Sex as Worldbuilding

A couple of days ago, I read Karin Kross’s recap of the Sex and Science Fiction panel that happened at SDCC. From Karin’s recap, it sounds like the panel was equal parts thoughtful1 and irritating2. In any case, the recap got me thinking about the role sex plays in my own writing.

Just narrowing the scope of this post to sex, the act itself, and how that has occurred in my fiction, I’ve tried to explore it in ways that mirror the way sex is used Ariah_FrontCoverOnlyin the real world. Which, yes, often sex is an expression of love. Or desire. But many times, sex is divorced from both of those things: it can be used as a weapon (either literallyy or figuratively). It can be used transactionally, economically. Sometimes these uses blend together, and you can’t separate one from another.

Sex for love and desire happens often in my writing; my characters tend to be sexually and romantically agentic people. Yay for them! That’s why Ariah was classified as a romance, after all3. But here are some other ways sex has appeared in my fiction:

Matters of Scale coverMatters of Scale” touches obliquely on the issue of sexual addiction. Both “Matters of Scale” and Ariah explore the intersection of sex and magic with regard to shapers, for whom sex is complicated—consent is tricky because they essentially black out4. Some shapers self-medicate with sex to escape the constant noise of their magical abilities, just like some real-life people use sex to keep anxiety or depression or other demons at bay.

Cargo is one of the very few places I’ve written about sexual violence. It’s a topic I write about infrequently, not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s triggering and it’s often written about flippantly and inappropriately. But it does happen.

Cargo also introduced the Aerdh-pirate concept of tethers, or captain’s concubines. CargoMy current work-in-progress, The Search, is exploring the nuance and nature of tetherdom in greater detail. This is sex as transaction, or at the very least implied sex as transaction, but it’s not coercive. The Search is going further, too: what would a brothel that is not coercive and exploitative look like? What would a sex worker-run brothel look like?

All of these elements were as plot-driven and plot-driving as the romantic and lusty bits. All of these elements, I think, were also key to include from a worldbuilding perspective, as well. It’s false to think of sex one way. It has always been a flexible part of human nature, used and abused and traded in a hundred different ways. Hopefully one day we won’t abuse it anymore, but I think we’ll continue to trade it (hopefully ethically—because I think we can trade it ethically). At the very least, unless you’re writing in a utopia, your world needs to include all the permutations of how sex occurs.


1Wesley Chu

2Nick Cole

3Ariah was published by Love, Sex & Merlot, the Romance imprint of the Zharmae Publishing Press, not its fantasy imprint (Luthando Couer).

4I am coming to realize there is likely a whole separate post in this.

New Pub: CARGO Out Today!

Cargo

Cargo is officially released today! The book is being published by World Castle Publishing and is available for purchase on Amazon here in both print and ebook formats. Here’s the blurb:

Roake attracts bad luck like half-buried coins attract magpies. Roake is as clever and hard to kill as a weasel. Whenever his bad luck gets the better of him—whether it’s when his father sells him to the army or when the pirates capture him as a ship slave—Roake finds a way to survive the situation. Sometimes, that means running. Sometimes, that means staying put and playing the odds. Always it means taking a calculated risk.

In CARGO, Roake tells his own story. Roake tells us what he’s done and what’s been done to him to make sense of his life. Like every young man, he wants his choices to matter. He wants his friendships to endure. He wants to leave a mark. Telling his own story is how Roake does it.

Cargo has had a winding road from my fingers to the published page. The lead character of Cargo–Jarthen Roake–was originated by my partner, Jon, in a completely different form for a completely different story. He was the basis for an altogether different incarnation of the A Tale of Rebellion books. The secondary world of Aerdh, in which Cargo and A Tale of Rebellion are both set (along with my debut novel Resistance and my forthcoming novel Ariah) is still known as the Jarthenverse in my house in reference to young Mr. Roake. And yet, in the rewrites of A Tale of Rebellion, he wound up on the proverbial cutting room floor. This novella was written to let Jarthen have his moment, finally, in the spotlight.

It’s fitting, also, that Cargo is released on May Day. Labor, and the exploitation of it, is a central theme of Cargo. Over and over again Jarthen is commodified–he is treated not as a human being with dreams and desires and a mind, but a thing to be traded and bartered and used. He is treated as capital, and reduced to a sum in a ledger book, first by his own father, then by those he does not know, then, finally by people he has come to trust.

CARGO: Release Date, Cover Reveal, And eARCS!

Cargo

Cargo has a home and a release date! It will be published by World Castle, and is up for pre-order on Amazon now! The official release date is May 1st, 2015.

BUT, if you would like a sneak peek, we are hoping to launch the book with between 5-10 reader reviews up on Amazon on release day! We have eARCs (electronic Advanced Review Copies) available for readers who are willing to post reviews on release day. If you’re interested, please email me and let me know if you would prefer a pdf, mobi or epub version of the book!

Cargo is a novella, so it’s a quick read, and it’s exciting, too: it’s got intrigue and pirates and grapples with Big Questions, all in under 20,000 words! To whet your appetite, the blurb for the novella is below:

Roake attracts bad luck like half-buried coins attract magpies. Roake is as clever and hard to kill as a weasel. Whenever his bad luck gets the better of him—whether it’s when his father sells him to the army or when the pirates capture him as a ship slave—Roake finds a way to survive the situation. Sometimes, that means running. Sometimes, that means staying put and playing the odds. Always it means taking a calculated risk.

In CARGO, Roake tells his own story. Roake tells us what he’s done and what’s been done to him to make sense of his life. Like every young man, he wants his choices to matter. He wants his friendships to endure. He wants to leave a mark. Telling his own story is how Roake does it.

Who wouldn’t want to get their hands on an early release copy of that?