Ann Bannon / Cecilia Tan Lesbian Pulp Fiction Talk

Writer Ann Bannon via Zoom holds up a copy of her book Odd Girl Out during an online discussion

Well, that was fun! My talk with Ann Bannon went swimmingly. We could have easily talked for another hour. Over 200 people had RSVP’d for the event and all throughout, each time one of us said something funny or pointed, we could see the emojis floating up our screens in the back-end of Zoom.

The recording is now live on YouTube for anyone who missed it:

Turns out Ann and I have a lot of parallels.

  • We both studied linguistics in college and ended up with linguistics degrees.
  • We both wrote defining works right when we were fresh out of college, her Odd Girl Out, me Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords.
  • We were both writing about sexuality and lifestyle that were taboo at the time, but which later became acceptable to depict in the mainstream (lesbian relationships, kink & BDSM).
  • We both had the experience of our publishers selling our books, successfully, to readers outside of our subcultures.
  • We have both had readers treat our fiction as if it was some kind of how-to manual!
  • We’ve both heard from readers who were validated by seeing themselves in our books, and whose lives were changed because of it.

And I’m sure there are more I’m not thinking of! I was particularly struck by the “how to” manual thing. At the time when Odd Girl Out ( | Amazon) was published, there was no way for people to find out what the lifestyle was like. All they knew was what their homophobic teachers, clergy, and parents told them. So Ann’s books really functioned as a window into how things could be…

When I first started publishing BDSM fiction, there were not a lot of how-to resources, but there were a few (Remember The Lesbian S/M Safety Manual? And Larry Townshend’s Master’s Manual?), but by the late-1990s a plethora of handbooks and online sites had proliferated (SM 101, Screw the Roses Send me the Thorns, the entire catalog of Greenery Press…). Even with that, though, I had people come up to me at conventions and bookstore events to tell me that they had used books like The Velderet (2001) and Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords as examples to model consent. Which blows my mind in the very best way and is one of the reasons why I keep on digging into issues of consent and boundaries in my fiction. It’s at the core of what I do, and turns out to be crucial to some readers.

Ann regaled us with a few tales of the olden days when you could be arrested and publicly humiliated for being caught in a gay bar, and I told of how when the police in Attleboro, Mass. tried to use the same tactics in the year 2000 on a group of kinky people having a play party (just Google “Paddleboro” for more details) it was ultimately the police and the district attorney who ended up humiliated, becoming laughingstocks in the press.

Really, an hour was too short, but I am grateful to Lynne M. Thomas and the folks at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Library–and to the technology!–for getting us together virtually. Ann Bannon is a living treasure and I am happy I was able to be a small part of shining a light on her journey and the remarkable phenomenon that is the Beebo Brinker series of lesbian pulp novels.

A collage of the Beebo Brinker novels



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