Thursday, February 26, 2009

Alien Sex and Worlds: Philip Jose Farmer (1918-2009)

A lalitha's uterus contains ova, the genes of which are duplicated in the bodies of microscopic wrigglers formed in the giant salivary glands in a lalitha's mouth. These wrigglers - salivary ova - are continually released by the adult.

The adult lalitha pass genes by means of these invisible creatures; they infect each other as if the carriers of heredity were diseases. They cannot escape it; a kiss, a sneeze, a touch, will do it.
[...]
Meanwhile, the first wrigglers she is exposed to have made their way through the bloodstream, the intestinal tract, the skin, boring, floating, until they arrive at the uterus of the host.

There, the salivary ovum unites with the uterine ovum. Fusion of the two produces a zygote. At this point, fertilization is suspended. True, all genetic data needed to produce a new lalitha is provided. All except the genes for the specific features of the face of the baby. This data will be given by the male human lover of the lalitha.

Not, however, until the conjunction of two more events. These two must occur simultaneously. One is excitation by orgasm. The other is stimulation of the photokinetic nerves. One cannot take place without the other. Neither can the last two come about unless the first happens. Apparently, fusion of the two ova causes a chemical change in the lalitha which then makes her capable or orgasm and fully develops the photokinetic nerves.
[...]
The photokinetic nerves are the exclusive property of the lalitha. They run from the retina of the eye, along with the optic nerves, to the brain. But the photokinetic nerves descend to the spinal column and leave its base to enter the uterus. The uterus is not that of the human female. Do not even compare them. You might say that the lalitha uterus is the dark room of the womb. Where the photograph of the father's face is biologically developed.

~ The Lovers by Philip José Farmer
In 1952 a 34-year-old science fiction writer broke one of the genre's taboos: he wrote a story where not only a human and an alien fall in love, but they have sex (the female alien even has an orgasm!), and we get a description of alien reproduction. It seems pretty tame by today's standards, but it won Philip José Farmer a Hugo award for "Most Promising New Talent". The story was republished in novel form in 1961, and Farmer's career was off and running.

My introduction to Farmer was when I picked up the first Riverworld novel, To Your Scatted Bodies Go, at some time in the late 1980s. It's a great concept: somewhere, somehow, every adult human who ever lived - up until the mid-1980s if I recall correctly - is resurrected in young healthy bodies on a planet consisting of one long river and bit of shoreline. That meant that humans from any era could meet and interact - Sir Richard Burton, Mark Twain, Prince John, Hermann Göring, Lewis Carroll's real Alice and many other well-known figures share adventures along the river. I eventually read all five of the novels in the series, which pretty much burned me out on Farmer's writing.

I've read a number of his short works, and honestly, a lot of them don't do much for me. They often read like old-fashioned pulp fiction, only set in the future and with lots of sex. The future and sex I like, but the pulp fiction not so much. However, even though I don't count Farmer among my favorite authors, it's clear that he has left a lasting mark on the genre.

Farmer died on February 25 at the age of 91. Make he reawaken on a Riverworld!

There are links to more remembrances at the Official Philip Jose Farmer website.



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5 comments:

Arvind Mishra said...

Orgasm and that too achieved in an alien female in coitus with one earthling! Female humanity must be obviously jelous to this real Ms.Universe as only they know it very well how difficult it to get it on the planet earth. Damn to their male companions ! But the same male partner could help his alien mate to achieve it on other planet !What does the fantasy imply?
Queer and interesting !
Tributes to Philip Jose Farmer and thanks to you as well Peggy!

coturnix said...

My intro to Farmer was his World of Tiers fantasy trilogy which I liked very much. Then I read the Riverworld series and The Lovers, but really liked his short stories the best.

Athena Andreadis said...

Beyond the incredibly long infodump, the lalitha biology is completely bogus as well as nasty -- a wet dream of a perfect woman modeling herself totally on the man she attaches herself to. It gets even better: she dies as soon as she becomes more than a sex toy, leaving behind equally model-perfect daughters ready to repeat the cycle.

Groundbreaking, yes, the way Playboy was: from no vaginas to ever-willing passive ones.

Peggy said...

Coturnix: I've been meaning to look up the World of Tiers novels, since the world-building sounds pretty interesting, but I have far too many books in my "to read" pile as it is.

Arvind: It's really some weird sex - queer is right.

Athena: I think you've pegged it with the Playboy analogy (it was founded at about the same time the story was published).

Crotchety Old Fan said...

Go and read FLESH before accusing Phil of stereotyping