Eroticism in Fantasy

By fantasy author Charles Moffat.

When I say the word "fantasy" I don't mean daydreaming about hot sex in a Brazilian waterfalls... as nice as that sounds, what I actually am talking about is traditional "Sword and Sorcery" fantasy. ie. Conan the Barbarian by fantasy writer Robert E. Howard. (Or Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, although really, there isn't much eroticism to speak of in Harry Potter so it doesn't really prove my point.)

Basically fantasy, as it mostly marketed towards men in the same way vampire books are marketed towards women, often employs eroticism either in the cover art and/or the contents of the book.

Star Wars is an excellent example. (My apologies to anyone who thinks Star Wars is science fiction... there is no science in Star Wars. Its a fantasy. Force = Magic, Light Sabres = Magic Swords, etc. They never even bother to explain scientific concepts of how the Death Star actually works, hyperspace, etc.)

But back to my original point: Eroticism in Star Wars. Think scantily clad dancing aliens and Princess Leia in her slave costume.

To be fair there is also the kissing scene between Harry and Hermiome in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) which is carefully censored to make it erotic and yet not show any naughty bits.

So suffice to say fantasy writers (and fantasy movies) will frequently throw in something erotic to tantalize their audience. Some writers (ie. Stephen King, Guy Gavriel Kay, George R. R. Martin, etc) will even go into explicit detail and you might think you were reading something out of Penthouse Letters or some similar literary sex magazine.

I think however that adding such scenes to books really is more about the writer than the audience. The writer is living vicariously through their characters, imagining sexual fantasies that they desire to fulfill but knowing they never will.

ie. Robert E. Howard (the creator of Conan the Barbarian) is reputed to have had only girlfriend during his short career (he committed suicide in 1936 at the age of 30). The girl who was the object of his affections (Novalyne Price) didn't return his interest and broke up with him in 1934. One might argue that his lack of a serious love interest led to his depression and eventual suicide.

Howard's literary creations however, especially Conan, didn't just have women he had many women. But Conan only had one main love interest, a woman named "Belit", the heroine in the story "Queen of the Black Coast". In the story Howard even alludes to their relationship to having sadomasochistic undertones.

Unlike other Conan stories however where Conan essentially walks off into the sunset with the rescued damsel by his side instead Belit dies at the end of the story. Given a viking funeral no less.

It is interesting therefore to note that Howard wrote and published "Queen of the Black Coast" in 1934, shortly after being dumped by Novalyne Price. He also wrote the book "Almuric" shortly after in which he makes some interest comments about suicide (the book was later published posthumously in 1939).

But I digress!

Robert E. Howard, more so than other writers of his era, was deeply sexually repressed and was expressing himself via eroticism in his writing to make up for his lack of emotional connection to a woman in real life. His mother's coma in 1936 and the announcement that she would never awaken was the final nail in the coffin. He went out to his car and shot himself with a .380 Colt Automatic. He died 8 hours later, never regaining consciousness.

Speaking for myself I believe in a much more happy-go-lucky lifestyle. I firmly believe a person can always just start over anew. (Songs like "Eye of the Tiger" help for those who lack motivation.)

When I was living and working overseas I was missing my girlfriend back in Canada and wrote a series of short stories about an interracial relationship between a barbarian human named Brutus and an elf female named Avianna. Its true I was lonely and missing her, and thus expressed my loneliness through the stories which I emailed to my then girlfriend. But at least I never gave up hope for finding true love.

Years later the Brutus & Avianna stories are now available as an eBook on Lulu.com.

Some people might say sex and violence go well together. They're exciting. But I disagree. Violence only seems to work in fantasy pulp fiction when the hero saves the damsel and they live happily ever after. Morbid endings, however more realistic, are downers. (My apologies for the morbidness of this post!!!)

I firmly believe that love, sex and by extension eroticism are all reasons to live. Heroes in fantasy stories don't fight for gold or meaningless things. They fight for love, freedom, justice and ideals.

Take Don Juan as an example. He seduces women (usually virgins) and then fights their bigoted husbands / overprotective fathers. There are many variations on the Don Juan myth, but my personal favourite is the film version "Don Juan Demarco"... a modern fantasy with swordfighting and a happy ending.

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