By Gamal Hennessy
From my perspective, Susie Bright is a luminary in the genre of erotic fiction. Not only has she written, edited, and published several books on the subject over the years, her writing guide How to Write a Dirty Story has been an inspiration for all six of the novels I’ve written. I’ve wanted to read her first anthology The Best American Erotica 1993 for years, so when it went on sale on Audible, I downloaded it as soon as I could. Unfortunately, my experience was less than ideal.
The book does have positive qualities. First, there is a wide array of authors who contributed short stories to this collection and the range of erotic expression is very diverse. LGBT, straight and BDSM flavors are all mixed and represented here. Characters of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and economic realities all get time in the spotlight. And the range of sexual expression is also broad. Some characters fully explored their passions, others lost their chance just before they could attain satisfaction, and some struggled to repress or deny the only thing they couldn’t stop thinking about.
But all the stories shared similar flaws. The stories had little or no turning points, no crisis choice that the characters had to make to expose their true nature or alter their condition. They were unchanged from the beginning of the story to the end, and the sexual experiences they had (or didn’t have) did nothing to bring about change in their lives. What they did was on full display. Why they did it or how it defined them was always left out.
It doesn’t have to be that way in erotica or any other genre. We only have to look at the short stories in Delta of Venus, Night in a Moorish Harem or Erotic Interludes to see that sexual expression can be the catalyst for change in a character’s life. Of course, not every sexual encounter alters our existence, but when every story in a collection lacks that element, the whole book suffers.
In terms of the overall presentation of the audio book it’s also a mixed experience. The readers of each piece were very good and their voices matched the nature of the narrator well. However, most of the sex in this book skews towards the nonconsensual. There is diversity here too, as the scenarios range from lack of consent to rape and sustained torture. If you don’t enjoy those types of stories the book might be hard to get through.
Overall, I appreciated the diversity of Best American Erotica, but the stories themselves didn’t satisfy. The series continues for several more volumes, so perhaps the first one can be seen as a viable proof of concept.