This morning, I was asked by the fabulous Tamsin Flowers for what she referred to as “dark” erotica recommendations. When asked, she described dark erotica as “Menacing, atmospheric, edgy…sometimes physically violent, more often mentally…no HEA.”
That description struck a chord immediately. My first thought was, “that’s how reviewers and editors describe my erotica.”
For example, Alison Tyler once characterized my work as “razor sharp—all barbed wire and kerosene.” Richard Labonte once described a piece of mine as “a particularly potent after dinner mint.” I’ve even had a few reviewers say that my work should come with a warning label! Here are some words commonly used to characterize my erotica: rough, extreme, violent, dark, intense, brutal. So you can see why Tamsin’s description struck a chord.
Why do I mention this? Those words are also cues to the sort of story that she is looking for. If you scan titles, reviews, and back matter, and you see those words, you are likely to find what she refers to as “dark” erotica. In my experience, “rough”, “violent”, and “hard core” are words most often used to describe gay erotica of this sort, and “extreme”, “edgy”, and “intense” are most often used for kink erotica. Knowing the key words and tags for the kinds of smut you want can help you find it.
Here is a list of the work I recommended this morning, with a few tweaks and full of links for easy access. (In addition to looking out for the key words I mentioned above, I’ve found that keeping an eye on authors and editors (and presses!) that print this kind of erotica helps me find more of it. This list is of course biased towards my personal tastes and reading history, which tend queer and kinky. In my experience, gay erotica (especially gay erotica published in the early 2000s) is a place where folks go rougher. There is generally less of an expectation of a HEA, more stories that include emotions like rage, grief, or despair, or that include themes like vengeance and death. They also are more likely to include edgier sex and kink, and generally more violence.
Of the work I’m thinking of, there are three collections that stand out, and they were all edited by the same person—M. Christian: Rough Stuff, Roughed Up, and Bad Boys. As I mentioned this morning to M. Christian on twitter, reading Rough Stuff and Roughed Up (plus the work of Patrick Califia and the anthology Tough Girls) was what made me decide to write erotica. These stories pushed my edges in delicious and scary ways, created intense visceral responses. I wanted to do that in my own work, and saw that it was possible that I could even get it published, because these books were out there. It is no coincidence that M. Christian was the first editor to include one of my stories in an anthology he was editing. Having that story accepted made me take myself seriously as an erotica writer, and sparked a deeply prolific writing year for me.
Patrick Califia is hands down my favorite and most influential erotica writer, and he deserves special mention here because he frequently writes edgier work; he likes to push boundaries of genre, and his kink tends toward intense and deep. His collection Blood and Silver includes most of my favorite stories. His collection No Mercy has some particularly edgy stuff in it that is worth a look, as does Boy in the Middle. Some queer anthologies I’d recommend: Tough Girls edited by Lori Selke, Switch Hitters edited by Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel, Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica edited by Tristan Taormino, and Say Please edited by Sinclair Sexsmith.
In terms of heterosexual anthologies, I’d recommend two in particular: Master/Slave edited by N.T. Morley and Sweet Danger edited by Violet Blue. These tend toward psychological edge play, and have some of the writers that are more likely to go rougher in their work.
For psychological edges, Daddy porn can be a good bet. I have a roundup of edgy Daddy erotica that can get you to some of the darker smut I’ve read. For writers that tend edgy I’d recommend the following folks: Thomas S. Roche, Alison Tyler, M. Christian, Patrick Califia, N.T. Morley, Peggy Munson, Karl von Uhl, Erica Dumas, Ian Phillips, and Robin Sweeney.
What is your favorite edgy erotica?