Sunday, June 4, 2017

Heterosexual Erotica

Circlet Press will soon release a new anthology, Like a Spell, edited by Jennifer Levine. It looks like a cool book in general, but I wanted to highlight one particular decision that Circlet made, which I think is an important and overlooked part of creating a truly diverse landscape.

Like a Spell is going to come out as an omnibus of four smaller anthologies, divided by sexuality. So, for example, there's Earth, an anthology of lesbian fantasy erotica. But there's also Air, "magically heterosexual fantasy erotica."

Publisher Cecilia Tan wrote this on Patreon about the decision:

Volume 3 presented a sort of new challenge. We realized it's the "norm" to label gay, lesbian, kinky, trans, et cetera erotica as such, but heterosexual erotica gets to be the "default." If a book just says "erotica" it's assumed to be het. With a Circlet Press book, though, you really can't make that assumption, and it felt unbalanced to label three of the four books and then have one that just said "erotica." Usually in Circlet-land something unlabeled means "everything mixed together" or pansexual. So we decide to give Vol 3 the subtitle "Magically Heterosexual Fantasy Erotica". 

I think this was a good decision on Circlet's part, and it also points to a way to push against the default. I think this applies in other realms, too. For example, one thing that I think can help push against the idea of whiteness as default in fiction is to specify that white characters are white. All too often, I read stories where brown characters are specified and white characters are left unspecified. While this is an improvement over having no brown characters at all, it still centers the story firmly in a white perspective.

Similarly, I think it's a good idea to label heterosexual erotica as heterosexual, because that's the way to stop seeing heterosexuality as the default.

I have mixed feelings about coming out scenes. On the one hand, I eat them up. I really like to read them. On the other, I'm bothered by the idea that they're necessary. While I think it might be easy to conclude that we shouldn't have them, I think that goes the wrong way. It's similar to the way the idea of "colorblindness" turns out to be largely counterproductive outside of a few specific scenarios where it's useful (such as resume review systems that aim to create a colorblind situation for recruiters).

If we wind up in a future that's truly accepting of all sexual orientations, I don't think coming out will end. I think, though, that it won't be only some people who have to come out—it'll be everyone. If no one's sexual orientation is assumed, we'll all need a label. We'll all go through the process of figuring out what our orientation is, and I think that's a beautiful thing.

So I'm all for the heterosexual erotica label. And I'm excited to read Like A Spell.

If you want to stay up to date about goings on at Circlet (and be among the first to read new releases), you should consider joining Circlet's Patreon.

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