Monday, July 21, 2008

"Sex" for a Good Cause

by Kemble Scott

We're definitely a nation of doubters, especially when it comes to books. Authors who write memoirs are inevitably accused of making things up. And readers often suspect novelists are just offering thinly veiled portraits of themselves.

Fact is fiction, and fiction is fact.

I learned this firsthand when my first novel SoMa came out. It's set in San Francisco's gritty South of Market neighborhood and follows young people on a journey of thrills and self-discovery, much of it involving sex. Even though it's clearly labeled fiction, people believed it was my own personal story.

"You seem to know an awful lot about this SoMa sex stuff," they'd say, followed by a raised eyebrow, a smirk, and maybe a nudge.

Before writing fiction, I worked in journalism. In all those years, I wrote countless stories about murders, and yet no one ever said, "You seem to know an awful lot about that murder," as if I had committed it.

Sex is different. If you write about it, it must be some sort of unnatural obsession. Forget the fact that sex is where we all started (what, you were cloned?), if you write about it, there must be something pervy about you.

Well, sex in literature is finally getting its due. A tribute, no less!

On Sunday, August 3rd, Litquake - San Francisco's Literary Festival - is hosting Dirty Words: Litquake's Tribute to Smut.

There will be readings and performances by many talented, wonderful writers who have included sex in their books. You'll get to see a different side of Daniel Handler, otherwise known as the world famous children's book phenom Lemony Snicket.

A dirty Snicket? Interesting...

And then there's Ellen Sussman, who has put together a new literary encyclopedia of sex. She's a best-selling novelist, mom of two girls, and she can tell you what the expression "dirty sanchez" really means.

There will be a fashion show, Burlesque, food and drinks, and the Georges Bataille Egg Tossing Contest (okay, I made that last one up).

Best of all, it's "sex" for a good cause. The event is Litquake's annual fundraiser. The festival attracts 10,000 each fall, with most events completely free. Volunteers work year-round to put it all together, with help from places like Book Passage, one of Litquake's earliest supporters. But the festival also needs cash, and the money raised from Dirty Words will go to paying the bills.

Dirty Words: Litquake's Tribute to Smut
Sunday, August 3
Doors open at 7 p.m.
Readings and show begin at 8 p.m.
CELLspace, 2050 Bryant Street, San Francisco
Admission: $25, which includes two drinks
Advance tickets strongly recommended:

I'll be there. I'm really looking forward to hearing Daniel Handler read a sex scene (no, not from Lemony Snicket, but from one of his grown-up novels). And I'll do my best not to say to him, "You seem to know an awful lot about..."


Kate Douglas said...

I love your post, and yes, it's happened to me, too. I write an erotic paranormal series called Wolf Tales about an ancient species, Chanku shapeshifters who look like humans but can become wolves. They're a people ruled by their sex drive, one not limited by concerns about gender, race, age (always above the age of consent, however!) or even, at times, species. My favorite comment was at a luncheon in NY with some VIPs from one of the larger book chains--one gentleman kept staring at me during lunch, and finally said, "You don't LOOK like you write those books!" Well, of course not...I look like a 58 year old grandmother. What am I supposed to look like? And no, last time I checked my memory banks, they did NOT include sexual escapades in groups of three or more, nor had I been involved with a shapeshifter in his wolf form. It's called imagination, warped or otherwise.

I've never been to Litquake, but damn...this one is right up my alley! Have a wonderful time.

Cassie Ryan said...

I agree with Kate. I absolutely love you post!!

I write erotic paranormal romance as Cassie Ryan and paranormal romance as Tina Gerow, and both my pen names have been asked about my character's sex lives with a wink and a nudge on more than one occasion.

I have a group sex scene involving an altar in one of my Cassie books and I had several readers who wrote me hoping I could point them in the right direction to purchase an altar of their very own. They were all very disappointed and disillusioned that not only did I not own an altar and had never tried out its more steamy possibilities, but that I hadn't researched them, I just made it up.

I think it's because sex is one of those subjects we are all fascinated with, and yet, it's not socially acceptable to be TOO fascinated, if you know what I mean. All of us who write sex are therefore putting ourselves out there as people who are not shy about sex, per se. But I'm with Kate, my characters have done things I wouldn't even do in a darkened room, a full bottle of tequila and a binding promise of silence! But that's part of the fun of writing and playing make believe, right?

Anyway, kudos on your post! That event sounds right up my alley, even if you made up the egg!!


Marcia James said...

Hi! As an author of "hot, humorous romances", I enjoyed your blog since similar things have happened to me. For example, to promote a comic romantic mystery series I'm writing, the sex therapist heroine "writes" a sex advice column on my Web site. It's definitely written with a humorous tone, and I often make up both the questions and the answers. I wrote a question in which a woman asks if it is okay to use vegetables as sex toys or should she be worried about pesticides. My husband's boss decided to check out my Web site and for some reason fixated on that question. He asked my husband at a lunch with several other coworkers, "What's this with your wife and vegetables as sex toys?" Of course, he thought I wasn't just using my imagination. I must be shopping the produce aisle with erotic plans in mind. ;-D
-- Marcia James ;-)

Kathleen Lawless said...

Aren't people funny? They're fascinated by sex, but also generally quite embarassed by it. Is it our Victorian bakcground? I write erotic romances for Pocket Books and I've seen grown-ups, both men and women, stammer and blush when they meet me in person, having read my books. Which I don't think are all that racy at all. They're not erotica, they are first and foremost a romance and always within monogamous relationship.
The high high level of sexuality I write pushes my characters out of their comfort zone and forces them to learn things about themselves they might not have learned otherwise. Once I explain that to readers, I often get the serious questions about positions, multiple-orgasms, what is and is not possible; like I'm the sex-pert.

The event follows the Romance Writers conference in San Fran, so I might need to check it out.