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.