Feb 232013

I’ve officially agreed to edit a collection of essays on the history of Master-slave relationships, commissioned by the Master Taino’s Training Academy.

I’m very excited about this project, as I will help create a contribution to the scholarship of the history of this field, and also get to work with people who have been involved in this subculture from its earliest days. My hope is that this book will have a place on shelves next to classics like Leatherfolk and Different Loving.

This project should run into 2014, at which point I will present the finished manuscript to MTTA for them to either publish themselves or present to a publisher.

Oct 312012

In honour of Hall0ween, here’s my flash story “Worn-Out Monsters”:

“I was a monster, once,“ said the porcelain unicorn, sunlight gleaming on its white body and rainbow-colored mane and tail.

“Really,” said the vampire on the cover of the movie tie-in trade paperback. He might as well be sociable with the fellow resident of the girl’s bedside table.

“It’s true. Ctesias of Cnidus, back in 4th century BC, called me a monster, destructive and powerful, killing men and horses. Then the Christians dangled a virgin in front of me, and I fell for it. It took a long time, but it happened. The old beauty-and-the-beast story. Now look at me. I’m a trinket. Leeched of any sexuality, wildness, magic, power, potential. Even the girl barely notices me anymore, thanks to you. It’s the attic or the garage sale, soon.”

“That’s a shame,” said the vampire, not really listening.

Read more…

 Posted by at 11:48
Sep 202012

Okay, the bus gets to the truck crossing. We file out, get in line, same as usual.

The Homeland Security agent/guard/officer/whatever I get looks like a cliche stereotype. Navy blue uniform, short, squat guy, thick neck, looks like he sweats a lot, bulldog physique, super-fine military buzz cut, looks like he drew his hairline with a ruler.

He looks at my passport and says, where are you going?

I know you aren’t supposed to say, “I’m travelling on business,” because then they start asking about whether you’re taking money or goods into the US. I also decide that being evasive about my trip would look bad. I decide honesty is the best policy, but hope he doesn’t pry too far. “I’m presenting at a conference in Maryland.”

“What about?”

I hesitate a bit here. Then say, “Consensual master-slave relationships.” Being vague would only make him more suspicious.

He seemed completely baffled by the concept, as if he had never heard of anything remotely like it before.

I explained a bit. “it’s all consensual, all role-play.:

He still looked at me like I was talking about putting live frogs in blenders and hitting frappe.

He asked me about my profession, and where I lived, which I told him. He asked to see some proof I had been invited, and I showed him the email with my plane ticket information.

He still looked confused. “Is this a sexual thing at all?”

I said, truthfully, “Yes, some of the time.”

I took a book out of my pack and showed him a picture of Hannah Cullwick and gave him a 10-second presentation on her relationship with Arthur Munby.

He looked and said, “And she enjoyed this?”

“Yes, she did.”

He said, “I have a freelance journalist travelling to present on master-slave relationships,” as if this was something completely unprecedented.

This is when I started to sweat a bit. I was imagining that he’d take me into some little room, there’d be another officer, there’d be latex gloves and CSIS and they’d beat me with phone books or something…

Finally, he put up his hands and said, “I just need to know you aren’t doing anything illegal.”

I told him, “No, there’s no touching. I just give a lecture.”

At long last, he turned away.

Just to make absolutely sure, I asked, “Am I free to go?”
He said, “Yes.” He looked like he was thinking, There are weird, messed-up people in the world, but if they’re not doing anything illegal, I can’t do anything about it.

I ran my bags through the scanner and got back in line. THEN I got the shakes.

When I’m in a scary situation, I stay quite calm externally while it is happening. It doesn’t hit me until afterwards.

By comparison, my encounter with Canadian border authorities was over in less than 30 seconds.

 Posted by at 22:18
Aug 242012

I’ll be at the Master-slave Conference 2012 on Labour Day weekend in Maryland, presenting on Sunday afternoon, 2:00pm to 3:30pm.

Origins of consensual Master-slave relationships in the 18th and 19th centuries
Peter Tupper
Maple [room]

This presentation will explore the relationship between Atlantic slavery and erotic writing in the 18th and 19th centuries. The social relationships of slavery were used as “a mine of sentiment” by Romantic writers in both Europe and the Americas, and popular media used slavery as an element in stories of melodrama and Gothic romance, which in turn informed sexual fantasies. These fantasies are most fully realized in the consensual Master-slave relationship (and secret marriage) between gentleman barrister Arthur Munby and maid-of-all-work Hannah Cullwick in the late 19th century.

The rest of the time I’ll be taking meetings and recruiting contributors for a project I can’t discuss in detail yet. Networking, I’ll admit, is not my forte, but I’ll do my best.

It’s supposed to be 30 degrees that weekend, and I’ve heard stories about summer near Washington DC. Not the best climate for leather and latex.

If you see me, say hello.

On the way, I’m passing through Seattle. Depending on how the time and finances work out, I may drop by the Centre for Sex Positive Culture.

 Posted by at 09:28
Aug 222012

“Print is dead.” – Egon Spengler, Ghostbusters, 1984

The Vancouver Sun and Province are moving to a paywall system.

This new “metered” system will help generate revenue to invest in the insightful, award-winning print and digital journalism expected from the biggest and best news team in Western Canada. We remain committed to investigative reporting and working to ensure transparency from governments and public agencies.

All our print subscribers will receive free, unlimited access to vancouversun.com and The Vancouver Sun’s mobile apps, included with delivery of their daily newspaper. Once registered, our customers can enjoy all digital content from any computer or mobile device, and join online conversations with journalists and other readers on a range of topics.

I’ve written a few articles for the Vancouver Sun, none recently, and I believe they no longer buy from freelancers anyway. (I’m not a regular reader of the Sun or the Province, and when I do read a print newspaper or check a news site, I prefer the Globe and Mail.) In fact, over my career, only a minority of my paid writing has seen print, and that minority gets smaller every year.

(OTOH, my last magazine piece, with only a small excerpt published online, got the attention of a publisher and my first meeting with a book editor. So there is something to be said for both print and exposure in the right circles.)

I realize that making money in publishing is hard, but I don’t think paywalls are viable in the long run. Maybe for high-status publications like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, but not for the Vancouver Sun or the Province.

Here’s a minor satori I had about publishing and media. While doing research for a job search last year, I found an index of employers in Canada. Skimming the table of contents, I couldn’t find anything regarding publishing. I checked the index and found “Publishing. See Pulp and Paper products” That gave me an unpleasant moment of clarity.

So, from a lot of people’s perspective, on a deep, ancestral level, the publishing industry is not the business of ideas or even entertainment. It’s merely one subset of the larger business of moving tree product around. On the big org chart, the newspaper and magazine business, the paper of record, the first draft of history, is somewhere between the people who make toilet paper and the people who make little paper umbrellas in tropical drinks.

However, the business of ideas has been gradually diverging from the business of pulp and paper, into a new medium with new characteristics. Paywalls represent a last ditch effort to hoard ideas instead of letting them be promiscuous.

The flipside of the paywall model, for the publishing business, is the ad-supported model, where you don’t charge for the content but sell eyeballs to advertisers. If you can figure out how to generate content for free, even better.

A friend just got picked up to blog on the Huffington Post, based on the excellent citizen journalism work he’s doing on his own site. HuffPo has given him a byline, exposure, status (people return his calls when he mentions he works for HuffPo), the rights to his output… everything a journalist could want, except actual money.

I wish him the best, but I won’t be joining him. Years ago, I made the choice not to write for other people for free. I’ve fudged that a few times, but for the most part I’ve stuck to it. That means I’ve spent so much time on certain stories that paid so little that, if I worked it out to an hourly rate, I’d cry. But I still got paid: money in the bank, groceries in the fridge.

Sure I’ve invested a hell of a lot of time and work in my two blogs, and seen only a tiny financial return for it (I still haven’t broken the $10 threshold for Amazon affiliate payback.) But I’ve been working for myself, with my own editorial control, my own rights, etc. I work for free, but I don’t toil for free. If I’m alienated from my labour, you’d damned well better fork over some cash.

So where does this leave my writing career? I’m still going to insist on compensation. My big question right now I how to break into the next tier of paying work.

Aug 202012

My latest Openfile.ca article is on the City of Vancouver, after years of non-enforcement, starting to enforce zoning bylaw for adult stores.

This means, interestingly, that stores like London Drugs (which are basically department stores) would be classified as Adult Retail Stores because, right above the condoms and lube, they sell vibrators, discretely packaged as “personal massagers” and often with no illustration or photo on the box. Under Vancouver bylaws, those are “sex objects” and selling those makes your store an “Adult Retail Store”. The law was set in 1995, and since then there have been a lot of upscale adult boutiques like the Art of Loving or Honey, or feminist-oriented adult stores like Womyns’Ware. These stores fit just fine into residential neighborhoods like Kitsilano and Commercial Drive.

Sketchy stores like Fantasy Factory, where they have peepshows in the back, are becoming an anachronism in the age of Internet porn. The guy who runs Fantasy Factory says that 60 per cent of his customers are women buying vibrators and other toys. This is a case of the law not really keeping up with the times.



Aug 202012

Note: While the Occupy Vancouver camp was set up on the lawn and plaza  of the Vancouver Art Gallery downtown, I visited frequently. I wanted to write something about this event, but I wanted it to be something different from what everybody else was saying; a fresh angle. A friend in my writer’s workshop told me about another “temporary autonomous zone” in Vancouver, four decades ago. That led me to a whole history of “seized spaces” in Vancouver, squatting and otherwise. Unfortunately, by the time I did all the research and interviews, Occupy Vancouver had ended, and the moment for the story had passed. As selling this story seems increasingly unlikely, I post it here free.

Continue reading »

Jul 292012

(crossposted from The History of BDSM)

About a month ago, I got a comment on my writing promotional blog from an editor at a local book publisher. She had seen my article on Maria Monk in Maisonneuve magazine, and wanted to know if I had any ideas for books on porn or sexuality.

Thrilled, I polished up my book proposal and the two completed chapters and emailed them too her. Then I started chewing my nails.

Continue reading »

Jul 162012

My article on Vancouver’s comics society Cloudscape Comics, and their upcoming urban fantasy anthology Giants on Main Street, is now up on Openfile.

Personally, what I took away from the interview for this story was how tough it is for comics artists. You want to work in this particular medium, and there are so many obstacles to actually getting your work out to people so they can see it. The American comics industry is dominated by a Coke-and-Pepsi duopoly. If you want to get your self-produced comics out there, you might be able to get them into one of few remaining direct sale comics stores, or you might be able to get it into Chapters, if they feel like it. Otherwise, you’re better off doing webcomics or self-publishing, but even that makes it hard to get out of a particular subculture. If you’re still determined to do comics, after all that, it must be love.