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Off Limits: Tales of Alien Sex by Ellen…

Off Limits: Tales of Alien Sex

by Ellen Datlow (Editor)

Other authors: Scott Bradfield (Contributor), Sherry Coldsmith (Contributor), Samuel R. Delaney (Contributor), Neil Gaiman (Contributor), Joe Haldeman (Contributor)17 more, Elizabeth Hand (Contributor), Simon Ings (Contributor), Gwyneth Jones (Contributor), John Kaiine (Contributor), Kathe Koja (Contributor), Roberta Lannes (Contributor), Barry N. Malzberg (Contributor), Richard Christian Matheson (Contributor), Bruce McAllister (Contributor), Mike O'Driscoll (Contributor), Joyce Carol Oates (Contributor), Robert Silverberg (Contributor), Martha Soukup (Contributor), Brian Stableford (Contributor), Lisa Tuttle (Contributor), Susan Wade (Contributor), Jane Yolen (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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It's been a while since I read "Alien Sex," but, for my money, "Off Limits" actually improves on the original. There are twenty-two stories here, so it's no surprise that not everything works, but, for my money, the writing's better in this volume than in the original, and the hit-to-miss ratio improves considerably. Either that or I'm beginning to learn how to read science fiction. Still, even some of the pulpier stuff works: Martha Soukup's "Fetish" plays out like a Tool video in short-story form, but its images have stayed with me. There's also a surprisingly good story by Elizabeth Hand, whose "Waking the Moon" I found incredibly cheesy. She acquits herself well here, meditating upon what might happen to femininity if the roles that have traditionally been assigned to women were to be replaced by technological substitutes. Some more standouts: "Lucifer in Blue" and "The House of Mourning," two meditations on prostitution that go deeper than mere smut: the former meditates on the psychology of political extremism, while the second tries to figure out where altered brain chemistry ends and real love begins. There's also John Kaiine's "Dolly Sodom", a particularly surreal vision of suburban ennui, and Richard Matheson's "Oral," which takes a fairly obvious title in directions most readers won't see coming. There's also a Samuel R. Delany story that seems to prefigure the psychological reaction of straight society to both the AIDS crisis and the increased visibility of transsexuals.

Lastly, there are a couple of boundary-pushing stories here that more or less have to be read to be believed and whose plots I won't describe here. Bruce McCallister's "Captain China," which describes the redemption of a young Vietnamese refugee forced into the sex trade is painful to read but also hugely imaginative and hair-raisingly grotesque, is one of those hit-you-in-the-gut stories. So is Kathe Koja and Barry M. Matzberg's "Ursus Triad, Later," which has got to be one of the strangest, most disturbing re-imagining of a fairy tale ever put to paper. That genre's pretty popular these days, but this is the sort of thing that trigger warnings were invented for. The fact that it's probably one of the best-written pieces here, a showcase for writing that's both bizarrely poetic and unrelentingly brutal, makes it difficult to read and harder to forget. Datlow's collections are usually good bets, and "Off Limits" is no exception. ( )
5 vote TheAmpersand | Jun 4, 2017 |
Foreword by Robert Silverberg
Introduction by Ellen Datlow
The Reality Trip by Robert Silverberg
The Tattooist by Susan Wade
Dolly Sodom by John Kaiine
The Lucifer of Blue by Sherry Coldsmith - Tiptree longlist 1996
The Queen of the Apocalypse by Scott Bradfield
Oral by Richard Christian Matheson
Grand Prix by Simon Ings
The House of Mourning by Brian Stableford
Fetish by Martha Soukup - Tiptree longlist 1996
Red Sonja and Lessingham in Dreamland by Gwyneth Jones - Tiptree longlist 1996 - very good
The Future of Birds by Mike O'Driscoll
Captain China by Bruce McAllister
Background: The Dream by Lisa Tuttle
Aye and Gomorrah by Samuel R. Delany
Ursus Triad Later by Kathe Koja and Barry N. Malzberg
Sextraterrestrials by Joe Haldeman and Jane Yolen
The Dream-Catcher by Joyce Carol Oates
His Angel by Roberta Lannes
Eaten by Neil Gaiman
In the Month of Athyr by Elizabeth Hand ( )
  SChant | Apr 27, 2013 |
I really liked this collection, though I found the editor's paragraph before each story to be unhelpful. I enjoyed things much more once I started ignoring that paragraph altogether and allowing the story to stand alone.

This is not erotica. These stories are about the boundaries of sexuality and gender. ( )
  Hegemellman | Apr 2, 2013 |
Off Limits: Tales of Alien Sex, edited Ellen Datlow, is full of provocative stories, but I think the one that's stayed with me the longest, resonating the most since my previous reading, is Fetish by Martha Soukup, about a woman growing a beard, on purpose.

Other stories are quite powerful and memorable as well, like Samuel R. Delaney's Aye, and Gomorrah.... There's an interesting back and forth, in meter, between Joe Haldeman and Jane Yolen, on themes of aliens and human sexuality as witnessed by aliens.

If you're thinking, however, that this collection is a thinly-veiled excuse for science fiction pornography, you couldn't be further from the truth. While some stories do feature explicit sexuality, in a human sense, many of them are not so much exploring sex in its physicalness as investigating society's ideas and values about sex and those who "practice" it or live or die by it.
1 vote eingang | Oct 26, 2005 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Datlow, EllenEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradfield, ScottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coldsmith, SherryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Delaney, Samuel R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gaiman, NeilContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Haldeman, JoeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hand, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ings, SimonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, GwynethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kaiine, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Koja, KatheContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lannes, RobertaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Malzberg, Barry N.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Matheson, Richard ChristianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McAllister, BruceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
O'Driscoll, MikeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oates, Joyce CarolContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Silverberg, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Soukup, MarthaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stableford, BrianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tuttle, LisaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wade, SusanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yolen, JaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The companion volume to the provocative Alien Sex anthology, Off Limits pushes boundaries with twenty stimulating tales of otherworldly encounters This second volume of the Alien Sex anthology series brings together authors Neil Gaiman, Robert Silverberg, Samuel R. Delany, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Hand, and many others to explore the mysteries of sex, alien and human alike. From an alien spy who falls in love with one of the earthlings he's monitoring, to a woman whose souvenir dream-catcher calls to her bedroom more than she bargained for, to a genetically engineered sex object aboard a space station, these thought-provoking tales of alien sex open up new worlds for fantastical exploration. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Ellen Datlow, including rare photos from the editor's personal collection.… (more)

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