The Murmur Inc. series
Murmur Inc. 1-3
The Murmur Inc. series is like a trilogy of rom com movies in book form, if Hollywood were willing to go near either queer people or sex work. It's lighthearted and fun, playing less into reality and more into fantasies that I think, in our pornified culture, a lot of people have about what it might be like to be a sex worker.
Anderson made it clear that she understands the industry in this interview, even going so far as to work in the phone sex business for two weeks. However, she deliberately stays clear of the cold core of the modern American sex industry. Instead, the books embrace good-looking guys falling love, using their occupations as the barriers to their happy endings.
Murmur Inc. itself plays into the fantasy: It’s an imaginary company run by an open-minded and understanding woman director. It’s ethical, strict about STD checks and safety, and determined to treat its workers “like family.” It’s not super realistic, but that’s the point, and I totally dig it as the connective backdrop of a romance series.
Hotline follows Zack, a kid who works for the phone sex branch of Murmur Inc. after dropping out of college. It contains lots of dirty talk, a sprinkle of class differences between the leading boys, and surprisingly saccharine date nights.
Action follows another kid, Pete, who needs to scrounge up enough money to pay for his college tuition. This time it digs straight into porn, pairing him with a more experienced performer.
The most recent release – and probably my favorite – is Cam Boy, which takes an annoying side character from book two and thrusts him into the world of porn - only for him to hate it. After a disastrous shoot, he switches to cam work, but he can’t forget about the man he first performed with.
I refer to these characters as kids, and the third title, Cam Boy, agrees with me. Porn performers tend to be young (the world is terrible), and these little idiots are really just stumbling wide-eyed into the industry. Sometimes I was annoyed by how emotionally unintelligent they were, and how each of them seemed flabbergasted to be falling in love on set, but I had to remind myself: They’re so young. The books are realistic in this sense.
These are light reads that aren’t so fantastical as to feel insulting to sex workers, or to make me roll my eyes. They recognize their own idealism and pair it well with what seems like some thorough research; Anderson chose to write about a slightly more ethical version of the industry while still acknowledging its many drawbacks. (Minor spoiler ahead!! Spoiler spoiler!) For example, when a character has an STD scare - realistic - the reader basically knows that he’ll come out unscathed in the end, because that’s what fits the tone of the books.
All the main characters are cis white guys (and all of them are gay, as far as I remember). The side cast is almost funnily diverse, in a way that felt a teensy bit hollow. (E.g. My Muslim friends would never say, “Trying to get [my employee to come to work] is like trying to get an imam to do shots on Ramadan.” It’s not offensive to me personally, but the Muslim side character is so American-flavored liberal/sex positive that it reminded me of how hungry I am for unabashedly devout Jews and Muslims in my fiction.) It’s as though the author was aware of the demographics and was trying to even the playing field somehow. However, Anderson gets serious props for having decent and central women characters in a genre that often doesn't (hi, m/m, that's you), while working with a premise that would seem like a great excuse to write another book that pretends women don't exist. I really dig lady directors.
Overall, the Murmur Inc. series is easy to read, and the covers are pure eye candy, tempting me to buy second, physical copies to put up on my shelves. Delicious!
Also, these books made me feel like it was summer amidst my snowy city, so I’m very pleased that Anderson is coming out with a true summer romance in May!