By John Rosenman (www.johnrosenman.com)
Okay, now that we have a theoretical foundation for big, mind-stretching concepts, let’s try to apply it. What subject or concept shall we take? Since Romance and Erotica rule the fictional roost, let’s pick SEX.
“When I Was Michelle,” which I discussed in Part I, is actually a variation on the age-old story of boy meets girl. In this case, boy meets girl, has sex, and changes into a girl. Being a heterosexual male, he wants to change back. How does he do it? Eventually, he finds that gender reversal can only be achieved by having sexual intercourse again. Many of us have been
involved in complicated relationships, but have they been THIS complicated? Put yourself in Michael’s case: he deeply loves Veronica, but making love to her would create serious problems. What will she say and think when she sees him turn into blond, petite Michelle?
Actually, this theme is not THAT extreme. Much gender-bending, GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) fiction overlaps with Michael’s situation and explores the nature of identity. Are we merely extensions of our reproductive organs? When we learn that someone is gay, straight, or transgendered, how much have we actually learned about that person? “When I Was Michelle,” like much GLBTQ fiction, attempts to explore such issues.
As writers, if we take the plot line of BOY MEETS GIRL (or GIRL MEETS BOY), how far can we run with it? Can we retool an old, archetypal theme and create a great story or novel? Yes, we can, if we’re willing to take chances, use our imagination, free-associate and think outside the box, even accept the risk of looking silly. Here are a few possibilities.
BOY MEETS GIRL – What if BOTH partners changed gender as a result of having sex? What complications would it create in their lives? Or looked at another way, what experiential doors would it open?
BOY MEETS GIRL – and finds that the person he or she loves has a fetish. Can you come up with a new kind of fetish? Or a different belief system? BOY MEETS GIRL, who believes they were lovers in a previous life or lives and that last time around, she was the man. How far can you take such a premise; what issues and implications can you explore? What happens if the past starts to come true in this life? If you feel some of these suggestions sound familiar, remember it’s characterization, perhaps more than anything else, that makes concepts seem fresh and new. Above all, we have to care about the characters.
BOY MEETS GIRL MEETS BOY MEETS GIRL . . . In other words, Group or Communal Sex. Some erotic fiction today explores the free-swinging lives of those with multiple partners, but often, they merely scratch the surface of possibilities. Consider Octavia E. Butler’s “Xenogenesis Trilogy,” where she exploits to full advantage the vast potential of science fiction as a genre in order to explore and illuminate the complex subject of sexuality and its conceivable permutations. Lilith, a black heroine, is given the responsibility of selecting a handful of humans and convincing them to have children with an extraterrestrial male and female Oankali, with the Oankali third sex, the neuter ooloi gathering, mixing, and manipulating the genes of all participants within itself and contributing its own organelle. The children, sometimes born of a human female and sometimes of an Oankali female, will be hybrid ‘constructs,’ and their specific sex won’t be determined until years later after they have passed through a metamorphosis.
Of all genres, science fiction explores the theme of sex and love most completely because it is the broadest and most inclusive. A writer who wants to break out into new territory should sample science fiction’s long tradition, which has treated hundreds of themes, from Alternative History to Apocalypse, Space Opera to Steampunk, Time Travel to Transexuality. Parenthood is precious; however, what would it be like to be the mother or father of a child cloned from your own body, an exact genetic duplicate of yourself? In the future, it will be possible. One anthology I’m reading is called The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF. The word “Mindblowing” is not an overstatement.
In my third and last blog, I present a previously published article on sex and love in which I tried to include every wild possible variation and combination. Of course I didn’t succeed, but I hope it provides food for thought and stimulates your, uh, creative juices.