I’m pathetic at writing book reviews, and I rarely do it. But once in a while, you read something that so encapsulates the genre as you hope it will be, that you just have to grit your teeth and go for it.
Hating Lady Gaga with a passion that rivals Camille Paglia’s, when Lisabet Sarai recommended this book to me, I was not keen. And I still maintain that it’s an awful title. It’s convinced me that someone should hop back eight years in a time machine, kill the nascent bitch and derail any damage she has done to the language, so this title would sit better with me, because it’s a wholly apt title. Bad Romance is an anthology of erotic fiction edited by Robin Wolfe and published by Freaky Fountain Press.
Some romances break your heart and some dismember and disembowel you, this anthology deals with the latter, both metaphorically and literally. From Jeanette Grey’s looping car crash in ‘Bleeding Red‘ to the blithe decapitation of Chris Guthrie’s ‘Three Days In Summer‘, the collection is a literate homage to all the ways in which we delight in our own destruction and that of those we love.
Sometimes we do it out of desperate addiction, like in ‘Bleeding Red‘. And although the narrator can’t quit the love junk she’s banging, it’s always important to pay attention to the title: she’s not the only victim of the dreaded disease.
Other times, it seems like we’ve spent our lives half-asleep until one drowsy morning, like in ‘Ink‘ by JD Hastings, the horsewoman of the apocalypse comes along and hits you over the head with a beer bottle, then laughs about it, then fucks you senseless.
There’s hitting bottom to know you’re alive – or some analogue of it. ‘Maleficent‘ by Lydia Nyx is part Dante’s Inferno, part gay slaughter-porn, part noir detective fiction, and all roller-coaster of lust.
Angels also meet demons in the strange and haunting ‘Blood Lust‘ by V.C. The narrator straddles half-wit prophet and enlightened Buddha child as he recounts his trip into the pants and the depths of a childhood friend’s butchered psyche.
Look, I’m not going to go through the stories one by one. They each have their merits and there is a wide variety of writing styles – some very naive, some stunningly sophisticated. Like all anthologies, some stories get where they’re going more elegantly than others. But what puts ‘Bad Romance‘ head and shoulders above any other anthology I’ve read in a very long while is that all the characters are masterfully revealed through their aberrant erotic lives.
I once tried to describe the difference between porn and erotica by explaining that porn carves away all extraneous matter and leaves the sex whereas erotica should reflect an entire life, seen through an erotic lens. ‘Bad Romance’ does exactly that, no matter how explicit or raw or violent. It tells the story of the how and the why, not just the what.
Some readers will find this anthology too violent to be erotic. There were certainly stories that turned me on and others that squicked me at a groin level. But I could not fault the editorial choices for sheer literate brilliance, courage of purpose, or for the poignant and sometimes violent survey of the geography of lust.
I think the biggest compliment I can offer this collection is: I seldom care if or where I’m published. This is the only anthology I’ve ever read in which I would have given several digits of my right hand to be included.
I do hope Freaky Fountain Press survive and thrive. Because I honestly believe that the future of erotica as a legitimate genre is in the hands of editors and publishers of their ilk.
Please buy it. Please read it. It’s available as an e-book here: http://www.freakyfountain.com/?page_id=369