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December 03, 2015

Adult Star to Author: Interview With Christopher Zeischegg

This article originally ran in the November 2016 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition. Pornos are bawdy fairy tales for the modern world. These lewd folktales use real sex to portray fantasies. As such, porn inhabits a peculiar space between truth and fiction. This twilight realm provides the setting for the second novel by Christopher Zeischegg (aka veteran porn performer Danny Wylde): The Wolves that Live in Skin and Space. Zeischegg creates a character that shares his stage name, his real name, and his former occupation as a struggling porn actor. Isolated in a disheveled apartment that echoes his disordered life, the fictional Zeischegg toils at maintaining a web of illusory, digital relationships. Just as the sex scenes in porno are often framed around familiar plots, Zeischegg, the author, outlines his reality in a fantastical background of firearms, obsessive psychotics, and murder. Why did you share your name and stage name with the novel’s narrator? Why write a work of fiction about the adult industry instead of a memoir? The first several chapters of TWTLISAS were written prior to constructing any sort of outline or narrative. I knew that I wanted to write another book, so I just started jotting down things that were happening in my life at the time. It seemed easiest to write about myself. But writing an actual memoir felt redundant. I had been updating a blog (TrveWestCoastFiction.blogspot.com) with essays and short stories about my life in the adult industry. People could piece together much of my 'memoir' from that.  Also ... My feelings about sex work or relationships, or whatever, can often be obstructed by reality. Fiction might allow for a more accurate internal reflection. This book reveals how modern relationships are increasingly becoming digitized; characters search for connection through porn, video messaging, texting. Do you see the wires of modern communication as ties that bring us together, or as chains that strangle us and keep us shackled up, alone? Increasingly, I feel like digitized communication, such as social media, is “real life.” A lot of my strong emotional connections with people are sustained through texting, videos, Facebook, etc. … I appreciate “in the flesh” interaction. At some point, it's necessary. Though, if social media and the like weren't so mundane, maybe it would be romantic to have to be apart from someone and only write them letters. The book touches on the idea that a man’s life can be rendered meaningless if he achieves his dream, if he finds nirvana. Do you think the fantasy fulfillment of porn renders real life meaningless for some male performers? That line of thought comes through mostly in letters written by the novel's “villain.” I don't know if I agree with it completely. In writing that stuff, I was trying to come up with ideas that I didn't necessarily believe in. I'd try to logically indulge them as if they were aligned with my sense of self. Sometimes, I'd be able to buy into my own “negative” arguments.  In terms of porn, I think most men will find their fantasy marginally ruined once they participate in front of the camera. Not that it can't be fun. But it's like fashion. What looks good is rarely comfortable. At one point the narrator declares, “I love damaged people. At least fucking them.” Do broken people make more compelling characters? Do they fuck with total abandon? I'm trying very hard, at this point in my life, to surround myself with more conventionally boring people. So that I can have a sustainable future.  Not only are broken individuals more compelling characters, they're addictive. In real life. “In the flesh.” To me, at least.  While I've spent a great deal of time advocating for the professionalism and sanity of those who work in the adult industry, it's also true that there is no shortage of young men and women who basically want you to kill them. It's a fantasy and it's not. We live in a culture overcome by sexual abuse. As adults, we figure out how to deal with that in any number of ways. When my cock is hard and inside someone, it's very difficult not to be enamored when my partner asks me to destroy him/her. And I've been on the other end of that. So I get it. The idea of sex as ritual appears repeatedly. If sex is a ritual, what does it signify? I mean, that can get really convoluted. In TWTLISAS, I don't think it's ever entirely answered. I think that's the problem. Some of us have these ideas about what we're trying to get to, or “feel.” It means that sex has to be like “this” or “that.” At the end of the experience, has anything been accomplished? I don't know. But the idea of “the ritual” is perhaps more profound. Did you ever receive fan mail that was as articulate in its lunacy as the letters from “The Wolf”? I get fan mail with pieces of that. No one person has incorporated all of that “lunacy” into a single letter. The stuff about perceiving a sex worker (me) as a god or deity is pretty common. But I doubt that's meant in a literal way. I think it's basically like, "I'm really into you." Were any passages simply cut and pasted from real electronic exchanges? Nothing is exact. The chapters about the cam client, Damien, are probably the closest to real life (in terms of electronic exchange). Has porn done more to help or hurt your creative endeavors outside the industry? It's hard to say, exactly. My creative endeavors outside of porn are mostly in the realm of writing and music. Porn gave me extra time and money to work on that stuff. It also gave me an audience. However, that audience mostly doesn't give a shit. It's like, if I'm into looking at pictures of your cock, and I follow you on social media so that I can look at pictures of your cock, I might get bored if you just post about your book and band all of the time. With the release of TWTLISAS, I'm seeing the first (marginally) significant support for my projects outside of porn. It's pretty cool. But it's also very new. I'm not sure yet whether that will turn into anything. The narrator seems particularly disgusted by those who treat him, and his profession, with reverence. In fact, he seems only to be attracted to those who are not impressed by him. He lusts after a fellow perform when she tells him, “there’s actually nothing special about you,” and then later when she chokes him out. He falls for a male fan, Joseph, when that fan punches him in the face. His attraction to this fan grows at the same rate at which Joseph’s admiration declines. Do you think baseless adoration naturally inspires disgust? Are we attracted only to that which we can’t fully possess? Porn was this really great way for me to earn some self-esteem when I was younger. I was like the average pseudo-depressed teenager. Then I got into this world where people wanted to have sex with me, and they wanted to pay me to have sex. That felt really good. But time went on, and I met my needs, and porn was still my job.  I know porn is interesting from a sociological perspective. But to me, it's mostly boring. I still work in porn—on the production end of things. I put a lot of time and energy into it. And while we're making it, I care about the quality and product. I want it to look good so that I still have a job. … Removed from arousal, I'm sitting at home editing a video of a penis going into someone a thousand times an hour. It's like watching someone hammer nails into a wall.  When someone writes to me about how much they love porn, I think to myself, "We have nothing in common." At the same time, I would be nobody without people like that.  I don't think that I want someone, like a partner, to be disgusted with me. But it helps if they're not a fan. As for me ... Yes, I crush out constantly on those who are completely unattainable. I think that's how a lot of us work. Order a copy of The Wolves That Live in Skin and Space at RareBirdBooks.com and keep up with Zeischegg’s creative endeavors at TrveWestCoastFiction.blogspot.com. Read more by Shawn Alff or contact him directly at ShawnAlff.com.

 
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