This year's Eroticon was held in Bristol, just a couple hours' train ride away. The night before, I didn't get home from an out-of-town trip until very late, so I only slept about 4 hours before having to get up at o'dark thirty to catch the train and make the 8.30-ish start of the con. I'd reserved a table seat on the train and, even though the carriage was mostly empty, I found myself sharing with two others. The girl to my right put in headphones and dozed, but the man across from me was curious. I overheard him say on the phone that he would be inside at a con for 12 hours so he didn't need the scarf he had forgotten. I knew he was going where I was going, and I suspected I knew who he was (the editor/writer Maxim Jakubowski) but was so tired and, well, nervous, that I didn't ask. Instead, I moved to take advantage an open pair of seats and doze for a bit.
I'm rather new to the erotica world, so I don't know many of the other writers or editors and publishers. Because I was so tired--and so intimidated by new faces--I wasn't exactly 'on' that day. It took me a while to warm up and meet people, but those I did meet were warm and funny and welcoming, and I ended up having an educational and, ahem, eye-opening time! I met back up with a few people I met at the Sh! reading, including Ruby Kiddell, who organized the con, Scarlett French, and KD Grace. And I made some new friends, including Jacqueline Brocker and Marissa Farrar, both fantasy geeks like me!
I didn't take any photos even though I brought my camera. Because of the nature of the con, attendees were given the choice of a black lanyard (photos ok) or a pink one (photos not ok). I wore my Disney Maleficent lanyard that I always wear to cons--purple and black--so I was in the 'photos are ok' camp but decided not to try to take any. While the panels were on topics important to writers in this genre, the writers and their questions were much like those anywhere: We all want to know the other writers' processes, how to improve our writing, and how the market is doing. I hoped for the ability to clone myself and attend simultaneous panels, but in the end I had to choose.
First up I went to Identity, Ethics and Sex Blogging. Even though I'm not a sex blogger, I am interested in the conundrum of identity when writing about sex. I made the decision to publish erotica under my own name, even though many writers choose pseudonyms for different genres. Some reason that a different name for each genre will keep the readers from being confused, but I believe readers are smarter than that. Others think it's better to keep a pen name when writing erotica so that you feel 'free' to be naughty, but I wrote my first erotica as 'me' and feel that all writing is freeing in its own way. I decided to OWN my writing, but that's not to say that those who choose pseudonyms are wrong. Not at all. I can totally agree to their reasons (often because they have children/families that they want to protect, and women are often judged for writing what many consider to be 'unseemly' or even downright criminal). But I like the feeling that I'm 'out' and no one else can 'out' me. I'm not waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Next up was the Writing Workshop with Maxim Jakubowski. While it didn't end up being a 'workshop' where we worked on our writing or shared tips, it was still interesting to hear about how Mr Jakubowski created the current erotica market with his Mammoth Book of Erotica series. We know, intellectually, that erotica and sexual images have 'always' existed, but it's good to be reminded that entertainment trends change and morph through time. I asked a question that might not have made me any friends, but I thought it was important. Mr Jakubowski talked about how STORY (regardless of genre) is of the utmost importance, and I have to agree. Some of the short erotica I've read is little more than a sex scene, not a fully conceived story. And, being new to the genre, I have been investigating markets, and some of them pay very very little (as a SF/F writer, I am more familiar with the SFWA's rules for pro markets). I wondered whether the low pay and questionable reputation the genre has could be contributing to some writers being less than careful about what they are writing. To be honest, being offered WAY less than the pro rate of $.05/word makes me question the quality of a market. One delegate later asked me if I was only in erotica because I thought there was a market. The answer (no...and yes...) is for a later blog post. But suffice it to say that I believe that, in the end, money should flow toward the writer and no writer should ever work for free.
The third writing/publishing-focused panel I attended was the Publishers' Panel, where I got an idea of how some different houses work, what sorts of work they want (Victorian spanking!), what they don't want (the done-to-death 'it's an affair/no it's not' story line), their opinions on pseudonyms (it varied), and whether they think erotica can be good literature (they do!). The two 'tech'/business panels I attended were a Tech Workshop on blogging (I've been blogging for 8 years, but there is SO MUCH I don't know. I was overwhelmed. I don't know where to begin) and one about Marketing Your Work.
Between panels, I visited the merch room. I'm used to tables full of SF/F books, new-age jewelry, and funny t-shirts, not a variety of smut books, sex toys and paddles! At the Lovehoney table (one of the con's sponsors), I talked to their rep and pointed out the toy I've been eyeing for a while (a rather spendy one... not a necessary purchase like food and books, alas!). I also picked up some brochures from publishers and added to the business card pile.
After the panels, though, things were definitely different from cons I've attended in the past, when we had the pleasure (ahem!) of watching a burlesque dancer perform and a spanking demonstration! There were supposed to be author readings (for which I came prepared), but the schedule had to be changed, so we ended with prize drawings. And that toy I pointed out that I had on my wish list? I WON IT! woot! :)
In the end, I had a quick dinner with one of my new writer friends, and then ran (yes, RAN) to catch a train, got home near midnight, and very happily got to falldowngoboom. There is talk of an Eroticon2013, and I hope that by then I will know more of the people involved in this new world I'm slowly inching into and have more to contribute to the conversations. Sex is such an important part of life and influences so much of what we do and think, but we don't seem to talk about it enough in a way that explores how it affects us. Erotic literature might be a small part of it, but, like all art, it's important in how it represents social attitudes and how it's used to subvert them.