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Sam-bam:thank you, man. In Nerve’s special issue on speculative sex, Mr. Delany talks about pulp heroes and “slash” fiction …

The pulp hero, though he may be a renegade, is a guy who doesn’t feel. Anything. Ever. And for the adolescent male — pummeled by emotions left and right, whether arising from sexuality or resulting from his necessary encounters with authority — this hero is a blessing, a relief and a release. The world he lives in, where feelings are totally under control, looks to the adolescent boy like heaven! This hero’s lack of feeling — like Star Trek’s Spock — is what allows him to be a genius, or allows him to shoot the bad guys and/or aliens, without a quiver to his lip.

But what starts as a relief and a release, you eventually recognize as a distortion: it doesn’t reflect the real world. Precisely what gave you a certain pleasure is also a restraint. Thomas Mann said that every philosophical position exists to correct the abuses of the previous one, often to the other extreme. You could make a reasonable argument that it is the alien Spock who carves out the space of desire that is eventually filled with sf’s explicitly erotic characters — everyone from my own Kidd in Dhalgren to Maureen F. McHue’s gay character, Zhang, in her extraordinary China Mountain Zhang, not to mention all the Kirk-slash-Spock fiction.

… as well as a particularly influential piece of 70s science fiction, Joanna Russ’ “The Female Man.”

That’s the first time I remember reading anything in sf that talked about the terror of sex. It foreshadowed the terror of rejection, something that writing about sex must talk about, or it becomes mere wish fulfillment. That terror is such a large part of people’s sexual lives. It is why we don’t go up to perfect strangers and say, “Hey, you’re gorgeous, let’s go to bed.” To put that part of you out there makes you very vulnerable.

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