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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Erotica and Pornography  
 
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Dozens of slick magazines now regularly print gay pornographic short stories. Available on public newsstands in all major cities in the United States and in many other countries, Advocate Men, All Men, Blueboy, Drummer, Fresh Men, Friction, Honcho, Inches, In Touch, Jock, Male Insider, Mandate, Men, Numbers, Playguy, Stallion, Stroke, Torso, Uncut, and similar monthly magazines are modeled after Playboy in the sense that they combine fiction (and sometimes nonfiction) of an openly sexual nature with photographic spreads of naked models.

The difference is that the models are men, often with full erections, and that the fiction highlights explicit, detailed descriptions of sexual encounters between men.

Sponsor Message.

The growth in the number of such magazines published is not even so astonishing as the degree to which a high average standard has been maintained in the quality of the writing.

Although Rupert Smith has suggested that the material from the 1970s and early 1980s was amateurish and that British gay pornography perhaps improved when it had to become less explicit in the wake of a censorship crackdown in the mid-1980s, American material has continued to be completely explicit, and excellent new writers appear all the time.

When the Stonewall Riots precipitated the loosening of censorship restrictions, the American gay community had ready at hand a large number of authors willing and able to provide stimulating material with full artistic control.

Perhaps the best of the new writers is Aaron Travis (b. 1956). The works collected in The Flesh Fables (1990) typically unfold sharp psychological insights that make sense precisely because of the eroticism. He has described his "hyperthermal mode" of third-person melodramatic narrative in uncensored language as cinematic in two different ways: plotted explicitly like the films noirs of the 1940s and more generally cinematic in its immediacy and intensity.

In the novella Crown of Thorns, for example, the protagonist Eric is an American diplomat in Istanbul who becomes obsessed with a Turkish ship's stoker, losing his self-respect and finally his job in the process. There are parallels to Death in Venice (1913) by Thomas Mann (1875-1955), but Travis is more immediate and vivid by virtue of his explicitness.

In Travis's most famous story, a topman is mastered by the witchcraft of a "Blue Light" that first traps him, then dismembers him, and finally allows him to be entered like a woman.

Travis's novel Slaves of Empire (1985) is an expansion of a story from Drummer. Travis has recently begun publishing mystery novels under his own name, Steven Saylor.

John Rowberry (1948-1993), who became a critic and bibliographer of gay video porn, is perhaps less important as a storyteller in his own right than for encouraging writers like Travis and Preston when he was editor of Drummer. Though he certainly plunges right into all the mythic themes of homoerotica, the vision is always a little off.

For example, in "The Mechanic," reprinted in Lewd Conduct (1993), the unnamed narrator's sudden abandonment of his past life raises questions that cry out for exploration in a much longer work. Far from allowing us to forget the narrator's unresolved past life, the story's orgy actually extends into real time the question of what is to become of his past.

A more consistent storyteller is Lars Eighner (b. 1948). His evocative interconnected stories of growing up with gay sex in Texas and Louisiana are collected in Bayou Boy (1985; the 1992 edition suppresses the ages of the boys).

Eighner, remarkable for his realistic portrayal of a wide variety of different scenes, is also the author of Lavender Blue: How to Write and Sell Gay Men's Erotica (1987), and he has recently achieved fame with mainstream readers for the autobiographical description of his homeless life in the essay "On Dumpster Diving" from Travels with Lizabeth (1993).

Although he is also known for the experimental cinematic technique of his epic of San Francisco's Castro district, Some Dance to Remember (1990), Jack Fritscher (b. 1939) is known primarily for his work as editor of Drummer from 1977 to 1979 and as a writer of such short fiction as the stories of Corporal in Charge of Taking Care of Captain O'Malley (1984).

Another interesting story writer is Leo Cardini (b. 1948), who recreates the lost way of life of the New York sex clubs in Mineshaft Nights (1990).

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