It is a privilege and pleasure to be able to commend to the attention of ErosBlog’s readers the new anthology Bitten: Dark Erotic Stories edited by Susie Bright. There are fifteen short stories here, sharing an ostensible thematic link to the gothic or at least the supernatural. There is an exquisite erotic idea at the core of every one of these stories, and that makes this slim volume a delight to peruse. If your imagination runs to the gothic, you will find plenty to fire it here.

I might quibble a bit with the characterization of the entries in this anthology as “dark erotic stories.” Some of them are a little dark, although if your idea of a dark story is something like “The Shadow over Innsmouth” and your idea of the gothic is exemplified by the sort of thing seen in my last post but this one you might find many of these stories actually somewhat on the cheerful, even somewhat uplifting side. That’s certainly what I felt at the end of Tsaurah Litzky’s “The Witch of Jerome Avenue.” (Perhaps I am too much in love with that story’s New York setting for my own good, and there also might be something in the final paragraph that I don’t fully understand.) Even Greg Boyd’s “Pandora’s Other Box,” which might be read as a cautionary tale of being careful what you go looking for in a strange city, hardly left me feeling terribly disturbed. There was more pleasure than horror for me here; the erotic certainly dominated the darkness, although the longest story in the anthology, Francesca Lia Block’s “Lay Me out Softly,” certainly did have its share of actual chills.

In a way it’s tricky to write too convincingly about an anthology like Bitten because for me what this sort of literature belongs to is a larger genre that for lack of a better term might be called the literature of extraordinary surprise. The protagonists of these stories are off encountering not just what they didn’t know was, but what they probably never imagined could be, until they encountered it. But unlike the stories of H.P. Lovecraft (whose stories might also be said to belong to the same overgenre, but who is perhaps the most anti-erotic writer there is, at least until Michel Houellebecq picked up his pen) the surprise isn’t horror, but pleasure. This is a good literary trick to pull off, and it’s pulled off here quite well. However, precisely because these stories do belong to a literature of surprise, it is also very difficult to write about them without generating spoilers, and I don’t want to do that to ErosBlog’s readers. So instead, all I can urge them to do is go buy the book.

bitten: dark erotic stories

I can, however, offer one sentence from my favorite story in the collection, Ernie Conrick’s “Get Thee Behind Me, Satan,” a tale which, in addition to being a very clever anatomizing of what lurks behind the exteriors of married middle-aged, middle-class professionals, expresses one of the most philosophically profound sentiments I’ve seen in a naughty story. (I might be biased in thinking so, because at roughly the same time I was reading Bitten I was also reading Ben Bradley’s Well-Being and Death. You can get a flavor of the latter by seeing Bradley’s “diavlog of death” with Roy Sorenson.) I think I can offer it without its being a spoiler:

The tragedy of existence, he mused, is not that it lasts too short a time but that it lasts too long.

Possibly wrong, although sometimes the opposite of a deep truth might also be a deep truth.

For bonus self-discovery points, I suggest reading the whole anthology and asking which stories moved you the most. You can then have a better sense of what kind of weirdo you are. (Dear reader, kindly do not ask me not to think that you aren’t some kind of weirdo.) And do also give Susie Bright’s recent reflections on supernatural erotica a look-in as well.