This is a scary time. My second ebook is about to be published. BookBaby has been patient with me, and my deplorable habit of changing things that have already been approved, but finally the whole thing got proofed for the very last time. (The next time I read the first chapter, I was horrified: a really blatant, dumb mistake had somehow escaped me. Too late to change it, and no, I'm not telling what it is, because maybe you, like I, won't notice.)
Mostly I'm scared about reviews. To my knowledge the advocacy of polyamory in science-fiction is chiefly in the works of Robert Heinlein (Stranger In A Strange Land). A genius, of course, but his misogynistic side – which was perfectly consistent with his other views, like pro-military, libertarianism, and ultra-conservatism – keep him a legend in science fiction, not in erotica. So I'm in very rarified company: sci-fi readers may find me presumptuous, while erotica readers may find my futurist world too simple: after all, Margaret Atwood's "Maddaddam" trilogy is about science gone mad, and the complex creations of its mad scientist more wildly imaginative than my reversion to a primitive rural culture.
THE ROAD TO WELKIN: IT'S NOT ABOUT THE SEX
It's not about the sex. Well, it didn't start out to be – it was going to be an "adult romance." Originally, Austerity was going to gradually fall in love with Fidéle. But it became clear that her entire life prior to her escape was one lived in dread of sex. Meeting a handsome magician was not going to cure that fear. So I began with a lesbian relationship, then another. Letting her become Fidéle's friend (with reminders of their mutual attraction as a kind of playful tease) seemed a better way to get where I was going. Then I realized that there is an entirely different world out there. And I started by portraying the first commune, "The Family," as a group marriage within which there were many sexual relationships, just to get Austerity thinking.
Having done that, it seemed natural to make that a universal property of the New Times, at least in part, so that it ties in with the economics of small-scale communalism. I had been reading Sex At Dawn, which in turn led me to the 19th century books that conclude that group marriage was the norm in the earliest human tribes. So I took that concept and made it manifest in my narrative. If we're starting all over, let's start with group marriage. Works for me. (I'm lucky enough to be in a fluid relationship with the love of my life, and he's fine with our choice.)
A friend in D.C. asked a provocative question: "If as you postulate, 'group marriage' is a universal panacea, does it require a dystopia to clear the way? Don't we see signs of tolerance of alternative sexuality even today?"
This is a tough one. Estimates are that 500,000 U.S. households have non-traditional-monogamy in one form or another. That doesn't necessarily mean group marriages, of course. My most recent girl crush is "G," whose blog, "Filled and Fooled", is also about her wonderful marriage to a bisexual man. But is there really social "tolerance" for this kind of relationship? I think not. So I'm an outlier.
I also find it difficult to divorce "communism" (I do not mean the 20th century form of state socialism) from "communal marriage." In fact, there is nothing simple about transferring the concept of group marriage from a clan of 50 or so to a community of several thousand. And like every couple today, every community of my hypothetical future practices sex in different ways...some are monogamous duets, some are sextets, and some have no sexual boundaries. The Circus itself is a microcosm of the possibilities, as are the different rural outposts they visit.
THE ROAD TO WELKIN: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SEX
Sex, it's all about the sex. The first question is "How did you come to write erotic stuff, being a cultural studies professor?" OK, no avoidance here, I love writing explicit scenes. Sexy blogs are kind of women's pornography – they tend to have a higher readership among females, while males prefer photos and videos. This may be a stereotype, but there seems to be a female gene that goes for narratives, while the male equivalent is watch live action.
There are some wonderful blogs I've followed over the years. My favorite is Pretty Dumb Things, written by Chelsea G. Summers: articulate, no coyness, total honesty. She wrote most of the early series while deeply in love with "Donnie," who backed out of the wedding at the last moment, and broke her heart. Then she simply stopped writing. Then she started again. Now she's in her early forties, but never stops being provocative, although she rarely writes about sex these days.
Chelsea used to write from the vantage of being in her early thirties, having had a very full and active sex life in her twenties (she's currently writing about Roe v. Wade and her own experiences with abortion). In her sex columns (see the sidebars) she can be very explicit, for example her columns on oral sex, which are a veritable "Sex 101" – but she is also brutally honest. Her post on anal intercourse is kind of awkward to read (I'll spare you; the first time was horribly painful).
I'm currently reading a blog that has as its center a woman whose husband is bisexual, and who frequently plays with him and a male lover. Since free love (or we can call it open marriage or group marriage) plays a key role in The Road To Welkin, this is significant. She calls herself "G" and her husband is "D." Her blog is "Filled and Fooled." She is an interesting woman, with interesting stories.
Both of these have numerous links to other sexuality blogs, so in the interests of brevity, I'll stop here. I think reading about sex is fun, although it also ties into my scholarship. The book I mentioned above, Sex At Dawn, is a more serious study of non-standard sexual culture, but it's not just a scholarly book, and cheerfully debunks many popular sex myths, such as female monogamy as a genetic trait. In one amusing paragraph about a traditionalist scholar who suggests that mares do not have orgasms but human females do, because men are better lovers than stallions, they close with, "If you believe this, stomp your foot three times."