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'11 Authors Insider Tips

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
From Inspiration to Publication
Writing the First Draft
Seduce Your Reader
Be a Real Writer
Sexy Writing Partnerships

Kill Electrons, Not Trees
by William Gaius
What Does It Mean...?
The Decision to Self-Publish
The Decision To Self-Publish, 2
Printing ... for Self-Publishers
A Copyright Primer
How to POD, free (almost) Part 1
How to POD, free (almost) Part 2

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Three Top Tips...
Not Writing Erotica
The Importance of Being Colin
Dream Writing
To Boldly Go
The Unforgivable Taboo
Managing Multiple Projects
Doing it in Public
Nil Bastardum Carborundum
Workshop Insights

Assorted Attractions

Meet Robert Buckley
Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister

The Write Stuff

by Ashley Lister

To Boldly Go


The Write Stuff by Ashley ListerIt’s important to identify genres. For anyone trying to make a commercial success of their fiction, agents and editors want to know the name of the shelf in the book store where they can propose to put the results of your hard work. Romance? Horror? Crime? Erotica?

But what about when we mix the erotic genre with another genre? Erotic vampire novels? Erotic crime thriller? Erotic science fiction? The first of those two is easy to identify, but erotic science-fiction? It’s sex Jim, but not as we know it.

Science –fiction is supposed to be one of the hardest genres to identify. Personally I’ve always thought: if its got rockets, other worlds or science-type stuff—it’s science fiction. And, whilst I know this goes against the opinions of many die-hard aficionados, I have yet to come across any genuine evidence that undermines this oversimplification.

The roots of the genre could be cited in Theogony by Hesiod, the Greek poet who lived during the 8th and 7th centuries BCE. In Theogony Hesiod talks about the creation of the earth and other worlds; cosmos from chaos; the union between Gaia and Eros, and the births and lives of various alien creatures who eventually become gods, titans, Cyclopes and other fantastical figures of myth and legend.

Is this science fiction? Some would say this is nothing more than a typical creationist myth, and I wouldn’t argue too strongly against that point of view. But, note the other worlds that are being created in this story. Isn’t Hesiod boldly going where no poet has gone before? Doesn’t this story sound like it has some aspects of science-fiction? Throw in the influence of Eros and the lusty appetites of Gaia and I think we’ve got a template for erotic science-fiction. 

Many sources cite Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the birth of modern science-fiction. Here we have a mad-scientist doing science-type stuff, this time to reanimate a corpse. No rockets. No other worlds. But lots of science-type stuff. The Rocky Horror Picture Show used a very similar plot for their powerfully erotic musical.

Why should this story line be erotic? Face it, if you’re building a man, doesn’t it make sense to build a sexy man?

Jules Verne and HG Wells are extolled as proponents of early modern science fiction and it’s easy to accept these.

Verne has all the science-type stuff that sends his protagonists 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or journeying toward the centre of the earth. How erotic is that? A group of adventurers penetrating the earth’s holes? A group of travellers ensconced inside a phallic submarine?

HG Wells gives us men travelling in rockets to the moon, or Martians travelling from other worlds (in rockets) to earth. Or science-type stuff that makes men invisible. (One quick question: if you were writing a list of all the things you’d do if granted the power of invisibility, how many items down the list would you get before sex was mentioned? The first item on my list is to rob a bank but, after that, I’m the invisible man in the changing rooms…)

Look at all the above.  There are rockets, other worlds and science type stuff. All of it is scientific and every word of it drips with eroticism. Can you see a pattern?

Purists (and that’s not the first name for them that springs to my mind) argue that it’s only science-fiction if the story relies on a central theme of science as part of its cohesive structure. More importantly, it has to be factually accurate science, otherwise it’s nothing more than a fantasy. This is, of course, nonsense. The genre is called science FICTION – not science FACTion.

Personally, I don’t trust purists, especially when they’re waxing lyrical about science-fiction subjects. Purists in science-fiction have told us that Star Trek should never have split the infinitive in the phrase ‘to boldly go’. This sort of prescriptive argument (applying the rules of dead Latin to modern English) is nothing more than a show of outmoded academic knowledge based on a lack of practical understanding. I don’t advocate an overuse of adverbs but if a character is going to go, I believe it’s possible for them to adventurously go, to bravely go and to courageously go. We can boldly split infinitives, because the Germanic structure of our language allows us to do that.

We live in a scientific age. Science is at the core of every contemporary story. Under the aforementioned definition, that it’s only science-fiction if the story relies on a central theme of science as part of its cohesive structure, Jurassic Park, with its heavy reliance on DNA and the cross-breeding of dinosaurs and frogs, is pure science-fiction. Every James Bond film, with the future technologies that allow Bond to succeed, and the technological marvels that Bond is invariably stealing/saving/destroying, all put science front-and-centre in the audience’s line of sight. I recently read Meg Cabot’s The Guy Next Door. This is an epistolatory romance told through emails. And, whilst this is typically wonderful Meg Cabot romance, doesn’t the innovation of communicating through emails make this wholly science-fiction? After all, the science of email communication is an underlying foundation to the cohesive structure of the narrative. The story couldn’t exist without the science of emails.

Maybe I’m stretching the point a bit here. And maybe I should side with those literary novelists who eschew genre labels and simply want to have their work recognised for its own merit, rather than its place within a canon of similar titles. But I still think my personal definition works best: if its got rockets, other worlds and science-type stuff, you can happily label it as science-fiction.

And, if its got rockets, other worlds, science-type stuff AND SEX, then we really should call it erotic science-fiction.

Ashley Lister
May/June 2011

Contact Ashley at Ashley Lister
Find more of Ashley's Write Stuff in ERWA 2011 Archive

"The Write Stuff" © 2011 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, Swingers: True Confessions from Today's Modern Swinging Scene (Virgin Books), a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his first title published under his own name.
Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica.  Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto.  He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.
Email:  Ashley Lister

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