Again today, anyone who comments will be entered into a giveaway, this time for a signed copy of THE IRON HUNT by Marjorie M. Liu. And tune in tomorrow for another wonderful blog from Diana Pharaoh Francis.
Today we have a great essay by fiction and non-fiction author Susan Wright. Her erotic fantasy duology TO SERVE AND SUBMIT and A POUND OF FLESH is already available from Roc Books. Next year will see publication of her urban fantasy novel CONFESSIONS OF A DEMON. Susan is also the spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, and so well-equipped to write about:
"Sex and Sookie Stackhouse" by Susan Wright
Who would think the South is so steamy when it comes to vampire sex? From the opening credits of writhing religious ecstatics and young women dirty dancing with older rednecks, to the speedy decomposition of a dead fox, I knew that HBO's Sookie Stackhouse was going to notch up the intensity.
I think Charlaine Harris's urban fantasy, Dead Until Dark, has been followed more or less faithfully in HBO's True Blood. But aside from the explicit sexual scenes, the subtext of vampires as minorities, in particular a sexual minority, has been brought out much stronger in the HBO television series. On the latest show, Sookie is vilified as the vampire's girlfriend when the bite marks are seen on her neck, a theme that also reflects the old South taboo against interracial couples, just as the vampires themselves are blamed for the killings of young women who like to have sex with them.
I've been fascinated by the reactions of Sookie Stackhouse readers to the HBO series in a number of Internet readers' groups. At first some people really objected to the addition of the "unnecessary" sex scenes, especially those involving Sookie's brother Jason, who is accused of killing the young women and his own grandmother. In the very first episode, we get to see vampire sex in all its rapid-fire glory, with a demon speed-pumping a willing, tied-up woman. That scene was apparently so much fun for the producers that they showed it again in the home-movie version.
It made one reader remark that she started cringing when she thought of all the people she had told to watch True Blood, since it was "more about sex than vampires." Another rolled her eyes when her husband said, "Now I see why you read those books." One reader estimated that the books have 1/10th the sex in them than the HBO series, much to some prospective readers' disappointment. But everyone seemed to quickly accept that this is HBO, after all, notorious for open and frank representations of sexuality.
HBO also ramped up the sexual themes by capitalizing on Harris's mention that vampire blood has been the "drug of choice" for the past couple of years. She compared it to "prednisone and Viagra" while in True Blood, it's called "V" and acts much more like ecstasy (with dire and graphic consequences if too much is consumed). The emphasis on the drug really heightens the push-and-pull fascination that the vampires have for the people in town. Vampires offer the ultimate in pleasure, but they also promise death if you get too close to them.
That isn't to say that I think Charlaine Harris is a shrinking violet when it comes to sex. She even said in the pre-series show, "The most pleasurable way to take blood is through sex." Though Sookie is a virgin in the beginning of Dead Until Dark, by midway through, she's having sex with Bill the vampire for the first time in her dead grandmother's bed. There's also a vampire bar where everyone dresses Goth while some people crawl on the floor in obvious imitation of BDSM scenes.
One advantage TrueBlood has over the books is the fact that Harris tells Sookie's story from the first-person perspective, which means we only hear second-hand speculation about other characters' lives. I love first-person narrative, but by breaking away from that, HBO is able to show the wild and varied sex life of Jason as well as the biggest addition to the cast in the television series—the black best friend Tara. I didn't like Tara at first, taking her for a caricature, but as the series continues, I think Tara's love for Jason and lust for Sam (their boss who's in love with Sookie) have developed nicely into a complex love quadrangle.
Now when I read the books, I hear Anna Paquin's voice as Sookie. I think that's a very good sign. I look forward to seeing more of HBO's interpretation of Harris's world.