Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Their Trailing Skies for Vestment
by Joseph Green
and Shelby Vick

by Nathaniel Heely

Mapping in the Darkness
by Siobhan Gallagher

Hard Passage
by Holly Schofield

by Linda A.B. Davis

In Therapy With an Alien Cabdriver
by John Skylar

Dancing in the Black Blizzard
by Devin Miller

by Michael McGlade

Don’t Think Twice
by Jack Ryan

Two in the Hand
by Jeff Samson


A Force of Gravity
by J. Richard Jacobs

Gravitational Waves
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips





XXX at Zero-G: Sex in Space


For a time in the late 1960s, on Wednesday afternoons, I would stop into McSorley’s Old Ale House in lower Manhattan. They had dark ale and a friendly cat or two on the woodchip-strewn wooden floor, a convivial atmosphere along with free cheese and onion sandwiches. It was a place to get one’s head on straight. Established in 1854, McSorley’s could boast of being New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon. But in all that time it had admitted men only, even in a time when women’s rights battles were everywhere, even when a woman owned the joint.

In 1970, civil rights attorneys Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow took their case to gain admittance to McSorley’s to the N.Y. District Court. They won. But McSorley’s Old Ale House didn’t get around to installing women’s restrooms for another sixteen years. So there!

Some old guys from the neighborhood were discussing the coming change and I asked one guy what he thought of it. He answered, “Men always behave differently when there is a woman around. They just do.”

I looked around the saloon and saw the quiet chess games, men reading the sports sections, and knew that this was true. Mariners have known this for millennia. Women shouldn’t feel bad about this. Men are just different and not quite sane when women are around. They really are. If seagoing ships had historically been crewed solely by women, allowing a few men onboard would have been disruptive too. The military seem to be able to do it, but only at gunpoint and with many failures in group dynamics, chain of command, and a few pregnant enlisted women.

But there is no getting around it: The time will come when spacecraft will have co-ed crews (and married or paired couples) and they will have to learn to get along in circumstances where the normal protocols don’t apply. And they will have sex in outer space. It might have happened already, but it will certainly be desirable to include sex as part of human activities in outer space.

Early in the space race, there was some trepidation that humans could not survive in space because they couldn’t eat, drink, swallow, digest, or do much of anything. These things were entirely unknown. But all these concerns proved groundless. Still some thought, how can humans, evolved at one-g gravity, possibly have sexual relations? After all—what would one hold onto? What would happen to the perspiration? Could one kiss? Could a man have an erection? What about nausea, vertigo, circadian rhythms, astrological incompatibility, etc.?

Here’s “Packing for Mars” author Mary Roach: “... according to experts, actual zero-gravity sex would be unpleasant—objects thrusting against each other would have a tendency to fly apart, plus there’d be a lot of sweat.”

Ya’ wanna bet?

The historic first-filmed-orgasm in zero-g occurred in the XXX-movie “The Uranus Experiment 2” (1999). Nick Lang, assisted by the amiable, perky, vivacious, buoyant, former accountant, marketing director and hotel manager, Sylvia Saint, makes a big zero-g mess. The scene lasts only twenty-five seconds, and is probably not worth watching except for purely scientific reasons (ahem). One regrets that they didn’t do more with zero-g in this film. The actual zero-g filming was done aboard a Russian airplane making parabolic zooming to eleven thousand meters, similar to NASA’s Vomit Comet. By the way, in the movie “Uranus” is always pronounced “Your Anus.”

In Arthur C. Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the subject of sex on long voyages is briefly covered. The spaceship Discovery’s enthusiastic designers thoughtfully included “adequate, though hardly glamorous” sexual substitutes in the ship’s pharmacopoeia. To be isolated from loved ones and forgo sex on lengthy space voyages seemed absurd to Clarke.

So why aren’t spacecraft just crewed by equal numbers of sexually available men and women? Well, what about our LGBT friends? What happens when lovers quarrel? What happens when Judy and Jane prefer to be with each other while their pair-mates John and Jack don’t? Or Jane says she has a headache for the last twelve billion kilometers? What happens when John decides to surgically turn into a Judy halfway to Betelgeuse? Each sexual scenario could make a good science fiction story. Being human brings with it infinite possibilities for unpredictable behavior. Do you think astronauts are made of better stuff than everyone else? Then you haven’t been paying attention.

Vanna Bonta, the author of the novel “Flight,” invented the “2Suit,” a pair of zip-together suits that astronauts could use to keep themselves in close proximity and face-to-face during zero-g intimacies. The 2Suit’s inventor claims that the function of the 2Suit is to stabilize human proximity, thus 2suitfacilitating intimacy, tandem or adjacent tasks, recreation, or human procreation in weightless environments. Additionally, it can be employed to serve general rest and relaxation with privacy thrown in as a bonus. [At right, 2Suit during docking phase.]

But they make zip-together sleeping bags, you know.

Much is made of problems with pregnancy and fetal development in a zero-g, high radiation environment. We would be getting ahead of ourselves to seek solutions to these problems: Nobody is much concerned with having babies aboard airplanes, trains and buses. Until colony ships require multi-generations, the problems we need to solve are about having sex, not with having progeny.

There will be strange and inventive solutions. I think one general purpose sexbot that could be either male or female ... or black or white, blond, redhead, etc. might have to do. Nobody worries much about who has shared your human mates’ private parts in the past. You could even bring your own bolt-on preferred parts for the common sexbot. Perhaps crew personnel wouldn’t care much. “Hey! Who’s been using my sexbot?”

Alternatively, virtual reality and a little privacy will turn out to be more practical. There are pharmacological, mechanical and electrical methods of satisfying sexual desires.

Former and current astronauts won’t talk about space-sex, and NASA says it never happened. And if it did happen they say they don’t know anything about it. (And that’s our story and we’re stickin’ to it ...)

Everybody agrees that sex in the space shuttle would have been difficult because of the lack of privacy (the toilet only has a curtain). Mir and the International Space Station are different matters. Especially, in the larger ISS, there is plenty of room for two people to find some privacy in their off hours.

Of course, speculation has been rampant. And, as in most speculation regarding sex, the rumors are probably true. The first married couple went to space in 1991, when training-camp sweethearts Jan Davis and Mark Lee served together on STS-47. NASA had a policy against letting married couples fly together. But Lee and Davis had met during training for the flight and had married in secret when it was too late for NASA to train a substitute. Because of this screwup, NASA has since changed the rules and will not allow married astronauts on the same flight. Period.

Lee was scheduled to fly another mission to the ISS in 2000, but was replaced for “undisclosed reasons” which news reports claimed related to a falling-out with management at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Because he was clearly not going to fly again, he retired.

Both Davis and Lee have refused to answer questions about the nature of their relationship during the mission. (They divorced after six years of marriage) As in many things, a “refusal to answer” is tantamount to a confession of guilt. Or as Lily Tomlin says, “It’s getting hard to stay cynical enough to keep up with reality.”

Dark and handsome Dr. Valeri Polyakov is the holder of the record for the longest single spaceflight in human history. He stayed aboard the Mir space station for more than fourteen months (437 days 18 hours) during one trip.

The first woman to make a long-duration spaceflight aboard Mir, was Yelena Kondakova. Her first trip into space was on Soyuz TM-20 on October 4, 1994. She returned to Earth, along with Valeri Polyakov on March 22, 1995, after her five-month stay at the Mir space station. In the 1990s, rumors circulated about unorthodox coziness between Yelena and Valeri after a video got out showing Valeri playfully splashing water on Yelena during the flight.

Sure, maybe they didn’t get it on. And maybe my parents never had sex, but my bet is that the Russians beat us to it.

Eric M. Jones






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