why erotica publisher paul chan only uses women writers
The Guggenheim grant winning artist and his experimental publishing house stroke our largest sex organ with a new series of erotic fiction.
Paul Chan's press, Badlands Unlimited, has always published the unusual—a group exhibition in the form of an interactive e-book, a collection of Saddam Hussein's speeches on democracy, and a short story etched on a stone slab—but now, it is also publishing the erotic. This past spring, Badlands released the first three titles from 'New Lovers,' a series of short erotic fiction, and last weekend at the NY Art Book Fair, released three more. These new novellas have the same slick, purple covers as the first, but are "sexier, weirder and naughtier than ever." My Wet Hot Drone Summer by Lex Brown is a searing, sci-fi thriller with sex robots, pleasure machines and swingers; I Would Do Anything for Love by Al Bedell is a clever coming-of-age story in which the protagonist dreams of romance in a Pegasus-drawn carriage, but then has sloppy sex with a sequence of guys named Mike; and Burning Blue by Cara Benedetto is an intimate portrait of an epic love affair between two women—one of whom is "into blood." Benedetto writes in the book, "She recognized the faint smell of blood. Trish had her period. Josey delved in with renewed vigor, the sticky liquid filling her mouth… She imagined she looked like a she-wolf devouring its kill. She became the dripping snout with a quiet howl." In the following interview, Chan talks with us about 'New Lovers,' women writers, contemporary sexuality, and which fictional character he is most turned on by.
You presented three new erotic novels at the NYABF this past weekend. How was the fair?
Sweaty. Sublime. As usual.
Can you tell me about the three new books you presented there?
They were the newest 'New Lovers,' a series of erotic novellas we began publishing this year. New Lovers is inspired by Maurice Girodias' legendary Olympia Press and features the raw and uncut writings of authors who each have their own unique takes on relationships, intimacy and sex, as well as the complexities that bedevil contemporary life and culture today.
I read two of the three books last night—My Wet Hot Drone Summer and Burning Blue—and really enjoyed both, though for different reasons. How did you select the writers for the books?
Friends and friends of friends. Twitter. Tinder. Craigslist.
Why only women writers?
They are better writers, as far as we can tell.
How are women better writers? What qualities do their writing have that makes it better than men's?
We only know those qualities from the standpoint of erotica. And from where we stand, women writers understand what we at Badlands intuit—that in erotica, the biggest sex organ at play is the brain.
In The Paris Review, you said that you prefer manuscripts that are kind of awkward (as compared to well-oiled). There's a definite awkwardness when having sex with someone for the first time, and this absolutely heightens the experience—do you think it's the same with writing?
Obstacle qui excite l'ardeur.
Which character in these three books do you find yourself most attracted to, or turned on by, and why? For me, it's Evangeline from My Wet Hot Drone Summer, because of her freckled breasts and pink tile bathroom, which I found delightfully odd for a rich businesswoman from the future.
Hard to say. I like Evangeline too. I like her devil-may-care attitude. But then I also like how Cecily in I Would Do Anything For Love was stoic and smart at the same time. I would say the same for Trish in Burning Blue. They are young and sexy, but they also embody a curious worldly quality, as if there is nothing they couldn't handle. That's a turn on.
It seems a lot of creative people are interested in erotic content now, with an increasing number of magazines and journals on the topic (Adult, Odiseo, P, etc.). Why do you think that is? What do you think this says about contemporary sexuality?
It seems self-evident that the sexual imagery peddled by the corporate cultural industrial complex has done nothing to illuminate what it means to be a sexual being today, and what it means to please and be pleased. It is a realm of poverty of imagination where people suffer from sexual famine without feeling sexual hunger. This is why independent publishers and artists are turning their attention to it. We want more.
Who comes up with the book trailers? I love the new one for My Wet Hot Drone Summer with the flying, remote-controlled dildo from the book. I also love the choice of that Jodeci song.
We'll do something with Blackstreet next. Watch.
What's next for Badlands?
More of the same: amor intellectualis diaboli.
Text Zio Baritaux
Images courtesy Badlands Unlimited