For Today’s Funky Friday, The Fantastical Fusion of Sci-Fi & the Funk: Even in Space, the Booty Don’t Lie

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Ever since the 1970s, science fiction and the funk have somehow emerged as two great tastes that taste great together.

I suppose we can credit George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic for the concept of the extraterrestrial visitors who descend to Earth to bring us some form of rump-shaking higher knowledge.

By introducing the Mothership and it’s garishly clad crew of funkateers, Clinton managed to combine the self-determination that arose from the civil rights movement of the 1960s with the idea that maybe something bigger was needed to bring about full acceptance of the African American culture that has informed every bit of American life since the 1600s.

Something like … a full-on alien invasion.

The concept of alien visitors bringing about some kind of funk epiphany was new, but somehow it caught on. The Mothership itself bootsy-collinsappeared in live P-Funk shows and the massive musical collective worked the extraterrestrial vibe to the hilt (everybody say, “Go Bootsy!“). Their rallying cry was, “Free your mind, and your ass will follow.” Well put.

It could have been a one-time thing had young Prince Rogers Nelson not set upon his own journey of funk/rock fusion and become the performer we now know only as Prince, who counted among his early influences Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Todd Rundgren and … Parliament-Funkadelic.

Prince seemed to bring everything along for the ride – space, pan-sexuality, end-of-days prophecy, visions of a post-apocalyptic utopia – all packaged in this surreal mix of pop, rock, funk and old-school R&B. When Prince broke big in the 1980s with 1999 and Purple Rain, it really did seem like he’d come from space like a late wave of the invasion that P-Funk initiated.

Plenty of old-timey “classic rock” guys turned up their noses, despite the scorching guitar solos and the obvious tribute to Jimi Hendrix, probably because it was hard for them to get past the fact that the Little Purple One was black.

Meanwhile those of us of a more sci-fi frame of mind more easily got a hold on what Prince was doing – pushing the envelope that had been shrunk ever smaller by obnixious, prefab arena rock and what was left of those trying to capitalize off the disco craze.

Since Prince curtailed his career and output, there have been few willing to step up and bring the sci-fi/funk connection back to the fore. Until now.

Janelle Monae seemed to emerge from much the same science fictional universe as Prince, and brings even more of that delightful future-funk to the world, especially in her videos. “Dance Apocalyptic” brings us the end of the world, complete with zombies, aliens and humanoid apes, but for purposes of today’s blog, it doesn’t really count as funk, per se. It’s still a damn fine song, and you should still give it a listen.

The best example of Monae’ sci-fi/funk fusion is the song – or more specifically the video – below. While the song isn’t science-fictional in itself, it does propose that the world is a better place when everyone’s being him or herself without worrying about the folks who never can quite get the hang of that.

The video, though, is based on the premise that Monae was the leader of a full-on cultural and social revolution, and that her organization has been frozen in suspended animation in a “living museum” for rebels and radicals – until they are once again unleashed.

Which brings us right back around to the P-Funk motto. Let the funk free your mind, and your ass will indeed follow.

Is it Hot in Here?

Full confession: I never set out to be a writer of erotica, but I’m seriously starting to consider it, if only to tap (heh) the obviously fertile (heh, heh) “horny housewife with an e-reader” market.

I already had a vague notion that this market existed when I started researching e-books in preparation for Immaculate Deception to enter the market in its Kindle version. What I found was a little startling. It seemed like every second title among the Top 100 Kindle books was some form of erotica aimed squarely at women. And not prissy little Harlequin Romance works, either. These talesĀ  were hard-core in the traditional (meaning porno) sense.

If you see your wife or girlfriend reading this, rest assured it is not a book about fashion.

Lately, one cover I’ve repeatedly seen popping up in 50 Shades of Grey. The frequency of its appearance should have tipped me off to something, but it wasn’t until I read this story in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday that I realized what a phenomenon this book has become.

Headlined “Steaming up moms’ e-readers,” the story details the wave of readership for this naughty novel that details the relationship between a young woman and a significantly older man who’s into all sorts of rough play, known among the folks who haunt leather gear and sex toy shops by the acronym BDSM – that’s bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism to you poor, missionary-position, vanilla, whitebread folks out there who don’t think wrapping your mouth around a rubber ball gag in someone’s suburban basement “dungeon” is a great way to spend an evening.

The story got me thinking about eroticism in my own work, where it comes from and how people have responded to it.

Boris Vallejo is perhaps second only to Hugh Hefner in causing American moms to spend countless hours banging on bathroom doors asking, "Honey, are you OK in there?"

As I said, I never intended to write erotica per se, but I came to a realization a long time ago after reading Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett when I was a teenager. It’s about a Nazi spy who figures out what the Allies are up to with D-Day, but ends up trapped on an isolated island with a lonely Englishwoman who does her duty for king and country in a particularly hot scene that to this day still resonates with me.

That realization was this: The best books are made even better by a little booty.

When I sat down to write Immaculate Deception around 1989, my experiences with things carnal weren’t terribly in-depth. As a young lad, I got away with bringing nekkid pictures into the house thanks to two gentlemen, Msrs. Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta, both masters of the fantasy illustrating genre whose pictures of semi-nude and nude warrior women grace many an Edgar Rice Borroughs and Conan novel cover.

As the idea for the Church of the New Revelation developed, I realized that because it was a sex-and-drugs-based church, there would probably end up being some sexy-sexy in the novel itself.

That realization was solidified as the character of Veronica Whitaker shaped up. There was no way a woman of such surpassing hotness and carnal motivation could be represented in my novel without actually displaying how that shaped her behavior, particularly toward her husband, Lawrence, and the main character, Jon Templeton.

"I have talents you're not even remotely aware of."

So, what has resulted can be easily wrapped up like this: Chapters 28, 29 and 38, wherein Veronica reveals the true depth of her … um, passion in a variety of ways. Suffice it to say that if sexually abusing viticulture was a punishable offense, she would be in jail for a long, long time.

The reaction to these steamy scenes has been particularly puzzling. For instance, before reading the novel, my mom repeatedly told me that my next book needed to be sexy. I assured her that she should read this one before assuming it didn’t fit into that category. From her I have heard not a peep of admonition. However, from her sister, who holds a place in our family as the progressive, open-minded 1960s rabble-rouser, politely suggested that the scenes verged on the pornographic. So apparently I was indeed writing erotica all this time and didn’t even realize it.

What’s particularly amusing is reviews that warn readers of things like the “overwhelming amount of NC-17 content” in the novel. Really? Overwhelming? If the entire book was based on sheer sexual activity and character motivation and development (like, for example … um … 50 Shades of Grey), I could understand. However, the above chapters are really the only that contain any measurable explicit behavior. So why don’t reviews for any other books that have a few naughty bits carry big, scary warnings? Beats me.

I do, however, know that plenty of other people enjoyed those parts (just how much, I suppose we’ll never know, other than by the soft moans we hear from their rooms as they re-read those dog-eared pages). And that’s really what they’re there for. In working in literature as a medium, my end goal is always to provide entertainment. If it’s entertainment that informs, is thought-provoking or titillating, so much the better (especially if it’s all at once).