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Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009

Anthology ‘Bitten’ By Love and Lust

Susie Bright’s collection of dark erotic fiction

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The Cambridge Dictionary defines erotica as themes that produce sexual desire and pleasure. Bitten (Chronicle Books) delivers all that and more. Billed as gothic, the stories chosen for this anthology by editor Susie Bright range from mild to hard-core in sexual content. Indeed, the book includes tales inspired by classical mythology along with stories that could be described as porn.

The first story, Sera Gamble's "The Devil's Invisible Scissors," launches this book on what may be its highest note. It's a takeoff of the Moerae Clotho, who in mythology uses scissors to shorten or end a life. Gamble's rendition is a fast-paced tale where the scissors were given by the devil himself for harvesting souls. Another standout, "The Resurrection Rose" by Anne Tourney, combines the heinous blood baths of the countess Elizabeth Bthory with the equally evil Marie Antoinette. Eternal life or death is at stake, and survival rests with a vampire rose.

Also included are lighthearted tales such as Allison Lawless' "The Unfamiliar," a more traditional story of an amorous genie found hiding in an elderly aunt's library, and E.R. Stewart's "Cross-Town Incubus," where a young woman finds a sexual spirit in her boyfriend's loft with titillating results, great passion and a lusty conclusion.

Other stories are more arcane, including "Smoke and Ashes" by Shanna Germain, a somewhat confusing tale of a young girl, alone with a dozen young men, who must choose the pick of the motley bunch, and Jess Wells' more gothic "The Rookery," in which a medieval falconer has to choose between a beautiful woman and his love of falcons.

As with many anthologies, there are a few stories that are less artistic. "Half-Crown Doxy" by Cate Robertson and "Pandora's Other Box" by Greg Boyd reek of pornographic sadism and border on the grotesque. The final tale in this collection provides another example: Ernie Conrick's "Get Thee Behind Me, Satan" is at once a morality tale and an epic gross-out of sexual pathology. By turns profound and deeply disturbing, it speaks of the excesses of modern living and the breakdown of society; however, Conrick pulls off a small miracle in that his story is also obscenely funny.

Bitten is a visually stunning book with a beautiful wraparound green viper on the cover and gold-edged pages that invite the reader to plumb the depths of depravity and lust contained within. All in all, Bitten is a study in contrast between love and lust, morality tale and smut, and all the evil and sublime passion that has existed since Eve was lured into eating of the apple of the tree of good and evil. This book is highly recommended for those who love bawdy fun and great writing, and for those who want to peek into the dark side of passion.

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