Happy Valentine’s Day! There are three things we like best about this holiday: chocolate, shaving off our Riker-style beards to impress our significant others, and talking about weird mating rituals in science fiction and fantasy.
We could (and probably will) talk all day about them, but before we do we thought we’d pass on a few of our favorites. So get in the mood… to read!
The DNA Compatibility Kiss in “Look at the Princess” from Farscape
At one point, Moya’s crew land on a planet where people determine suitable mates using a very interesting little tincture; one drop on the tongue of either party will determine whether their DNA is compatible for awesome, healthy children. If the kiss is sweet, it’s on. If not, better move along to the next lovely-looking lad or lass. It’s gets our poor hero, John Critchon, into quite a bit more trouble than it’s worth when he kisses the planet’s princess and finds out that he’s literally the only man on earth who’s compatible with her.
Check the above video at 4:39 for John’s kiss with Princess Katralla and take a look around 2:30 for Aeryn’s hilarious attempt to ward off suitors by snogging an unwilling Dominar Rygel….
The Sequential Hermaphrodites of Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness
The aliens of Gethen spend most of their time as hermaphroditic humans. Everything goes down on a lunar cycle, which lasts twenty-six days. However, two of those days, the Gethen will become either male or female depending on the gender of the person attracted to them. Jo Walton sums it up quite well in her reread of this novel: “The Left Hand of Darkness didn’t just change science fictionit changed feminism, and it was part of the process of change of the concept of what it was to be a man or a woman.”
The Orgasm Alien in “Day One” from Torchwood
You knew what kind of show Torchwood was going to be when its second episode featured a cloud-like alien that lived off human orgasms. We have to say, we were always a little disappointed that this episode didn’t resolve itself on the notion that nothing is hornier than Captain Jack, but as weird alien sex goes, this is pretty great. It’s not that this alien likes sex or is crazy about it. The alien is sex. (Video slightly NSFW)
Valentine Michael Smith’s orgies in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land
It’s possible we included this because the guy’s name has the word “Valentine” in it. Valentine Michael Smith, a human born of Mars who came back to Earth, brought with him a lot of weird customs, including water sharing and a touchy-feely version of cannibalism. But the most memorable thing about Valentine Michael Smith was his Martian concept of “groking.” To “grok” something of someone is to know it, to understand it, to seriously dig it in a super profound way. Sometimes this means you need to have sex with someone. And once Valentine Michael Smith really gets grokking, he doesn’t seem likely to stop, resulting in a serious number of orgies. Can you grok it?
Pon Farr from Star Trek
In the Theodore Sturgeon penned classic Trek episode “Amok Time” a sort of inverse birds and the bees talk occurs between Kirk and Spock, the latter giving the former the low down on how Vulcans do it. Spock references fish having to return to the river in which they spawned to which Kirk barks, “But you’re not a fish, Mr. Spock!”
“Nor am I a man,” he says. And that when we learn Vulcans mate every seven years of the their adult lives. We’ve witnessed Spock in heat twice, first in “Amok Time” and later when his regenerated adolescent self got it on with Saavik in The Search for Spock. Other regular Vulcans like Tuvok (Voyager), and T’Pol (Enterprise) have had their requisite Pon Farr episodes. Of all the SF mating rituals this one probably the most famous, and potentially the most violent. (Check out the awesome documentary from Star Trek.com above.)
Three-Way Aliens in Asimov’s The Gods Themselves
In this 1972 Asimov book, our universe is exchanging molecules with another universe, which is helping to create a sort of power “pump.” The people of our universe are horny and fairly predictable. However, the aliens in the other universe are divided into three sexes: the Rationals (the lefts), the Emotionals (the mids), and the Parentals (the rights.)
A total three-way tripling is necessary for procreation, but just like threesomes among humans, in The Gods Themselves there’s always someone who feels left out.
The Orgmasmatron from Woody Allen’s Sleeper
In the future cigarettes and chocolate are good for you, the leader of the world is a clone, vegetables are huge, and ragtime slapstick music pervades one’s personal life soundtrack. Also sex is had through the aid of the orgasmatron. Watch below.
Oh there’s more we could have listed (Star Trek itself teems with them) but we can’t write about sex and love all day. And we’re sure there are some fascinating SFF mating rituals you’d like to share with us.
Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com and regularly hurls comets at this one moon it thinks is cute.