To this we can only respond: Pandering works. Mention sex in the guidelines for your free newsweekly's fourth annual short-story contest, and you get nearly twice as many submissions (about 130) as in each of the contest's previous years. You get an unusually high number of people interested in submitting stories under pseudonyms. And you get phone calls asking, "How, um, graphic can I get in my story?" (Answer: Go for it.)
Moreover, ask for sex and you also get some pretty good writing. As Frank Zappa once said, the most important human sexual organ lies between the ears. This year's winning entries demonstrate ... as everybody from Freud to evolutionary biologists has argued ... that sex is about more than what fits where, and who gets what warm when. It's about growing up, or not. It's about culture, power and perception, between friends and strangers, classmates and roommates. It's about, simply, being human.
Failing that, well, at least we made you look.
... Bill O'Driscoll
1st Place Los Dos
2nd Place Vaseline Alley
Dory Adams is the fiction editor at the semi-annual journal Paper Street, and the co-founder of Paper Street Press (www.paperstreetpress.org). Her short stories have appeared in Slipstream and The Oklahoma Review, and she won the 2002 William Faulkner Award for Short Fiction. She earned an MFA at Vermont College and has been a contributing editor at Hunger Mountain.
Faith Adiele is the author of Meeting Faith (W.W. Norton), which won the PEN Beyond Margins Award for Best Biography/Memoir of 2004. Her other credits include: writer/subject/narrator of My Journey Home (PBS), a documentary film based on her family; co-author of The Student Body: A Novel (Random House); and co-editor of Coming of Age Around the World: A Multicultural Anthology, forthcoming from The New Press. The recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, Adiele is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
David Cherry has chased words and language through a great range of emotions, using mechanical pencils, typing machines, microphones, graph paper and found strips of film. He is regularly greeted by an almost paranoiac ensemble of ceaseless thoughts, untranslatable plots, irregular companions and lucid movements. His senses have begun to bleed together, causing him to confuse common, everyday life with honest philosophical expression. His 42nd biography will be featured in a collection of his biographies that will one day be available through Incredibly Thin, an independent press and artist's organization, which he founded in his salad days.
"Rick Santorum in Hell," by Bob McLaughlin
"Bomani Jones," by Deesha Philyaw