How many erotic stories have I read, in the eighteen years since I formally entered the erotica reading and writing community? Five hundred? A thousand? For years, I wrote reviews for ERWA, as well as for the wonderful Erotica Revealed site. I’ve edited anthologies, too, which means I’ve done a lot of mucking around in the slush pile.
I’m not proud to admit that most of what I’ve read, I’ve forgotten. Sometimes I’ll be digging around in my review files, looking for something to recycle for my blog, and come across a book I don’t remember at all. It’s a bit embarrassing.
Of course, a lot of erotica is pretty forgettable. Even when they are well written, erotic short stories tend to follow predictable plots and feature familiar stereotypes. I may enjoy a story—it may even arouse me—but after I’ve closed the book and written my review, the details all too often slip away.
Some stories, though, have stuck with me. I was struck by this recently, when reading Emily L. Byrne’s lesbian collection Knife’s Edge. This book includes her stunning tale “An Incident in Whitechapel”. I read this story a long time ago, no doubt in some other anthology. I found I remembered it vividly, and was just as impressed by it on the second (and third) reading as I’d been on the first.
That experience got me thinking about the stories that haven’t vanished from my memory, the ones that stand out for their originality, their emotional intensity, their craft, and their erotic heat. This post does homage to my “top ten” most memorable stories, which are listed below.
They’re not in any particular order, by the way. The fact that they’re here at all is sufficient testimony to their quality. I’ll also admit that many of them have been published in anthologies I’ve edited. I guess that’s not surprising. My memory for these particular stories may derive from the fact that I’ve read them many times. However, I still believe their quality earns them a place in my list.
So here, for better or worse, are my top ten most memorable erotic shorts.
“State” by M.Christian
I believe I first read this brilliant piece of scifi erotica in the author’s collection The Bachelor Machine, originally published in 2003, and then in several later collections. In this wonderfully ironic reversal of cyberpunk conventions, the protagonist, Fields, is turned on by the challenge of impersonating a sex robot: a blue-skinned, manga-eyed, perfectly proportioned Mitsui Class B Automaton. When a client asks for the house “specialty”, for Fields it is not just a trick. It’s a performance; it’s Art. Christian skillfully leads the reader to wonder whether Fields would enjoy sex as a human nearly as much.
“An Early Winter Train” by C. Sanchez-Garcia
This moving tale was originally published in the ERWA Gallery and later in Sanchez-Garcia’s charitable erotica anthology Coming Together Presents: C. Sanchez-Garcia. I edited that book, and I love many of the stories, but “An Early Winter Train” is probably my favorite. The main character is a middle-aged man caring for his wife, who has premature Alzheimer’s. I know that sounds almost anti-erotic, but when the couple manages to recapture the erotic heat of their youth, it’s both arousing and heart-breaking.
“An Incident in Whitechapel” by Emily L. Byrne
Though I first encountered it years ago, this dark tale of a cross-dressing knife and scissors grinder on the trail of Jack the Ripper has remained in my memory as one of the very best erotic short stories I’ve ever read. As thick with atmosphere as the notorious London fog, “Incident” combines intense and passionate BDSM with social commentary and a stunningly ambiguous ending.
“What Was Lost” by Robert Buckley
I found this story intensely erotic even though it contains no actual sex. A history grad student struggling with her thesis makes the acquaintance of an elderly man living in her building. He tells her about lawless days of speakeasies in the Roaring Twenties of his youth, tales of forbidden debauchery and perverse pleasure. He asks that she let him touch her, in return for cash to support her academic career. Though his touch is dry, almost asexual, the suppressed eroticism of the situation really affected me. You’ll find this story in Coming Together Presents: Robert Buckley.
“Willing” by Xan West
I’d encountered Xan’s devastatingly erotic story of a FTM submissive offering himself to a vampire at least once before when Xan submitted it to my collection Coming Together: In Vein. Every time I read it, I marvel anew at the way it explores the emotional dynamic between dominant and submissive. It’s an extreme story, more violent than the BDSM I usually enjoy, but the outer actions aren’t the focus. Rather, the author is concerned with the trust that binds the two participants in a power exchange, and the courage required to fully surrender.
“Butoh-Ka” by Remittance Girl
Remittance Girl’s tale of cross-cultural sex sticks with me at least partly because it’s so strange. An uptight Western woman living in Vietnam becomes entangled with a practitioner of the Japanese Butoh dance tradition. Everything about him seems bizarre but gradually the narrator is sucked into his alternative reality. I particularly loved the sex scenes in this story, which manage to be arousing even when nothing happens. If you’re wondering how that could work, check out the story in Coming Together Presents: Remittance Girl.
“Stairmaster” by Daddy X
This short piece is a poetic paean to a woman’s posterior, as observed by an old man working out in the gym. This may sound trivial, even silly, but the language in this story, its humor, and its brilliant ending all elevate this tale into my top ten. You can read it in The Gonzo Collection by Daddy X.
“Welcome to the Aphrodisiac Hotel” by Amanda Earl
Like “Stairmaster”, this story doesn’t have much of a plot. A woman sits in a hotel bar, observing the men and women around her, speculating about their erotic connections. Her fantasies arouse her, preparing her for her own lover, for whom she is waiting. I guess I like stories that manage to be intensely erotic without including physical sex. This one fits right in with my personal tag-line: Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac. You’ll find it in Coming Together Presents: Amanda Earl.
“Remember This” by Shanna Germain
I don’t think I’ve ever read a story by Shanna Germain that I didn’t love. This one, though, has remained with me as one of her best, though I can’t find information on where it was published. Some anthology that I reviewed, I’m sure.
Like many of her tales, “Remember This” is luminous with passion but edged in darkness. On her fiftieth birthday, a woman celebrates with her long-time lovers, one male and one female. The pleasure they share is overshadowed by the fact that the narrator is losing her memory to early onset dementia. She tries to hold on to every sensual detail, to imprint the experiences so deeply she’ll never lose them. She knows this time may be the last she’ll remember. In fact, she toys with the notion of suicide, before she forgets her beloved partners.
“Twenty Minutes in the Eighties” by Alison Tyler
I’m not even sure this is the exact title of this early Alison Tyler story. I can’t tell you where I read it. I tried to find information about it on the web and failed, a situation that rather depressed me as it highlighted how ephemeral our work can be. Still, years after reading it, I remember the outlines of this tale as well as the fact that it really turned me on.
The funny thing is that, unlike the vast majority of Alison’s stories, this was not, overtly, a BDSM tale. A young woman (clearly an avatar of the author) gets picked up by an older man. She’s shy, awkward, sexually hungry but inexperienced. He brings her back to his lavish house in the Hollywood Hills and asks her to masturbate for him. In his eyes, for the twenty minutes in the title, she becomes beautiful.
I’d love to read this one again. Maybe the miracles of cyberspace will alert the author to this post and she’ll get in touch.
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When I was growing up, there were books I read again and again. They were old friends, but with each reading I experienced new pleasure and gained new insights. The stories in my top ten are the same. I hope I can find copies of the last two in my list. Not being able to revisit them, I feel a sense of loss.
P.S. All the Coming Together books are charity erotica, supporting various causes. For more information, please go here: http://www.eroticanthology.org/p/store.html