They published my story, "Season of Marriage", there a little while ago, and I was really surprised to see the firestorm of controversy it provoked. I think of that as a fairly tame little story, but the editors took a lot of flak from readers who were decrying such filth. Some didn't go quite that far, but still thought the bar for erotica should be much higher than that for anything else Sulekha published, which is an argument that would have never occured to me. Those readers seemed afraid that publishing any smut would lead to Sulekha turning into a porn magazine, where anything else gets drowned out.
At first I thought they were just being silly, but it's true that the piece has shot up to #15 in the rankings last I checked, and that it's spawned several coffeehouse discussions ("Sex in Literature - The Thin Red Line", "'Virginity' in Indian Marriages", "Violence or Sex", and a series of parodies ("Write CHALLENGE!") (fans of the story may or may not want to go read several alternate endings, including ones in which Raji is a spy, Raji is a lesbian, Raji's husband is gay, Raji is an alcoholic...). Sex sells, indubitably. Maybe the readers have a point, though I'd probably be more inclined to simply limit the number of sex-focused pieces I published in such a multi-topic magazine, rather than raising the bar specifically for those pieces. Interesting debate, at any rate.
It's funny how hard the fierce criticism still hits me. A few of the readers were kind enough to say they weren't trying to put down my writing, just questioning the appropriateness of the material for that particular forum. And many were quite positive and supportive. And still, it was upsetting. The parodies are pretty funny, but those were upsetting at first too. My poor Raji -- what have they done to her? And they clearly don't understand Vivek at all if they think he'd run off and abandon her...
Ah well. I'm mostly recovered. And I suppose if my goal is to be at least mildly famous (why in the world do I care? I don't know, but I do...), I ought to get used to this sort of thing. I just forget sometimes what the wide world is like; these days, most of the people who find my stuff are already looking for sex-related material, so they're predisposed to like it. I suppose the more I publish in mainstream markets, the more this is going to happen, so unless I want to stay in the erotica ghetto, I better develop a thicker skin.
(SLCCC phone interview in 40 minutes. Meep.)
10:00. I think they liked me. They only have one course (possibly) available. Sigh. They'll let me know either today or Monday. Nail-biting.