I Like It Hard – A publishing anniversary

Apologies for cross-posting, but… it’s a special day – and not least because it’s the general election and also the day James Comey appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Cover of I Like It Hard by Francis James FranklinMy novelette, I Like It Hard, was published by Less Than Three Press (who are currently having a sale to celebrate Pride month) this day last year.

After her brother Dan loses in the final of the XXX-rated Reality TV show I Like It Hard, Helen Arnold finds new purpose in life: enter the show herself—and win.

But no amount of training or advice from Dan and his lovers can fully prepare her for naked interviews, two weeks in a porn-studio villa, and weeks of nerve- wracking live sex shows—all while dealing with the capricious nature of the judges, who wield absolute power over the show and its contestants.

Being both bisexual and aromantic, Helen is used to dealing with people who don’t like or approve of her—and she’s never been the type to back down when life gets hard.

Excerpt

“Oh,” my mother said when I told her the news, her neutral response spoken through lips twisted with unconcealed distaste. “Well done.” My father mumbled agreement. Clearly, both were still distressed that I was taking part in the competition at all, and despite their words, they were disappointed I hadn’t been kicked out.

Not that they had been one hundred percent behind Dan, but their complaints then had been more about his dragging them into the media spotlight. Which they were used to by now, really, so that wasn’t so much an issue. With me, it boiled down to my being a woman. My poor Mum. She had triumphed in her acceptance of Dan being gay, and had even at times shown a reluctant pride in seeing him on television, but I baffled her. In her mind, my bisexuality was a phase, my aromanticism was just a fancy way of saying I hadn’t met the right man, and my determination to follow in my brother’s footsteps was pure perversity to spite her.

“I don’t know why you feel you need to do this,” my mum said, not for the first time. I think I must have heard it at least once every week since I had started my training in earnest. “You’re such a smart girl. You should get yourself a normal job, find a nice young man, get married.” Thus proving that she never listened to a word I said.

Dan grinned at my scowl. “Yeah, Sis. You know what, we should post a video of you on YouTube, standing in front of a blackboard and writing fancy equations. Then you turn round, look at the camera, and say, ‘I like it hard!’”

I chuckled at this. “Do you think I could make a career in naked accountancy? ‘All figures exposed — except the real ones.’ How’s that for a slogan?”

Mum glared at both of us. “This isn’t a laughing matter! No one will ever take you seriously if you do this. And no man will ever love you. They’ll see you as a slut to be used and discarded.”

Yes, my mum called me a slut. While pretending not to, but still. Sighing, I looked at Dan. “Let’s go. This girl needs to train hard if she’s ever going to be as big a slut as you.”

April 2016 Iphigenia @AlinaMeridon

Iphigenia

The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, by François Perrier

The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, by François Perrier (1594–1649)

Artemis, having been deeply offended by the arrogance of Agamemnon, demonstrated just why you should never risk the wrath of the gods. At the moment of Agamemnon’s greatest triumph, the assembled armies of Greece under his command, ready to set sail across the wine-dark sea to sack and loot their great rival Troy, and incidentally ‘liberate’ the beautiful Helen, Artemis calmed the winds. The greatest army ever raised, including in its ranks such incomparable heroes as Achilles and Odysseus, was forced to wait in increasing desperation for favourable weather, precious supplies eaten up amidst growing certainty that the gods would not bless their grand venture.

to a hero wed
but not at Hymen’s altar
blood of innocence

golden-haired princess
born of an ignoble king
Iphigenia!

discord in brooklyn
this classical sacrifice
brings tears to the eyes

And it was all Agamemnon’s fault. The seer, Calchas, said so. Indeed, so furious was Artemis that she demanded the impossible from the Mycenaean king: the sacrifice of his first-born, Iphigenia. But Agamemnon’s ambition as leader of the Greek armies was greater than his compassion as a father. Following the advice of Odysseus, ever the trickster, he lured the girl from her home under the pretense that she was to be married to Achilles – no less! – but when she was led to the altar it was not marriage that awaited her there but death.

But a deal is a deal. The winds blew, the armies sailed, and we all know the rest of the story. Achilles sat around sulking for nine years, Odysseus’s passion for wooden toys got a little out of proportion, and Helen eventually got married for the fourth time.

Iphigenia in Brooklyn by P. D. Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) - performed by Ensemble Monterey

A musical joke: Iphigenia in Brooklyn by P. D. Q. Bach (Peter Schickele) – performed by Ensemble Monterey

I have long had a fascination with the story of Iphigenia, and this month I was inspired to write some poems, but also I learned that Iphigenia appears in Dante’s Paradise, and discovered the fantastically funny cantata Iphigenia in Brooklyn – that’s not a great recording, but the performance is excellent.

For more about Iphigenia and also my personal quest for her, see these earlier posts:

Finally, I wrote this science fiction poem a long time ago:

Latest News

Title page of failed haiku Vol. 1 No. 4

April has been a busy month, and an exciting one. To start with, literally, my first ever acceptance of haiku/senryu submitted to a journal: Issue No. 4 of Failed Haiku features three of my senryu, along with 100 pages of senryu from other, very talented poets.

My novelette I Like It Hard is now available for pre-order from the excellent Less Than Three Press. I’m currently proofing the galley (making the ship’s kitchen impervious to water? seems logical…) and the expected release date is June 8th.

A couple of poems this month on the theme of I Like It Hard:

And some with an aromantic theme:

Also an aromantic drabble:

Starship Pegasus designed for Alexis 5-1-8

Alexis 5-1-8: Starship Pegasus

The ill-fated Alexis 5-1-8 returned from Publisher No. 3 with its tale between its leather-booted legs: “the story does not fit our current list needs”, which translates roughly as, “Your synopsis sucks.” Maybe it does. I’m thinking it’s a mistake to target LGBTQ+ publishers and next time I’ll try a SciFi publisher.

On a brighter note: How do you like the Starship Pegasus?

Three poems this month on the theme of A.I., sexbots and Alexis 5-1-8:

National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo)

This is the third year that I’ve attempted NaPoWriMo. In 2014, NaPoWriMo was the birth of my Supergirl obsession, and in 2015 I attempted to do it with a steampunk theme but faltered halfway through. This year I didn’t have a theme, and didn’t quite manage to blog a poem every day, but it has been fun and varied:

Other Posts

I Like It Hard

My new novelette now has an official cover (very cool – many thanks to Natasha Snow), an official release date (8th June), and an official blurb:

After her brother Dan loses in the final of the XXX-rated Reality TV show I Like It Hard, Helen Arnold finds new purpose in life: enter the show herself—and win.

But no amount of training, or advice from Dan and his lovers, can fully prepare her for naked interviews, two weeks in a porn-studio villa, and weeks of nerve-wracking live sex show—all while dealing with the capricious nature of the judges, who wield absolute power over the show and its contestants.

Being both bisexual and aromantic, Helen is used to dealing with people who don’t like or approve of her—and she’s never been the type to back down when life gets hard.

~ ~ ~ ooh! ~ ~ ~

This is not erotica. It is certainly explicit in places, and hopefully erotic in places, but the essence of I Like It Hard is two-fold:

  1. Television these days is full of reality TV of one sort or another, with lots of X Factor and other talent shows that have celebrity judges and audience voting; couple that with the easy availability of porn on the internet and the ever more unclear line between romance and erotica in all media, and is it such a stretch to imagine that one day contestants will be having sex on stage for public entertainment? It’s a completely daft idea, and by itself would not make for a terribly interesting story, but…
  2. I have for the past few years been writing stories and poetry with aromantic themes. The idea of romantic attraction is so thoroughly ingrained in cultural norms that the idea that someone does not experience it is baffling, even threatening. Falling in love makes us so vulnerable that of course we’re terrified by the idea that the person we love cannot reciprocate. People who seek sexual intimacy but reject romantic intimacy are seen as predators – and unfortunately there all too many sexual predators out there. But there are also allosexual aromantics who may desire sex as part of an emotionally intimate friendship.

These two ideas combine very nicely to provide a setting where sex without romance is the norm, and where therefore an allosexual aromantic person might thrive. It’s interesting to look back at my originally proposed blurb, which finished with:

Helen’s bisexuality makes her a slightly unusual contestant in a show that divides itself into the binaries of male-female and gay-straight, but for the first time in her life she is able to form relationships based on sex and friendship, without the minefield of romance that has so often made her life as an aromantic difficult.

Caveat: Of course, this should not be taken to imply that allosexual aromantic people are porn stars, or vice versa. People are not all the same. Allosexual aromantics are not all the same. Helen Arnold does not represent all allosexual aromantic people, any more than James Bond represents all men.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

Innocent she seemed at first, her blushes red as wine
Fans adored her guileless ways and judged her quite divine
Once each week upon the stage, on TV too, she starred
Asked just what she thought of it, she said, “I like it hard!”