I’ve been wrestling with how to address some inaccuracies regarding the term naturist fiction. The problem is, I’m concerned that it’s too easy to slide from the word fiction, to fabrication, to lies, especially now in the era of “fake news.” So let me state categorically that this site has absolutely nothing to do with lies about naturism. Such lies persist out there in the world, and I won’t even do them the honor of discussing them here other than to generalize that naturist lies have to do with misplaced expectations about sin, sexual abandon, and harm to children. Naturism does not abide those misplaced expectations; here, because it bears repeating, is the definition of naturism as expressed by the International Naturist Federation: “Naturism is a way of life in harmony with nature characterized by the practice of communal nudity with the intention of encouraging self-respect, respect for others and for the environment.”
If naturist fiction does not consist of lies about naturism, then what is it? Here’s my definition: naturist fiction: novels, novellas, or short stories, of most any genre, in which an integral aspect of the plot is the adaptation of one or more characters to social nudism in a context supportive of naturism. First of all, we’re talking about novels and stories – in other words, texts that have to be read, which means an investment of time. But the practice of reading anything longer than a brief post or tweet is already diminishing worldwide, and with this reduction seems to have come a mistrust of longer texts. Barriers are thrown up immediately: Why should I invest time in this? Why should I pay for something that I don’t know if I will like until I’ve read more of it, or until I’ve finished it? Anybody can publish anything online anymore, so how do I know this is a quality product? And, in the case of naturist fiction, if naturism is all about nudity, which is visual, why should I care about something that is not an image?
These are interesting questions. I’d recommend reading reviews (whether on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites) to see if you would like to invest a few bucks and a few hours in a particular reading experience. As far as reading in general, people who read long-form fiction do so because they enjoy engaging with themes developed over sufficient narrative time to show changes in characters and contexts. Also, reading fiction improves the empathy of the reader. In the case of naturist fiction, those of us who write it seriously have to make sure our work stands out from the slapdash, lurid and steamy exposés of erotic intent that may try to masquerade as legitimate naturist fiction when they show up in searches (although there really aren’t that many of these) – this should be no surprise, since searches even for the basic term ‘naturism’ often turn up the wrong kind of material. It is unfair to insist that naturist fiction somehow be able to escape the pejorative associations that pernicious websites exploit between mere nudity and pornography. It is also unfair to hold naturist writers to some impossible imprimatur unexpected of our fellow naturist artists such as photographers, graphic artists, musicians or filmmakers: if a big-name New York publishing house is unwilling to publish naturist fiction, that should not stop us from making it available just as other artists do with their creations. And regarding that last question about being visual – naturism is not all about nudity, although nudity is certainly an important component of it, as seen in the definition above. Unlike a simple image of naturists on the beach, for example, a written text does not immediately broadcast what is going on; it cannot do so, in fact, since it is not so much a spatial medium as a temporal one. An image can convey a message instantly; a longer text cannot, and yet its message or messages can be much more subtle, complex, and just as strong or even stronger.
So with the understanding that sometimes the greatest truths are expressed through fiction, what’s going on in naturist fiction? René Beauchemin, the protagonist of Robert’s pilgrimage series, learns that disrobing allows him to connect more deeply with the Jungian archetypes that help him understand his own life process – his own pilgrimage through life – and the processes and pilgrimages of those around him. Sheila, the Naked Crow of Paul’s long-running series, learns that she has fantastic, shaman-like powers that work best when she is nude, and it’s only through nudity in nature that she discovers these powers. Does that mean getting naked gives you superpowers? Well, no, because this is fantasy fiction after all… but also, yes, it does, because in many ways, nudity does bestow better health physically, psychologically, spiritually, mentally and therefore yes, greater powers for our everyday selves. And this is an epiphany that many of the other characters in the series undergo. Similarly, the heroes in Nick Alimonos’ Ages of Aenya, also fantasy fiction, have greater powers because they are nude.
And in numerous examples from my fiction and from the work of other naturist fiction writers, social nudity promotes learning, and strengthens self-esteem as well as community. In my historical novel Aglow, social nudity (in a speculative scenario) even makes possible the revival of an ancient communal method of easing childbirth. Some of the examples I’ve given here are definitely fantastic, but most of what you can read about social nudism in our fiction is, frankly, quite realistic. Naturist fiction, when well written, serves to embellish, collate, synthesize, and condense contexts that lead you to appreciate social nudism, and nudity in nature, in ways that may be familiar or perhaps new and highly imaginative. And our works do all this while also delivering the suspense, imagery, intrigue, and development of character and theme that you should expect in any good fiction.