The Passing of a Visionary

by | September 26, 2015 | General | 1 comment

by Jean Roberta

Since it’s my turn to post here today, I would just like to note the sad passing of an amazing photographer, Honey Lee Cottrell, on September 21, at the too-young age of 69.

Honey Lee, Tee Corinne (who is already gone) and JEB (Joan Biren), were a kind of Holy Trinity of photographers and visual artists who created the look of lesbian visual representation from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Anyone who has seen a lesbian sex manual or erotic magazine (particularly On Our Backs) from that era has seen their work.

Words can’t convey how these three pioneers managed to bring the previously-unspeakable eroticism of women with women into visual form. Those of us who lived far away from any queer mecca (San Francisco, parts of New York) were given hope by these women’s artwork to believe that nirvana might actually exist somewhere, or that it was coming into being.

In the 1980s, here in a government town on the Canadian prairie, I worked for minimum wage in a collectively-run “alternative” bookstore. (It was founded by a husband and wife who loved science fiction.) I was proud of the small lesbian section that featured books that managed to sneak across the border from Bookpeople (a major distributor in California), despite the efforts of Canada Customs to stop all “obscene” material from entering Canada from elsewhere. Every time I saw the latest issue of On Our Backs, carefully packed at the bottom of a box by someone who knew the score, I was thrilled. Honey Lee Cottrell’s unusual erotic subjects smiled back at me as if to say that eventually, we would all have our place in the sun.

I hope she is now in a place as beautiful as she ever imagined.

Jean Roberta

Jean Roberta once promised her parents not to use their unusual family name for her queer and erotic writing, and thus was born her thin-disguise pen name. She teaches English and Creative Writing in a university on the Canadian prairies, where the vastness of land and sky encourage daydreaming. Jean immigrated to Canada from the United States as a teenager with her family. In her last year of high school, she won a major award in a national student writing contest. In 1988, a one-woman publisher in Montreal published a book of Jean’s lesbian stories, Secrets of the Invisible World. When the publisher went out of business, the book went out of print. In the same year, Jean attended the Third International Feminist Book Fair in Montreal, where she read a call-for-submissions for erotic lesbian stories. She wrote three, sent them off, and got a letter saying that all three were accepted. Then the publisher went out of business. In 1998, Jean and her partner acquired their first computer. Jean looked for writers’ groups and found the Erotic Readers & Writers Association, which was then two years old! She began writing erotica in every flavor she could think of (f/f, m/f, m/m, f/f/m, etc) and in various genres (realistic contemporary, fantasy, historical). Her stories have appeared in anthology series such as Best Lesbian Erotica (2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, Volume 1 in new series, 2016), Best Lesbian Romance (2014), and Best Women's Erotica (2000, 2003, 2005, 2006) from Cleis Press, as well as many others. Her single-author books include Obsession (Renaissance, Sizzler Editions), an erotic story collection, The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press), and The Flight of the Black Swan: A Bawdy Novella (Lethe, also in audio). Fantasy stories by Jean include “Lunacy” in Journey to the Center of Desire (erotic stories based on the work of Jules Verne) from Circlet Press 2017, “Green Spectacles and Rosy Cheeks” (steampunk erotica) in Valves & Vixens 3 (House of Erotica, UK, 2016), and “Under the Sign of the Dragon” (story about the conception of King Arthur) in Nights of the Round Table: Arthurian Erotica (Circlet 2015). This story is now available from eXcessica ( Her horror story, “Roots,” first published in Monsters from Torquere Press, is now in the Treasure Gallery of the Erotic Readers and Writers Association. With Lethe Press publisher Steve Berman, she coedited Heiresses of Russ 2015 (Lethe), an annual anthology of the year’s best lesbian speculative fiction. Her realistic erotic novel, Prairie Gothic: A Tale of the Old Millennium, was published by Lethe in September 2021. Jean has written many reviews and blog posts. Her former columns include “Sex Is All Metaphors” (based on a line in a poem by Dylan Thomas) for the Erotic Readers and Writers Association, July 2008-November 2010. The 25 column pieces can still be found in the on-site archives and in an e-book from Coming Together, Jean married her long-term partner, Mirtha Rivera, on October 30, 2010. Links:

1 Comment

  1. Brenda Marston

    What a wonderful tribute that expresses beautifully Honey Lee's impact on women outside of the queer meccas! Thank you!

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