Well, I know, I have been away from updating this blog for quite a while; I will try to get back into the game. And getting back into it, let’s start with a nifty later Don Elliott/Silverberg, The Pain Lusters.
The set-up is similar to the Loren Beauchamp Another Night, Another Love (which I discussed almost three years ago here): an out-of-work actor in his late 20s, Nick, his TV and stage days slowing fading, needs money, and is approached by an old acting pal who recruits him for male prostitution: in Another, it is loving up rich older women at a resort; in The Pain Lusters, it is beating up rich older women with a taste for pain in an outskirts NYC mansion that caters to the wealthy and sexually weird.
Nick slowly gets into the job — he has to audition for the madame, of course (the girlfriend of his pal), and learn the finer points of BDSM (L.T. Woodward, Silverberg’s doctorly pen name, provides a sort of preface, taken from Sex Fiend)…the men and women of the pain mansion, we find, are not mere mindless, soulless whores, but people with lost dreams and future hopes, each in need of finding love as any human.
All seems to go well until one wealthy woman, Carolyn, comes to the mansion seeking to re-experience a rape she endured three years ago, when a burglar broke in while her husband was away and ravished her by force; she claims it is the only time in her life that she had multiple orgasms and felt alive (and as any real psychosexual researcher will tell you, there are these instances, fueled by the forced ravishings of romance novels). When Carolyn’s husband gets wind of his wife’s secret desires, he stakes out the mansion, gains entry, and causes all hell to break loose…
I was possibly looking for a connection to this book with Silverberg’s 1963 story, “The Pain Peddlers,” but there was none…in that SF story, people tune into pain TV with neuro-headsets to experience operations without anesthetic vicariously — the virtually feel the pain the patient goes through when opened up or having a limb cut off; this need for true pain revealing the numbness of existence that a future society (and perhaps now) falls into it.
Then again, maybe there is a connection here: the characters in this softcore title do indeed seek out pain to remind themselves they are real and alive; or in the case of the burglar-rapist re-enactment, to return to a memory of sexual heights that normal society would find deviant.
Silverber’s post-1964 Don Elliotts seem to lean toward S/M and the desire of pain, to give and receive (Black Market Shame, Sin Kill, Sin Warped) , something also noticed in his later 60s-early 70s SF: Thorns, for instance, about two people in great pain, which is pretty much a novelization of “Flies,” The Man in the Maze and The Second Trip…