My mother went about clearing some books away to be sold on my grandmother’s church fÃ©te next week. I walked by and saw something on the floor:
“How can you give away a book by Gary Gygax?!” I cried.
“Oh, is it good?” she asked.
“He’s the creator of Dungeons & Dragons!”
So that didn’t answer the question.
Next to the book (Night Arrant, apparently), I spotted an old favourite:
“Why is The Ninja on that pile? It’s the trashiest book ever!”
I was immediately transplanted back to the fateful year of 2004, out of high school, in full time employment, and returning to writing in a desperate attempt to maintain a vague sense of intellect and sanity (I’m still at the same office, albeit part time and, if anything, the anti-intellectual strain has grown considerably stronger).
At the time, I was getting through 1.5-2 books a week. Towards the beginning, I was reading nothing but Discworld books. Realising that I needed a bit more variety than the words of Pratchett, about five or six books in I flipped across to a “one Discworld, one other” book policy.
What struck me about The Ninja was that it was essentially a cavalcade of human depravity. I located this, from my livejournal entry of June 29. 2004:
I took a break from my rereading of the Discworld series to read some book called The Ninja. Now, I should have taken the hint from the author’s name, Eric van Lustbader, but I was still surprised when suddenly it became pornographic. Now I totally understand what JP was on about; the written word gives people more liberty to be graphic than most other media, which makes it much easier for people to get away with pedophilia and rape fantasies. I hate those people. The Ninja isn’t as bad as all that, but I don’t particularly want to know about Justine’s “full breasts” (mentioned at every possible juncture, even those one might deem impossible), and I certainly don’t want to know about the characters fellating each other. I fetched this book out of my parents’ book disposal box expecting ninja, but I didn’t expect this filth! I’ll keep on reading just in case some ninja turn up. If they don’t soon, and Nicholas and Justine keep on devising new ways to delay orgasm, I’ll have to start Witches Abroad.
I don’t read books to feel dirty.
JP, after much racking of the brain, turned out to be Jeremy Parish. If I recall correctly, he was talking about Piers Anthony and his progressively more messed up rapetacular Xanth series at the time (and, if I’m wrong, then I have totally slandered a big fantasy author – win-win!).
The best thing about all of this is that The Ninja did turn out to be “as bad as all that”. Not only did the villain rape a couple of women, he also drugged up and raped a little girl, and then, get this, he raped the hero! So I suppose the lesson that we learned from that book that pansexuality is a terrible, terrible thing.
It was with great satisfaction that I saw the following album at JB Hi-Fi some time after:
Vanlustbader is a Queensland band, but this name and cover can be no coincidence.
If I had more experience with exploitative pulp, I’d kick more right out to you. Off the top of my head I can think only of T. Jefferson Parker’s Little Saigon (another Asian-American meld), which inexplicably culminated in the villains being incestuous vampires (not literal vampires, but blood swapping siblings).
On one level, you want to pass this stuff on for future generations to be enticed by … but you also know, deeper down, that you want to keep such treasures for yourself.