Simon Sheppard is one of the world's most popular writers of gay erotica and is the author of the weekly syndicated column Sex Talk which is published in the UK here on OutUK.

His work has been anthologised in a number of collections of the best gay fiction and he's co-editor of Rough Stuff a collection of S&M themed stories. Simon lives with his partner of nearly four decades in San Francisco. He's been a writer and poet since leaving university with a degree in Philosophy.

He's been talking to us here at OutUK about his popular Sex Talk column and his collection of stories Hotter Than Hell which is still available and published by Alyson Books.

OutUK: Are you ever worried you'll run out of subjects for your weekly Sex Talk column?
Simon: Fortunately there's enough kinkiness out there so that I could probably keep going for years on clothing fetishes alone. I just sent in a column on Long Hair and the germ of that was somebody writing me some email who had just started a club for long haired men, and men who like long hair, and the attitude they get from other queers. I have a long term agenda which is to be as inclusive and approving as possible.

OutUK: Does anything surprise you anymore?
Simon: There are things that still amuse me. Actually I have to tell you that I'm a fairly decadent old man and there's very few things sexually that I have curiousity about that I haven't satisfied in one way or another in the flesh. A column very recently up on OutUK was on Gunge - guys who like to be spattered with food - I did not previously know about until I was contacted by a reader in New York. I did not know how extensive that stuff was. He sent me a number of pictures of him spattered with chocolate syrup, styrofoam peanuts and one with his arse with raw eggs over it. I was a little taken aback by that! I love the intensity of people's fetishes and every once in a while I do get surprised by the commitment that people have to one variant or another of their sexuality.

OutUK: Do you ever make fetishes up just to fill a column?
Simon: I don't make it up. No.

OutUK: Is there a little artistic licence?
Simon: There sometimes is, in a way, because some of the quotes are based on conversations I've had with people, and unlike this conversation those don't get recorded. But no indeed those people are not invented, though sometimes, of necessity, their quotes are accurate-as-possible synopses rather than exact quotes. Often, if there's someone that I'm quoting that I'm in continuing contact with, for instance the guy I quote at length in the forthcoming Long Hair column, I will send them the completed column and get feedback from them, even though they're not identified by name, to make sure they're not misrepresented.

OutUK: Tell me about your book Hotter Than Hell.
Simon: It's a couple of dozen of what I think are the best pieces I've written. over a period of 20 years. My publisher and I decided it was time to do a one man collection. I write fairly varied kind of things, as you know I've co-edited Rough Stuff a book about power based sex - not always S&M, but the intersection of sexuality and power which fascinates me. I purposely did not include some of my hardest core S&M stories in Hotter Than Hell, however it's really a broad cross-section of queer sexuality. I love the possibilities that are there in writing intelligent hot erotica.
OutUK: Do you ever get bored with writing about sex. Do you ever yearn to write say a comic novel?
Simon: You mean the comedian who wants to play Shakespeare. No. Actually you know that's a very interesting question. I'm reminded of Annie Sprinkle an ex-porn star turned sexual healer. I once heard her say People ask why I write about sex. I just say I can't imagine being interested in writing about anything else. The deepest level of desire really interests me. I don't even necessarily have to have explicit sex in the story for it to work. I feel I'm very committed to queer sex. I believe in the power of queer sexuality a lot and I feel like that at this point in literary history this particular genre has not been fully explored yet. It's what it must have been like writing detective novels in the 1920s when people weren't writing like Agatha Christie but she was writing and setting some of the parameters, or the 40s when Raymond Chandler was doing something that hadn't been done before.

OutUK: What do you think makes a good erotic story?
Simon: I'm fascinated by desire for one thing, far more than I'm fascinated by plumbing. So the mental aspects of sex, of need and wanting, fulfillment and frustration, those are things that make up a hot story. I try and go beyond the cliches. I try and keep things pretty smart while not getting so abstract or so pretentious that people can't actually jack off to the stories.

It's possible to talk about serious and meaningful things in ways that make guys wanna jack off. It's like you can do very serious themes in comedy or very interesting things with mysteries. I think in the erotica genre in the last ten years there's been an opening out of that kind of writing so you can address all sorts of things. So I have this weird selection of stories which range from a post-World War One story about a guy finding himself in Morocco in a search for the Magicians of of Fez, which is a sort of magical-realist coming out story, to a foot-fetish story in the office of a right-wing U. S. senator, to a pastiche of Kafka's Metamorphosis, a story in which a guy wakes up to find he's become a giant penis. The title story Hotter Than Hell takes place in the 50s in the American South and is about a Korean war veteran coming back to his family.

It all sounds like it's pretty rough going but I hope that readers find it entertaining and sexually arousing and either helps people find themselves or broaden their horizons or at least gives them something to beat off to before they go to bed.

Simon is the co-editor of Rough Stuff: Tales of Gay Men, Sex, and Power (Alyson Books) available from Amazon. His collection of gay erotica Hotter Than Hell is also available now from Amazon. His regular column Sex Talk can be found each week in our Outspoken section.


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