Columns > Published on December 2nd, 2011

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.

Get Firefly at Amazon

Get Tatham Mound at Amazon

About the author

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor. He is the author of The Paradox Twins (CLASH Books), the story collection Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape, and the parody Kanye West—Reanimator. His short fiction has been published by Vice, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Broken River Books, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @jaceycockrobin. More info at joshuachaplinsky.com and unravelingtheparadox.com.


Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Freeimages.com Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Learning | Free Lesson — LitReactor | 2024-05

Try Reedsy's novel writing masterclass — 100% free

Sign up for a free video lesson and learn how to make readers care about your main character.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.