In the spirit of having a really nice lazy weekend, today I’m going to talk about things that make me happy instead of things that make me want to set other things on fire.
Thing the first: Sky Pirates of the Rio Grande by Amanda Gannon and Paul B. Batteiger. Amanda and Paul write erotica, but not just any erotica. Sky Pirates is a steam-punky, wild west adventure with airships and dinosaurs and it is just as awesome as it sounds. It’s basically a gloriously ridiculous (seriously, there’s a scene where one of the characters rides a dinosaur) pulp fiction adventure where they don’t fade to black every time there’s a sex scene.
Even if you took out the sex (which would be a pity, because it’s super hot), Sky Pirates would still be a good read. The characters are just so much fun, and while they’re often a little larger than life (which is exactly what you would expect in this sort of adventure story), they still feel like actual people, not cardboard cutouts being maneuvered through a series of joyless sex scenes (mainstream porn, I’m looking at you).
At the risk of straying into rant territory, another thing I absolutely love about Sky Pirates is that the protagonist is a woman, her main ally is a woman, the main villain is also a woman, and there are various and sundry supporting female characters. Holy crap, it’s possible to write an interesting story about women like we’re goddamn people or something!
While I haven’t yet read the sequel, Queen of the Sky Frontier, I’m sure it’s just as awesome.
Thing the second: the Her Jewel series by Isla Sinclair. If you’ve read much of any female dominant/male submissive erotica, this is going to blow your mind: the ‘jewel’ of the series title is a submissive man. There is actually erotica out there that treats submissive men as beautiful and valuable and desirable, and it is amazing. Aside from the awesomeness of a fictional submissive man actually being wanted, if you like m/m and voyeurism (specifically two men putting on a show for the dominant woman they both adore), you will fucking love this series. It’s both super hot and absolutely adorable how much the three of them just plain like each other.
Thing the third: the Space Queen series, also by Isla Sinclair. This series is less sweet and more dirty wrong hotness, which is exactly what you want sometimes. The space queen of the title captures two of the humans her species is at war with, and torments them in all kinds of fun ways. Well, fun for her, not so much for them. There’s kidnapping, pain, fear, shame at getting turned on in a messed up situation, and some forced bi that’s actually hot for once. Usually I find forced-bi incredibly off putting because so much of it assumes that servicing another man is fundamentally humiliating, or fundamentally feminine and therefore humiliating. In Space Queen, the problem is the terrifying sadist who captured them and having to make choices they don’t like to survive, not the fact that they’re the same gender. While this series is mostly porn, there are still some interesting hints of conflict between the Regent who captured the humans and the as yet unseen Empress. I’m terribly curious about what happens next.
Thing the fourth: the Marketplace series by Laura Antoniou. There’s a reason these are classics of BDSM fiction. Whether or not the scenes and sex in them do it for you, the world of the marketplace is absolutely fascinating and the characters ring so true you just have to know what happens to them. I started reading The Reunion (the fifth in the series) midweek, which in hindsight was a terrible idea. I ended up sleep deprived all that week because I couldn’t put it down.
One thing I really enjoy about the Marketplace series is the sheer variety of characters. There are dominant men, dominant women, submissive men, submissive women, slaves and owners of colour, trans men and women, butches and femmes, and they’re all just treated as people. Not to say that Laura Antoniou never tackles uncomfortable subjects, though. There is a part of one of the books where a trainer temporarily refuses to accept a trans male slave as a man and tries for force him to be a woman. She eventually sees how awful a thing she’s done, apologizes, and writes into his contract that he shall only be referred to and treated as a man. There is also a black male slave who struggles terribly with his slavery and his place in the world when his master and mistress’s relationship is on the rocks and he doesn’t know where he would end up if they divorce. That one doesn’t get quite as neatly resolved, but his fears and his struggles are taken absolutely seriously and he gets a lot of support from the people around him.
There’s one part of The Reunion in particular that just delights me. This is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s also quite a minor plot point and happens very early in the book. Stop reading now if you want to stay completely unspoiled.
If you’re still here, the part I’m talking about is a very straightforward, stereotypical femdom scene. You know, with the fetish wear and the small penis humiliation and the bottom being called pathetic and the woman not getting off. Only, it turns out the woman is the slave and the ‘submissive’ is her master. I just love the way Laura skewers the idea that a woman acting out a scene where everything revolves around the ‘subs’ cock is anything but her submitting to him.