For starters, writing a good story period is hard -- but erotica presents special challenges on top of that. An erotic story should be arousing to at least a good portion of the audience, yet different people are turned on by vastly different cues and story lines. To make matters worse, what's hot to one person is icky to another (and vice-versa). (I gather some people found my bad public sex stories arousing, even if that wasn't exactly the intention.) On top of all that, one's sexual fantasies are an incredibly personal thing to share. For myself, I usually invent my own situation and characters (with an elaborate and detailed back-story, etc.), but I'd hesitate to write them down -- because of what people would think. Hell, I even hesitate to tell you which storie(s) from The Best of Best American Erotica 2008 made me read them one-handed (so to speak), and I like writing about sex!!
Naturally, I was impressed with Susie Bright's "Best of the Best" anthology. As I explained in my top 10 erotic books post, after reading some of the more famous/popular erotic works (that didn't happen to match my particular kink), I kind of put the whole genre on the shelf. But this anthology is a better starting point than complete erotic novels if you'd like to give erotica a try -- it contains so many different types of scenarios that there's a high probability that at least one will tickle you in just the right way. And even the ones that don't have you reaching for your toys or partner are interesting enough to read just as stories.
Well, since this book is already the product of winnowing down fifteen years of erotic literature to just "the best of the best," I hate to winnow it down further. But I'll mention a few of my favorites:
Blue Light is one of the most fascinating as a story. I didn't find it arousing since (contrary to recent findings that straight women are aroused by all gender/orientation combinations), gay sex stories (of either gender) kind of leave me going "Meh, whatever." The Desires of Houses is at once beautiful and entertaining, while Tennessee is poignant and moving. Fleshlight is fun; Horny is intriguing. The well-known essay Are We Having Sex Now or What? is thought provoking as always -- so much so that it's inspired me to put up a related discussion (about Mormon sexuality) over on The Visitors' Center.
I think my favorite was probably The Casting Couch. Here's what the author says about it:
I liked writing a story that worked the way fantasy does -- switching points of view, starting and dropping story lines and scenes.
In my opinion, she succeeded at that goal. So, not only is it a fun fantasy, but the author really did capture the flow of a fantasy and make it work as a story rather than trying to squeeze a fantasy into a standard story format. I'll admit that when I mentally replayed it I recast the evil boss as a guy (which totally destroys any rainbow-friendly aspect and makes the story not-at-all P.C., but c'est la vie).
And now, the obligatory seasonal question: Should you get this book as a Christmas (or other holiday) present for all your closest friends?
It depends on how intimate you are (or want to be) with them. ;^)