Originally published on the Samhain Publishing Horror Blog.
By John Everson
on Jun 28 2012
HAVE YOU EVER WANTED to do something you knew you shouldn’t? Maybe just something small, like driving 80 mph on the highway in a 55 mph zone? Who hasn’t done that? Or calling in to work and saying you’re sick, when actually, you’re going to spend the day lounging on the couch, reading a good book? Or how about slipping next door through that creaking, come-hither open gate in the middle of the afternoon and having raw, animal, passionate sex with your neighbor who is lounging half-dressed outside by the pool… when you’re both wearing someone else’s ring?
There’s a part in all of us that yearns to peer over the fence and indulge in the forbidden. To take what isn’t ours. To let out the lusts that we’re taught from birth to hold inside.
OK, maybe you’ve never wanted to have sex with your neighbor. Maybe you’ve never wanted to reach out and kiss that waiter with the mermaid tattoo peeking out of his shirtsleeve or the waitress who bares most of her amazing breasts to you as she bends over to hand you a menu.
But have you ever wanted your lover to blindfold you so that you didn’t know what was going to happen next? Maybe bind your arms so that you’re helpless to his or her desires? Because, if you’re bound, well, you have an excuse to indulge all of those secret desires, right? I mean… he/she made you do it. You were trapped! Sometimes giving up your power is the moral loophole — the “out” — for allowing yourself to live out those deep, hidden, forbidden fantasies. Or sometimes holding the power, flogger in hand, and forcing someone else to do your sexual bidding answers that hidden, “non-acceptable” sexual streak hidden under the conservative business suit from 9-5.
The base, lustful desire to throw off the constraining “clothes” of societal mores and follow our bliss is at the heart of both the genres of erotica and horror. As is the push-pull of power and sexuality. And erotica and horror have intersected and cross-bred for as long as they have existed as genres. Why are the Marquis de Sade’s writings, rife with erotic power plays and sexual torture, still talked about over 200 years later? Why did Anne Rice take a break from vampires to write not one, but three books in the BDSM Beauty series – that have remained in print for the past thirty years?
Because they both tapped into those dark desires that hide somewhere within all of us. They speak, even if indirectly, to our desires to take our sexual fantasies and live them out, no matter what the consequence.
The genres of romance and erotica allow us to live out those fantasies vicariously, generally with a positive outcome. In erotica, you can stare into the waitress’s eyes, and see the spark of heat there. When she bends over to put the napkin on your lap, she’ll let one more button pop on her blouse. And maybe you’ll be brave enough to reach up and trace your tongue across the swell of her breast, as she slips a piece of paper with her phone number into your hand. (As if you’d ever tongue a waitress – in public — on a first meeting?)
In erotica, you’d visit her house and have the most amazing sex of your life. And maybe be joined by her girlfriend or boyfriend to boot.
In horror, you might have exactly the same setup. Except that when you got to the waitress’s apartment, joined her in her bed and finally, after much erotic build-up, slipped inside her with one exquisitely warm stroke… you might find that she has an extra set of teeth in an unexpected place. Gotcha, sucka!
Erotica generally celebrates the freedom of letting our sexuality go rampant, while Horror often takes the more “Christian” conceit that if you do let your lusts out for a walk… you’re going to pay for it. Boy, are you going to pay for it.
I think as readers, in both scenarios, we’re getting turned on by the steamy buildup, and rooting for the lead character – living vicariously – and hoping they “get away” with slipping through the fence and indulging in the forbidden. Cuz really, we’d like to do that!
In horror, we often see the indulger punished for their pleasure, and in a way, that makes us feel good too: we get to enjoy their crazy sex romp… but then before we can get too depressed about the lack of such carnal excess in our own life, the axe falls (or the monster wakes). See? That’s what happens when you’re a bad boy or girl!
Most of us with a healthy libido yearn for that “safe” place that we could go to in order to indulge our inner fantasies without retribution. A little bondage? Sex on the beach? Sex in an elevator? Streaking through a crowd? Joining an orgy in the back room of a bar? Lying naked in the center of a circle of hungry lovers? We’d secretly love a place where, no matter how twisted your kink, you would be accepted and allowed to indulge. No consequences.
In the erotica realm, that place was perfectly appointed in Anne Rice’s Exit to Eden.
Both are places where you can go to give up all of your power and become the slave to those who use you until you can’t stand the mingled pleasure and pain any longer. Both have stock in leather manufacturers. Both are clothing optional.
Both are difficult places to find on the map.
In NightWhere, Mark and Rae are a “swinging” couple who yearn for something more. Well… Rae yearns. She’s got a kink that Mark simply can’t fulfill. And when they receive the blood-red invitation to NightWhere, a club that takes over a different address every month, there is nothing that can keep her from getting inside. And pretty quickly, after watching the simulated sex on the dancefloor and the hard bites of the lash on the racks in the back, she gets herself invited into the secret club within the club. The Red. Where the walls run with the color of passion. And blood.
Mark meets his own liaison, but her message is pretty clear: Get out while you still can. But Mark won’t leave… he wants to save his wife. Because there is another place beyond The Red. And nobody who survives the one returns from the other.
How far would you go to sate your lusts, if you were given the keys to a club where everything – and anything – goes?
How far would you go to save your lover, especially if you were, ultimately, trying to save them from themselves?
Those are the questions NightWhere asks. And along the way, it shines a light on a pretty lurid club where you can do exactly what you want, to whoever you want.
But, you know… while the idea of no consequences is alluring, I’m at heart a realist, and that idea is false. To follow your darkest dreams, there is always a price.
What price would you pay?