Congratulations to julesworth! She’s the winner of this drawing.
Look! Lamda and Goldie award winner Sacchi Green is here with us again. In celebration of her latest release, she’s giving away an ebook copy of Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 3. Drop a comment in the space below and I’ll draw the winner on Friday, March 8.
The Best Lesbian Erotica series has a special place in my heart. Twenty-three years ago, in 1996, Tristan Taormino and Cleis Press published the first volume of BLE, and in 1999, to my amazement, my own very first erotica story made it into that anthology.
Before I discovered BLE, I had published several science fiction or fantasy stories with very subtle undertones of lesbian eroticism, and when I tried something more overt (but with very little actual sex) my story was slapped down for being “porn” just because the characters were queer. I’d also been trying to search out lesbian fiction that went beyond “mutual hair-brushing by moonlight,” as my friend S. Bear Bergman called it, so when a call for submissions for Best Lesbian Erotica appeared in an otherwise sf/f-oriented market listing for short stories, it felt as if trumpets were sounding and calling me to glorious battle. (Or maybe bagpipes. Don’t judge me.)
Now, twenty year later, I’ve published scores of lesbian stories in erotica anthologies, and edited more than a dozen anthologies myself, finally becoming, in 2016, an editor of Best Lesbian Erotica. By then I may have been the only person in the world who remembered that 2016 was the 20th anniversary of the iconic series, so on my suggestion we called it the 20th Anniversary Edition. Since then the title for each edition has been changed to The Year’s Best Lesbian Erotica Volume 1 (or 2, or 3, or, well, you get the picture.) The volumes have had various editors, a good way to get a broad range of perspectives, so only the 2016, 2018, and 2019 editions have been edited by me. Today my emphasis is on The Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Volume 3 (which I think of as BLE 19–old habits die hard,) but I hope someone remembers that the 2021 edition will mark the 25th Anniversary.
Enough of nostalgia. These days there’s a vast quantity of lesbian erotica available, with a vast range of differences in quality, even if we weed out the books meant for the male gaze. But individual tastes vary widely, too, so the best I can do is give you some sense of what you can find in this year’s presentation, and the best way (okay, the easiest way for me) is to share part of my introduction.
We open a book hoping to be taken somewhere—to faraway places, into the lives and inner thoughts of intriguing characters, into times past or even unexplored depths of ourselves. If the book is classed as erotica, we also expect to be intensely stirred both sensually and emotionally. The beauty of an anthology is that we can be taken in multiple directions, and meet an assortment of characters with a wide range of viewpoints.
The drawback is that with short stories we often wish for more time with these characters, these sensations, these adventures. But writers with a special gift for short fiction can still draw us deeply into the brief length of their work, with multidimensional characters, vivid settings, intriguing story arcs, and, of course, sex as intrinsic to the story as any setting.
I’ve been lucky enough in two previous volumes of this series to be the editor who gets to read the flood of submissions and decide which of the best, in my opinion, should be included. I could never fit all of the very best into the limited space of a single anthology, so I try for a balance, and as wide a variety of themes and styles as possible, especially those I haven’t seen before. Originality is high on my wish list, and so is diversity, although I don’t get as much of the latter as I would like
Here are some hints as to where the stories I chose will take you, and what you may find there. Could there be any better start to the journey than the fantasy-fulfillment story, “Jinjutsu,” set on a plane high above the Pacific en route from Tokyo to Honolulu? And what could feel more real than longtime lovers waking in the “Morning Fog” of San Francisco? How about touring the South of France in “Perfume,” or a massage in a Moroccan public bath in “Fuck Me Like a Canadian,” or a cabin “Where There’s Smoke” (of the medicinal variety, of course) in the snowy North Country, or the surveillance area above the ceiling of a Las Vegas casino where “Oliver: Twisted” begins?
New York City figures in at least three stories, playing different roles. In “The Auction” (by Women and Words own R.G. Emanuelle) the city is an artsy background for socialite fundraisers. In “Trying Submission,” it’s an upscale background for a decidedly non-upscale character. And the Harlem of 1931 in “Sweet of My Heart” is the home of a Peace Mission’s free meals where even a dance hall girl could be fed.
While most of the other stories have contemporary settings, two more are set, at least partially, in the past. If you’re old enough to have been swept up in the rock and blues bands frenzy of the ’60s and ’70s, you may catch the significance of September1970, and if you aren’t that old, you’ll find out in “Jani-Lyn’s Dragon.” And in “Still Marching,” old friends who met and parted twenty-five years ago at a march for abortion rights in Washington DC bump into each other at a present-day march in Philadelphia.
There are various themes included in the anthology. I had quite a few submissions featuring coffeehouse encounters, but “Husher” is the one I chose for its deft and evocative style. There were also several submissions involving cancer, something I hadn’t seen before, and others referring to trauma from past abuse; I went with “Fearless,” which included both, along with a beautifully uplifting conclusion. Of the several stories I received featuring differently-abled or neuro-atypical characters, I settled on “Trying Submission,” with a vulnerable character who lingers vividly in my mind.
On another tack, “The Night Shift” proves to be just the right time for accidental phone sex. Then the familiar professor/former student theme of “Rules” travels in unexpected directions and gets as steamily entertaining as they come, while the queer bookstore in “Rainbow’s End” provides an ideal place for a hesitant would-be writer to find just what she hardly dared hope for. And in the beautifully balanced “Yin and Yang,” a contemporary ballet dancer and her lighting-technician lover make the perfect team, while the writing, alternating between lyrical and straightforward, makes the perfect presentation of their story.
Yes, all of these stories include hot, intense sex, in its many-splendored manifestations. I’ll leave you to discover those, scene by scene. A word of caution: you may not get jet lag from this journey, but a suitable recovery layover between stories is highly recommended. Trust me.