Wednesday, July 09, 2014


Lust Queen


Ed here: Robert Silverberg has had one of the most extraordinary careers 
I've ever heard of. He was writing better at eighteen than many were at 
thirty-six. Pulp, yes, but rendered with such facility that you had to
stand in awe of his talent and his ability to produce at Simenon-like 
speed. He would go on to be one of science fiction's most important 
writers and not just of his time but of all time. 

I've been reading his work since I was twelve years old and rereading
 a good deal of it from those venerable old Ace Doubles to the
 brilliance of Dying Inside and The Book of Skulls to the more 
recent Majipoor Chronicles.

I also read a number of his soft core novels. As he says below 
they were good stories with the sex very tame. He could write
just about anything and do it well. I reread these two novels with
pleasure and nostalgia. They are not only excellent stories
they're also a chronicle of their times. 

Robert Silverberg:
 The Hamling operation published Lust Queen late in 1961 as Midnight Reader 401, the initial title in that series. Lust Victim followed in mid-1962 as Midnight Reader 429. It came out under the dumb title of No Lust Tonight, but for this reissue—the first time the book has been reprinted since its initial appearance—I have restored my original title.
I felt absolutely unabashed about what I was doing. Writing was my job, and I was working hard and telling crisp, exciting stories. What difference did it make, really, that they were stories about people caught in tense sexual situations instead of people exploring the slime-pits of Aldebaran IX? I experienced the joy—and there is one, believe me—of working hard and steadily, long hours sitting at a typing table under the summer sun, creating scenes of erotic tension as fast as my fingers could move. Of course, what I was writing was not “respectable,” not even slightly, and so when people asked me what I did for a living I told them I was a science-fiction writer. (I was still writing some of that, too, as a sideline.) I could hardly tell my neighbors in my elegant suburban community that I was a professional pornographer.
But was what I was writing really pornography?
Not if your definition of pornography involves the use of “obscene” words or graphic physiological description. . .the stuff was really laughably chaste and demure. Everything was done by euphemism and metaphor. No explicit anatomical descriptions were allowed, no naughty words. About as far as you could go was a phrase like “they were lying together, and he felt the urgent thrust of her body against him, and his aroused maleness was penetrating her, and he felt the warm soft moist clasping and the tightening….”
I limited myself to words that were in the standard dictionary because I had been warned at the outset that the publisher would not tolerate what he termed “vulgarisms.” One reason for this was that he genuinely didn’t like them—he was basically a very earnest and straight type of guy, who would much rather have been publishing science fiction—but he also knew that he might very well go to jail if he started printing them. Jail, yes—no matter what the First Amendment might say. (And eventually he did, many years later—not for publishing sexy novels, but for violating the postal code by sending an advertisement for an illustrated history of erotic art and literature through the mails!)
The list of what was a “vulgarism,” though, kept changing in line with various court actions and rulings affecting Nightstand’s competitors in the rapidly expanding erotic-book business. All across the nation, bluenosed civic authorities were trying to stamp out this new plague of smut. Whenever a liberal-minded judge threw out a censor’s case, the word came down to us that we could take a few more risks in what we wrote, although our prose remained exceedingly pure by later publishing standards. But whenever some unfortunate publisher was hit by a fine, the word was passed to the little crew of Nightstand regulars that we had to try to be more proper.
But I have no regrets about those five years in the sex-book factory—none. I don’t think any of us who wrote Nightstands do. It isn’t just that I earned enough by writing them to pay for that big house and my trips to Europe. I developed and honed important professional skills, too, while I was pounding out all those books.
Writing those books was a terrific experience and I look back fondly on it without shame, without apologies.
--from Robert Silverberg’s introduction to Lust Queen/Lust Victim by “Don Elliott”

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