Spring of the Stag God by J.C. Herneson
Bear Bones Books/Lethe Press, 2010
J.C. Herneson’s gay erotic fantasy Spring of the Stag God sat on my bookshelf for years before I opened it. The publisher sent it to me, unsolicited, back in 2011, along with Simon Shepard’s Sodomy!, which I’d agreed to review. The raw but evocative cover both intrigued me and made me blush. A snarling, muscular, tattooed man, his tangled red hair crowned with massive antlers, masturbates an enormous green cock in each hand, while his own rears up proudly, drooling semen. The image is both gorgeously drawn and incredibly obscene. More of these drawings, by artist Kupopo, decorate the title page and introduce each section—full of eloquent curves, stuffed holes and dripping organs.
One review of this book on Amazon says “I’ve never read anything like it.” I have to agree with this sentiment. Spring of the Stag God has the logic of filthy dreams tempered by a hint of pagan spirituality that glorifies the rituals of the flesh.
The book, which is divided into three sections, unfolds in a mythical realm inhabited by both men and orcs, a brutish but massively powerful race of warriors. In the first part, “A Stag God is Born”, the fifteen year old human youth Ashlan suffers from strange, wild dreams brimming with eroticism. When his uncle takes him anally, the experience triggers the change latent in Ashlan from the start. He begins his transformation into the Seven-Tined Stag God sacred to the Split-Hoof tribe of orcs.
The Stag God is one with the forest, a creature of the elements. He epitomizes fertility. And he takes, sometimes brutally, the male bodies he encounters, both human and orc. To be penetrated by the Stag God’s massive cock is devastating and painful, but it can also be transcendent. Male-male fucking is a sacrament in Herneson’s fantasy world.
In the second section, “The Stag and the Bear”, Ashlan seeks out the fearsome Bear God as his mentor and master. He battles his way to the stormy mountain peak where the Bear resides. The Bear claims the young god's ass and wins his devotion and service. The interlude with the Bear pushes the Stag God further along his path to divinity.
The third section, “The Stag God’s Apostle”, was my favorite. This section most clearly articulates the contrast between the Stag God’s magical world of untrammeled animal lust and the self-denying, repressive spirituality of men, as represented by the Patriarch of the Lord of Light. Yet even the so-called godly succumb to the lure of raging cocks and hungry assholes.
You’ll find a lot of fucking in this book, much of it rough to the point of pain. Some of it unquestionably deserves the label rape. However, you will find tenderness, too, and a sense of redemption that comes from the merging of bodies and the indulgence of desire. The young orc Hadra who is ravaged by Ashlan in Part One becomes his devoted apostle in Part Three, ready to lay down his life for the God who made him aware of who and what he is.
I’m not a gay man, but personally, I found some scenes in this book deeply erotic. This is may be because I also believe that flesh and spirit cannot be separated.
However, I suspect many readers might be offended by this book. It’s not for the squeamish, and anything but politically correct. My reluctance to take it down from the shelves had some justification.
The only thing that really bothered me about Spring of the Stag God, though, was some tendency toward repetition. The plot is highly original, but the scenes of sexual excess all tend to be described in the same way, using the same terminology. After a while, I’d really read enough about “nethers”!
This is a quibble, though. If you enjoy non-consensual homoerotic fantasy, Spring of the Stag God will satisfy that craving.