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Why Are People Always Having Sex With Dragons In Science Fiction?
December 26, 2009 9:17 AM   Subscribe

[NSFW] Why Are People Always Having Sex With Dragons In Science Fiction?
posted by jason's_planet (158 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is...is this even a thing?
posted by HostBryan at 9:22 AM on December 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Because they can't do it IRL.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:25 AM on December 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


(smacks forehead)

So that's what I've been forgetting to do!

(runs off to write the next classic science fiction dragon-fucking novel)
posted by jscalzi at 9:25 AM on December 26, 2009 [52 favorites]


Maybe it's a culture of sci-fi of enabling characters to fill their emotional voids with a string of magical reptilian sex?

Here, have some Dragon Half.
posted by yeloson at 9:27 AM on December 26, 2009


Maybe beacause those paintings leave little doubt that dragons are flying erect penises?
posted by longsleeves at 9:28 AM on December 26, 2009


because.
posted by longsleeves at 9:29 AM on December 26, 2009


This dragon, it copulates?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:30 AM on December 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


SF stories about fantastical monsters are often fables that contain messages about our own world.

OK, she's not allowed to write anything on the Internet any more.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:31 AM on December 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


Um, look at the intended audience, maybe?
posted by zoinks at 9:31 AM on December 26, 2009


That gay elf told me it was awesome.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:31 AM on December 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


And to answer the question: Huge throbbing dragon cock. Obviously.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:32 AM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"This is just the worst Puff the Magic Dragon simstim, I've ever seen" Case griped, ripping the dermatrodes off. The forced copulation didn't bother him so much as that glazed, empty look in the giant lizard's eyes. "This is the last time the Finn buys the entertainment."
posted by griphus at 9:33 AM on December 26, 2009 [39 favorites]


Several years ago, dragon sex became one of the most hotly-debated topics at the book-oriented World Fantasy Convention

And this is one of many solid reasons for never, ever attending a fantasy convention.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:35 AM on December 26, 2009 [25 favorites]


Am I just horribly behind the times in sci-fi? I don't even recall dragons in my science fiction.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:37 AM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought these people were fucking the dragons because all the unicorns are already taken?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:40 AM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh lordy.

When I was a kid I read every single Pern book they had at the local library - there weren't so many of them then, and I pretty much every that they had on the SF&F shelf. So yeah, they had a lot of doing it, but I actually thought the veiled technological bits of it, which are introduced quite subtely and which they spoilerise the heckout of here, were quite call.

I also read all the Jean M Auel books they had there. Oh dear.
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on December 26, 2009


Now my Metafilter Christmas is complete.
posted by orthogonality at 9:41 AM on December 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


Because they can't do it IRL.

Huh? So these snarling lizards in my attic who tie me up and ream my ass every night....they're.....uh...... I mean, this happens to all of you too, right?

Right, guys?

Right?
posted by Avenger at 9:43 AM on December 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


Okay, show of hands here people. How many of you would NOT have sex with a dragon, given the opportunity?
posted by Saydur at 9:44 AM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


To borrow a turn of phrase from John Varley, I had supposed that you could only have sex at a dragon.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:45 AM on December 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


With a dragon? Good heavens, no. Ew.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:45 AM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


According to all the major surveys on human sexuality, people fall distinctly into two camps when it comes to this sort of thing: those who want to have sex with dragons exclusively, and anti-Semites who hate America.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 9:51 AM on December 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


So an old elf goes up to a wizard, and he says, wizard, I keep hearing about something, and I don't know what it means.

And the wizard says, maybe I can help. What is it?

And the elf says, well, the word is "bestiality."

Hm, says the wizard. Bestiality is like, having sex with a sphinx.

A sphinx, says the old elf. Well, I can see that. I mean, she has a beautiful human face, and such a lithe body.

Well, says the wizard, it's also having sex with a unicorn.

Well, so what, says the old elf. Who wouldn't have sex with a unicorn if they could! A unicorn, come on!

Well, says the wizard. It's also having sex with a dragon.

A DRAGON, says the old elf. FEH!
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:51 AM on December 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


People are always having sex with dragons in science fiction because the majority of popular science fiction is written by dragons with people fetishes.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:52 AM on December 26, 2009 [32 favorites]


So does this make William Blake the first SF illustrator?
posted by localroger at 10:07 AM on December 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I had a couple of (great-)aunts that never married and lived together all their lives. They were both devout Baptists, and pleaded and cajoled my father and mother to take us to church at least once a year. They wore polyester pant-suits and black sensible shoes, had a shelf devoted to bible study, and also collected the entire Anne McCaffrey series (which I have never read).

This psychic dragon sex adds an entirely new, unsettling wrinkle to my family narrative.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:16 AM on December 26, 2009 [33 favorites]


I'd like to have sex on a dragon does that count?

Wait? What? No forget I said that. That would be stupid for many reasons.
posted by nola at 10:27 AM on December 26, 2009


Because ducks are so hard to please.
posted by swift at 10:30 AM on December 26, 2009 [18 favorites]


You know, Anne McCaffrey's explanation actually makes me think a bit less of her. Green riders are femme? Really? I thought the concept was much better the way it initially played out with her Gold/Bronze relationships. The fact that your dragons might have mated doesn't really mean that you like each other.

Although to my admittedly fuzzy memory, the sex in the novels is pretty vague and handwavy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:31 AM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I did not need to know this about my mother's reading habits.
posted by sunshinesky at 10:32 AM on December 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Astrozombie: was that originally a Jewish joke? I think I heard it with slightly different animals back in the day. (and lol'ing back then too)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:34 AM on December 26, 2009


griphus I favorited that so hard there's now a hole in my monitor deck.
posted by Skorgu at 10:35 AM on December 26, 2009


Dragons having sex with cars... bloody urban fantasy
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:39 AM on December 26, 2009


This makes a lot more sense than (NSFW) dragon on car sex. What that says about people, I don't want to contemplate.
posted by QIbHom at 10:40 AM on December 26, 2009


Can I just say one little thing?

IF IT HAS A DRAGON IN IT IT ISN'T SCIENCE FICTION! THE SOLE DIFFERENTIATOR BETWEEN FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION IS THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF DRAGONS!

Okay, I feel better now.
posted by mmoncur at 10:45 AM on December 26, 2009 [52 favorites]


Actually, the Pern books started out soft SF, then fell (hard) into the fantasy camp.

But, yeah, pretty much if there are dragons, it isn't likely to be Sheffield-style hard SF.
posted by QIbHom at 10:46 AM on December 26, 2009


Also on that site, Twisted Duck Vagina studies at Yale, Which also happens to be what I'm going to call my death metal band.

Also, I believe there was a little dragon sexy sexy in Beowulf. No?
posted by Skygazer at 10:47 AM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Warrior: "Well, this is triumph at last! Evil is vanquished, and on the horizon lies the dawn of a new era. Ok, folks, it's been a blast, but I think we should go our separate ways now."

Priest: "Agreed. I hope to finally spend a day without having to mend your bones or grow you skin back. I think I will move to one of the Northern Monasteries and study the ancient texts some more..."

Warrior: "Bah, I'll go to next big city and try my new lucky dice! Blessed by the gods, indeed! How about you, mage?"

Mage: "Oh, I think I'll catch one of those dragons we released, take it back to my tower and have sex with it at least three times a day."

Warrior: "..."

Priest: "... errrrrr ..."

Warrior: "A... a female dragon or a male one?"

Mage: "Of course a female! What do you think I am, some kind of pervert???"
posted by PontifexPrimus at 10:48 AM on December 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


IF IT HAS A DRAGON IN IT IT ISN'T SCIENCE FICTION! THE SOLE DIFFERENTIATOR BETWEEN FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION IS THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF DRAGONS!

Nerd seizure in aisle 13....

Someone get a mop.
posted by Skygazer at 10:49 AM on December 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


Dragon sex, Duck sex, car and Dragon sex...

WTF, Metafilter? Did no one get laid on xmas?!! (Again.)

*Head asploding*
posted by Skygazer at 11:02 AM on December 26, 2009


Two old men on a park bench watch a nearby dog lick himself.

"Man, I wish I could do that," says the first.

"You probably can," says his friend, "You just need to pet him first."
posted by jbickers at 11:07 AM on December 26, 2009 [17 favorites]


That gay elf told me it was awesome.

It's not gay if it's an elf.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:10 AM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


This many comments, and not one mention of Avatar yet?
posted by rbf1138 at 11:12 AM on December 26, 2009


Wasn't there some documentary about a guy who died while filming himself demonstrating how to safely have sex with dragons? Wait, no... That was horses. Carry on then!
posted by Humanzee at 11:12 AM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because Onyxia and Alexstrasza are friggin hawt, duh.
posted by Xoebe at 11:22 AM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, are we talking about ACTUAL dragons, or just the gay community's euphemism for tops with eczema?
posted by Greg Nog at 11:35 AM on December 26, 2009 [10 favorites]


I had a couple of (great-)aunts that never married and lived together all their lives. They were both devout Baptists, and pleaded and cajoled my father and mother to take us to church at least once a year. They wore polyester pant-suits and black sensible shoes, had a shelf devoted to bible study, and also collected the entire Anne McCaffrey series

By the way, the old-fashioned name for this type of living arrangement is a "Boston And Shaun Marriage."
posted by Greg Nog at 11:36 AM on December 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


IF IT HAS A DRAGON IN IT IT ISN'T SCIENCE FICTION! THE SOLE DIFFERENTIATOR BETWEEN FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION IS THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF DRAGONS!

What if you replace the dragons with dinosaurs?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:53 AM on December 26, 2009


mmoncur: IF IT HAS A DRAGON IN IT IT ISN'T SCIENCE FICTION! THE SOLE DIFFERENTIATOR BETWEEN FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION IS THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF DRAGONS!

Not to get all nerd seizure on you, but:

1: "The Dragon Riders", by Jack Vance. Categorically SF. You could be forgiven for not realizing that before the space ship lands, but the absence of magic and clear establishment that there's scientific selective breeding going on should be major clues.

2: Michael Swanwick's 'Dragons of Babel' stories are definitely SF, AFAIAC. (Though they deploy -- and gleefully mangle -- any number of high-fantasy tropes.)

3: My recollection was that the Pern stories were SF, not fantasy. The human residents of Pern are descendents of humans whose civilization was wiped out by that fire from the sky thingy, so they team up with the dragons. But it's been a long time and I could be remembering that wrong.

FWIW, I take the position that SF is a proper sub-genre of Fantasy (in literary, not market, terms -- market terms is a whole 'nother discussion). I'm just saying that "dragon" does not equal "high fantasy." I mean, I realize you were kidding and all, but you do know that blood has been spilled over lesser things? Just trying to keep things safe, here....
posted by lodurr at 11:53 AM on December 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I feel the need to point out that, thanks to Rule 34, there is some pornography of dragons having sex with cars. Seek it out for yourself if you want it.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:56 AM on December 26, 2009


Classical european dragons used to have a preference for virgins, so this business must have been going on for a while.
posted by dhoe at 12:00 PM on December 26, 2009


What if you replace the dragons with dinosaurs?

yeh, what is the "dragon" afer all? What does it represent? I'd argue that many SF stories deploy the functional equivalent of dragons.

SF people tend to argue that the difference between SF and F is that "SF can be real." Which I think requires a pretty narrow view of what SF is and can be. SF does tend to use pretty rigorous tropes, but they're hardly ever genuinely rigorous in a scientific sense. E.g., where's the science to suggest that performing calculations could degrade the fabric of the universe (Egan's 'integers' stories or Clarke's "Nine-Billion Names of God")? And the stuff that's being done with quantum mechanics and SF these days bears the same relation to actual quantum mechanics that Inglorious Basterds bears to the actual Second World War. I.e. it's a re-imagining of quantum theory as fictive metaphors.
posted by lodurr at 12:03 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


You should meet my boyfriend. The term "dragon" could come to mind when thinking of size. Once you stop being frightened.
posted by _paegan_ at 12:05 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This many comments, and not one mention of Avatar yet?

Yes, I was definitely disconcerted by the rape overtones of the "go tame a flying penis-shaped horse-dragon" scene.
posted by HeroZero at 12:25 PM on December 26, 2009


This psychic dragon sex adds an entirely new, unsettling wrinkle to my family narrative.

Heh. Yes, even elderly, unmarried, polyester-pantsuit wearing spinsters have libidos and fantasy lives, shocking as that might sound. Being human, and all.
posted by jokeefe at 12:39 PM on December 26, 2009


If we're talking about sex with dragons, then fuck those Temeraire books. That series started with such a great premise ("It's Master and Commander with dragons!") but the whole world just sort of falls apart by the end of book three, as if everyone just sort of woke up and finally understood the implications of dragons on society and warfare, even though they supposedly thought all that through in the background of the setting.

I think I threw the fourth book across the room, I was so mad at it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:46 PM on December 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


I notice three people have mentioned, without referring to each other, the dragons-doing-cars thing.

It just goes to show, once you find out it exists, IT WARPS YOUR BRAIN.
posted by JHarris at 12:49 PM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks jokeefe. Until you thoughtfully brought it to my attention, I had never thought of them as being human before. Perhaps I should take some womens studies classes in order to avoid being oppressive.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:52 PM on December 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


Sorry, KokoRyu, no offense was intended (though what else could "new unsettling wrinkle" mean but the sudden awareness of a sexual fantasy life of an unusual dragonish kind)? I just have a kind of knee-jerk reaction to "sexless spinster" stereotypes when I perceive them.
posted by jokeefe at 1:03 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well I must say I'm disappointed. Sex and SF and dragons and nobody but nobody’s brought up Delany, and those stars in his pocket?

—Oh hell that book is 25 years old now.
posted by kipmanley at 1:09 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, monsters have been penetrating human orifices with their gribley bits in myth and art for centuries. Gosh, Zeus almost seems to have been made up so that people could imagine women having sex with all kinds of weird things. In that context it's not particularly weird, in so far as it's been something humans have been thinking about for millenia. That said, there's a reason I stay away from fantasy these days (except for a few writers) and it's perfectly encapsulated by this sentence from the linked article: "But those assertions still don't entirely explain way dragons function in the venom cock scenario from Janine Cross' Dragon Temple Saga."
posted by Kattullus at 1:09 PM on December 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


FWIW, I take the position that SF is a proper sub-genre of Fantasy (in literary, not market, terms -- market terms is a whole 'nother discussion). I'm just saying that "dragon" does not equal "high fantasy." I mean, I realize you were kidding and all, but you do know that blood has been spilled over lesser things? Just trying to keep things safe, here....

I think io9 are kind of using "science fiction" to indicate that super-genre here, since most of the stuff on the list sounds more "fantasy". And it's more "sex, with dragons" than "sex with dragons".

Funnily enough The Ship Who Sang was the MacAffery book I was thinking of more when I was watching Avatar - IIRC the last part of that has the disabled ship controller tempting into an alien body.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on December 26, 2009


My recollection was that the Pern stories were SF, not fantasy. The human residents of Pern are descendents of humans whose civilization was wiped out by that fire from the sky thingy, so they team up with the dragons. But it's been a long time and I could be remembering that wrong.

Yes, the whole backstory is that the humans are settlers on a planet that turned out to be more hostile than expected, and used what little resources they had to engineer the dragons and dig out most of the bunkers. Which connects back to McCaffrey's other science fiction works. A large chunk of plot development is devoted to discovering what the settlers left behind.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:15 PM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why do people wat to have sex with dragons?

Why not?
posted by vibrotronica at 1:16 PM on December 26, 2009


"We have to have sex with DRAGONS? I thought you meant we'd have sex with dragoons."
posted by drezdn at 1:18 PM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Because Puff The Magic Dragon frolicked in the awesomeness, that's why. It all goes back to Puff. And his frolicking. In The Awesomeness.

Those are the words, I swear.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 1:28 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


The excerpt, which describes a dragon-keepers' ritual on an alien planet, includes a scene where young adepts are beaten with dragon-venom laced whips. Because the venom has aphrodisiac properties, the result is a bizarre parade where young dragon-keepers are marched through the streets covered in blood and brandishing giant erections. Unfortunately, it wasn't the greatest excerpt to hand out: Con-goers found it laughable when they read it outside the context of the rest of the series, which is about a peasant revolt in an oppressive monarchy.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:29 PM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: weird scenes of these dragons jabbing their venom-laced tongues deep inside our heroine's special spot to show us how peasants are debased by their aristocratic overlords.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:31 PM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pump the Magic Dragon
posted by kirkaracha at 1:41 PM on December 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


You know, usually I'm all for fantasy breaking away from it's fawning admiration for aristocratic feudal societies, but... yeesh.
posted by Artw at 1:49 PM on December 26, 2009


There, the crevasse!
posted by benzenedream at 2:04 PM on December 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


One of the many interesting things about China Miéville is his treatment of interspecies romance. It's most direct in Perdito Street Station, in the relationship between a Human and a Khepri, a woman with a scarab beetle for a head (yes, in fact, exactly like the Egyptian goddess). What really should be absolutely horrifying, he treats quite gingerly, having the Human character show affection and tenderness to the Khepri. I'll admit, though, it's something I try not to think about too hard at the level of mechanics or else I'd end up curled up in a little ball, whimpering for someone to come remove the images from my head.
posted by Kattullus at 2:10 PM on December 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


D&D may have something to do with it. Half-dragons are common in D&D modules and fiction. They turned them into a separate species (Draconians) in Dragonlance, and those seem to have stuck around as a "new" fantasy trope, the latest version in D&D being the Dragonborn.

Dragon-descent is to some extent an Asian cultural idea; Chinese and Japanese emperors claimed to be descended from dragons which does necessarily imply at some point a human ancestor having had sex with it. On the other hand, Asian mythic dragons were a lot more intelligent and benevolent, on the average, than European mythic dragons, who tended to fly about roaring and breathing fire until slain by some brave knight. (Although the trope of princesses eaten by dragons has got to be a sexual metaphor.)

The simplest rationalization, in ancient myths from very many cultures and also in modern game-structured high fantasy, is that dragons are shapeshifters. You don't have sex with a huge scaly monster, it turns into a stunningly attractive human (or by extension, whatever you are) and has sex with you.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:11 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oops! I completely misremembered Khepri's sex in Egyptian mythology and didn't even bother to glance at the Wikipedia article. I blame China Miéville.

But mostly I blame myself.
posted by Kattullus at 2:12 PM on December 26, 2009


Huh? So these snarling lizards in my attic who tie me up and ream my ass every night....they're.....uh...... I mean, this happens to all of you too, right?

Right, guys?


Lizards? You were lucky.
posted by Evilspork at 2:13 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


It just goes to show, once you find out it exists, IT WARPS YOUR BRAIN.

Tsk, not at all...

So do dragons, like other lizards, have two penises? (... and I've just remembered the review of a fantasy novel which mentions a sex scene between a human female and a lizardman, who could well give her double the pleasure as it were)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:17 PM on December 26, 2009


By 'just remembered' I mean 'horrified by a 'Nam-style flashback'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:18 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm ... Last book I read with a dragon in it? Naamah's Kiss, by Jacqueline Carey. Did it have psychic dragon sex? Yes.

Book I read before that with a dragon in it ... Dragonhaven, by Robin McKinley. Did it have psychic dragon sex? No, because dragons are used as a metaphor for the parent child relationship, rather than a sexual relationship, so instead of having sex with a dragon, raising the dragon gives the main character the maturity and courage to have sex with his girlfriend.

Banewreaker -- Human and dragon in long-term relationship, clearly as a couple.

Elegy Beach -- Dragons only mentioned, so no dragon sex. It's all about the unicorns instead.


You know, this may genuinely be a Thing.
posted by kyrademon at 2:34 PM on December 26, 2009


The "that's not science fiction, that's fantasy" issue seems to come up a lot with io9; for example, see their Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade, and especially the comments on that post.
posted by Ian A.T. at 2:36 PM on December 26, 2009


It's also possible that the valiant knight just misheard the instructions. (Rest of the gallery NSFW).
posted by Grimgrin at 2:41 PM on December 26, 2009


The Fuolornis Fire Dragons were revered throughout the lands of Brequinda in the Foth of valors for their savage beauty, their noble ways and their habit of biting people who didn’t revere them.

Why was this?

The answer was simple.

Sex.

There is, for some unfathomed reason, something almost unbearably sexy about having huge fire-breathing magical dragons flying low about the sky on moonlit nights which were already dangerously on the sweet and fragrant side.

Why this should be so, the romance-besotted people of Brequinda in the Foth of Avalars could not have told you, and would not have stopped to discuss the matter once the effect was up and going, for no sooner would a flock of half a dozen silk-winged leather-bodied Fuolornis Fire Dragons heave into sight across the evening horizon than half the people of Brequinda are scurrying off into the woods with the other half, there to spend a busy breathless night together and emerge with the first rays of dawn all smiling and happy and still claiming, rather endearingly, to be virgins, if rather flushed and sticky virgins.

Pheromones, some researchers said.

--Douglas Adams, "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish"
posted by darksasami at 2:56 PM on December 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


Well anyway, I guess we've figured out how The Hobit is going to be padded out to 4 hours.
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can't believe this article didn't contain the phrase "tent peg."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:35 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, this link is the best birthday gift metafilter could have given to me, because, as a teenager, my love for Anne McCaffrey and dragonsecks knew no bounds.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:37 PM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


oh for the love of god why do I click on links in these threads

<shudder>tent peg</shudder>
posted by Kattullus at 3:39 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gurer'f ab qentba frk va Ningne
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:41 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, this may have finally killed the residual fond memories I had of the Pern series, which I read as a kid (I don't remember the sex in them, but I read them between 10 and 12 so it was a long time ago and I was quite unsophisticated).

Please don't tell me what The Ship Who Sang is actually about.
posted by Kattullus at 3:44 PM on December 26, 2009


Well, that certainly explains the fuck out of this picture, which is one of the long-standing miseries mysteries of the internet.
posted by loquacious at 4:11 PM on December 26, 2009


Roger Zelazny mocked this trend in Roadmarks by having a female dragon fall for a cybernetically hot-wired tyrannosaur.

And speaking of D&D's corrupting influences, let's not forget ntk's thread concerning the Ultimate RPG-Related Question.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:12 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like that the snipes page has festive candy canes.
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on December 26, 2009


I wish I hadn't found out what an asshat McCaffrey turns out to be. Damn you, Kenobi.

IF IT HAS A DRAGON IN IT IT ISN'T SCIENCE FICTION!

Bah. And bah again. If you've got an adequately scientific rationale for having something humans recognise as dragons, I see no reason why that would be the case.

Also, best you never encounter Shadowrun. You may have an aneurysm.
posted by rodgerd at 4:30 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


p3rn
posted by dragonsi55 at 4:32 PM on December 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


Some more rambling thoughts on this, now that I've had two glasses of birthday wine (and before my sister drags me out to see New Moon--ironically, I'm really pretty apathetic about teen vampire porn compared to my attitudes toward teen dragon porn).

Regarding the dragons-aint-sci-fi stuff, Anne McCaffrey has been pretty consistently adamant that her books aren't fantasy, but science fiction. She seems to think that psychic bonds fit in fine with science fiction, and that's as magicky as Pern gets. I read the prequel, Dragonsdawn first, back in the day. It's all about the colonization of an alien planet and the genetic engineering of dragon-like creatures from tiny native dragon-like creatures, which seemed pretty transparent as soft sci-fi to me.

Unfortunately, McCaffrey feels that her really, really weird beliefs on sexuality are no less grounded in science or reality than genetic engineering. In the early books, there's a lot of lipservice about the sexuality liberality of the weyrs--there's lots of sex, and there are gay guys, dammit. Of course, McCaffrey believes in that whole tent-peg thing, and she also created a society where it's almost impossible for most women and any gay men to be in leadership roles. And she's as mum as Queen Victoria on the existence of lesbians. The vast majority of dragonriders are men. The goldriders, though they're technically in a leadership position, can't fight thread (serve in a military capacity). The male dragons also determine, by proxy, who the goldrider will be sleeping with. There are a lot of weird rapey scenes, which I skimmed past as a teenager but really stand out now. Of course, McCaffrey comes from a romance novel tradition, so perhaps she was used to a breathy "no" meaning "yes."

And she really, really didn't want gay men in leadership positions. There's a secondary character, Lytol, in the series who is a former dragonrider. He's initially a pretty minor character, and his dead dragon was once green (female). Once McCaffrey realized the implications--that Lytol would be gay--she quickly changed Lytol's dragon to brown (male) introducing one of the largest continuity errors in the series. The gay men we meet early in the series tend to be sort of catty, and most of the books are focused on the heterosexual bronze, brown, and goldriders, who are supposed to be a minority population.

McCaffrey became increasingly concerned with making sure her fans didn't put gays or lesbians in positions of power, too, saying stuff like that tent peg shit and releasing the renewable airforce document referenced in the article (if you read the whole thing, you can pick up on her attitudes toward "effeminate males" via her characterization of green dragons--affectionate, flirtatious, "happily obliging any of the males"), characterizing homo- and bisexuals in certain and often unsavory ways as people, particularly emphasizing how they couldn't be placed in leadership roles. She seemed to think this was Good Science, and made for Good Science Fiction, but I wasn't the only fifteen year old girl in fandom who recognized this as some pretty weird shit about people's sexuality. We had been happy writing fanfiction (okayed by McCaffrey) about people who had all sorts of sex lives. It was mostly Anne's insistence on policing this aspect of fandom that led to its endless discussion. In the later books, she even started inserting stuff in the text about it, which is one of the reasons I gave up on the series around 1998, around Masterharper of Pern--she started using her characters as a mouthpiece for her own weird beliefs on sexuality, and as a way to address and often correct fans, rather than as a means to tell a story. And they started sucking--way hard.

Green dragon hard.

In short, it's a series that might have seemed sexually progressive at one time through its mere inclusion of gay characters, but really, really doesn't stand up to current social attitudes toward sexuality.

Anyway, now that I've totally geeked out about this, time for some Mormon vampires.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:53 PM on December 26, 2009 [22 favorites]


And speaking of D&D's corrupting influences, let's not forget ntk's thread concerning the Ultimate RPG-Related Question.

Oh god.... then... now... Oh dear god.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:54 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now that's some Fearful Symmetry, right there!
posted by kyrademon at 5:00 PM on December 26, 2009


Oh man, I came in here to do some Anne McCaffrey wank, but y'all have covered it in spades.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 5:05 PM on December 26, 2009


She seems to think that psychic bonds fit in fine with science fiction, and that's as magicky as Pern gets.

It sort of got grandfathered in, and now it's everywhere. Damn you Campbell!

*shakes fist*

I guess at one point it was considered sort-of plauisble and then it became a well worn trope that people just use. SF is littered with those. The horribly named Mundane SF is largely an attempt to get away from them.
posted by Artw at 5:08 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


From PhoBWanKenobi's link (emphasis added)
The blue [dragons] are stronger, have a wider thrust of flame, and can last an entire Fall. The browns are stronger yet, with a wider and longer thrust of flame, which is another reason they are often appointed as wingseconds. The bronze, of course, is the strongest of the fighters, having great depths of reserve and the most potent flame in length, depth and duration: the bombers you might say. They are invariably wingleaders, with two wingseconds; either or both can be browns.

The queens don't like to be left out of the action and flame-throwers are their method of defence since they can't digest firestone. They fly low as it's the best way to catch whatever Thread might escape the upper level flights.
posted by orthogonality at 5:13 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Okay, now I'm going to have to pick up that copy of Pern I bought but never read.
posted by biochemist at 5:18 PM on December 26, 2009


Whether something is considered possible or not has nothing to do with whether something is science fiction or fantasy.

If the explanation for the fantastic elements of your world is technological, it is science fiction -- genetically engineered dragons, interstellar drives that work on some-as-yet-unknown principle, psionics having something to do with a field or waves or something like that, etc.

If the explanation for the fantastic elements of your world is magical, it is fantasy -- dragons having magical powers, teleportation spells, telepathy spells, etc.

And there are many works which don't fit easily into one category or the other. (And who cares whether or not they do?)

Really, that's it. If science fiction were held to being things which are at least plausible given the current state of theory, I think you restrict it to about two authors.
posted by kyrademon at 5:22 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


kyrademon - That seems to be good enough a definition for most folks these days. Which is a bit of a shame.
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on December 26, 2009


I now feel like an idiot for having read 90% of Anne McCaffrey's output (including nearly all the Pern stuff) and never realizing there were gay guys in it. I'm pretty sure I only skipped over any sign of gay guys (or y'know, actual plot) because of my haste to get to the dragon-induced sex scenes, but even so, how embarrassing.
posted by librarylis at 5:27 PM on December 26, 2009


Well, it was a long time ago, byu I have no memory of this blue dragons stuff - could it be a later books thing?
posted by Artw at 5:28 PM on December 26, 2009


I ran a D&D campaign once where one of my female players decided to hook up with an NPC gold dragon (who had taken human form). I thought that was kind of weird but it was some great role playing. I gave her some extra XP for it.

Maybe that's why people do it with dragons so much in sci fi. For the extra levels.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:58 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't dragons be reptiles and therefore somewhat birdlike in their genital configuration? Wouldn't they have a cloaca sort of arrangement going on down there? And don't they all have big, lumbering tails? Seems like that would make things a bit . . . awkward. I guess desire would prevail, even in the presence of such tails.

I have a difficult time imagining how this would work. How would a dragon behave in the throes of passion? Might your dangly bits be inadvertently cooked to a nice golden brown crust? If so, I would have to vehemently advise against any such couplings, though few would likely accept any such advice from the likes of me.

Bestiality - the love that dare not snarl, growl, honk or hiss its name. Kind of funny how it keeps showing up in one form or another, though. Maybe the creator had a master plan, after all.
posted by metagnathous at 6:34 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why Are People Always Having Sex With Dragons In Science Fiction?

To give science-fiction readers hope that they may evntually have sex with some sentient creature?
posted by jonmc at 6:39 PM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have no idea how I missed most of the gay references in the McCaffrey novels, but I started out with the Harper Hall Trilogy and skipped right to The White Dragon. I don't think I was even in high school when I read those books. (For those still reading who aren't familiar with the books, the sex wasn't dragon + human, it was dragon + dragon and the humans that they were impressed with were also then coerced/forced into complimentary relations in that vague, hand-wavy way that was already mentioned.) Something else that hasn't been mentioned yet? For pre-teen Catholic girls in the 70's who were taught that only "bad girls do", being a dragonrider was a pretty compelling fantasy of "but I couldn't help myself! My dragon made me do it!" Because if you were impressed to a dragon in order to fight Thread, that was a pretty noble and adventurous thing. All of that sexy Dragon activity? Well, it's for The Cause, you see.
posted by jeanmari at 6:44 PM on December 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


Because it hurts too much when you do it in real li...what? why are people staring at me?

Yeah, nobody who fantasizes about dragon sexx0rs has ever had a pet lizard. NOT appealing, genital-wise.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:48 PM on December 26, 2009


Science fiction is all about the Other. Robots, aliens, trans-humans, pre-/proto-humans. Dragons. Better to embrace the Other than slaughter it, yes?
posted by Peztopiary at 7:00 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


3: My recollection was that the Pern stories were SF, not fantasy. The human residents of Pern are descendents of humans whose civilization was wiped out by that fire from the sky thingy, so they team up with the dragons. But it's been a long time and I could be remembering that wrong.

Pern is what I would call soft SF -- there is no magic, only telepathy and that telepathy is alien, and it's established to be within our own universe (a lot of fantasy is not). But it's not about science - it's about society: about gender roles, power struggles, disasters and coping. Darkover falls in a similar category - similar use of telepathy/alien technology which resembles magic but without going over into any actual magic.

FWIW, I take the position that SF is a proper sub-genre of Fantasy (in literary, not market, terms -- market terms is a whole 'nother discussion).

This is a great way to describe it -- I've used the clunky "speculative fiction" in the past, but it makes sense that science fiction is a form of fantastical (aka non-realistic) literature - existing within a larger genre of fantasy, magic realism, and also a lot of historical fiction (which uses the past as a strange and distant world in which the rules were all different -- and I love the stuff, but their history is often pretty fantastical too).
posted by jb at 7:19 PM on December 26, 2009


Look, when I click on a link titled "Why Are People Always Having Sex With Dragons In Science Fiction?" I expect to see pictures of people having sex with dragons.

This is just... a major disappointment.
posted by Evangeline at 7:41 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why do people keep paying Annalee Newitz to write this drivel? I mean, I thought Pern was twee back in the early 1980s when I was still a virgin. She's almost the same age as me, she has a PhD in English and was a research fellow at MIT, and she's writing for blog wages about dragon sex? Grow up, FFS. This would be precocious in a 13 year old, kinda depressing in a 26 year old, but when you're almost 39 it's just...sad.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:22 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look, when I click on a link titled "Why Are People Always Having Sex With Dragons In Science Fiction?" I expect to see pictures of people having sex with dragons.

This is just... a major disappointment.


Google Image Search is your friend.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:50 PM on December 26, 2009


She's almost the same age as me, she has a PhD in English and was a research fellow at MIT, and she's writing for blog wages about dragon sex? Grow up, FFS. This would be precocious in a 13 year old, kinda depressing in a 26 year old, but when you're almost 39 it's just...sad.

I agree, it's so very sad to see 39 year olds writing about things that interest them, and ones with worthless degrees in worthless fields like "English", no less.

HAMBURGER

Sheesh.
posted by Ndwright at 9:03 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why do people keep paying Annalee Newitz to write this drivel?

Because people read it.

Why does she keep writing it?

Because people pay her to do so.

It's a beautiful system, and you can participate by voting with your mouse and scrolling away.

I'm neither here nor there about Newitz, but in a world where Tucker Max gets paid, I'm not about to point a finger at her.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:12 PM on December 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Nerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrds.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:17 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, check out the lurker!
posted by jason's_planet at 9:33 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I now feel like an idiot for having read 90% of Anne McCaffrey's output (including nearly all the Pern stuff) and never realizing there were gay guys in it. I'm pretty sure I only skipped over any sign of gay guys (or y'know, actual plot) because of my haste to get to the dragon-induced sex scenes, but even so, how embarrassing.
[. . .]

Well, it was a long time ago, byu I have no memory of this blue dragons stuff - could it be a later books thing?


I don't think you guys can be blamed for missing this. There's, I think, one gay couple in the first many books (Dragonquest, I think? One of them attacks F'nor, because his slutty dragon is close to mating). She started working in green and blue riders only in the later books, around the time of Masterharper, probably in reaction to things going on in fandom.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:48 PM on December 26, 2009


Why Are People Always Having Sex With Dragons In Science Fiction?

One of the most annoying things about io9 is the way they make breathless generalisations about things, vaguely back them up with a couple of examples and assume that that is some kind of point. I can imagine them doing exactly the same with three non-sexy dragon novels.

Why are Dragons in SF just not sexy anymore?
Two months before the hotly anticipated release of "The Hobbit", we look at other not-particularly sexy dragons in SF - in Magician, Jane and the Dragon, Malazan: Book of the Fallen, Earthsea and some obscure public domain thing we googled - plus the latest firebreathing, mouthwatering poster featuring Smaug not wearing fishnets. Are dragons past it, or is wood just too dangerous around them?"

STFU io9.
posted by Sparx at 10:49 PM on December 26, 2009


probably in reaction to things going on in fandom.

Oh well fuck that.
posted by Artw at 11:26 PM on December 26, 2009


but when you're almost 39 it's just...sad.

If I was 39 and getting paid to write about shit I find interesting I'd consider it a win.
posted by rodgerd at 11:47 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


But you'd have to live with the knowledge that some dude on the internet was being a bit snarky about you!
posted by Artw at 11:51 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here be dragons. Doing it.
posted by monocultured at 3:52 AM on December 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I like the preemptive, bold, italic NSFW at the beginning of the post, thoughtfully anticipating the inevitable "How was I supposed to know an article about people having sex with dragons might be NSFW?!" MetaTalk thread.
posted by usonian at 4:54 AM on December 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I was a kid reading the Pern books, I totally skimmed over the sex. I just wanted to read about the dragons, damnit, not these boring dragonriders.

Also, people want to have sex with dragons because we are fucking hot, duh, end of story.
posted by egypturnash at 5:28 AM on December 27, 2009


I began reading a Pern book once. I was told by someone how great they were. I didn't make it past a few pages. I don't know how my pre-teen mind would have handled dragon sex. Hrm.
posted by Atreides at 6:27 AM on December 27, 2009


because all the unicorns are already taken?

Who wouldn't have sex with a unicorn if they could!

It's all about the unicorns instead.

and a nod to UOTC...

Not Safe For Work, unless your job description includes browsing for sex toys.
posted by tigrrrlily at 7:39 AM on December 27, 2009


Because Tiger Woods was busy?
posted by Mcable at 8:43 AM on December 27, 2009


I guess this is where I admit that I came up with my screenname when I was in middle school and totally addicted to the Pern books.

ocherdraco = gold dragon (more or less)
posted by ocherdraco at 2:01 PM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good grief. The thread has made it this far and no mention of Bad Dragon, the dragon dildo company, yet? I'm ashamed of you people.

Incidentally, they have a 10% off sale going on right now, for those of you who are into that sort of thing.
posted by NMcCoy at 4:37 PM on December 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I still like the Pern books. Sure, they aren't ever going to be classic literature and certainly aren't the finest things I've written. But they are great stories, with compelling characters and interesting world creation. Just look at how many people in this thread have been fans at one time or another -- and a lot of other smart people are fans too, because they are good books.

That said, there is no sex with dragons in them. That's just weird.

And be careful not to steal any dragon gold, or you might turn into a dragon.
posted by jb at 8:52 PM on December 27, 2009


I meant "finest things I've READ". They are much finer than anything I have written.
posted by jb at 8:53 PM on December 27, 2009


I have learned that there is such a thing as a dragon dildo company in this world.

That alone was reward enough for having posted this.

Thanks, NMcCoy!
posted by jason's_planet at 9:14 PM on December 27, 2009


Incidentally, they have a 10% off sale going on right now, for those of you who are into that sort of thing.

Time to redeem that gift card.
posted by benzenedream at 9:50 PM on December 27, 2009


Leave my mum out of this.

ps: In Shrek, the dragon wanted to fuck Donkey. Donkey had to lead her on to escape cetain death. Not sure if they ever got it awn.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:04 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gives a whole new meaning to the term "chasing the dragon".
posted by bwg at 5:11 AM on December 28, 2009


In Shrek, the dragon wanted to fuck Donkey. Donkey had to lead her on to escape cetain death. Not sure if they ever got it awn.

They did. In one of the sequels, there was some baby dragon/donkey hybrids running about.
posted by nooneyouknow at 5:17 AM on December 28, 2009


Hmm, I just recently started playing Dragon Age. I know there's a dragon in this game somewhere, I wonder if the game will let me...
posted by homunculus at 8:17 AM on December 28, 2009


Just so I'm clear on this... The dragons are doing it and the humans feel it because they are psychically linked to them. And there is a fetish for this? Me/blinks at the monitor for a few seconds with a blank expression on my face. I'll stick to my zombie rape books thank you very much. (Kidding btw). ((I don't even think they make those)).
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:26 AM on December 28, 2009


RAPED: THE MAKING OF A TEENAGE ZOMBIE
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:36 AM on December 28, 2009


Who is that, UH?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:03 AM on December 28, 2009


Good god, I'm late to this one, but all I can think of when I read this article are the sad young adults in ill-fitting pink sweats eating bags of cookies and retreating into squicky fantasy novels.

Probably an unfair assessment, but honestly the strongest association I have with people interested in the sexual lives of dragons.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:07 AM on December 28, 2009


More specifics about dragonrider behavior on Pern. I feel like I'm earning a big old nerd merit badge or something.
posted by jeanmari at 9:08 AM on December 28, 2009


Hey, easy there, clvrmnky. My sweats were black and they fit quite nicely back in the early 80's. Spot on about the cookies, though.
posted by jeanmari at 9:09 AM on December 28, 2009


Rat Spatula: RAPED: THE MAKING OF A TEENAGE ZOMBIE

OH WHY FOR THE LOVE OF JEEBZ DO I KEEP CLICKING LINKS IN THIS THREAD

WHAT DID I EXPECT?!

why haven't I learned by now?!

posted by Kattullus at 11:03 AM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


<carves notch in keyboard>
posted by Rat Spatula at 12:05 PM on December 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Also, I did some research on UH's mom, but I still don't get his joke.
posted by Rat Spatula at 12:41 PM on December 28, 2009


IF IT HAS A DRAGON IN IT IT ISN'T SCIENCE FICTION! THE SOLE DIFFERENTIATOR BETWEEN FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION IS THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF DRAGONS!

Fine distinctions. Heh.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:17 PM on December 28, 2009


While we're on the "SF is just Fantasy with shiny bits" thing... The Death of Science Fiction (Again).
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on December 28, 2009


So, I'm on my lunch break, browsing the bargain bin at Borders and what do I come across -
Dragon Lovers:.

Passion takes wing in four all-new stories from New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors.

Romance and fantasy collide in these enchanting stories featuring dragons-and love-in all their many forms. Four of today's most popular authors bring to life mythical creatures, otherworlds of yesterday and today, and the passionate melding of hearts.

From a virgin princess's first love to a shape-changing samurai bridegroom, from a young widow and her sexy handyman's secret project to a knight and his distressed damsel, the courage, beauty, and strength of dragons inspire the most unforgettable stories ever told.

The four stories are The Dragon and the Virgin Princess, The Dragon and the Dark Knight, Anna and the King of Dragons, and Dragon Feathers.

It was 2 bucks so I had to buy it. If it hadn't of been for this thread, I wouldn't have looked at it twice. Thanks Metafilter.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2009


Man, I'm feelin' sexy!!!

*goes to write slashfic*
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:10 PM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Artw: While we're on the "SF is just Fantasy with shiny bits" thing... The Death of Science Fiction (Again).

I'm no fan of the "SF is dying" essay genre but that's not much of a rebuttal. For the curious, the best place to read about the state of the science fiction literary industry are the introductions in Gardner Dozois' Year's Best Science Fiction anthology series (known as Mammoth Book Of Best New SF in the UK). And, of course, the stories tell you how healthy science fiction is as literature.
posted by Kattullus at 3:31 PM on December 28, 2009


They did. In one of the sequels, there was some baby dragon/donkey hybrids running about.

Good grief. And cheers for the update.

Who is that UH?

Also, I did some research on UH's mom, but I still don't get his joke.


Yes, it's Sally Spectra. The joke being I always thought she was a bit of a dragon [I presume Americans use the same slang term for a aged 45 plus pain-in-the-ass female?] and rather than make fun of someone else's mum I thought I would say "my mum" to keep the peace.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:17 PM on December 28, 2009


I'm familiar with that use of 'dragon' (although 'battleaxe' is more familiar still) but I guess Wikipedia's description of a party girl who likes the cabana boys didn't draw that sort of picture for me... I envisioned more of a free spirit...
posted by Rat Spatula at 4:42 PM on December 28, 2009


Get out of town. I was thinking battleaxe = dragon as I was typing the above reply.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:08 PM on December 28, 2009


Piers Anthony imagined Xanth as a land which magically enables xeno-fertility. This is a fantastic idea in every sense of the word and could be used for all sorts of interesting fantasy and science-fictional* settings. The early novels play with this concept just enough to intrigue, but in a utter squandering of imagination I now recognize as typical of the author, it's buried in a contemptible sort of ribaldry-for-kids. Later books (so far as I read, anyway) pretty much forget about it.

More specifically though, Bill Willingham answers this question in Ironwood. This is probably not a spoiler because it plays such a minor part in the story (ribaldry-for-grown-ups), but just in case**:

Qentbaf ner cbylzbecubhf bzavfcrezf, juvpu vf gb fnl gurl'er fbeg bs yvxr oebbq cnenfvgrf (phpxbbf). Gurl gnxr gur funcr bs n gnetrg fcrpvrf (hfhnyyl uhzna, ohg abg arprffnevyl) frqhpr n srznyr naq vzcynag ure jvgu bar bs gurve lbhat. Gur whiravyr qentba tebjf hc ybbxvat naq zber-be-yrff npgvat whfg nf gur ubfg fcrpvrf. Va gur zrnagvzr, nqhyg qentbaf (jura abg nsgre bhe jbzra) syl nebhaq oheavat hc ivyyntrf gelvat gb xvyy bss nal lbhat qentbaf gung zvtug tebj hc gb or gurve pbzcrgvgbef. Irel srj qentbaf znxr vg gb nqhygubbq. Gur barf gung qb graq gb or gur phaavat, gur cbjreshy, naq gur sregvyr.

*I've read speculation that at some distant time in the history of life, there were no "species" such as we have now, but that genetic material could be swapped between individuals regardless. It seems likely that complex forms of life required the kind of specialization that leads genes to quarantine themselves to species, but that requirement may not be as strong as it first seems. Certainly, in labs, we can do exactly such gene swaps between seemingly diverse organisms. Most, organisms as we know them, just lack the ability to do it on their own.

**leetkey
posted by wobh at 6:40 PM on December 30, 2009


wobh, I know Freeman Dyson has been talking a lot in the past several years about a "pre-Darwinian" phase of evolution, where the gene-swapping you describe might have been the norm. He points out that evolution would be extremely rapid in such an environment, and uses a lot of value-laden language around it. What he doesn't point out, at least not on the short versions I've encountered, is that the vast majority of random gene swaps would result in a non-functioning organism. So you'd very rapidly see the evolution of constraint mechanisms, which would naturally lead to the elimination of the ability to swap genome-parts.

Since Dyson appears to be mostly interested in applying this idea in an already constrained environment (e.g., applying it to machines or ideas, or using it as a means of automatically generating new variations in genomes), I don't understand why he's so invested in how wonderful things were in the pre-Darwinian days.
posted by lodurr at 7:40 AM on December 31, 2009


I'm a lapsed SF fan, but back in (I think) the late seventies I heard Anne McCaffrey speak a couple of times and on both occasions (apart from giving the advice that you should get a contract before you wrote anything - thanks, Anne) she said something along the lines of:

"I'll let you in on a little secret. One thing no-one seems to have noticed is that these arrangements logically imply that gay sex occurs!!!"

Obviously things moved on a lot after that.
posted by Phanx at 7:37 AM on January 7, 2010


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