Edited by Rose Caraway, 360 pages, Cleis Press, cleispress.com, $16.95.
In erotica circles, Rose Caraway is known as “The Sexy Librarian,” and not just because of her cat-eye glasses, flaming red hair, and pencil skirt. As a writer, editor, blogger and podcaster, Caraway is always curating new erotic tales for her fans. So naturally, the first erotic fiction collection she puts together is in keeping with her sexy librarian persona, complete with card catalog-themed title pages for each story.
From sci-fi to fairytales and superheroes, this collection proves that any genre can be sexy. But as much as Caraway tries to expand the bounds of erotic fiction in terms of genre, the authors featured basically tell the same story 22 different ways. The window dressing is unique, but the sex is pretty pedestrian, except for the occasional light bondage.
Of course, there are a few exceptions to this. Most notably, in “Sensate Silicone” by Lillian Douglas, a porn star gets to test a dildo that connects directly to her nerves and allows her to truly feel what it’s like to have a penis. Other than this story though, the only thing that really changes in these tales is the backdrop. There isn’t a lot of queer sex either. It’s mostly straight, vanilla and heteronormative.
The real test of all erotic fiction though, is whether it can actually paint a picture while generating some stirrings in your pants. For a straight reader, this work certainly does that. While the prose is sometimes very flowery and artificially dramatic, the authors here work hard to truly tell a tale and resist the urge to get right to the action like some cheap porno. There’s a level of literary sophistication here that goes beyond a loose scenario, building sexual tension like a good blue movie.
Of course, they certainly don’t reinvent the wheel of erotic fiction here. With so many different themes and genres tackled, there are more than enough missed opportunities. (Aaron Broverman)