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Special Forces: Gay Military Erotica

Edited by Phillip MacKenzie, Jr.

Book Review by Vincent Diamond

 

Gay Erotic Ficiton

With its focus on danger of all kinds: from enemy fire to the unspoken "don't ask, don't tell" policy to the taboo of homosex, Special Forces has a dark edge that's entirely appropriate to its genre. The fear/violence/lust connection is clear; men often sex it up after a near-death (or deadly) experience. The stories feature military men of all types,  American, British, Union or Confederate; wars from modern-day Iraq and Afghanistan to futuristic, post-apocalypse or space settings; Army, Air Force, and Marines—and most of them frightened, lusty, and deadly.

Editor MacKenzie selected a good range of voices and stories, and a few stand out as especially strong.

The opening story, "Wild Blue Yonder" by Jack Fritscher, is a bit peculiar. Starting out as a homage to big dicks and Big Boyd Grumowski, the narrator has a terrific voice that captures the feel of the World War Two era. Several raw sex scenes get the action started, and then the story changes completely. Once the narrator dies, he somehow transmutates into his lover's sperm and impregnates Boyd's wife. The narrator reappears as Boyd's son. At the end of the story, there's even an allusion to father/son incest that gives the piece an odd feel. It's an interesting choice to lead off the anthology.

Another strong and unsettling story is "The DC Blues" by James Freeman. Set in the not-too-distant future in the Christian States of America, 2011, the story has references to Homeland Security, President Bush (in office again, gasp! The horror!), and occupied D.C. It's not fully explained in a neat, little package, and it's clear that Freeman wants readers to push a little to keep up. Joshua Davidson is the hero, injured in a bomb blast, captured by the Christian government, and fitted with an ID chip that will never let him go underground again. After a consensual sexual encounter with a fellow "patient," he's betrayed, and the reader is left with a creepy ending and the image of a black doctor's bag. It's a downer ending after the scenes of hot sex, but it fits the piece and the universe Freeman created.

Another of the darker tales, "Sarvis" by Jeff Mann, is set during the American Civil War. The "Rogue Riders" are led by a sadistic and murderous sergeant with a history of abuse and murder of war prisoners. Ian, the narrator, is soldier, enforcer, and nephew to Sergeant Wirz. Mann's writing voice is often lush, and he tones it down a bit here to tell this story from an uneducated farm boy's point of view. A few vivid phrases stand out as both evocative and yet a bit out of place: "His nakedness is like a poem." The squad is described as viper vicious, a nice turn of phrase. After a beating and torture session, Ian takes the prisoner back to his tent, and they spend the night talking. Ian's lust is clear on the page, but there's no sex between soldier and prisoner. Ian's mixed feelings about everything: his uncle the sergeant, the war in general, the previous prisoners his uncle has killed, and Drew, the new prisoner. The man is torn and bleeding and tries desperately to make contact with Ian. The story feels a bit incomplete as if it might be part of a longer piece. If so, these two characters would seem to have a lot to overcome and yet there is hope they might learn from each other.

"Rohan" by Annabelle Usher is another example of a terrific narrator voice, maintained and effective. With staccato bursts of phrases and incomplete sentences, this narrator encounters an enemy soldier grieving on an un-named battlefield. Their encounter is both affirmation and funeral; the ending here is as dark as any in the book, and fitting. Worthy a re-reading, "Rohan" is a character in search of his soul.

"The Fox Hole" is the most schmoopy and romantic of the tales in this book. After surviving in a foxhole for hours, Sam is rescued by Tommy, and swept away over a threshold like a bride. The happily ever after here is both explicit and implied; I thought the romance tropes here were amusing, and the sex was realistic and energetic.

The final piece, "Field of Battle" by Richard Michaels is a fitting end to this theme. In an un-named war in an un-named country in an un-named time, this story deftly handles the timeless dangers of war: the enemy without—faceless and frightening, and the enemy within—one's own feelings and miseries, and where betrayal is wielded as a weapon. Joey, the "troop trollop", "sleek and slim like a marine animal," seemingly shares passion with most all of the troop's soldiers. They protect him, letting him march in the center of the squad, his beauty and appeal a talisman against danger. When an enemy force seems to have a connection with Joey, the squad turns on him, enacting a gang rape as punishment and question. The final line of the story is chilling and spot-on. These are men who have lost their humanity in the midst of a war that none of them could win. Somber as it is, this story resonates with undercurrents and questions.

Other stories are graphic and raunchy, sex for sex's sake, without much nuance to read between the lines. The balance of darker, more thoughtful stories makes for a nice mix. If you like your soldiers and flyboys hot and hung, you'll get your money's worth in this book. If you like war stories with a darker, more realistic edge, Special Forces is a book that will give you both food for thought and one-handed reading.

Vincent Diamond
December '09 - January '10

Special Forces: Gay Military Erotica
(Cleis Press, October 2009; ISBN-10: 1573443727)
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

______
© 2009 Vincent Diamond. All rights reserved.

About the Author:
Vincent Diamond's short story collection, Rough Cut, was released by Lethe Press in 2008. "An erotic wordsmith," says noted editor Richard Labonte in the foreword to the book, "...erotic fiction that possesses story-telling heft." Diamond's stories have appeared in Screaming Orgasms, Sex on the Beach, Coming Together: Under Fire, Country Boys, Truckers, Best Gay Romance 2007, Hot Cops, Love in a Lock-Up, Best Gay Love Stories 2005 and 2006, in the e-books Feathers, Chance Encounters, Under Arrest, and Play Ball from Torquere Press, and online at Fishnet, Clean Sheets and Ruthie's Club.
More info, with free stories and excerpts, available at: www.vincentdiamond.com.



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