[Editor's note: The story reviewed in this piece is the third story in the Jurassic London 2013 Stocking Stuffer Chapbook. The chapbook features three stories themed, ostensibly, around regency romance. Liberties were taken. The chapbook, and 'Godmaker' can be downloaded or read online here for free.]
Hot and heavy came the breath from Skeid Raalfstaag’s lips.
So begins Stevon Deermeet’s debut short story. Calling it epic fantasy erotica, sells it short. Not ordinary epic fantasy or mild mannered erotica, ‘Godmaker’ is an author at the peek of his powers channeling the until-now-lost erogenous zones of Brandon Sanderson, Terry Brooks, and Raymond Feist.
Much of the erotica subgenres are an end in and of themselves. Deeermeet refuses to take the easy road, instead providing deep and cutting commentary on how epic fantasies use sexuality. And does it in around 1,000 words.
As the sentence quoted at the start implies, Skeid Raalfstaag is Deermeet’s protagonist. The gist is that Raalfstaag has recently been joined with a woman of the clan and he must repress his battle instincts in order to consummate their relationship. The words Deermeet chooses to describe this process are chilling. It begins with Raalfstaag’s inability prevent an erection in the early stages of their dance, highlighting Deermeet’s sexually abstinent culture.
Much as something rose up south of Skeid’s belt at the thought of honoring his family’s tradition. He felt blush in his cheeks as Heiniir sensed his intent and gasped.
The quoted passage demonstrates a sense of shame at his reaction to an impending liaison with Heiniir. Although she is apparently his wife, or something akin to it in Deermeet’s world, there’s a blatant premise underlying it that sexual congress is something best kept under wraps. It goes further, referring to it as duty. Deermeet takes it a step beyond even that.
Wiseseeing be damned, he swept forward and took her by the arm. She gasped modestly. “Then let us say nothing. Tonight, we commit Ruukuudan.”
Notice the use of the word commit. In the context of the sentence the word carries the negative connotation of committing a crime or a salacious act. It is not lovemaking, or doing the Freaky Ruukuudany of two consenting adults, but an act that should not be spoken of except, to borrow a film term, in a fade-to-black. Taking consensual sex off camera is a classic technique in epic fantasy, while sexual violence is often featured.
There are other undercurrents at play as well. Here Deermeet discusses the nature of the divine’s role.
And though many Lords and many Houses would follow, it was to Ruukuud that they swore their praises and to Ruukuud after whom they named this most intimate moment, when only one Lord was permitted to observe.
Although Ruukuud is not necessarily gendered, the use of the word Lord implies male. In this instance we have a male god as a participant in the act of love making that so intimate (i.e. — shameful) that only He may be a party to it. This theme of male domination is prevalent throughout the piece and highlights many of the stereotypical tropes of epic fantasy where the feminine is in the second position.
Overall, ‘Godmaker’ is a quick, but incisive, look at the way sex is handled in ‘male gaze’ fantasy. Heiniir is an object to be possessed if only the man can suppress his base nature of war making. I believe Deermeet highlights the gross misappropriation of justice with regards to female sexuality in much of today’s published fiction, and does so in a way that cuts deeply at what we too often accept as a matter of course.
The piece ends with this line,
For tomorrow, he went to war.
It the perfect end to a story mocking epic fantasy, is it not? Because as absurd as the treatment of sexuality is within the story itself, the only thing more absurd is that it ends by discussing something completely arbitrary to the piece. Stevon Deermeet says with it, this moment of intimacy is foreplay to the larger battle. It exists solely to provide our warrior, our man, our hero, our protagonist, with something to lose. Sad, isn’t it?
I don’t know who Stevon Deermeet is, whether it is a well known author under a pseudonym or a newcomer on the scene, but I very much want to see more of this kind of self-aware fictional criticism.