SDk: What was the EAA Signature Series and why did you stop publishing it after you courageously testified in the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) trial in Philadelphia in October 2006?
MJL: The EAA Signature Series was our publishing arm – ebooks and print-on-demand. I wanted to publish the erotic books that the other publishers wouldn’t touch. Books of high literary quality but that also explored the taboos. I think we eventually covered them all: incest, sex with dogs, eroticised rape, underage sex. Topics that ordinary people think about; perhaps fantasise about; topics that are technically legal to write about (though not legal to photograph or practice) and that are usually totally off limits in literature: the EAA published it all and it was all really well written.
We also published reprints of great erotica titles by our members that had gone out of print and deserved a continued audience.
I stopped publishing the EAA Signature Series once the US Department of Justice got wind of what I was up to and made me exceedingly nervous about perhaps going to prison.
SDk: You were terrified during the COPA trial, but you were not new to making a statement against censorship: in 2002, “at the last minute” (you’ve said), you pulled the plug on an exhibition, Marilyn’s Room – Cybererotic Recreation, which was organised to aid the launch of The Museum of Sex in New York. What
were the issues that led to you taking such action?
MJL: As the president of Marilyn’s Room, Inc., I was on the board of advisors for the Museum of Sex in its early stages. I was at all the New York meetings and fundraisers; I smiled, shook hands, and drank more cocktails than you can possibly imagine. I was very gung-ho. When the launch for the museum was underway, I had all kinds of incredible erotic art shipped in from all over – photographs, paintings, drawings. These were all to be exhibited the night of the big launch. But the backers of the launch – some liquor promoters – got really nervous about the content of these works of art. They were more interested in Todd Oldham’s fashion show that would be going on and the sexy kitten go-go dancers or whatever else it was. But real sex-related art to help launch the Museum of Sex was not gonna happen. The heads of the museum came to me and proposed that they would be willing to have JPEGS made of all the art and have computer monitors on hand for people to look at the JPEGS during the party. And that the monitors would be laying flat as well as shielded on three sides so that guests didn’t “accidentally” view them.
It really was just outrageous. A farce, and so insulting to the artists, who were from all over the world. I’d been involved with the museum for months by then, so it wasn’t that the other board members had a problem with who and what I represented (erotic literature, art
and film). It was all about the backers; the people with the cash and how appalled they were by what I was bringing to the table. We were “negotiating” right up until the last minute. But I finally boycotted it on behalf of the artists.
SDk: You’ve also worked with an icon of the American anti-censorship struggle, Karen Finley. Did this influence you in any way?
MJL: No, I was only in Karen’s book because Hubert Selby, Jr. (Cubby) was a mentor of mine and he sort of strong-armed Karen into including me in the book. However, I think it wound up being a really great experience for both of us, which had nothing to do with anti-censorship. The story I wrote for her, “Night on 12th Street”, (aka “Twelfth Street”) became one of my most popular short stories.
SDk: Stirring Up A Storm, a collection you edited and of which you are particularly proud, had three stories nominated for a prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2005. You’ve expressed the opinion the book probably fell victim to discrimination. Can you elaborate?
MJL: At this point in my career, my reputation was such that publishers would sometimes give me carte blanche on book projects I was editing. They trusted my track record and my judgement. Meaning, they would sign the contract, send my agent the money,
and then just assume that the finished product would be the best it could be. Sometimes the publishers wouldn’t even read the finished product; they’d simply send it to press. Which really depressed me because I would work so hard at turning out a good product and the publisher wouldn’t even read it. And because of this type of thing, the publisher had no idea what they had with Stirring Up A Storm, what a great collection of women’s writing it was. They simply assumed it was “erotica”, slapped a ridiculously crass cover on it – even though I protested loudly that we had stories of strong literary merit in there and that it wasn’t an “erotica collection”. They never attempted to get the book reviewed, even though I had several very hot, mainstream writers lined up to review it. The book sold out of its print run and went into a second printing; however, it was essentially dead in the water, compared to what it could have done had we gotten any press whatsoever.
SDk: You’ve mentioned that erotica has had a more positive reception from the film community than it has in publishing – why do you think that was the case? Is it still the case?
MJL: I don’t think it still is the case at the moment, no. We’re at a juncture in both publishing and films where money is scarce and so “experimenting” is not going to find funding. But in the late ’90s, that wasn’t the case. People