I'm feeling a bit shy about this! Over the past few years I've written tons of fanfic under a pseudonym but this is the first time in a while I've completed a whole draft of a piece of original fiction writing that does not have being made into a game with visuals and music and everything to distract you. Anyways, I am still figuring out my comfort level on where/how to share this (I mean, uhhh if I want to get it Published I cannot print it in full on my blog!! Of course!!), so I am just putting a little excerpt for now alongside some thoughts about the influences and process that went into it.
“Let's all sleep together in the middle of the ship,” Tam suggested as the artificial sunlamps began to dim, denoting the arrival of another “evening.” I thought: isn't that what we've been doing for ages now? I felt edgy and sarcastic because the fact that we were on the downhill slope of our journey was getting to me, time was slipping by. Some days went by so agreeably they were impossible to distinguish or reflect on, other times a handful of hours could take on the feeling of immovable monuments each conscious thought was bashing my head against. We'd long ago worked ahead through the end of the training manual exercises, and I felt like I had wrung The Magic Mountain dry by the third time I reached Hans and Cavdia meeting on Walpurgisnacht. I knew it all by heart then, I think. Past this point you are consigned to the oblivion of the ocean of time. I didn't want to go on.
Sometimes when I thought about how the ship had fake sunlamps instead of windows we could see through I would be seized by an animal panic. But then, because I wasn't alone, I could look across the cramped ship and only a few feet away Owen would be lazily tugging at the stationary rower, Ange napping, Tam stretching and blinking. I could see time tied to the processes of life continuing around me, intimately close. It was such an unremarkable and subconscious process that I didn't write about any of these things; most of the pages of the journal remained blank. I only recognize them now, longing for them in hindsight.
I shrugged and said, “Sure,” kicking away from the wall. I unzipped my jumpsuit and tied the arms around my waist. In the lightly circulating air between the sleeping bags, as the false sunlamps dimmed, we clustered together, leaning on and holding each other in a subtly shifting embrace of forms in space, like prehistoric land masses gathering and coming apart. I looped my arm around one of Ange's legs to angle my torso up from the floor. I nudged my foot against Owen's, who was floating aloofly. My head bumped against Tam's midriff and they moved their arm down to rest on my shoulder.
“Goodnight then,” Ange said, rolling over, despite there being no bed or blankets that we were strewn across.
Something between an awkward and ceremonial silence took over. I watched as our bodies moved in the dark, hooked onto one another, pulling each other back together, and I didn't feel tired at all. I thought about how otters hold hands with each other when they fall asleep in a stream. I thought about how I didn't know off the top of my head how many days were left until we arrived at Callisto but also that it wasn't many. I looked at Ange, who had curled away from me, in a perfect silhouette of someone sleeping cosily on a bed, but with no bed at all. I started crying.
Tam had been right, it was awful. The tears collected in a giant pile, right on my eyes, rather than going anywhere. They began to sting, and it was impossible to see, but I didn't want to lift my arms to wipe them away; this would just smear them all over. I felt a helpless whimper collecting in the back of my throat, saliva and mucus kicking up, gurgling, my breathing catching, I didn't want to sob. I stiffened as I felt Tam's hand twitch alive and brace against my shoulder.
“Hang on,” they whispered. I saw them kick away in the dark and return with something in each hand. As their face drew close I saw they were cleaning the tip of their suction bulb with their mouth, then thoroughly drying it off with a towel. “Sorry,” they went on, just as hushed. “No worse than anything we've done to each other before this, though.”
They began sucking the tears from my eyes and squeezing them out into the towel. This left a dome over my eyes that never spilled over, like I could hold the tears back forever. Tam went about this quietly and persistently, as I continued to weep. Feeling the tears, constantly on the point of trickling over, I understood why they had not simply thrown me a towel to bury my face in and make a spectacle of myself. I continued crying but a trance-like relaxation also came over me. Yes, I had missed this.
The general background: this story takes place in the same boring dystopia style sci fi setting as my VN Flesh/Circuit, but is more focused on human crewmembers working and living together under space corporate contracts. Because it's the future, moving workers around to make a lunar mining colony on Jupiter look fully autonomous is done as cheaply as possible, so that means minimal space, no simulated gravity, and barebones amenities. To cope with the crazymaking drudgery and lack of privacy of being in basically the megabus of interplanetary transport for four months, the main character has proposed they take a sort of deliberately group attitude towards sex and intimacy. This is towards the end of the trip, where they're about to transition into a multi-year work contract, and the coming change in their relationships is encroaching on the main character, who also realizes that while she's brought about and been the object of a lot of weird, libertine sex, she's still fairly emotionally constipated.
I drew ideas on this from a lot of places, namely a conversation in the candle cove discord about how likely the official NASA line that No One Has Had Sex In Space could be, and also how feasible a variety of sex acts would be in zero-g, which is an environment that apparently does a lot of weird/gross things to your body in general, in close quarters a degree of intimacy with bodily functions usually reserved for, idk, a many years married couple becomes a demand. Like Flesh/Circuit, it's also a bit about the concepts of workplaces and contracts and how they extend to control more and more of our time and embodied existence, since the characters are bringing sex into what is, implicitly, a professional workplace.
A lot of how I decided to write the sex and the main character's feelings about it in particular were inspired by an essay by the film critic Noël Burch called "The Sadeian Aesthetic" which I cannot find online but it appears in a collection called The Philistine Controversy. Anyways, the interesting thing about his analysis is that, while many characterize him as a "libertine," Sade's descriptions of orgies are, formally, depersonalized and highly repetitive and monotonous, basically schema that people are stuck into by a top-down "will," and Burch characterizes this as pretty conservative and fascist. So the main character is kind of aware of the potential to power-trip in this situation and perhaps maybe even a bit too careful about it, but also formally, I wanted to present well, basically group sex but in the opposite way of that.
I'm also kind of entertained by the ways sex either appears or is scrupulously removed (Interstellar lol) from sci-fi media. Like, either universal/utopian/compulsory Free Love is like a magical or alienating part of the future to show how different it is from now, or it's just not really there at all. I liked the film Aniara but felt like I wanted to see more about how things went from like, some people deciding to be a little slutty and have a lot of hookups on the spaceship, to like full on group sex cults. Like ok, it will be different in the future, but what are the emotional and social negotiations and midway points to getting there?
And in general, a lot of the themes revolve around bodily autonomy, gross intimacy, self perception and perception by others not matching up, how much life and freedom you exchange for whatever a job gives you, and being stuck in the same tiny space for ages... obviously all themes that have been on my mind a ton. The whole story itself is 7500 words or so, so it's kind of an awkward length since most sites I've found have a cut off of 3000. It's also doubly vulnerable for me to put it out there because it is so sexual, and there's basically very weird baggage about writing sex in a way that is any more risky or weird than the utterly impervious MFA style Then He Was Inside Me and I Had Some Depressing Thoughts etc. lol. I have no idea what to do with it! But it's a whole story now, and I wrote it.