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Read an Excerpt from Secret Sex, an Anthology of R-Rated Fiction Written Anonymously by CanLit's Finest

Banner image with a background of light coloured silk sheets. A black banner reads Excerpt from Secret Sex edited by Russell Smith. Image of the cover of Secret Sex on the right. Open Book logo bottom left.

24 stories, all of them firmly NSFW, make up the cheeky new collection Secret Sex, edited by Russell Smith (Dundurn Press/Rare Machines). Smith gathered 24 of the most acclaimed authors in the country, each of whom contributed one steamy tale. The catch? No names appear anywhere in the book – so there is no way to know who wrote what, adding a playful twist to the racy tales. 

Each piece riffs on the theme of sex in different ways, from fully graphic to strangely surreal, encompassing queer and straight experiences that run the erotic gamut. 

The mysterious contributors include a veritable who's-who of Canadian prose stylists:Angie Abdou, Jean-Marc Ah-Sen, Tamara Faith Berger, Jowita Bydlowska, Xaiver Campbell, K.S. Covert, francesca ekwuyasi, Anna Fitzpatrick, Drew Hayden Taylor, Victoria Hetherington, Marni Jackson, Andrew Kaufman, Michael LaPointe, Pasha Malla, Sophie McCreesh, Lisa Moore, Heather O’Neill, Lee Suksi, Susan Swan, Heidi von Palleske, Aley Waterman, Zoe Whittall, David Whitton, and Michael Winter.

We're sharing an excerpt from the anthology here today, in which we meet a sexy vampire as thirsty for new experiences as she is for blood. Have a guess who penned this tale? Let us know your guess on Instagram or X

Excerpt from Secret Sex, edited by Russell Smith:

Portrait of a Lady

Author Anonymous

Humans are always associating sex with love. A vampire always conflates sex with death. Who knows how long I have been a vampire, or if I was ever anything other than a vampire, in the same way that humans can’t remember being born and what they might have been before.

I have memories of this country when it was all forest and there were no buildings at all. It was all chaos and murder, really. There was always mud on my boots. They believed in me then. When my bodies would turn up, they would cry out it was the work of the devil, that there were evil forces afoot in the new land. Which amused me since I had come over on the same ship they had.

I once saw another vampire captured back then. She had a woman’s body, like me. They thought she was a witch, whatever that was. They believed women were conduits for everything evil. Someone had noticed that she slept all day and that was enough to have her sentenced to death. I adored a witch craze.

Even though it put the likes of me at risk.

There was quite a lot of work trying to kill her. They tried hanging her. Everyone gathered to see. I have often been at a ballet and found myself wanting to whisper to the person next to me, This is all right. But what you really need to watch is a public hanging. Watching her body drop felt almost like sex and it made my wings twitch and move as though they were about to burst out.

Russell Smith, editor of the anthology Secret Sex

Russell Smith, editor of the anthology Secret Sex

Anyway, she survived. I watched her be tied by a steel shackle around her ankle to an anchor and be tossed into the water at the harbour. I’m sure she is at the bottom of the harbour still, standing there like a woman at a rural bus stop, with the wind blowing her hair all over the place.

To be honest, I was happy to see her go. She had come over on the boat with me from Europe. I had been hoping there were no other vampires on the boat, but I suppose we are more or less like rats.

One of the reasons I left Europe was because of the other vampires. I can’t even recall what I did that so incensed them all. But they said I was rash, going on killing sprees in cities for too long, and it put them all in danger. They picked on me because I have the form of such a young, beautiful girl. And it allows me to get away with all sorts of things. And they hated that my wings are the colour of glass, and I can be naked, and my victims can’t even see them.

I am who I am. Every being has the right to pursue their own particular path toward happiness.

I had been in this city for far too long. It was dangerous because it allowed other vampires to find me. But knowing this, I still decided to stay. Perhaps I was staying with the express purpose of other vampires finding me. Perhaps I wanted to be dragged or forced out of this city.

I went to the nightclub that had been established in an abandoned post office. I was wearing a sleek black coat I had taken off a dead man. I thought I looked great. Everyone else seemed to think so too as I could feel eyes turning to look at me as I passed. Tonight would be easy. I could tell from the way people were looking at me that I was already in the process of transforming. They were enchanted. They would believe anything I told them about myself.

Underneath my coat I was wearing a peach-coloured baby-doll dress. I had on a pair of black tights. If I were to untie my boots, you would see that there were holes in my stockings and that my toes stuck out of them. I wondered who in the club would be foolish enough to untie my shoes.

I wasn’t afraid of anyone because I was the predator. If you want to know what it feels like to be a predator, I will tell you. It feels like you are superior. It made me feel as though I were the same colour as the night. It made me feel like a jaguar, if a jaguar were granted human form for the night, so that it might do something like ride the subway without drawing attention to itself. And so I was given the body of a skinny girl. If you looked at me, you were probably in trouble.

The cold made the eyes of the patrons at the club tear.  Everyone looked as though they were crying. They did not look as though they were weeping. They looked as though they were trying to hold back the tears. And the second they spoke a word, they would burst into tears. They looked as though they were pained by melancholia. They looked as though someone had whispered something unkind to them. Something that had unwittingly hurt their feelings profoundly.

I went to the counter. I felt a particularly morose gaze directed toward me. I turned to see it was coming from a woman at the end of the bar. It was a plump, short woman with a black bob and bangs hanging almost to her eyes. Her face was pale. Her black hair made her face seem more pale. She was wearing a long black wool coat that seemed three sizes too big. All black coats had originally belonged to men. And when they got tired of them and shrugged them off, women crept inside them, like mollusks into  abandoned shells. Then they were able to move around more carefully in the night. I had one on myself.

She seemed more vulnerable than anybody else in the whole place. She was setting herself up to be a victim. Surely some man was going to mistreat her. It excited me.

I noticed she had a novel on the bar. It was a copy of The Portrait of a Lady. I had read that book maybe forty years before. I had wanted to talk to someone about that book for decades. Some books were so relatable and resonated so deeply with me that I was quite convinced they might have been written by a vampire.

“I’ve read that book,” I said.

She looked over at the book with curiosity, as though she was seeing it for the first time.

“What did you think of it?” she asked.

For some reason I could hear every word she was saying over the music. I really wanted to tell her that I thought Isabel Archer was a vampire. She had had the same brilliant naïveté as a vampire. She had that same desire to see everything there was to see in the world. Instead, I answered, “Oh, I just adore Isabel Archer.”

“I don’t,” she said, looking at me with a gaze of almost despair. “I feel so sad for her. She’s so weak and dumb. She’s doomed from the beginning, isn’t she? From the first second you meet Isabel, you think, oh, she is doomed. Don’t you? She is happy and free, so she is doomed. She has all this money, so she is doomed to have someone steal it.”

“Well what could she have done not to be doomed?”

“She should have stayed in a small house somewhere reading books and never met anybody at all. To do anything else would be idiotic.”

This was a peculiar reading. At no point did I think Isabel was an idiot. I found it upsetting. I was leaning away from the bar, about to move along, when she said, “Do you want to do cocaine with me?”

I fell back against the bar. I loved doing cocaine. It was the closest I got to feeling as though I had killed someone without going through the trouble of actually killing someone. It made my blood buzz as though I had killed someone. Although it was more or less foreplay, as it made me want to kill so badly; it made me feel as though I could kill an entire legion of men.

“Do you have some?” I asked.

“No,” she answered. “But I know a guy. We could go to your place and call him.”

Then she looked into my eyes. I thought I should like to see her humiliated by a man. I should like to kneel next to her, as a man we despised slapped his dick against our cheeks and then came over both our faces.

She seemed as though it would not be her thing at all. And that was what was so thrilling. On some level I could never believe in my complete degradation, because I knew that I liked it. It was what I had sought out. It made every molecule in my body start to buzz and feel alive. But she would actually feel degraded. She might start to cry afterward. Maybe she would feel suicidal. I needed to live vicariously through her suffering. I put my arm in hers. It was so unlike me because I really lacked a certain empathy for human beings.

“Will you call me Isabel,” I asked as we walked down the street.

“Yes,” she answered. “If you will call me Madame Merle.”

I laughed. She was capable of wickedness then, or at least she thought she was, since Madame Merle was Isabel’s undoing in the novel.


Russell Smith is a novelist and acquiring editor at Dundurn Press. He lives in Toronto.

Buy the Book

Secret Sex

If authors could write their sex scenes anonymously, would they be less reticent? Would they include the stuff they didn’t want their mom, or the newspapers, to read?
Here are twenty-four original short pieces of fiction on the theme of sex, by twenty-four prominent authors living in Canada. Heather O’Neill, Lisa Moore, Michael Winter, Zoe Whittall, Pasha Malla, francesca ekwuyasi, Drew Hayden Taylor, Tamara Faith Berger, and Susan Swan are among these. But we won’t tell you who wrote what.
The pieces are uncensored, unpredictable; they veer from graphic to subtle to surreal. There is straight sex and gay sex. There is frustrated sex. There is sex that happens entirely through text messages. Secret Sex is a book of erotic imaginings by some of Canada’s most sophisticated and respected writers, working in total freedom, secretly.
Featuring Angie Abdou, Jean-Marc Ah-Sen, Tamara Faith Berger, Jowita Bydlowska, Xaiver Campbell, K.S. Covert, francesca ekwuyasi, Anna Fitzpatrick, Drew Hayden Taylor, Victoria Hetherington, Marni Jackson, Andrew Kaufman, Michael LaPointe, Pasha Malla, Sophie McCreesh, Lisa Moore, Heather O’Neill, Lee Suksi, Susan Swan, Heidi von Palleske, Aley Waterman, Zoe Whittall, David Whitton, Michael Winter.