Davis G. See
Davis G. See is a writer and game developer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His work includes professionally published short stories, poetry, and essays, as well as both professional game dev credits and a number of solo-developed games made in small engines like Twine and Bitsy. His contribution to PLOTHOLE, “Deliver Us From Flame,” is a short prequel to his upcoming visual novel DESERT OF ASH: a Post-Apocalyptic Gay Sex Simulator, which will be his first time collaborating with an artist, and his first time making a commercial game on a relatively large scale.
This interview is part of a series with the 10 contributors to the PLOTHOLE: Loregasm Edition bundle!
time.to.occur: All right, and here we are! Thanks for being here with me, Davis!
Davis G. See: Thanks for having me! And for everything you’ve done with this bundle, I know you’re putting a ton of work in.
T: I appreciate that! I want all the authors to have the best experience possible with doing this kind of community bundle.
Okay, so let’s jump right in with a first question! What is the origin of your pen name? Or rather, in your case, why did you choose to use your legal(?) name for this work? Do you ever feel nervous about it?
D: I’ve been writing and publishing under my name for a while now (let’s not think about how long; apparently I’m getting old) so I have a small body of work attached to it. I don’t know how much I could say I have an audience or readership attached as well, but to the extent that I do, I didn’t want to lose them in the shuffle of swapping to a pen name. That and, I don’t see my NSFW writing as being fundamentally different from my previous work in theme or tone. There’s just a little extra description in places. 😛
T: That makes a lot of sense — as someone who has siloed things off, I sometimes feel like it’s hard to bridge the gap between my networks.
D: The other reason is that I see it as a sort of rebellion against some of the purity standard stuff we’re seeing on the internet right now. Sex is no big deal, and there’s nothing in my erotic work I or anyone should be ostracized for, lose a job over, etc. By boldly and proudly attaching my name to my porn while also working on all-ages content, I’m trying to give a big fuck you to that entire concept.
T: Thanks for that! That’s excellent and very true. Okay, so, I’ve lived North of Edmonton (way North), does that environment have any impact on that decision? When I was in Northern Alberta, that kind of ‘fuck you’ in terms of presentation and performance as an act of resistance felt especially important, is what I’m saying.
D: Ahh yes. I grew up in Red Deer, which is the third largest city in Alberta, but still feels very much like a small town. Always votes conservative, etc. I’ve been in Edmonton a while now, and maybe it’s the fact that I came from somewhere much worse that I feel I can be so bold and carefree about my sexuality and my work. That said, I’m not really connected to folks back home other than family, and I’ve been dancing around the fact that I’m writing erotica with them (so much for being bold I guess!).
T: I hear you and understand. It’s not necessarily so much for myself that I keep those things siloed, but for what I think other people’s experiences of my talking about it might be.
Let’s stick with this theme for now. What has it been like making the transition to doing some NSFW work as someone known for SFW work? What’s it like sharing that (by most measures) pretty intimate part of yourself (even if, as you say, that should be totally okay)?
Soren Fitz (Author and Audience Member): The boldness/act of rebellion is so cool—I am ever a supporter of sexual rebellion.
D: So, my story in Plothole is a prequel to an upcoming visual novel, which I’m working on with an artist. Talking to him about the sexual content we want to put into the work has been interesting, because it is inherently about my personal tastes in men and sex. Luckily we’re on the same page about what we like and what we want, but there was some inherent hesitation in sharing that stuff.
That said, sharing my writing has sort of always meant sharing deep parts of myself, even if they are often obscured. For example, I have a semi-autobiographical Twine game about coming to terms with my middle school crush, and I thought a lot about how people I knew in middle school would react to reading it, because there’s a lot of real detail in there. But every writer has to grapple with that to some degree; NSFW content is just another aspect of that.
T: Yeah, we definitely put ourselves into our work even when it comes to works of clear fiction, though obviously it’s important not to conflate authors with the content in their stories and you can never know exactly which bits are the autobiographical parts. Even if they tell you what they see that comes out of their direct experience, there’s probably still more that they’re missing.
That’s a good point about NSFW content being another aspect of it!
How did you get your start writing (and writing smut specifically)? How long have you been writing, and how long have you been writing smut?
D: I’ve been writing since I was a kid, ever since I wrote a story for class about a rabbit named Carrot Juice which was warmly received by my teacher and classmates. My first attempt at smut was with fanfiction when I was 13 or so, but that never really clicked with me, so the sexual content in my work remained mostly subdued, only coming out every one in a while, like when I needed to fill up my word count while doing NaNoWriMo.
I started to take my writing more seriously in university. I took multiple creative writing courses, during which I was exposed more to the actual process of publishing and getting my work out there. I also became exposed to indie games around this time, and that flipped a switch for me; I suddenly realized that making games was a real thing I could do. That’s when I started working in Twine.
In 2018 I participated in Ink Jam, a game jam for making games in Ink, another Twine-like program. That’s when I made the prototype version of Desert of Ash. I thought the results were good enough that I could pursue it as a full-length project, but I knew I would need an artist on the project, so development didn’t begin until I connected with my artist, Gio. Thus began my official foray into erotic works.
Soren Fitz: Oh, so this is a pretty recent thing!
T: Carrot Juice! 🐰 🥕 I am delighted that you remember this detail. And that sounds like a really welcoming process of self-discovery!
Soren Fitz: It’s serendipitous that your artist is into these things—unless this an artist you connected with expressly for this project?
D: He and a friend of mine ran a podcast about queer creatives, and they had me on as a guest. That was the first time I talked to Gio, and as another gay man he was immediately interested in the project which I was only calling Post-Apocalyptic Gay Sex Simulator at the time. Our shared excitement for it blossomed into ‘are we actually doing this thing?? Okay, let’s do it!!’
So it was really just luck!
Soren Fitz: I love that!
T: I love that for Desert of Ash! It’s nice to find another person who shares your enthusiasm for a project that way.
What is something unique to you — a special skill, a particular experience, or a challenge that you face — and how do you think that it has shaped or impacted your writing practice?
D: Perhaps it’s not that unique, as I get the feeling lots of folks reading this have something similar, but it’s the thing I would be lost without, and that’s community! From my Twilight RP forum when I was 12 to the youth-oriented writing workshop I was in as a teen to my peers in my university writing courses to the writing collective I co-founded in my last year of school to the writing circle I’m in now, I’ve always had other writers around me to support and encourage me and hold me accountable. At any point in my writing career, I think I could have quit if I didn’t have anyone who cared about it. A lot of days I have a tough time coming up with motivation, but we all check in at my writing circle when we meet, and I would hate to have to say that I hadn’t done any writing since our last meeting!
T: Sometimes external accountability and a community to commiserate with is really what’s needed! That makes a lot of sense to me. Some of the authors that I’ve already had the pleasure of interviewing make up my community, so I definitely see myself in this experience.
We’re going to stay on the theme of community. So, you’re not new to the queer games community, but you are new to this gay erotica community server. What has been your biggest surprise about the experience of joining both these NSFW communities (or, the NSFW versions of them)?
D: Truly just the breadth of content. There’s so much variety in the kinds of things people are making and writing, both in form and substance. Kinks I never could have imagined! It’s really getting me thinking about what the genre can do and be. I’m afraid my work is a little vanilla in comparison! 😅
T: That sounds like a delight to discover. I suspect that some kinks are gateway kinks. My experience has very much been the Dean from Community going, “This better not awaken something in me,” haha, except, more like, “Hmm, what will this awaken in me next?” I hope you enjoy that process, if it’s something you wind up finding an interest in!
D: At the very least there’s certainly been some stuff where I’ve thought, Well, that didn’t kill my boner, so…
T: What is the kind of community feedback that keeps you writing? What’s a comment or reaction that has stuck with you?
D: I was really moved by an interview I had last year (I think? Time is wonky) where the interviewer, somewhat unexpectedly, really got where I was coming from and asked some great, probing questions about the themes and background of the story in question. It proved that he’d really thought about the piece and gave it careful consideration, and maybe proved to me that I was capable of conveying that depth. I’m still riding that high.
Otherwise, just any more specific compliments or attention paid to the details of my stuff gets to me. A while back my writing group was talking about setting and a friend said something like, “I really like the way Davis approached this in his story, where…” Just making that connection out of the blue surprised and delighted me.
T: Time is extremely wonky! And I hear you — that experience of knowing that something that you did was understood, seen, and stuck with someone is a singular pleasure. It’s amazing how encouraging it can be to get that feedback.
Speaking of time, it’s Robert Hass Time! To the surprise of no one who has read any of the previous interviews, Hass says, “It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.” Discuss. Or, to put the question another way, what’s your writing practice like and how do you hold space for it?
D: Oh, I’m terribly inconsistent and unproductive. As already stated, sometimes it’s just the threat of shame that gets me writing. Focus is also an issue, so I have to come up with little tricks for myself. Something I do frequently is put on an album and make myself write without distraction until the end of it. (Considering most albums are only about 40 minutes long, that really shows how much trouble I have! 🙈 ) I can also get myself to write if I make a pot of tea in my fancy cast iron tea pot; it makes it feel a bit like a ritual.
Back in university, I relied heavily on deadlines to motivate me. Now that I mostly make my own deadlines, it’s a lot tougher!
T: Ahh, I know this type of author well. The idea of a ritual or a bounded amount of time does sound like a very delightful delightful and interesting practice. But that struggle with focus is definitely very, very relatable.
What about the writing itself, as it’s happening? You mentioned a workshop — do you draft? Do you outline? Do you have a corkboard of characters?
D: One talent I like to think I have is a pretty polished first draft. I find that ideas come extremely easy to me, to the point where if I followed every one that comes up I would never finish anything. So I always let ideas sit for a long time to see if they stick with me. The ones that I can’t stop thinking about for weeks are the ones I know are good and worth pursuing, and by that point I’ve practically written it in my head, especially if it’s short.
Then that draft needs to sit for a while before I try and do any revisions; I need to sort of forget about it so I can see it with fresh eyes. But as long as that initial idea was considered thoroughly enough, I find my drafts don’t change substantively — mostly just on the sentence level. And if it does need a lot of rewriting, it usually is because I didn’t think it through well enough.
T: That’s surprisingly common among the PLOTHOLE authors so far! I am fascinated by it!
D: Yeah, I noticed that in the interview before this one!
T: Oh yes, I definitely teased Dace a little bit about it. Well-meaning teasing, of course. A great talent if you’ve got it! (But I have opinions ;))
Knowing who’s ahead, I know there are more folks who share this practice, too.
D: Haha, maybe I should clarify that revisions and feedback are really important, even if only to confirm what you think you know about a piece. And I find the longer something is, the more likely I am to introduce structural fuck-ups that take some work to fix.
T: Ah, that makes sense! Thanks for clarifying!
Okay, so, I know you said you felt vanilla upon encountering these NSFW communities. What do you like to read in queer porn? How do your tastes in reading differ from your tastes in writing?
D: I think what I like in porn is what I like outside of it, and that’s good characters and character dynamics. Truly nothing is hotter than two (or more!) people who are really into each other and vibe with each other on a deeper level. That can be romantic or not; a dynamic I’m fascinated by is one of close friends who also like to fuck.
The more casual side of this is something I was interested in exploring with Desert of Ash. Fiction is also an opportunity to make those relationships messier. How’s the sex life between two people who kind of hate each other, maybe even want to kill each other? The Hannibal/Will dynamic, if you will. That’s something I’d be interested in exploring in future work.
T: I hear you — those character moments help build the stakes and make the sexy stuff matter more. I think that’s also why I’m invested in lore and worldbuilding.
Are you drawn to any particular kinks? Which of your favourite kink/erotica tropes do you think is the most unusual? What are your top three?
D: Not that kinky (like I said, vanilla!), but assplay in general is great, and rimming in particular is something I’m really drawn to. I couldn’t include it much in Desert of Ash as the setting makes it a little impractical, but I made sure to put it in Deliver Us From Flame to make up for it! But yeah, I don’t know if I can come up with a good top three for you, other than to say that great characters can carry me through even something I otherwise wouldn’t be that into.
T: Very fair! Character dynamics are your kink — that’s super relatable.
Here’s question from another author: “Who are some of the smut authors who have been influential on your work? Are you in dialogue with any authors who influence you now?”
D: Coming from the games space, Coming Out on Top by Obscurasoft was something of a revolution for me as something that portrayed queerness authentically without characters torturing themselves over it too much, and where the sex was just really fun and friendly. It was really refreshing coming from mostly Japanese stuff previously which can lean a little dark. I think it’s good to have a sense of humour around sex. I’m also excited to dive into the other works in this bundle to continue my education in the genre.
T: Ahaha, Coming Out on Top is very fun! And that’s lovely about the work in the bundle — hopefully it’ll also give you some points of contact for people with an interest in the practice of erotica specifically.
D: I’m always happy to make writer friends and the folks in the bundle with us seem very chill! 😊
T: What do you want us to know about Deliver Us From Flame, your PLOTHOLE submission, which is also the prequel to DESERT OF ASH: a Post-Apocalyptic Gay Sex Simulator?
Soren Fitz: Maybe we should talk some time about the power of character dynamics! Little in erotica is more important to me than making sure the characters fucking have a dynamic that gives substance to the hotness.
D: Deliver Us From Flame sees characters at the very beginning of the apocalypse, and Desert of Ash puts us much deeper into it, where survival is an even greater concern. And, while DUFF is focused on one couple, DoA is more about hooking up with a wide variety of hot guys. So I hope folks enjoy my writing in DUFF, but they should know that DoA isn’t just more of the same; there’s a lot of variety coming their way!
Soren Fitz: I admire writers who care about that.
T: I’m looking forward to seeing how the story will develop!
In your own body of work (including the SFW stuff), do you have a favourite story, a favourite character, or any other favourite elements? You’re allowed to pick more than one, and I promise I won’t tell any of them.
D: I’m still fond of The Conjurer, which is a short story I wrote for inclusion in a student anthology, about a young woman working as an apprentice for a witch. She falls for the witch, but the witch is only into other witches, so our protagonist sets out to try and learn magic herself. It’s a fun modern magic setting that I plan to return to one day, and it channels a lot of feelings I’ve had in the past about falling for someone who won’t even look at you. I’m also proud of the way I incorporated the setting’s rules around magic into the story structure. That anthology is no longer available, but folks can read that story for free on my Patreon here.
My Patreon is mostly an easy place to put my writing that has become less accessible elsewhere, and most of it isn’t locked behind a paywall, so people should feel free to browse if they’re interested in my SFW output!
T: Thanks for that! And that sounds like a delightful story! I love me a tale with well-incorporated lore!
D: I never would have guessed! 😛
I wonder what the next bundle theme should be…maybe something about character dynamics 😄
Okay, so, you write and design games. What is something that you wish people knew about (mostly) solo game development, like what you’re doing with DESERT OF ASH, and about game design more generally?
D: That finishing a project is a skill of its own, one that has to be practiced over time like any other. In the NSFW games space you see a lot of projects that either update forever or die unfinished, and I attribute it mostly to devs jumping into their huge dream projects without any prior experience.
The incremental update model can be great for getting continual encouragement on a long project, but for new devs starting out, I would recommend getting their feet wet first. Try making the tiniest thing you can, something that can be played in five minutes. Just having gotten to the end of something will be so helpful for your future projects.
T: Great advice! Scoping is so important, especially in this space. Interactive fiction that takes 5 minutes to play can take a huge amount of time to develop, especially with branching paths. Do you have any advice about letting go of projects that aren’t working? Or advice for keeping a branching project in scope?
D: Oh boy, having to let go of something is tough. The only thing I can advise is try to know for sure that you won’t have to in the first place. That’s a big part of why I sit with my ideas for so long before I start working on them. Scoping is huge, too.
Something you realize going from player to developer is that a lot of stuff you think you want is not that great in practice. You may think that having choices for everything is the best for a game with branching paths, but for your sanity as a developer and to provide the best experience for the player, you need to be able to pare that down and decide which choices are the most impactful and necessary.
T: That makes a lot of sense! This is really good advice. Even as a long-time game developer, there’s a certain secret sauce to designing the structure of an interactive fiction game that never really gets to be rote/instinctive. It’s hard work! I read Emily Short’s blog all the time, haha.
Any shoutouts, last words, rude remarks, or requests for anyone reading this?
D: First, if you’re interested in my work or the upcoming Desert of Ash: a Post-Apocalyptic Gay Sex Simulator, you can follow either me @DavisGSee or the game @DesertofAsh on Twitter for updates.
Second, I want to thank Time again for all your work on this. You truly could have put the bundle together and been done with it, but you’re totally committed to making it a success, and I really admire that. Thank you so much.
T: Thank you — I definitely want to see us succeed! And thanks so much for being here with me to chat!
PLOTHOLE: Loregasm Edition is a bundle of 10 authors, 17 stories, available until June 15th 2022 on itch.io. It contains porn with plot, stories with worldbuilding and lore alongside some very hot erotica.
You can find Deliver Us From Flame along with 16 other stories here.