Fallen Behind the Times

by | October 15, 2018 | General | 6 comments

Just a few years ago in this space a much missed friend and extraordinary writer made her farewell to erotica. Remittance Girl wrote of vulnerable, sometimes wounded characters, mostly in Asian settings so startlingly sensual as to evoke in one’s mind all the aromas, tastes and even the feel of the air that set the place and the time. I used to tell RG that while she was a hell of a writer, she was an amazing cinematographer.

Her stores weren’t so much about sex as they were about how the sexual drive, a human’s sexual needs drove their lives and their choices, even if they themselves weren’t aware of it. Her stories did not have happy endings, and loose ends were never tied up. They were far removed from what one would consider a stroke piece or romance.

And about the time Fifty Shades of Gray was moving through the genre like a tsunami of crassness, she refused to give an inch and fall in line with many who were saying maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing for the genre and its writers, since a rising tide lifts everyone’s boat after all.

So she penned a final blog post here in which she said her kind of story had become irrelevant as the genre became inundated with romance, with all its expectations and requirements and never-stray-from-the-path structures. So she said goodbye to all that.

Like RG, I’m feeling a bit irrelevant these days, too, for reasons similar to those cited by RG, but also by a general sense of feeling passed by.

I’ve never written the sort of story one chose as a masturbatory aid. While sex was always important it was not the whole story. At the time I wrote them, though, they were well received by folks I respected who found them erotic nonetheless. The only time I was nominated for a genre honor (a Silver Clitoride – seriously, you can’t make this stuff up) it was for a story that didn’t have a single sex scene. Some three years since RG took her leave, I’m beginning to see such stories have lost what allure they had and are even dismissed as not erotica at all.

I used to think erotica was a big tent, but there seem to be so many more gatekeepers these days who insist if it isn’t aimed straight at the genitalia it doesn’t belong.

Well, that’s one thing. Another is that I’m afraid I’ve made myself irrelevant in another way, by remaining in place. I’ve never embraced social media. I have no Facebook page. I don’t tweet. Instagram? I’m not even sure what that is. The greatest thing since sliced bread for me was email; that should tell you something. I don’t own a smartphone, so have never downloaded an app. And though I have a simple cell phone I rely mainly on my land line.

I am so far behind the times, I don’t think I could accurately write a contemporary story. There is another language at work, a truncated language full of abbreviations and acronyms and I have no idea what they stand for.

This feeling really hit home for me recently while I was riding on a commuter train. I love mass transportation. I used to get a lot of my inspiration watching people on trains and buses, reading their faces, putting stories to their expressions.

Now people don’t have expressions. They stare trancelike at their gadgets, faces frozen. Being on that train was like being in a coma ward.

Still, I’m not lamenting the brave new world. It’s nobody’s fault but my own that I haven’t kept up with technology and all its benefits that even my four- and seven-year-old grandsons master as second nature. It’s just, at this stage, it’s just too tiring to catch up. Or maybe I’m just lazy.

But if I can’t accurately depict the world I live in, I wonder if I should even try.

Robert Buckley

Bob's stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including multiple editions of Maxim Jakubowski's Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica.


  1. RosE

    Well, Bob, you’re not alone. You have at least me for company, for whatever that’s worth, but I think you already knew that, since both of us have done the same kind of pseudo-lamenting over a kind of inundation of figurative noise. I sometimes feel as if I’m in one of those nightmarish Twilight Zone episodes where I’ve been transported to a world that looks in many way like the one I come from, but in which I simply don’t belong anymore. It’s not real lamenting. I think it’s just that sense of a “golden time” having passed. I accept it, as I accept the message in the TZ episode, “Waling Distance.” i.e. Maybe there’s only one summer to a customer. I tend to look back, because when I look around me these days, at the world beyond my woods and streams, there doesn’t seem to be much to look ahead to. I’m enjoying my moments, but I missed the train and I know I’ll never catch up to it again. Pretty sure I don’t even care, since there isn’t anything on it that I want.

    Hear, hear, on RG’s stories. They were, indeed, unique and thought-provoking and never predictable.

    I also never have written “erotica” to arouse. (Well, sometimes, while I was writing the stuff I like to read, I would become aroused, but I never deluded myself into thinking my work would have anyone sitting in front of his/her monitor and getting off to my scribblings. I was much more focused on characters, primarily, and in how they got to where they were in my stories. Sex was secondary, or even tertiary, to peeking inside the heads of characters and traipsing about the labyrinths therein.

    I’m also not on Facebook and have no desire to be. Social media, Instagram and all that stuff with names of new social network services joining the ranks daily, have no place in my life at all. The only tweets and twitters I’m interested in are the ones I hear at the bird feeders or out in the woods around me.

    Loved your description of likening your train experience to being in a coma ward. Just yesterday, as I was driving back from town, I had to slow down for a fellow whose eyes were glued to his smartphone **while he crossed the street in front of me**. He didn’t even look up to see if there was any traffic coming. As far as I could tell, he was completely unaware of his surroundings and didn’t care. Too bad, really. The day was absolutely gorgeous.

    I know what you mean though, about not lamenting this new world. It’s totally on me that I haven’t kept up. I know I’m not a lazy person, though. I just like a slower pace of life, with fewer distractions. And there’s really too much for me to learn, because I’m a bit slow that way. I just get something down pat these days, and then they bring out the “new and improved” version and I have to unlearn a whole bunch of stuff and relearn new stuff, and in the immortal words of Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, “I’m getting too old for this shit.” Email is still my communication medium of choice. I’ve been on vacation this whole past week and the only person I’ve talked to on the phone was my sister. We don’t text and she doesn’t have WiFi yet. (She just bought her first laptop this past summer — she just turned 71 last month — before she headed to England for six weeks and we emailed each other daily, but she hasn’t signed up for anything in her apartment complex yet.) I don’t think it’s laziness on our parts at all; I think it’s just that we’re quite satisfied with what we already have. I was quite happy all last week just chatting a bit when I went to the shops and having my one-sided conversation with Jasper the dog..

    I don’t think you should give up writing about the world you live in, Bob, because you CAN accurately depict it…from your point of view. Your stories touch hearts and that’s a gift that I sincerely hope is never overshadowed by all the stuff that is new and supposedly improved. I think your Paladins, for instance, are needed in this world more than ever before. They always appear when needed most and they bring hope with them.


    • Robert E Buckley

      Hey, Rose,

      We’re the last if the dinosaurs, but damned if we didn’t have a pretty good run. I was suspicious of social media right from the get-go. It just seemed it was driven by unbridled narcicism at first. You and I are of a generation where it was considered bad form to foist one’s opinion onto someone without being asked. Anyway, see you in the bone pile, my friend.


  2. Lisabet Sarai

    Hey, Bob —

    I’ve never completely forgiven RG for taking her toys and going home. I really miss her, and her stories. The world of erotica is poorer for her loss (though according to Jean, she was at Eroticon, so maybe she’s reconsidering…!)

    I believe her evaluation was far too pessimistic. In fact the growth of self-publishing has been a boon for authors like her (or you, or me) who don’t necessarily want to follow the latest fad in erotica. I’m not saying it’s easy to find readers — but you can get your tales out there.

    As for the modern world — well, it’s enough to make me glad I’m nearer to the end of my life than the beginning. I agree, it seems that so much of the richness in life and human interaction has disappeared. Every experience has to be mediated by the digital world. It’s not real if you don’t have a selfie.

    I saw a cartoon the other day (in a bookstore!) — “Cellphones provided the perfect cover for the zombie apocalypse”. You can probably imagine the picture!

    Meanwhile, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve always loved your stories. I was just thinking yesterday about “What Was Lost”. (One of my favorites.)

    Maybe that’s an alternative title for this post…! <3

    • Robert E Buckley

      Hi, Lis,

      It broke my heart when RG broke camp and said goodbye to erotica. I also wished she had stuck it out and perhaps trends would change. As for self-publishing, I just don’t have the stamina or patience these days. All the maneuvering and marketing just takes away from the pure joy of creating. I’ve heard it said that we’re in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, and nit is us.

      Thanks,l sweetie.


  3. tig

    You’re not alone, and you’re certainly not obsolete. I LOVE your writing. It takes serious talent to bind humour into a plot in the way that you do, and not that many people are so well equipped with that ability. I’m among the youngest of the gen-Xers, and there are a lot of us who perhaps benefitted from the rise of portable communication after University, but who have gone on to hide under rocks because of the bombardment of personal availability and the faff of social media.

    Please don’t follow RG with your toys, because that would make me weep.

    • Robert E Buckley

      Nice of you to say so, Tig. I’m not moving on just yet, too tired … and lazy.

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