December 18th, 2006

writing one-eyed jack

she ain't the most feminine girl in town, but she's fun to be around

So. I'm still thinking about sex, because commodorified is still talking about sex (with a capable assist from Lois McMaster Bujold). And when commodorified talks about sex, everybody listens. And not just because she's a beautiful woman.

(Also, my responses are colored by this post over here and its comments, which of course I did find because I am the Devil, and if you speak my name I appear. I think it's also an excellent post, and not just because the writer says that I (and Lois, to close the circle entirely) write decent sex scenes.)

The comment in particular I disagree with is this one, from kalimac: (By the way, I ask my loyal readers please not to go descend en masse upon this poor person who is nattering away in sie private journel. Y'all can be a little overwhelming, I'm told, en masse, and since I found sie via the magic of ego-google, it seems like a mean thing to do. *g*)

This is asking the wrong question. It may be sometimes necessary to know that characters are having sex, though you're better off guessing. It is never necessary to see them doing it, any more than it's necessary to follow them into the bathroom to know they're doing that.

I've certainly written a few scenes that involved trips to the bathroom. They weren't routine trips to the bathroom. (There's a puking-and-head-holding scene in One-Eyed Jack that I'm mighty proud of, and which is probably going to end up on the cutting room floor, alas, because it's meant to model a certain kind of hurt/comfort fic (One-Eyed Jack is the fanfiction novel in the Promethean Age universe) and it bears insufficiently on the plot, la.)

And there's not much reason, it's true, to show routine sex, unless you are doing it to establish a baseline. But I think the attitude that it is never necessary to show sex in fiction stems from the very mistaken idea that sex is only there to do one thing, that it only serves one narrative purpose. And of course, like every other kind of scene, it serves thousands. Romeo climbing into bed with Juliet, in other words, serves a very different narrative purpose than Oedipus climbing into bed with Jocasta. But I can certainly see why you might make the narrative choice to show each of those things.

(I can think of two really effective and fairly graphic movie sex scenes without trying--there's a scene in Boys on the Side where you can practically hear the audience chanting "don't do that, don't do that" under their breaths--it's the tensest moment in the movie, frankly: tenser than the murder--and there's one in Cooler that is my single favorite movie sex scene ever. It is really graphic, as far as non-pornographic movies go, and it not only tells you everything you need to know about the protagonists, it humanizes them and makes them beautiful. Let's see. Without straining myself, there's also narratively useful sex in A History of Violence, Trainspotting, A Clockwork Orange, Kinsey, Brokeback Mountain....)

Squeamishness, in other words, does not make for good literature. The purpose of the artist is never to look down.

Anyway, digression endeth.

commodorified is more interested in talking about the purpose of sex in erotic writing, but what she has to say is well-worth reading. (And you can feel free to go clamber all over her comments. She's here with informed consent. *g*) Here's a taster:

So I'm mapping this to 'subgenre', as in the differences between, say, the difference between cozy country-house mysteries, police proceedurals, the detective-centric mystery novel of character, and the overtly literary mystery that wants to state a broader theme.

Sometimes you describe the blood spatter minutely. Sometimes you just say there's a body.


So, when I said this job is like playing whack-a-mole? What I meant is, there is always some other little job that needs doing, and they proliferate while your back is turned. And they all have deadlines. My big job for this week was finishing the New Amsterdam draft. However, before Christmas, I still have to get through the entire thing on a revision pass; I have to do galleys for "Tideline" and review the contracts (It's appearing in Asimov's, my first story there ever); I have to revise the emergency last minute 1500-word review I wrote last night (today); and I have to be ready to do the proposal for Dust by Jan 15. Then I have to deliver "Periastron" by April 1 (it's a novella), and I have to have finished drafts of Dust and All the Windwracked Stars by the end of the summer.

And there will be other jobs. Galleys and revisions and contracts and arguments and (sex and sex and sex and sex and *stuffs Mick back into the box* sorry) and keeping this thing interesting and my monthly column for (next one due January 6) and...

...and of course the business of living.

Gimme that hammer. WHACK!
writing carnival

I hold there is no sin but ignorance.


Via razorsmile, another review of Carnival calling it slash. *Insert eyeroll here.* 

Heh. If they want slash, fine, I'll give them slash.

Just you wait. Watch this space.

And yanno, the review itself is pretty positive, in general, thought rather spoilery. You'll need a rot13 reader to decode it. I gotta say, though, did this guy never know the ingenuity that is a twelve-year old cracker when he was in junior high?*

I used to know this one phreak who could whistle telephone access codes....

Well, as long as I'm this cranky, I'm going to go work on these contracts and galleys so I don't have to do it in the morning. I'd eat something, and try to get my blood sugar up, but I'm too bitchy to want food.

*Why is it that nobody has nailed me on any of the completely stupid plot developments in Scardown, I wonder?**

**In fact, nobody ever picks up on the various plot developments in my books that *I* consider stupid. Probably because I know they're stupid, and go out of my way either to gloss over them or kick leaves over them or shore them up. The stuff I consider perfectly evident, like the dangers inherent in long-range microwave power transmission, or the existence of underground rivers in Hartford, that I hear it for.***

***Bitch bitch bitch, ah shaddap Bear, nobody cares, and at least he liked the book. I sometimes think I should just give up writing science fiction and concentrate on the fantasy, because there's a certain type of SF reader whose main joy is making up reasons why a book's logical system doesn't work.****

****But I like science fiction.*****

*****I think I'll give up reading reviews, instead.******

******I'm all out of Criminal Minds. Do you suppose Torchwood has downloaded yet?*******

*******Oh, for fuck's sake, Bear, shut up and do your paperwork. And when you are done doing your paperwork, you can read that book you are meant to be blurbing, can't you? Yes.********

********Oy, I hope I don't get asked to blurb anything again for a while. I can't keep up.*********

*********Yes, I do feel better now.