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Interview and free stuff at Cup O' Porn

As previously mentioned, our friend and author Heidi Cullinan is doing a daily blog of... well, gratuitous man-candy, not to put too fine a point on it. She's just posted a very nice interview with us and a giveaway from our first issue, so swing by and enjoy the freebies. :)


Heidi Cullinan: cool. Coffee and porn: hot.

Fans of "The Boys of Pleasure" from our first issue will, of course, be aware of Heidi Cullinan. She's talented, she's hip, and she's got an appreciation for the male form that runs both deep and wide.

In fact, in collaboration with the ever-popular Marie Sexton (who I deeply wish I could con into writing for Syzygy like I did with Heidi), she's embarked on a new project called Cup O' Porn, a constantly-updating celebration of men, photography, and the female gaze, with a dash of Heidi and Marie's own personal obsessions mixed in.

Consider it recommended by a supervillain in a hat: when you need your daily dose of dudes, Cup O' Porn is your first stop.
Via the eternally-groovy Ms. Naughty, here's an interesting article about how, as usual, anything involving women's sexual desire is considered more inappropriate than anything involving men's. Short version: markets that advertise Viagra won't advertise a women's arousal product because it's "too adult".

That's something we've run into a bunch of times, as I think most producers of women's erotica have, and I think it has its roots in something pretty deeply ingrained in our culture: the default assumption that women don't really like sex. Men wanting sex is normal, acceptable, suitable for prime-time advertising. Women wanting sex is something Strange. Echoes of slut-shaming and vague ideas of pornography start coming to mind, and folks feel, on some level, that a rule is being challenged. That's what feels inappropriate to them, of course; not the actual level of smut involved, but the feel of a rule being challenged.

I think you can imagine what I think they can do with their rules.


Who'd like a free copy of Syzygy?

We're doing a promotion to help get the word out to retailers about Syzygy, so if you want to help support gay erotica for women and you'd also like a free copy of the first issue, email us and we'll figure out if you qualify. We can only send out so many free copies, so email us today!

It's Here

The day has come! Syzygy issue one is available for purchase in both hard copy and electronic forms! Buy a copy today, and urge your friends to do the same! You probably have a number of friends who'd love to read Syzygy; they should be informed of this.

I want to take a minute to thank the fans whose faith in this magazine has helped us make it happen despite all of the obstacles, missteps, and delays we've had to deal with. We're working on issue two right now, and of course the best way you can help make that happen is to buy issue one.


Up all night

Two reasons I'm up all night tonight. First is that I've just discovered Greta Christina's blog, via a link from the incomparable Susie Bright, and now I can't stop reading it.

The second is that, after months of copious profanity and a growing belief that printers are all fundamentally evil and dishonest people (which it turns out is not true), we have in our hands a good proof copy of our first issue. And oh baby, it's gorgeous. Nice glossy cover, good paper quality, photo reproduction that brings out every nuance of expression, every gleaming tear and tensed shoulder, even the really good wound makeup in "After They've Seen Paris", everything. I can't tell you quite how it feels to have this project I've been working on so long suddenly rendered as a physical object, something I can hold in my hands and wave excitedly at people. I've literally been pausing before I hand it to folks and asking "Are your hands clean?" In my defense, it's the only paper copy that currently exists, and I grew up in comic book fandom. We have certain protocols.

Anyway, this means that I have to finalize some ads, double-check some design issues, tweak the cover a bit, and generally look busy. So it's coffee, pipe tobacco, and frequent breaks to read another of Greta Christina's essays on feminism, sex-positivity, and the intersection of the two.

Y'know, instead of sleep.

The email I just sent to ICANN

Just sent a message to xxx-revised-icm-agreement@icann.org about the proposed .xxx domain. It's reproduced below.

If you're not up on the issue, you might want to check out .XXXOpposition.com, courtesy of my friend (and Syzygy advertiser) Darklady. Essentially, a new domain is being proposed, that would be just for "adult sites". And we're promised over and over that this wouldn't be required, it would just be an option. Sure, that promise always gets kept.

Dear sir or madam,

I'm an American small businessman. I've been fighting for nearly two years to realize a dream, a dream of high-quality, non-exploitative gay male erotica by and for women. Along the road, I've encountered obstacles I never knew existed, and it's cost me and my partner much more than we had guessed, just trying to make something beautiful that people will love. Now I hear that another obstacle may be introduced, and I greatly fear that's one more than we can handle.

I know, the assurances are that .xxx will not be mandated, only optional, but who really believes that? There's too many penny-ante legislatures in small jurisdictions that want to pass big important laws the size of the whole internet. There are too many people who have a lot to gain from a meaningless and stupid law that can be sold as "protecting the children". There are too many places that will mandate .xxx only for adult content, and once the laws exist, however asinine they may be, they will spread. In your heart, you know this is true.

They say now that .xxx will not be a ghetto, but nobody on either side of the issue believes that to be true. All we ask is that you don't support a policy you know isn't honest. Don't think of it as regulating a huge and rapacious industry, think of it as regulating a cottage industry that's only finding its feet. For every major adult company raking in the dough, there are a hundred small, independent operators like me. We aren't part of the debate much because we're small, subsisting on niche audiences and loyal fans. The ghettoization that .xxx represents won't really hurt the major companies; the ones who bear the brunt will be the ones least able to bear another burden. If not out of human feeling, then simply out of respect for the free market, you must oppose .xxx as a domain.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I hope you make the right decision.

Brad Hanon

If you support net freedom, if you've ever produced or loved something that might be considered "adult content", if you don't want your net surfing to be subject to the whims of "community standards" in some town where bluenosed prudes have bought the city council, you should also take a couple minutes to email ICANN. That goes double if you happen to like content involving two men together--as we've learned during the process of trying to find a good printer, gay content is a lot more likely to be called "adult" than straight content.


Holy crap, this dude was awesome

So there's a book coming out about a gent name of Samuel Steward, who appears to have been the gay love child of Leonard Zelig and Forrest Gump, only with a mania for recording his adventures.

If this doesn't inspire you to want to write thrilling homoerotic exploration adventures, you have a higher inspiration threshold than I do. I'll definitely be picking up the book. Seriously, the man kept Rudolph Valentino's pubic hair in a custom-made reliquary. That's half an inch from being a Warren Ellis character.
I recently got an email from an editor friend of mine pointing me to this interesting article on Gawker about ladies into reading about guy-on-guy action. It referenced this article from Out that interviews a couple M/M romance authors. You may have seen one or both articles before; they've been kicked around a bit.

These articles are pretty flawed, of course. They trade in stereotypes a lot, perhaps my favorite being "the types of surburban women who pick up those paperbacks with Fabio on the cover." I could spend all day unpacking the weird shit built into that phrase. And, yes, the conclusions they come to are pretty silly. Apparently, ladies, y'all like seeing boys kiss because you deep down want to be gay men. You know you can't resist the urge to pee standing up. One of our favorite authors, the delightful Heidi Cullinan, wrote a terrific post eloquently pushing back against some of this nonsense. (You should totally buy the story she wrote for our first issue.)

On balance, though, I think these articles, and more like them, are a good thing. They're a good thing because they work against silencing, which I've written about before. Every article, every pop culture reference or half-assed joke that reminds people "Tons of women love seeing two guys together" is another step in ending silencing. It's another girl who doesn't think she's the only one who has these thoughts. It's another woman who doesn't feel she has to lie when her husband asks what she's reading. It's another husband who can understand his wife a little better. It's another genderqueer person who has a little more context and a little more space in which to form their own identity and desires.

The cluelessness in the two referenced articles is unfortunate, well-intentioned though it may be. But cluelessness is curable. Having the wrong impression, getting bad information, resorting to stereotypes and easy answers... these are all things that can be gotten past. When silence ends, though, we say that it's broken. It can never be restored in the same way. And the silencing of women's desires has gone on way, way too long.

On a related note, this trailer is very interesting to me. On one level, as a child of the 80s, I'm just thrilled to see Mindy Cohn again. More intriguing, though, is how much of the trailer is spent with the camera drooling over gorgeous men making out. There've been plenty of films featuring that, of course, but they tend to be "gay films", marketed accordingly, destined for the "Gay & Lesbian" shelf at the video store. Violet Tendencies, on the other hand, appears to be marketed more as a "chick flick", The marketers for this film appear pretty certain that women want to go to a movie where (if the trailer's any indication) half the screen time is spent watching guys grope each other. Me, I'm pretty sure they're right, I'm just impressed someone had the guts to say so. Probably in a few years we'll all chuckle over how impressive that seemed, once upon a time. That's the fun of being on our side of the fight; we struggle like hell to get these doors open, and then our kids look at us and say "God, did anyone even think that was a big deal? Your generation sucked."


Jerked around

There are, in life, many things more frustrating than having a complete magazine issue ready to go to press, and not being able to go to press. I cannot at this moment think of any because I am going crazy, but I have faith that they exist.

We had one printing company (which shall remain nameless) all set to go, files formatted to their specifications, talking with a very nice fellow who assured me they didn't restrict content, just waiting for the initial proofs and then we start the presses rolling. Then I get an email suggesting that the new management of the company wanted to know if this was the sort of material we intended to continue printing, since it might be a bit delicate. I replied, and I quote:

As to the content, yes, this is the kind of thing we publish and plan to continue publishing. Content-wise, the text is no more explicit than you'd find in a modern romance novel, and the pictures are sticking strictly to an R rating, with no actual sexual contact involved.

Specifically, what we're doing is addressing a large and hungry market whose needs are going unmet. Yaoi manga, tales of gay male romance and sex written and drawn by Japanese women, is a huge genre that consistently sells like hotcakes. Slash fiction, erotic tales by women of men with other men, usually created in the form of fanfiction, has exploded online until it's the second-largest gift economy in the world. Gay male romance, usually by women, is the fastest-growing segment of the romance novel industry, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you how big that is.

In short, we expect to be printing and publishing quite a lot of this material over the coming years, and if your bosses would prefer that we do it through another company, we have no problem doing so. We had, however, heard that [company name] was good. I hope you can straighten this matter out, and we look forward to seeing those proofs.

The gent I'd been speaking to reassured me that management would probably be just fine with it. A few days later, around the time we should have been receiving the proofs, I got an email saying they'd decided not to print for us after all, due to our explicit content.

As anyone who knows me could guess, copious profanity on my part ensued. Seriously, I'd have made the entire Marine Corps blush.

We're currently in negotiations with a couple other printers, but now I'm torn. Our plan all along has been to release the print and online versions simultaneously, but the jerking around has me reconsidering. Might it not be wiser to take our ready-to-go site revamp and first issue and just put the damn things up for all to download, enjoy, and direct their friends to? Then we can offer the print edition in a couple weeks, when the endless rounds of phone tag and back-and-forth with printers and retailers are over. Perhaps it is wrong of me to make our PDF-reading fans wait while I pound away at bricks and mortar.

What do you guys think? Should we just start selling you the downloadable first issue, or do you want to wait for paper?