Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

#PoweredByIndie : I should be writing porn instead

3 Comments

This is the month of the indies, and this is an indie-related post in more ways than one.
I was having a talk with some friends, yesterday, about self-publishing, indie publishing and such, and as it usually happens, recently, we ended up repeating a mantra, a meme of sort that is growing popular by the day in our select circle:

I should start writing porn under an alias

hardatworkWhich, in all likelihood (or at least according to some persistent legend), would be an easier way to pay the bills than writing fantasy, or science fiction, or horror, or westerns, or whatever.

At that point, usually, the party splits in two fields: on one side, there’s the ones that list the technical problems of such a line of action, such as establishing an alias and market the new books; on the other side, there’s the guys that simply say they couldn’t do it because they find porn repulsive, they’d be ashamed of themselves, or the sole idea of writing smut makes them start laughing.

I’m a “I’d start laughing and end up writing a farce” sort of guy, and yet I normally side with the technicalities-minded.
And to force the point that it is not so ridiculous, or unheard of, or bad for your reputation, this idea of writing smut under a pen name, I brought up the case of a writer that I admire, and that is highly respected by anyone with a modicum of knowledge of the genre field: Lawrence Block.

lawrence-blockBlock is a master storyteller, a giant in the field of  crime fiction, a great writing teacher (his Telling Lies for Fun and Profit is an absolute must-read), and one of those writers that can be brought as an example of high production and consistently high quality. He is an absolute must-read for his plots, his characters and his masterful control of his language.
And back in the late ’50s and early ’60s, while he was still in university, he paid for his expenses by writing erotica for two separate publishers – Nightstand and Midwood – under two different pen names: Sheldon Lord and Andrew Shaw.
Some of the books he wrote together with Donald E. Westlake, that wrote as Alan Marshall for both publishers. Another writer whose skills and quality cannot be denied, incidentally.

Now, a few years back, Block famously decided to go the self-publishing way, becoming an indie author and giving as his chief motivation

this way I keep the money

And he also started reprinting his old catalog, including his old smut books in a line of ebooks he called Collection of Classic Erotica.
51jvfyk0tvl-_sy346_And just because I think one should put his money where his mouth is, I got me two of these ebooks (using a D20 to decide which I should read, because it felt like a cool idea), and I’m currently going through Of Shame and Joy, which was credited to Sheldon Lord and supposedly was to be called Of Crimson Joy, a quote from a William Blake poem (see? This is class.)
And so, OK, it’s a dirty book, and it’s from fifty-odd years ago (so as you can imagine, it is tame compared to much of what today is called romance), and yet I found myself distancing myself from the story, and focusing on the structure, technique and language instead.
And I find fascinating the way in which technique and language are used to hide the structure.
This is formula writing, but the formula is so well-hidden, you have to look really hard to spot it at work. Long descriptive passages are built for the twin purpose of reaching word-count and creating a sense of place, an atmosphere.
It is good.
I don’t know if it is good porn, but certainly it is good writing.

Which sort of gives one a few ideas, don’t you think?
Because I have the cheek to say I can do good writing, and if writing smut under an alias was good enough for Lawrence Block…
I’ll have to think about it – and find a way around the technical problems.

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

3 thoughts on “#PoweredByIndie : I should be writing porn instead

  1. Thanks so much for the kind words! I’ve had great fun republishing early titles in my Collection of Classic Erotica http://amzn.to/2d9EfNP in ebook and paperback form, and in audio as well. Erotica was a great apprenticeship for me, a forgiving medium indeed…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Counting the spicys | Karavansara

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