I’m attaching a NSFW warning to this; while this may not be the first story on this website to include graphic sex, it’s the first to be almost nothing but. And the result is anything but titillating.
Here’s the first line: In the tiny lifeboat, she and the alien fuck endlessly, relentlessly.
The backstory is minimal. The protagonist’s spaceship collided with an alien vessel, breaking both of them in half. In the debris, the alien’s lifeboat rescued her. It was already occupied. Now she and the alien are in a vessel so small they are permanently, intimately pressed together.
They each have Ins and Outs. Her Ins are the usual, eyes ears nostrils mouth cunt ass. Her Outs are also the common ones: fingers and hands and feet and tongue. Arms. Legs. Things that can be thrust into other things.
…[The alien’s] Ins and Outs change. There are dark slashes and permanent knobs that sometimes distend, but it is always growing new Outs, hollowing new Ins. It cleaves easily in both senses.
It penetrates her a thousand ways. She penetrates it, as well.
The story is short and focuses almost exclusively on the experience in the capsule. There’s no real order of events, as the protagonist loses complete track of time, sleeping and sucking on a nutrient nipple when hungry. It’s composed mainly of vignettes and reflections a few paragraphs long, mimicking the trapped thoughts revolving around and around in her head. It’s a powerfully immersive story that, even if you detest it, you won’t be able to soon forget.
In lesser hands this story could have been written with the alien being malevolent, to turn the piece into a story-long rape scene. But fascinatingly that’s not really the mood that’s being conjured here. The human and the alien have never encountered each other before, and have no way of communicating. She doesn’t know if the alien is conscious of what it is doing, whether it gains any pleasure from all this. She pretends it is a rape. Rape is an interaction. It requires intention. It would imply that it hates or fears or wants. Rape would mean she is more than a wine glass it fills.
The story therefore becomes a powerful look at a human attempting to come to terms with something wholly other, something incomprehensibly alien; and this contrast with the endless involuntary intimacy is an effective piece of juxtaposition. Besides which, this story is lean, not a word wasted. What more do you want?
What’s that? You want something less disturbing? Something funny? Then check out my bonus post tomorrow covering Spar: The Bacon Remix. It still surprises me that this exists.
Spar by Kij Johnson
Availability: free online, free audio, print
Word count: 2,200
Awards: Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award nominee
Where else to find it: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Four, edited by Jonathan Strahan, 2010, Night Shade Books
The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, 2011, Tor
At the Mouth of the River of Bees, collection, 2012, Small Beer Press (available from Weightless Books here)
The same audio also appeared on Escape Pod