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Skin Effect: More Erotic Science Fiction And Fantasy Erotica Kindle Edition
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In the playful “Pret-a-Porter” (French for ready to wear), an introverted young woman buys a substance called “smartfabric” from a persuasive salesman, and no longer needs any other clothes. The substance forms itself into various garments in response to the wearer’s desire – and it knows her better than she consciously knows herself. Her visit to a nightclub named Hell could have led to a gruesome ending, but in this story, her new appearance in a new milieu is liberating.
“The Bell House Invitation” is a dizzying story, originally published in an anthology of gender-bending erotic fantasy.* Several house-mates of all genders and sexual orientations form a “pocket collective” based on a shared consciousness, and they collectively interview Sarah, a woman they hope will enhance their group relationship. This story fleshes out the theory that everyone is at least potentially pansexual, and that if we all had access to each other’s consciousness (as every reader can see the world through the eyes of different characters), we could be intimate on levels that once seemed impossible. It’s a noble premise, but this reviewer found the multiple perspectives distracting in a short story. A novel might have given the collective a more spacious “house.”
“Happy Birthday” shows multiple identities over time rather than coexisting in the present. An individual consciousness has explored different eras and environments, and has acquired enormous knowledge as a result.
Two stories in Skin Effect were reprinted from The Mammoth Book of Erotic Romance and Domination, one of editor Maxim Jakubowski’s “mammoth” erotic anthologies. “[Title Forgotten]” is about the general human desire to erase painful memories, and the parallel desire to recover them in order to understand their influence on the present. The other story, “The Subsequent State,” is the most moving story in the collection (in this reviewer’s opinion), and it brilliantly captures both the visceral effects of growing up in a culture of religious intolerance and the relief of escape into a “green” culture which is not damned but salvational.
The nine stories in this collection are bracketed by an introduction by Ernest Hogan, “Dirty Minds Across Space, Time and Beyond,” and the author’s afterword: “It’s NOT the End of the World as We Know It – And I Feel Fine.” M. Christian’s rejection of dystopian endings explains the upbeat tone of most of these stories as well as his belief that the real world is not necessarily doomed. This afterword serves as a better introduction to the stories than the opening piece by another writer. M. Christian explains his optimism:
“Pretty soon the world is not going to split into have-nots and haves but rather the smart and the dumb. Sure, the superrich will buy their way out like they always have but just look at the world right now: you have folks who are repairing, making do, making things last, buying affordable and durable, and actually having the gall to enjoy their simpler lives.” He goes on to say: “Nuclear war and/or biological attack? Pish . . As I told my hysterical friends on September 11th, the terrorists showed anything but brains in their attacks.”
In these stories, human ingenuity combined with the human desire to connect with other humans is shown to have the power to outlast whatever seems to threaten human survival. It’s an exhilarating message.
*Up for Grabs 2: Exploring More Worlds of Gender, edited by Lauren Burka (Circlet Press, 2011).
This isn’t ‘hard’ sci-fi or conventional genre erotica, but, indeed, something quite extraordinary: less Frankenstein’s monster genre hybrid than the precocious love child of an optimistic speculative fiction (Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov) and a mature, deeply self-aware literary sensualism. If it must be classified, then I would suggest a brand new subgenre: call it ‘techno-sexual.’
And what do we find in this brave, sometimes bewildering new world? Trans-humanism that does not—cannot—forget its humanity. Awesome technical capability with the aura of magic, though, in the end, it cannot assuage our deepest longings, our atavistic thirst for mystery. Hyper-connectedness that cannot sate our hunger to touch, and feel, and remember . . .
The writing can be dense, knotty, sometimes overlong to a point where potential dramatic impact is diluted, the final ironic twists coming too little and just a bit too late to dazzle. Yet, the collection does have its share of truly amazing moments, inspired imagining, sparks of the ingenious. 'Prêt-à-Porter' tells a marvelous tale of a futuristic garment that—virtually miraculously—adjusts to the desires and moods of its wearer. 'The Bell House Invitation' brilliantly takes the ideas of collective consciousness and cyber-community to their logical—and, perhaps, a tad disturbing—extremes. 'The Potter’s Wheel' and '[Title Forgotten]' imagine worlds in which connectedness makes us omniscient yet utterly incapable of knowing our deepest selves.
There is much to ponder and enjoy here. Enthusiastically recommended!