Monday, October 25, 2010

Nerdvana, An anthology edited by Fred Towers

Reviewed by Victor J. Banis
Published by Star Books

4 ½ out of 5 stars

As a general rule, I don’t pick up books of hardcore erotica. That is not a judgmental thing—a few decades ago, I might have approached them with considerably more enthusiasm, but I am an old and well traveled bridge (in the words of a song from WWI, “tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching…”) beneath which a lot of water has passed and today those bodily parts and their various functions hold few erotic surprises for me.

On the other hand, the premise of this one—that the biggest sex organ is the brain—corresponds very closely to my own thinking. I have always found intelligence sexy. What’s more, looking at the list of contributors, I immediately spotted one of my favorite authors, Bryl Tyne, so I knew at worst I could count on at least one genuinely satisfying read.

My expectation was unduly pessimistic, however. What I found was a collection of stories in which, with the majority of them in any event, you could take out or water down the sex and still have some pretty good (if a bit lean) reading. And it is kind of sexy to see writers celebrating the nerds and the geeks, at least to my way of thinking. Hey, you may even recognize yourself. I did. I suspect a great many gay men were nerds as well—more, anyway, than were the hunks and the jocks, however fully they dominate the fictional scene. And to be honest, a slight young thing in spectacles and a ready blush has always been far more of a turn on for me than a football hero.
I’m not going to attempt to review each of the fifteen stories individually, but I would hate not to mention:
Exposed, by Bryl Tyne – yes, just as I expected from this writer, a well rounded and intriguing story, though I confess I’m not very up on computer games. Still, it seemed convincing to me, which is what a good author does, and Bryl does particularly well.

Gan Haatzmaut Yerushalayim by David Muller – I don’t think I’ve ever run across a gay story set in Jerusalem, so I had to give this one marks for that, at least. But it is quite creative apart from that, and the settings felt authentic. It reminded me very much, in fact, of some stories I’ve heard from a friend who has been there. His tales made me wish I could go, and so does this one. If it weren’t for all that tramp, tramp, tramping over the bridge.

A Night in Midgar by Augusta Li – more video games (you see, I really am a dinosaur) but in this instances two con attendees assume the roles of the warring characters, with steamy results. Sort of like if Batman and Robin went at it. Hmm, did they, or was that only in my dreams? If you had the same kinds of dreams, you’ll appreciate this one.

Hardboiled by Landon Dixon – another genuinely creative piece of erotica as the author takes the author in and out of various fantasies – sort of Walter Mitty on a double dose of Viagra. Stylistically very nice, and it does have a hard boiled voice to match the title.

The Bully on the Playground by Helen E.H. Madden – this seems at the start to be somewhat run of the mill, maybe in part because it’s the last story in the book and by then we’ve already come upon (oh, those puns do get away from me) a number of bullies, but the author has surprises in store, and the story goes off on a much darker track. The endings to erotic stories are generally pretty predictable, but this one is not.

That I singled out these few examples is not to suggest that the others in the collection are sub-par; they are not. There’s no pretense of high literature here, whatever that is (someone recently asked me to define “literary story” and the best I could come up with was “tiresome”) but these stories are vastly better than the old Tijuana Bibles that I knew in my salad days. The anthology as a whole is far meatier (another pun!) than your average collection of whack-off stories. Exactly how one will respond to this kind of thing really depends on what a reader is looking for in a book, but if that is plenty of sexy action with a genuine nod to story values and good writing, he will almost certainly be happy with this collection.

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