Welcome to the second annual Worldbuilding Week at QSF. We’ll talk about all aspects of building a world for your story, including languages; alien/magical races; history and timelines; culture and politics; sex, marriage and reproduction; and tools and techniques. It should be a lot of fun.
Today we’re talking about sex, marriage and reproduction, and Roger Lovelace will be our moderator.
Here’s his take:
When I volunteered to be a part of this world building exercise, I was a bit surprised to have Sex, Marriage, and Reproduction as my topic. I love world building. It’s one of the reasons I write. Characters in my stories are generally human, humanoid, and there are some aliens so sex, marriage, and reproduction are the norm because my major rule in world building is: FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION.
But that is a generality. I had a vision of a world one night. I don’t read as much science fiction and fantasy, as I use too. And most of those are the classics. When I envisioned this world, it was not based upon any scientific principle. Thoom was a great setting for a story. So without much explanation, I jumped in. The characters are classic archetypes, humans, shifters and such. Sex, marriage, and reproduction were pretty well defined. Since most readers prefer stories about human type characters, I usually don’t give much thought to these concepts.
When writing, I generally don’t focus on the sex. Unless it is used to forward the plot, it can be tossed out. I’ve put down a lot of books because it was nothing but one sex scene after another. If I’m at the beach, that’s fine. Otherwise, it can be overused.
Sex in a piece of writing is a good tool in defining characters. I wrote a novella about a love/hate relationship over centuries. To emphasize this, I thought the two main characters probably took this into the bedroom and would basically engage in BDSM. It was a microcosm of their relationship, and I think it worked for that story.
Sex can be used to emphasize many emotions, relationships, and character developments. Hate, love, revenge, religious, procreation…etc. The main question I ask myself when considering a sex scene in writing is: Why? I’ve read books where sex is just plain fun. And I don’t have any problems with that. For me, moderation is the key.
But when considering sex in world building, the primary function is to reproduce, and humans and other higher animals have evolved so that sex is a pleasurable experience to facilitate this.
The first piece of fiction I ever recalled reading where sexual reproduction and its misunderstanding was a major plot point was Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Dreamsnake.” The rare snake that was so hard to breed until the full nature of how they reproduce is understood. (I won’t give away the spoilers because if you haven’t read this book, it is great.) But again, the process of reproduction was determined by the world in which the species needed to survive and the niche the species created.
My major field of study was Marine Biology. I found it so interesting because of the diversity of life and the incredible ways they evolved to inhabit and flourish in hostile niches. If you have a setting that involves the sea or an ocean planet, then you should research before writing.
I’ve written stories set in alien worlds. Some with a dense atmosphere, some oceanic, etc…I always find inspiration for aliens by looking toward our own sea creatures and how they reproduce.
Life will always find a way.
As an undergrad, I once assisted an astrophysicist one summer collecting diatoms. Unicellular algae with a unique silica shell used for protection. This man worked for NASA, but diatoms and photographing them was his hobby. His own personal theory, one which he would never discuss publicly, was that due to their nature and sudden appearance in the fossil record, diatoms were possibly of stellar origin. I haven’t done any personal research in that area but at the time, being a science fiction reader and budding marine biologist, I was excited by the concept.
Whatever world you are building, if there is sex there must be a reason, something functional as its basis. Otherwise, it makes no sense and detracts from what you are creating.
This probably the most complicated issue when I’m world building. When I consider reproduction, I don’t only consider the how and why but how does it fit in with the world you are building. Is there overpopulation, sterility, and other matters.
Reproduction leads to propagation of a species. The greater diversity of a species, the greater the chances of its survival. When I think of books I have read where reproduction is the primary plot and motivation, I immediately think of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In a world where sterility is common, the wealthy and powerful control the few that are fertile to maintain the population of the elite.
Again, when I have an issue of how a particular species might reproduce I go back to the oceans and look how certain creatures reproduce. I’ve kept most of my texts and lectures from that time since in the stone ages we had no internet
One lecture I remember very well dealt with plate tectonics and the formation of the continents. The professor, a scientist that I believe, was with the Museum of Natural History, used the anchovy species and subspecies and how they developed and reproduced at various areas in the ocean as the basis for a model for continental drift. The main lecture escapes me but I was excited about how using a species, and its reproduction habits and various subspecies could be used to aid in understanding plate tectonics.
In “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, alien spores grow pods that allow for a host to be created from a duplicate human.
When it comes to reproduction while world building there are many forms that you can turn to for inspiration. Research the methods of numerous creatures, both plant, and animal, and you will discover the many mechanisms that organisms have adapted to reproduction. These you can adapt to a particular world you are building.
Life will always find a way.
When I use marriage in a story, it generally is to unite people in a bond or as a contract to establish allies. In both cases, his purpose is to build and strengthen a relationship. Something that is necessary for survival.
Marriage has been and will continue to be a huge influence on history. With marriage, there also comes dissolvent. Marriage can be very influential in the politics of a world you may be developing. Most of my ideas about marriage do come from non-fiction and a single marriage, and its dissolvent can influence an entire world. Henry the VIII if taking literally and Martin Luther if taken figuratively.
There are many types of marriages that exist in our present world and not just among individuals. Marriage, for the most part, is a state of mind. I considered myself married, until recently, for several years. There was no paper or ceremonies necessary. But nuns are married to Christ, a supernatural being. Sovereigns can consider themselves married to their countries. In John Boorman’s “Excaliber”, King Arthur was not only married to Guinevere but more importantly he was married to the land. Being married to multiple wives is very common in the world. In the film “Paint Your Wagon” a polygamist sales one wife to a man and she also takes his mining partner as another husband in marriage.
Whatever marriage exists in your world, remember it has a primary function: To strengthen the individuals. Stronger individuals will make for a stronger species as a whole, which in turn helps ensure survival.
Here’s the schedule for the week – each day will have a moderator to help keep moving things along and to supply their own tips and point of view.
Tues 7/26: Languages, Moderator: Loren Rhoads
Wed 7/27: Alien/Magical Races, Moderator: J. Scott Coatsworth
Thurs 7/28: Culture/Politics, Moderator: Lloyd Meeker
Fri 7/29: Sex, Marriage, Reproduction, Moderator: Roger Lovelace
Sat 7/30: Tools and Techniques, Moderator, Moderator: A. Catherine Noon
Sun 7/31: Religion, Moderator: Jenna Hale
It’s a freeform discussion – pop in and ask your questions or share your wisdom – or both!