The Secret To Desire

By the light...

Interested in long term romantic relationships? Marriage? Sexual satisfaction? Sexual adventure?

Give a listen to this TED Talk by Psychotherapist Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. I think she’s on the right track.

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Love Language (A Marvelous Short Film)

In a universe of “meet cute” stories, this one is a cut above. And you really need to watch all the way through…

For A Muse… (Song of the Week, 9/5/2012)

O Divine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me this song…Make the tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse…    –Homer, The Odyssey

Happy is he whom the Muses love…   –Hesiod, Theogony

The ancient lass pictured above is Calliope, daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the goddess of memory), and the Muse of epic poetry and writers. She was mother to the great lyre player and singer Orpheus, and creative inspiration to Homer.

Now, thanks to the loving craft of my sweet friend Nydia Macedo in Brazil, Calliope has come to live with me in the Byrdcave, to inspire me in my daily writing. Nydia, whose work you can see (and purchase!) on Facebook under the name “Carioca Witch,” specializes in handcrafting poppets and ornaments based in spiritual and mythological symbology. She researches her topics, finding appropriate colors and design elements to incorporate and herbs to use for scents, then brings her own artistry to the task of playfully evoking these ancient resonances through beautiful stitching. Each piece is a labor of love, and photos don’t capture just how cool they really are. I encourage you to visit the Facebook page linked to above and surf through her albums to see the variety of things she creates, from gods and goddesses to Christmas and Halloween ornaments to superheroes…

Yesterday, I received the poppet of Calliope that Nydia made for me:

She’s beautiful and will have a permanent place of honor in my home.

As tribute to sweet Calliope, and sweet Nydia, I offer this Song of the Week from Django Reinhardt, “La Mer (Beyond The Sea)”…

Sex And The Single Pulp Hero

My pulp brother Barry Reese (author of The Rook series, among other things) has started a conversation at his blog on the subject of sex (and romance) in the pulps…

In the classic hero pulps, there wasn’t a whole lot of sex. You’d have the occasional lurid cover, with some scantily clad woman (usually with stockings showing) in distress while our hero moved to protect her but for the most part, guys like Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger were not very interested in knocking boots. Doc occasionally in later years would display a kind of boyish interest in the fairer sex and The Avenger’s love for his wife was constantly being referenced but even in the first book where you see The Avenger alongside his wife and daughter, you didn’t exactly get the image that they were passionate lovers. They were partners, friends and spouses, yes, but there was no sign of “heat” in the relationship.

There were some exceptions, of course. Jim Anthony was basically Doc Savage with a sex drive but by today’s standards, he was still a bit tame. In fact, the idea of Anthony was racier than the truth — he liked to lounge around at home in a speedo while working in the lab. Hell, what guy doesn’t?

The fantasy pulps (like Conan) got a lot of mileage out of ladies whipping one another and there was no doubt that Conan and others got into lusty embraces. But I’m focusing on the hero pulps because those were my favorites and that’s where most of the New Pulp writings out today fall into place.

So…

Now we’re in the age of New Pulp. Writers are now bringing in more modern ideas about race, gender relations, etc. into their pulp-inspired writings.

But we still don’t have much in the way of S-E-X. I’m not saying we *need* it, I’m just surprised there’s not more variety out there.

Sex and pulp fiction (in that order) are two topics I spend quite a bit of time thinking about, and I’ve given some thought to their interaction too. I commented on Barry’s post:

I’m with you 100%.

One of the things I enjoy about The Spider is the fact that you get the sense that not only are Dick and Nina  rabidly loyal and utterly romantically enraptured with each other, they’re fucking like bunnies. I was bugged by Doc Savage’s apparent pre-adolescent state even when I was reading the books as a kid, and it bugs me even more now.

In my Doc Wilde series, Doc is a widower, but over the course of the stories he will start to develop romantic connections again (indeed, we’ll see some of it in the second book). But he’s already a warmer, in every way more emotional, hero than his literary ancestor. And his parents are very old but still quite youthful, and enjoying each other just as much as The Spider and his lady. (And I’ve already made reference to the fact that the elder Wilde, the “original” Doc Wilde from the pulp era, used to be very stoic and humorless, but his wife opened him up emotionally, making him more loving and playful, and, frankly, human).

Making my characters as human as possible is very important to me, and the stolid sexlessness of heroes like Doc Savage (and even the skirt-chasing antics of his sidekicks, who acted like horny thirteen year olds) is, to me, one of the unfortunate failings of those tales I love so much. (It reached its nadir in the terrible seventies Doc Savage movie, in which the most romantic thing Doc says to the gorgeous jungle princess is “Monja, you’re a brick.”)  Sex, romance, emotion in general, are all very interesting to readers because they’re human themselves. And it’s hard to take a hero completely seriously if he’s unable to function fully as a grown-up in the emotional world.

Granted, with Doc Savage’s background as essentially a cloistered lab experiment, it does make sense that he may not be emotionally mature, though it would have been nice to see him undergo an emotional puberty through the years and become more fully adult.

Of course, this literary neutering of the heroes resulted from an attempt to pander to young readers, just as through editorial edict Doc Savage very early on stopped killing bad guys on his adventures. In his earliest exploits, he was a lot more pragmatic, taking down mooks when he had to, but very quickly they made it so that he never killed anyone, relying heavily on non-lethal methods and gear, though many a villain did bring on their own demise and Doc didn’t shed a tear for them. They did this for the kids. But in those early stories, there is a jagged vibrancy that goes away when Doc gets too pacifistic, and as a horny thirteen year old (and as a horny much older year old) I missed that.

Just as I kept wishing Doc would actually bed one of these perky beauties who threw themselves at him all the time. Didn’t have to see it in detail. Coulda happened off-screen. But it would have been nice to know, for instance, that he was getting his ashes hauled by Princess Monja every time he got down to Hidalgo…

Far as I’m concerned, maybe he didn’t let Lester Dent know, but that’s exactly what was happening.

Good Memories of 2011, Day 3: New York City

In New York, with Phil. I'm the one with glasses. (Photo by Angela Rockstroh)

Looking back at the “good memories” I’ve already posted, and the ones I plan to write, it’s striking how interwoven the subjects are, and how personal. In previous years I’ve posted some personal stuff, some entertainment stuff. But this year, the topics all fit together, bright shards from the broken window that was my 2011.

Day 1 I wrote about the electroconvulsive therapy I underwent as part of my ongoing battle with chronic depression. Day 2 I wrote about the music of the lovely and amazing Brandi Carlile, because her songs helped me cope during the dark times (as well as delighting and moving me even when I was doing well). Those posts are further related via the romantic break-up I suffered just before opting for the electroshock, a romance that was born and died while I listened to Brandi’s songs.

Today, I’m writing about a trip to New York City to visit friends. In memory, and at the time, that trip was bittersweet, because the original plan was for my sweetheart to visit me for several days here in Atlanta, then I’d accompany her on her train trip back to Philly for a brief visit, after which I’d continue on to NYC.

By the time of the trip, my sweetie was my sweetie no longer, and wouldn’t give me the time of day. The tedious loneliness of hundreds of miles of Amtrak travel were magnified as I thought of how the trip might have been with her at my side. While the train stopped in Philadelphia, I thought of tweeting “I tracked my heart to Philadelphia, then lost the trail forever.” But the thought seemed pathetic, so I didn’t. Right call, I think.

Then, while talking about her with my friends one day while walking through a New York City park, I realized the street musicians we’d just passed were playing “I Just Saw A Face,” the Beatles song which, covered by Brandi Carlile, was the tune I most identified with the start of that love.

Oh, synchronicity, how you can fuck with a guy.

See how everything is intertwined? Continue reading

Good Memories of 2011, Day 2: Brandi Carlile

A lot of folks don’t know Brandi Carlile, which is a shame. I’ve been listening to her for a few years now, featuring her music here several times. She’s a wonderful talent. This year, no other artist was there for me as much as she was, in good times and in bad.

Early in the year, her live cover of The Beatles’ “I Just Saw A Face” perfectly captured the wonder and joy I felt when I looked at the woman I loved… Continue reading