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Thomas S. Roche
Erotica Readers & Writers Association
In 2011, when Thomas S. Roche’s first horror/science fiction novel, The Panama Laugh, was selected as a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers’ Association, fans whose reading includes both zombies and erotica might have thought to themselves…“Hey, don’t I know that guy?”
The Panama Laugh is a military-themed noir-flavored zombie apocalypse set partially in a (fictional) BDSM porn studio set in a (very real) early-20th century Moorish castle on 14th and Mission Streets in San Francisco, where a crew of underground hackers (distinctly unlike Wikileaks or Anonymous, but suspiciously evocative of same) turned environmental-depopulation cult (“DePop Art,” if you must know), has (maybe) helped a fanatically apocalyptic Christian private military consulting firm (entirely unlike Blackwater Inc.) to genetically engineer a virus that makes the dead laugh their asses off while chowing down on delicious human BRAAAINNNZ.
Though The Panama Laugh was Roche’s first major accolade within horror, fans of erotica and fringe culture should know his name well. With four publications in Susie Bright’s Best American Erotica series and even more in Maxim Jakubowski’s Best New Erotica series, Roche’s name crops up frequently in the TOCs of erotic anthologies published in the last decade; when it doesn’t, one can often spot his far more shameless competitor, sexual rival and occasional arch enemy N.T. Morley, who lurks in the background like Jerry Cornelius’s forgotten weirdo cousin. Morley’s erotic books and stories, both new and reprint, continue to be published by Renaissance Ebooks, which also recently reprinted Roche’s collection of gothic erotica, Dark Matter. Roche's instructional posts on how to write erotica also appear regularly at the group sex-writing blog Write Sex, informed by his decades of experience in the topic.
Though Roche has left the biggest footprint in the field of erotica, he’s also written prolifically in fringe culture and sexual nonfiction, most recently at sites like TinyNibbles.com, Techyum.com, and at his own sites BoiledHard.com (devoted to hard-boiled crime fiction) and ThomasRoche.com. He’s also recently started publishing mini-ebooks, including an assortment of his zombie stories and a steadily growing pile of erotic downloads for the ebook-positive among his readers. Other books that continue to see new life in the ebook realm are Roche’s two collaborative erotica collections with Alison Tyler, His and Hers, as well as Tyler’s collaborative mini-collections like the perennially popular Smart Ass. Additionally, "Morley" recently launched a line of mini-anthologies in ebook format, starting in June, 2012 Double Vision: Hot Erotic Stories of Bi Men Who Share, She's In Charge: Adventures in Female Domination, and No Strings Attached: Stories of Anonymous Sex & One Night Stands. Roche's most important upcoming release is sure to be his entry in Maxim Jakubowski's new line of single-author Best New Erotica collections, which assembles in one book all of Roche's contributions to the Best New Erotica series over the years.
Roche has been writing fiction since he was far too young to write erotica – or even understand what it was. His first professional forays into pornographic writing occurred right around the time he turned (as they say in the adult industry) “barely legal.” The gig was writing erotica for an outfit called Carlyle Communications, Inc., which published under the venerable imprint of Beeline Books. Carlyle promptly went bankrupt, screwing Roche to the tune of four figures (a lot of money in the mid-to-late 1980s, when milk cost a nickel a gallon and cocaine was free). Luckily, other nefarious corporations moved in to further Roche’s erotica writing career, providing a helpful income during his college years and immediately thereafter as he established himself in the medical advertising biz in San Francisco.
While he was first writing erotica, Roche was also writing a large number of science fiction and fantasy stories, but it wasn’t until he sought success in the world of horror short fiction in about 1993 that he started achieving regular sales. Over the ensuing 10 years, Roche made his way into the burgeoning field of sex-positive erotica while also writing horror, science fiction and fantasy stories. In 1995 the lifelong fan of Chandler, Jim Thompson, John D. McDonald and Mickey Spillane tried his hand at vintage-styled crime-noir and ended up writing a few dozen crime stories, one of which, the Thompsonesque erotic sleaze-noir “Hell on Wheels,” was later produced as an audio program for the BBC.
Within the crime field, Roche also edited the 1996 erotic noir anthology Noirotica for Masquerade Books. Noirotica has since gone out of print, but it and its two successors (Noirotica 2: Pulp Fiction and Noirotica 3: Stolen Kisses) continue to exert an influence over those writers and erotica fans who remember them. This includes none other than Susie Bright, who famously said, “Noirotica 3 is great, great, great!”
Roche has also edited anthologies in the genres of horror and fantasy, including vampire anthologies with Michael Rowe (Sons of Darkness and Brothers of the Night) and two horror-fantasy anthologies with Nancy Kilpatrick (In the Shadow of the Gargoyle and Graven Images – the former a Locus Magazine best-seller).
Though he maintained a fairly steady output of horror and fantasy, Roche’s most frequent publications in the ‘90s and 2000s were in the realm of fine-art erotica, resulting in more than 400 short fiction publications under various names in those two decades, encompassing all genres (horror, crime, fantasy, science fiction, humor, and even western) but mostly focusing on erotica.
During that period, Roche left the medical advertising business and wrote full time for a while, then took on a lengthy series of editing and marketing gigs. He was the Nonfiction Editor at Gothic.net from 1997-1999, the Product Reviews Editor at GettingIt.com from 1999-2000, the Books Editor at Universal Studios’ 13thStreet.com (now part of SciFi.com) from 2000-2001, and the Web Magazine Editor at GoodVibes.com from 2000-2001. After a gig as the Marketing Manager for Good Vibrations from 2001-2004, he became the Managing Editor at Eros-Zine.com (since closed down), an erotic culture zine then published by ErosGuide.com. He left that job to become the Public Relations Manager at Kink.com, a job that indirectly inspired The Panama Laugh.
Though Roche continues to write erotica, this year he’s digging deeper into horror, science fiction, fantasy, and alternate history, working on two mammoth properties sure to confuse category-obsessed editors at major publishers. The first is a paramilitary apocalyptic vampire trilogy in which vampirism, BDSM sex parties, and private military security contractors are grotesquely intertwined in a sad fandango just about guaranteed to lead to the end of the world. In the second (currently planned as a dodecology), time-traveling aliens sadistically devour human souls over the course of billions of millennia by using quantum mechanics to psychically manipulate ‘30s pulp publishers, Victorian porn writers and Northern California stoners in a crazed attempt to kill God – if Bigfoot can’t stop them first. They’re both comedies and, Roche promises, exceedingly sexy.
When freed from his fiction exploits, Roche frequently visits his blog to rave and/or bitch about David Bowie, books on 19th Century North Africa, Broadway musicals and fucking Ray Bradbury, and reviews history’s hardest-boiled crime novels at BoiledHard.com. A self-described social media evangelist despite his core Luddite/curmudgeon philosophy, he also maintains a presence at Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook (where he says you can feel free to add him), and particularly at Good Reads, where he frequently posts book reviews.
Roche’s next book, due this summer, is a collection of his stories that have appeared in Maxim Jakubowski’s Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica series over the years, published in ebook by Robinson Publishing.
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Thomas S. Roche