Well, the comments in part one went in a bit of a different direction than I'd intended, so let me flesh out what I wanted to get into with this post. Basically, the whole explicit vs. implied argument doesn't mean much to me - I'm not offended by sex scenes in books, nor do they do much to turn me on, so I can take it or leave it. What I'm interested in is the role
that sex plays in science fiction, not whether or not it's "right" to have an explicit sex scene for no apparent reason. Anyway...onto the post.
Oh, and I apologize in advance to the hard SF crowd as most of my opinions are based on sociological SF - it's what I read and I find that sex in hard SF tends to be of the throwaway type (ie. hero sleeps with double agent femme fatale and/or finally enters into relationship with long-term romantic interest - or "hero gets the girl" syndrome).
Anyhow, here's what I'd like to suggest: In science fiction, most particularly in SF that depicts a future Earth or human perspectives in an alien world, depictions of sex are absolutely vital
. To my mind, any science fiction that wants to deal with a radically different society has to, at some point, deal with sex. Case in point: the institutionalized orgies of Brave New World
. BNW is an overwhelmingly sexual novel, and it has to be because it's primarily about a world that reduces human nature to a mechanized assembly line - hence the rigid structure and scheduling of the orgies. The book is forced to give an account of sexuality because, as a look at humans in a radically different setting, it's forced to examine human nature. This, I argue, is what makes a great science fiction book - the unflinching examination of the human condition - and, sex being a rather important part of being human, great sociological SF necessarily has to look at sex in some form. Does that logic work for everyone?
There are a number of other books that would fit well into this argument (namely Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness
and The Dispossessed
, Butler's Lilith's Brood
trilogy and Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale -
all women, by the way, which I don't think is a coincidence) but BNW is the most obvious example.
I'd also like to assert that SF not so concerned with a radically different society also has to look at sexuality. Just as futuristic SF looks at possible trends in the basic day-to-day lives of people ahead of our time (ie. owning electric animals in Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
and jacking into a three dimensional net in Gibson's Neuromancer
or Stephenson's Snow Crash
) one has to acknowledge that society's view of sex will most certainly change in the future. Think back one hundred years and try to imagine society's views on pre-marital sex as compared with today's. Obviously a difference, right? Well, I think SF, insofar as it looks into other cultural changes, has a responsibility to look at changes in the perception of sex. These aren't things that have to overwhelm a story, but can add depth if used correctly.
To use myself as an example, there's quite a lot of homosexuality in Glistening Edges and Right Angles
. That's not in there just for the hell of it. Instead, it's a manifestation of my belief that the world, right now, is on something of sexual precipice (regarding a lot of things, actually, but homosexuality is the biggest) and that within two or three generations, people who think homosexuals are immoral sinners will be thought of the same way we today think of people who disapproved of civil rights for minorities (or women, for that matter). The sexuality of my characters doesn't have an effect on the plot of the story, it's just there
, as an element of everyday life in my futuristic society.
So, now that I've clarified myself, any opinions?