Agelou, Mad D'Orby

Mini-Notions #2

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Occasionally I cross-post small things on social media (Facebook and Mastadon). I’ll mirror everything on this long page for easy reading. Most recent stuff appears on top. I’ll also include any memorable web comments I made on various websites under my pseudonym. Pay attention to how I label things. Some things are more NSFW than others. This post start in June 20, 2023.

No idea why I have never stumbled upon this site before, but I’ve been loving the Rialto Report website — which features many things about the Golden Age of Porn (1970s and 1980s). Although it’s somewhat NSFW — occasionally a hardcore image — it’s mostly about the culture and people and the legacy they left. It’s all so fascinating! In addition to articles (and scans of X-rated magazines!), the real draw for me are the podcast interviews with former stars. I have a feeling that I’ll be linking to this website fairly often.

Probably the most exciting thing to find was a blogpost and a 90 minute podcast about Raven Touchstone who wrote 100s of screenplays for adult movies — including one of my favorite, Justine: Nothing to Hide. The most remarkable thing about her life story (which would certainly make a great TV series!) is that she had a strong theatrical background, then moved to writing, but got into writing porn screenplays quite randomly. She ended up collaborating with lots of directors and getting well-paid; then she branched out to work in photography and even production on a porn set.

My comment on the post)

This is a great interview, a magnificent and inspiring tale — and a lot of fun as well. I already knew a few of her movies, but now I have a name to look for. Many things struck me: finding inspiration from mainstream movies, collaborating with the directors throughout the process and how her acting background made it easy to slide into the role of writer. It was interesting to hear her describe how she “improved” upon the Damage movie by adding and subtracting a few elements to make Justine: Nothing to Hide. While that era of scripted movies may have passed, even contemporary adult movies — which bear lots of resemblance to reality TV — provide dramatic opportunities. A writer could create sexy and dramatic situations for the actors and actresses who are playing themselves (or at least their porn persona). In a way the first audience for Ms. Touchstone’s scripts are the actors themselves; they have to recognize the stories as plausible fantasies they can participate in. The key is in creating dialogue that is not overly melodramatic, sort of light-hearted, but not too jokey-sounding. Good writing also has to be combined with deft film editing — or else you end up producing something that people just want to fast forward through. I think there is a potential second act for porn films to be enjoyed as full-fledged movies rather than as simply stroke material. (too bad there’s not something like MUBI for Adult Movies). In my middle age it would be fun to watch (or rewatch) these kinds of movies to see what I missed before. As for someone’s suggestion that Touchstone’s life be made into the TV series or movie, that sounds great. If only Ms. Touchstone could write it herself!

Other thoughts:

I think Ms. Touchstone’s drama background gave her an intuitive sense of which lines were easier for actors to say and emote about. In fiction writing it’s hard enough, but actors need to be able to be use their lines to produce an emotional effect. Porn as a genre limits the kinds of conflicts you can have — it can’t get too existential or nihilistic!

Ms. Touchstone made a wise comment about scripted vs. improvised. Having a script for a sexual performance might not have been necessary, but it was a helpful crutch for directors/actors uncomfortable to have when flailing about with spontaneity.

In a way, contemporary R-rated content has become more explicit (and raunchy) than 70s and 80s porn; lots of salacious references and slang. At the same time movement has become more carefully choreographed and directed (even if there’s not actual hardcore penetration).

Touchstone mentions that she and her director worked together on treatments, so the creative responsibility wasn’t entirely on her. Also, she gravitated more towards magic-themed stories — magic has a way of appealing to fantasy while not needing to deal with sad or dark subjects.

Touchstone mentions that the production process today is a lot different – and there’s a lot less money in it. In a way, her commercial success was a byproduct of the corner neighborhood video store catering to less mainstream tastes one couldn’t find on TV or the movies. On the other hand, the actor is better equipped to become an individual performer and the control the kind of sex that is depicted. There’s something quaintly old-fashioned about orgy scenes from those movies. But so much of adult content exists on a smaller scale — maybe that’s good.


As for someone’s suggestion that Touchstone’s life be made into the TV series or movie, that sounds great. If only Ms. Touchstone could write it herself!

Wow, I found a 2010 comment I made under my pseudonym about Tim Parks‘ essay “The Dull New Global Novel.” It’s online at NYROB under a Paywall — in other words, it’s unavailable to most people. But here is my not-paywalled comment:

I write fiction primarily for a web audience. I receive about 100,000 unique visits a year, about 40% of which are from outside the US. This wide reach makes it easier for a text to find readers who are aesthetically-tuned to what you are doing. That is good. It also makes me ask, how would a person totally unfamiliar with my cultural references respond to my style and themes? I don’t exactly avoid these references, but I have to take this viewpoint into account. Sometimes it is good to use exotic and obscure references; that adds color. Whether he wants to or not, the writer inevitably must be a tour guide to the culture and places of his fictional world.

The better example is Milan Kundera. Although he complains a lot about translators, in fact his style and form are well-suited to an international audience. Bite-sized digressions about art, history, philosophy. But everything is explained within the text itself. When I read Book of Laughter and Forgetting, I knew next to nothing about Czech politics, but Kundera explained these things patiently (and maybe even a little condescendingly!)

One professional translator told me that the texts he enjoyed most were the ones which were the hardest to translate; these passages contained what is most distinctive about a language and a culture. I can’t totally agree with that. An international audience may be attuned to literal meanings and dramaturgy, while the local audience may respond to the cultural references. The trick is accommodating both kinds of audiences. Actually, if your stories are readable and easy to follow, I think appealing to both audiences isn’t all that hard.






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