by Lady Cyrrh
Site Name: Elf Sternberg/Journals
Owner: Elf Sternberg
Elf Sternberg has been writing erotic fiction since 1989. That's a long time. Ten years' worth of fiction has been uploaded to this website, the equivalent of two 360-page paperbacks a year... putting him in the ranks of the most prolific writers I've seen. The website has been well organized and engineered (he's a coding maven) to showcase his work, setting, in my opinion, the standard by which other sites should be judged.
The layout of the site is clean and readable, easily navigated no matter what browser you're in. There is no extraneous garbage like flashing lights, noisy applets, or useless pull downs. Plus he has lots of cool links and a list of resources for BDSM players in the Seattle area. Not only that, but he has the balls to include a nearly-full length pic of himself, so if you're ever in Seattle you can quiz him personally about the hankie codes he's also posted.
In addition to the above features, there is some advice about what to do if you are arrested, presumably for running a pornographic website ("You and the Police"), a statement of how to save Usenet from spam, and the technical notes he used to create his page. Everything is neatly confined within a background of a white-paged spiral-bound notebook, and veryone running similar websites should read his ACLU advice, because it might save you some grief.
The stories. Well, if you like fantasy and science fiction, you'll be like a kid in a candy store. There are at least 100 stories in "The Journal Entries of Kennet R'yal Shardik," the main attraction, and they are all of professional or near-professional quality. The fantasy fiction consists of the novel "Aimee" and there's also a small group of miscellaneous stories. Although I've read stuff of his before, for this review I picked out three Journals stories at random, the first three chapters of "Aimee" and a Thundercats spoof.
The stories ranged from A+ to A. From what Elf says in his page, I gather a major influence on his writing has been SF author Larry Niven and role-playing games, but I also see echoes of John Varley, late-model Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Piers Anthony, and Star Trek in his work. The sex ranges from BDSM "scenes" to romance, is character and situation-driven, and is described matter-of-factly without magic words like "torrential jets of creamy white cum" -- which probably reflects the author's base in hard SF, which is, by its nature, somewhat scientific and precise. Not that it wasn't "hot" but if you're expecting Dulcinea-like warblings or the more traditional porn style of Andrew Roller you'll be dissapointed. As most of Elf's cast of characters are aliens, the sex gets bizarre at times, but it's loads of fun and always winsome... even when things get kinky. No one was brutalized, devastated, or unduly disturbed by the sex they have (at least in the stuff I've read...). It's all positive and rather uplifting.
"The Journal Entries" is a very long series of stories (about 100) dealing with the sexual adventures of Commander Kennet R'yal Shardik in a world of many alien races, virtual immortality, gene splicing, and masters and slaves who play sexual games together. I don't quite understand what he is the commander of, not having read the whole series in order, but there is a continuing storyline in here somewhere. In "Starlight, Starbright, First Star I See My Life" the Commander has sex with a man for the first time in celebration of the fact he's caused stars to appear in the night sky. In "Wings over Rhysh" he acts as sub to a dom who outfits him not as a pony but a pegasus (!), then makes him pull a magic carpet through the air and have sex with a similarly equipped pegasus pony mare, and in "Paying for Your Pleasures" he spends an evening at home cooking dinner for his two alien bondmates and gives one a blowjob flavored with horseradish. The overall sense I get from this series is a sort of Baron Munchausen effect, or a visit to John Varley's Gaia where the odd coexists with details of normal life. If these stories have a fault... and keep in mind I still like them even if they do... it's that the narrator is too clinical; in some ways they retread K/S territory (or Kirk/Spock, often known as "slash") but without the intense emotional conflicts. There were no deep hesitancies, no doubts, no painful awkwardness... everyone got exactly what they wanted, which is perhaps even more of a fantasy than than the cat-people and castles.
"A Night on Thundera" is about the Thundercats, the kid's syndicated cartoon of the mid-80s. They are humanoid aliens with feline characteristics (fur, tails, slanted eyes, etc.) that are reflected in their names: Panthro, Cheetara, Liono, Tigra, Wileykit and Wileycat. This story is typical of TV spoofs in that the main characters behave in the ways we've come to know and love, but also have explicit sex. Tigra and Pathro whip Cheetara, then jointly doink her; Wileykit and Wileycat, brother and sister twins, engage in mutual incestuous fellatio; and Liono and Snarf (a strange creature who's like a servant to the T-cats) share a tender buttfuck together. The author called this a spoof, but it was really more of a homage; there may be a tongue in Elf's cheek here, but it's very gentle. The story also reveals his predilection for furry stories.
I liked "Aimee" the most. As a fantasy, it had the elegant, historic tone of Ellis Peters, Mary Stewart or Mary Renault rather than the clashing swords of Conan and company. It finds Elf in a different mood: pensive and romantic. As with the others, it was primarily a sex story set in a fantasy or SF universe rather than a fantasy or SF story with a sexual theme. The plot is this: Archmage Darynn begins to teach a young indentured servant girl, Aimee, the mysteries of sex magic (that is, working magical spells harnessing the energy of one's sexuality) at a request from her master. The master intends to eventually pimp her. But Darynn hopes that by teaching Aimee all he knows she will develop the power to break out from under his thumb. These first three chapters consisted of the gay Archmage telling her his sexual adventures, first with a group of satyrs in the wood, then with a dragon-man, in the hopes of getting her worked up enough to start awakening her magical ability. I found the mage's history more compelling than the story occurring in present time, but that's me. This novel was very well written and seemed to function as a breath of fresh air after the final episodes of the Journals stories. And yes, the philosophies of sex magic and the enchanted phalluses and dildii (The Lord of the Dildii?) were a definite turn-on.
Granted, if you don't like fantasy or science fiction you probably won't like any of these; you may find them incomprehensible, silly, or boring. But they are very well done, so I'd encourage anyone who has even a passing interest in the genre to look up this site. You will be very entertained.
Another laudable thing about this site is that the creator doesn't go overboard telling you about himself. Not that Elf isn't an interesting person, but it's the content of the site that's the drawing card... and it's the content that speaks the loudest about the site's creator. Information is the commodity, not personality. If you are a dull person who has a dull intellectual life, you will have a dull site -- no matter how many sound bites, animated gifs, and radio buttons you put on it.
Will I visit again: Yes.