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In Space, No One Can Hear You …

In space no one can hear you, what, scream? Okay, hands up, I was going to be a tad naughty, and add the word but then decided to keep this post clean. Which brings me to today’s topic. Does no one ever go to the bathroom in fantasy and SF novels? I mean, come on, people. Does no one fart, or burp, eat, drink, fornicate or okay, I’ve read a few fantasy books with most if not all of this list. But in SF, it’s like everyone exists in a vacuum—yes, I love me a good pun—that is, we read some great world building, have intense moments with characters hellbent on saving the universe, lasers fizzling through the primordial ether, as sentient spaceships battle the unseen enemy.

We read about diplomatic first contact with Foreigners. Fight off alien invasions, subvert god-like Emperors on desert planets, in far-flung futures. We hop across the galaxy through ancient alien star-gates, to myriad worlds beyond our imagination. We fight off merciless virus outbreaks, and nature gone wild, wield futuristic tech like it was always a part of our bodies but

But when the hell does anyone stop to drink, eat, and do, you know, the other? Okay, so maybe it’s not glamourous to have someone ramping a cold bacon and egg butty into their mouths, while simultaneously pulling on their gas mask, during a viral outbreak, or alien invasion. But, in real life, these things happen.

Specifically, anyone who has ever been in the military will know what I’m talking about. During my tenure in Her Britannic Majesty’s Armed Services, we had weekly, monthly, and yearly drills. Sometime, they even felt as if they were happening daily. But these drills tested you while under simulated combat situations. It was all about seeing how you coped, and evaluating your reactions, especially to stress.

And always, as if it were written somewhere, in stone, on a tablet sent down from God. Food was always delivered the second an air raid siren sounded. Giving you 8 seconds in which to not only dress, get your gas mask on, but eat—believe me when I tell you how many times I’ve tried not to laugh inside my gas mask on seeing a superior office with egg glued on the inside of his or her mask! Oh, to have had an iPhone way back then. But I digress.

I can only bring to mind a couple of novels in which people actually stop to eat, and do ‘normal’ stuff. And while some might find it verging on the boring, for those of us who have lived this kind of life. It adds authenticity to a scene. Authors who take the time to include these kind of seemingly frivolous details, to my mind, add a little more depth in their world-building.

So here’s to that bonding scene we will never see between characters, set in the mess hall, where a fight breaks out, food is being thrown along with the punches, but the second the alarm bells start ringing, everyone heads off to do their job like the consummate professional they’re not!

Which brings me to my recommendation of the week, TERMINAL ALLIANCE, a Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse novel, by Jim C. Hines. If you’ve never read any of Jim’s blend of fantasy meets warped SF, then may I humble suggest you start with this one and laugh your

When the Krakau came to Earth, they planned to invite humanity into a growing alliance of sentient species.

This would have worked out better for all involved if they hadn’t arrived after a mutated plague wiped out half the planet, turned the rest into shambling, near-unstoppable animals, and basically destroyed human civilization. You know—your standard apocalypse.

The Krakau’s first impulse was to turn their ships around and go home. After all, it’s hard to establish diplomatic relations with mindless savages who eat your diplomats.

Their second impulse was to try to fix us.

You can read the First Chapter for free, here: (PDF | EPUB | MOBI)

12 Comments

  1. Alexandra two things: first you are spot on! And you made me laugh because your point is so valid! I never really thought about it until you pointed it here!
    Second: you were in the army??? Where do you live? And you have much to tell here! So badass LOL

    • And it’s true, right? 😀 Unlike a TV show or even a movie, in which time is of the essence, authors are less inclined to add ‘normality’ to their characters and scenes.

      How many TV sitcoms wouldn’t work without at least one scene at the breakfast/dinner table, or the obligatory shower scene.

      And yes, I was military for a time, but not the Army, the Air Force! We all have our secrets. Ha! Ha!

  2. Air Force? Wow! Defo badass, agree with Sophie 🙂

    Also, good points. I don’t think i pay much attention to the characters’ toilet habits, but yea, when they don’t eat, i do notice that. 😀 And usually have an extra snack, cuz people not eating stresses me out and i eat when i’m stressed.

    • Don’t know if I qualify for a “bad-ass” title, but it was a great way to get someone to pay for my university courses, while I travelled across Europe. 😉

      I don’t think we care too much about Frodo whizzing in the bushes, but at least in LotR they ate, drank, and burped. Fantasy is stuffed with people eating 24/7, but out in space? Gee, you’d think they lived, breathed, and drank vacuum!

      Oh, are you another snacker? You should meet Martyn, the only guy I know who can eat an Indian curry, chinese take-away AND want cheese fries while reading.

  3. I refuse to believe you’re ever ‘naughty’, Alexandra. Not even a ‘tad’!

    I haven’t read a great deal of SF but was about to comment that you don’t get too much going to the bathroom etc. in fiction generally – then I read a bit further and noticed you had included ‘eat, drink and fornicate’. Well, of course, there’s a fair bit of all those in modern novels, especially the latter. I wonder why that isn’t the case with fantasy? I can understand the bathroom bit because it would be rather boring if characters continually excused themselves to ‘nip to the loo’, but no sex seems extraordinary these days. A very interesting observation!

    • Ah, I’m sure I could surprise even my mother, if I wanted too, Paula! 😉

      It’s one of those great mysteries. I’ve read a great deal of classic, golden age, and a lot of recent SF, and other than in fantasy itself, there is little to no bodily functions mentioned. And sex is almost unheard of in the average SF novel.

      It’s such a contrast to contemporary or literary fiction and other genre, in general. There’s sex and things that go on in YA and dystopian fiction and fantasy, but my mother would turn blind at reading some of that.

      However, there’s something about SF that seems to preclude sex. Authors talk about sexuality, or might have different sexes when talking about alien races. Even talk about how they ‘mate’. But romance and, well, getting down to business, always seems to happen elsewhere in SF. But hey, maybe I just haven’t read, eh, the right books.

      And yes, an interesting observation. I wonder if anyone knows different.

  4. What an interesting point! Characters definite eat a lot in fantasy, especially if it has a medieval influence… someone usually gets killed during those grand dinners as well. George R R Martin is quite effective with dispatching characters in general though. Tolkien certainly used food to celebrate and a lot of YA fantasy is so full of sex scenes (Maas etc) that it’s borderline erotica. I mean there’s a limit to how many magical fae penises one has to read about…

    And how cool to hear about your Air Force shenanigans! I really enjoyed that.

    • Alexandra says

      I know, right. Fantasy is full throttle anything goes, but up there, out in space, you wonder if they get enough to eat, Vera. And the one thing I liked about Tolkien and the Hobbits was they sure loved to eat!

      We all love our elevenses, right? 😉

      Yep, I was a military brat who also signed-up and went off on some fun adventures. An Air Force Hobbit, as it were.

      • He he, I could I forgotten the Hobbits and their elevenses!

        An Air Force Hobbit sounds like a wonderful adventure .

        • Alexandra says

          Ah, the most important time of the day, elevenses! 😉

          Yeah, I was lucky enough to travel and see and do a lot of crazy stuff, thanks to the military. But it was also tough hours. Also, you make a different kind of family, in the military. Funnily enough, food was a unifying thing for us all.

            • Alexandra says

              Sometimes it could be, but food was the one thing that, on long shifts, and during military exercises, is were we all came together. I think that’s, in part, why I love to cook.

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