The Next Big Thing -- The Pleasures of Hell

TammyJo Eckhart invited me to participate in Jason Rubis Next Big Thing promo,

1) What is the working title of your book?
The Pleasures of Hell, or The Obsidian Mirrror. It's a riff on William Blake's "Proverbs of Hell"

2)Where did the idea for the book come from?
This is a bit convoluted. In 2005, I started work on a book on the history of consensual sadomasochism, working title Beauty in Darkness. I'm a journalist and historian by training, and I don't think anybody has really written a comprehensive history of BDSM. I started a blog on the subject and have done a lot of work over the years, including giving presentations and writing magazine and web articles.

In early 2012, I published an article in Canadian magazine Maisonneuve about Maria Monk, a woman who claimed she was held as a sex slave in a Montreal convent in the 1830s. It was all a hoax to play on anti-Catholic prejudice, but it became a bestselling book. This was a spin-off of my BDSM history research. To my surprise, this resulted in an unsoclicited email from an editor at a local publishing company. She wanted to know if I had any book ideas in mind.

I seized on this opportunity and fired off a proposal and sample chapters. A few weeks later, I met her in person and we talked ideas. The problem, said the editor, was that I didn't have a hook. My book didn't have any particular claim or agenda. It didn't say anything about BDSM, especially anything that would get the attention of a person not already interested in BDSM.

I chewed on that for a bit, then decided to repurpose the material into another project. I'd long noticed that people project their own sexual fantasies onto other cultures, even cultures they consider despicable. Think of Nazi exploitation movies like Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS. Why is that? That was the genesis of Pleasures of Hell

3) What genre does it fall under?
Call it social or cultural history. IT should be accessible to the lay reader, but I intend to add full bibliography and references to make it valuable to academics.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Not may non-fiction books get adapted to film. I would love to see this adapted to a documentary film.

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
People project their unacceptable sexual desires, of homosexuality, gender deviance or fetishism, onto other cultures, like a distorted mirror.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
No idea. I have to write the thing first.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
The book is still in outline form, though a lot of my earlier work can be repackaged.

8)What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Laura Frost's Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism explores some similar ideas, though I would like to go into media like exploitation film, the use of fascist iconography in punk and biker culture, etc. Mick Farren's The Black Leather Jacket is another example.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Initially, it was that this was a story that had not been told, and there were too many pernicious or just silly myths circulating in its place. Then it became more about trying to say something to make sense of a human behaviour.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The history of sadomasochistic fantasy is not about straight lines. It's all about reflections, distortions, strong and weak misreadings. It's about projecting unacknowledged aspects of ourselves onto our enemies.

My article on Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse as a Gothic story is a limited-time free read

For a limited time, Smart Pop Books has posted my essay “Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse: 21st Century Neo-Gothic” from the essay collection Inside Joss’ Dollhouse as a free read. Get it while you can.

This is one of the first paid published pieces that emerged from my research, and I think it turned out pretty well. I am, according to one friend, “the world’s biggest Dollhouse fan”, and I love it the way you can only love a child that died young after a long struggle.

Bad Habits: Maria Monk and anti-Catholic propaganda

My article on the strange case of Maria Monk and her connections to anti-Catholic propaganda and the nun as a fetish archetype has been published in Maisonneuve magazine's 10th anniversary issue. (Print only, for the moment.)

This was my first article in a national, glossy magazine for a while, and I hope this carries with it some prestige. It took several rewrites to get it done, but overall it looks pretty good.

My article on the BC polygamy decision and its impact on a poly family in Vancouver

My article on the polygamy court decision's impact on polyamorist families is finally up on the Vancouver Courier.

I've already received an email arguing: "You know as well as I do that in the human experience of groups there is always an alpha male and alpha female; also, children are more apt to be abused by those adults in a group who are not their biological parents."

Personally, I'm far from convinced that enforced monogamy/nuclear family is necessarily better for people than any other family structure.

My essay/review on Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method"

It's up on the Tyee.

I've been a big fan of David Cronenberg for years, not only for his movies themselves, but for his ways of thinking about art and creation and censorship. He's a fascinating interview subject.

So, when I got the opportunity to write about him (or rather, get paid to write about him), I jumped at it, got every book about him I could find in the library, and rewatched his Dead Ringers to study. I wanted this to be the best essay I could write about him and his work.

Reading at The Writer's Studio, this Friday.

I'll be reading some of my work (probably my flash fiction) at The Writer's Studio reading series, along with several other local writers. Should be a good time. I'm scheduled to read just before the break.

Time: Friday, January 13th from 7 to 9 pm

Location: Take 5 Cafe, 429 Granville Street at Hastings, Vancouver, BC

Admission: free

10.5 months to first draft of Beauty in Darkness

My first post on Beauty in Darkness was back in July, 2005. That's six and a half years of blog posts on this topic, with no actual book.

It's been fun, certainly, but I've realized that I could keep doing this indefinitely, without ever actually writing my supposed book.
Blogging is certainly more fun than the grind of delayed gratification and possible rejection of conventional publishing, but an actual book, if published, means more status and money. While I've maintained a fairly steady output on blog postings, I've gone for six months or even a year without working on the book directly.

I also have to ask when enough information is enough. Is this going to be the last word on the topic, or is it one of many books on the subject?

You can look at it like two different modes of creative production. JRR Tolkien, for example, basically wrote one big story, the saga of Middle-Earth, investing just about everything he knew into it. It's hard to see the the connection between The Hobbit and the Silmarilion, but it's there. Tolkien wrote other fiction, but he's been known for his magnum opus.

Michael Moorcock, by comparison, wrote lots and lots of novels short novels, allegedly writing 15,000 words a day at his peak. A lot of his generation of writers just wrote a lot more.

So, do I want to invest all my time and energy and hope into one great work, or write many different works that can succeed and fail

The history of BDSM isn't the last non-fiction book I want to write. It isn't even necessarily the last book on BDSM I want to write.

So, I hereby state that by my 40th birthday, October 27th, 2012, I will have completed a first draft of my book, and will have begun submitting it to publishers.

This will be a much scaled down work of about 60,000 words, and more tightly focused than the encyclopedic 100,000 words I originally planned. Call it 10 chapters of no more than 6,000 words each. By necessity, this will mean leaving out a lot of stuff, in favour of a tighter narrative.

My biggest fear, of course, in saying this is that in 10.5 months I will shamefully admit to all of you out there (crickets chirp...
chirp... chirp) that I didn't do this. My success in this task is up to me and nobody else.

The HP Lovecraft Christmas Special

It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind. It was the Yuletide, and I had come at last to the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival in the elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keep festival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten. Mine were an old people, and were old even when this land was settled three hundred years before. And they were strange, because they had come as dark furtive folk from opiate southern gardens of orchids, and spoken another tongue before they learnt the tongue of the blue-eyed fishers. And now they were scattered, and shared only the rituals of mysteries that none living could understand. I was the only one who came back that night to the old fishing town as legend bade, for only the poor and the lonely remember.

HP Lovecraft, "The Festival"