Since people asked last time, I'll comment on each story.
Foreword (Tristan Taormino)
Editing a series like Best Lesbian Erotica allows me to read lots and lots of queer women's erotica; all that reading gives me a context for writing about the bigger picture: the state of lesbian sex and literature, erotic representation, and queer culture. It's an opportunity to reflect on where we've been, where we are, and where we're going.She also writes:
In the many years I have edited this series, I have extolled the political significance of writing and publishing queer erotica. Sex is a healthy, positive, fundamental part of who were are; it is vitally important for us to talk about it, to create space for it in our communities, and especially to write about it. Through the written word, we document our sexual desires and experiences and we represent the broad range of our sexualities. When we tell our erotic truths, we complicate simplistic stereotypes and contradict our enemies' rhetoric; we also reflect, validate, and inspire our readers.
For a writer, the process of exposing one's private desires and fantasies can be daunting, liberating, or both. As a reader, you may react to a piece on a visceral level, sometimes unexpectedly; you might be shocked, moved, turned on, or turned off. No matter how real or made up the players or circumstances, an erotic story may spark ideas, fuel your own fantasies. It may even push you (gently or not) to come to terms with who you are and what you want.
Introduction: List, Conquer, See (Emma Donoghue)
[...]She says some other things, but I was most struck by the following:
Shouldn't I begin by making the case for lesbian erotica as a politically and aesthetically serious form, of crucial importance to our beleaguered communities? Nah, I believe I'll skip all that. Things have changed so much, after all, since the first time I picked up a collection of dirty stories, when I was a nervous dyke fresh out of convent school back in the nervous '80s. Today, who bothers agonizing over the distinction between porn and erotica, or the patriarchal overtones of voyeurism, sadism, uniforms or rape fantasies? What strikes me about the stories in this anthology is a certain confidence they all have in common; an unapologetic, unself-conscious focus on what feels good.
Since taboo is sexy, before I began selecting these stories I was expecting them to ring all the changes on the forbidden. What surprised me is how few of them are about situations in which a social law is breached: no molestation of the underaged and only one official adultery [...] Then it occurred to me that these writers are more interesting in mental blocks than legal ones. It is at the private level, in the emotional intricacies of infatuation, compulsion, or voyeurism that these characters knock down barriers. [...] Some of these stories are about sex in committed relationships, others about thrillingly unpredictable pickups (at parties, clubs, conferences), but either way, the excitement lies in achieving a contact so intimate, so naked, whether with partner or stranger, that you can really let go: angels and demons alike released into the screaming sky.
Many of these tales are about the trembling pleasure of anticipation as much as the moment when sex actually happens [...]
I was surprised by how little anal sex came up this year. Lynna Jamneck's story is one of the only ones to feature even an uneasy moment of butch-butch desire. Bisexuality is oddly invisible, too.Comment the first: Good god I wanna write femmes-with-strap-ons in like every fandom I know now.
Comment the second: You know, it is called the "best *lesbian* erotica." I am all about bi-visibility, but in this context I don't need it.
Okay, so the stories. This more of a "reaction" than a "review" post.
Sweet Thing - Joy Parks
This is a nice story about being in a new, not queer, town, and falling for a woman, and getting all the dirt on her because you look straight so everyone wants to warn you off her :) There's lots of enjoyable description, and a believable leadup to the consummation. I like the usage of food as seduction. [The woman to be seduced is a baker.] I like the idea that the baker has had sex with lots of the "straight" women in town but never a real lesbian -- enter the narrator. I like queer folks who get read as straight (wanting to see myself represented in fic, what? ;) ). However, there was one bit that rubbed me the wrong way: "So I'm her first real lesbian, her first real pure femme." I feel like it says that to be a "real" lesbian you have to fit into butch/femme -- though I suspect it is just the narrator revelling in her twin(ed) identities of "lesbian" and "femme."
Tag! - D. Alexandria
Wow I'm bored with this kind of butch-fic.
Voodoo and Tattoos - Lynne Jamneck
I like the descriptions of the women, and I have a soft spot for bartender characters having done the training and thus having a clue what's going on :) This kind of "look but don't touch" thing doesn't really do it for me, though. And the closing scene reifies the butch/femme dichotomy in a way in which I am so over.
Bright Angel - Sacchi Green
This should hit my narrative kinks (hi, American Southwest with imagery/metaphors) but I just wasn't into it.
Public Pet - Cynthia Rayne
Women can go topless in Canada? Why did I not know that?
I've seen this kind of extreme D/s before (erm, in fic, not so much in person) and it remains not particularly my cuppa. Though okay, I did enjoy the pet giving a terrific blow job to the wife.
Homecoming Queen - Anna Watson
I like the concept of getting to act out their queer desires from high school -- though obviously I've spent too much time in fandoms where the characters are *canonically* in high school, 'cause as I was reading the roleplay the line between the "reality" and the roleplay was *very* blurred. (::thinks fondly of that S2 Willow/Cordy which really should exist outside of my head::)
Sweet Desires - Tara Alton
I'm not quite sure about this. I endorse the rubber ducky vibrator, that's for sure. I felt like I was reading The Office fanfic or something. [obDisclaimer: I know almost nothing about The Office -- show or fandom.]
French Handwriting - Zoe Alexandra
Prostitutes and trannies... and I feel like I've read this kind of story before, and I still don't like it. People who pack in lesbian anthologies always through me 'cause I feel like, "Don't you want to ID as a man and thus not be in this anthology? What historical moment are you from that you pack and ID as a lesbian? I feel confused and also ignorant." (Of course, there is so much butch/femme in these anthologies as to explicitly code it as not the stories of "my people" -- whatever that looks like, since it's not like I'm up on the twentysomething American queer scene. Is my next project to pen a submission for next year's anthology?) And the romantic rescuing of a prostitute should fall under my willing suspension of disbelief as something I just go with, but it doesn't and instead it bothers me on a lot of levels.
Rosemary and Eucalyptus - Kyle Walker
It would make sense for massage to be one of my narrative erotic kinks, but it really isn't.
Rupture - Suki Bishop
Okay, this one with allowing a third-party in to their relationship... totally hit all sorts of hot buttons (in a good way) for me.
Fruit of Another - Annette Beaumont
Being haunted (metaphorically) by the memory of that One Woman from one's past... the Internet as godsend for connecting with people... yup, totally down with that. And falling in love over teh intarnet may become one of my narrative kinks. I also liked that the adultery issue was seriously acknowledged. (Yes, adultery is one of my current Issues.)
On Fire - Rachel Kramer Bussel
I was way more interested in the fire-eating, belly-dancing, etc. (both the logistics and the visuals) than the actual relationship.
One Solid Yellow Aster - Zaedryn Meade
Interesting. I like a lot of this, but I was twitchy from the near-beginning, when she remembers how she's loaded down with deliveries, my brain screaming, because yes I am a Good Worker like that, and then there's that uncertainty as to whether it's f'real -- particularly as regards the delivery-recipient -- and that makes all the goodness of how they know each other so well and everything just turn into pain and uncomfortableness for me.
A Taste of Sin - Fione Zedde
The title actually has nothing to do with the fic itself. Two very hot and very dommey dyke friends get another hot lady in a threesome. The power dynamics here come closer to doing it for me than some of the BDSM in this collection, though I was annoyed that I couldn't keep the two original women's names straight (thus making it feel very Any Two Bodies), but my biggest enjoyment in this story was probably the various interpersonal interactions *before* they went off and had lots of sex.
Bingo, Baby - Radclyffe
Okay, I really liked the role switch in this butch-femme couple. Mmm, femmes with strap-ons.... Oh, and there's bathroom sex, too, though I found that hotter in concept than in execution.
Kiki - Joli du Pr'e
Uh, junkie fic? Emma Donoghue called the fic "oddly romantic." Which I guess I can see. Mostly I get stuck on the part where junkies are totally anathema to me (I get all judgmental, plus depressed and not in the way I want from depressing stories).
Last Ten Bucks - A. Lizbeth Babcock
Hard BDSM, yawn. [It doesn't help that the title kept making me think of "I spent my last ten dollars, on birth control and beer; my life was so much simpler when I was sober and queer."]
The World Turned Upside Down - Jean Roberta
This is well-done. Historical fiction, with an interesting narrative framework that isn't fully revealed until the end.
Heavenly Bodies - Andrea Miller
An interesting concept, but nothing in the story really grabbed me.
Subtexts - Peggy Munson
Okay, this story was part of the reason I bought this anthology. I was definitely disappointed. The "Daddy" thing so completely does not do it for me, for one. After Little Red Riding Hood, the story moves through a variety of other well-known stories -- all of which I knew at least enough to get the references -- and I wasn't really into any of them (though the take on A Separate Peace is interesting and aching in a way which is so close to the book).
Sweet Hunger - Skian McGuire
I kept thinking of Northampton when the narrator talked about this hippie lesbian commune, even though that's not actually what Northampton is.