Archive for January 30th, 2012|Daily archive page
Today I am delighted to welcome friend and fellow T Party writer Gaie Sebold to the blog. Gaie’s first novel, Babylon Steel, was published earlier this year.
Writing Sexy – Babylon Steel and Getting it On
By Gaie Sebold
Sex work, however fantastical the setting, was not something I ever expected to be writing about. Let’s face it, I was more than a little freaked when I realised I did want to write about it. Taking actual sex scenes to my critique group – people I knew! People whose faces I was going to have to look at, knowing they’d read those scenes! – Yeah. Scary. Of course it did occur to me that, with any luck, eventually quite a lot of total strangers (gulp) were going to read those scenes, and I’d have to either get used to the idea, or write a different book.
Once I’d been through the critique group, and no-one had laughed or gone bright red or nominated me for the Bad Sex Award, I felt a little calmer about the idea. But they were, after all, writers; they were approaching the manuscript from a professional viewpoint. Oddly, I didn’t really worry about my agent and my editors reading those scenes in anything like the same way; that’s an entirely professional relationship from the off, and if they felt anything was wrong with the scenes, it would be because they didn’t work, and they’d have told me why. (Also, I should imagine they’ve all read much more extravagant sex scenes than anything I’m likely to write).
After them, though, once the book was out, came friends and co-workers who weren’t in the writing or publishing business. Also, in many cases, people who were not necessarily fans of fantasy (whether or not they were fans of erotica, I didn’t ask. I mean, you don’t, do you?).
I tried to prepare the ground. “You do realise it’s set in a brothel? It has naughty bits?”
“Oh, yes, don’t worry!” Light laughter and handwaving ensues.
And then they actually read it.
Now generally the reaction has been pretty good, and only in a few cases have ‘those’ bits been the first thing people mention. However, I suppose I should have been prepared for the; “How did you do the research?” question, with occasional added smirks and nudging. I have been tempted to say; “I went to Soho and stood on a corner,” but so far, I’ve restrained myself to “I read a lot of stuff”. I do wonder if anyone asked Arthur Golden the same question, in the same tone, about Memoirs of a Geisha. I’d bet substantial money that they didn’t.
On the other hand, “Why has your lizard-type-guy got two penises?” was another question, and the answer, “Because lizards do, look it up,” had the edifying result of sending the questioner off to Wikipedia forthwith, so he can now bandy ‘hemipenes’ about with the best of them. If you’ll excuse the expression.
Funnily enough, no-one asks how I did the research on what it feels like to cut someone open with a sword and have their guts spill all over your boots. Does that say something about who they think I am? In which case why haven’t I been arrested yet?
I suspect, in fact, it’s simply that, as a society, we still find sex far more disturbing and taboo than violence. This strikes me as extremely odd, when you consider that sex is all over the place. Sexy bodies, along with the heavy hint that ‘If you buy this product you may get more sex’; are used to sell everything from cars to lipstick to fizzy drinks. Pornography makes more money than the legitimate film industry, by quite a large margin. And, you know, babies. Lots of them. Mostly conceived by the traditional method. There’s a lot of sex out there; at least as much as there is violence. Obviously I am not the first person to point this out, and the comparative treatment of the two is not something on which I intend to Proclaim; I doubt I could say anything which has not been said earlier, and better, than I could. And since I do write quite graphically about both sex and violence, to state that one should be written about and the other not, or written about in a somehow more restrained way, would be hypocritical in the extreme. I do find it interesting, however.
Because I did want to write not just about sex, but about social attitudes to sex. The book is intended as entertainment and a good story, not just a moral treatise (may the All save us from fiction as tract), but there were things I wanted to say, if only by having a female central character who is unashamedly, indeed happily, sexual; and sexual for herself, not just for other people. Babylon isn’t, of course, the first such character and I certainly doubt will be the last; but writing her was a liberating experience for me, and I hope reading about her will prove an enjoyable one for others, and maybe a little thought provoking too.
Of course, even when I’m a little old lady, if anyone is still reading BABYLON STEEL, I have no doubt at all that some old boy in the nursing home will nudge me with his elbow, almost knocking me off my walker, and ask me, with a denturish grin, how I did the research.
Gaie Sebold was born in the US but has lived in the UK for most of her life. She has a job with a charity, a partner (writer David Gullen), the standard cat apparently issued to most fantasy writers, a neglected garden and a lot of hats. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in Black Gate, Legend, City Slab, Andromeda Spaceways, Aeon and others. Her first novel, Babylon Steel, has just been published by Solaris. Her website is at www.gaiesebold.com.
Babylon Steel, ex-sword-for-hire, ex-other things, runs the best brothel in Scalentine; city of many portals, two moons, and a wide variety of races, were-creatures, and religions, not to mention the occasional insane warlock. She’s not having a good week. The Vessels of Purity are protesting against brothels, women in the trade are being attacked, it’s tax time, and there’s not enough money to pay the bill. So when the mysterious Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it. But the missing girl is not what she seems, and neither is Darask Fain. In the meantime twomoon is approaching, and more than just a few night’s takings are at risk when Babylon’s hidden past reaches out to grab her by the throat.