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Why Cythera?

A reader asks, "Forgive me, but I just looked at what you said about your upcoming novel Cythera, and I wonder why you'd write something like that?"

You mean an erotic science fiction novel? Or erotica? Because I want to. And here's why.

Elza lives in a society which, like ours, is hostile to the Aphrodite archetype. She lives in a society which disrespects what she is on a very basic level. A whore. A bitch. A bimbo. We have lots of nasty words for a woman who isn't monogamous by nature, who enjoys sex, and who relates to the world through sexuality and sensuality. Elza's society despises her. And yes, she has more freedom in France than elsewhere. There is less emphasis on monogamy and marriage as the only right answer for women than there is in, say, contemporary England. She is the subject of fewer vile attacks than Emma Hamilton, for example. But society as a whole does not value her, and does not value the qualities that are the heart of her truest self.

That's horrible, isn't it? To know that your truest self is casually hated? That the best you can hope for is pity? "Those poor fallen women in need of salvation." To know that the best you can hope for is misunderstanding. "All sex not in a committed relationship is meaningless and harmful."

I wanted to explore what it would be like to be an Aphrodite archetype in a society which valued it. I wanted to look at an Aphrodite in a world where she is allowed to develop fully and happily, without having to defend who she is, without having to constantly fight social structures for freedom and for self expression. What would it be like to be an Aphrodite who has always been a treasure? Who isn't regularly slut shamed and reviled? What would Aphrodite look like if she were respected?

Unfortunately, the only way to write that is in a science fiction book. That society doesn't exist today anymore than it did in Elza's day, certainly not in the modern US with our constant obsessions with who's sleeping with whom, as though consensual sex between adults was a crime.

But Cythera lives in a different world, one in which a woman like her is valued and has a place, where her career choices are as honored as leaning in. She lives in a world where she can develop to her full potential without being shamed or having to spend most of her energies striving for freedom. What does that look like?

Cythera is an exploration of that -- Aphrodite unchained. She's not as hard as Elza. She hasn't had to fight every moment of every day. But she's just as clever, just as strong, and just as independent and compassionate. She's an artist with her full range at her fingertips, with institutions that help her rather than imprison her.

And yes, there's sex in the book. And it's hot. And it's fun. Because that's part of the point. This is what it would look like if Aphrodite weren't messed up about it. This is what it would look like if she'd been born free. This is a vision of what could be. I hope you'll pick up the book when it comes out November 1 and give it a try.



( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 7th, 2013 12:45 pm (UTC)
If only ...
Aug. 7th, 2013 01:23 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly. But before anything can be, it has to be imagined. There have to be words for it. I hope this may make people think a little bit, or maybe fall in love with this world.
Aug. 7th, 2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
Can't wait!
Aug. 7th, 2013 03:32 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad!
Aug. 7th, 2013 02:31 pm (UTC)
Hahahahahahaha. "Want" to write.

Sure. That's how it works. ;D
Aug. 7th, 2013 03:33 pm (UTC)
I think the implication in the question was that I was slumming to write erotica, or that one would only write erotica as a cheap trick. Which has something to do with the point, doesn't it?
Aug. 7th, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC)
Indeed. :D

There's also the question of whether or not erotica is slumming. There's obviously an audience for it, so why shouldn't talented authors provide them with some quality erotica?
Aug. 7th, 2013 04:42 pm (UTC)
I second this! (and also love your icon)
Aug. 7th, 2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I love me some Idris. ;D I can't remember who made it, but it should be credited in my user pics if you wanted to snag. ;D
Aug. 7th, 2013 09:48 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't think it's slumming. I don't think there's anything in the world wrong with erotica, and I happily read it. It's a genre, just like mysteries or suspense.
Aug. 7th, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC)
I have to concur. In my case, with my novels... I write my characters in distress and anguish, so why would I fade to black when they are being loved? I know a lot of people would have had my head if, in Underdogs, I had skipped over Ari and Dale consummating their relationship. :)
Aug. 7th, 2013 09:57 pm (UTC)
Exactly! Why is it ok to show people being graphically dismembered but not making love? Why is it ok to show sex if it's nonconsensual and violent but not if it's consensual and arousing? We have some very strange ideas about what "respectable" fiction is!
Aug. 7th, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
::nods:: I touched on that with my "Monsoon" review for Sanctuary. People screamed that their kids were watching, and I pointed out that complaining about the kiss meant they had no problem watching people being shot in cold blood, blown to pieces by an explosion, Helen picking up severed body parts, etc. That's all fine, but once she kissed a WOMAN, whoooa! Hold up! That's Just Wrong.

Sex is more relatable than violence anyway. Maybe that's the problem. Most kids won't ever be faced with a knife-wielding maniac. But they could possible "have the sex," and that's scary. Or. Something.
Aug. 7th, 2013 10:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, that! Apparently watching people blown up is ok, but simple frontal nudity is a scandal!
Aug. 7th, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
"I saw a woman get her throat slit. The bloodspray was so gross. It was the best episode ever."


"I saw a nipple. I'm traumatized."
Aug. 7th, 2013 10:18 pm (UTC)
Aug. 7th, 2013 08:27 pm (UTC)
I'm looking forward to it!
Aug. 7th, 2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I hope you enjoy it.
Aug. 7th, 2013 10:05 pm (UTC)
It looks like I'll be buying a new book. Thank you. What a great thing to look forward to reading!
Aug. 7th, 2013 10:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I hope you like it!
Aug. 8th, 2013 01:17 am (UTC)
I think there may also be a popular perception that writing sex is easier because the people who want to read sex don't really care if the writing is any good, as long as SEX! I've noticed the same attitude toward Romance too. "Eh, it's a formula. Any idiot could write that." I hear that from other writers too, but only ones who haven't actually tried to do it.

The truth is that writing in any genre requires writing well. The people who just want sex, not matter how it's handled, are off download x-rated videos, not reading books.
Aug. 8th, 2013 10:24 am (UTC)
Oh yes! Any idiot could do it! I'd like to see any idiot try. Writing sex or romance well is a very specific skill, and it's certainly not easy.
Aug. 11th, 2013 04:14 pm (UTC)
True, true. I think any genre, to write it well, is a tough call. Making any sex sensual, rather than just graphic is... um... hard.

Edited at 2013-08-11 04:14 pm (UTC)
Aug. 12th, 2013 01:06 pm (UTC)
It is. It's not easy at all!
Aug. 12th, 2013 01:29 pm (UTC)
I have no idea if it's the same for you, but sometimes describing the various bits and pieces can get a tad tiresome? Do you stick to one word, or a couple, several? So many hands and legs to deal with, getting their clothes to miraculously disappear o.O , making certain you stay in POV (which is, frankly, a bitch) and how tough it is to stop it descending into purple prose of the worst order. Sometimes, I just avoid it and go for UST.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )