Friday, February 28, 2014

Audiobook Adventures: "Love . . . Exciting And New"

Cum aboard, we're expecting you.

Guess I'm gonna go ahead and finish this post, since it's been two months since I started it.

A year ago, when I first started trying to do audiobooks, I thought about maybe doing a couple of pieces of Erotica.  It seemed like someone who was a casual reader (or not a reader at all) might enjoy listening to sexual exploits rather than just watching them on the internet, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Oh, maybe we should define Erotica here.  I suppose we're talking about depictions of physical love, instead of just romantic love, flirting, newly-developed feelings, etc..  Porn, I guess.  Just so there's no confusion.

The thing is, porn is, at least to me, a form of fantasy, of male wish fulfillment.  The way a perfect world would work.  Your mileage may vary, of course.

And the Romance genre (at least the traditional, Harlequin-style Romance) is much the same, a form of fantasy, of female wish fulfillment.  The kind of life one dreams of having.

The project I'm currently working on (nearly done, now) is a Romance book, written by a woman, and ostensibly intended for women.  But it's not exactly a paperback with Fabio on the cover.  I think the author would describe it as Erotic Romance, or there may be another, better term for this subgenre.

It has a different feel from the other Romance I've performed in the past year.  And it feels different from Erotica as well.  The writer has at least five of these out there, with handsome, wealthy, clever protagonists* and meet-cute scenarios with women who spread their arms (and legs) for them.

This one is written much like a typical romantic scenario, where a man and a woman meet, feel attraction for one another, get together, then obstacles arise and they go their separate ways, only to come back together at the end.  It shifts between the point of view of the male character and the female one, but it's pretty emotionally exaggerated, and feels like the female POV outweighs the male one.  Which is fine . . .

. . .  except that there is an enormous amount of full-on, descriptive, explicit sex.  Literally the first moment the male and female characters meet (this is in Chapter One, mind you), they create the beast with two backs.  And it's not just a quick paragraph of how "Carly's eyes closed as their bodies became one, the joy of their intimacy filling her from top to bottom.  No more was she a young, innocent girl of forty-three . . . she was now a woman."  It really buries not the lead, giving us a Vivid Entertainment's eye view of every well-lit detail.

Narratively, I would not have imagined a story would work that way.  As author, you'd want to do what you can to keep the couple apart, undermining the audience's expectations but forcing them to keep hoping things will work out, all the while inserting new obstacles so foreign and unnatural, you'd think "Dawson's Creek" went on for eighteen seasons.  But porn has different logic, different rules than regular storytelling, I suppose.

And I don't know if it works or not.  Which is a humble way of saying that it totally doesn't work.  It's so incongruous that it's like one of those movies where somebody has gone in afterwards and added explicit stuff (like HALLOWEEN 2 for gore or CALIGULA for sex), or that story the pastor used to tell about how the sex scene in TOP GUN was such an afterthought that Kelly McGillis's hair isn't even the right color anymore.

There are genuine characters in the book, and interactions that feel pretty real, and some emotion that feels earned.  There is also some silly Hallmark Channel/Lifetime Television For Women And Gay Men melodrama too, but I figured that was par for the course.  When the happy ending comes in the last chapter, I felt pretty good about it, but then there came one more "happy ending" in the massage sense that made me shake my head with discomfort.**

I talked to Big about it, and it was difficult to convey my problem with the narrative without simply spelling out in no uncertain terms what went on in the story's coda.  It made me feel like a prude, one who resorted to spelling certain objectionable words and shuddering after I did it.  And Big could understand reading a book like that himself (with the doors locked and the curtains drawn), but not finding his wife reading.

I really don't know who this kind of book is for, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate it when it works.  The author has made a name for herself writing this sort of thing, and her Amazon pages are overflowing with gushing five-star reviews, written (assumedly) by women who devoured her books and can't wait for the next one.*** 

I'd really like to talk to a woman like this, one who hasn't been beaten down by puritanical society to see intercourse as an evil somehow equal to the taking of human life.  Just to gauge her thoughts on this. 

Most Erotica on Audible is performed by women, and I totally get that.  If I wanted to listen to explicit tale of a girl's first foray into Sapphic Summer Camp, I'd totally want it narrated by a woman.  There are several Gay-themed stories and books looking for narrators every time I look at the list, and those are naturally to be recorded by men. 

I felt a bit awkward during this one, but haven't gotten any complaints from the author.  I was a bit embarrassed to be delivering the lines--and performance, since I'm acting out the female parts as well--but I hope that doesn't show.  It's still good work if you can get it, and I gave it my all nevertheless.

In the meantime, I am happy to spend the money I was paid to narrate this particular book, and I hope several people who are looking for this sort of thing find exactly what they were after in my performance.  If so, maybe I'll get to narrate one or two more of these puzzling tales of Modern Erotic Romance.

Rish Outfield, Smut Reader

*Apparently the wish fulfilment of many, according to user comments.

**I figured when I began this project that I'd have to record the audiobook under a pseudonym, which is sad since I ought to be promoting my work any way I can.  But then there would be a chapter that just felt like a typical book, a book my mom might be reading, and I'd think, "No, this is fine; I'm gonna re-record the intro using my own name."  But then there'd be another three or four page play-by-play of the two lovers gettin' it on, and I'd think, "Oh.  Oh yeah.  Now I remember."

***They can't all be plants, can they?  Not when a hundred illiterate assholes can bash J.K. Rowling's latest book while admitting that they haven't read it themselves, and those reviews don't get taken down.

1 comment:

Abigail Hilton said...

Rish, you might get a kick out of latest episode of The Self publishing Podcast -

They spoke with Lexi Maxxwell (pseudonym obviously), a gal who writes this stuff. They've had her on the show before, in Jan of last year, I think. Anyway, she talks about her audience and fan engagement. Believe it or not, she gets emails with things like, "You saved my marriage." So, yeah, there are real people and real women on both producer and consumer sides of this.