Themes of Pedophilia in the Works of Piers Anthony

When I was but a lad, I used to love me some Piers Anthony. The delicious puns of the Xanth series, the themes of science versus religion in The Apprentice Adept, the humorous take on humanity that was The Incarnations of Immortality- it was pure nerd heaven. I would eventually go on to outgrow his work, but not before I had devoured everything the man had written at the time. This included his lesser known efforts, not all of which were as kid-friendly as the Xanth novels. Which is how I came to read Firefly.

Published in 1990, Firefly is a pornographic horror novel about a creature that uses sex pheromones to lure its prey to their doom. Once it has them in its clutches, it proceeds to suck out their creamy filling, leaving nothing but a loose bag of skin. In between innard slurpings, the potential victims reveal their basest desires by regaling each other with appallingly graphic sexual stories. Or something to that effect. I don't quite remember. What I do remember is that one of those stories was a ten page "love" scene between a grown man and a five year old girl named Nymph.

Eeeeeew.  

Prepare to punish your brain:

"Your father wants to have sex with you, but doesn't dare, and your brother wants to, but doesn't know how."
"What's sex?"
"That's when a man and a woman—a grown man and grown woman—get together and do it. Children aren't supposed to."
She didn't know what he meant. A look of great perplexity showed on her face.
"What do they do?"
"They take off their clothes and lie on a bed and, well, they do it."
"What do they do? I don't understand!"
"Well, he puts his—I guess you don't know the words—his thing in her thing."
"Why?"
"Because it's a hell of a lot of fun, kid!"
"You mean like when Daddy plays with me?"
"Yes, only more so. A lot more so."
"I want to do it!" she told him.

Horrified? It only gets worse. The transcriber refuses to type out any more, but describes what comes next as a "wriggle-by-wriggle" description of pedophilic sex.

To make matters worse, the scene is presented as erotic. Not content to leave it at that, Anthony felt the need to justify this eroticism. In the author's note to the paperback edition of the book, he wrote that the games Nymph played with the man "were a joy to her at the time, but [were] nevertheless abuse by our society's definition (not necessarily that of other societies) ..."

Interesting take, Mr. Anthony. Do go on...

It may be that the problem is not with what is deviant, but with our definitions. I suggest in the novel that little Nymph was abused not by the man with whom she had sex, but by members of her family who warped her taste, and by the society that preferred to condemn her lover rather than address the source of the problem in her family.

Oh, you don't just suggest it, you beat us over the head with it. In a courtroom scene with all the dramatic gravitas of A Few Good Men.

The Judge refocused his eyes and mopped his brow with a handkerchief. "Is—is the Defense ready to proceed?"

"We are, Your Honor. We believe that this poignant tape establishes that though the Defendant may be technically guilty of the charge against him, he is not morally guilty. He did not seek the girl, he did not force his attention on her. He demurred at every stage, by her own testimony. It was entirely voluntary on her part. In fact, they were lovers, in the truest sense, age no barrier. The law may say he is guilty, but the law is sometimes an ass."

Several members of the Jury nodded their agreement.

Then he turned to the Jury. "If there is guilt here, then surely it is that of the father, who set her up by incestuously toying with her. And of her brother, who practiced sodomy on her with a candle. Remember, it was to escape that abuse that she first fled and found the Defendant. The Defendant never hurt her. He did only what she asked. He gave her what no other man did. He loved her. We may take issue with the manner of the expression of that love, but we cannot deny its reality. She came to him of her own accord, again and again, because what he offered her was so much better than what she received at home. Her family should be on trial!"

Later on in the book, there is a scene in which a randy old crone- who inexplicably has a one-way mirror in her shed- watches two children unsuccessfully attempt to play house. So what does she do? She takes on the role of "lube fairy" and bequeaths them some Astroglide. This aids in the kid's subsequent consummation, much to the horny hag's delight. How two ten year olds knew what to do with the lubricant is beyond me. I suppose it requires some suspension of disbelief. Moving on.

Another one of the stories in Firefly was actually written by convicted child molester, Santiago Hernandez, who is possibly one of Piers' pedophile pen-pals. Ironically, this is one of the few non-sexual stories in the book, but that doesn't stop Anthony from questioning the reason behind the man's incarceration.

But this is another bit of evidence of the problem in our society: as far as I know, Santiago Hernandez did not hurt anyone. He just happens to be sexually attracted to small boys.

I think those young boys he molested would beg to differ.

But enough about Firefly. If said book were the only instance of underage shenanigans in Anthony's oeuvre, maybe it could be overlooked as an aberration. But is isn't. Pedophilic sex also features prominently in his misguided Native American epic Tatham Mound, which I also had the misfortune of reading as a young adult. In this example Anthony once again uses the excuse of cultural differences to get his felonious freak on.

Thereafter he had the favors of many maidens, some quite young. In the Castile tribe a girl was not supposed to indulge in sexual activity until she was married, which could be some winters after she was fully developed. Here she was free to do it the moment her breasts formed, or even somewhat before, if she felt inclined. Already he had learned enough to know that age was not the criterion; the will of the maiden was. A man could not force a woman, unless he was married to her; he could only do what she wished. Among them was one who seemed to be hardly ten winters old, and her body was not yet developed. She had no prior experience. But she desired the favor of the handsome visitor, and he was obliged to render it. She alone came to him purely for love; she was smitten with him, and afraid he would depart before she grew old enough to attract him, so she came now. It was his first conquest of a genuinely inexperienced girl, and he had the wit to proceed with caution, so that she would not be hurt. In fact, he moved so slowly that she grabbed his penis impatiently and crammed it into her cleft, which was overflowing with honey. In her naïveté she had used too much. Honey squeezed out and got all over everything, but it did make the penetration easier. He was afraid that it was hurting her even so, but she seemed not to care. Everything was clumsy. Evidently he succeeded in initiating her appropriately, despite his misgivings, for the following evening Mouse Pelt returned, and expressed her pleasure with him in a most thoroughgoing manner. What a difference experience made!

Starting to see a pattern? In retrospect, even the seemingly innocuous Xanth series contained a healthy dose of child eroticism. It isn't nearly as explicit as in Tatham Mound or Firefly, but the undercurrent of sexual fantasy is still there. Characters as young as 12 years old are married and engage in the act of "stork summoning," which is playfully omitted with an ellipsis. There is also an unhealthy preoccupation with young girls' panties and what color they might be. I never really thought there was anything wrong with it as a kid, because I was roughly the same age as the characters in question and I found the whole thing quite titillating. I never stopped to question whether the much older author found it titillating as well.

Hindsight is like the miracle of laser eye surgery. Looking back, this type of thing was present in all his books- from The Apprentice Adept series to the Incarnations of Immortality to the extra rapey Bio of a Space Tyrant. I don't remember all the specifics off the top of my head (as I haven't read Anthony in 20 years), but a quick perusal of some of the previous links will provide adequate examples. 

So take a refresher course and tell me-  what is the verdict, dear readers? Is Anthony an artist exploring themes of sexuality, or merely a dirty old man getting his jollies? Should he be commended for his honesty when he says, "...if she's 36-24-36 and fair of feature, men are attracted, and so am I, regardless whether she's 15 or 50" or should he be vilified? The majority of adults who revisit Anthony's work seem to find his predilections that much more pronounced, and more than just a little unsettling.

Image of Firefly
Author: Piers Anthony
Price:
Publisher: Avon Books (1992)
Binding: Mass Market Paperback, 466 pages
Image of Tatham Mound
Author: Piers Anthony
Price:
Publisher: Avon Books (1992)
Binding: Paperback, pages

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Comments

spence's picture
spence from planet is reading Books December 2, 2011 - 2:33pm

It pisses me off how easily having sex with a 5 year old is justified by their warped minds. Just like the guy recently who was arrested for having sex with a 7 year old and he said "she was the aggressor". Right. 

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading The Bone Clocks December 2, 2011 - 3:16pm

Well, that's the rationale of the characters. But considering he's used it in two different novels, and taking his stance on child sexuality as a whole, my eyebrow is definitely raised.

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind December 2, 2011 - 3:52pm

When I think back on my time with Anthony's work, I only remember enjoying his writing. At the same time, however, I do remember a lot of naughtiness happening with kids around. People running around naked, girls losing their virginity, all sorts of naughty things. It didn't bother me at the time because I wasn't that much older than the kids, and by that time I was reading stuff far worse, but... now that you bring it up...

I want to defend the guy and say he wasn't writing it for pleasure, but for plot--but I haven't read his stuff as an adult, so I have no idea. Maybe I'll read the Xanth series again and see if he's just a dirty old man or... well, whatever the alternative is.

 

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading The Bone Clocks December 2, 2011 - 3:57pm

If it was just the Xanth stuff, I wouldn't think much of it. It's pretty harmless as a whole. But Firefly and Tatham. And Firefly. Especially Firefly. Creepsville.

JonnyGibbings's picture
JonnyGibbings December 2, 2011 - 4:06pm

Errrr-hum - insert relevant joke:
"I like my women like my Vodka... 5 years old and illegally smuggled in from Russia"

 

Carry on...

jacks_username's picture
jacks_username from Louisville, Kentucky is reading Games Of Thrones December 2, 2011 - 4:42pm

"Why have sex with 23 year olds...when you can have sex with 20, 3 year olds?"

I want to read Firefly now. But maybe I'll start with Lolita.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading The Bone Clocks December 2, 2011 - 5:06pm

Speaking of  Nabokov, didn't people have the same issue with him? That the pedophilia theme creeped into his work a little too much? That maybe he was speaking through his characters?

Typewriter Demigod's picture
Typewriter Demigod from London is reading "White Noise" by DeLilo, "Moby-Dick" by Hermann Mellivile and "Uylsses" by Joyce December 3, 2011 - 1:09pm

Yeah, the difference is, with Anthony, it's all about lust and discovery, but with Nabokov, it's love. (but also lust and discovery)

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading The Bone Clocks December 3, 2011 - 2:07pm

So... if you are in love with an underage person, it's acceptable?

 

Ben Umstead's picture
Ben Umstead from L.A. is reading Speedboat by Renata Adler December 3, 2011 - 2:39pm

If he weren't so adament in defending certain things in prefaces or notes, it'd seem that the guy is exorcizing some demons in these stories, but man... that is most certainly not the case. Did he only get his jollies in writing? Who can say. I never finished a book from him when I was an adolescent, and really don't plan to now.

hereward's picture
hereward December 3, 2011 - 6:37pm

I read about a half of a Piers Anthony novel that had been sent to me by mistake by the Science Fiction Book Club back in the early'80s (I can't remember which one it was). I couldn't stand it; there wasn't any pedophilia in whatever it was I was reading, but Anthony's writing style was like fingernails on a blackboard to me. The more I read, the more irritated I got; my main impression of Anthony is that of a glib lightweight.

For many years, I couldn't quite put my finger on what my problem with Anthony's writing was. It became clearer when the subject came up in a conversation at a science fiction convention; the person I was talking to pointed out that Piers Anthony is constantly doing things in his writing that amount to him saying "Hey! Look at how clever I am! Aren't I cute?" I thought about it, and felt that I had to agree.

Besides that, any books that are as popular as Piers Anthony's are most likely no good anyway; I've found that my taste is not the same as that of the vast majority. I've never read much Stephen King, either.

splop's picture
splop December 3, 2011 - 8:15pm

The reason Piers Anthony is/was so popular is no doubt because of the tinge of pedophilia. 

Although I certainly don't believe in, like or support pedophilia, I believe that all the violence against children should stop, beginning with the kind of violence that hurts and destroys far more than mere sex could hope to do.  I refer to thrashing and beating, stomping, kicking and blazingly hating.  Any grownup that would deliberately hurt a child in any manner is a sick individual, but I would stop the traumatic violence in a priority arrangement over sex.  At least if done in the spirit of sexual desire, typical kinds of pedophilia do not rip the flesh off the child, put large knots on heads, bruise and/or hospitalize.

 

Rachel Harris's picture
Rachel Harris from Cumberland Basin is reading mindless fluff (god, its so hard to get through, ugh) December 3, 2011 - 8:22pm

anthony's writing is that of a gloating pedophile

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading The Bone Clocks December 3, 2011 - 8:40pm

Like the new avatar, jacks.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. December 4, 2011 - 6:15am

It's Pedobear to the rescue!  Saving them kids from the old goats!  

pavlova lamington's picture
pavlova lamington December 6, 2011 - 4:56am

Piers Anthony's books are filled with misogyny, rape apologism, racefail and paedophilia. Take And Eternity, the seventh book in the Incarnations of Immortality series. Aside from the insanely creepy, postively-portrayed physical relationship between a 50-year-old paedophile and a 14-year-old abuse victim, there's also a scene in a female character is transformed into a man and immediately becomes a violent, misogynistic, testosterone-mad boor who attempts to rape her female friend. Upon having her feminine form restored she is horrified, and both women conclude that "men have desires that women do not", and that the only reason that all men don't go around every day assaulting women is that "they have learned control".

This man has something seriously wrong with him.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin December 7, 2011 - 7:09pm

I read every single Xanth book when I was a kid (like, before I was 10), I'm not going to deny that I enjoyed them.

But I have to admit when I saw this article I cracked up, and I was not surprised at all,I remember often thinking that the Xanth books were strangely erotic for children's books, in fact I remember thinking it was what made them interesting... Piers Anthony apparently was molesting my mind... Iand all I can do now is laugh. There is a distinct possibility that it isn't funny, but I can't help myself.

What always struck me more was his fascination with Florida, him and Dave Berry really hammered in this idea to me that Florida is full of halfassed writers who, sure, they might be funny on occassion, but they don't really try. They just thought writing and living in florida were the "easy way out." It's a really strange belief and I apologize to any Floridians, but that's still what I'll think when I think of Anthony, not his strange and potentially dangerous sexual tastes, more that he's just kind of a lazy sonofabitch.

Zackery Olson's picture
Zackery Olson from Rockford, IL is reading pretty much anything I can get my hands on March 22, 2012 - 9:12pm

"Although I certainly don't believe in, like or support pedophilia, I believe that all the violence against children should stop, beginning with the kind of violence that hurts and destroys far more than mere sex could hope to do.  I refer to thrashing and beating, stomping, kicking and blazingly hating.  Any grownup that would deliberately hurt a child in any manner is a sick individual, but I would stop the traumatic violence in a priority arrangement over sex.  At least if done in the spirit of sexual desire, typical kinds of pedophilia do not rip the flesh off the child, put large knots on heads, bruise and/or hospitalize."

 

At least not in the immediate situation, but anybody who has seen the statistics about things like adolescent and adult self-injury--in both males and females by the way--might reorganize their priorities. They might also reorganize those priorities if they took a look at the statistics about how sexual trauma figures into schizophrenia in females, bipolar disorder in males and females, and borderline personality disorder as well. Sexual abuse has also been linked to eating disorders in some cases. What else would change their mind greatly is if they knew anybody who is living with the consequences of childhood or adolescent sexual abuse, consequences that were forced upon them because of the desires of some subhuman piece of filth.

 

I agree with you that physical abuse of any kind is wrong, whether that abuse takes the form of beating or sexual abuse. I do think, however, that your borderline dismissal of the extreme emotional damage--and subsequent self-destructive patterns of behavior--that pervade the lives of survivors of childhood sexual abuse are ridiculous in the extreme.

springheeljack's picture
springheeljack May 3, 2012 - 6:06pm

frankly i think this plot was taken out of context, this was a story told by one character to another, a story implied to come from her own passed. obviousely the author was trying to show the mindset, emotional roots of the female lead.

in her prespective, the villians were those who took away the only person who showed her affection

even though the affection was in reality sexual abuse, from her view point it was love.

sometimes, a rose is just a rose and nothing more, stop trying to read the author by his work.

Gabriel Nepenthe's picture
Gabriel Nepenthe September 29, 2013 - 12:37am

Piers Anthony's works had kind of dropped off the map for me, after I read the horrific torture porn scene in a story contained in his 'Anthology' collection of short stories. I just couldn't bring myself to read his work after that. And in a way perhaps that was a victory on his part. He made that scene and the feeling of pain, horror and helplesness so real to me that I became physically ill. That's success as a writer.

So since I haven't read anything recent of Piers Anthony, I have no idea of the context behind any disturbing sexual themes. The only one I have any recollection about was from his Incarnations series where I have a fuzzy memory of a 16 year old girl wanting to marry her lover, but finding that she needed to move to a certain state in order to do so, as the age of consent varries depending on which state you live in. Which I later learned is actually true, as odd as that is. In some states it's actually 16. Weird.

I don't think that featuring sexual abuse as a plot point necessarily makes the author a sexual deviant nor the story centered on the abuse - potentially it's merely a plot detail to illustrate your character's journey and their motivations in life.

A good example of this is found in the manga/anime Elfen Lied. One of the characters is a homeless girl. The reason why she's homeless (and her laundry list of personality issues) is she ran away on her own - her stepfather had been 'using' her, and her mother had become jealous of the attention the girl had been getting and abused her physically and mentally as a sort of revenge tactic... which from the real-life cases I've read is an actual thing, believe it or not...

However I won't deny that some authors really are creepers. It sucks, but it's true. I don't know if Piers Anthony falls under this definition though without researching his works now for myself, and I would have to do so before levying any sort of judgement against him. At the same time though I find this task daunting as I no longer find the mans' writing enjoyable. ;P

P.S. I find the commentor springheeljack's take on the subject to be interesting, thanks for playing Devil's Advocate ~ I think some of us need to do that before getting the torches and pitchforks out.

Historicprops's picture
Historicprops January 10, 2014 - 11:36pm

Long before his books began to creep me out with an increasing strain of pedophilia,nI noticed that he had a number of incidences of people having sex with horses. First, it was mention of Conquistadors getting lost in Xanth, and stumbling across a "love spring", and getting"amorus" with their horses. That was creepy enough, but then I read the Apprentice Adept series, in which the Hero's horse transforms into a woman, and they have sex. Again, the man in the episode isn't responsible for what happens: it's the little girl, or a love spring, or something else. Not, him, no. Not ever HIS fault. 

 

LobsterGator's picture
LobsterGator January 28, 2014 - 8:59am

Have any of you read the Geodyssey series' he wrote?  Lots of 7-year-old girls having sex, especially in Isle of Woman and I believe also in Shame of Man.  Little girls clamoring to have the village elder take their virginity.  I managed to get through roughly half of the third book (Climate of Change, I think) before getting thoroughly disgusted with repetition, and the pedophilia he surmised took place when humans were in their infancy.   I've read the Xanth series and he always makes sure to follow the "adult" rules he's set in place in those books, that no one under 18 has sex.  I was really surprised, as you can imagine, when I read the Geodyssey books. 

Also, Piers is a homophobe.  I've asked him several times why his couples in Xanth are never same-sex, being there are love springs and centaurs are the result of man and horse falling into one, I asked him if any of his characters would be same-sex and entering a love spring together.  He said (and I'm paraphrasing), 'the country is not ready for gay characters in Xanth, it's mostly a family-friendly series.'  Yeah.  Naked, big-breasted half-demons and nymphs running around are "family friendly."  

nicoleanne's picture
nicoleanne August 19, 2014 - 1:06am

This whole thing utterly disgusts me because it's an APOLOGY to pedophilia.

Now please allow me to come in defense of Mr. Nabokov. "Lolita" is considered one of the best literary works of all times, a classic, a masterpiece. It is one of the most beautifulyy written books I've ever read, and mind you, at first I didn't want to read it because I don't like its premise. Now let's note that it is about love, lust and GUILT. The narrator feels guilty but cannot control his obsession toward Lolita, and he refers to himself as a monster.

Now what does exactly this other "author" here brings to the table? Bad prose (sorry, it's mediocre at best), and all sorts of justifications for pedophilia. Oh, she was 5 and wanted it, he was 30 but not morally guilty of anything, and it was all ok because they were in love.

Yeah, right,

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to puke.

 

krazykaren's picture
krazykaren October 4, 2014 - 3:16pm

I was reading the comments on the pedophile author. As a victim of sexual, religious, mental and emotional abuse by family members and stangers. What I've learned is this: There comes a time as female/ male chidren (we don't understand) but we realize r sense of a power around the male/female species. We experiment with the power of manipulation. It is up to the ADULT to set the boundaries for the child. If we are fortunate to have a healthy ADULT that does his/her job and teaches the child apropriate and inapropriate touch. DO NOT DELUDE YOURSELF THEY WANT THEIR CHILD HOOD RIPPED AWAY FROM THEM And call it L O V E.