Are you interested in sex?
Of course you are. After all, you're reading this post.
Our parents were interested in it, or we wouldn't be here.
Being so central to much of our lives and indeed life itself, it is a valid and important topic for fiction.
The challenge of writing about sex is to evoke the physicality, the yearning without resorting to cliche.
A good sex scene is not always about good sex, but it is always an example of good writing.
When you think about sex in fiction, DRACULA does not immediately pop to mind. But it should:
This Victorian classic has never been out of print, spawning dozens of books, films and more recently all those teen fantasies on TV and movie screens where sexual passion is faintly camouflaged as bloodlust.
The original is a superb gothic tale of repressed sexuality and the savagery of its release.
Strange today, that a society can gaze calmly at surgically enhanced teenagers ripping out each others throats and gorging on blood
but one naked breast in the Superbowl and moral panic erupts.
Then, there is LOLITA.
Most recognize the name. Few have read the book. Understandable since the narrator is a sociopath.
Although about a sociopath's utterly self-serving "love" for a minor this is considered by many professors one of the greatest novels in the English language.
The force of the writing is unparalleled.
The balance of humor and horror, sex and satire, irony and delusion is extraordinary. Just as the narrator and protagonist Humbert Humbert seduces Lolita through deceit and thus reveals himself,
so the reader is seduced, deceived and revealed to him/herself with an artistry and uncompromising cruelty that is an appropriate and profoundly moral commentary on society.
Then, there is Jack Vance.
Vance hadn’t written any major works for a few years, but readers and writers of science fiction will be nonetheless poorer for his passing on 26 May, 2013.
The first Vance novel I read was LYONESSE before it became better known as Suldrun’s Garden, the first instalment of the Lyonesse trilogy.
It was the author’s take on high fantasy.
I’d read Tolkien, of course, and a fair few of his more recent followers, David Eddings and Terry Brooks among them, but none of their worlds quite came so magically to life for me the way Vance’s Lyonesse did.
It’s one of the least clichéd, certainly the most colorful, most sensual fantasy series ever written.
It’s packed with magic and mischief, crazy cultures and fantastic fashions, and populated with characters driven by any of a thousand motivations.
It has the dreamy quality of a fairy tale, yet the same hard edge of historical context that makes The Lord of the Rings the trilogy it is.
Unlike Tolkien’s work, it feels populated by real beings not Anglo-Saxon archetypes or spectral horrors.
Think Blackadder meets Middle Earth.
And, years before Game of Thrones, there’s a lot of sex, much of it vigorous and... unusual.
Little of Vance’s work is overtly comedic - 1976’s Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy-esque Maske:Thaery is perhaps a notable exception -
but you can’t keep the smile off your face reading any of the others - the deadpan humour and the rococo language always prompt a chuckle.
And perhaps that is the essential ingredient to good sex in fiction -- a sense of fun and good humor towards life and one another.
How important are sexual depictions in the novels you like to read?