I really love this book – it was my first foray into reading gay erotica, specifically chosen because I wanted a general overview of erotic writing throughout a period of time. Edited by Simon Sheppard, This anthology gives the perfect taste, beginning with a wartime conquest so exciting, exclamation points are employed with abandon!
It provides a little slice of the history of gay erotica, with commentary at the beginning of each story that notes what was happing in society and gay culture at that time, and many pieces reflect important strides in gay themed literature, the beginnings of sub cultures such as leather, and confrontation of the era of the AIDS epidemic.
There are interesting revelations about the restrictions put on publishing gay themed literature and how these were circumnavigated. The first story, Navy Daze, was published in 1945 in Tijuana in mimeograph form. Erotic stories were later published under the guise of pseudoscientific analyses of “deviant behavior.” The Anal Compulsion in Homosexuality, published in 1968 – interestingly enough after those constraints were lifted, is a great example of a writing style featuring clinical descriptions of acts followed by “case studies” – personalized accounts of engaging in these acts. Way to put it out there, you clever boys!
My favorite story, Winter Count written in 2005 by Trebor Healey, features body art as communication of painful things, beautiful things, personal struggles and victories, and deep love. Not so much an erotic tale, it’s more a story of overstepping the labels we put on ourselves and each other, and getting to the heart of the matter: compassion, devotion, and the ability to rise to the most difficult challenges in life with subtle grace.
In all, there are 24 stories that not only stimulate the senses, but also the mind. It’s wonderful to read these works and marvel at the tenacity and ingenuity of the writers who brought these stories to an audience far too long deprived of stories reflecting their lives, their dreams and desires, their struggles and triumphs. Makes me proud to carry on the tradition.