Cults, Vampires, Kink, and Indie Filmmaking: Laura Lee Bahr on Her New Novel “Long-Form Religious Porn”

long-form religious porn by laura lee bahr

When you’ve just written a novel that includes a cult that transforms its members into vampires through plastic surgery, a murderous dominatrix, and homages to Fifty Shades of Grey, where do you go to make your grand and glorious debut? If the answer isn’t obvious to everyone, it was to Laura Lee Bahr: On Friday, April 29, Bahr is coming to The Stockroom to throw a huge party for her brand new opus, Long-Form Religious Porn. Hosted by Lenora Claire, the only art curator (that we know of) to stage an exhibition of Golden Girls erotica, the evening is going to be a celebration of both the literary and the carnal, including drag by The Meatball Queen and live mannequins outfitted in The Stockroom’s finest latex and leather fashions. If you’re not enticed yet, read a little of what Bahr told us about her book:

The book is called Long-Form Religious Porn, and I was kind of overwhelmed — in a good way — just by reading the description of it on Goodreads. There’s just so many tropes in there to handle all at once. How would you describe the plot?

Well, I will tell you that in some of the bookstores, when you have to file it under a particular genre, I’ve put it under Mystery, Noir, or Crime. So to me the central action that everything goes around is the murder, and people try to figure out how to make meaning in their lives. The plot is that there is a young, independent filmmaker who’s trying to make a movie and her best friend is becoming part of this cult, The Church of the Immortal Order. This is a church that believes you can live forever through becoming what is essentially a vampire.

So she has a friend who is getting involved in this Hollywood cult, and in the meantime, the book also tells the story of the movie that she’s trying to make, which is about a woman who kills her gay lover and fiancee in a three-way sex act.

So, those are the two big plots, and then within there, there are other colorful characters who explore the themes. I wouldn’t say it’s a hardboiled story; it’s more over-easy, with some poached on the side. It’s playful and explicit, but at the same time unflinchingly exploring themes of sex and meaning and existentialism.

Laura Lee BahrPhoto by Brad C. Wilcox

Laura Lee Bahr
Photo by Brad C. Wilcox

So you have this novel about indie filmmaking, kinky sex, and vampires. How are you going to kick that off at Stockroom?

Oh, let me tell you! First of all, as you sort of tell by the title of the book and probably just by talking to me, I’m not necessarily normal. Nobody really is, but some of us have really strong flavors of not-normal. So, this night is a celebration of weirdness. We have an introduction by Lenora Claire, we’re going to have a performance by Meatball, we’re going to have living mannequins modeling Stockroom fashions. I’m probably going to be wearing a pink debutante’s dress and I don’t know — maybe a tiara. So it’s going to be a night just to come out and have a wonderful time. There’ll be music and wine — to me, the greatest thing ever is to get to mix with interesting people and just have a lovely artistic environment. So, that’s what we’re aiming to do. We’re just aiming to have a really fun party. Sometimes book launches can be a little stuffy and boring, and we’re definitely not going to do that.

Can you tell me a little bit about how the book came about? Like I say, there’s a lot of different themes going on in here: religion and vampires and indie filmmaking — which is perhaps its own sort of religion.

Yeah, thank you — you just made a very big connection that the book aims to make: That all of these things are different ways in which we put together this world view and our role in it.

The reason I decided to write this book as opposed to any other book is that I’m intensely interested in character and why people do what they do and to me, there’s a lot things — especially living [in Los Angeles] — that almost defy fiction. It’s so over-the-top. So to me, a lot of these are metaphors and parallels for real characters that you see in your day-to-day life living here in Los Angeles. Certainly the independent filmmaker, the kind of, um, Hollywood hustler wannabe trying to do anything she can to get a movie made, that’s a very common person around here and while I’m certainly not like that, there’s a part of me that gets that — that understands that thinking. And there’s a big part of me that understands the philosophy of a person who through wanting to please her partner starts to do all these things that are way outside of her character — to become someone else. That’s the dominatrix.

So all of these things are my way of grappling with what it means to be involved in different relationships. And, there was a big part of me that was playing with the idea of Fifty Shades of Grey, and there was this actual court case — I can’t remember the name of the person — this woman who actually brutally murdered her lover. It was just a horrible, brutal murder, and trying to put those two things together: This kind of sexualization of pain that you get — this fantasy of pain and then this brutal murder of one’s love.

Laura Lee BahrPhoto by Henning Fischer

Laura Lee Bahr
Photo by Henning Fischer

So how does that connect to the book Fifty Shades of Grey?

One of the big homages to Fifty Shades is two of the characters meet — the dominatrix character meets this mystery man in a hardware store. They meet in a hardware store, but it’s completely different. Instead of him being this sexy, corporate guy, he is just a normal dude. You know, he’s a teacher, and he’s wanting to kill himself, and he’s there to look for a way to off himself; she’s there looking for a chain for a three-way she’s having. So I was putting that sort of thing together.

And then, in terms of the actual sex in the book, rather than have it be this titillating sexual act, I wanted to be much more real with it. For me, a lot of what is missing from fiction or missing from sex that you read about is that it’s all about getting you off. It’s not actually about exploring the awkwardness and the weirdness and the grossness and like “Oh my gosh, this is horrible, but I have to lie about it.” So a lot of it’s exploring what I think is the reality of many people’s sexual experiences, not be the fantasy.

What do you mean about the grossness of sex?

By gross I don’t mean disgusting, by gross I mean physically — like the hair, the fluids, the “that didn’t quite work,” or “I tried to do this thing and then it didn’t go the way I planned”; “This didn’t look the way I thought it would in my head.” So I describe everything in a more clinical, actual body term rather than in a porn or sexy term. For example, I don’t words like “cock,” or “pussy,” or um, “tits.” Instead it’s like “her breasts” and “his penis.” So I try to do it in much more explicit [terms] without making it titillating.

In fact, one of my big things is I was trying to not titillate, I was trying to be precise.

Tell me a little about vampires. Those are a very familiar erotic trope. What role do they play in the book, and why do you think that they’re sexy?

In my book, they’re not really sexy at all. It’s like a religious cult. First of all, there’s the mythology of the sexy vampire, right? There’s sort of the propaganda of “You can live forever, you can be the sexy vampire.” But the reality of it is that what they’re doing is undergoing various forms of plastic surgery and they’re shutting themselves off from the light and undergoing these very physical things in this attempt to wait for the Master to come. And then the Master is going to come and then they will live forever. But in the meantime, they’re surgically becoming vampires. They’re treated much more as a desirable Hollywood cult to be in to further your career. But like any sort of cult, the reality of it is much more about intimidation and giving of special privileges and trying to become of a certain group over another certain group.

You said that the theme is very much about religion, and “religious porn” is right there on the front. How do you deal with religion in the book?

It’s called “Religious Porn” because ultimately to me what it is — it’s certainly not porn in terms of sex. There is no sexual climax in the story. It’s only about sexual frustration. But there is a religious climax for every character. Every character goes through this religious or spiritual climax in a different way. And they all come to this apocalypse or epiphany in the sense of who they are and what they believe in different ways. The religious porn is each person’s spiritual climax. There’s a big part of it where the filmmaker, in order to help her friend who’s becoming a vampire, enlists the Christians. Because the Christians are the natural enemies of the vampires, so she tries to get the Christian sect to help her get her friend back.

There’s a lot of talking about the belief system of Christianity’s sort of “live forever through Jesus,” vs “Live forever through being a vampire.” Those kinds of ideas play off against each other.


 

Release Party for Long-Form Religious Porn

Friday, April 29
8 PM – 10 PM
Stockroom Hall
2809 W Sunset Blvd

Hosted by art queen and LGBT celebrity Lenora Claire
Special reading by the author Laura Lee Bahr
Live music | Drop Dead Drag Performance by TheMeatball Queen
Hosted bar by AKBAR | Bondage fashion by The Stockroom

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