For a lot of people, their first encounter with the idea of power exchange came from a series of fantasy/science fiction novels generally referred to as the Gor series, by John Norman. While the first one was a decent adventure novel, as the series progressed the novels seemed to exist primarily to make certain arguments John Norman had to make about the nature of men and women. Broadly speaking, Mr. Norman seemed to feel that the problem with modern earth society is that men lacked opportunities to be manly and brave, and that women’s nature was such that they were happiest when at the whim of men. As a prescription for life, it was sorely lacking. As a fantasy, or for any particular couple, it’s not very far off from a lot of BDSM romances, which is why an amazing number of women found a guilty pleasure in reading these rather misogynistic books.
When I was writing The Barbarian and the Witch, my latest novella from Loose Id, I was rather intentionally venturing into John Norman’s territory. I, too, like my heroes manly and brave and strong. An alternate world lets one tap into more the more primal urges that are behind power exchange while dispensing with the modern day trappings of safe words and SSC and fetish gear. Don’t get me wrong, I like all that stuff, and if I met someone in real life who wanted to play without safe words I’d be the first one to back away. But sometimes it’s fun, in fiction, to have people play with the safeties off, just like it’s a good thing to have real gunfights in fiction rather than water pistol fights. Set in the modern world, that same behavior is inexcusable.
Gor was really more of a negative inspiration than anything else for me, but I find its continued appeal despite some really bad writing and wooden dialog, fascinating. Sharon Green mixed D&s with fantasy well in her early novels, although the probably seem dated now (and perhaps hard to find.) Jacqueline Carey has pulled it off in her ornately written books. Anyone else have any favorites? What worked about them, and what didn’t?