Books, Reviews

Bearded Gourd And Other Euphamisms: A Review of Loose Lips

Loose Lips: Fanfiction Parodies of Great (and Terrible) Literature from the Smutty Stage of Shipwreck, Edited by Amy Stephenson, Casey Childers. Cover illustration by Madeline Gobbo. Cover design by Elizabeth Turner. 2016

Cover illustration by Madeline Gobbo. Cover design by Elizabeth Turner.

Loose Lips: Fanfiction Parodies of Great (and Terrible) Literature from the Smutty Stage of Shipwreck

Edited by Amy Stephenson, Casey Childers
Grand Central Publishing
September 27 2016

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In Loose Lips: Fanfiction Parodies of Great (and Terrible) Literature from the Smutty Stage of Shipwreck edited by Amy Stephenson, Casey Childers does what it says on the tin. It’s a collection of short, smutty, fanfiction favourites from the monthly erotic fanfiction competition Shipwreck, run by the book’s editors. The foreword (by Seanan McGuire) explains the basics of fanfiction in general and the Shipwreck event in particular, including a primer on fanfiction terms, styles, warnings, and tags.

Each month, Shipwreck chooses a new book to, well, wreck by giving each invited author a character or item of particular significance to the story and a few ground rules to follow in writing their fanfiction:

  1. No non-con (non-consensual sexual activities);
  2. No underage characters; and
  3. No intentionally harmful humour (I take this to mean, essentially, no “punching down”).

Beyond that, anything goes.

The collection is organised first by literary category (Classics, Genre, Children’s Lit, and “Other”) and then by book. There are between one and six individual fics included for each book ranging from vehicle maintenance manuals (“Caring for and Using Your New Car” by Jeffrey Cranor) to High School AU’s (“Francisco d’Anconia: A Day in the Life of a Totally Normal Teenage Magnate” by Kamala Puligandla) and everything in between. [Author’s Note: “High School AU” refers to a storytelling conceit in fanfiction whereby the characters from the source material are all de-aged to teenagers and the story’s setting is moved to a typical American High School]. Also included is a very handy “Appendicks” [sic] where you can find a list of every euphemism for penis that the collection has to offer. It’s impossible to pick just one favourite from that list, but “Jewel of Gwahlur” shines proudly as a representative example of what to expect.

It’s hard to give a general review of a collection with this much variety in tone, subject matter, and authorship so we’ll start with some broad strokes. The pieces are very accessible even if you haven’t read the source material. Especially in the Classics section, there are a number of works I have not read, but a quick perusal of the source book’s Wikipedia entry for general plot points and character names was more than sufficient to enjoy the fics collected here. On the other hand, the pieces are also full of allusions and references both to the source text and other works, providing a rich (and often hilarious) depth to the story for readers more familiar with the source material.

Which brings me to my next point: this is a work of both humour and porn. Most, though not all, of the fics are funny and all of them have some pornographic aspects. As with fanfiction in general, the quantity, quality, and character of the sex scenes varies greatly throughout the book. This variety is both a positive and negative aspect of the book.

In the foreword, McGuire introduces the reader to one of the fundamental concepts of online fanfiction communities: tags and warnings. If you search through fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org (the two most prominent fanfiction communities online), every work you come across will have a comprehensive list of tags and warnings from the author that give potential readers an idea of what they’re getting themselves into. Tags include which characters are in the fic, who is in a relationship with whom, general ratings (PG, T for teen, R, Explicit, etc.), and–if there are sexual aspects to the story–particulars of what kind of porn one can expect (M/F, M/M, BDSM, M/M/F, food, beastiality, etc.). These tags and warnings are fundamental aspects of the fanfiction community, but are, unfortunately, absent from the individual fics in this collection. As someone who has a very complicated relationship with food, it would’ve been nice to know going in which stories had characters using foodstuffs in their sexy times. Now, I would’ve read them regardless, as is my duty to you, dear reader, but most readers need not read those stories they would find uncomfortable; this collection has more than enough breadth of topic and style for everyone to find something that suits their particular sexual appetite.

The above problem is somewhat mitigated by brief category introductions from the editors. At the beginning of each category, they give a general overview of what to expect from the pieces included and the general approach taken by Shipwreck when taking apart a book in that category. This is especially important in the Children’s Literature section where the editors assure us that the “[f]irst thing [they] do when tackling kids’ books is get rid of the kids.” Competitors for children’s books are encouraged to keep the whimsy and enthusiasm of the source text while avoiding all underage characters. And it leads to some amazing stories about the beavers of Narnia, Charlie’s Grandpa Joe, Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George, and Grandma Georgina, and Captain Hook and the crocodile, to name just a few.

Although the collection does have a few problems, overall, it is a fun and enjoyable read with enough variety in both jokes and porn to tickle everyone’s … “organ of benevolence.”