I don't meet a lot of other smut writers. It's not the kind of hobby that holds lunch meetings or conferences - in ten years I've only met two other writers. So when I got an email from a fellow writer who mentioned he'd be in my town for a few weeks, lunch with him sounded like an interesting idea.
He wasn't a total stranger - we both posted on many of the same writers' websites, and we'd had a long-running discussion on one particular board about why people pick particular story topics. His stories were mostly male/male scenes with some mind control subplots; mine tended toward dominance/submission, short sex-oriented vignettes, and romantic hetero or lesbian encounters, although I'd written one-off stories in a half dozen different fetish areas as well.
I might still have turned him down, but I just loved his pen name, "Feygin". Anyone who uses Charles Dickens for porn is someone I want to meet.
We got together at Applebee's, about as vanilla a meeting place as one could ask for, and outside the group of places where people I knew were likely to show up. Not that I'd have any problems explaining lunch with an acquaintance, but sometimes careful is good.
Somewhere between salad and the third beer, we finished complaining about our respective jobs and started talking about how we wound up in them. I had written computer technical manuals before getting into programming; he had spent a year issuing press releases for a low-budget wrestling circuit then managed activities at a church community center.
We were both readers, of course. He read a lot of biographies while my comfort subject was science fiction. We talked about which websites were currently paying for stories, and played mutual flattery quoting from scenes in each others' stories. The only thing writers enjoy as much as getting paid is knowing someone else really likes their work.
That was when he brought back his question from one of the website forums about why I didn't write stories with male/male scenes.
What do you say to a question like that? In the first place, I had actually written one such scene, though the action was implied rather than explicit. In the second place, it seemed a little like asking a romance author why she didn't write murder mysteries. I was trying to think of a polite way to suggest that our lunch was over, when he said "I think I know, actually."
There's not a writer around who can sit still when someone else says they know why he or she writes. I sat back in my chair and waved a hand, asking him to go ahead and enlighten me.
"You see," he began, "there are just a handful of reasons why someone with as many stories as you have written would skip that area. First, maybe you don't find anything about men erotic. But I read your one masturbation story, and even without hinting at what his fantasies are you nailed the whole physical sensuality of the experience." He chuckled. "Granted, that's kind of like the cliche of writing what you know, but it still has to be done well."
"Second, maybe you don't like gays. I've actually spoken with some erotica writers who are violent homophobes, so I know it's possible - though some of those guys write the hottest male/male rape stories." He shook his head. "It doesn't fit though. Anyone who can write a story about a man molesting his cancer-ridden aunt where the sex is gripping and the guy comes off as a sympathetic figure - well, that person wouldn't let mere dislike keep him from writing a story."
He took a long hit from his beer. I appreciated the compliment - I was justifiably proud of that story - but waited for the other shoe to drop.
"Third, you could be one of those guys who's afraid if he writes about homosexual activity people will think he must be gay himself. But hell - you've written half a dozen stories about that transsexual plumber, and nobody in the critique boards has ever suggested you were writing from experience."
"So that leaves number four. You don't think you're up to it."
My beer bottle hit the table, but he waved off my spluttered response and continued.
"Of course, I'm not saying you can't do it. I'm just saying you don't think you can do it believably. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't write about accountants - come to think about it, I don't think anyone writes erotica about accountants, but that's beside the point."
Somewhere in that comment was at best a left-handed compliment. The pleasant buzz from the beer vanished, and it took me a few moments to get my reactions enough under control to interrupt the flow of his lecture.
"There's a hole in your logic," I said. "At least one. For example, a good writer can pick up what he or she needs from other sources and doesn't have to rely only on first-person experience. Think about science fiction stories as an example. Or Pam the Preop Plumber, for that matter. I read Plumbing for Dummies and spent twelve sweaty hours in a peep show booth listening to the noises from next door and watching videos before I wrote the first of those."
He finished his beer and smiled. "Yeah, and I don't hear you saying I'm wrong either. Hey, it's not a big deal. I just thought since you've covered almost every other major area in the tag cloud that maybe you'd appreciate some leads, references, that sort of thing. One writer to another. We all start somewhere, and I can send you some files and web links that I found helpful."
He may have been arrogant in analyzing me, but he had a point. In something over seventy stories, I'd written exactly three scenes of man-on-man action. None of them had the kind of explicit detail of my hetero stories or for that matter my lesbian stories, and I shied away because I just didn't know how to write something that wouldn't sound stilted or silly. His stories were certainly convincing in that regard.
And even though I didn't feel any great need to write male on male erotica, the fact that I hadn't been able to now grated on me, almost as much as his casual assumption that it came from some lack of confidence or ability on my part. So I thanked him for the offer, finished my own beer, and we went our separate ways. He didn't know it, but he'd laid down a challenge, and I wasn't going to admit failure.
I checked my mail when I got home that evening, and there were three items from Feygin. One had the promised web links, one was a collection of picture attachments, and the third held three video files.
The pictures weren't what I expected. I thought of gay porn as leather, rubber, and hairy guys - I'd certainly seen my share of that back when I was doing the groundwork for my Pam the Plumber stories. Instead I found myself looking at a collection of photographs more focused on facial expressions, the curves and lines of taut muscles, the contact of skin on skin. In tone they reminded me of some of the lesbian porn sites I really liked. There weren't any tags on the photos; I wondered where he had found them.
They did give me a couple of ideas, one of which seemed promising - a guy assigned to a detox program where the all-male staff was heavily into physical exercise and wrestling as therapy. I fiddled with it for a while, but it didn't seem to be going anywhere. By the time I gave up, it was already past my usual bedtime so I saved my drafts and went to bed.
For the rest of the week, when I got home I alternated between reviewing the pictures, looking at different sites on the web, and starting unsatisfactory story drafts. Friday night, since I didn't have anything else to do, I opened up the email with the videos. The first one was kind of jittery, and looked like a transfer from the middle of a VCR tape.
Two guys were working out in the gym, wearing grey workout shorts and tee shirts, making the rounds of the equipment stands. Both had worked up a good sweat, and their shorts clung, framing their cocks. The taller one finished off his exercises with a cable kickback. The muscles of his legs stood out as he extended his foot behind him.
While he was catching his breath, the shorter man moved in from behind and slid his hands around, cupping the other man's crotch, knuckles shifting as his fingers moved.
The taller man writhed in that grasp - the camera shifted around the side to show his growing erection, the legband of his shorts lifting just a bit to give a teasing glimpse of swollen testicles. The short man's hand slid down inside the shorts and the camera zoomed in for a closeup, but the picture got blurry - I could see the outline of the cockhead under the fabric, and maybe a stain at the tip, but even looking close it was hard to tell for sure.
Suddenly, abruptly, the video ended. I found myself leaning forward, squinting toward the monitor, rubbing my thighs together. Yeah. I could write a scene like that.
At least that's what I thought, but nothing would come together Saturday morning after I woke up. I could get the words onto paper, but none of the music was there. I filed it away and went back to my most current TG story, but couldn't find a groove there either. I opened my miscellaneous picture folder and clicked at random. Nothing grabbed me. I went back to the video; there was something in the camera work or maybe the lighting, the scene just hinted at an intense sexual power without ever getting around to showing it. I replayed it several times, but I just couldn't identify the trick that made it so attention-grabbing.
I had some bills to pay and other mundane tasks to do around my apartment, then I put on my headphones and just listened to Beethoven, Ravel and Gershwin for a while. I was still restless, so I went back to the computer and opened up the second video.
.... There is more of this story ...