Thank you, Krystal Ball for having me and Paul Chan on your show to talk about the New Lovers erotica series. We had a blast, even if my face was twitching uncontrollably.
oh. And there’s also this trailer for How To Train Y.our Virgin. LOL
From: “My Erotica. A place for erotic literature and discourse & Interviews with authors from Badlands Press’ ‘New Lovers’” by Kate Eringer. From C-Heads Magazine, Summer. Lovers and Strangers Issue #33
Tell me a bit about your career up until this point?
I’ve been writing fiction for the past ten years and am currently an MFA candidate at The New School in Manhattan. Until How to Train Your Virgin came along, my work has not involved a great deal of sex – nor magical realms.
Was writing this book a logical next step for you?
No way. It was the most illogical thing in the world, and that’s why I did it. There I was, struggling away at a literary novel under the scourge of a mentor with an approach to fiction-editing reminiscent of that movie Whiplash, when a friend said, hey, you’re a fast, amazing writer, want to write erotica for Paul Chan’s publishing company? I respond to flattery.
When the artist Paul Chan approaches you to write a book for his publishing company, Badlands, you do it. And because it was to be written for fun, and under a pseudonym, I was able to have as much fun with it as I possibly could – with no Whiplash-professors leaning over my shoulder telling me how and what to write.
Tell me about your process writing for „New Lovers“.
Writing smut was entirely liberating. I suggest everyone sit down and write some. See what comes out – don’t edit yourself. Critics do not belong in your head and they definitely don’t belong in your sexual imagination. So here was my process – sit down in my bed (it’s not what you think, my bed is where I work on everything from bills to the “normal” novel) and write a first chapter with absolutely no plan. The first chapter of How to Train Your Virgin is what came out.
My lover, Laszlo, weighed in on the sex scene that night. I feared he might protest against my writing erotica at all, but instead he was incredibly enthusiastic and supportive. He even suggested the bit where the king picks the queen up and er, slides into the Vine Girl beneath her. I said “you are a genius,” and took him to bed right then and there. The moral? Every writer, even a smutty, dirty writer like me, needs feedback.
What were your inspirations and resources? From other books/authors, to friends and movements.
Everything. If I answered this question tomorrow I’d name different influ- ences I’m sure. My Queen is a sort of forlorn version of me, I suppose. She’s bisexual, often melancholy, and fears change. Not that I’ve ever plotted to deflower any hipster virgins or fucked a Centaur. Hah.
Her realm came from several places – Greek mythology of course, the mysterious environment created by in the play ‘Sleep No More’, the sense of infinite worlds in Ian M. Banks science fiction novels, and of course, the dramatic voice Joyce Carol Oates brings to all of her novels.
As for the sex scenes? Those were constructed in the least sexual way you can imagine. I read a lot of erotica, something I’d never done before, and made sure I hit all the bases in my sex scenes: you know, clitoris, clitoris, clitoris, vague sense of guilt mingled with desire, breasts, cock, taint, blah blah. Reading it now I’m happy to see that it all came together so seamlessly. The main component of the sex scenes however is not physicality: it’s the intense, conflicted emotions going through the characters. I found that generated the most sustainable dramatic heat.
By the way, it’s not that all these fantastic locales are the ultimate turn-on for me – my queen explores, exhausts and kind of rejects them – learning that lording over a realm of sex without love is really a life sentence, something anti-human and sad.
In history, erotica has been shunned, only to be canonized later in life (Lady Chatterley‘s Lover). Do you think our society is ready for erotica?
Yes, it’s ready. Female sexuality is a complicated thing – everything on the matter hasn’t been said yet, and the more diverse voices we have willing to risk the disapprobation of society by expressing themselves, the more we learn about it, the more we inspire each other. The world is saturated with pornography, which focuses on the slap and tickle, the goal, the climax, the disembodied pieces that fit together, if you will. I think the turn-on of erotica is that it is emotional, situational, relational (to steal a word from Paul Chan), and endlessly, originally complicated. Erotica focuses on the interiority of desire and attraction and pleasure, rather than just the exterior. Erotic expression and erotic literature have long existed, but they are of growing importance in our society because human expression is even more critical in a world of kaleidoscopic dating (Tumbler, Grinder) and endless porn-on-tap. In a way that’s what my novel stands for: the notion that new, fantastic sexual entertainments can be interesting for a while, but it’s the world of human emotions, including suffering, aging and death, that are ul- timately important.
Not to say that your novella has much similarity with the text but, 50 Shades of Grey paved a huge path for erotica, and damned it. What do you make of the 50 Shades ruckus and what do you think the novel has done to pop-culture and the erotic literary world?
50 Shades of Grey didn’t get female sexuality right or wrong, but it shouldn’t matter if it did or not. The world’s mistake is taking 50 Shades’ content and its success to mean something so very grave and significant. Though it became wildly popular, we must remember that it was one woman’s voice and it should be allowed to exist on that level – as entertainment, not cultural criticism. I believe that 50 Shades was popular not because of the type of sex that it showcased, but because it mingled sexual situations with a classic fairy-tale princess story, a sort of beauty and the beast, with a happy ending. It served up its bit of naughtiness in a suddenly social-acceptable medium, and the whole thing snowballed.
My novel doesn’t get female sexuality “right” or “wrong” either, and I’m certainly not making a sweeping statement about women. If it were to become an international best seller I suppose people would bemoan it as well. It’s just one story in a sea of stories – much like female sexuality and female sexual fantasy – which are as diverse as snow- flakes. Sorry for the cliché. One thing is certain – the more women contribute their small, unique voices to sex writing, whether it’s good or bad or well-written or not, and the more their voices are read, than the more the whole concept of women enjoying sex and getting creative with it will be palatable.
Over all I say congratulations to EL James for making a killing in her chosen field.
These books are provocative. What are you hoping to provoke? Trembling pussies I suppose. Sexuality, female sexual fantasy, female sexual play, is complicated and tied up with our identities.
What, would you say, is How to Train Your Virgin about? Using fan- tasy is a great way to a hold a mirror to quotidian society. What were you trying to reflect with this fantastical and erotic world?
How to Train Your Virgin is at heart about the ways in which we try to save ourselves pain. The queen of my novel tries to prevent her husband’s infidelity in the darkest way imaginable, by setting out to destroy the objects of his lust. It’s crazy yes, but then men and women do crazy things for love every day. While she tries to get into the heads of her little hipster targets she fails again and again – not just because they have their own bizarre, very human problems that hinder her progress, but because her body and her emotions betray her again and again. Nothing is simple in love or sex, and I wanted my erotica to highlight the tension between fairytale endings as says, Disney or EL James portrays them, and the reality of romance and sex.
Also, it’s about grass people and centaur cocks.
This is a great article about the New Lovers books, specifically about the first three of which How to Train Your Virgin was one.
Excerpt: (a not entirely loving one, but that’s all right, it’s erotica, not literature. 🙂 And really, this just makes all those nightmares I had in MFA grad school about my sexual performance being workshopped by a class — more real than ever.) :
“The first in the series, How To Train Your Virgin, by the pseudonymous Wednesday Black, takes place in a fictional landscape separated from our own by human dream space. Its queen is the book’s narrator.
There, physical laws depart from our own (the populace is immortal, and we see the bodies of its members slip mercurially between chosen and natural forms) but the organic elements that make up the book’s visual register are nonetheless recognizable: dogs, birds, eggs, trees, flowers, fields. There is a vine girl (“a willow tree made female flesh”) and a vine man (“a hoary chap with face almost entirely occluded by the vines that grow from his skin. His body is shaggy with tendrils and leaves, and at the base, the thick genitals are petrified erect”); a “Baby Garden” where trees bear “orbs made up of curled fetuses of all species—fairies and nixies and gnomes, winged piglets, bearded unicorns, toothpick-haired unicorns”; a ghost woman with a leopard’s head and an “athlete’s body” that’s “Amazonian in its hardness”; and a centaur, whose species is described as “loyal creatures, being made of the stallion’s lust and the man’s intelligence and deliberation.” And there are others. As you can imagine, these bodies are all introduced in order for them to have sex with each other. And remarkably, despite their radical structural deviation from human bodies, they somehow fall under the very human hegemony of penis-in-vagina, mutually orgasmic sex.
The novel’s plot is motivated by the narrator queen’s desire to sabotage an affair her husband, the king, is on course to pursue. The targets of his affection are two human virgins – one male, one female – and the queen tries desperately to reach them before he can, in order to take their respective virginities and, in turn, nullify their appeal. Normally, she can reach the humans during their dreamtime, though with M – the girl – her attempts are “stymied by tinctures for depression, anxiety, suffering,” which prevent uninvited nighttime visitors. Peter – the boy – “does not take pills of forgetfulness” but rather dreams nightly of his memories of an unplaced war zone where “rockets crash, women shriek under the rapine attention of beings of clotted ash and fury,” and this trauma keeps the queen at bay. However, she manages to reach the virgins when they are vulnerable – Peter when he is sick, M when under the influence of MDMA.
The prose is peppered with structural and lexical anachronisms in the vein of “I run from the Hall and through the moors to the borderlands where the Realm gives way to a sandy, bemisted void.” It has the same effect as listening to characters in fantasy movies and television shows set in ancient or alternative worlds who uniformly have British accents and a formal syntax: that someone is awkwardly trying to affect aristocratic class or status through their proximity to history and archaic usage. It seems that even in fantasy, there’s a limit to what can be imagined…” — Tess Edmunson, C Magazine
Leia Menlove aka Wednesday Black’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum reading from March 2015.
BOMB Magazine’s Monica de la Torre writes of the erotic novella, How to Train Your Virgin, written by Wednesday Black (IRL Leia Menlove):
… the first title, Wednesday Black’s How To Train Your Virgin, a fabulist novella about the shape-shifting king and queen of an otherworldly realm. They swing both ways and can interact with humans through their dreams. They have intercourse with creatures, including centaurs and mermaids, yet what propels the plot is an age-old cliché—the king’s lust for a couple of virgins, a girl and a boy, and the queen’s shattering sense of self-worth: “I choke my bitterness down. Why has my husband tired of me?” The account of the queen’s mission to deflower the virgins before her roving husband gets to them is interspersed with clever addresses to the reader that include ruminations on reverse psychology, the proper décor for seduction, and hipsters’ detachment.
For the entire, awesome article on The New Lovers Series, click HERE.
Thanks for the interview, Krysten Korvette of Slustist.com. You’re delicious and you know I love the site. It’s rare to get an interviewer who is so informed. Your insights and questions about How to Train Your Virgin were a pleasure to answer. Hey subscribers! The SLUTIST is an fucking awesome source for fresh news and insights into the feminist world, which is, don’t you know, coming to get you. I personally can’t wait.
IN OTHER NEWS (NOT THAT THERE IS ANY NEWS TO BEAT AN INTERVIEW ON SLUTIST)
So… the Queen of the Realm (How to Train Your Virgin) is FINALLY taking your sex questions. She’s been kind of busy, but now she’s back. Actually she might take any questions at all. I don’t know. She’s hard to predict really. You could try subjects like: how to house train your minotaur or where to locate evil magic sex carousels (contrary to popular belief they are never located in subway tunnels.) You could ask her cosmetics questions. (Maybe not). In any event, it’s up to you.
Who knows what she’ll say. You might anger her and get blown out of existence. But it’s worth the risk. Word of warning: The Queen not so familiar with the ways of humans. Answers may cause mayhem. Email your thoughts to email@example.com.
I’ll forward them on and hope not to be destroyed by her vulvar ire.
Interviewer: I’m surprised to hear you say that you think these might be–this is a for-profit venture? These are meant to make money? Because We Love Lucy, it’s pretty straightforward porn, I actually appreciate the sort of lack of story. But How to Train Your Virgin is so surreal. It’s not exactly a one-handed read, right?
Paul Chan: “I don’t know. The nice thing about what we do is we have no idea what we’re doing. And so we learned in the process of publishing these books what we’re actually doing. Just because you say, ‘Oh, I’m going to publish erotica’ doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing. And I’m very open about the fact that we have no idea what we’re doing. But we thought we’d give it a go. And so we started reaching out to friends and friends of friends to see if people might be interested, to see if artists, curators, writers, critics might be interested in writing erotic fiction. Sooner or later people started getting into it and sending us submissions and we went through a process where we picked the ones that we liked the most, and then they wrote it and we went through an editing process. But this whole process is about learning what people are reading, what people are willing to write, and what ideas of sexuality exist today, whether or not it has widespread appeal.”
In other news, I was pleased to see that both The New Museum and The Guggenheim Museum, both in New York City, are carrying How to Train Your Virgin in their stores.
You can’t take these little erotica volumes too seriously. They are silly fun, and buying them supports Badlands Unlimited’s publication of art books.
An erotica novella that is also an art book?
It’s true. The hallowed New York Times blog has mentioned the proliferation of erotic literature (literotica as some call it), and mentioned Badlands Unlimited New Lovers series in particular. How to Train your Virgin is mentioned as “Smutty Books for Smart People.” Read it here, then for goodness sake, or for badness, like my mean and powerful main character, The Queen, go buy it here!
Vogue interviewed game-changing artist, Paul Chan, in the March issue of Vogue. You can read the article here at Scribd or pick up Vogue’s latest issue! Who does’t like vogue? Just like: who doesn’t like virgins? It’s a no brainer.
Is this shameless self-promotion?
Yup. But this will be a space for erotic writing soon enough…