Sexing Up Gods Pt. 2: SMITE as an STD

OK! Now that The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has been out for a week, I can finally start to make some posts that include spoilers. These will be tagged “Spoilerrific” from here forth, and will be cut so that innocent eyes will not be sullied by the GIANT HONKING PLOT DETAILS FROM DEEP IN THE BOOK unless the really want to be sullied by them. So I repeat, if you have not finished The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, don’t click on the “continue reading” below!

On the heels of my previous post, I had another thought on the topic of “sexing up” gods.

How the heck does a mortal do it — that is, Do It — with a god, without setting him or herself up for a rather serious STD? Like, oh, blowing into a million bits?

It’s the Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex situation all over again. Cosmically powerful entity gets it on with mundanely mundane man or woman. Hilarity — and the possible heat death of the universe — ensues. The ancient Greeks touched on this in the story of Zeus and Semele; when she asked him to appear to her in his true godly form, he agreed… but basically nuked her in the process. The ancient Egyptians believed that the annual flooding of the Nile River was the result of Osiris secretly getting it on with his wife’s sister Nephthys; so much, er, liquid was produced (by both) that it overflowed the entire country. Fortunately the Egyptian gods didn’t seem to have much taste for human lovers, because can you imagine? The Nile supposedly outputs about 100,000 cubic feet of water in an average year. KY Jelly ain’t got nothin’ on this stuff.

So it’s pretty much a given that no human should go within ten feet of a horny god, unless s/he’s got a death wish.

But Yeine does. I knew from the start of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that I was going to have to write a sex scene, and it was going to have to be weird. Nahadoth’s true form is completely formless; think of him as an incorporeal black amoeba. (Sexxxay.) He only looks human — and male, note — because Itempas locked him into that shape at the end of the Gods’ War. But naturally during the sex scene I wanted Yeine to get a glimpse of the real him. How could I write that without completely turning off readers? Because I wanted the sex scene to be erotic and weird, in order to show that Yeine really was risking her life and sanity to Do It. She was in very real danger of the nuclear option — and no, I don’t mean reconciliation. But I dunno, maybe it’s just me, the threat of being blown to bits isn’t especially sexy. I definitely didn’t want to go the anime tentacle porn route. So how to write it?

Well, first off, I included a precedent and antecedent, to build tension and show the stakes. There was the earlier scene, in which Yeine summons Nahadoth in the bathroom and he gives her a little tease, so to speak. In that one I was able to establish that Nahadoth can manifest more than two hands and even more than one mouth. (Hotttt! Um, sorta.) Also, I was able to establish that part of the danger lies in the fact that he knows what she wants. He knows when she’s going to cry out, and anticipates it enough to cut her off. So if he’d done anything painful or frightening, she wouldn’t have been able to command him to stop. Frankly, he could have even manipulated her into enjoying herself as they moved past the point of pleasure and safety into pain and danger. (Yeah, he’s that good.) I dunno about you guys, but that would scare the crap out of me — and I tried to show that it scared the crap out of Yeine. But… it also intrigued her. Because, as the romance genre has known for decades, danger — within certain limits — is kind of sexy. But harder than it looks to write.

The antecedent was the aftermath scene (which I thought was kind of amusing) of the destroyed bedroom. I did that just to show that the danger wasn’t wholly metaphysical; Nahadoth could easily have shattered her mind, but her body was in some serious trouble too. Fortunately he held back… mostly.

I did have one problem, however. In the middle of the bedroom scene, I initially wrote in a couple of lines about, er, some of Nahadoth’s, er, parts developing, er, extra bits. I sent that one to my agent and my writing group, and got back several “EYUWURRERGH!!!” reactions, which told me that a) I’d achieved my goal of creepiness, but b) maybe I’d made it just a little too creepy. One person said it sent her into “Freudian Id” territory. Sexxa — well, no, actually, that’s not sexy at all. Oops. So I removed those lines.

Still, I think I managed to achieve my goal of depicting sex with gods as hot, but weird, and very very dangerous. Those of you who’ve read the book — what did you think of those scenes? Be honest!

Note: I’m off on a writing retreat, and may not be responding to comments as quickly as usual because, duh, I’m writing. Just an FYI.

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18 Responses »

  1. I think that was the point where I turned to Josh and said, “You didn’t tell me this book was incredibly hot! And kinky! And hot!”

    I was on a NJ Transit train at the time, and really rather wishing he had suggested that some scenes might be better saved for when I was at home.

    So I think you did brilliantly, but I also would not have been in the least bit squicked by extra bits!

  2. I just finished reading and I think your book is truly amazing! It’s very original and well written. I just cleared my work schedule this afternoon, because I couldn’t stop reading. I can do my work tonight, but I needed to know what was going to happen with Yeine. Now. So thank you for this book, I love it. And I can’t wait to read your next one.

    And by the way, I agree. Sex with a god (and more precisely: this god) is hot. Very hot…

    Maaike
    (from The Netherlands)

  3. Hot, weird, and very dangerous? Yes, I think you achieved that. I am happy to be less circumspect in person.

  4. huh, I’m super curious about these ‘extra bits’ now…

    But I’ll chime in and say that yes, the sex was hot. Very hot.

  5. This book was amazing! It’s been a while since I was compelled to stay up into the wee small hours of the morning in order to finish a book. I love Yeine and the gods and I especially love the weird sex scenes. Very weird and very sexy! I also got a big kick out of the fact that Yeine’s furniture was smashed to kindling afterward. :)

    I’m now in the process of browbeating all of my friends into reading this book. It helps that they’ve learned to trust my judgment by now.

    Seriously, very cool story.

  6. Hmmmm…Why did I get “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyers vibes when reading the sex scene?…I remember hearing tales as a child about people that slept with gods and lost their lives in the process. You were able to bring that edgy dangerousness in your writing explaining how making love to a god might happen in real life. It was nice to read :)

  7. Oh, what an interesting post. Those sex scenes were right at the edge for me. Almost over, not quite, kinda intriguing, but maybe almost too much, but possibly – and so on. So I think for me as a reader, they worked, because they were freaky and dangerous and yet possibly also irresistable, and so I could understand her.

  8. I have been saving the book. I know that sounds strange but there’s some heavy responsibility things going on right now and I can’t be distracted. In a week, I’ll start it. (I read the three chapters here before the book came out so I know what’s sitting there, behind that cover, calling to me…)
    Yes, I read your post anyway. Most times, knowing some background ~enhances my reading pleasure.. “spoilers” don’t spoil anything for me: I read for more than plot. :)
    I hope your fingers hurt, you’re writing so hard! lol Enjoy yourself.
    Meran

  9. Happy to contribute to marital bliss, then. =)

  10. The “extra bits” were… interesting. Just not necessarily sexy.

  11. Gah — “Twilight”? Really?

  12. Yeah, I was trying to skirt the edge, but not cross the line. =)

  13. Hi,

    I bought this book on a whim because I liked the cover, (always the reason why I buy books) lol. And I was very pleasantly suprised, I hate to admit that I did actually skimread to the end. It was so exciting that I just kept reading, so I think I will need to go back and re-read through. I just wanted to say that I thought the sex scene was very good and approriate, and that I really felt like you built the right tension throughout the book.
    I have been looking for information on when the second book will be coming out but I didn’t realise that this one had only just been released. Thankyou for a wonderful read, and I hope you continue to write wonderful works like this one.

    Anieka :)

  14. Ok, so I bought the book because I ran out of Jim Butcher and waiting for Kim Harrison. It was a fantastic purchase because now I need to read the second book! I’m trolling this page look for a release date.

    The scenes with Nahodeth…wow! I was bothered (as in hot and bothered) tells you where my head is at most times!! I reread both scenes twice then after reading the entire book I went back and reread those scenes just to make sure they were seared in my overactive imagination!

    So all in all, I think you did a fantastic job with the God and mundane woman!! Sign me up

  15. Well, to be honest, the sex scenes were the only part of the book that really had me rolling my eyes. But I’m male, so I guess it wasn’t meant to appeal to me; I don’t think Nahadoth is hot. He’s a creepy, shadowy chaos-thing who can make himself look human when he wants to. I got that he has godlike skillz in bed and that Yeine was risking her life and sanity by doing it with him, but all of those sequences struck me as… well, indulgent. Like Yeine suddenly gets completely derailed from her quest for vengeance and survival because Nahadoth is just so hot. The two of them having (literally) cosmic sex ending with the bed (literally) being smashed was a little over the top for my tastes.

  16. Anieka — what a pretty name. Do you mind if I ask how you pronounce it?

    Book 2 is due out in November of this year. =)

  17. Amadan,

    My writing group is mostly male, and I ran it through them before the book was published, so I definitely got a male perspective. (That was where some of the “EYUWURRERGH!!!” came from, as I mentioned in the OP.) Interestingly, though, some of the men who’ve read it wanted it more sexed-up. So I’m not sure it really works to say that your reaction is because you were male. Maybe it’s just not to your taste, and we should leave it at that. :)

    And I can’t agree that Yeine got derailed from her quest. Her quest was never about vengeance, for one, though she framed it that way initially; she really wanted to learn the truth. She’s satisfied at the end, when she thinks Viraine’s the killer, because she’s figured out what really happened to her mother. But even there Yeine was mistaken — Nahadoth, and the relationship between the Three Gods, was at the root of her mother’s death. The whole story was basically one big aftershock from the Gods’ War, which never really ended. Only by acknowledging that component of it could the story be resolved. But I can see how people who really wanted this to be a “court intrigue” story with a mundane (in the sense of non-magical, not in the sense of “boring” or whatever) resolution would be disappointed by that. Oh, well.