Which makes no sense because vitriol is a corrosive acid, not a wild animal. It would make more sense to say,”I pour out my vitriol”, but that just doesn't sound nearly threatening enough. Anyway...
I have been trying to write a review of an anthology of erotic stories called, “Carnal Machines: Steampunk Erotica”. It was the very first book of erotica that I had ever read (and almost the last). But every time I try to work on it, I get distracted by how much I hated, Hated, HATED! one story. It's not the first story in the book, but for various reasons, it was the first story I read. And it almost turned me off of erotica for life, which would have been a real shame. So... I am pissed at the story, not just because it was appallingly bad, but because it almost prevented me from enjoying a whole new genre of writing.
I am going to tear this story apart. So, if you liked every single story in “Carnal Machines” and don't want to see one ripped apart, stop reading this blog post and go read something else. If by some chance you are the editor of Carnal Machines (or the author of one of the stories) and would be hurt by hearing about how much I despised a certain story(possibly your story), don't read this. It's going to be vicious. Or as vicious as I get.
Stop reading now, if you don't want to witness the carnage.
This is your last warning.
Ok, if you are still reading, then you are obviously willing to listen to my ranting and raving.
And it will be quite the rant (but not a very good rave because I don't do those kinds of drugs). I just need to get this poisonous negativity out of my head. So I'm going to vomit it onto the keyboard, and send it out into cyberspace, where hopefully, it will stop bothering me.
The story was called “The Perfect Girl” and... It...Was...Awful.
I'm fairly certain that the author had never read a genuine steampunk story in her life. But that was not the only problem. The main character was about as consistent as a two year old's attention span. To call the secondary characters two dimensional would be crediting them with more depth than they displayed. And the overall plot made about as much sense as a drunk sorority girl explaining quantum physics. To top it all off, there wasn't even much of what I would call sex, just some confusing BDSM play. To say that I was disappointed would be somewhat of an understatement.
In my mind I was thinking, if this pathetic excuse for a story is erotica, then erotica sucks. And not in a fun way. I just wasted $15 on a book of badly written sex stories that don't have any sex in them. I was royally pissed off.
After, I had a chance to cool down, I went back and read the rest of the book. This time, I started at the beginning and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The rest of the stories were all reasonably well-written, entertaining, and, to some degree or another, arousing. Erotica had been redeemed.
So what was it about “The Perfect Girl” that made is so bad, you ask. Well, let me tell you.
The story was set in a specialized brothel that supplied girls to suit every need. It is told from the point of view of one of the working girls who specializes in being submissive. In the beginning she talks about what an easy job it is and how much she enjoys getting paid for something she enjoys. Then a male and female client enter and the inconsistencies and irrationalities begin.
The lead character keeps changing her mind about what she likes and wants. When the male client pulls out a paddle, at first she wants to be paddled, then she doesn't want to be paddled, then she's relieved that the male is paddling the female he brought with him, then she's jealous that the male is paddling the other woman and wants him to paddle her. All in the space of a few short moments.
She suffers similar vacillations of thought and mood when it comes to being tied up. At first she likes being tied up, then she doesn't like being tied up. At first she's excited by the idea of how the twine will leave marks on her skin. Then she's pissed that the twine will leave marks on her skin.
And in the end, she, very uncharacteristically, for someone who claims to love being submissive, breaks free and tells off both the male client and the madame of the establishment.
Which brings us to the male client. He brings another woman to a brothel, which I can accept, but then he after having the woman interact briefly with the submissive, he ties the submissive up and ignores her for the rest of the scene. Maybe this is some BDSM thing that I don't understand, but it seems to me that if you are going to pay for the services of a submissive, especially one that has been specifically chosen to suit your “special” needs, then you are actually going to do something with that submissive other than tie her up and ignore her.
Both the male and female client show absolutely no evidence of being anything more than automatons designed to fulfill a function in the (illogical) story. Which sort of almost works because it turns out the woman actually is an automaton. A steam powered automaton. Oh look! We have some sort of contraption run by steam. Viola! It now qualifies as steampunk.
There was a cutesy little gimmick at the end where it is revealed that the male client is supposedly Professor Henry Higgins from “My Fair Lady”. But even though I usually like these sorts of literary allusions, this one just annoyed me. The male character had shown absolutely none of the personality of the original Henry Higgins from either the book, the play or the movie. The author is apparently about as familiar with “My Fair Lady” as she is with steampunk.
Professor Higgins does not have an aversion to women with low class accents, he enjoys studying their accents just as much as he enjoys studying the accents of the upper class women he encounters. It is a MAJOR point in the story that he doesn't care what social class anyone, male or female, is from. He just doesn't care much about women (or anyone really) except as another data point in his linguistics research.
So when the male client is “discovered” to be Professor Higgins, instead of a fun little “Aha!” moment, it was more of a “Really? You expect me to think that's clever? You got it totally fucking WRONG!” moment.
I hate that this pathetic little story was my introduction to erotic fiction.