Monday, December 2, 2013

Coming Up: Future Sex At The SF Citadel!

(from M.Christian's Classes And Appearances)

This is gonna be a blast!  I'm going to be teaching my very fun class called Future Sex for the always-great SF Citadel on December 10th.  Here's the info:


Tuesday, December 10, 2013 · 8:00 PM –10:00 PM  

SF Citadel Community Center

181 Eddy Street, San Francisco, CA

Cost: $20 at the door or $15 in advance using WePay: www.wepay.com/events/sfc-class-12102013



Welcome to the World Of Tomorrow! Sure, we have iPads, iPhones, Viagra, the staggering depths of the Internet, but what could the day after tomorrow bring? In this combination discussion and lecture, participants will share in some thought experiments on what sex may be like in the year year – or the next thousand years. Subjects included will be speculations on drug and chemical enhancements, extrapolation on current – and future – consumer technology, where gender and sexual orientation may be headed, the idea of artificial implants and enhancements, and even the prospects of intimate encounters with cyborgs, androids, robots, and artificial intelligences.



About the presenter:


M. Christian has been an active participant in the San Francisco BDSM scene since 1988, and has been a featured presenter at the Northwest Leather Celebration, smOdyssey, the Center For Sex and Culture, The National Sexuality Symposium, QSM, San Francisco Sex Information, The Citadel, The Looking Glass, The Society of Janus, The Floating World, Winter Solstice, and lots of other venues. He has taught classes on everything from impact play, tit torture, bondage, how to write and sell erotica, polyamory, cupping, caning, and basic SM safety.



M. Christian is also a recognized master of BDSM erotica with more than 400 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and many other anthologies, magazines, and other sites; editor of 2t anthologies such as the Best S/M Erotica series, Pirate Booty, My Love For All That Is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica, and more; the collections Dirty Words, The Bachelor Machine, Love Without Gun Control, Rude Mechanicals, and more; and the novels Running Dry, The Very Bloody Marys, Me2, Finger's Breadth, Brushes, and Painted Doll. His site is www.mchristian.com

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Circlet Likes Technorotica

How wonderful - check out this very flattering review of my technophilia-laced collection Technorotica: Stories Shattering the Ultimate Taboo by Gayle C. Straun at the Circlet Press site:

Technorotica is a compendium of two previous M. Christian books, Better than the Real Thing and Rude Mechanicals, accompanied by an excerpt from Painted Doll (previously reviewed here) closing out the volume. Two of the stories previously appeared in Circlet Press’s The Bachelor Machine (reviewed here), while two others appeared in the Circlet anthologies Selling Venus and Up for Grabs 2
Some readers may initially feel that Technorotica constitutes one of those “best of” albums whose contents fail to gel into a thematic whole, perhaps appreciated more for its individual parts, especially since some stories explore such science fiction conceits as cybernetics and collective consciousness, while others plod the more real-world territory of matchmaking over the modem or even having sex with a blow-up toy ball. But therein lies the rub (pun intended), for by including such an array of stories, M. Christian reminds us that our sexuality is already augmented with things “unnatural;” that human beings, social creatures that we are, already get off using a variety of apparatus developed by our society–or, to put it another way, handcuffs and riding crops don’t occur in nature, y’all. The title character in “Billie” reaches the heights of bliss riding her Harley Davidson, while Pell in “Speaking Parts” is driven to distraction by the bionic eye of her lover-to-be Arc, a “masterpiece watch set in a crystal sphere, the iris a mandala of glowing gold.” Failed lawyer Stanley in “KSRN” dreams his dreams of wealth and power, of women like commodities, owned: “Their skin became polished, imported. Their bodies took on the lines of fine European manufacturers… Their breasts gleamed chrome, the highlights of their curves reflecting into the night, into his eyes–airflow eroticism, calling to him.” Meanwhile, the prostitute Fields in “State” acts the part of an android for high dollar customers who would probably be repelled to learn of her true humanity. 
Just as we homo sapiens have tweaked our consciousnesses with a variety of substances since the earliest days of our species, so, too, have we augmented our sexuality. As Lenore Tiefer titled her groundbreaking book, Sex Is Not a Natural Act, and it never has been. If there is a common theme tying together these stories, tying together the simple and sweet tale of a couple’s first use of a vibrator with that of a person who hires out her body by a form of remote control, then that’s it. Sex is not a natural act, and it never has been. 
The artist Mark Rothko famously quipped, “Certain people always say we should go back to nature. I notice they never say we should go forward to nature.” And that is where M. Christian takes us in this collection–forward to nature. Forward–to discover our natures.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Future Fire Likes Love Without Gun Control

Now this is a treat: not only did the folks at Future Fire ("social political and speculative cyber-fiction") like The Bachelor Machine, my collection of erotic science fiction, but they also just posted a nice review of my non-erotic collection of fantasy/science fiction/horror, Love Without Gun Control:

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when Love Without Gun Control  showed up to be reviewed. The cover is very retro-pulp-comic, a scene on Mars, all bright colors and simple lines, misleading as to the  content. It seems more like a graphic-novel cover, or a series of 70's porn. The book itself is quite thin, only 155 pages. I was pleasantly surprised. The collection opens with the eponymous story, ‘Love Without Gun Control’, published for the first time in this collection. Ultra-violent and rather bizarre, it is somewhat reminiscent of a D. Harlan Wilson story. A sort of modern-day Western romance, the story really does defy labeling as it shows the effects of one snake-oil doctor’s ‘love potion’, applied erroneously, and the destruction that can come from thwarted desire. A fun, rollicking ride with a very unique flavor.

The second story, ‘Needle Taste’, is a unique concept with an ambiguous ending. The story itself is a totally different beast from the previous tale, but the wistful tone holds up the strange story well enough until the end, when it feels a little... abrupt. If there’s a weak one in the bunch, it’s this one, simply on a relative scale. It is in no way a bad one, it just doesn’t have quite the force of the others.
...seeking a forever-quiet man in the whole buzzing, humming, singing, cackling city.
‘Hush Hush’ is my favorite story in the collection. The language is absolutely beautiful: weird, eery and slippery. The tale is half mystery, half internal journey. Whether he solves the mystery or not is really unimportant. What he learns along the way is not. This was a lovely to read for the language as for the story.

‘The Rich Man’s Ghost’ is probably my least favorite of the stories. It lacks the smoothness of voice, the weird beauty of most of the other pieces. The story is a little less Weird, too, and maybe that colors my opinion.

‘Wanderlust’ is one of the stories that I’m not really sure, at first, how I feel about it. On the one hand, the reader is kept in the dark until the very end of the story. I simply didn’t have a clue what was going on. On the other hand, the writing is very rich, so it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to enjoy the ride. A man who inspires absolute  ecstasy from everyone he meets comes across a bit thin at first, but their reactions if he stays around for longer than a few minutes are... interesting.

‘Orphan’ is chilling and haunting. A young man running from something, to something, carrying a horrible secret. There were a couple of places that could have used a clarity edit or that read a little  contrived, but overall, definitely a memorable piece worth reading again.

Really, though, I’d be hard-pressed to say that any story in this collection is best skipped over or read in a hurry. There’s just enough  variation in the stories to keep them unique, and enough cohesion to develop a voice that just draws me in more deeply, the farther I read. (The first story is an odd difference to the rest of them, but no less enjoyable.) The cover-art remains a sticking point, as it has no apparent connection to the content, and prose like this needs something lovely to wrap it up, and what it has is not something I would be wild about displaying on a shelf.

Read this one slowly, because each story is best savored and mulled over. And I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of M. Christian’s stories.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ernest Hogan On Love Without Gun Control

Did I say cool - when I was talking about being blown-away by one of my favorite writers blurbing The Bachelor Machine?  What I mean to say is extremely cool as he just sent me a blub for my non-smutty collection, Love Without Gun Control.  Thanks again, Ernest - yer the best!

A few years ago I tried to read a tasteful literary magazine full of stories where nothing much happened, and the authors and characters were proud of it. The stories in LOVE WITHOUT GUN CONTROL are not like that. M. Christian lets the reader have it with booth barrels in story after story that set a new standard for Twenty-First Century pulp fiction. From far-out science fiction to gritty, hardboiled realities these are the kind of stories that make the reader hang on for dear life on a wild ride.
Ernest Hogan

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Patrick Califia Likes Rude Mechanicals

This is a very special treat: a blurb from the legendary Patrick Califia - a great writer and an even greater friend - for my technorotica collection, Rude Mechanicals.

Thanks, Pat!



Here is the latest collection of M.Christian's insightful and original work. Fabulous! I have yet to read anything Chris has written without feeling that my own assumptions were challenged, and I was pushed to think about sexuality, politics, gender, and literature in a whole different way. There aren't enough people who can write from the polymorphous perverse perspective that he seamlessly adopts. He is a genuine ally of sexual minority communities and has walked the walk and talked the talk in dozens of different erotic and edgy experiences. If you'd like to expand your horizons and spread your wings (or your legs, or somebody else's legs), you couldn't have a better guide than the wise, wry, irreverent, and twisted M.Christian.
-Patrick Califia, author of Mortal Companion, Hard Men, and Macho Sluts.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Excerpt: Better Than the Real Thing


Now here's a treat: the great folks at 4-Letter Words not just feature a lot of my books but also just posted a sweet excerpt from my new collection, Better Than the Real Thing.  Check out the story, "A Light Minute" over there ... but in the meantime here's a tease:
How are you today?  was all the message said.  It was their ritual, a tight tradition between them.  Sasha was an night timer, a sunset-to-dawn kind of girl.  Before she crawled into her “warm flannel cave and drew sleep up over her eyes” (she’d written) she always left that message for Alyx to find in her own preferred morning.

Happy, Alyx sent back with a flutter of keystrokes, love you.  Another ritual, much more recent.  Alyx felt it, though, with a tug of hesitation, a grip in her chest of uncertainty.  It might well have been totally true, that Sasha was the love of her life – but they’d never met.

So much was known – despite all that was unknown (the sound of her voice, the way she smiled) – that Alyx was very certain about the feelings she had for the tiny, dark-haired girl with the sweet little bulb of a nose, deeply tanned cheeks and vibrant brown eyes (I’m a Mediterranean princess who likes the night): a color print of her framed neat over her machine’s monitor.  Even without hearing her voice or really seeing her face (beyond the picture she’d transmitted) she knew that Sasha somehow fitted perfectly into her life.  Their conversations, though time-delayed, hummed and clicked with a familiarity that belied their three month relationship.

At first Alyx was hesitant about venturing into the electronic unknown.  The world was still much too loud, hard, and brilliant for her back then to learn the unfathomable language of baud, server, gateway, and the like.  Jo had left her – taken her pictures, blankets, clothes, books, and herself and left Alyx nothing but her little Santa Cruz bungalow.  That, and a series of pains when Alyx did anything – anything at all.  Till, that is, her brother smashed open her front door, emitting a torrent of painful light and crashing street noise and slammed down a small box next to her antique computer.  In a sympathetic whisper that sounded like a torrent of dishware pouring down a tin-shod mountainside, he had said, “If you won’t go out, maybe at least you’ll meet someone else.”
[MORE]

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Circlet Likes Technorotica

How wonderful - check out this very flattering review of my technophilia-laced collection Technorotica: Stories Shattering the Ultimate Taboo by Gayle C. Straun at the Circlet Press site:

Technorotica is a compendium of two previous M. Christian books, Better than the Real Thing and Rude Mechanicals, accompanied by an excerpt from Painted Doll (previously reviewed here) closing out the volume. Two of the stories previously appeared in Circlet Press’s The Bachelor Machine (reviewed here), while two others appeared in the Circlet anthologies Selling Venus and Up for Grabs 2
Some readers may initially feel that Technorotica constitutes one of those “best of” albums whose contents fail to gel into a thematic whole, perhaps appreciated more for its individual parts, especially since some stories explore such science fiction conceits as cybernetics and collective consciousness, while others plod the more real-world territory of matchmaking over the modem or even having sex with a blow-up toy ball. But therein lies the rub (pun intended), for by including such an array of stories, M. Christian reminds us that our sexuality is already augmented with things “unnatural;” that human beings, social creatures that we are, already get off using a variety of apparatus developed by our society–or, to put it another way, handcuffs and riding crops don’t occur in nature, y’all. The title character in “Billie” reaches the heights of bliss riding her Harley Davidson, while Pell in “Speaking Parts” is driven to distraction by the bionic eye of her lover-to-be Arc, a “masterpiece watch set in a crystal sphere, the iris a mandala of glowing gold.” Failed lawyer Stanley in “KSRN” dreams his dreams of wealth and power, of women like commodities, owned: “Their skin became polished, imported. Their bodies took on the lines of fine European manufacturers… Their breasts gleamed chrome, the highlights of their curves reflecting into the night, into his eyes–airflow eroticism, calling to him.” Meanwhile, the prostitute Fields in “State” acts the part of an android for high dollar customers who would probably be repelled to learn of her true humanity. 
Just as we homo sapiens have tweaked our consciousnesses with a variety of substances since the earliest days of our species, so, too, have we augmented our sexuality. As Lenore Tiefer titled her groundbreaking book, Sex Is Not a Natural Act, and it never has been. If there is a common theme tying together these stories, tying together the simple and sweet tale of a couple’s first use of a vibrator with that of a person who hires out her body by a form of remote control, then that’s it. Sex is not a natural act, and it never has been. 
The artist Mark Rothko famously quipped, “Certain people always say we should go back to nature. I notice they never say we should go forward to nature.” And that is where M. Christian takes us in this collection–forward to nature. Forward–to discover our natures.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Circlet Press Likes Painted Doll

While this isn't exactly a rave, I just had to share this review from the Circlet Press site about my cyberpunky erotic novel, Painted Doll, if just for the touching Woody Allen line ...

Disguises are as ancient as humanity. Think the biblical story of Tamar, who masks herself as a harlot so as to seduce her father-in-law, or call to mind every myth in which a god walks the earth in the guise of a mortal. Or you might recall Bertilak de Hautdesert, who appears to King Arthur and his men as the supernatural Green Knight. And is there any play of Shakespeare’s in which a character does not, at some point, don the garb of another to either comic or tragic effect?

In most of these stories, the disguise is adopted freely, but what about those cases in which an alternate personality is imposed upon someone who is fully conscious of the fact? How will she handle it, especially if her life, and the life of the one whom she loves, depends upon maintaining this ill-fitting fiction every moment of every day? These are the questions posed by M. Christian in Painted Doll: An Erotist’s Tale, an erotist being a body artist who specializes in neurochemical paints that evoke the purest emotion when applied to bare skin. The particular erotist at the center of this story is Domino—cold, calculating, and ultimately professional, the complete opposite of the shy and awkward Claire Munroe, who she once was, before her underworld boss Taka ordered her execution due to suspicion of theft. To escape his clutches, Claire became Domino, while her lover, a woman named Flower, fled to a commune in New Zealand. Though they yearn for each other every waking and dreaming moment, they must remain apart lest they attract the attention of Taka’s assassins, while Claire has to play Domino to the hilt, mixing the demureness of the geisha with the aloofness of one of the three Fates, even though every moment as Domino kills a little more of Claire, the woman who wants nothing more than to rest in her lover’s arms again and be safe.

[MORE]

Rude Mechanicals (JIRO MATSUMOTO)


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Speaking Parts" Excerpt From Technorotica and Rude Mechanicals

Here's a teasing taste from my ebook, Rude Mechanicals, and from the dead-trees book Technorotica (which is Rude Mechanicals plus Better Than The Real Thing): a bit from the novella "Speaking Parts."



Pell remembered seeing Arc’s eye—it was the first thing she’d noticed.

Tourmaline and onyx. Silver and gold. A masterpiece watch set in a crystal sphere, the iris a mandala of glowing gold. Her blinks were a camera shutter’s, as imagined by the archetypal Victorian engineer but built by surgical perfection not found anywhere in Pell’s knowledge. The woman’s left eye was jeweled and precise, clicking softly as the woman looked around the gallery, as if the engineers who’d removed her original wet, gray-lensed ball had orchestrated a kind of music to go with their marvelous creation: a background tempo of perfect watch movements to accompany whatever she saw through their marvelous and finely crafted sight. Click, click, click.

An eye like that should have been in a museum, not mounted in a socket of simple human skin and bone, Pell had thought. It should have been in some other gallery, some better gallery, allowed only to look out at, to see other magnificent creations of skilled hands. Jare’s splashes of reds and blues, his shallow paintings were an insult to the real artistry of the woman’s eye.

That’s what Pell thought, at first, seeing Arc – but only seeing Arc’s perfect, mechanical eye.

Pell didn’t like to remember first seeing her that way – through the technology in her face. But it felt, to her, like it had its own kind of ironic perfection to deny it. So Pell lived with the biting truth that she didn’t, at first, see Arc – for her eye.

But later, right after she got momentarily lost in the beauty of Arc’s implant, the woman looked at Pell with her real eye, the gray, penetrating right one – and Pell forgot about the tourmaline, onyx, silver and gold machine.

She had finally seen Arc, herself – the woman, and not the simple, mechanical part. Next to her, the eye was cheap junk: a collection of metal, old rocks, and wires.

#
 
She wasn’t Arc at first. She began as just the woman with the perfectly created eye. Then she was the beautiful woman. Then she was the woman where she didn’t belong. Seeing her eye, then seeing her, Pell lastly saw her as oil, the kind of oil you’d see pooling in the street, that had somehow managed to make its way into a glass of wine. Agreed, it was cheap red wine – something out of a box and not even a bottle, but, still – she was oil. She didn’t belong and that was obvious, despite the cheapness of the gallery. She could tell, cataloging her bashed and scuffed boots, noting her threadbare jeans, her torn T-shirt, that amid clean jeans and washed (and too black) turtlenecks, she was a discordant tone among the harmonious poseurs in Jare’s tiny South of Market studio.

The woman was aware of her discrepancy. She wandered the tiny gallery with a very large plastic tumbler of vin very ordinare, stopping only once in a while to look at one of Jare’s paintings.

Holding her wine tight enough to gently fracture the cheap plastic with cloudy stress lines, Pell watched her, stared at the tall – all legs and angles, broad and strong – woman with the artificial eye. She tried not to watch her too closely or too intently, sure that if she let slip her fascination she’d scare her off – or worse, bring on an indifferent examination of Pell. Through a sad ballet of a slightly curved lip and a stare that was nothing more than a glance of the eyes, the woman would see Pell but wouldn’t – and that would be an icy needle in Pell’s heart.

Pell had already taken too many risks that night. She already felt like she’d stepped off the edge and had yet to hit the hard reality of the ground. Traps and tigers, beasts and pitfalls for the unwary loomed all around Pell. She moved through her days with a careful caution, delicately testing the ice in front of her, wary of almost-invisible, murky lines of fault. She knew they were there, she’d felt the sudden falling of knowing she’d stepped too far, moved too quickly, over something that had proven, by intent or accident, not to be there. Pell didn’t push on the surface, didn’t put all her weight, or herself, on anything.

But then everything changed. She’d seen Arc and her eye.

The plastic cup chimed once, then collapsed in on itself. Turning first into a squashed oval, the glass cracked, splintered, then folded, the white seams of stress turning into sharp fissures of breakage. The red, freed of its cheap plastic prison, tumbled, cascaded out and down onto her.

Pell had worn something she knew wouldn’t fit with the rest of the crowd. The official color of San Francisco, she knew, would fill the place with charcoal and soot, midnight and ebony. White, she’d decided, would pull some of their eyes to her, make her stand out – absence of color being alone in a room full of people dressed in all colors, combined.

"Looks good on you."

The shock of the wine on her white blouse tumbled through Pell as an avalanche of warmth flowed to her face. The decision to wear white that night had come from a different part of herself, a part that had surprised her. Now she was furiously chastising that tiny voice, that fashion terrorist who had chosen the blouse over other, blacker ones.

And so Pell responded, "Not as good as you would" to the tall, leggy, broad shouldered girl with the artificial eye. Which was beautiful, but not as beautiful as the rest of her.

#

Pell’s reason for being at the gallery was Jare. Although she could never wrap her perceptions around the gaunt boy’s paintings, she still came when he asked. Jare, Pell, Fallon, Rasp and Jest. They weren’t close – but then foxhole buddies aren’t always. They weren’t in combat, but they could be. All it would take would be one computer talking to another – no stable job history, thus conscription.

All it took were two computers, passing pieces of information back and forth. Till that happened, they hid and watched the possibility of a real foxhole death in a hot, sweaty part of Central America fly by.

Foxhole buddies. It was Jare’s term – some fleck of trivia that’d hung around him. They didn’t have an official name for their tiny society of slowly (and in some cases not too slowly) starving artists, but Pell was sure that Jare would smile at his trivial term being immortalized among a band of too-mortal kids.

That was Jare. While the rest of them tried to focus on pulling their paintings (Pell, Jare, and Rasp), music (Jest), and sculpture (Fallon) as high as they could, there was something else about Jare – something, like his paintings, that refused to be understood. His techniques were simple enough, broad strokes of brilliant color on soot-black canvas, but his reasons were more convoluted.

Or maybe, Pell had thought earlier that evening (before turning a white blouse red and seeing the woman with the artificial eye for the first time) both man and his work were simple: broad, bold statements designed to do nothing but catch attention. He was like his paintings, a grab for any kind of attention – an explanation too simple to be easily seen.

In the tiny bathroom, Pell tried to get the wine out of her blouse. Contradictory old wives’ tails: first she tried cold, then hot water. The sink ran pink and so, soon, did her blouse.

The woman with the eye stood outside the door, a surprisingly subtle smile on her large mouth. Every once and a while she’d say something, as if throwing a bantering line to the shy girl inside to keep her from drowning in embarrassment.

"Who’s he foolin? I can do better crap than this with a brush up my ass.”

"You should see this chick’s dress. Looks like her momma’s – and momma didn’t know how to dress, either.”

"Too many earrings, faggot. What year do you think this is?

"Hey, girl. Get out here with that shirt. It’s better looking than this fucking stuff on the walls."

Cold water on her hands, wine spiraling down the sink. Distantly, Pell was aware that her nipples were hard and tight – and not from the chill water. Down deep and inside, she was wet. It was a basic kind of primal moisture, one that comes even in the burning heat of humiliation. Finally, the blouse was less red than before. Planning to run to where she’d dropped her old leather coat to hide the stigmata of her clumsiness, her excitement in two hard brown points, she opened the door.

The tall woman smiled down at her, hot and strong. In one quick sweep of her eyes, Pell drank her tall length, strong shoulders, columnar legs. She was trapped, held fast between the hot eyes she knew must have been staring at her, pinning her straight to her embarrassment, and the presence of the woman.

Her eye, the eye, clicked a quick chime of precision – as if expanding its limits to encompass the totality of Pell. Pell did not mind her intense examination. It added, with a rush of feelings, to the quaking in her belly, the weakness in her knees.

"Gotta splash. Wait right here,” Arc said.

Of course she waited.

After a few hammering heartbeats, the door opened and she came out – butchly tucking her T-shirt back into her jeans – and Pell was again at the focus of her meticulously designed sight.

"You live anywhere close? I’m tired of this shit. You?"

"Down the block. Just on the corner," Pell said, trying hard not to smile too much.

The woman downed the small sample of red in her glass and, looking for a place to put it down, and not finding any, just dropped it with a sharp plastic clatter on the floor. "Show me. It can’t be worse than here. Too many fucking artists."


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Folks Are Saying About Painted Doll

Here are some very nice (and very flattering) blurbs I've got for my erotic SF novel, Painted Doll:


M.Christian's claimed BDSM science fiction cyberpunk novel is back in print - a tale of futuristic sexual submission and domination! One of the pleasures of a dystopic future is the erotists, professionals who paint their clients' bared skin with neurochemicals that induce all forms of sensation - even pain. Erotists offer landscapes of ecstasy, sexual extremes, joy, and delight. Few citizens can afford the skills of the talented Domino. Fewer still know her identity is but a mask. Beneath the facade, Claire hides from a vicious crime lord who would not only kill her but her childhood lover. But the mask of Domino is beginning to crack... Strange sexual pairings and strange sexual practices highlight this futuristic noir tale, set in a wildly imaginative erotic future, exploring who we are and the sexual awakenings that occur when we become someone else.
When I pick up a book by M.Christian, I know that I'll be surprised and delighted. Whether he's targeting horror, thriller, scifi or erotica genres, or some creative mixture, he never fails to deliver an original perspective.
- Lisabet Sarai, author of Incognito and Fire 
And now for something completely different...do you read erotica? The Painted Doll, by M. Christian, will give you that jolt you're searching for. The Painted Doll is about a dominatrix, but hold on! This is no ordinary "Yes Mistress, may I have another" story. The Painted Doll is set in a world unlike any you've seen. A bizarre look into a future world of sexuality and identity as we follow a dominatrix on the run. Leave it to Mr. Christian to give us a well crafted, erotic love story that you'll be slow to forget.
- Jolie du Pre, author of erotica and erotic romance. 
The Painted Doll hides a kaleidoscope world behind her mask. As she removes it a splintered existence unfolds, darkly erotic, cruel and tarnished, the pearl at its centre an intense love story. Erotic, familiar yet alien, harshly compelling and eerily haunting - few writers can convey the myriad spectrum of the sensory world like M. Christian.
- Saskia Walker has had erotic fiction published in over fifty anthologies and is the author of several novellas and novels 
M.Christian is one hell of a writer. He paints his universes and characters in full, living color, thrills the reader with non-stop action. A no-holds-barred storyteller, he embraces his reader at the start and doesn't let go until long after the end.
- Mari Adkins, Apex Publications contributing editor 
M.Christian is the chameleon of modern erotica. One day punk, another romantic; one day straight, another totally perverse and polyamorous. But always sexy and and gripping.
- Maxim Jakubowksi is the editor of the Mammoth Book of Erotica series 
With his amazing versatility and silky smooth prose, M. Christian helped forge the erotica revolution of the 1990s and he’s still going strong!
- Donna George Storey, author of Amorous Woman 
A non-stop ride of precise prose and unexpected imagery. Painted Doll is another M. Christian gem; a seamless blend of the erotic with the darkly fantastic. Unpredictable, engaging, and an often startling read.
- Marilyn Jaye Lewis, author of Freak Parade 
No matter how long I've been at the erotica game, M. Christian continues to surprise me. With Painted Doll, he again proves that his imagination knows no bounds. The first pages sucked me into the story, and I couldn't stop reading. Who was this woman? Who was she...really? Provocative and unique, Painted Doll is M. Christian at his finest.
- Gwen Masters, author of One Breath at a Time

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Taste of "The New Motor" From Betty Came: The Mammoth Book of Erotica Presents The Best of M.Christian

Here's a teasing taste of my steam-punky erotic story "The New Motor" from both The Bachelor Machine as well as the (very flattering) Betty Came: The Mammoth Book of Erotica Presents The Best of M. Christian.






The New Motor

It is not our place, via hindsight, to say what exactly happened that one particular night. It’s easy to dismiss, with scorn or even a kind of parental, historical, fondness, that he was just visited by vivid dreams, a hallucinatory fever, a form of 1854 delusion (after all, we smile, frown, grimace, laugh or otherwise, this was 1854), or some hybrid kin of them all: a vision 1/3 unresolved traumas, 1/3 bad meal of steak and potatoes, 1/3 19th century crippling social situation. What we cannot dismiss—because it’s there with minuscule precision, in detailed blocks of blurry type in rag pulp sidebills, in the fine-filigreed pages of the genteel or just the skilled—was that John Murray Spear, a spiritualist of some quite personal renown and respect, did indeed depart Miss August’s Rooming House for Gentlemen of Stature (near the corner of Sycamore and Spruce in Baltimore, Maryland), and go forth to tell anyone who would listen—and some did, as those news- papers reported and those diaries told—about his visitation by the Association of Electricizers.

Close your eyes, metaphorically, and envision the images that might have fluttered through the expansive and trained consciousness of Mr. Spear as he lay, barely waking on a cheap mattress more tick than stuffing, the too-warm embrace of a humid Baltimore summer morning pouring through the thin gauze of the window. Amid the jumble and clutter of a day’s thoughts, they walk—as contemporary A. J. Davis expressed: “spirits with a mechanical turn of mind”—into the far-reaching mind of John Murray Spear. Perhaps gears lit with fairy energies, they turn and tumble through his waking, shining metal honed with eldritch tools, playing inadvertent peg-toss with his sheet- raising morning priapism. Maybe a great churning clockwork con- traption whose complexity echoes Medusa’s curse of knowing equally insanity or death. Or they might have taken the form of a Con-Ed employee in bedazzling ethereal refinements, in a saintly pose of divine grace while the animated logos and mascots of every power company that was, is, and will be flitted around his nuclear halo—commercial cherubs to His crackling, humming, arcing, power.

Their form was something that even escaped Spear himself, for when he spoke of their visitation—and he did, oh yes, he did from his own mount and other less spiritual soapboxes—a 220-watt gaze seemed to consume him and his articulations became less detailed and more abstract: “Their form,” he said to his breakfast companions and, often, for many weeks thereafter to any stranger on the street, “is fast and incorporeal. I don’t possess the mind to express their appearance in words, but their message, dear—” Sir, Madam, Officer, Friend “— is clear and ringing in my ears: Go forth, they spoke, go forth and with these two simple hands bring into the world a machine, a great work of engineering, that would take motive power from the magnetic store of nature, and therefore be as independent of artificial sources of en- ergy as this, our own the human body. Go, this conglomeration of spirits pronounced, and build the Physical Savior of the Race,The New Messiah... the New Motor!”

John Murray Spear did, indeed, say these words: from that rea- sonably expensive boarding house in summer heated Baltimore, to the swampy humidity of the capital, then upwards towards the cooler en- virons of the Northeastern states. He spoke of the visitation of the Elec- tricizers to a shocked and tutting crowd of theosophists in Providence, his hypnotic description of the coming glory of the Motor and how it would bring about a new Age of Man Through Machine ticking out of synch with their slowly shaking, disbelieving heads.

He spoke of the Motor in Boston before a hall not as packed as it had previously been for the spiritualist of some repute, and answered with complete sincerity questions of the Motor’s construction (“things of this earthly sphere coupled with the energies of transcendent mo- tion and ethereal force”), creation (“for a small donation you can speed its manifestation and arrival here, to us”), method of operation (“can one envision a locomotive, some new machine of human use and creation, that might come during the new millennium? The works of the Motor may be visible to some of us with the enriched spiritual vision, but the true powers of it will be as unseen as that machine of ages undreamed”), and patentability (“if the material servants of this, our Government of Country, should grant me the license of its man- ufacture then I see no reason not to accept”).

Coal-and-snow beard, hair wild with his feverish retellings, sup- ple (for a man of his forty summers) body bending wildly with each description of the glory of the Motor and his saving of mankind through its mechanical enlightenment, Spear made himself a sight as he traveled. For some he was a sight that brought smiles, frowns, or sadness at his state of affairs. But as he slowly, town by town, street by street, meeting by meeting, told his tale, made his claims, his en- treaties, he gathered people who listened earnestly to his description of the Mechanical Savior of the Race, the New Motor...

#

On a weird side note, the tale of the New Motor is based on reality - and you can read about John Murray Spear and his spiritual contraption in my non-fiction collection, Welcome To Weirdsville



Monday, September 30, 2013

Geek Love Looks FABULOUS!


Just got my person, dead-tree, edition of the quite excellent anthology Geek Love and it looks ... well, fabulous!  Bravo to Shanna Germain who did a mind-bendingly excellent job on this project!


Geek Love. It's nerdy, wordy and a little bit dirty. It's 200 pages of geek-themed erotic stories, accompanied by full-color art and comics, all from some of the finest authors and artists in the industry.

Think of it as the comma sutra. As full-frontal nerdity at its finest. As the bestiary of geek sexuality, proving once and for all that there’s nothing hotter than geeks in their natural habitats.

Electrifying play with Tesla? We’ve got it. Hot gamers tapping that? Check. Making passes at girls – and boys – with glasses? That’s just the beginning. We’ve got sexy librarians, raid nights, geek boys in leather and lace, tentacles, sexbots, superheroes and high-tech toys galore.

With cover art by the talented Galen Dara, Geek Love is a hard-bound full-color masterpiece that’s going to look great on your gaming table or your bondage bed. But the anthology is far more than just a pretty face – it’s also got a killer body. Stuffed with savory stories and loaded with sensual full-color art, comics and photographs created by some of the industry's most talented authors and artists, Geek Love is a collection you’ll want to share with special friends and spend all your free time boning up on.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Circlet Likes Technorotica

How wonderful - check out this very flattering review of my technophilia-laced collection Technorotica: Stories Shattering the Ultimate Taboo by Gayle C. Straun at the Circlet Press site:

Technorotica is a compendium of two previous M. Christian books, Better than the Real Thing and Rude Mechanicals, accompanied by an excerpt from Painted Doll (previously reviewed here) closing out the volume. Two of the stories previously appeared in Circlet Press’s The Bachelor Machine (reviewed here), while two others appeared in the Circlet anthologies Selling Venus and Up for Grabs 2
Some readers may initially feel that Technorotica constitutes one of those “best of” albums whose contents fail to gel into a thematic whole, perhaps appreciated more for its individual parts, especially since some stories explore such science fiction conceits as cybernetics and collective consciousness, while others plod the more real-world territory of matchmaking over the modem or even having sex with a blow-up toy ball. But therein lies the rub (pun intended), for by including such an array of stories, M. Christian reminds us that our sexuality is already augmented with things “unnatural;” that human beings, social creatures that we are, already get off using a variety of apparatus developed by our society–or, to put it another way, handcuffs and riding crops don’t occur in nature, y’all. The title character in “Billie” reaches the heights of bliss riding her Harley Davidson, while Pell in “Speaking Parts” is driven to distraction by the bionic eye of her lover-to-be Arc, a “masterpiece watch set in a crystal sphere, the iris a mandala of glowing gold.” Failed lawyer Stanley in “KSRN” dreams his dreams of wealth and power, of women like commodities, owned: “Their skin became polished, imported. Their bodies took on the lines of fine European manufacturers… Their breasts gleamed chrome, the highlights of their curves reflecting into the night, into his eyes–airflow eroticism, calling to him.” Meanwhile, the prostitute Fields in “State” acts the part of an android for high dollar customers who would probably be repelled to learn of her true humanity. 
Just as we homo sapiens have tweaked our consciousnesses with a variety of substances since the earliest days of our species, so, too, have we augmented our sexuality. As Lenore Tiefer titled her groundbreaking book, Sex Is Not a Natural Act, and it never has been. If there is a common theme tying together these stories, tying together the simple and sweet tale of a couple’s first use of a vibrator with that of a person who hires out her body by a form of remote control, then that’s it. Sex is not a natural act, and it never has been. 
The artist Mark Rothko famously quipped, “Certain people always say we should go back to nature. I notice they never say we should go forward to nature.” And that is where M. Christian takes us in this collection–forward to nature. Forward–to discover our natures.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Speaking Parts" Excerpt From Technorotica and Rude Mechanicals

Here's a teasing taste from my ebook, Rude Mechanicals, and from the dead-trees book Technorotica (which is Rude Mechanicals: Technorotica plus Better Than The Real Thing: Technorotica): a bit from the novella "Speaking Parts."



Pell remembered seeing Arc’s eye—it was the first thing she’d noticed.

Tourmaline and onyx. Silver and gold. A masterpiece watch set in a crystal sphere, the iris a mandala of glowing gold. Her blinks were a camera shutter’s, as imagined by the archetypal Victorian engineer but built by surgical perfection not found anywhere in Pell’s knowledge. The woman’s left eye was jeweled and precise, clicking softly as the woman looked around the gallery, as if the engineers who’d removed her original wet, gray-lensed ball had orchestrated a kind of music to go with their marvelous creation: a background tempo of perfect watch movements to accompany whatever she saw through their marvelous and finely crafted sight. Click, click, click.

An eye like that should have been in a museum, not mounted in a socket of simple human skin and bone, Pell had thought. It should have been in some other gallery, some better gallery, allowed only to look out at, to see other magnificent creations of skilled hands. Jare’s splashes of reds and blues, his shallow paintings were an insult to the real artistry of the woman’s eye.

That’s what Pell thought, at first, seeing Arc – but only seeing Arc’s perfect, mechanical eye.

Pell didn’t like to remember first seeing her that way – through the technology in her face. But it felt, to her, like it had its own kind of ironic perfection to deny it. So Pell lived with the biting truth that she didn’t, at first, see Arc – for her eye.

But later, right after she got momentarily lost in the beauty of Arc’s implant, the woman looked at Pell with her real eye, the gray, penetrating right one – and Pell forgot about the tourmaline, onyx, silver and gold machine.

She had finally seen Arc, herself – the woman, and not the simple, mechanical part. Next to her, the eye was cheap junk: a collection of metal, old rocks, and wires.

* * * *

She wasn’t Arc at first. She began as just the woman with the perfectly created eye. Then she was the beautiful woman. Then she was the woman where she didn’t belong. Seeing her eye, then seeing her, Pell lastly saw her as oil, the kind of oil you’d see pooling in the street, that had somehow managed to make its way into a glass of wine. Agreed, it was cheap red wine – something out of a box and not even a bottle, but, still – she was oil. She didn’t belong and that was obvious, despite the cheapness of the gallery. She could tell, cataloging her bashed and scuffed boots, noting her threadbare jeans, her torn T-shirt, that amid clean jeans and washed (and too black) turtlenecks, she was a discordant tone among the harmonious poseurs in Jare’s tiny South of Market studio.

The woman was aware of her discrepancy. She wandered the tiny gallery with a very large plastic tumbler of vin very ordinare, stopping only once in a while to look at one of Jare’s paintings.

Holding her wine tight enough to gently fracture the cheap plastic with cloudy stress lines, Pell watched her, stared at the tall – all legs and angles, broad and strong – woman with the artificial eye. She tried not to watch her too closely or too intently, sure that if she let slip her fascination she’d scare her off – or worse, bring on an indifferent examination of Pell. Through a sad ballet of a slightly curved lip and a stare that was nothing more than a glance of the eyes, the woman would see Pell but wouldn’t – and that would be an icy needle in Pell’s heart.

Pell had already taken too many risks that night. She already felt like she’d stepped off the edge and had yet to hit the hard reality of the ground. Traps and tigers, beasts and pitfalls for the unwary loomed all around Pell. She moved through her days with a careful caution, delicately testing the ice in front of her, wary of almost-invisible, murky lines of fault. She knew they were there, she’d felt the sudden falling of knowing she’d stepped too far, moved too quickly, over something that had proven, by intent or accident, not to be there. Pell didn’t push on the surface, didn’t put all her weight, or herself, on anything.

But then everything changed. She’d seen Arc and her eye.

The plastic cup chimed once, then collapsed in on itself. Turning first into a squashed oval, the glass cracked, splintered, then folded, the white seams of stress turning into sharp fissures of breakage. The red, freed of its cheap plastic prison, tumbled, cascaded out and down onto her.

Pell had worn something she knew wouldn’t fit with the rest of the crowd. The official color of San Francisco, she knew, would fill the place with charcoal and soot, midnight and ebony. White, she’d decided, would pull some of their eyes to her, make her stand out – absence of color being alone in a room full of people dressed in all colors, combined.

"Looks good on you."

The shock of the wine on her white blouse tumbled through Pell as an avalanche of warmth flowed to her face. The decision to wear white that night had come from a different part of herself, a part that had surprised her. Now she was furiously chastising that tiny voice, that fashion terrorist who had chosen the blouse over other, blacker ones.

And so Pell responded, "Not as good as you would" to the tall, leggy, broad shouldered girl with the artificial eye. Which was beautiful, but not as beautiful as the rest of her.

* * * *

Pell’s reason for being at the gallery was Jare. Although she could never wrap her perceptions around the gaunt boy’s paintings, she still came when he asked. Jare, Pell, Fallon, Rasp and Jest. They weren’t close – but then foxhole buddies aren’t always. They weren’t in combat, but they could be. All it would take would be one computer talking to another – no stable job history, thus conscription.

All it took were two computers, passing pieces of information back and forth. Till that happened, they hid and watched the possibility of a real foxhole death in a hot, sweaty part of Central America fly by.

Foxhole buddies. It was Jare’s term – some fleck of trivia that’d hung around him. They didn’t have an official name for their tiny society of slowly (and in some cases not too slowly) starving artists, but Pell was sure that Jare would smile at his trivial term being immortalized among a band of too-mortal kids.

That was Jare. While the rest of them tried to focus on pulling their paintings (Pell, Jare, and Rasp), music (Jest), and sculpture (Fallon) as high as they could, there was something else about Jare – something, like his paintings, that refused to be understood. His techniques were simple enough, broad strokes of brilliant color on soot-black canvas, but his reasons were more convoluted.

Or maybe, Pell had thought earlier that evening (before turning a white blouse red and seeing the woman with the artificial eye for the first time) both man and his work were simple: broad, bold statements designed to do nothing but catch attention. He was like his paintings, a grab for any kind of attention – an explanation too simple to be easily seen.

In the tiny bathroom, Pell tried to get the wine out of her blouse. Contradictory old wives’ tails: first she tried cold, then hot water. The sink ran pink and so, soon, did her blouse.

The woman with the eye stood outside the door, a surprisingly subtle smile on her large mouth. Every once and a while she’d say something, as if throwing a bantering line to the shy girl inside to keep her from drowning in embarrassment.

"Who’s he foolin? I can do better crap than this with a brush up my ass.”

"You should see this chick’s dress. Looks like her momma’s – and momma didn’t know how to dress, either.”

"Too many earrings, faggot. What year do you think this is?

"Hey, girl. Get out here with that shirt. It’s better looking than this fucking stuff on the walls."

Cold water on her hands, wine spiraling down the sink. Distantly, Pell was aware that her nipples were hard and tight – and not from the chill water. Down deep and inside, she was wet. It was a basic kind of primal moisture, one that comes even in the burning heat of humiliation. Finally, the blouse was less red than before. Planning to run to where she’d dropped her old leather coat to hide the stigmata of her clumsiness, her excitement in two hard brown points, she opened the door.

The tall woman smiled down at her, hot and strong. In one quick sweep of her eyes, Pell drank her tall length, strong shoulders, columnar legs. She was trapped, held fast between the hot eyes she knew must have been staring at her, pinning her straight to her embarrassment, and the presence of the woman.

Her eye, the eye, clicked a quick chime of precision – as if expanding its limits to encompass the totality of Pell. Pell did not mind her intense examination. It added, with a rush of feelings, to the quaking in her belly, the weakness in her knees.

"Gotta splash. Wait right here,” Arc said.

Of course she waited.

After a few hammering heartbeats, the door opened and she came out – butchly tucking her T-shirt back into her jeans – and Pell was again at the focus of her meticulously designed sight.

"You live anywhere close? I’m tired of this shit. You?"

"Down the block. Just on the corner," Pell said, trying hard not to smile too much.The woman downed the small sample of red in her glass and, looking for a place to put it down, and not finding any, just dropped it with a sharp plastic clatter on the floor. "Show me. It can’t be worse than here. Too many fucking artists."


Monday, September 9, 2013

Lisabet Sarai Likes Technorotica

This is a very, very special treat: an extremely flattering review of Technorotica: Stories Shattering the Ultimate Taboo - a print-only special edition, made up of the Rude Mechanicals and Better Than The Real Thing ebooks, all published (by the very great Renaisssance E Books/Sizzler Editions) by the always-great Lisabet Sarai.  Thanks so much, Lisabet!


Technorotica: Stories Shattering the Ultimate Taboo by M. Christian 
Barbary Coast Editions, Renaissance E Books, 2012
One of the most enjoyable aspects of being an author is that you get to invent new worlds. Sometimes those worlds strongly resemble our so-called reality; sometimes they deviate wildly. Even the most bizarre fictional world, though, needs to feel real. The reader needs to see, smell, taste, and touch the alien environment in which she finds herself. Against all logic and common sense knowledge, she needs to believe. 
Pulling this off is tough, especially in genres like paranormal and science fiction, where the story by definition is set somewhere other than the world as we know it. M. Christian is a master of this trick, as he demonstrates in Technorotica, his new collection of stories concerning the erotic connections between humans and machines. 
I'll admit up front that I've long been a fan of M.Christian's work (I even edited one of his books, ComingTogether Presents M. Christian) and that I'm deeply in awe of his imagination. Despite what might be considered a positive bias, I still feel totally comfortable and justified in asserting: this is a fantastic book, in both the literal and figurative sense. 
The stories in this collection could loosely be called science fiction erotica, but they vary a great deal in focus and tone. Several of them (“Hot Definition”, “Speaking Parts”, “Hack Work” and the excerpt from Christian's novel Painted Doll) are set in a shadowy, perilous, cyber-punk world where everything is for sale and everyone lives on the edge, staying alive through crime or luck or sometimes both. Prosthetics, holographic doppelgangers, constant electronic surveillance, mind-jacking and body snatching – fans of Gibson, Sterling and Cadigan will feel right at home. However, this author isn't primarily concerned with gadgets and technology (never mind the title of the book) but with feelings: fear, hunger, desperation, desire and love. These stories explore how humans reach out for one another, as the mechanical invades and erodes the meaning of humanity. 
“Blow Up” and “I am Jo's Vibrator” are lighter in tone. The former lets us into the mind of a man with a peculiar fetish. The latter, as suggested by the title, is narrated by a sex toy. Both will make you smile (or at least, that was my reaction) though “Blow Up”, the first tale in the book, has a subtle darkness that's a preview of the more serious stories to come. 
I've read the tale “State” in several other M. Christian collections. It remains one of my favorite erotic stories of all time. A human woman/sex worker impersonates a blue-skinned, state-of-the-art Japanese sex robot. The neat logical flip here satisfies the intellect. The woman's arousal at becoming the ultimate sex object provides satisfaction in other dimensions. 
“The Bell House Invitation” is a fabulous new take on m√©nage, or more accurately, polyamory. Four individuals – two men, two women – live together and share a group mind. Together they seduce another woman with the aim of convincing her to join their communal consciousness. The sex scene in this tale succeeds in exploring all the participants' experience simultaneously, pulling the reader into the mix. It's lusciously explicit without losing the sense of wonder that derives from a level of communion most of us only dream about. 
In contrast, “Billie” includes no overt sex at all yet still manages to convey an intense feeling of desire. This vignette of a butch woman speeding along the Pacific Coast Highway on her vintage 1977 Harley Davidson details a synergy between human and machine so strong it becomes erotic. 
“A Light Minute” focuses on communication over a distance, as a reclusive woman terrified of the world outside opens herself to the lover she knows only via electronic missives. 
Finally, “KSRN” is a dream-like reverie about speed and sex, chrome and compassion. If I'd been the author, I would have put this story last in the book. It leaves you feeling haunted and yet somehow complete.
Overall, my reaction to this book was “Wow”. But then, I'm seriously turned on by originality. If you share this trait with me – get yourself a copy of Technorotica.

(And by the way - the book includes a great preface and afterword, too!)

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Speaking Parts" Excerpt From Technorotica and Rude Mechanicals

Here's a teasing taste from my ebook, Rude Mechanicals, and from the dead-trees book Technorotica (which is Rude Mechanicals: Technorotica plus Better Than The Real Thing: Technorotica): a bit from the novella "Speaking Parts."



Pell remembered seeing Arc’s eye—it was the first thing she’d noticed.

Tourmaline and onyx. Silver and gold. A masterpiece watch set in a crystal sphere, the iris a mandala of glowing gold. Her blinks were a camera shutter’s, as imagined by the archetypal Victorian engineer but built by surgical perfection not found anywhere in Pell’s knowledge. The woman’s left eye was jeweled and precise, clicking softly as the woman looked around the gallery, as if the engineers who’d removed her original wet, gray-lensed ball had orchestrated a kind of music to go with their marvelous creation: a background tempo of perfect watch movements to accompany whatever she saw through their marvelous and finely crafted sight. Click, click, click.

An eye like that should have been in a museum, not mounted in a socket of simple human skin and bone, Pell had thought. It should have been in some other gallery, some better gallery, allowed only to look out at, to see other magnificent creations of skilled hands. Jare’s splashes of reds and blues, his shallow paintings were an insult to the real artistry of the woman’s eye.

That’s what Pell thought, at first, seeing Arc – but only seeing Arc’s perfect, mechanical eye.

Pell didn’t like to remember first seeing her that way – through the technology in her face. But it felt, to her, like it had its own kind of ironic perfection to deny it. So Pell lived with the biting truth that she didn’t, at first, see Arc – for her eye.

But later, right after she got momentarily lost in the beauty of Arc’s implant, the woman looked at Pell with her real eye, the gray, penetrating right one – and Pell forgot about the tourmaline, onyx, silver and gold machine.

She had finally seen Arc, herself – the woman, and not the simple, mechanical part. Next to her, the eye was cheap junk: a collection of metal, old rocks, and wires.

* * * *

She wasn’t Arc at first. She began as just the woman with the perfectly created eye. Then she was the beautiful woman. Then she was the woman where she didn’t belong. Seeing her eye, then seeing her, Pell lastly saw her as oil, the kind of oil you’d see pooling in the street, that had somehow managed to make its way into a glass of wine. Agreed, it was cheap red wine – something out of a box and not even a bottle, but, still – she was oil. She didn’t belong and that was obvious, despite the cheapness of the gallery. She could tell, cataloging her bashed and scuffed boots, noting her threadbare jeans, her torn T-shirt, that amid clean jeans and washed (and too black) turtlenecks, she was a discordant tone among the harmonious poseurs in Jare’s tiny South of Market studio.

The woman was aware of her discrepancy. She wandered the tiny gallery with a very large plastic tumbler of vin very ordinare, stopping only once in a while to look at one of Jare’s paintings.

Holding her wine tight enough to gently fracture the cheap plastic with cloudy stress lines, Pell watched her, stared at the tall – all legs and angles, broad and strong – woman with the artificial eye. She tried not to watch her too closely or too intently, sure that if she let slip her fascination she’d scare her off – or worse, bring on an indifferent examination of Pell. Through a sad ballet of a slightly curved lip and a stare that was nothing more than a glance of the eyes, the woman would see Pell but wouldn’t – and that would be an icy needle in Pell’s heart.

Pell had already taken too many risks that night. She already felt like she’d stepped off the edge and had yet to hit the hard reality of the ground. Traps and tigers, beasts and pitfalls for the unwary loomed all around Pell. She moved through her days with a careful caution, delicately testing the ice in front of her, wary of almost-invisible, murky lines of fault. She knew they were there, she’d felt the sudden falling of knowing she’d stepped too far, moved too quickly, over something that had proven, by intent or accident, not to be there. Pell didn’t push on the surface, didn’t put all her weight, or herself, on anything.

But then everything changed. She’d seen Arc and her eye.

The plastic cup chimed once, then collapsed in on itself. Turning first into a squashed oval, the glass cracked, splintered, then folded, the white seams of stress turning into sharp fissures of breakage. The red, freed of its cheap plastic prison, tumbled, cascaded out and down onto her.

Pell had worn something she knew wouldn’t fit with the rest of the crowd. The official color of San Francisco, she knew, would fill the place with charcoal and soot, midnight and ebony. White, she’d decided, would pull some of their eyes to her, make her stand out – absence of color being alone in a room full of people dressed in all colors, combined.

"Looks good on you."

The shock of the wine on her white blouse tumbled through Pell as an avalanche of warmth flowed to her face. The decision to wear white that night had come from a different part of herself, a part that had surprised her. Now she was furiously chastising that tiny voice, that fashion terrorist who had chosen the blouse over other, blacker ones.

And so Pell responded, "Not as good as you would" to the tall, leggy, broad shouldered girl with the artificial eye. Which was beautiful, but not as beautiful as the rest of her.

* * * *

Pell’s reason for being at the gallery was Jare. Although she could never wrap her perceptions around the gaunt boy’s paintings, she still came when he asked. Jare, Pell, Fallon, Rasp and Jest. They weren’t close – but then foxhole buddies aren’t always. They weren’t in combat, but they could be. All it would take would be one computer talking to another – no stable job history, thus conscription.

All it took were two computers, passing pieces of information back and forth. Till that happened, they hid and watched the possibility of a real foxhole death in a hot, sweaty part of Central America fly by.

Foxhole buddies. It was Jare’s term – some fleck of trivia that’d hung around him. They didn’t have an official name for their tiny society of slowly (and in some cases not too slowly) starving artists, but Pell was sure that Jare would smile at his trivial term being immortalized among a band of too-mortal kids.

That was Jare. While the rest of them tried to focus on pulling their paintings (Pell, Jare, and Rasp), music (Jest), and sculpture (Fallon) as high as they could, there was something else about Jare – something, like his paintings, that refused to be understood. His techniques were simple enough, broad strokes of brilliant color on soot-black canvas, but his reasons were more convoluted.

Or maybe, Pell had thought earlier that evening (before turning a white blouse red and seeing the woman with the artificial eye for the first time) both man and his work were simple: broad, bold statements designed to do nothing but catch attention. He was like his paintings, a grab for any kind of attention – an explanation too simple to be easily seen.

In the tiny bathroom, Pell tried to get the wine out of her blouse. Contradictory old wives’ tails: first she tried cold, then hot water. The sink ran pink and so, soon, did her blouse.

The woman with the eye stood outside the door, a surprisingly subtle smile on her large mouth. Every once and a while she’d say something, as if throwing a bantering line to the shy girl inside to keep her from drowning in embarrassment.

"Who’s he foolin? I can do better crap than this with a brush up my ass.”

"You should see this chick’s dress. Looks like her momma’s – and momma didn’t know how to dress, either.”

"Too many earrings, faggot. What year do you think this is?

"Hey, girl. Get out here with that shirt. It’s better looking than this fucking stuff on the walls."

Cold water on her hands, wine spiraling down the sink. Distantly, Pell was aware that her nipples were hard and tight – and not from the chill water. Down deep and inside, she was wet. It was a basic kind of primal moisture, one that comes even in the burning heat of humiliation. Finally, the blouse was less red than before. Planning to run to where she’d dropped her old leather coat to hide the stigmata of her clumsiness, her excitement in two hard brown points, she opened the door.

The tall woman smiled down at her, hot and strong. In one quick sweep of her eyes, Pell drank her tall length, strong shoulders, columnar legs. She was trapped, held fast between the hot eyes she knew must have been staring at her, pinning her straight to her embarrassment, and the presence of the woman.

Her eye, the eye, clicked a quick chime of precision – as if expanding its limits to encompass the totality of Pell. Pell did not mind her intense examination. It added, with a rush of feelings, to the quaking in her belly, the weakness in her knees.

"Gotta splash. Wait right here,” Arc said.

Of course she waited.

After a few hammering heartbeats, the door opened and she came out – butchly tucking her T-shirt back into her jeans – and Pell was again at the focus of her meticulously designed sight.

"You live anywhere close? I’m tired of this shit. You?"

"Down the block. Just on the corner," Pell said, trying hard not to smile too much.

The woman downed the small sample of red in her glass and, looking for a place to put it down, and not finding any, just dropped it with a sharp plastic clatter on the floor. "Show me. It can’t be worse than here. Too many fucking artists."