I am continuing my quest to read the books written by the amazing authors I follow on twitter. This review I get a two for one, Kit Rocha is a writing duo – Bree Bridges (@mostlybree) and Donna Herran (@totallydonna). They are smart and delightful on Twitter and you should follow them. As Kit Rocha, they have been writing dystopian erotic romances set within the same future world for several years. Their third series is coming out this fall, published by Tor. I got hold of the first three books of their Beyond series (Beyond Shame, Beyond Control, Beyond Pain) in a bundle for $1.99. As time goes on, I will eventually read all of their books, because they are well-written, fun, have excellent world building, and characters in whom I have become invested.
In the future, solar storms destroy the electrical grid and disrupt civilization. Somewhere in what was the United States, a city emerges called Eden. Eden is a city ruled the way the Christian Right would like – no premarital sex, no extramarital sex, women are wives or daughters, only the cis-gendered and straight are allowed. Around the city are the Sectors where the dirty rabble live – the mistresses and prostitutes, the not straight, the not righteous. The Beyond series is centered in Sector Four where Dallas O’Kane and his gang of bootleggers rule. In addition to making liquor and keeping order in the Sector, they have a lot of sex, publicly and privately.
A couple of years ago I saw a tumbler post explaining why the BDSM community was our hope for civilization in the post apocalypse. It cracked me up because it was absolutely spot on.
What I wanna know is why the spiky kink warriors are always the bad evil marauders. They might be into some weird shit and unafraid to show it but that doesn’t mean they want to go around killing dudes. They’re a tight-knit bunch. A lot of them are queer. They understand the importance of community.
If the government collapses and all laws come to an end, the people rampaging around killing and looting are gonna be like, frat boys and 4chan rejects. You can mistrust the bondage raiders all you like but they’re definitely the ones you’re going to run to for help when the neoliberal blood cultists and Nazi meme demons lay siege to your survivor enclave. There’s gonna be gayboy berserkers busting up slaver gangs and burning down warboy frat houses. The assless-chaps leather daddies and weird petplay people are gonna be the accidental peacekeepers of the post-apocalyptic world just because they’re the only motherfuckers who understand the importance of consent anymore.
Listen. Don’t come to me asking how to get the secret cadre of bisexual death commandoes to protect your wretched tent village if you’re scared that we might call in the kinksters for backup. I don’t give a shit if they dress up like dogs and spend all day writing poems about butt plugs. There’s assholes out there acting like Vlad the Impaler on a meth bender and you’re afraid of seeing a nipple. Fuck you. If you really want to get rid of the MRA death gangs you’re going to have to accept that a lesbian chainsaw dominatrix or two might be involved. It’s the fucking post-apocalypse my guy we gotta weigh our priorities here
The first three books of the series have a lot of sex in various combinations. They are explicitly and gleefully full of dicks, cocks, pussies, tits, and so many orgasms. Along with the sex and romance the books explore issues around women’s rights and sexual freedom – the male gaze vs the female gaze, power dynamics, bodily autonomy, and recovering from trauma. Surrounding the O’Kane gang’s frequent, loving orgies are varieties and permutations of patriarchy run amok. The city of Eden is Mike Pence’s sexless male dominated wet dream. The farms are a polygamist haven where girls have numbers rather than names. Sector Two trains prostitutes, other gangs abuse women, and men control reproduction. Amid all of this, the O’Kane women are fighting for a place where they have autonomy and equality.
Kit Rocha began publishing these books in 2012. Since then the subtext of the war on women has become overt text. it amazes me when people dismiss romance as an inconsequential genre filled with books for frustrated housewives. Romance is art, and like every other art form it is fundamentally political. Romance is a lens through which we can examine the human condition*, often by looking at how families are built, gender dynamics, what a happy ending looks like and who gets to have a happy ending. Kit Rocha is giving loving relationships and happy endings to, among others, thieves, outlaws, bisexuals, queers, sex workers, and abuse survivors. In doing so they are imagining that even if the whole world goes to shit and the patriarchy manifests in a more malevolent manner, there will still be women and men carving out a space for consent, autonomy, equality, love and happiness.
The Kit Rocha books are good escapist fun and you can read them just for that without losing anything. I don’t want to give the impression that I feel like I have to justify my reading choices. I feel like I’m living in a dystopia right now and the apocalypse is racing towards me. I am looking for worlds to escape into and I am looking for hope that everything I’m afraid of won’t come to pass and if it does, it won’t be the end of everything. I am happy to ponder the human condition while reading about people falling in love and enjoying a lot of orgasms.
*Fuck you Ian McEwan, science fiction has been considering ethical dilemmas since it was invented by a teenage girl over 100 years ago.