Reviewed by Daryl Champion
Boy racers, and probably car aficionados in general who take their enthusiasm just that little step further, would be surprised to learn they are, in fact, fetishists. If anyone would doubt this, all they would have to do is pick up this volume by San Francisco’s Cleis Press and read Tom Piccirilli’s “Horsepower”. Piccirilli explains everything, and you will no doubt be convinced.
As with most such collections of short fiction, Best Fetish Erotica presents a mixed bunch; fortunately, this one is better than most, and among its offerings are two that can be endorsed unreservedly as top-class pieces of work. These are “Machine” by Raven Kaldera, and “Director of dolls” by Anne Tourney.
Kaldera has produced an engaging cyber-fetish fantasy in “Machine” that immediately piques the reader’s interest as well as providing plenty of upfront smiles while at the same time hinting at something darker under the surface of mainstream society. This is achieved by focussing on the two main characters – Maxine/Machine, and her domme lover–controller, Janus – but running a fragmentary sub-plot revolving around Sergeant Rafael
Gutierrez at the Boston Police Department. The juxtaposition of two different worlds suggests that unconventional lifestyles and relationships can be more stable and satisfying than what is usually understood as “normal” life. This structure, together with Kaldera’s inventive brilliance, adds a sophistication to the story that raises it above a straightforward narrative.
Tourney’s “Director of dolls” is the only piece of sheer dark erotica, and it is the author’s literary qualities that give this story an inescapable intensity. Tourney paints a convincing portrait of a soul in torment, slowly tearing herself apart; in doing so, Tourney tears humanity apart.
The darkness of Thomas S. Roche’s “Smoked”, unlike the unrelenting “Director of dolls”, is overlaid with humour due to the language and character given to the protagonist–narrator, demi-whore student Crystal. Roche is a reliable creative writer and “Smoked” is a good example of his work.
“Office hours”, by Jen Collins, is situated in an academic setting that will present as authentic to those who have
studied or worked at a university and, as such, is an entirely plausible piece of lesbian erotica. It is one of the shorter pieces in this collection, but also one of the best.
The seamless playfulness of “Santa’s little helper” is just the story to read aloud over the fire at Christmas. It’s sure to become a yule-tide favourite. And then there is the erotic humour of “The whore gene”, another inventive excursion into the unexpected with a turn of phrase that will also get the face muscles turning towards the sky.
Best Fetish Erotica was actually first published by Cleis in 2002, but this reissue is welcome; its twenty-one stories – twelve by women writers – make for some provocative, enjoyable and occasionally touching and, in Tourney’s case, almost shocking, reading.
If we would all look closely enough at ourselves, we might be fortunate enough to discover our own fetishes. And that, surely, can only be a step in the direction, wholly desirable, of becoming better acquainted with ourselves. For some, reading these stories might help.