Unorthodox Offerings

It’s been over a year since I put anything out with Shousetsu Bang*Bang. I would have given the current issue, Hot for Teacher, a miss as well, as teacher-student has long been one of those themes I just can’t get into. Except. Oh, except. A friend decided to write something for it, her first submission (check it out–“The Makeover, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Comic-Con”), and wanted a writing buddy. I’m not sure which one of us suggested detectives, but that was all it took for my muse to run amok. My story is “Incognito” and it’s a little unorthodox.

I’ve been looking for an excuse to do a story in which the sex scenes are viewed by a third party over some sort of surveillance system. WHY I wanted to do this is unclear, as writing sex scenes is still something that gives me hives. I generally try to avoid thinking about the process of writing them, even while actively engaged in said process. (I-I am getting better, I think?) Still, this was the perfect opportunity. I happen to like the blend of horribly uncomfortable and hot that I think I achieved with the scenes. This is maybe not the ideal feeling combination to evoke with one’s erotica, but there you have it.

I’ve also been looking for an excuse to cast a woman as the main character and narrator in a story for SSBB. (Obviously, not for one of the female special issues, because that would be easy. And sensible.) This required the above-mentioned methods for depicting sex scenes, so I figured this would be my one chance to do both. In my last story for them, ApocalyptiCon, the female main character seemed to go over well and I certainly enjoyed her. I wanted to see just how far I could take a female lead in gay romance. Pretty far, as it turns out.

As far as the plot of the story goes, I blame romance publishers. I’m always poking around in listings of publishers, largely in search of interesting anthologies to submit to or to steal theme ideas from. So I’ve read submission guidelines from a lot of publishers. Romance publishers have a…fondness for beefcake. Which, okay, fine, who doesn’t? But some of them state that they want to see women of many body types, but only beefcake for their men. I will point no fingers and name no names. This is not really out of fear of offending possible publishing venues, though I suppose that is a good reason. It’s just that I don’t need to point out any one publisher when so many seem to subscribe to this policy.

The idea is that women of varied body types are a) easier to identify with and b) desirable in spite of or because of looking like something other than models and beauty queens. Because all of us women reading romance want to be told that what we look like is good, is desirable, is worthy of being pursued by gorgeous men. But when it comes to men, the story goes, every woman wants the captain of the football team and his washboard abs. Cover art illustrates this nicely. Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome is alive and well. His endowments are as substantial as ever. Flaxen-haired, size 0 princesses are all so last century, but Prince Charming seems to be stuck. Maybe we’re afraid he won’t fit in his shining armor if we let him put on some weight or stand a little less tall.

I take issue with this.

I would just like to go on the record saying, as a woman with interest in both attractive people and creative fiction, that this is boring. I am only too happy to see men who are more than gym poster boys. I’m not talking about treating “unconventional” bodies as exotic, weird, and sexy only for being deviant. I’m talking about honoring the erotic potential of all sorts of bodies. I’m talking about recognizing how context and emotion can make the “plain” into the “perfect for me.”

So in the spirit of putting my pen where my mouth is, I made one of my boys not at all pretty or beefcake-y. I made him actively engaged in challenging conventions of appearance. I wrote about beauty and ugliness and desire and identity. I threw in some class and wealth distinctions for added discontent. Then I put it all into a setting where science lets parents construct perfect children if they have the money. I certainly had fun with the story and I think others will, even if I am suffering from a shortage of beefcake.

Published by Joyce Sully

Joyce Sully believes in magic and dragons and ghosts, but is not convinced her next-door neighbors are real. So she writes stories. Really, what else could she do?