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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Sex In Science Fiction,

   
Author Topic: Sex In Science Fiction,
Patrick James
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There are a myraid of things that can attract a reader to a story. As writers it is important that we know what they are and find out how best to use them. At least for the audience we are aiming at.

There seems to have been an era in science fiction in which particularly graphic sex scenes were prevailent. These scenes did not, and do not, appeal to me greatly. I read sci-fi for exploding space-ships(it doesn't have to be in the first thirteen lines but the ship must explode at some time. ). Before anybody takes an entire emotional spectrum from their writing--not that they would on my say so--I do believe somewhat graphic sex can be used effectively in sci-fi, I think Gene Wolfe does so.

My desire to become a better writer has pushed me to read some things that I didn't even want to, just to see what is out there.

Romance novels. Yes. Red blooded American boy that I am, I have read romance novels--just a few. Graphic sex scenes are a must, it would seem, for that genre. Personaly, I found them boring and felt a strong desire to skip ahead, to see if a space-ship would explode in the next few chapters or so. Alas none did, which shouldn't surprise, as it was a period book(1200AD) as most of the genre are. It seems romance was most romantic at this time, or other times in the past. Very few are based in the present or near future. In fact an avid reader of romance novels, and dear close friend of mine (my mommy dearest), told me that science fiction in her romance novels was a distinct turn off. And I found that graphic sex in my science fiction did likewise.

I suppose it is obvious that different audiences want--and expect--different things from their reading material. Delivering the right product to the right audience would seem to be essential for success. Wouldn't it be nice to know what story to give to which publisher. All claim that they will, and have published all sorts of sci-fi, from horror to fantasy. But each is in fact more anxious for a certain type of sci-fi, and each genre is different.

Cyberpunk, as an example: They tend to be set in a near-future Earth, in great massive metropolis'--often with real names like New York, Or Bei Jing. The plots often center on a conflict involving artificial intelligences, hackers, and megacorporations. The prime directive of the milieu seems to be to show how tehnology will effect our lives. Sex is an important part of human life and must be addressed, if only minimalistically. Usually Cyberpunk investigates how sex would be with an android/sexdoll.

The miliue also likes to show us how we(humanity) are headed on the wrong path, somtimes with stunning success, somtimes with laughable inaccuracy. At any rate this is what we would expect from a novel with a city for cover art.
(By the way if you are guilty of writing such a story raise your hand.)

*Hand unashamedly held high*

Before I lose where I was going(too late).

Editors of magazines would like to publish stuff readable by the largest audience possible. But they can't please everybody, as I showed. What one reader wanted from a book was exactly what another reader didn't want from the book, and visa versa. So, they have to target a group. Often publishers will ask for speculative fiction, in their guidelines, or character driven stories. Vague enough?

I think it would be nice if we(Hatrackers) were to list publishers and their suspeted leanings. Say, if you find that six out of seven stories from OSC's Intergalactic Medicine are cyberpunk, post at Markets For Our Writing your suspicions, so that others of us who aren't aware of this, know where to send our stories so that they will be best recieved.


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philocinemas
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<Tipping eyeglasses forward, rubbing chin, and then scribbling down some quick notes>

"Ve seem to have a fixation on exploding spaceships. Vhat does zat mean, do you think?"


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honu
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very good point you bring up since sex scenes turn me off in most of my readings...literally...also cyberpunk as a (sub)genre? is it this? bores me to tears.... sorry...since I like reading and writing fantasy that's further removed from the depressing near future...perhaps a challenge for me would be to write one that actually doesn't leave me depressed after reading it?...true confession time....I have yet to submit anything except to writers.com so knowing in advance which publishers would be more interested in character driven fantasy and sci fi would be helpful to me also....thanks for bringing this up....
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Rhaythe
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Sex sells. Unfortunately, I believe it's really that simple in many cases.
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Unwritten
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quote:
Sex sells. Unfortunately, I believe it's really that simple in many cases

yeah, but we are having a parallel discussion here:
http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum30/HTML/000257.html

[This message has been edited by Unwritten (edited October 30, 2008).]


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Brad R Torgersen
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I sometimes think good sex scenes are like good scary movies.

The less you see of the monster, the more scary the movie is because the audience is forced to "fill in the blanks" with their imaginations.

Now, a well-done and graphically-explicit sex scene can be a lot of fun to read AND write, but since you don't see these beyond porno novels, when doing sex for mainstream, the less-is-more rule would seem to apply.


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Christine
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Boys who want nothing more than to see a good spaceship swoop down and kidnap the heroine may not understand the appeal of a well conceived romantic plot or subplot, but trust me, there are many people (myself included) who really enjoy them. The trouble is separating the well done romance from purposeless pornography. I've read them both and I KNOW there is a difference.

First, let's be clear. The romance genre is written primarily for women and usually by women. I have enjoyed some romance and will continue to do from time to time in the future. It can feel a bit repetitive, which is why I don't read it too often. I even enjoy science fiction or fantasy romance for a bit of a nice twist.

Ok, so now I'm going to be blunt. If you're too young to read further, stop now. Here is what romance, and additionally good romantic subplots in other genres, do for me: Foreplay. The dance of the hero and heroine wanting to be together but blocked or not realizing they are destined to be together....the thrill of the chase...the wonder of first exploration and contact (no, not spaceships )...and then there's the culminating moment of fulfillment. Yeah, sex.

Now, I've read novels that had all of that going on for them but the author decides, for whatever reason, to have the characters wake up the next day. Mercedes Lackey springs painfully to mind. I have been disappointed with most of her books for this reason.

On the other hand, there are books without the foreplay. There are varying levels, right down to two characters who've never met and don't know each other getting it on for no apparent reason. YUCK! Why would anyone want to read that? It feels gross to me. I've put books down due to such drivel.

Of course, not everyone is going to find the same things appealing, even if they do occasionally like some sex in their books.

*******************************************************

On a side note, I just want to say that there is a LOT more to scifi than a space ship. IMO, it's about exploring our own humanity in unique and interesting ways.


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Christine
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quote:
I sometimes think good sex scenes are like good scary movies.

The less you see of the monster, the more scary the movie is because the audience is forced to "fill in the blanks" with their imaginations.

Now, a well-done and graphically-explicit sex scene can be a lot of fun to read AND write, but since you don't see these beyond porno novels, when doing sex for mainstream, the less-is-more rule would seem to apply.


I just wanted to add that I agree with this...although it doesn't mean skipping the scene entirely. My favorite scenes tell just enough of what the characters are doing to get you interested and to let your mind go where your mind goes (as I said, different people enjoy different things). Too much detail really does tend to just feel like pornography, even if the romance was well established first.


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Robert Nowall
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Rockets and spaceships, even the exploding kind---maybe especially the exploding kind---are considered in some circles a symbol for sex.

I've come up with a few rules from observation and practice. (1) I'll generally avoid graphic sex scenes---write what you know. (2) When I'm reading or writing or watching a story about a beautiful woman, the last thing I want to see is some other guy doing her. (3) When my sex scenes get so clinical that they look more like medical textbook descriptions, it's time to chuck them out and start over.


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steffenwolf
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On the subject of romance, I thought I'd mention one of my favorite TV shows, Pushing Daisies. In case anyone hasn't heard of it, the premise is that the protag (Ned) has an unexplained ability to raise the dead, based on a few simple rules:
1. If he touches a corpse, it comes to life, fully aware and able to speak.
2. If he touches it again, it turns back to a normal inanimate corpse, and he can never raise it again.
3. If he leaves something reanimated for more than 1 minute, another life-form of a similar order will die.

Anyway, the series starts with Ned hearing about the death of his childhood best friend, a girl named Chuck. He raises her from the dead, and thus far has not returned her to the dead. They're kindof dating, but there can literally never be any touching between the two of them, because if he ever touches her, she will be a corpse again. I think it's a cool twist on romance, and very different since most TV shows assume a couple will have sex eventually, it's just a question of where and when.


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Patrick James
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[Qoute]philocinemas:
<Tipping eyeglasses forward, rubbing chin, and then scribbling down some quick notes>
"Ve seem to have a fixation on exploding spaceships. Vhat does zat mean, do you think?"[/Qoute}

"Hey, you aren't my normal doctor."

"No. Zhat vould be my brother Klauss. I am filling in for him. I have read your case history." Slams an inordinately large volume on desk top.

"Well, that's alright then." Sits down. "You don't look a thing like Klauss."

"I know." He sounds as though he is tired of hearing this.

"You see, It all started when I was very young, Doctor. I think it was one of my earliest memories."

"Ah. I do zo love zhie earliest memories."

"I thought you might, you creepy old bat."

"Vhat vas dat?"

"Nothing, nothing. So, there I was little, defenseless--"

"I zhought you zaid you were young? Now you are just little."

"Well, I was young and little."

"You are still quite zmall, you know?"

"Right. There I was--"

"You are not a large man. In fact I am amazed that you are not suffering from zhie height inferriority complex."

"Give me time." A not so subtle glare. "So, there I was, small, young, and defensless. My mother was on her back in pain, there was a strange man in--"

"You know, dis reminds me of vhen I vas young?"

"Were you also small?"

"vhat? Oh, I vas never small. I was just young and--"

"Look, is this your life story or mine?"

"Oh, you are quite right. I am forgetting myself. Please, do continue."

"Thank you. My mother on her back in pain," A pause to see if he would be interupted again. "At first it had been quite dark, but now I could see that a strange man was there. He was doing horribe things to her. Suddenly, he spotted me. He yanked me about, held me up and hit me. My father watched this"

"Your father vas dhere? Unt he just vatched?"

"And smiled. Yes."

"Vhy dis is terible."

"Yes. It was. He hit me again."

"Vhat did you do?"

"I cried, of course. There was blood everywhere. My mother's screaming, my crying, my father watching, and the huge strange man. He hit me a third time, on my bottom."

"Vhat vas dat?"

"Hmmm?"

"Did you zay bottom? Vas dis man dressed in vhite?"

"Vhy--I mean--why, yes. He was."

"It is quite possible zhat zhis ist a memory of your birth. Unt zhat zhie strange man vas zhie doctor."

"You're right. It was. Wow. That was amazing."

"Yes, but vhat does zhis have to do with exploding spacships?"

"Why are you talking about spaceships, at a time like this. I-I think you cured me."

"Zo it vould zeem." Doubtful.

"You were saying this reminded you of a time when you were young. Maybe it was the same with you?"

"No. My mother vas raped."

"That's horible."

"Yes. It vas. My younger brother Klauss has been taking a great deal of my business, ever zince."



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kings_falcon
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The thing about sex scenes is they have to play a role in the story just like a battle scene or exploding spaceships.

I really like the Kushiel series and there's many graphic to somewhat graphic sex scenes in it, BUT they are all intregal to the story. If you take them out or reduce the level of exposure, so to speak, the story falls apart.Jacqueline Carey, the author, knows how far to push the scene and when to cut away.

Sometimes the details are important for more than just sex. If, for example, the author is using how far character X is allowing the relationship to progress to mirror a wearing down of resistent on a different issue or if it's the reason for the wearing down of resistance, I'd accept, as a reader, more detail than I would if the sex is just sex.


There was another series of fantasy romance books, not erotica or erotic romance but more mainstream romance, which I won't name, in which there was just too much sex. It was 3 pages of moving the plot, three pages of sex. Sigh. I did start skipping the sex pages to try to find the plot again. I also stopped reading that author because I wanted more than 100 pages of story in 300 pages of novel.


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steffenwolf
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Speaking of exploding spaceships and Freudian analysis, has anyone looked closely at the background of the Jim Baen's Universe login page? Exploding spaceships, and have you noticed what the spaceships are shaped like?
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Patrick James
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Shaped like cylons? No? I guess my identification ability could be fallible. (Is that spelled with an f or a ph?)

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
Freud was a crackpot...

Somebody get this lunatic away from my keyboard!

Seriously though, I think that finding out which magizines publish which subgenres would great. I don't subscribe to them all, and I doubt that many of us do.

[This message has been edited by Patrick James (edited October 30, 2008).]


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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Slams down 2 shots of tequila.

WOW.

Um I don’t know what to say. In reality how to put in words.

I myself have tried writing sex into stories, skipping the actual deed when you know what’s about to happen and pick up right after.

My problem was I was still in high school and yes I knew about it (those left handed web sites) and what I wanted to happen if I was to write it out, but I figured that and was right, when a teacher gets their hand on my work, thankfully there was nothing but a large blank space for the deed and picking back up after the fact. I called it a sci-fi porno to at the parent teacher conference. And that work was confiscated from me and never given back.

And on a better note

I have stopped working on the books I have been working on for the last 7 some years and writing short stories to get my ideas flowing better, and yes there is sex in them. (think Heavy Metal Magazine only longer stories and no pictures)

RFW2nd


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