Words Get In The Way

My first published fiction was erotica. Porn, if you will, perversion and filth if you won’t.

I always wanted to do an erotica anthology called Filth and Perversions. Alas, the market for print erotica has long since dried up; there’s too much easily accessible and free/low cost visual erotica available these days. It’s a shame–because all notions that erotica writing is all trash is incredibly incorrect; part and parcel of the American puritan ethic about sex and sexuality that is responsible for a lot of things wrong in this country today, frankly.

Or maybe I’ll just call my memoirs Filth and Perversions. It’s too good of a title not to use, you know?

But I often credit writing erotica with helping me understand how to write short stories better. Erotic stories are the ultimate definition of a story: beginning/middle/end; characters meet/have sex/resolution; writing erotica essentially taught me/help me understand story structure, which for some reason I just couldn’t get through my head before.

As I mentioned in my afterward to Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories, there’s not much of a market for short stories with gay characters. In fact, the only way to get gay-themed short stories published was the write erotica.

So, I basically would write a story and then figure out how to add a sex scene to it so it could get published.

That’s not to say, of course, that some of the stories weren’t simply about the sex; but I wanted them to be about more than just random gay guy meets other random gay guy, they have sex, and each goes on his merry way.

The title story of my collection, Promises in Every Star and Other Stories, is about going back to your high school reunion and running into someone you had a mad crush on when you were a closeted, bullied gay teen.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a cornfield after a heavy rain.

I’d forgotten that in the twenty five years since I’d left Kansas and never looked back. Off in the east I could see the black clouds and the mist that hung from them to the ground, blurring everything beyond it. I’d forgotten that the sky in Kansas surrounds you and goes on forever, so that you could see the weather coming and the weather that was just there. There were no clouds overhead now, just sky that was something between azure and robin’s egg, reaching down into the wet corn. The pavement of the county road beneath the tires of my rented red Mustang convertible was wet and splashing every once in a while, the water being thrown up making a slight slapping sound against the rubber. Twenty five years. What else had I forgotten?

As I turned off onto the Allen road, I slid Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours into the CD player and turned it up. This was the way  used to drive to school when Mom let me have the car or one of my friends picked me up and I didn’t have to ride the bus. It was a CD now rather than a scratchy 8 track player, and the sound quality was much better, but it was still the same. I smiled to myself as I saw my old green Chevrolet Bel Air with holes rusted in the sides running up the Allen Road, the old muffler pipe hanging too low from the back end. All the windows would be open to catch the breeze and eliminate the smell of the cigarette dangling from my lip. Stevie would be wailing about the thunder, and the rain washing you clean, and you’ll know. I would be singing along at the top of my lungs, thumping my hand on the steering wheel with the bass line.

No, it didn’t look too different, I thought as the Mustang sped along. The same fields, the same houses, the same barns. Every once in a while there’d be a clearing in the corn and a brick house I didn’t remember would appear, laundry flapping in the sweet after rain air on a clothesline, a couple of cars in the unpaved drive. I crossed the Cottonwood River bridge, and saw a house coming up on the right. The Gosses used to live there, I thought as I drove by. Mrs. Goss was the school secretary, and Sue her spoiled only child. I couldn’t remember what Mr. Goss did for a living, but I remember Sue had her own custom Mustang when we were in school, and she always dressed nice. Sue was cute, in a little girlish kind of way, and a lot of the guys thought she was sexy. I thought she was funny. She made me laugh. She also didn’t strike me as the type who’d marry any of the boys in our school. Sue would, I thought even then, marry money.

The mailbox still said GOSS. I guessed the Gosses would probably be in their seventies by now, and why wouldn’t they still be there? Sue was undoubtedly long gone, came home a couple of times with her kids to see them a year, every once in a while they’d get into their Buick and go see her.

Hmmm. A lot of this is drawn from my own experience, obviously, being a closeted bullied gay teen in a Kansas high school–and the Allen road was one of the ways to get to my high school from the town I lived in, but I’ve never been to one of my reunions so that is all fictional.

This story was actually triggered by getting an invitation to attend my twenty-five year reunion, and that got me started thinking about what it would be like to go back. I’ve written a lot of fiction about Kansas (mostly unpublished, with Sara the noticeable exception. The WIP, by the way, is set in Kansas, and I have an idea for another Kansas novel called Kansas Lonesome that I hope to get to next year).

The next story in the collection,  “Tell Me a Lie,” was written for an anthology but I can’t remember which one, but it was one I didn’t edit. It was specifically about going out looking for sex, cruising a gay bar looking for your trick of the evening, and not really caring about who that person is…it’s kind of a cynical story, in some ways, now that I think about it; cynical and sad, about wanting a physical connection with someone out of need, but wanting nothing more.

Hmm, I should read that again.

And now back to the spice mines.

promises in every star

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