Erotic Interludes 5: Road Games

Title: Erotic Interludes 5: Road Games
Edited by: Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, 2007
ISBN 10: 1933110775
ISBN 13: 978-1933110776
Rated: 3.5 Stars
Genre: Erotic Anthology

Reading this anthology of lesbian erotica is like riding a roller coaster or speeding down the highway in a vehicle that lets in a lot of fresh air. The theme of “road games” is broadly interpreted: some of these stories are about the brief ecstasy of long-distance lovers when they get together, some are about being stranded on the road by extreme weather, some are about taking one’s show on tour, and some are about games of chance in exotic locations. Kinesthesia, or the experience of movement, is important in these stories, which are all focused on immediate experience. Each of them involves a journey which is geographical as well as emotional, and a devilishly creative sexual game.

The plot of the story “Free Fall” by Julie Cannon seems characteristic of the collection as a whole. In this story, the lesbian narrator’s fairly humdrum life is interrupted when her friends send her on a tour for her fiftieth birthday. During an island stop, she impulsively chooses to go skydiving for the first time. The voluptuous female skydiving guide (who seems to be everything that the tourist is not) tells her:

“I know exactly what you want and I’m going to give it to you. You are going to scream with desire and come so hard your body will explode. And then you’ll go home and tell all your friends what a wonderful time you had in my country. Am I right?”

To the narrator’s amazement, the guide fulfills her promise while secured behind her during the few minutes that both are in free-fall. The narrator’s feeling of weightlessness seems to combine seamlessly with her growing excitement as the guide strokes her body through an opened zipper in her suit. The pacing of the description matches the narrator’s sense of distorted time. After she has landed, she feels transformed:

“With one last knowing smile I turned and walked toward the hangar, knowing that I would never again be the woman I was before I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.”

The compromise between wish-fulfillment and plausibility in this story is characteristic of this generous collection of 31 stories, only one of which can be clearly identified as sci-fi. Not all of them end as happily as “Free Fall,” nor do they all affirm that impulse decisions are usually wise. In the stories about long-distance relationships, the lovers must face a decision to go their separate ways or make a commitment which will inevitably involve sacrifices.

The importance of careers in these stories looks like part of the gestalt of lesbian life in our time. The use of particular sports, games or professional roles as sexual analogies in these stories seems to be part of a trend in lesbian erotica.

Road Games is the fifth anthology in the “Erotic Interludes” series from lesbian publisher Bold Strokes Books. This series looks parallel to the annual Best Lesbian Erotica series from Cleis Press, which apparently started the trend in 1995, and a copycat series, Ultimate Lesbian Erotica from Alyson Books. Lesbian websites, magazines such as On Our Backs (no longer in print) and video companies have helped contribute to the current availability of lesbian erotica, as distinct from the lesbian romances of yesteryear, which coyly referred to sex by means of predictable erotic imagery: women who purred and stretched like cats, desire between women as a tide, a pool or a river.

The steady growth of lesbian erotica since the mid-1990s is parallel to the influx of women into a variety of professions since the 1970s. Women’s jobs now show up regularly in erotic stories as essential elements in the plot and in the characters’ sexual magnetism.

For instance, Road Games includes a story about musicians on tour by a writer who actually sings and plays guitar in a band, and stories about other artists (professional dancers, a wannabe-actor-turned-masseuse, a magical chef), athletes (golfers, basketball players, martial artists), blue-collar workers (a trucker, a cop, a demolition expert, a “repo” woman), business owners, computer-savvy librarians and a “gigola.” The skills and working personas of the characters are described as erotically as their curves, and these can be biceps as well as breasts or hips. Similarly, the authors of stories which would probably have been unpublishable twenty years ago now attract enough fans to keep the genre alive and growing.

In the final story, “Test Drive” by Radclyffe (publisher and editor) a prospective car-buyer and the saleswoman who takes her out for a test drive seduce each other in double-entendres:
 

“’Do it,’ she whispered, and pressed down on the gas pedal.

The force of the engine accelerating surged through me, and I drew the slip of silk aside with one hand and stroked my swollen slit with the other.
 
‘Zero to sixty,’ I gasped, letting my head fall back against the window as I started to come. ‘In. . .oh, God. . . right now.’

Blaze laughed and reached across the space between us to caress my cheek softly. ‘That’s what I call high-performance.’
 
‘It’s not the engine,’ I murmured drowsily. ‘It’s the driver.’”

There is a thin line between wit and camp in some of these stories, and that is part of their charm.

A thin line which seems more problematic is suggested by the three stories in this volume which were written by Radclyffe and the one by her co-editor, Stacia Seaman. All four stories are diverse, entertaining, and well-constructed. However, an editor who also writes seems unlikely to have the same perspective on her own stories as she could have on the work of other writers.

Admittedly, the names of popular writers of lesbian erotica are guaranteed to pop up regularly in the same places. As a case in point, veterans Karin Kallmaker, Crin Claxton and Therese Szymanski all have stories in Road Games, and their novels and stories are also widely available elsewhere. And Radclyffe is certainly not the only editor who has arranged for the publication of her own work. Perhaps I tend to split hairs, but I can’t help wondering when the links between players in the same field become a conflict of interests. In fact, this type of ambiguity is one of the themes in the book under discussion!

Hair-splitting aside (unless hair-splitting is your pleasure), this book is exhilarating to read. It certainly isn’t your grandmother’s Oldsmobile.

REVIEWED BY JEAN ROBERTA

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