Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Review Tuesday: Wired Hard 4 (#scifi #lgbtq #reviewtuesday @circletpress)

Wired Hard 4: Erotica for a Gay Universe
Edited by Lauren P. Burka and Cecilia Tan
Circlet Press, 2010

Cecilia Tan's Circlet Press was founded in 1992—when the Internet barely existed and erotic stories were available mainly in Penthouse and on the shelves of sleazy video stores. Ms. Tan's literary recipe was revolutionary: a potent blend of sex, science, technology and magic, with a generous measure of gender-bending to spice things up. Back then, hardly anyone else shared this vision.

We now live in an era of ebooks and genetic engineering, instant messaging and cybersex, gender reassignment and gay marriage. The world has matured and many of the fantastic imaginings of Circlet's authors have become familiar facts. In the second decade of the twenty first century, Circlet is still delivering some of the best speculative erotica available—appropriately in electronic form. WIRED HARD 4 is a splendid example.

The eight stories in this collection are remarkably diverse. They are unified, first, by their raw sexual energy, and second, by the intimate mingling of human with other: machine, robot, animal, vampire, or god. Xan West's lyrical introduction points out that most of these tales deal with transformations. Sex here is more than an avenue of pleasure. It is the gateway to new and different selves.

Helen E.H. Madden leads off with “When Angels Fall”, in which the gay prodigal son of a fundamentalist cult (the “Moral Minority”) returns to seduce the gorgeous android who is his guardian angel. The act of finally satisfying his life-long fantasy frees the young man to accept his homoerotic desires.

Slavery by Degree” by Gavin Atlas is narrated by an enthusiastic submissive who has signed a contract to serve as a teleportation-delivered fuck toy in order to pay off his debts. He winks into existence in his clients' abodes, with their organs already buried in his ass.

Kal Cobalt's “Parts” is one of the most intriguing stories in the collection. A robot masquerading as human finally becomes so in a liaison with a body-mod fetishist named Monkey who brags that he's 1% inorganic.

Balance of Power” by Jamie Maguire proves that it is still possible to write an original vampire story. In this tale, two ancient vampires consummate a fierce and tender reunion as one wakes the other from a thousand-year sleep and then allows his lover to drain him dry.

Diane Kepler's “Nectar” is a gay BDSM riff on Jules Verne's classic “The Island of Doctor Moreau”. The narrator is a creature engineered by his genius “Daddy”--part human, part animal—but devoted to his stern creator.

The Royal Catamite”, Tom Cardamone's contribution, may be the most peculiar in the book, in the truly bizarre transformation it presents. I don't want to spoil the impact by saying more.

Shanna Germain's characters in “Beneath Sea and Sky” are possibly the most human in the collection—two men bound by lust and separated by misunderstandings. In this story, the magical elements are subtle, lurking just beneath the surface.

Finally, “The Succession of Knoorikios Khnum”, by Zachary Jernigan, is full-fledged science fiction/fantasy, complete with a grand interstellar empire and its charismatic, all-powerful ruler. The protagonist, a low-ranking diplomat from a backwater planet, stakes everything on a scheme to seduce the god-like emperor.

All the tales in WIRED HARD 4 deliver more than just hot gay sex. Most are exceptionally well-written. Many involve a novel premise or a startling resolution. My main complaint (which I've voiced about other recent Circlet ebooks) is that the book was so short. It's true that the electronic format removes the page constraints of print, so shorter books are feasible. Personally, though, I hate it when a good book ends too soon.

In any case, I truly enjoyed WIRED HARD 4 while it lasted.

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