Sex in Science Fiction

Image of the Beast by Philip José Farmer
Image of the Beast by Philip José Farmer

It’s not common to find scenes of a sexual nature in science fiction, horror or fantasy books – it’s not unusual, but it’s not common.

What does it matter? Why should a book contain a sex scene? Well, the answer (and it’s the answer to any similar question) is: it should contain such a scene if the scene is important. If it’s an event that moves the plot along, or helps to further character development.

Pick up any early James Herbert novel, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a couple of pages devoted to the protagonist getting his or her rocks off. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land resulted in the man himself being credited as popularising the concept of polyamory.

It was Philip José Farmer, however, who is accepted as having broken the taboo on sex in science fiction. His 1953 Hugo-winning story The Lovers catapulted Farmer onto the scene, and when Heinlein wrote Stranger… in 1961, it was partly dedicated to Farmer.

It’s not Farmer’s only contribution to SF, of course – he’s best-known for his World of Tiers and Riverworld series, but next time you sit with a genre novel and stumble upon some characters sharing an intimate moment, spare a thought for Farmer.

Philip José Farmer – 1918 to 2009, Rest In Peace.

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