I will give up nothing. I will give up no one.

- Dorothy Allison



Dear Reader...

[Introduction to the privately printed paper version, 1997, with notes for the webbed version, 2002, in brackets.] The following narrative contains explicit sex scenes. If you are offended by such [argh, I'd forgotten my lapses into vaguely archaic style - but that's what turned me on at the time!], close the book now and our friendship will continue unabated.

Nearly all the explicit sex is contained in only two of the fifteen fragments. (I'm not going to facilitate skimming by telling you which ones.) [Ha! I've completely changed my mind on this point; now my writing begs to be skimmed. The wet chapters are 7 and 13. Of course they're no good for me if I don't know who these people are and why exactly they're fucking, but I'm no longer attempting to dictate reading order to other readers, that's so 20th century!] Experienced collectors may find this boring or jarring, by turns, but this narrative perforce contains some of almost everything that turns me on, including descriptions of clothing, food, politics, prayer, the beauty of nature, the exercise of professional skil, brushes with death, and job interviews.

In fact, as I now realize, it includes everything I find exciting, except raptors. I don't know how I forgot the raptors, but now it would be artificial to force them into the story.

For acknowledgements [deleted in the web version - they also included safe sex information and kink-friendly nonfiction resources!] and more on how this book came to be, see the endnotes [the next two sections].

The four you are about to meet live only through readers such as you and I. They would thank you in advance for your willingness to dream them.

[In the printed version, my swooping RL signature was here.]

[Once I get Security on the web I'll put a link to its title page here; see the notes on the start page for details, the address for email notification, and so on.]


How These Fragments Came To Be

Twenty years ago I began trying to break free of my sexual conditioning and find out what I truly liked and wanted. Following the "path of excess" approach to literature among other pursuits over the subsequent ten years, I read a ton of pornography.

In the [early] 80's (remember the 80's?) I exercised my First Amendment rights by helping to organize protests against media images that promoted violence against women, while at the same time working to ensure that all women, especially those whose sexual tastes were not 'mainstream' [specifically, lesbians and other women who enjoyed S/M, which was the term in use at that time], had censorship-free access to the sex-positive erotica they desired.

{History} The initials of the organization I was involved with were WAVPM. I'm very proud of the group's many achievements, and sorry for the times I took on too many tasks at once and fell down beneath them. In addition to our educational activities, WAVPM had a network of women in shelters who wrote to advertisers, trying to inject a dose of reality ("My partner has severely beaten me and it's not sexy like your ad..."). We came together with the (SF) Bay Area democratic socialists to organize a forum in which feminists discussed the complicated issues around pornography (led by Diana Russell, Cherrie Moraga, Ann Snitow, and Priscilla Alexander); it was the first public discussion of this issue "after Barnard" and I am proud that it was spirited and constructive; the fact that it was on the other coast definitely helped.

And if you understand the phrase "after Barnard" in this context then let's do lunch or email [just the latter now - no food on the web] and swap memories. {/History}
All this is to say that I have read pornography/erotica, and wrestled with all the issues around it, for a long time. In the last ten years my reading and collecting has declined, but I still keep my hand in (as it were) enough to check out the best new stuff. What I consider 'best' is writing (which medium I prefer to video) in which the writer is most fully pleasing her- or himself. Whether or not I share the writer's tastes, I enjoy and admire honesty.

Finding 'good' erotica for my own use has been difficult. [As of April 2002, suddenly less of a problem, although not a completely solved one - but in 1997 I was feeling truly whiny.] Like Goldilocks I've whined: too long, too short, too realistic, too escapist, too vanilla, too rocky road, nowhere the perfect erotic text...although there are some (by writers better than I am, but for erotica writing skill is not the whole story) that come close. At last I realized that erotica is so very personal that the only way I could achieve erotic novel nirvana was to write my own.

This is, therefore, my own (currently) ideal erotic story. If it's not a turn-on for you (at best a glancing blow, rather than a dagger to the heart?), I hope that it inspires you to write your own fantasies, or if you have already written them, to write some more.

To do so is a political act. My epigraph is from Dorothy Allison; here it is in context:
Instead of speaking out in favor of sex, most feminists seem to avoid this discussion in any way possible. It is too dangerous, too painful, too hopeless -- like racism, class, anti-semitism, and all the important issues that require so much of us...

I know that I want most what Barbara Smith described in her short story -- the ability to love without fear of betrayal, the confidence that we can expose ourselves and not have the women we love literally disappear from our lives. I know too that we will not get that safe ground easily. If we are not to sacrifice some part of ourselves or our community, we will have to go through all the grief of exposure and struggle, with only a thin line of trust that we will emerge whole and unbroken. The only way I know to begin this is to start by saying, "I will give up nothing. I will give up no one."

For my lovers, my sisters, the women who are not afraid to speak to or be seen with me, I have only one promise to make. I promise someday to provide a gathering place where in the center of the room will stand a huge, open book, a book where women will write out their fearful secrets and sign them or not as they choose. The ony requirement will be that they should not feel they have to lie.
Allison wrote this in 1984 (it's from "Public Silence, Private Terror" in PLEASURE and DANGER: exploring female sexuality, edited by Carole S. Vance, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984). Some things are different now, both in the world (Audre Lorde has been taken to the bosom of the Great Mother; for a time, lesbianism became a 'fad') and in feminism. Allison's own writing has helped create something like the gathering place she promised, with the huge, open book, and I am grateful to her as to all my other favorite writers.


More on Process Et Cetera

In writing this, I was interested in tackling the technical problem of the "good parts" version. (For a cogent statement, see William Goldman's The Princess Bride.) How many times have I read, or reread, a boring novel because somewhere within its turgid exposition, a hot relationship lurked? Too many. Since I was writing erotica already, I was attracted by the challenge of imagining a sex scene "with everything", and writing only the bare minimum of narrative required to get my characters into that scene. This I have tried to do, which is one reason this project is in the form of fragments.

The other reason it was written in fragments, is because its first incarnation was as a hypertext (authored in Eastgate's StoryspaceTM).

Depending on what you know of me, you may be surprised that my personal erotica has women in it, or that it has men in it, or that it is somewhat political, or that it is somewhat conventional. I'll let the fear voices have this moment in print, and then let them float away. When I wrote most of this, I was recovering from pneumonia, so glad to be breathing somewhat more easily that I wasn't thinking about how it would 'play' or even whether it had to.

In the flush of coming back to breath, I also allowed myself to break three of my long-held writing rules, namely, "Don't show characters praying," and "Don't set anything in an alternate Middle Ages," and "Don't borrow word combinations from your favorite works of all time." So this has hommages or echoes or whatever you like to call them. None of them is longer than a sentence, and they're far less obtrusive than the crib from Edna St. Vincent Millay in the next paragraph...

Readers have asked: am I formally marketing this? Not at present. [And putting it on the web for free is the same as saying, "Never." I'm cool with that. It's such an old piece, and the mock archaic tone is annoying in places.] It well may be that in some difficult hour, pinned down by pain and moaning for release, or nagged by want past resolution's power, I might be driven to sell your love for peace, or trade the memory of this night for food, or pad this thing out to the requisite number of pages and shop it around. I've even thought of a blurb, way too flattering of course: "{whatever feminist erotic writer is hot at the moment} meets Georgette Heyer, with touches of Straight to Hell."

But seriously, there's one character (the one made up out of whole cloth, that is least like anyone I know [largely because she's thousands of years old!]) readers have asked to see more of, so I might let this character have a separate, longer work and market that. [Haven't done it yet; too much else going on.] The other three can stay trapped in amber: now I have dreamed enough of their story.

[my RL name]
[my RL physical location at the time]
August 1997

notes on Security and HP slash and my name
links to my own HP slash
earthquake to rowling (open letter from fall 2000)
riding thestrals: an OotP reading-reaction (Hallowe'en 2004)
the alien ambassadors sex game (Valentine's Day 2003)
rant about politics (Lent 2003)

click here to report possible abuse to staff