Now that I have your attention…
This month we’re going to launch into a trilogy of topics unsuitable for discussion at table but perfect for the internet: sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, religion, and politics. Since it’s going to be Valentine’s Day, it seems the perfect week to talk sex, eh?
I’ve written some sex in my day, with three erotica books and a couple of short stories under my, er, belt. I even blended erotica with science fiction in one book. I’ve written enough sex that it feels weird now to skip over sex scenes in my fiction and I tend to check the eReader to see if I missed a page when a sex scene is shuffled by.(minor spoiler) Even when editing EXILE I realized with some suprise, having written the book before I launched into writing erotica, that the sex scene is closed door.
I can’t imagine anyone asking me why I skipped over detailing and choreographing sex between my characters. But I had more than one reader of my “space operotica” ask me when I was going to write “real” science fiction–meaning without sex, I suppose. I wondered at that. Could it really be considered real and honest if the sex is skipped over? It’s certainly not the whole story, and the love story is significant to the plot of that book. Sex in SF isn’t unheard of, just often glossed over. (I haven’t read it yet, but apparently Zachary Jernigan’s book has graphic sex in it. Maybe if we’re lucky he’ll post an excerpt…)
My point being in all this, I don’t think there’s enough sex in fiction–at least when a love story is involved as a plot or subplot.
Including any scene that furthers the plot is essential, and it’s tough to imagine sex not furthering a plot a little. But I think there’s long been a double standard when it comes to detailing sex in fiction, especially in SF/F. A reader would no more expect a story to skip right over a battle scene or any other character-developing scene. So why skip the sex? Well, it’s intimate and makes the reader uncomfortable, right? And, you know. It’s, like, sex. Best to pretend it’s not happening. But I want intimacy and I expect some discomfort from my fiction. I want inside the characters’ heads and hearts. That’s why I read. Sex is a great way to show that—it’s visceral, physical, and personal. It’s a great way to show characters at their most vulnerable… especially when they’re with someone they love.
I guess at the end of the day a writer has to decide whether the sex is important enough to take up room in the story, just like any other scene. If it’s only important to know that the character had sex…if that’s enough, then sure. Close the door on the scene. I’m all for brevity. But if there’s an opportunity to learn something about the characters or further the plot during the act, then I want all the gory, glorious detail.
What do you think? Is there enough/too much/not enough sex in SF/F?