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Why there’s no sex in my novel
by Ani Fox
I like sex. Most people do, especially fans of speculative fiction. Somewhere there’s a load of research that shows that well-read educated people are sex positive horny little demons. That’s you and me apparently. But fair warning, my novel The Autumn War has no sex. Rather, it has none shown but much implied.
Why then deny my randy fanbase the goods? Genre, tempo and imagination. The novel happens to be a cyberpunk thriller mystery genre bender thingee. That’s a technical term. But none of those genres support healthy sex, dirty sloppy realistic sex like people might have. Dystopian, fast paced, filled with imminent danger and dangerous people, that’s a whole lot of tension but what would a scene look like if like the genres it were described in realistic terms? Done right, done real. it would be painful to read, perhaps even horrifying and traumatic. There’s a place for that in the world. I am after published by a company that has killer pigs and eyeball eating monsters on the roster. But not conducive to the plot.
Good cyberpunk must do two things – induce a willing suspension of disbelief and keep it. We’re selling magical technology, transhumanism, AI and consensus realities which has been wrapped in the dirty oily rag of corrupt corporate malfeasance. Or something worse. It’s a huge ask and if done well, it takes the reader on a journey. It also tends to demand a fast pace, to move from scene to scene, problem to problem fast enough to not let anyone catch their breath and ask fundamental questions like “How do they pay for the subway if tokens are gone?” or “What happened to McDonalds and Burger King now that they eat people?” McSoylent King?
Tempos broken create moments where the world created lays exposed, not unlike a naked body. That can be thrilling, even the whole point of the exercise, but it needs to be done sparingly or we’re back to figuring out who mows the lawn in the Zombie apocalypse. Which leads to my third point: imagination. I’m from the school of writing that says an implied thing is far better than a stated thing. Much reviled for her sparkly vampires, Stephenie Meyer hit the jackpot by painting her heroine in a few bland brief strokes and letting every reader fill in the blanks.
Shakespeare often referred to things done off stage, allowing the audience to infer the story and to fill in the plot to their own satisfaction. When Darth Vader confronts Luke Skywalker about his father, the implied truth collides with reality and voila, we have movie magic. By allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions, the shock reveal works. These are of course visual media rather than books. But certain genres have a visual palette to uphold; they are more or less mind movies.
For speculative fiction, the demands of the genre and the need to create and maintain the sacred covenant with the reader mean some things, many things, are best left unsaid. For all the world building and detail provided, more should be implied or left entirely to the imaginations of the readers. In this way, we join together to co-create our world – it becomes ours as a joint enterprise, where in return for your suspension of disbelief, you gain access the fibers of quantum mechanics and can reshape the plot. Power itself.
Because as much as people like sex and boy do the loooooove sex, they love power more. Power gets you sex. Power delivers on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it keeps your family safe, it delivers your deepest desires. When we read and are given power, it changes us, it encourages the dreamer within and feeds a malnourished portion of the soul. In this way, speculative fiction represents a vital organ of sorts for the living mind. We need to ask What If? and we should be given the keys to the virtual Ferrari to race to the end of that question.
In The Autumn War, I do lots of small things to provide those clues to my reader, to hand off the reins of control and creation to my reader. It’s the whole intent of the work, to build something together. For example, the narrator starts off in English units of measure but when he’s nervous or distracted goes back to metric, implying he’s thinking in a foreign language. I stole it from David Drake, an early encourager of my work, who deploys the technique for entirely different reasons in his RCN Series.
The novel implies all sorts of things have happened: romances, feuds, birthday parties, torture, sex, rape and murder. It’s up to every reader to make up the backstory and side plots as suits them. Did the narrator have a thing with her? Why do these two characters know one another? What exactly happened at that cola bottling plant? From small to big, from who smokes to who’s behind it all, the reader may speculate along with the narrator, carried along in furious tempo, every detail that might say too much excised to ensure you alone may say how it happened.
One critic argued that the narrator wasn’t even the main character and upon review I was forced to agree. Sure, he’s the hero of his story but according to her, that wasn’t the real story, the core plot. It’s an arguable point and meant to be so. Had I put in sex in all its sticky vulnerable awkward truth, then other kinds of necessary details would have erupted on the page. It would be a different story and not one we made together.
So there’s no sex. Or a dozen other vital interesting things of equal value. But if I’ve done my job right you won’t notice, your mind having put them in there just as you imagined them.
Ani Fox lives in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg – the heart of ancient Europe. He’s published short fiction in Jim Baen’s Universe as well as in the Ragnarok Publications anthology Corrupts Absolutely? The Autumn War is his first published novel. In his spare time he holds down a day job, serves as Editor in Chief for the European Review of Speculative Fiction and does what his cat tells him. He holds a BA in History from the Rutgers University, a PhD (ABD) in World History from the Australian National University and a PhD in Indigenous Theology from ULC Seminary; none of which make him more fun at parties.
Nothing is as it seems. After the mysterious death of his family, retired operative Spetz has come looking for answers, using himself as bait. The shadowy Syndicate has made him a job offer that a deranged cadre of Nazi super-soldiers, the various global Mafias, and a ship full of eco-fanatics would all prefer he decline. By midday, the U.S. Government has declared him a terrorist, and an unseen adversary has offered more than a billion dollars to have him killed.In this covert global war, Spetz is forced to call in some favors from former associates: a rogue Artificial Intelligence, an ice-cold femme fatale, and a rescue team of former Soviet saboteurs. Among his enemies are Zeus, a genetically engineered soldier who styles himself a god; Mika French, the best assassin alive, and Hans Gutlicht, a mad scientist with a grudge…and the man who raised Spetz. From the icy waters of the Canadian North Atlantic to the burning sands of Las Vegas, Spetz must keep two steps ahead of everyone, outfoxing some of the most brilliant and dangerous operatives alive. To unravel the conspiracies behind the Autumn War, he does the one thing he’s always resisted: join ‘The Game.’ But can he win it in time to stop his faceless enemy? For Spetz, it’s gotten very personal. Game on.
Publisher Website: www.ragnarokpub.com