So you can read my books

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Are you interested in sex?

Of course you are.  After all, you're reading this post.

Our parents were interested in it, or we wouldn't be here.

Being so central to much of our lives and indeed life itself, it is a valid and important topic for fiction.

The challenge of writing about sex is to evoke the physicality, the yearning without resorting to cliche.

A good sex scene is not always about good sex, but it is always an example of good writing.

When you think about sex in fiction, DRACULA does not immediately pop to mind.  But it should:

  This Victorian classic has never been out of print, spawning dozens of books, films and more recently all those teen fantasies on TV and movie screens where sexual passion is faintly camouflaged as bloodlust.

 The original is a superb gothic tale of repressed sexuality and the savagery of its release.

Strange today, that a society can gaze calmly at surgically enhanced teenagers ripping out each others throats and gorging on blood

but one naked breast in the Superbowl and moral panic erupts.

Then, there is LOLITA.

Most recognize the name.  Few have read the book.  Understandable since the narrator is a sociopath.

Although about a sociopath's utterly self-serving "love" for a minor this is considered by many professors one of the greatest novels in the English language.

The force of the writing is unparalleled.

The balance of humor and horror, sex and satire, irony and delusion is extraordinary. Just as the narrator and protagonist Humbert Humbert seduces Lolita through deceit and thus reveals himself,

so the reader is seduced, deceived and revealed to him/herself with an artistry and uncompromising cruelty that is an appropriate and profoundly moral commentary on society.

Then, there is Jack Vance.

Vance hadn’t written any major works for a few years, but readers and writers of science fiction will be nonetheless poorer for his passing on 26 May, 2013.

The first Vance novel I read was LYONESSE before it became better known as Suldrun’s Garden, the first instalment of the Lyonesse trilogy.

It was the author’s take on high fantasy.

I’d read Tolkien, of course, and a fair few of his more recent followers, David Eddings and Terry Brooks among them, but none of their worlds quite came so magically to life for me the way Vance’s Lyonesse did.

It’s one of the least clichéd, certainly the most colorful, most sensual fantasy series ever written.

It’s packed with magic and mischief, crazy cultures and fantastic fashions, and populated with characters driven by any of a thousand motivations.

It has the dreamy quality of a fairy tale, yet the same hard edge of historical context that makes The Lord of the Rings the trilogy it is.

Unlike Tolkien’s work, it feels populated by real beings not Anglo-Saxon archetypes or spectral horrors.

Think Blackadder meets Middle Earth.

And, years before Game of Thrones, there’s a lot of sex, much of it vigorous and... unusual.

Little of Vance’s work is overtly comedic - 1976’s Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy-esque Maske:Thaery is perhaps a notable exception -

but you can’t keep the smile off your face reading any of the others - the deadpan humour and the rococo language always prompt a chuckle.

And perhaps that is the essential ingredient to good sex in fiction -- a sense of fun and good humor towards life and one another.

How important are sexual depictions in the novels you like to read?


  1. I totally agree with you on Dracula's sexiness. The part in the book when Harker encounters the three wives is so erotic--even more so than Coppola's wannabe orgy in the film.

    And even though I am not a Twilight fan, I do think Meyer can write great sexual tension.

  2. I have read Jack Vance, but it was a while back. 'The Cadwal Chronicles' was one set of three novels. I liked his writing, as I do many of the 40s and 50s old scifi masters(I love the scifi epics). Haven't read much of his fantasy or other work. May Vance RIP, thanks for sharing the info on his passing.

    I don't get the sexual attraction for vampires, but bloodlust whets some appetites. Mostly it's the 'forbidden-ness' of the idea that appeals to many. (Also applicable to werewolves, and zombies.)

    I would not include Victor and Alice as typical of this genre as they have a bit of old fashioned 'love at first sight/first mind meld' in their relationship. They continue to hold my interest.

    As for sex in the story, you can't really ignore it, but someone who I think does it well is Diane Gabaldon. She has a deft way of integrating the scenes in the story. The first book of hers I read where this is shown was Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade.

    Interesting topic for a Sunday, Roland. . .

  3. I like sexual tension in books, but not necessarily graphic or descriptive sex scenes. I think it's better when it's left to the imagination.
    I have Dracula on my bookshelf, but have yet to read it.

  4. Like Susan, I prefer sexual tension in books. I don't need graphic details. I'm fully capable of imagining it myself!

  5. I, too, like the tension and Dracula had it in spades. But all to often, when it's graphic, it loses something. TV shows know this. Mulder and Scully. David and Maddie. Ziva and Tony. When they finally give up and write the characters together, the shows seemed to fizzle.

    I've never read Lyonesse or Lolita and I had to put down Game of Thrones. It was too much for me.

    Interesting post....

  6. "Our parents were interested in it, or we wouldn't be here" -- truer words were never spoken. I can't remember the last book I read with sex scenes -- maybe King's Kennedy tome. I enjoy them when they're done well, leaving most of it to my imagination.

  7. Dracula-of course, my very favorite (I was thought weird for enjoying the movies when I was a teen-before it was popular to enjoy vampire anything), has been cited as deriving from the good old Oedipus complex incestuous,necrophilous, otal-anal-sadistic overtones.

    Writing a sex scene is not difficult. It's when you write a scene that has nothing to do with sex at all, and make the reader anticipate the one that they hope will come. Delivering upon that hope, you, as writer should be adept at delivering it. I avoid the popular s&m etc. I think it's trash and not worth my while. Dracula, and all these other you mention (thanks for mentioning them, now I'm wanting to check these out) are probably masterpieces of writing.

  8. Never heard of Jack Vance but if you say he is worth checking out I am sure he is. Surprised you didn't mention "Lady Chatterley's Lover" Sex is not important for me when I read a book, it is more about the longing, the desire :) You did get my attention though...LOL...

  9. I feel as though I'm repeating myself, nevertheless: I'm no more interested in sex on the page than I am in violence on the page. Unless the scene shows a truth that can't be revealed more effectively another way, explicit sex has no place. It is gratuitous at best, boring at worst.

    Well-penned sexual tension woven throughout a story is awesome, but sexual tension is *not* sex. Once the characters get to the bedroom (or the kitchen table or the backseat), 99 times out of a 100, the tension dissipates, leaving the reader with either an infantile anatomy lesson as in Fifty Shades (where there's no tension in the first place IMO) or erotica—a far more honest approach. If you want to read erotica or erotic romance, don't be ashamed, read erotica or erotic romance. But please don't give merit to books like Fifty Shades that pretend to be something they're not.

    Explicit sex in mainstream literature doesn't bother me if there's a reason for it to be there, and the only two acceptable reasons are conflict and/or character reveal.

    BTW, what I find most disturbing about Fifty Shades isn't the demeaning of another human being, but that the book is written in the voice of a twelve year old rather than the twenty-something character Anastasia is purported to be. Frankly, it makes me queasy.

    I haven't read Jack Vance. I'll see what I think and let you know. :)

    VR Barkowski

  10. Holly:
    Like you, I think that scene with Dracula's 3 wives with Harker is erotic in just the right way with tension and suspense.

    Today I was saddened by hearing of Vance's dying. I wanted to write a salute to him. But one that readers would be drawn to more than a simple obituary.

    I wanted to tease, entertain, while pointing out an author deserving of reading. Clifford D. Simak is another such fantasy and Sci Fi author deserving of praise and attention.

    Alice still has the Victorian mind-set with which she was raised (which makes her horror at her curse even worse) and Victor, despite his bravado, is shy with his heart.

    I believe since The Father created sex, He is not offended at it being discussed on His day -- so long as we do it honestly and with the acknowledgement that each woman and man are of worth and not to be used as objects or trophies.

    I am with you: implications, teasing, suspense works with sexual situations as they do with horror!

    Sex, like a monster in a horror movie, is best appreciated when implied and hinted at. The imagination is the best thing to arouse in a reader!

    Words Crafter:
    You're right: it's the sexual tension that propels the narrative of both novels and TV stories!

    Yes: leave the details to my imagination. CASABLANCA is one of the most romantic picutres made, and the love scenes were left to the imagination.

    The popular current S & M novels out there now just make me sad. In my END OF DAYS, I have my vampire priest, Renfield, teach a class about life from DRACULA --

    Did you realize that DRACULA is a unique novel in that it tells its story as a patchwork of newspaper items, diary entires from different people, and letters from individuals. No one character knows the whole story. No one character tells everything she or he knows --

    And the reader must make up her or his mind on what happened or is happening -- just like each of us must do in living each day.

    Good seeing you here again!! I considered Lady Chatterley's Lover, but as I said earlier -- this post was to slide into talking about Jack Vance -- sneaky guy that I am! :-)

    I am with you: expicit sex scenes are gratuitous at best, boring at worst.

    I really don't like to be made to feel like a Peeping Tom. I think that the narrator of 50 SHADES sounding like a 12 year old speaks more of the immaturity of the author. I understand why you got queasy.

    TWILIGHT always bothered me when I thought about the century old Edward with 15 year old Bella. What did they have in common to TALK ABOUT? Their maturity levels had to be mismatched to an extreme!

    Victor has had seven years on mean streets to mature. Alice has hidden in her crypt, sick with self-revulsion. The two lonely outcasts have much in common. And I worked hard at making it so.

    Insightful comment as always.

    I have worked another 14 hour day again which is why yet again I am so late in replying. Sorry.

    I need a vacation! :-)

  11. It's all in the perspective and good writing from the author. I like both heightened sexual tension, and the graphic sex. Depends on the story.

    I read a D&S erotica where the author described in graphic detail the lashes of the whip, the scars and pain and damage accomplished by the punches; yet she waxed poetic at the appendages and intercourse. Call it what it is in a novel like that!


  12. Donna:
    Wow! That sounds like quite the novel! No graphic detail for me -- I have a faint heart!

    No, really -- as I've said -- I am more for tease, leading up, and then fading away to let the reader use her or his imagination.

    But that is just me. Like Sam, I am a bit of a romantic. :-)