Sacchi Green knows good lesbian sex writing

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If you haven’t spent time with Sacchi Green or aren’t yet familiar with who she is, you are missing titles such as Best Lesbian Erotica, Me and My Boi: Queer Erotic Stories or Wild Girls, Wild Nights. Many of Sacchi’s books are queer erotica, each composed of multiple short stories written by several different writers and edited by Sacchi herself.

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After reading Best Lesbian Erotica, I decided to chat with Sacchi about how she started writing for the genre, her process of selecting stories for publication, and how queer erotica has evolved over time.

AfterEllen: How did you become the editor for the Best Lesbian Erotica series?

Sacchi Green: I’ve edited quite a few lesbian erotica anthologies, but each on different themes, so it’s fair to say that Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year is my first time doing an actual volume in a series. I do have a long history with the series, though, and in fact, I may be the first person who realized that 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of these iconic books. Tristan Taormino began the tradition in 1996, editing BLE for Cleis Press through 2009. Kathleen Warnock guided the series through 2014, and since then the trend has been to have a different editor every year. My own very first venture into writing lesbian erotica was included in the 1999 volume, and nine more have made it since then, so to be chosen for this 20th-anniversary edition means a great deal to me.

 

AE: What is it about queer erotica that interests you?

SG: Well, my first answer is that my muse just happens to be oriented that way. I’d started out writing science fiction and fantasy short stories, often with a subtle lesbian subtext, but when I came across Tristan’s call for submissions all those years ago it was literary love–and lust–at first sight. My instant reaction was, “I can do that!” And it turned out that I could, although I was amazed when that first attempt was accepted.

Another answer is that some stories demand an erotic element to be what they should be, and sometimes (most of the time, for mine) they work best from a lesbian perspective. Erotica can be as well-written and stimulating to both mind and senses as any other branch of writing. Erotic interchanges are essential parts of character development, dealing with heightened emotions and sometimes, especially with queer people, heavily weighted baggage from past experiences. Shyness or confidence, impulsiveness or self-control, tenderness, vulnerability, repression, unapologetic sensuality; these are only a few of the traits that can surface in the heat of a sexual encounter.

With same-sex characters, the complex nature of life for the whole LGBTQ+ spectrum adds an edge of potential risk, whether overt or unspoken and sometimes an aura of transgression, all of which make powerful elements for storytelling. Beyond all that, those complexities and risks in our LGBTQ+ lives make reading erotica especially important for us. The reflection of our own desires, fantasies and identities becomes validation and celebration, even more essential than the physical and emotional charge they offer.

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AE: What is your process for choosing the stories that get published in the books? What are you looking for?

SG: Once I have a proposal accepted by a publisher, I write up a call for submissions with all the details as to publisher, preferred word count, deadline for submissions, payment offered, etc. I post that CFS on my Facebook and blog sites and on the most comprehensive market listing I know of for erotica of all flavors. From there it spreads through various networks of writers via the proverbial grapevine.

What am I looking for and how do I choose stories? While I love working with writers I’ve come to know and admire, and new writers who’ve just come to the realization that “I can do that!” the way I did so long ago, my first priority is always making the book as well-written, varied, and balanced as I possibly can. For a title like Best Lesbian Erotica, that’s especially hard. “Best” is a subjective matter, and sometimes I had to choose one from among multiple stories of equal quality when their themes were too similar.

My call for submissions always includes a description of what I’m looking for, but I get a special charge from stories that surprise me with something I didn’t even know I wanted, just like the best sex. The central figures must be lesbian, believable, fully developed characters. Give me vividly drawn settings and plots or story arcs that grip the reader and don’t let go. Originality is especially welcome; write the story that only you can write.

And, of course, I want intense sex scenes that flow naturally from the story as a whole. All flavors of sensuality are welcome, from vanilla to BDSM to edgy frontiers that surprise and startle the reader.

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AE: In what ways has queer erotica changed from when it first started to today?

SG: The biggest change is probably the medium. Any kind of erotica has become much easier to obtain and to read–even in public–in this age of ebooks, and easier to publish, too, which has led to an overwhelming flood of choices available.

As far as quality of content goes, back in the early years, Best Lesbian Erotica included major lesbian writers still writing today, like Dorothy Allison, Pat Califia, Kate Bornstein, Jewelle Gomez and Joan Nestle, to name just a few. Erotic short stories were not their main concern, but when they did turn to that niche they knew the territory. I’ve heard one or two opinions that the first couple of volumes weren’t all that “hot” or kinky enough, but with Pat Califia in the mix, I find that hard to believe. What Tristan Taormino did was to recognize the potential of short story erotica, attract good writers, and validate the genre and those of us who read and write it with well-edited, professionally published, and widely marketed anthologies.

Another obvious change is that what was “contemporary” fiction 20 years ago could qualify as “historical” now, although much of what was written then could just as easily have been written today. I know most people assume that erotic writing is sexier now, more explicit, dirtier, whatever term lights a fire low in their Levis, and it’s true that writers like to think that they’re pushing the envelope into forbidden territory, but that territory is getting mighty hard to find. There may be more fetish, kinky, and BDSM material available now than there was 20 years ago, and it may be getting into the “mainstream,” but it’s not all that new.

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For more on Sacchi, visit her blog.

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