No Sex Please, We’re Bored — A Blast From The Past October 2011

As many of you know – because I’ve told you – I don’t have anything against sex. (Well, not at the moment. It would make writing awkward, and besides it would shock the cats.) I have been happily married for twenty six years and I have two sons, neither of which, despite their belief, is a virgin birth.

I am, however, getting sick and tired of sex in books. Oh, not sex as sex. I mean, most of you know I’m not a prude. I can read sex without much worries (except sometimes I wonder if people bend that way – in other planets, I know they don’t on Earth.) I’ll even admit there was a time when I was about 13 or 14 when I would read an entire book for the three paragraphs of sex. I suppose that was part of the age. You see, I’d never had sex, I assumed it would be an eon, give or take, before I had sex, and I wanted to know everything about it.

So, why am I getting sick of it? Because most of it doesn’t mean anything. Worse, it’s dreary to read.

It’s like there is some directive from above on “there must be sex here.” In fact, I know there is a directive out in Romance about x sex scenes at x places in the book. The number of xxx in which book depends on the line, but it’s carefully dictated. I can also say that in one of my series, I was told I MUST have sex scenes, even though I felt that sex didn’t belong in it.

So some sex in books is the result of pressure from what used to be the only means of getting books on the shelves. And on the part of the publishers, themselves, I think it was an effort to cater to what they perceived to be a universal taste.

Is it a universal taste? I don’t know. I can only tell you what I know and what I think.

I think a lot of the sex in books is boring. It makes no sense, it accomplishes nothing. If it doesn’t outright violate the character – really? A regency girl giving it up after one kiss? – it is at best oh um. They kiss they throb they flutter, they grind, they penetrate, there’s things that get hard and things that get moist, there’s how he’s never had it that good and she’s never felt this way before and zzzzzzzzzzz. What? Sorry. It’s just I’ve read so many of these.

Possibly there is some demographic out there whom this satisfies, who feels thrilled at the mere mention of sex. They’re probably thirteen. Or perhaps fourteen. But there are indications that it’s not the ticket to money and success (except insofar as marketing distorts things) that publishers believe it is. There is a certain hysteria of falling numbers and increasing sex under the belief that doing more of what’s failed is a sane business approach. (Do they teach this in the ivy leagues, or something?)

In my opinion, what sells is not explicit sex, but sexual tension (Something I doubt most publishers – jaded by books crossing their desk every day – might not be able to tell with two hands and a seeing eye dog) does sell. Sexual tension – as opposed to sex – makes the reader continue reading, makes us interested, makes us crave the moment when the two would-be-lovers, yearning for each other bur holding back, finally kiss or even touch.

For instance, Georgette Heyer’s Venetia or Silvester have enough sexual tension in it that at the end of the second, the phrase “Sparrow, Sparrow,” has more excitement in it than any of the multi-page anatomically correct sex scenes I ever read. And, FYI, Heyer is still selling very well indeed.

Not that sex is forbidden in this – I’ve read a few urban fantasies in which the sex builds the sexual tension, due to something the character can’t (or shouldn’t) overcome. Or must overcome. The point being the sex becomes part of the plot and entwines the plot and heightens everything else.

On the other hand, in a lot of urban fantasies and in 3/4 of the romances, you could take the sex scene out completely and no one would notice. Well, maybe the publishers looking for the x that marks the spot. And in many books it gets either clinical and dry, or silly and dreary. If you must describe a part of the female anatomy in such exaggeration that it sounds like a cabbage unfolding and unfolding and unfolding yet again, you’ve probably gone too far. Suggestion and indication – note not prudishness and playing keep away – are more… interesting than tons of ink spilled in the service of anatomic descriptions.

The best way to write sex is the best way to write anything else in a plot: irresistible force meets immovable object (again, and again, and again, harder, faster… er… get your mind out of the gutter. And then come back and toss a life preserver to my mind, would you?) Have your character want, crave, need and yet not be able to get for good and sufficient reason (and there must be a real reason, just as the need must be palpable not just “I want it bad.”) And then have all this serve the greater plot. And then, maybe, just maybe you’ll have something worth reading. (And if you’re writing erotica as such, I highly recommend How To Write Erotica by Valerie Kelly. Actually I highly recommend this book for the writing technique of “immediate writing.” She gives very useful hints on what to give in detail and what to shade in. Caution, it has graphic passages. Not for the squeamish or the faint of heart.) On the other hand, if you don’t want to write explicit sex, be brave and original and keep the graphic sex out.

I believe in the indie market place we’ll see more sex and more sexless books too. I can also easily predict that if the sex counts the book will do well, if the sex doesn’t count…. Yawn, who needs it?

348 responses to “No Sex Please, We’re Bored — A Blast From The Past October 2011

  1. You want tension? Look no further than Raul Endymion and Aenea in the second half of the Hyperion Cantos.

  2. I have a weird relationships with sex in books, especially if I’ve read a few by the same author and they all have a character (especially a main character) with the same kink. Yes, I tend to believe that, in some cases at least, the author is really like the character(s) or at least fantasizes about being that way.

    Seriously. I’m currently working my way through a book and it seems like at least forty percent of the females in this book and the one before it are oversexed submissives. Ditto the first book in the series. It makes me wonder (where maybe I shouldn’t?) about the author herself. I can also think of at least one other author, this one male, who has a tendency to write male Dominant characters…

    As a result of this, I have a tendency to read books with lots of sex and wonder if I’m actually reading a story about whatever the story is about or just some authors mastubatory fantasy. The fact that editors push this type of thing makes me wonder if I might be mistaken in whose fantasy I’m dealing with. I dunno. Maybe I’m just off my rocker.

    • Sounds like you’ve discovered John Ringo’s “Ghost” series 😉

    • Sometimes it’s the author, sometimes it’s the market or genre, sometimes it’s reader feedback. OTOH, I would say that if you feel a sort of gut-level warning that it’s the author and there’s something squicky going on, you should probably believe it.

    • I think it reasonable to wonder.

      Although I don’t think the characters reflect her some of the descriptions of Dominance and submission among vampires and the enthralled in the Hollows novels has convinced me the author at least experimented in the S&M world. It is just on for me not to suspect.

    • Either pushes their buttons, or they think it’ll push a significant number of other folks’ buttons.

      • … or they think it’ll push a significant number of …

        I.e., Fifty Shades seems to have really tapped a mother lode; I best lard up my book with that sort of thing.

        Remember: for a field (presumably) brimming with originality and inventiveness a tremendous amount of publishing is terribly derivative. This especially applies when a popular book makes thousands of writers sniff. “I could write better than that with two fingers.”

        • They’re probably thinking they can do other things better with two fingers, too.

        • Fifty Shades of Grey’s popularity wasn’t so much about the BDSM as about the traditional Gothic romance props being set up in a new way:

          1. The mysterious powerful lord/rich guy.
          2. Who has a sinister, sad backstory.
          3. Who both needs the heroine’s help and pushes her around.
          4. Rich lifestyle of wish fulfillment to the reader living in a bad economy.

          People who weren’t experienced romance readers and don’t know Gothics were impressed. People who did read romance and Gothics were less impressed.

          • I read the first two pages, so my analysis is based on the opinion of others—but it sounded just like The Sheik by E.M. Hull–the book, not the movie.

  3. (a) If one absolutely must read sex for the sake of sex, one can always go to literotica dot com and get it for free 😉 I have no problem with people reading or writing erotica or even outright pr0n, but don’t pretend it’s something it isn’t. Back in my graduate school days, I once was handed “The swimming pool library” by Alan Hollinghurst as “the new compelling fiction voice”. After leafing through for a while, my reaction was more or less “OK, if you’re gonna write ghey pr0n at least have the beitzim to call it that and don’t pretend it’s literature”.

    But “the world wants to be deceived” (Dutch idiom)

    (b) in separate post.

    • That tends to sum up my reaction to hyper-sexualized movies, books, video games, and tv shows: if I wanted pornography or erotica there is an internet full of it that I’m actively blocking, so why do I want it showing up in the middle of my movie about giant robots…

  4. (b) Sometimes, I think a sex scene — even a very explicit one — can serve the plot or character development.

    For example: you have a couple where one partner experienced trauma in these matters — or has no experience at all — and the other partner in a loving way helps overcome it. I think making a plausible case for how to handle such a situation can be explicit without becoming pornographic. It would require some delicacy in language though.

    (c) There is the aspect of repetition. I think once you’ve established that two characters have good chemistry in the bedroom as well, further encounters are better implied or hinted at than written out. Unless, of course, there is some major change in relationship dynamics involved…

    • I’m inclined towards option (b) in one of the two current WIPs, although I don’t want to get terribly explicit: a heroine who has possibly been traumatized, and a romantic partner who very tenderly helps her recover from that experience.
      Decisions, decisions…

      • I think that can be made quite beautiful, but you may have to do several versions until you strike the balance you want.

      • Sara the Red

        I agree: that could make for a very beautiful and moving scene. And it doesn’t have to be super explicit, either. (Of course, on the other end of that spectrum is avoiding the giggle-worthy metaphor territory…)

      • Recently (finally) got around to watching Lonesome Dove. Happily, TV miniseries in the late 1980s did not feel compelled to show me the raping of the captured whore Loreena (Diane Lane) nor how gently Hub Augustus helped her heal. In this case the trauma and the recovery could be done off-screen, but everything necessary was presented.

      • You do a fine job from what I have read. Something like Magda and Carl Becker’s wedding night, or Margaret Becker but then I would not wish to provide a spoiler…

        • Thanks, CACS – that first example I wrote … well, just to prove that I could write something tender, erotic and funny. The second instance was … it was a necessary character development issue – as “why on earth did she marry that man?” The answer was that he adored her, and he was a heck of a lover. Being a nerd, he had thought about her a lot…
          And he was generously endowed, physically. My editor sent me a note about how hot that particular chapter was.

    • Sara the Red

      I also find that I am perfectly okay with somewhat explicit sex scenes where there is an actual, loving relationship (and that this is the culmination of well done prior sexual tension). But it depends on the author, and the characters too–and generally speaking, I find I prefer the fade-to-black approach at some point during the proceedings. It’s private, after all, and some things ought to be left to the imagination.

      But where it serves plot/character development, it’s fine. And I’ve encountered even some very well done ones. There’s a particular romance author–Courtenay Milan–who generally does pretty well with this approach to sex scenes. Or the first one, at least. The subsequent ones are probably required in the contract, and I admit that I usually skim them, because the character development/plot advancement has already happened and this is just filler. And her books have actual, interesting plots usually, and even play around with/turn on their heads some of the bog-standard romance tropes. (A particular delight was the one where it was the *male* character who was a virgin–by choice, no less. Not sure I’ve seen that before or since…)

      • Thanks for the Courtney Milan tip! From a graduate degree in theoretical physics to romance novelist… Hmmm…

        • Sara the Red

          I gotta say, she does pretty damned interesting characters. Her Regencies/Victorians definitely classify as “not the norm” in terms of playing around with the tropes. Also, many of her characters are solidly middle class–a definite change from the more usual upper-stratosphere-nobility of the genre, heh.

          Heh. Being a romance novelist–even one going the trad pub route–possibly pays better at the moment than theoretical physics…

      • It would be interesting to see a novel in which the heroine engages in serial bouts of sexual interplay only to find at the end of the book that she has lost the capacity to have “an actual, loving relationship” because she has so thoroughly maxed out her L-Dopamine receptors.

        Never find a publisher, of course. One of our modern pieties is that sexual intercourse does nothing, nothing, to affect our ability to form permanent ties.

        • One of our modern pieties is that sexual intercourse does nothing, nothing, to affect our ability to form permanent ties.

          One of our modern pieties is that indiscriminate sexual intercourse does nothing, nothing, to affect our ability to form permanent ties.

          • Sara the Red

            Oh yeah, *love* that one. And of course, anyone who indicates they don’t accept this viewpoint unquestioningly is labeled a prude, or afraid of sex, or puritanical, or…yeah. And God help you if you also happen to be a medical professional or a psychologist, especially on a university campus, who doesn’t accept this viewpoint unquestioningly…

            I read a fascinating book a few years ago called “Unprotected” that discussed the problems behind the free-sex-no-consequences viewpoint. The author originally published it anonymously, because she was a counselor at an Ivy league school and would likely have lost her job. I think she’s since reissued the book under her name, though I have no idea whether or not it’s because she lost her job, or decided she didn’t care, or what.

          • Despite centuries of Western European culture maintaining otherwise, sex and love are only vaguely connected. And you can have a working marriage without either; I’ve seen several of them.

            • In the “four mates” scheme, those would be exclusively or primarily “helpmate” relationships. What people think of as romantic love is primarily the soulmate component, sex is primarily once aspect of the “playmate” component.
              “Odds” tend to place more of a premium on the “mindmate” (intellectual affinity) aspect.

    • For (b), I think Game of Thrones (the book, not the TV show) did an excellent job of this with Dany and Drogo’s first sex scene. Martin built up the terror of a fourteen-year-old girl being married to a barbarian warlord, showed us some of the darker aspects of Drogo’s culture…then gave a romantic, tender scene where they star by playing with each other’s hair, explore each other a bit, and Drogo gives Dany a chance to stop…but Dany discovers she doesn’t want to stop. It’s an early hint that maybe Dany’s situation isn’t so bad as we thought it was a few pages ago.

      The show, of course, said screw that and turned it into just another rape scene.

      • Sara the Red

        Huh. Well, that just confirms my low, low opinion of the tv show–here I was thinking it was probably like that in the book, too.

    • It is kind of like using the bathroom… Is it really necessary for the plot? ‘He relieved himself and freshened up’ is usually all that is required, we get the idea. Now, I think it was Alma’s Cat with Dragon series where the heroine is indeed ‘relieving herself’ and gets shot by a sniper. Alma thoughtfully did not provide such details as number 1 or number 2, volume and colors involved, and local plants adversely affected… just enough for the plot, and to make a funny reference later about being ‘wounded in battle’.

      Feelings, thoughts, considerations; those are what the reader’s usually are interested in. An actual detailed presentation of the sexual minutia may be appropriate for a sex-manual, but romantically, the details, bucket list, and soiled linens usually don’t actually increase the adventure.

      • The comparison strikes me as a little outré 🙂 but, since you ask: I at least once read a scene in which the color of “#1” played a role — as an indicator that the character had been beaten up so badly that he sustained kidney damage.
        And another where it served as an indicator for dehydration.
        Now of course, if you are a modern French or especially Dutch novelist (say, Jan Wolkers), then you do include detailed descriptions of the kind Alma spared us 😉 The Dutch have never been big on mealy-mouthed political correctness, all the more so on “épater les bourgeois” (startling the burghers [for the thrill]).

        • Well, Pratchett in perhaps his final novel “The Long Utopia” does mention that the original anti-nausea medicine for ‘side stepping’ turned urine blue. But, again, the details are left to the reader’s mind.

    • For a prime example of “b” go to 1632 and read the description of Jeff and Gretchen’s wedding night. Probably one of the best character development relevant sex scenes in modern scifi.
      Which is like saying “best Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie,” but still.

      • The worst Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie is still better than the best Roger Moore James Bond movie … I don’t think I’ve ever managed to sit through all of a Timothy Dalton James Bond they are forgiven for his performance on Chuck.

        • Disagree–For Your Eyes Only is a much better movie than Die Another Day, although I will grant that Goldeneye is better.

        • Sara the Red

          He was hilariously awesome in Chuck. And he was clearly having far too much fun with that role–in *both* aspects of his “personality”…

      • Just read it — it’s in the Baen Free Library. Chapter 31, location 3945. Yes, that scene *is* really good, and totally functional.

  5. ‘Actually I highly recommend this book for the writing technique of “immediate writing.” ‘

    Can anyone give a brief writing-craft-curious-but-not-real-writing-person description of what this means? DuckDuckGo was of little help. Don’t need any explicit copulative references in the description, unless they are endemic to the subject. Thank you!

  6. Thanks for expressing this so well. I have started reading several series – not romances, not fantasy, but science fiction, and the first book is really interesting and fun to read with some sexual tension between characters, and then the next book introduces sex with much more detail that necessary, and then the third suddenly becomes a group of crew members focused on group sex, and I never finish the third book and I never buy anymore from that author ever.

    I would guess I’m a prude, but just one sex scene after another is boring. I have a lot of books on my Kindle that I’ve never finished because they just turned into sex, sex, sex, sex and no story.

    • This is a problem with a lot of fanfic. It reads well. There’s an interesting problem that gets resolved by sex. Or it starts with sex and the rest of the story is explaining it. After a while I don’t bother.

      • Sara the Red

        I always felt fanfic ought to be approached the same was as original fiction: write it as if you were actually going to publish it, so make sure it’s got a good plot, etc. That’s what I’ve tried to do, anyway, with mine.

        It is truly astonishing, though, the amount of smutty drek there is in fanfic. o.O (And admittedly, a fraction of that is well done smutty drek, and sometimes one is in the mood for smutty drek…but otherwise…damn.)

    • “despite their belief, are not virgin birth”. Crime novelist Faye Kellerman has a lot of fun with the children of characters (particularly of her endearing protagonists, Lt. Decker and Rina Lazarus) being grossed out at the concept of their parents having had sex 😉

      • My dad used to do that in real life with both SiLs. Me? I just try not to think about it.

        • RealityObserver

          I’m quite aware that mine did. At least five times. I’m grateful for a minimum of one of those times (depends on how many siblings I’m currently annoyed at…).

          The thing is, I don’t think it’s just our parents we don’t want to imagine having sex. It’s anyone that much older than us having sex… (Mine, if still living, would be pushing the century mark right now. I don’t want to imagine anyone at that age.)

          • Sara the Red

            Sometimes, it doesn’t have to even be age related. There’s been a few times when I’ve had to stop a friend and say “Sweetie, I love you, but I do NOT need to know any more about you and your husband’s sex life. No, really.” I have nothing against sex, or against my friends having sex…I just don’t want to hear about it in detail, ‘cos it’s not my business.

            • A lot of TMI in today’s society.

            • If you’re telling anyone else about it you’re destroying/betraying the intimacy of the actual act. I do not want to be a party to your intimate relationships (I have sufficient of my own, thank-you) and if it wasn’t intimate I especially still don’t want to be a party to it.

          • Daughter: “Dad, did you and mom ever… eeeeewwww!”
            “Daughter, exactly how do you think you came into this world?”
            “Yes, and I am still traumatized by it! And don’t do it again — I don’t want siblings!”

            • “Honey, it took more than one try to create you.” [very big evil grin]

            • Sara the Red

              lol! I’ve heard similar conversations betwixt my younger sibs and my parents–who, being evil parents, sometimes go out of their way to shock them. (Mildly.)

              My case was a bit odd: I demanded to know the mechanics of where babies came from when I was about 6, and my mother–who believes in honesty and also knew I wouldn’t accept a crap answer–told me. My response at the time was along the lines of “Huh, that’s weird.” And since the subsequent two years involved being hauled along with my parents’ visits to the fertility doctors (before they opted to give adoption a go), the birth and loss of my second sib, and the later adoptions of various kids of various ages, I…actually wasn’t hugely shocked by anything to do with any of that by the time my youngest brother was born…(Although upon being asked if I wanted to be present in the delivery room, the answer was a resounding NO.)

              Although some of the doctors at the fertility clinics found my questions awkward, I think. But I was 8, so I suppose I can’t blame them.

            • My Mother claimed that I was born because she took seriously what my Dad was poking at her for fun.
              I told her that was fine, as long as no sex was involved 🙂

    • In most cases, I agree. In Nathan Lowell’s “Share” series, the main character’s celibacy gets in the way of the flow of the story at times.

    • Second that!
      I barely made it through Ghost.

      • Me too (despite loving Ringo’s work generally), possibly for different reasons: I find BDSM of any kind to be too viscerally repulsive to read with any enthusiasm. But in a way, something like “50 Shades of Grey” is even worse than Ghost for me: at least Mike Harmon in Ghost isn’t presented as psychologically normative.

        • Sara the Red

          There is a side-splittingly hilarious blog out there (Jen Does Fifty Shades of Grey) written by a romance/erotica author where she just goes to town on how truly, truly awful that book is, on all levels.

          I can no longer see a picture of the guy from To Catch a Predator without giggling, however…

          • Sounds like I’ve found new reading material…

            • Eh, or I thought I did. While I agree with much of her jeremiad at the end, the ritual denouncement of Palin and Bachman as betrayers of women…well, if it were a book, it would have taken flight…right until it met the wall.

              • Sara the Red

                Huh, I must have missed that part. It might be something linked to her new blog site? I read it on her ‘old blog’ site, and it was a direct link, so I don’t recall anything particularly political.

                Not hugely surprised though. She *is* trad pub, and I expect the romance genre is just as badly infected as the sff genre with SJWs…

                • Last post on the last chapter of the last book. As for which incarnation of her site, I can’t say. I googled at least three.

                  • Thank you for saving me the time and bandwidth (we’re stuck with satellite internet for the time). Now I don’t have to go searching. 🙂

                  • Sara the Red

                    Ah. I think I never got around to finishing her the blog of all the books–largely because the books themselves apparently got so darned repetitive that, past a certain point, the lampooner was just repeating herself anyway.

                    The installment for the first book, however, is *hilarious*–and while probably the blogger and I would have absolutely no views in common anywhere else, that was enjoyable.

              • Why would she want anybody who doesn’t agree with her on all matters reading (and potentially agreeing with) her views on anything? There can be no compromise! Ve vill ALL march together, in step, mit our boots kicking high!

          • We watched the movie at SJW this year and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. Still, we wound up giving it the Rocky Horror treatment.

            • Sara the Red

              I expect the movie would inevitably be better than the book, if only because you can’t translate all the awful, awful writing onto the screen. Nor can you–or so I assume–hear the main characters echoingly stupid thoughts.

              • It did not hurt that:

                1. The actress cast as Anna looked good nude.
                2. The three big scenes weren’t badly done and one was actually really good.

                I think some of the bad writing did come through because most of the non-sex scenes were painful.

                Not to mention the key takeaway was “chicks dig stalkers” (probably “chicks dig hot, rich stalkers” but most guys will miss the two qualifiers).

                • If not for Grey’s wallet Fifty shades would have been an episode of Criminal Minds

                  • Also the actual BDSM community hated that movie since it is nothing more than abuse vs. actual BDSM.

                    • Yes and no…there were people in the scene who did enjoy it.

                      I do remember us bracing for an influx of newbies from it. The 50 Shades themed night at our local club was….interesting. We never got the influx of 30+ femsubs who forgot EVERY. SINGLE. THING. they had learned about dating and screwed up. This is a common issue anyway. A lot of us expect 50SoG to cause it to explode but we didn’t see it too much here.

                      I know at least one regular at events I attend who came into the scene via the books.

                    • Ah. I just remembered the denunciations all over when it hit. Basically the ‘come and learn’ but the movie ain’t realistic. Since move and changes been too busy to really do anything so been detached since.

                    • Well, I don’t see it as any less realistic than Anne Rice’s Beauty books which were my gateway long ago. Less realistic in different ways and probably less dangerous.

                      The problem is there are two realistic things in those books (IMHO):

                      1. Christian Grey as an abusive user. Before the internet when getting into the scene was harder they were screened out better. In the internet age there are too many around and they often assume positions of power such as running munches.

                      2. Anastasia Steele as an utter idiot. The unrealistic part about her is her age. I wasn’t kidding about 30+ year old femsubs who display the dating acumen of 14 year olds. Especially divorced once but a lot in general come in the scene and do stupid they haven’t done since HS. Now they’re doing stupid with much bigger stakes. In fact, Gloria Brame includes “fixing damage done by other Doms” in her list of worst things about being a male dominant.

                      And I think we are way off course now.

                  • Sara the Red

                    LOL so true. And yes, I also gathered from the blog making fun of it that people in the BDSM lifestyle were livid about it, because it just falls into the “you only do this if you’re really screwed up and a monster” trope.

                    • As was noted above. I caught a few ‘adult’ seminars around that time plus a few ‘This is kink’ ones that emphasised this.

                • re: Point #1

                  It takes an awful lot of work to make anybody look good nude onscreen. Lighting, filters, film stock, lens choices and careful editing all contribute to the illusion.

                  I recall hearing Robert Mitchum (in a TCM time fill) talking about Marilyn Monroe and noting the fact that her skin looked “real” on film. I’ve heard that people who met Paul Newman complained his eyes, in person, looked watery and unimpressive.

                  • Sara the Red

                    Heh. This is why, when I tell people that yes, I’m an artist, and yes, I’ve drawn/painted nude models before that it’s not half so exciting as they think. Because naked humans are actually pretty funny looking. (Humans as a species are attractive, but let’s face it: naked people are funny looking.) And most of the models who had the time/ability to pose for us were neither young, nor particularly svelte. They were just people.

                    I also think people forget that there is a distinction between ‘naked’ and ‘nekkid’…

        • Yeah, and I knew there would be more action coming up.

          • Skimming is a skill worth perfecting.

            • One reason I don’t like audibles.

              • Sara the Red

                This is why I’m very, very careful about which audiobooks I pick up, and why most of the ones I own are books I’ve already read in print…

                • As I like to listen to audiobooks while driving (frankly, it improves my driving by bleeding off enough brain that I can maintain attention on road activities) I tend to stick to what I have read on dead tree, with a few exceptions (History or non-fiction, for example.) In this way I find a) if events suddenly require full attention it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the book nor require rewinding and b) books I with which I was very familiar become “fresh” again and I often gain new insights by being forced to slow down to the reader’s pace.

                  Doing audiobooks while shopping has also proven beneficial, if only because it has restrained my urge to thrash some twit blocking the aisle, moving at a pace slow enough to make turtles snarl.

                  I heartily recommend (for those so inclined) the audiobooks of Larry Correia’s novels, of Louis L’Amour, of Bujold and Butcher’s Dresden. Lloyd James, reader for several Heinlein works (Moon, Citizen) has proven superb. I have also enjoyed the readings of the Travis McGee books as a way of revisiting long ago favorites without having to give up more present reading. Although they are short and are children’s books, the How To Train Your Dragon series has been great fun for books I hadn’t read in print. The fact they’re read by David Tenant (apparently they signed him up before he was Dr. Who) likely has something to do with it.

                  For whatever reason I do not recommend “Full Cast Audio” productions — they just don’t seem to work as well, probably because I perceive them as “plays” rather than book-readings and so evaluate by different standards.

                  Oh, for non-fiction, anything by Simon Winchester, read by Simon Winchester is a delight, and the same can be said of David McCullough’s readings of his books.

                  • I can see that, but I rarely drive anymore, except around the homestead and sometimes to town. The only good use I have found for audio books is playing in the background while I’m reloading or casting.

                    • I find that audio books are also rather good for keeping the mind engaged while doing tedious but oh so necessary chores.

                  • Sara the Red

                    I gotta make an exception for the Full Cast Audio where the Big Finish Doctor Who radio plays are concerned. But then, those weren’t books to start with, and not only is there a full cast, but also sound effects and it’s kept to a relatively-short format. A modern version of the old time radio shows, in essence.

                • Another reason is they are just so danged slow.
                  Then I fall asleep and oops, it keeps going, so where was I?

              • I most often listen to histories and biographies. In spite of rumors about the various gentlemen involved I have yet to meet a sex scene in a discussion of either the first or second Continental Congresses.

                Fiction? There are also the thoroughly delightful Cyril Richard readings of Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books and Jim Dale’s of the Harry Potter series. And The Spouse has found me a lovely reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as indulged us in a grand bunch of Nero Wolfe.

    • you are not a prude. I read in a story (Sturgeon maybe?) so take it with a bucket of salt, that this harping on sex is because most of the country has a low sex drive which needs to be whipped up into a frenzy. Or maybe it’s really bad amateur porn. The other horrible thing about fanfic is the descriptive fads. I read a bunch of slash. The stress on how the receptive partner was prepared for entry and how the condom and lubricant were applied. If they described eating this way I might not want to eat–which would be good for dieting!

      Some fanfic is fun to read because of emotional catharsis (hurt/comfort), others because of the plot and others because of the creation of character, or what I mean is the writer’s interpretation and fleshing out of a character sketched in on TV.

      • Typically, I’d rather have a lime (suggestive) than a lemon (explicit) story. (Although I’ve yet to write either.) Unfortunately, both take more skill than the average fanfic writer has. I’ve seen some pretty entertaining takes on sexual tension, though, from amateur writers.

        • Sara the Red

          I think I can probably count on one hand the well-done lemon-fics I’ve encountered…and I don’t think I’d use up all my fingers, either.

      • Ewwww. Lubrication just seems so …. I don’t wanna know.

        • You don’t want to know how many details this takes up in the story. what kind of lube, what it’s made of, how it got to the bed, what texture etc.

    • I have a lot of books on my Kindle that I’ve never finished …

      Amazon has announced a change in their terms of payment for books in the Kindle “library” whereby authors are paid according to # of pages read, not simply on basis of books borrowed. At least, so I gather — I’ve not seen the contracts.

      First thought is that there should be a bonus for actually finishing a book. If an author drops a thousand-page heavily padded brick that is no reason to pay for the 500 pages I slogged through in hope that there was a ploy buried under that pile of fertilizer. This is especially applicable if authors see the new policy as incentive to write longer and longer and longer and longer and longer and longer and longer and longer books.

      In fact, there should probably be a penalty if readers don’t finish a book.

      • Sara the Red

        I…really hope that’s a rumor. Because that just seems silly. I don’t always not finish a book because it’s bad, I frequently don’t finish because I’m not in the mood at that moment, or because I’m reading six or eight other things and it falls off the list. The reasons go on and on, and sometimes it might be months or years before I actually get around to finishing it.

        It also seems like a great way for Amazon to shoot itself in its self-publishing foot…

      • > brick

        “Peter F. Hamilton to the Service Desk….”

        Though I did like “Great North Road,” most of his other work reminds me of binge-watching a soap-opera DVD set…

    • Nobody who hasn’t had a 10 year old bang incessantly on a locked bedroom door, interrupting an active and enjoyable moment of marital bliss, has any business writing a sex scene.

  7. c4c

  8. (d) One thing Sarah did not address: I’ve read such scenes where the stamina or prowess of the characters have more in common with pornographic fantasy than with physiological possibility. If one is trying to be realistic in other aspects of the novel, it’s probably best not to attribute near-impossible acrobatics or implausible numbers of climaxes to the characters.

    (e) leaving some things to fantasy, as Sarah suggests, may work well also for other things. There is probably a “sweet spot”: be, for example, too vague describing a character’s looks and the character suffers. Be too specific, and some people that otherwise might identify with it won’t. I, for example, deliberately gave my two protagonists a muddled religious background (one a lapsed Baptist, the other a lapsed Catholic, now both nondenominational) in an attempt to turn them into ‘Everyman’ in this regard.

    • …leaving some things to fantasy…

      Momma always said that it was important to leave something to the imagination —

      • One of my dad’s students ‘light bulbed’ about lab reports with this: It’s like a little black dress, long enough to cover the essentials short enough to keep things interesting. I think that could apply to a myriad of different things in writing.

  9. I respectfully dispute the ‘shock the cats’ idea. Unless you’re throwing shoes, clothing and pillows around the room they’re more likely to watch with that ‘you’re doing it wrong, monkeys’ expression. Dogs will either cheerlead or attempt a ‘rescue.’

    • Or stick their nose in at the wrong time…and place.

      • always wear night clothes or your puppy will put its nose where it shouldn’t.

        • And sometimes nightgowns aren’t enough…. especially when said puppy is a terrier mix who figures if it can be lifted with my nose it can and should be explored…..

          • I know a hasher whose hash name came from the dog and a too lose bathrobe.

            The worst part is his own wife sold him out at his naming.

    • Be very, very careful here. A friend once told me that the cat took a decided paw-and-claw interest in said amorous activity. Apparently the jangly cat toy was too much temptation. I’m assured all participants were traumatized by this. Except for the woman, who was relaying the story and thought it was a hoot.

    • Sara the Red

      Dammit, man, you made me spew tea all over my monitor…

      I know a few labs who probably *would* attempt a rescue. Or think it’s a new form of wrestling and jump in the middle…

      • I’m pretty sure the German Shepherd/Collie mix I had when I was growing up would have attempted a rescue. Depending on how he decided to do it, that could have been painful – for either or both participants.

    • Or decide now is the time to want to climb on your back and sleep.

  10. So, why am I getting sick of it? Because most of it doesn’t mean anything. Worse, it’s dreary to read.

    It’s like there is some directive from above on “there must be sex here.”

    There is a mystery author who I have greatly enjoyed. This author had created a lovely tension between her primary character and one of the characters she frequently worked with. The flirting snapped, crackled and popped.

    Then, and I am sure it was at the behest of the publishers, they ‘did’ it — and we just had to be there with them. The scene was so dreadfully out of place, threw the pacing off, did nothing to advance the character development. Tab A was inserted in slot B, and I don’t care. It sat on the page like a lead balloon.

    Thankfully that author never did this again. From then on in whatever happened happened off screen so to speak. Somehow their relationship became a great deal more exciting.

    • Sara the Red

      There was a bit in one of the Pendergast novels (Lincoln and Child) that had a sex scene out the blue that in retrospect I think might have been done at the insistence of an editor. It did not (thank God) actually involve the main character (those of who love the Pendergast books love Pendergast…but I’m fairly certain *none* of us want to see him in a sex scene, ever), but one of the deuteragonists and a female character he eventually marries.

      It was the most godawful awkward squirm-because-oh-god-its-like-walking-in-on-your-parents scene. And they never had such a scene again.

      I now suspect that the awful awkwardness of the scene might have been done intentionally by the authors, just so that the next time an editor brought it up they could point to it and claim that, no, they really suck at writing sex scenes, so better not…

      • I now suspect that the awful awkwardness of the scene might have been done intentionally by the authors, just so that the next time an editor brought it up they could point to it and claim that, no, they really suck at writing sex scenes, so better not…

        I have wondered as much myself about the terrible one in the aforementioned mystery series…

        • Sara the Red

          I wondered, sometimes, if that one sex scene early on in the Dresden Files wasn’t also shoehorned in by an editor. It’s not that it was badly written, it was just…out of place in terms of the rest of the series. (Although as it turned out to be a Chekov’s gun much later on, I suppose it wasn’t.)

          • I think Butcher might have included it out of genre expectations. As I noted elsewhere the lead seducing at least one female character is a common trope in detective fiction from the 60s on.

            • Sara the Red

              Thankfully, Butcher did not fully embrace this trope. As noir heroes go, Harry is very nearly chaste, and inclined towards monogamy when he isn’t. I appreciate this, as series where the lead (male or female) has a new bed partner every book irk me deeply. (And this is, probably, why I just can’t bring myself to like James Bond, either…)

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I saw somewhere that Butcher was a fan of Hamilton. He took offense at some of the complaints about the sex being offensive and harmful to the story, and as a result wrote a bondage sex scene in his story that is extremely critical to the plot.

            • ??? The fact that Butcher could write “a bondage sex scene in his story that is extremely critical to the plot” does nothing to make any of Hamilton’s sex scenes either inoffensive or non-detrimental to her plots. If anything, it merely points up that her sex scenes did not need to be “being offensive and harmful to the story” had she made an effort to write them well.

  11. …the belief that doing more of what’s failed is a sane business approach. (Do they teach this in the ivy leagues, or something?)

    Probably. But since it doesn’t work in the real world, they all go into politics instead – and it doesn’t work there either, but government fails in slow-motion, so they can devoutly believe that A) there was nothing they could have done, really, and B) it was the other guy’s fault.

  12. So some sex in books is the result of pressure from what used to be the only means of getting books on the shelves. And on the part of the publishers, themselves, I think it was an effort to cater to what they perceived to be a universal taste.

    Not everyone is a voyeur.

    Moreover, with all the different self-identifiers available on the market? Do they really think that the asexual wants to dwell in the same fantasy as the pan sexual?

    • Good points.

      And I’m one of those who is also very tired of gratuitous sex and would gladly do without.

      Wait, that didn’t come out right…

      • Sara the Red

        How about “I’m against other, fictional people’s gratuitous sex and having to watch/read it”? 😀

        This is why I probably won’t watch the second season of Penny Dreadful, despite it being otherwise terribly well written. Tried to rewatch the first season, and found myself going “What, sex again? Really? Bored now.” (Although at least Penny Dreadful is somewhat more equal-opportunity in its nudity than, say, Game of Thrones. And also makes it so that the nekkidness isn’t always sex-related.)

    • Moreover, with all the different self-identifiers available on the market? Do they really think that the asexual wants to dwell in the same fantasy as the pan sexual?

      Maybe, but I have to admit as a straight man the most successful porn I ever read (by the intermission standard) was gay male porn.

      I think well written sex is like anything else in its ability to appeal beyond its natural audience.

  13. Possibly there is some demographic out there whom this satisfies, who feels thrilled at the mere mention of sex. They’re probably thirteen. Or perhaps fourteen.

    Or fifty shades of something — curious? jaded? bored?

    But there are indications that it’s not the ticket to money and success (except insofar as marketing distorts things) that publishers believe it is.

    Unless it is a gray something for this generation — as opposed to the curiously yellow of a prior.

    • Shifty grades of fey.

      • There are some people who give you the feeling that they haven’t read anything but fanfic.

        • That is quite possibly likely…

          Some people only read within some *very* narrow range of interest.

      • Anything that popular, I ignore.

      • Sara the Red

        Well, considering that Fifty Shades started life as a Twilight fanfic… ::shudders::

        I mean, at least the Mortal Instruments urban fantasy series wasn’t quite so blatantly obvious about starting life as a Harry Potter fanfic. (Or at least I don’t think it was. I haven’t read it all the way through, because teenage angst requires one to be in a mood to put up with it.)

        • Having read neither I really cannot say.

          As my favorite written romantic interpersonal scenes are between Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey / Harriet Vane and Elizabeth Bennett / Fitzwilliam Darcy I obviously do not represent today’s market.

          • Sara the Red

            I enjoy those very much myself. I also adore many of Bujold’s character’s romantic interactions…but she herself is a huge fan of Heyer, Sayers, and Austen, so I suppose that’s no big surprise.

        • Mortal Instruments is pretty blatantly still “Draco Malfoy in another universe,” but otherwise the serial numbers are well-filed off.

          • Ah, but is he blatantly Rowling’s Draco Malfoy, or blatantly Draco in Leather Pants? Her fic was kind of known for the way the characterization diverged….

  14. This is one of my pet peeves. Maybe I am a prude, but IMO, some things were meant to be private, and explicit sex scenes violate that privacy. I guess in some cases the sex scene is necessary to the story, but I hate reading books that seem like they were written simply as a vehicle for sex scene after sex scene. Those get thrown across the room — and sometimes tossed in the stove, because I also object to being a party to polluting anyone else’s mind. Yes, I know if they WANT to be polluted they will find it, but they won’t find it through me.

    • “Truth in advertising” may be the answer here. If people write what amounts to a mystery/erotica crossover novel and it is explicitly billed as such, then you presumably would not have bought it in the first place.
      The problem is that quite a few people who actually WANT to buy and read erotica are too hypocritical to admit it, and prefer to get their fixes “camouflaged” as other genres.
      In general, life would be a lot simpler if everybody played with an open deck. If ifs and buts were candied nuts…

      • Well, some genres one or more sex scenes is natural. The main character seducing at least one woman per book seems to have hit detective fiction no later than the early 60s. I suspect that those characters are very asperational for the readers (and will own up to that in my reading) so the seduction has a wish fulfillment.

        That said in most the sex isn’t very descriptive so I’m not sure if it qualifies here.

    • I also feel this way about unnecessary torture scenes.

      • Same principle applies, methinks: does it have to be there to advance the story, or is it just for kicks?
        Say, in the story, you have a ticking bomb, 15 minutes to defuse it, and you don’t know where it is: but one of your prisoners does. If you write something like “Officer Gallagher applied what is coyly known as ‘enhanced interrogation’ to the prisoner, who revealed the location.” it isn’t going to work. I’d write at least something semi-plausible. Truth serum is the copout some sci-fi writers use (cf. Bujold’s “fast-penta”)…

        • Sara the Red

          Miles on fast penta is still one of the funniest moments of the series…

          But I agree, I find I dislike gratuitous violence nearly as much as gratuitous sex. There is a balance–and I think it’s likely different for every writer–between ‘not enough’ and ‘too much’ and that balance should be found.

          I’ve come to feel that the rule of “If it don’t serve the plot, it don’t belong” is a good one. So unless there’s a good plot purpose behind those spilled entrails, or that sex scene, it doesn’t really need to be written in detail.

          • Patrick Chester

            …and I just started reading “Brothers in Arms” again via baenebooks. 🙂

  15. Then you have the book where the female lead just cannot say no to the male lead…and the identical twin brother of the male lead can’t stop himself and you end up with rape. But it’s okay because the attraction was just too strong and they couldn’t control themselves. That was the first time I left a 1 star review, and I wanted to leave a zero star review. And don’t even get me started on the firearms handling in that book!

    • What turned you off most: the gross stuff that happened in the book, or the fact that it was presented as almost normative? In my case, it would definitely be the latter.

      • C, all of the above. Fifteen seconds after meeting the two brothers, who are aliens from a different planet that have been exiled to Earth because they were persecuted on their planet…and that line gets worse later, she can barely keep her pants on, in public. Spends the night at their “base”, sleeping with screwing the brother she has the hots for. Next day she’s in an elevator with the other brother and he basically rapes her…though she put up only a pro forma fight at first and then was totally into it by the time he had her panties off. And then she has sex with the other brother later that day. Keep in mind that these are basically identical twin brothers. And she knows that the one in the elevator was the other brother and she considers what HE did was rape…but she’s totally okay with working with him (the rapist) on the team to go get the bad guys. And has no problem screwing the identical twin to the guy that raped her less than 8 hours after being raped.

        And then there’s the gun gripes. It starts with, “she couldn’t flip the safety off on the glock without using both hands,” and goes down hill from there. RAPIDLY.

    • Sara the Red

      Urgh, I hate the ‘they couldn’t control themselves’ garbage. I call shenanigans on that, because adults damn well CAN control themselves. (Of course, I realize that in saying this I am incorrectly supposing that these people are actual grownups.) I suppose this is why my romance novel reading list has gotten so very small…(and also the bit Sarah mentioned above regarding the Regency-era woman giving it up after one kiss…um, no.)

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Five kisses, at least. 😉

          • Sara the Red

            And dinner, dammit. A very nice dinner.

            • Some time back there was a local news story about a guy who gave a couple hitchhiking girls a lift and decided a Mickey-D milkshake and fries entitled him to “favors.”

              It generated much workplace jesting about the minimum McDonalds purchase for such expectations. Nobody argued in defense of any investment less than a Big Mac (I don’t think they offer a single menu item that can’t be construed as a euphemism.)

              • Sara the Red

                …No, no they really don’t. Probably their marketing department would be unhappy to hear about that…

                (And who the heck is stupid enough to hitchhike in this day and age?)

                • To be fair, it’s not McDonald’s fault. What was it, a month ago, that we had that off-topic thread right here that proved there is no word in the English language that can’t be used as a euphemism if people try hard enough, or if there was one, the commentators here didn’t know it?

                  • I can’t think of anything that can’t be turned into something dirty.
                    Although some things are easier than others… my husband and I were looking at possible replacement trees for the Butchered Tree of Ugly in our planting area, tooling around from cherry blossom (he’s got strong views on proper varieties, and most of the ones he likes can’t be shipped into the state) to various magnolia… and one of the grower pages mentioned that a variety had fruit. We weren’t sure what the heck that would look like, so he searched for it.

                    The first photo result was… um… looked like something you might see if someone was doing dragon-man pr0n. Red scales and all. Neither of us wanted to be the first to say it, either!

                • Young and stupid people. I read something even more shocking–straight guy gives head to pay for cross country ride & food–and my husband said that he found it believable..

                • It’s reasonably safe if you’re doing it in an area where it is common–like where well-traveled hiking trails cross roads and you need a ride into town.
                  Other than that…ah, no.

                • A couple more publicity stunts and you can probably get Miley Cyrus for a McDouble…

              • Randy Wilde

                (I don’t think they offer a single menu item that can’t be construed as a euphemism.)

                I can’t imagine how anyone could be so crass as to wonder what kind of toy comes with the Happy Ending Meal.

  16. Sara the Red

    I once stumbled, somewhere on the internets, across a website awarding the ‘worst sex scenes ever written’. I wish I remember where, because the sampling I read was…Well, it wasn’t boring. It *was* of the “Help me, I need brain bleach NOW” variety. But points to them at least for being, um, different, I suppose. They were likely to have you cringing and laughing (and possibly remembering the amazingly horrifying descriptions at an inopportune time later, like during sex, and making your partner wonder why you’re snort-giggling like that). But they definitely weren’t run of the mill…

    Sadly, I do suspect too many of them were meant to be entirely serious, and had been written that way in an attempt to be ‘literary.’ I’d respect them much more if they’d done it a.) to get back at the editor who forced them to put in a sex scene, and b.) to make fun of Tab A/Slot B, rinse repeat scenes in far too many other books…

    • The Bulwer-Lytton Awards! As I recall, they have a subsection for worst sex scenes.

      • EDIT – I am a bit off. There’s a link on the sidebar of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest website that says “Bad Sex in Fiction Award,” apparently run by the Guardian in the UK. This past year, a Booker Award Winner picked up a double he’d likely wish to forget.

    • RealityObserver

      The one I ran across (just Googling along) was the one by The Daily Telegraph. Best one (IMHO): “Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns.”

      I knew there was a reason I stopped reading Tom Wolfe, I’d just forgotten it somehow…

      • Sara the Red

        …I have no words…

        I’ve not been a fan of Tom Wolfe since I was forced to read The Right Stuff in high school (my fault, really, I opted to take the ‘modern novels’ class…ugh). But I don’t recall him being *that* bad.

        And you know another pet peeve of mine? Thesaurus plundering for no good reason. Seriously. I love words, I really do, and I take delight in large words often–but not where they don’t belong. And 98% of the time, they do NOT belong in a friggin’ novel. Especially since the vast majority of the time the character who is voicing the action at the time has no business using words like that. (One of the reasons I gave up on a fantasy trilogy: the main PoV character was–at that point–an uneducated mute who had spent her life to that point as a kitchen drudge. No way in hell should she have been thinking the word ‘peripatetic’ in ANY context. That, together with endless lists of description rather than action, and the fact that everyone stopped every few pages to tell each other stories, was it for me.)

        • Agree about your PoV example. Which brings me to a challenge: POV of a nonhuman character? What would be an appropriate vocabulary?
          (Specific example I have in mind is a “neodog” with almost human intelligence.)

          • Sara the Red

            That one can be tricky, because you can’t go TOO nonhuman, or your reader will lose interest. And with animals…well, there’s really no way to avoid a certain level of anthropomorphization (sp?) there. But I would think that a dog–even with near-human intelligence–would have a different set of priorities than humans would.

            I’d stick to straightforward vocabulary, though. Same rule of thumb as with human/humanoid characters: they should, by and large, think the same way they would speak. So if they’re not a character who regularly uses obscure polysyllabic words in daily conversation, then they shouldn’t be thinking them, either. 😀

            • I’m somewhat familiar with dog psychology (having been kept as a pet human by dogs almost my whole life ;)) so I *might* be able to handle this in a project I’m mulling. (Think somewhat nebbishy but actually competent intelligence agent with hyper-smart canine sidekick to go where human’s can’t go undetected.) The mental image I have is of a dog aware he’s not like other dogs somehow, more like the weird two-footers; who has a very active hunting instinct, yet is fiercely loyal to his adopted human; can somewhat communicate with the human in a complex pattern of barks and yips; has restricted awareness of some concepts (e.g., counting would be “one”, “two”, and “many”); …

            • Consider this a point: Dogs have had at least as much effect on people as people have had on dogs, especially in some cultures that relied on canine augmentation to survive. The nature of canine intelligence doesn’t necessarily align with ours, but just like the way we use dogs, they use us. We get the nose, they get the hands, so to speak.

              So, a theoretical amped-up canine intelligence is going to be less what we’d consider a “smart dog” by projecting human intelligence into a canine milieu, it’s likely to be more “dog’s eye view” of what they’re successful at. And, what is that, pray tell? Augmenting human perceptions, and manipulating people into doing things that are advantageous to the dogs. Also, one must consider that from the dog perspective, the individual is less important than the pack, and they clearly see themselves as part of a hybrid dog/human pack, taking advantage of human abilities as much as they contribute their own.

              Honestly, if I could talk to some of my dogs, I’m pretty sure I’d find out that they felt like they were using me at least as much as I feel like I’m using them–Just for far different purposes. Hell, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find out that dogs have been breeding humans just as much as we’ve been breeding them, albeit without conscious thought processes as we understand them. Dogs are highly intelligent, maybe more so than humans in some respects–It’s just that the processes and end goals are so divergent from our own. Anyone who’s ever lived around a Border Collie has to be wondering just who the hell is running whom…

            • On a subject related to Basic English, here’s a video of a David Bowie song, with the lyrics changed to use only the 1000 most common English words (unlike Basic English, they don’t seem to have done any regularization of grammar):

              Space Weird Thing

          • The one and only Dean Koontz I read and liked, Watchers, has an intelligent dog as a major character. You might find it a useful reference.

        • Actually, I was given TRS as a gift by a former Air Force pilot when I was a graduate student, and read it to pieces.

          • Sara the Red

            I think it was more a matter of taste: I was not then, nor am I now, particularly interested in the subject matter. 🙂 Although it was better than some other one we had to read…I forget who it was wrote it, but I hated all the characters with a passion. Heh. At least Wolfe was good enough that I remember his name, the name of the book, and at least the basics of what the book I read was about…

          • The Right Stuff was great, as was the movie version. Making the jump to other works by Wolfe, not so much.

            • Tom Wolfe is an acquired taste. I like him better than Connie Willis. His last few have Late Author Syndrome.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          Oh yeah. Clamps aka Trollboy From Hell, has this tendency in his stories to throw massive amounts of obscure words at his . . . well, I hesitate to say readers, since he doesn’t really have any. But he just uses them without any concern as to the reader understanding what they mean in the context (if any) of his worlds.

        • Heck, gal, 98% of the time, they do NOT belong in a non-friggin’ novel.

        • RealityObserver

          Being raised in a medical oriented family, I automatically know a lot of Latin and Greek roots (no, don’t ask me to do anything with the languages).

          There are two parts of the word I could take – but “rhino?” Ewww….

    • So, to help authors out with situation a.), awards for “worst sex scenes” should in a perfect world list both the author AND the editor?

      • Sara the Red

        That could be a lot of fun. Authors who have been forced to write sex scenes can submit the ones they hated doing the most…

  17. I may have shared this story before. When John Ringo’s “Ghost” first came out I helped a fellow Barfly scrub it down from a hard “R” to a more respectable PG-13 so he could share it with his early teenage nephew. With John’s explicit permission I hasten to add.
    Wasn’t all that difficult, and the story still flowed, but I’ve always felt ours to be lesser than the original. A key element to John’s main character was his dark conflicted nature, and John used the kinky sex aspect to illustrate the ongoing struggle between that darkness and his better instincts.
    Faced with the same situation today I’d likely recommend that we simply wait a year or two and then give the boy the unexpurgated original work.

    • Sara the Red

      I have zero desire to read the series itself, but after reading both “Oh John Ringo No” and Ringo’s hilarious comments linking to it, I have come to the conclusion that the Ghost series is rather like an actor getting a very silly villain role: he’s gonna chew up ALL THE SCENERY and have a great time doing it, even if the subject itself is terrible.

      • I laughed hysterically most of the way through all the Ghost novels but the last ghosted Ghost. How do you not laugh at the phone scene aboard the cabin cruiser? Or the aftermath of the axe dance? Or bin Laden inna bucket?

        • I listened to the audiobook for that one. I nearly hurt myself laughing at most of the sex scenes.

          BDSM covers a lot of ground, but “hilarious” usually isn’t one of them. (with “Houseplants of Gor” as a shining exception…)

    • A key element to John’s main character was his dark conflicted nature, and John used the kinky sex aspect to illustrate the ongoing struggle between that darkness and his better instincts.

      That’s the root of one of the “totally missed the point” pages at TV Tropes– it’s something like “depraved bisexual.”
      Not a clue shown that sexual behavior– like being a universal predator?— might POSSIBLY somehow SAY SOMETHING about the character.

      Nope! It’s Sex, so it must be good, unless it’s rape-rape.

      • In the case of Ghost the character recognized his predatory nature and consciously chose to, not deny it, but to turn it into for the most part a force for good. Or at least to minimize the harm.

        • If I was any good at writing, I’d do something really edgy– a guy with pedophile attractions who has never acted on it and (spoiler!) doesn’t.

          Probably a supporting character. Religious, of course, and probably cloistered.

          (I already “know” the character, and he’s a sweetheart– I just can’t write. Yet.)

          • Sara the Red

            There was an interesting article floating about the interwebs awhile back that was about a pedophile support group–for those who are aware they have the attraction, and have never acted upon it, and have built a support system in an effort to keep themselves from ever doing it. It was quite inspiring, actually…

  18. What’s that old saying? “The problem with almost all pornography isn’t that it’s evil, it’s that it’s boring.”

    • Sara the Red

      I’d argue that the boring is part of the evil: it makes something that’s supposed to be fun and special and even sacred (depending on your views) and makes it banal and grimy, and sucks all the joy out of it.

      • +1

        I’m half contemplating a comment about how even erotica can prove story trumps box checking.

        If sex is part of the story and works it provides something more than the word equivalent of an airbrushed Playboy picture. Maggie Gyllenhaal made a similar observation about watching porn to get ready for Secretary. She noted that the specific porn she had to watch for the movie featured women whose eyes were dead but alive.

    • Susan Sontag’s one great line: “After watching porn for twenty minutes you want to have sex right away. After watching porn for two hours, you never want to have sex again.”

      I one edited a porn film for fourteen hours straight… up and down and up and down *click* in and out and in and out *click* back and forth and back and forth and *click* around and around and around (very limber couple) *click*… the novelty does wear off kinda quickly.

      • There is a certain delight to the Love, Actually subplot about the two porn stand-ins who eventually hook-up.

    • Once I finally got around to reading it, I was surprised to find that de Sade’s “120 Days of Sodom” wasn’t that much kinkier than stuff I’ve read in mainstream ficton. What appears to have gotten his contemporaries’ knickers twisted wasn’t the sex, but blasphemy; a legal concept that only exists in a handful of American states.

  19. Sex in books, for me, tends to follow an abstraction of my opinion on Gor. Gor books after about 3-4 are attempts to write sword-and-planet and S&M erotica at the same time. As normally happens with such crossovers it’s not very good at both (I think the secret to Dresden is it is good urban fantasy and at least passable detective at the same time which is quite a triumph).

    If I want sword-and-planet I’d rather just read Burroughs, Carter, Aykers, etc. If I want S&M erotica I’ll read Antoniou, Califia, or Preston.

    I’m sure somewhere out there someone could combine one genre with erotica and make a novel that succeeds as both. I’m been waiting nine books now (I have four to go) for Kim Harrison to pony up. I think she could pull it off. However, instead we get that sexual tension between Rachel and Ivy that has got me through nine increasingly thick books. I think she made the right choice.

    • If you haven’t already tried Otis Adelbert Kline (OAK) you might look into his books. He was a contemporary of ERB and wrote interplanetary adventures similar to the John Carter books. I gather he retired from writing to become an authors’ agent, including most notably for a young Texan named Howard, but I found his writing every bit as good as (and maybe a little better than) ERB.

      BTW: if you get a chance to see The Whole Wide World it is an interesting film featuring Vincent D’Onofrio as Howard and Renée Zellweger as the young schoolteacher who befriends him.

  20. William O. B'Livion

    > There is a certain hysteria of falling numbers and increasing
    > sex under the belief that doing more of what’s failed is a
    > sane business approach. (Do they teach this in the ivy leagues,
    > or something?)

    No, I think it’s a virus.

    I have a cow-orker who is a honest to god fascist in that he believes in private property, but thinks the government should more or less control everything. I was whinging because of the cost of health insurance, even employer subsidized (a comparable plan on the “open” market is about 1200. This plan is about 730 through my potential employer). His response was the government should just socialize it so it wouldn’t cost as much.

    I pointed out that he and I are in the income band that gets hit hardest by this, and oh, had he heard about the VA hospital being built in Aurora that was ONE BILLION DOLLARS OVER BUDGET.

    “Oh, that’s just bad government” .

    So we sic *government* on *government* to make it better.

    That’s racist or something.

    • So we sic *government* on *government* to make it better.

      Actually, that could work.

      I’ve long argued the Federal Government should have exactly two LE arms. FBI and Secret Service, FBI and ATF, SS and ATF, whatever. Congress should divide up federal criminal code between them so each has sole jurisdiction over its areas.

      Then each should get one more. Agency A should serve as the IA division of Agency B and vice versa. Harness the rivalry between the two to create mutual watch dogs.

      Actually, maybe it should be three with a round robin watch dog to avoid a “I’ll scratch your back” problem.

      • Wouldn’t work, they’d just develop mutual look-the-other-way professional courtesy boards. Isn’t that what we pretty much already have?

        • That’s why I amended at the end to make three in round robin. A investigates B. B investigates C. C investigated A. You could still get it but it would be harder to maintain.

          • Still wouldn’t work. There would have to be an element of competition added, otherwise you just follow the chain of bribes/favors/kickbacks backward. The only thing worse I can think of for a government agency proving you guilty is two of them in competition trying to do so. That would probably be worse than the “you’re guilty, prove your innocence” that we already have in too many government bureaucracies.

            Of course, at some point the argument becomes worthless because you quickly get in to “distinction without a difference” territory. Needless to say, we’re all guilty, it just depends on who catches you at it.

      • Randy Wilde

        One of the Star Trek novels (Spock’s World, I think?) said that Vulcan’s government had one house in the legislature whose job was to repeal laws, and it was easier to repeal than to pass.

        If we’re going to expand government, lets do something like that.

        • Heinlein had a character argue for that in Moon. A legislature that created laws by 2/3s and one that rejected existing ones by 1/3 vote.

          • Randy Wilde

            Hmmm.. I wonder if I might have confused the two? I think I last reread both books at about the same time, and having government regularly taking unneeded (or just plain bad) laws off the books just seems… logical.

            • Could be both…I think Heinlein suggests it again in Expanded Universe. I can easily see it as one of his ideas that gets assumed into other parts of the field.

            • No, i’ve read Spock’s World recently and I know it’s in there.

              • The Other Sean

                Write author, wrong book, I think. I believe that was a description of the Romulan government, in one of Diane Duane’s Romulan books.

                • The Other Sean

                  Er, right author, darn it. 😦

                  • My favorite was the recall system on Romulous: “There was no recall as such, but a Senator’s offended constituents would send the Senator, their swords, as a suggestion he use them on himself. Very rarely was the suggestion ignored.”

                • Matthew L. Martin

                  Both Vulcans (Spock’s World) and Romulans (My Enemy, My Ally) are described as having ‘expunging’ branches of the legislature.

      • The Nazis tried that… Didn’t work out too well, for them. Examine any of the agencies or procurement systems they ran, if they can be termed to be “run”.

    • Nah, not racist, just progressive.

  21. “Have your character want, crave, need and yet not be able to get for good and sufficient reason… And then have all this serve the greater plot.”


    When one of my readers comments on the unbearable sexual tension, I know I have it right. Sexual tension can last books; sex, not so much. Sexual tension is unique to particular characters and situations and problems; sex, not so much.

    And there’s nothing like sex to absolutely RUIN sexual tension. Sexual tension keeps the reader interested in the story. Sex, not so much.

    Good post to bring back from the past.

  22. Randy Wilde

    Why do authors never seem to describe what comes after? What does the sandwich taste like? What is the texture of the bread?

    • How much you leave on the nightstand for “cab fare”. How long does she expect you to cuddle?

    • Actually, the one scene in my WIP continues with a description of breakfast the morning after, and conversation where the couple conclude that yes, they do respect each other in the morning and they want to do this again and again. Two more scenes are hinted at but not written out — in conversations before and after the couple decide to basically be common-law spouses. THEN, when they THINK they have found happiness, all hell breaks loose.

  23. Sarah, once again I completely agree. I’ve read too many stories, some by rather large authors, where all of a sudden there is a sex scene and I’m left going “huh?” Most sex scenes seem completely superfluous to the actual story.

  24. A musical metaphor: does a five-minute rock or pop song need to have 3 minutes worth of guitar (or keyboard) soloing in it? The answer is: in general this would just be annoying or sound as out of place as a panda at a Conference of Bishops (or as a prayer shawl on a pig, to use a Yiddish expression), but some soloists are SO good and creative they can get away with it. And on a progressive rock album you wouldn’t expect anything else. In a typical rock or pop song, a few brief melodic interludes or a flashier but concise solo will work much better.

    • I was a major fan of Alan Parsons’ “Tales of Mystery and Imagination.” So when the world moved from LPs to CDs, I bought the CD.

      I was bitterly disappointed. Back then, a lot of earlier LP-to-CD transfers were poorly done – “turn the squelch way up to hide the hiss, who cares if it sounds like it was recorded in a bucke?”

      Parsons didn’t transfer the album to a new medium; he recut and remixed the entire album, eliding many of my favorite parts and jamming in gratuitous acoustic guitar solos cranked WAY UP.

      It’s not the same album at all. I’d paid for “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” but I got a remix, not the real thing. And I’ve never bought another of his albums since.

      • Oh. Thanks for the explanation. Someone gave that to me for a Christmas present, and I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. So it wasn’t the same album people had raved about on vinyl.

  25. Then there is Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal series, which tastefully integrated sex into the plot. However, I wondered if it was autobiographical.

  26. Often sex seems to be a distraction which I just page by.

    • Yep – purple passages are recognizable at skim-reading rates, so it’s not hard to dive back into the story when it resumes.

  27. Been thrown out of a book because of poorly handled sex, not graphic, but just so poorly done and seemingly forced I cannot finish the book(second in a series, I think of four).
    I can see a sexual tension and a possible relationship between the characters who were up until the sex were somewhat antagonistic towards each other, but … It. Was. Just. Poorly, Done.

  28. A simple rule of thumb* might suffice for determining the appropriate amount of information to provide in a sex scene: the more details given, the greater the number of readers who will say “Ewwww.” The more information provided the more readers who will say “Wait! What?? If she’s nibbling there while he’s stroking there, somebody must have a double-jointed spine. Sorry, i ain’t buyin’ it.”

    *or other body part as you wish.

    • Sara the Red

      There are a couple of Elizabeth Peters books where she gets in some hilarious jibes at the ‘sexual gymnastics’ nonsense found in many romance novels. (And a few at gratuitious torture, too–I think my favorite is an attempt by the villains to stretch the hero on a rack…only the rack is a few centuries old and has been stuffed forgotten in the basement for nearly that long, and so bits of it break, and the heroine–chained to a wall–starts laughing.)

  29. Professor Badness

    I’m tired of running into sex scenes in something that is not inherently erotic. My giant robots, super heroes, spaceships, questing adventurers, alien races, subterranean creatures, time travelers, and mad scientists do not need to be interrupted with gratuitous sex scenes. Thank you very much!

    • Oh come on when it comes to science fiction isn’t this just what is wanted?

      Good many dramatic situations begin with screaming.

      (I do understand that the actress is not some people’s cup of tea…)

      • Ah, yes. Hanoi Jane. Who was so stupid that she allowed herself to be seated in an anti-aircraft gun, wearing a helmet, in 1972, and photographed while laughing and clapping.

        • She has made several insincere apologies,

          • And none of them have done the least bit of good at all, with veterans and their families. Our hatred of her still burns with the force of a thousand glowing suns.
            And she is definitely still hated by the active military too, most of whom are too young to have ever heard of her other than as Ted Turner’s ex, or some bimbo with an exercise video. My daughter did USMC basic training in 1998 – she was a note in their basic required military knowledge. Yes, teenagers who had never heard of her as an actress — they knew of Jane Fonda.
            They will have to build an empty basin around her eventual grave site. There will be so many veterans lining up to piss on it, that the resulting pool will be epic.

            • I’ll help fill it.

            • Yes. She was and remains an evil woman. My father-in-law, who fought in Korea and Vietnam and had 7 purple hearts (my poor mother-in-law) from being shot at 6 times and bayoneted once, hated her to the day she died.
              My husband, also retired from the Army, feels the same.
              And of course, I do, too.

              If I can afford it, I’ll get a big trailer and bring all 33 of my goats to piss on her grave.

              The boy goats will really stink it up if they are in rut.

          • At least one of which was of the “Why don’t you people just get over it” variety.

            • Hmm, maybe because, unlike (say) Tokyo Rose (who was caught in Japan at the outbreak of war and more or less forced to broadcast), Jane Fonda went out of her way to betray her country?

      • Talk about the classics 🙂

    • Randy Wilde

      questing adventurers. . . do not need to be interrupted with gratuitous sex scenes.

      The members of my high school D&D group would have disagreed.

      Though if we had been participating in more gratuitous sex scenes ourselves, maybe we wouldn’t have found ourselves joining a high school D&D group.

  30. I am NOT a pot. I tried writing it in my teens, and it was at best doggerel. But was in later years (my 30’s) truly luststruck, and I penned one for the object of my desire. She liked it, and we ended up together, for a time.(she was a touring musician and was leaving for Japan for a few years). I tried to write a sonnet, but had not the skill or the imagination, so I ended up with some somewhat sonnety free verse, minus the rhyme scheme, with a heaping helping of parallel construction.

    I was studying History at the Univ. of New Orleans at the time. The English Dept. announced they were accepting submissions for their annual book of student and faculty works.

    So,I printed out the poem and took it to the dept. head in charge.She, of course, didn’t know me. She was horrified that a History major had the temerity to submit a work
    Not only had I not had her creative writing class, but had never taken a class listed in the English Dept.! The horrors! (I had placed out of any required Eng. classes).As if History majors didn’t have to write.

    So, I sat in her office while she read it.It’s short (200 words). She handed it back yo me five minutes later. I can’t recall her exact words after all these years,but I think she sniffed at me”pedestrian expression of adolescent desire”

    In the years since then, only a few friends have seen it, and speak well of it.But they’re my friends.

    I have convinced myself that it didn’t get a square eval from that condescending Eng. prof. .I’d like additional opinions. I know we mostly discuss prose here. Have we any poetry authors/experts/aficionados in the group that would like to see it? It’s up on a long neglected website on mine.It had thousands of readers at one time, but life gets in the way, It’s a ghost town now.

  31. Not only am I not a pot, I’m not a poet either.:-)

  32. Admittedly I am apparently underread as I only remember one series with explicit sex that I did not get from somewhere I expected erotica/smut (yes, I have yet to read graphic novel Hugo nominees). But even in the latter category the story seems better served when it is more ‘off screen’ than direct. Have one story I may ‘vanity publish’ once completed (and I edit the heck out of it) but already plan to remove the sex scene (written as experiment). So many other ways to show character affection than just smut. Even just waking up together after an implied night.

  33. Compare and contrast the “Jaws” novel with the movie. The book has a rather tepid affair between Hooper and Mrs. Brody, complete with full details. The movie excises this needless subplot, tightening up the action and changing the Brody family dynamic for the better.
    Probably not the only reason that “Jaws” is one of the few movies considered to be better than the book it is adapted from, but is one of the factors.

  34. One of the things I’d like to see done away with in sooooo much fiction is… Sex. Period.

    Yeah, it’s a part of life. But, it’s not the be-all and end-all of it, and looking back on my life from age 50, I’m really kind of pissed off how little importance it really has, compared to the brainwashing and cultural conditioning I received in early life. We’ve sexualized our culture so much that it’s not even funny–It’s actually past the point of parody. What’s the issue? Whatever it is, the answer is “Sex”.

    Reality is, however, that while it’s a significant part of life, it damn sure isn’t as significant as pop culture makes it. We’ve a fixation on it that’s entirely, bizarrely more powerful than it really is, in real life. Yeah, its fun, but for the love of God, it’s not the center of life–Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. Half of our culture’s problems I think can be laid at the door of this over-emphasis on sex, and lack of attention paid to other aspects of life.

    Think about it–Listen to the radio, to pop music. What do you hear? Anything at all uplifting? Or, is it all sex, all the time? I can’t think of a damn thing, off the top of my head, that hasn’t either been an insipid love song or some damn party song that tied into the mating game in some significant way. And, yeah, it sells. Or, at least, it did. I think a case could be made that a lot of what the current lot of “asexuals” are feeling stems largely from the fact that they’ve been over-exposed to this stuff, and have burnt out on it.

    In Japan, I see that they’ve done a study, and found that something like 37% of the population has no interest in procreation or marriage. I think a considerable chunk of the reason for this loss of interest stems from the simple fact that they had their expectations raised too high from the over-exposure sex gets in the popular culture, and after experiencing the deep dichotomy between expectation and reality, they just said “The heck with this…”. That’s the danger I think we face from all this sex-mania in popular culture–Every story needn’t center on or have sex in it, just because “…it sells.”. It’s like a heavy spice–Use too much of it, use it in everything, and you lose your taste for it. And, that’s precisely what we’ve done with sex, I’m afraid. Results? See Japan, and the generally declining birthrates in a lot of other modern industrialized cultures.

  35. What a lot of writers … and, alas, obviously EDITORS AS WELL, fail to get is that what makes a love scene succeed or fail isn’t the sex. It’s the characters and their emotions. The most explicit sex scene is dead-boring if we don’t care about the characters or how they feel about one another. Hand-holding and soulful gazes can be intensely erotic if we care enough. This becomes obvious when one reads 19th century romantic fiction, especially side-by-side with 19th-century porn (which is for the most part incredibly boring).

  36. I don’t care for long car chases, extended fight scenes, or graphic sex in my books or movies. Besides being boring, they tend to put the story on hold.

    Also, if there is a heaving bosom or a turgid member involved, I’m unlikely to pick up the author’s next book.

  37. dc is doing evil Hal again.

  38. OH. now you guys are old!