This is a followup post to Alien Sex! I don’t like saying that something is done wrong without offering some examples of how I think it can be done right. So I am going to talk about the sex lives of some of the quasihuman types in The Book Of Lost Doors cosmology.
I try to fill in as many details regarding the characters that I invent as possible, which often involves knowing things about my characters that never actually get used in the story. (Suzi Lightning, for example, grew up in Memphis, TN, her father was a studio sound engineer, and she had an older brother who killed himself when she was 16. None of this, so far, has had any relevance to James & Catskinner’s story, but that’s the kind of detail that I tend to invent about even minor characters.)
So it would follow that when I create an quasihuman species I spend a lot of time working out every single detail of their daily lives. Blue Metal Boys, for example, have very solidly designed toilets and a heavily shielded septic system, since their waste products are actually mildly radioactive. Cue Pete Townsend’s “I Eat Heavy Metal”.
Some of what I am going to discuss has come to light in Catskinner’s Book or Cannibal Hearts and some of it has come up in The Worms Of Heaven, and some of it hasn’t proved relevant to the story so far. None of it, however, should involve spoilers.
Ambimorphs: These are actually my favorite type of creature that I have made. To review, ambimorphs are human/plant hybrids. They are made by introducing an alien symbiotic plant into a human woman. (The plant won’t live in a male host, for reasons that aren’t really germane to this discussion.) The symbiote will then cocoon the host for metamorphosis.
While the plant grows tendrils throughout the host’s nervous system it reshapes the host’s body to conform, with some specific exceptions, to the host’s own ideal phenotype. Ambimorphs have the body that the original host wished that she’d had. They also have non-human characteristics–the lack of teeth and manipulative tendrils in the mouth, the solid green on green eyes (those eyes see far into the ultraviolet–something else that hasn’t come up in any of the books) and the presence of fully functional male and female genitalia. (The male genitalia also conform to the host’s ideal, by the way.)
Inside the host’s brain, the symbiote rewires the synapses so that all sensory data stimulates the pleasure centers. To an ambimorph nothing is ever ugly or unpleasant, everything in the perceptual universe feels good. Everything is erotic to ambimorphs, consequently nothing is specifically more erotic than anything else. They are intelligent enough to realize that overt sexual acts are best kept discrete, but the distinction is an artificial one to them. Everything they do is making love. The concept that there is a category of lovers that is separate from the general populace doesn’t apply to them–monogamy is entirely alien to how they experience interactions with others.
Blue Metal Boys: I have a blue metal boy (she’s a woman, but both male and females are called “boys”) supporting character in The Worms Of Heaven, and so I talk about what they are in a little more detail. They are human beings who have had the minerals in their body replaced with heavy elements. They are far denser than humans, terribly heavy and incredibly strong. Their hormonal responses change somewhat as well–their emotional reactions are slower than humans. They feel things just as acutely, but their emotions never overwhelm them–they stay calm and rational even while experiencing strong passions.
Their relationships are just as deep and strong, but less obviously expressive. Their sexuality is less active than humans (given that a pair of them weighs about the same as a Abrams tank, this is a good thing) but no less intense. Obviously they can only date within their own kind.
They also tend to be very clannish in their friendships in general because of the great disparity in physical capabilities–it’s hard to relax around someone that you could crush with an unthinking gesture. There is also their specialized diet, which is poisonous to anyone who has not been through the gradual process of exposure to it, so it is difficult to eat with others. Nor can they ride in most vehicles, or enter some structures without risk of damaging them.
Given all this, I find myself writing them much like a very conservative religious group like the Amish or Hasidim, and that includes their sexual morality.
Hives: A hive–although I don’t really explain this in detail–is essentially a lower and less efficient order of orthovore than Catskinner or Agony. Because they exist at a lower level of complexity, the orthovore mind can’t fit within a single human brain. (Consider the room that would be required to build a computer in 1970 that could run the programs that most of us now have on our phones.)
Hives are also less integrated with their human hosts–they overwrite the higher cognitive functions, but the autonomous nervous systems of their individual hosts are essentially human. Being good parasites, the hives realize that exercising the sexuality of the bodies is an important preventative maintenance measure.
In Worms Of Heaven I imply a romantic relationship between a hive and a human being. For the hive, bodies are interchangeable, which means that the human has the advantage of being able to sleep with multiple physical partners while having an emotional relationship with only one person. For the hive the physical relationship is secondary to the intellectual stimulation of intimacy with someone who has not been subsumed into its consciousness. (More on orthovore sexuality below.)
Necroidim: The basic idea for the necroidim came from binge watching a dozen or so Hellraiser movies and realizing that cenobites were essentially leather boys taken to the logical extreme. I drew upon my own experience in the BDSM community to write the characters and to build their culture.
To create a necroid you take a human being and torture him to death–very carefully. The trick is to avoid letting him ever lose consciousness. You have to induce an altered mental state in which he is so focused on the sensation that isn’t aware of his body’s death. This requires that the subject learn extreme levels of concentration, a kind of a masochistic yoga.
It is very important for the process that every step be based on informed consent. This is not something that can be done to someone against their will–the active participation of the subject is mandatory or you just end up with a mutilated corpse. The doctine of consensuality is more than simply a lifestyle for the necroidim, it is more like a religion.
The initial hook for the subject is sexual, but the levels of physical sensation that the necroid is subjected to in this process are so extreme that sex itself quickly becomes too mild a feeling to even register. Torture replaces sex as a mechanism for expressing affection. The necroid social unit is similar to a BDSM leather family, with a strict hierarchy of authority and complex relationships between the members–with the attendant petty jealousies and politics.
The particular necroid family in my novels–called The Path Of Thorns–is entirely male, but that is due to the preferences of the current patriarch who has to approve all potential members. There is no theoretical reason that the process could not be applied to women as well.
Orthovores: Orthovores are creatures of information, with no physical form. In order to interact with the physical world, however, they have to be bound to some form of physical body. While they are aware of the body’s condition and are able to make it do things, they don’t feel anything physical at all. Consequently, they don’t have sex (or gender, either, but for the sake of convenience I refer to Catskinner as he and Agony as she.)
For Catskinner, the whole idea of sex is confusing. He knows that James does things with some people that cause the body to react in ways that look a lot like pain, and that James will get really upset if Catskinner kills those people, but has given up trying to figure out why.
Agony understands that humans like sex and that much of the time humans will like her more if she acts like she is willing to have sex with them, but the ethics of when and how and with whom humans do it is fairly opaque to her. As a result she tends to be inappropriately flirtatious with everyone. Most people just learn to ignore it.
Pale Surgeons: To answer a question that Michele Proulx asked a long time ago, pale surgeons do not operate on themselves. They do however operate on each other as part of their training. This training takes a long time and by the end of it they aren’t very human anymore on the inside. Much of their endocrine system is removed, replace, or modified to the point that they are no longer capable of sexual feelings. (Their gross anatomy–and I do mean gross anatomy–is also extensively altered.)
The only emotional bond that pale surgeons can form is that between themselves and their patients. This is not a warm, nurturing bond, however, since they see their patients as raw material for their artwork. They don’t relate to other people as people, but as works of art, either in potentiality or actuality. The closest that they can come to affection is an admiration for another surgeon’s skills. They tend to be amoral mercenaries, working for whomever will give them opportunities to practice their art.
Okay, that went longer than I was expecting. But it was fun to write and if you’ve gotten this far I hope it was fun to read.