Writer and editor Sacchi Green has paved one very sexy road for herself in the world of lesbian erotica, and she’s now celebrating the release of the much-anticipated volume of stories, Best Lesbian Erotica, 20th Anniversary Edition.
As the editor of Girl Crazy and co-editor of anthologies like Lesbian Cowboys, Rode Hard, Put Away Wet and many more, Green has honed her taste and skill to deliver a collection of stories that range from lust-at-first-sight quickies to coming out stories, and secret desires to deeper explorations. It’s packed with women’s fantasies that truly satisfy.
We were excited to interview Sacchi Green about her new book, the nuanced world of lesbian erotica, and what readers look for when it comes to the delicate balance of creative story and getting turned on.
INTERVIEW WITH SACCHI GREEN, EDITOR OF BEST LESBIAN EROTICA, 20th ANNIVERSARY EDITION
How did you get started writing lesbian erotica, how has the genre developed over the years, and what brought you to start the anthology?
My first published stories were in the science fiction and fantasy genre, usually with lesbian subtexts, but when I came across a call for submissions for the Best Lesbian Erotica series in 1999, I thought, “Hey, I bet I can do that!” and found myself seduced by the erotic side of the force.
The genre was expanding then, and becoming more diverse, so that you could find erotica with a romantic slant, or an edgy street-smart bite, short and uncomplicated or so expertly constructed that the sex and characterization and story arc fit together seamlessly. I wouldn’t say that the writing got more explicit—there were always some authors taking sex to the edge and over—but there was more and more of it available.
Tristan Taormino’s Best Lesbian Erotica series from Cleis Press, beginning in 1996, brought together the best work in this expanding genre (with “best” of course being subjective when it comes to writing) and seemed to me to validate the genre as a whole, as Susie Bright’s Best American Erotica did beginning in 1993 for the wider field of erotica. For a while erotica anthologies proliferated, and then over several years many of them fell by the wayside as the publishing world changed, but now there are new presses adjusting to the new ways, and erotica is stronger than ever in both short fiction and novels. All this time Cleis Press has been, for most writers of my very extensive acquaintance, the gold standard to aim for when it comes to erotica anthologies.
After five years in a row of having my stories published in Best Lesbian Erotica as well as many other anthologies, and getting to know a wide range of excellent writers, I decided to try my hand at editing in 2005. I started with three small presses, none of whom exist today. Eventually Cleis Press decided to publish more lesbian erotica anthologies, and called on me after people I’d worked with recommended me as someone who could handle the administrative as well as editorial functions. Now I’ve edited seven anthologies for Cleis, with two more coming up. Being asked to edit this year’s Best Lesbian Erotica, the 20th Anniversary Edition, has been the highlight of my career so far, with the possible exception of the Lambda Literary Awards won by two of my Cleis anthologies.
What types of storylines and characters do lesbian erotica fans look for in your experience?
The best thing about lesbian erotica fans is that they get beyond the all-too-prevalent view of erotica as “plot-what-plot?” trash not worth bothering with. They do want storylines, and complex characters, and intriguing settings, and can find them in erotica. Lesbian erotica fans are as diverse in their tastes as any other group of readers, so in anthologies, even themed ones, I try to have enough variety to appeal to many different readers, and skillful enough writing to appeal to most of them even when the particular slant isn’t to their usual taste. The readers need to be able to connect with the characters, to feel what they’re feeling, whether the sex is traditional, kinky, one-shot or committed, but sometimes they want characters who can fulfill their wildest fantasies rather than mirror their own identities. Role-playing has its place, too, consensual scenarios of transgression, bondage, power play. Above all, whatever the tone and theme of a story, they want intensity, both sexual and emotional. They want detailed, explicit descriptions, but they don’t want glaring clichés or strained metaphors. If a writer can turn them on well enough using creative terms, though, all the better.
What I look for as a reader and an editor are stories that are about more than sex, with sex still being at their core. I think most readers want that, as well, but some would rather not pay attention to anything beyond the sensory stimulation, and that’s fine too. As I said, erotic tastes are diverse, for lesbians as well as any other group. For those who want only BDSM, or butch/femme couplings (or butch/butch or femme/femme, etc.,) or paranormal/fantasy settings, or any other niche theme, there are anthologies out there that cater to their tastes, some of my books included, like Me and My Boi, coming out this June, and The Princess’s Bride: Lesbian Fairy Tale Erotica, coming out next year. Or my two Lambda Award winners, Lesbian Cowboys and Wild Girls, Wild Nights: True Lesbian Sex Stories. Did I mention that I like variety? It goes without saying that I’m that kind of lesbian erotica fan.
Who are your role models in lesbian erotica?
I’m not sure that I have any role models in terms of writers I want to emulate; in fact I’m a proponent of finding your own voice (or even voices) rather than trying to be like someone else, and originality is high on the list of things I look for as an editor. One downside of the proliferation of erotica that I see as an editor is the tendency of some new writers to try to sound like others they’ve read, and all too often they choose the wrong role models. But there are certainly writers I’ve admired and respected ever since I discovered them, even though some of them no longer write erotica. Some, “literary” writers like Sarah Waters and Jeanette Winterson, don’t officially write erotica at all, even though parts of their work are certainly erotic enough. Among those who have written unabashedly for the erotica genre in the past, Joan Nestle comes first to mind, for both her pioneering fiction and nonfiction, and for her activism. Leslea Newman falls into this category, too. Pat Califia (now Patrick Califia) is another major figure, legendary for pioneering BDSM+ themes. Among contemporary writers of lesbian erotica, so many of my favorites have written for my anthologies that I don’t dare single out a few any more than parents can rank their children.
Besides your fabulous anthology, what other lesbian erotica would you recommend?
First of all, I recommend all of the other books in the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Tristan Taormino, the creator of the series, was editor from 1996 to 2009, and Kathleen Warnock took over through 2014. Laura Antoniou edited the 2015 volume, I’ve just done the 2016 edition, and the 2017 volume is being compiled by one of my favorite writers and editors, D.L. King. As far as other anthologies go, I have to admit that I haven’t kept up with many beyond those I’ve edited myself or those that include stories of my own, so the best I can say is that Cleis Press anthologies are always worth reading, and some of the older works from the now-defunct Alyson Books certainly had their moments. For BDSM/Kink fans Pat Califia’s Macho Sluts is a classic, and Sinclair Sexsmith’s contemporary writings continue in that tradition with a distinctive voice of their own. Cheyenne Blue, one of my favorite writers, has edited a couple of excellent lesbian erotica anthologies lately that would recommend even if I didn’t have stories in them. Ylva Publishing and Ladylit Publishing are two of the newer presses that are producing lesbian erotica anthologies well worth reading, as well as novels .
How can couples use your book to teach each other to talk erotically or turn each other on?
There’s no denying that lesbian erotica readers sometimes turn to fiction for how-to information, for lack of other resources. There are, in fact, non-fiction resources, chief among them Felice Newman’s The Whole Lesbian Sex Book, but stories have their own power to inform and inspire. When it comes to readers of my previous books, some lesbians have told me, when we meet at readings, that they read these stories to each other at bedtime. Erotica as foreplay is probably as old as language itself. Erotica also plays a role in widening the readers’ recognition of possibilities, sexual activities, and seductive language, and sharing these stories is a way to pass along and discuss that knowledge. The emotional impact of erotic fiction can be as powerful as the sensual parts, too, and create an atmosphere where couples feel free to communicate their desires and act on them. But all this explanation sounds on the dry side; the stories need to speak for themselves, wielding their own lubricious magic. Lesbian erotica fans find their own personal ways of connecting with their desires and those of possible partners through these stories, and exactly how they do it is, as with so much of life, complicated.
Best Lesbian Erotica, 20th Anniversary Edition is now available from Cleis Press.
ABOUT SACCHI GREEN: Sacchi Green is the editor of Girl Crazy and has coedited the anthologies Lesbian Cowboys, Rode Hard, Put Away Wet, Hard Road, Easy Riding, and Lipstick on Her Collar. Her stories have appeared in an array of erotica publications, including the Best Lesbian Erotica series, the Best Women’s Erotica series, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, and Best Lesbian Romance 2010. She lives in Pioneer Valley, MA.