fritscher

I have a visual work hanging in a gallery in Oakland for what they call "The Orange Show." It is a row of images: a bottle of Orangina with the product's name written underneath, an orange vagina with the work orangina written underneath, an orange anus with the word oranganus written underneath, and an orange penis with the word orangenis underneath. It just sold. -- Robert Gluck

Q. Has your work ever been banned in another country, expelled from a local library, or seized at Customs?

What a stupid question this was. Virtually every erotic writer -- and even those who had no such intentions -- during the eighties and much of the nineties had their work seized at the Canadian border during the heyday of "obscenity" busting by the Canadian Customs Department. They singled out anything from gay publishers, anything shipped from California, anything from a press whose size wasn't monolithic, and of course, anything that dared call itself sexual. This procedure continued unabated until Little Sisters Bookstore of Vancouver successfully sued the pants off them in the Canadian Supreme Court for unfairly prosecuting queer works of literature.

The funniest Canadian seizure was when a December issue of On Our Backs was stopped because of a photo that showed me wearing nothing but a strap-on dildo, draped in Christmas tree lights. They said I was in bondage, from a single strand of tree lights! -- Shar Rednour

Small- and medium-press writers were the ones who suffered in the border wars -- best-sellers reached their destination, regardless of the material. Famous writers in the States, by comparison, would usually realize just how controversial they'd become when their work was made an example of at a local library or school board.

A Thousand Acres was banned in a couple of school districts in Washington, not for the incest theme, but for the adulterous sex between consenting adults, which seems to have been less acceptable in those school districts than the incest. -- Jane Smiley

What interested me in writers' reactions to my question was the weary or indifferent acceptance of this state of affairs. Writers know that they can expect to be censored, hidden, and airbrushed throughout their careers, with nary a First Amendment blush to betray its occurrence.

Once while touring as a poet with Lollapalooza I was told I would be arrested if I performed my poem "FUCK ME" in Detroit. So I did it again and again and again -- alas, no one arrested me. -- Maggie Estep

While controversy may sell books, it's a rare artist who rises to the taboo fame of a Robert Mapplethorpe

My story "Je t'aime, Batman, je t'adore" was made an example of by DC Comics and removed upon their legal protest, by Simon & Schuster, in subsequent printings of BAE '99 -- probably the worst, best, and most bizarre experience of my writing career. -- Kelly McQuain

The short film I wrote and directed, The White to Be Angry, about a young neo-Nazi as refashioned by film homage to Woody Allen, Clive Barker, and auteur Bruce LaBruce, was held up at Customs in Toronto. On the night of the screening at the Pleasuredome Experimental Film Archive, two undercover cops came to see if this film directed by a black ghetto drag queen was white supremacy propaganda. The über-hunky young cops identified themselves after the Q&A and surprisingly told me they liked the film. The entire incident became a cause célèbre, written about all over La Canada. -- Vaginal Davis

In truth, there's little chance of getting rich off a censorship scandal. Instead, the typical result is isolation for the author and ignorance on the part of the public. Being banned isn't fun, and it's more numbing than any of us admit.

Best American Erotica Authors Who Are Really Canadian

Michele Davidson, Barbara Gowdy, Nalo Hopkinson, Nancy Kilpatrick, Debra Martens, Susan Musgrave, Edo Van Belkom

Q. Has your work ever been "made an example of" by various people with an agenda?

Erotic writers get tarred and feathered sometimes, that's part of the job description. In America, we have a very curious combination of forces who like to exploit every chance of sexual condemnation. First, there's the Church, which is predictable enough, but sexual literature has almost always been blasphemous.

The Catholic Church, currently embroiled in a priest-molestation scandal, has excommunicated me because of my 2001 novel, What They Did to the Kid: Confessions of an Altar Boy. And to think I attended seminary with Cardinal Law. -- Jack Fritscher

Next comes the government, which has always taken a prurient interest in artists and activists whom they believe, however delusionally, are a threat to the state. Hoover and his black petticoats seem to have an unending lace ribbon of sleazy surveillance.

I finally received, via the Freedom of Information Act, my extensive files from the FBI and CIA, obscured with many black globs of ink. -- Marge Piercy

The blows that hurt the most always come from your kin. The most intimate attacks against erotica have come from feminists, liberals, and radicals who created the monster called "politically correct."

In the mid-1980s, I published several text and image montages in a 'zine based in Northampton, Massachusetts. Their satirical subject was sexism and violence, but one bundle of the 'zine was burned on the publisher's doorstep, accompanied by a note stuffed into his mailbox that said something like "We don't need this sexist bullshit." This was in an era and in a town that measured its radicalism in degrees of crabbiness. -- Corwin Erickson

A feminist publisher who wanted to reprint one of the books I was in required that all the overtly erotic poets be removed from the edition. I refused to grant the rights under those circumstances. Other than that, I have been fortunate in being spared nonsense of this kind. -- Gerry Pearlberg

Q. Any interesting felonies or misdemeanors you'd like to mention?

Most authors replied, "I'd rather not mention." A goodly number of them rued the fact that they have been inexcusably well-mannered and law-abiding.

I believe I've engaged in oral sex in states where it's a felony -- but really, who hasn't? -- Marian Phillips

Just the usual boring shit that happens when you're a junkie. Nothing dramatic. -- Jerry Stahl

I was court-martialed for refusing to get out of bed one morning on an officers' training course. (It was the only way to get chucked out of the course.) I was caned at school in South Africa for not having my hair cut, and forgetting my Afrikaans textbook at home. -- Shaun Levin

I tried to be a burglar for a short while a long time ago, but I felt too guilty; I even went and put stuff back. -- Maggie Estep

As an undergraduate I was arrested for "conspiracy to defame the flag" while filming a spoof of Captain America. One of the actors was using a flag for a cape. Must have been a slow news day, because the story was all over the New York news media. The Newsday headline was something like "Film Reel Reels Four." All charges were, of course, eventually dropped. -- Ed Falco

Q. "When not writing, I am likely to be..."

What is the Great American Pastime? In our authors' poll, "reading" and "having sex" outscored baseball as favorite ways to waste a perfectly nice day.

"Being with my family" and "Cooking" tied for third place, but aren't those actually the same thing? After the tie came music, movies, dancing, gardening, and traveling. Walking the dog trounced petting the cat. Other popular pastimes included the following:

Attending AA meetings

Alphabetizing my porn. -- Thomas Roche

Birdwatching

Breast-feeding

Canoeing

Researching. Meeting people and stealing their best stories. Paranormal ghost shit. Rock masonry. Spoiling my dogs. Weight lifting. -- Chuck Palahniuk

Crying

Diving

Dogsledding

Doing errands with my husbands. -- Bernadette Bosky

Doing yoga

Dressing up

Drinking

My hobbies are having people visit and cleaning while they read a magazine. I love to hang out with my five-year-old son, lay in a hammock, lay on the grass, lay in bed, lay on a big bed I have in front of the TV, etc. I also like to plant vegetables. -- Jill Soloway

Eating out

Eavesdropping

Fishing

Fighting off psychological demons. -- Jack Murnighan

Hiking and mountaineering

Horse racing

I just met a woman today who was telling me how her grandmother advised her to bet. I said, "You were really lucky to have a grandmother with a betting system." Some people get all the breaks. -- Jane Smiley

Housework

Motorcycling

Mushroom hunting

In my free time, I enjoy reading, drinking martinis, and resting, usually in that order. -- Ivy Topiary

Practicing Zazen

Procrastinating

Running around in the woods stark naked in a chamois loincloth while living with straight mountainmen on weekend buckskin rendezvous. -- Jack Fritscher

Sewing, quilting, knitting

Shooting pool

Sleeping

Studying Sanskrit

I like to go on long vacations alone to Third World countries in which I try to spend less money progressively each day until I'm living like a homeless person. -- Claire Tristram

Swimming

Reading Tarot cards

Q. Do you have any collections we should know about?

Accordions. -- Marian Phillips

Antique costume jewelry and fabulous hats. -- Hanne Blank

Harmonicas and Christian iconography. -- Bob Zordani

I collect model horses and tack -- but that's odd without being very interesting to most people. More interesting, perhaps, is my growing collection of Pervert Fashion Dolls physically augmented to be more than anatomically correct: Naughty French Maid Boyfriend Doll; Naturally Blonde Fashion Doll (with crotchless panties to show it); Sex Goddess Fashion Doll; She-Male Fashion Doll (with broader shoulders & chin, added Adam's apple); Punk Fashion Doll (with tattoos, armpit hair, and nine piercings). I'm working on Sixteen But Trying Not to Show It Younger-Sister Doll; Masturbating Boyfriend Doll; Flasher Boyfriend Doll; and Dominatrix Fashion Doll. -- Bernadette Bosky

Autographs. -- Kevin Killian

Barbara Stanwyck films, fountain pens. -- Martha Garvey writing as Nell Carberry

I collect Virgin Mary memorabilia. Still very hot to get a Polish Black Mary. -- Carol Queen

Books about organized crime. -- Thomas Roche

My hobby is my girl, my workout regime is with my girl, I pursue my girl, and I collect really cool fantasies with my girl. -- Adelina Anthony

Bottom boys. -- Simon Sheppard

My wife and I collect antique picture postcards, not so much for the images on the front but for the messages written on the back. We also collect old shoes, though not as erotic objects. They speak to our novelist selves of the lives that once were led in them. We have, for example, a lady's shoe from the 1780s, a Civil War boot, a Chinese foot-bound woman's shoe, a shoe with a rhinestone butterfly that Ella Fitzgerald performed in. -- Robert Olen Butler

Boxer figurines, old nature books, vintage dog photographs. -- Gerry Pearlberg

Jewish comedy albums from the late 1950s. -- Michael Bronski

Encyclopedias. -- Joe Maynard

Dinosaurs, dictionaries, furniture, glass-boxed vignettes of traditional Beijing life in which the people are created with pussy willow bodies and beetle heads, arms, and legs. -- Linda Jaivin

Fire King dishes. -- Dodie Bellamy

I share an interesting collection of fetish gear that includes various dental and surgical tools, a welding tool which makes funky tattoos, and an incredibly sexy rubber and vinyl wardrobe. -- Name Withheld

Lizards, matchbooks, pitchers, postcards. -- Vicki Hendricks

Medicine bottles and yogurt cup caps. -- Estabrook

I founded the American Newspaper Repository, a collection of original newspapers discarded from libraries. -- Nick Baker

Miniature shoes. -- Marcy Sheiner

Nepali art, religious extremist propaganda. -- Bonny Finberg

Old Girl Scout manuals. -- Shar Rednour

Old postcards of my neighborhood. -- Linda Rosewood Hooper

My house looks like a library, with every wall lined with bookcases containing thousands of books. I have more than 1,200 LPs and CDs. I have around 5,000 porn videos, including Robert Rimmer's collection. I have a bottle of almost every brand of commercial sex lubricant that was available in the U.S. in 1998. -- Eric Albert

Police reports. -- Corwin Erickson

Politically incorrect postcards. -- Carter Wilson

Shell art. -- Michelle Tea

Stamps. -- Paula Bomer

Statehood quarters. -- Bill Brent

Victorian mourning jewelry and hair wreaths. -- Poppy Z. Brite

I collect little things, ostensibly because I have a sand tray in my therapy office. I am obsessed with Playmobil. I lean toward their medieval and magical lines of figurines, so I have a lot of knights, wizards, wicked queens, fairies, witches, and also an entire village of Native Americans, including a tepee. I like salt and pepper shakers in the shape of animals, and action figures like the Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog. I'm also collecting The Realm of the Claw figures and Lady Death, and I have all of the Harry Potter Legos. Does anybody have a wolf from the Wade porcelain "endangered North American animals" series? (There is one figurine in each box of Red Rose Tea. Terrible tea. But the animals are fabulous.)

My other hobby is collecting enemies. I keep a running tally of who has done me wrong, so I can check them off the list either when I get even or when I have reached some sort of milestone in my life. There are certain key points at which some of my political prisoners will be freed and then invited to attend a public gathering. The subtext of just about any party that I have ever thrown is, who among the guests was recently liberated from my shit list? -- Patrick Califia

If you are interested in reading the complete interviews and comments of any of the BAE authors, contact the editor at BAE@susiebright.com

Introduction and compilation copyright © 2003 by Susie Bright

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Table of Contents


Contents

Introduction

Talking with The Best American Erotica Authors

Martha Miller

The Baby-Sitter

Chuck Palahniuk

From Choke

Susan St. Aubin

The Man in the Gray Flannel Tights

Mel Smith

Nasty

Greta Christina

A Live One

James Williams

Ponyboy

Robert Irwin

In the Giraffe House, from Prayer-Cushions of the Flesh

Susan Volchok

How We Did It

Myriam Gurba

Hombrecito

Vaginal Davis

The Everlasting Secret First Family of Fuck: An Exposé

Bertice Berry

The Erotic Adventures of Jim and Louella Parsons

Dorothy Allison

What She Did with Her Hands

Susanna Kaysen

How This Story Should End, from The Camera My Mother Gave Me

Jack Fritscher

Three Bears in a Tub

Lisa Wolfe

How to Make a Cake

Zane

Mergers and Acquisitions

Scott

Semen in a Bullet

Jill Soloway

Courteney Cox's Asshole

Tennessee Jones

The Word Nebraska

Alison L. Smith

Johnny

Paula Bomer

Fucking His Wife, Four Months Pregnant with Their Third Child

Dagoberto Gilb

From "Snow," in Woodcuts of Women

Tsaurah Litzky

End-of-the-World Sex

Readers' Choice: The Top 100 of the Past Ten Years

1. The Hit, BAE '96 Steven Saylor, writing as Aaron Travis

2. From The Fermata, BAE '95 Nicholson Baker

3. She Gets Her Ass Fucked Good, BAE '97 Rose White and Eric Albert

4. My Professor, BAE '97 Ivy Topiary

5. Two Cars in a Cornfield, BAE '00 William Harrison

Contributors' Notes

Credits

Reader Survey

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Introduction

Happy anniversary, everyone. This is the tenth year of The Best American Erotica, and in the last decade we've enjoyed some of the most memorable erotica ever published in the English language. We've been on best-seller lists and shit lists; we've been hailed both as the decline of fine literature and as the end of hallowed traditions in mediocre smut. We are the only "Best of..." series, in any genre, to stay in print for all ten years we've published.

I suppose our dirtiest secret is that we've had an awful lot of fun.

This year, I decided to interview as many of our BAE author alumni as I could find, and discover a little about their writing lives and history -- as well as their sexual opinions. Out of the 257 authors I've published in BAE, I spoke to 137, and researched another 50 or so from previous interview material, Web sites, and editors' notes. Four authors had passed away since we began the series, much to my sorrow. The ones I didn't get my hands on, as they say, "remain at large." If anyone is offended that they don't see themselves included, I can only say -- we understand you're busy, but your mom says she wants to talk to you, and there's a check waiting for you at your last publisher's office.

In addition to interviewing our authors, I talked to hundreds of fans about their favorite stories of the past ten years. At the end of this edition you'll find "Readers' Choice: The Top 100 of the Past Ten Years," your favorite BAE fiction of the decade.

I loved tallying the results, and at the same time, I have a tender spot about any sort of contest -- I wanna give a trophy to everyone. After all, fans voted on over 300 different stories, so virtually every BAE story was somebody's favorite. Hunter Thompson, who I had no idea was a BAE reader, called me at three in the morning to tell me that "The Queen of Exit 17" was his favorite BAE selection. And yet it didn't make the Top 100. Many superb stories didn't make the cut, but I'd never call this poll the final arbiter. My favorite part of BAE isn't any one story -- I could never narrow it down -- but rather the unprecedented variety of expression and sexuality we bring under one cover. It doesn't happen anyplace else.

Finally, in lieu of cutting a big enough cake for all to partake in, I'd like to thank a few people who have worked with me on The Best American Erotica since we first began the series in 1993.

My managers, Joanie Shoemaker and Jo-Lynne Worley (favorite stories: "Horse Heaven" and "Quiet Please"), are always the first to report that BAE is selling at a new small bookstore in a town ordinarily known for selling more Bibles than erotica. They've negotiated with six different editors and two publishers since the series began, and they've taken BAE to places as far-flung as Beijing (where I hear I have quite a following if I ever want to make an appearance). Their experience in every facet of publishing and the entertainment business has meant all the difference in how my editorial work has developed -- and their loyalty and insight have kept me going through every political and artistic hurdle.

My father, Bill Bright (favorite story: "Sweating Profusely in Merida"), has been the best reader and editor this series ever had. I've never taken a formal writing course, but every time my father edits one of my books, I feel like I'm receiving a master class in the English language -- as well as the many other languages that crop up in BAE storytelling! Bill has been a writer and editor in linguistics, anthropology, and poetry for decades now. When I was little, he would let me get into his big oak desk chair and look over his manuscripts with a red pencil, to see if I could find any typos. I remember the glee I felt when I found a mistake -- even then, I was an editorial sadist. He said when I got good enough, I'd be able to use a red pen, but frankly, I've never let go of the pencil -- it reminds me that he's still there, to look through the pages one more time.

Since I began BAE, my partner Jon Bailiff (favorite story: "Je t'aime, Batman, je t'adore") has had a thankless, and occasionally exhilarating, task -- to live with a woman who takes every story so to heart that he never knows who's going to emerge from her writing studio at the end of the day. Jon's tastes in literature and smut are equally fine; he always has the right instincts. He nurtures this series every year by loving me well; and he is the one with whom I share the most laughs and curses along the way.

I'm sorry, but nostalgia makes me sentimental. There is one last piece of cake to honor, the piece with the hard bean hiding inside it -- which will probably break the tooth of whoever bites down hard. That prize would go to the notorious and plentiful critics of erotica, the people who said:


"Literature and sex don't mix!"

"Women want romance, not smut!"

"Men want crotch shots, not stories!"

"Great writers don't write filth!"

"When it comes to erotica, people only want to read about themselves!"

"Why's a nice girl like you doing a dirty book like this?"

and,

"But you can't say that!"


Yet we did say it, and we wrote it, and we've lived to see a banquet of inspiration come out of it. Thanks to everybody, for making it taste so sweet.

Introduction and compilation copyright © 2003 by Susie Bright

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2008

    Too much story, not enough sex

    I read erotica for the sex. Some of these stories were interesting, but just not enough of the good stuff.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2004

    It's good, but the best?

    Maybe because they used the word 'best' I was expecting too much. But some of the stories were more like porn than erotica. However, all in all, I did like most of the stories.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2003

    Sizzles

    Hot and sexy, I loved this. If you like sensual reading material, get this book. I can't wait to go back and read the others!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2003

    Ten Years of a Great Series!

    I've been a fan of the BAE series since I discovered it back in 1997, when I stumbled upon the 1993 edition in the library, of all places! Ever since then, I can't help myself by coming back for more! This 2003 edition is the icing on the cake, esp. since it features some stories from past editions that I did not get a chance to read (i.e. 'The Hit' from BAE 1996). So pull up your bed, snuggle up w/ yourself or with a lover, and enjoy some hot reading!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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