“How exponentially difficult would relationships be if a race had three sexes, all three of which were necessary for reproduction?”
With the upcoming release of Far Worlds, I thought I’d take a few minutes to discuss where the wild ideas for the space western and crime drama piece A Pelnodan Bounty came from.
Pelnoda is a dry planet home to two races; the trimortals who have three sexes and the guests, a race who crash landed on the planet ages ago. Having been mind-wiped, the guests have no idea where they came from.
The trimortals welcomed and integrated the immigrants into their society. Grig is a guest who lives the quiet life, raising crops on his ranch. But when his old pal Zax comes along, asking a huge favor to find a pregnant trimortal, Grig is forced to confront his former life as a bounty hunter.
A Pelnodan Bounty was actually the result of merging two ideas into one.
The first idea was inspired by some gender studies non-fiction I’ve been studying on top of reading Ray A. Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. It’s astounding to me that although human beings have recorded our history for millennium, we’re still debating and trying to figure out the dynamic between men and women. We’ve built up many laws and views, philosophies and studies just trying to make sense of our sexual dimorphism and apply some semblance of envisioned legal equality.
As I observed our changing acceptance of what constitutes family and reproductive strategies, I wondered, “How exponentially difficult would relationships be if a race had three sexes, all three of which were necessary for reproduction?”
This is an incredibly thick idea. And I’m loathe to admit that there are tons of unanswered and unexplored aspects. How would a three sexed race view family? How would such a species construct their laws and rights in a democratic manner? What about homosexuality? Inheritance and property rights and respect for privacy? The Martian Chronicles reminded me that sci-fi is a fantastic vehicle for envisioning and writing about these speculative theories. But as a short story, I would never have time to answer them all.
I also wasn’t very wild about my original idea by itself. The concept was simply an alien drama which explored the conflicts through casual conversations between neighbors, as a male and female trimortal searched for a pregnant, missing caretaker (the term for the third gender.) While curious and interesting, I wanted to hit a wider appeal…
A Space Western
Then the idea hit me. No one submitting to Far Worlds wanted to do a space western.
I used to hate westerns when I was a kid. But the older I get, the more they become a weakness of mine. Movies like No Country for Old Men, 3:10 to Yuma and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly had changed my displeasure with the wild west. So had Cormac McCarthy’s* novel, All the Pretty Horses and Rockstar Games’ amazing Red Dead Redemption. And I had visited the American mid-west a few times. The gorgeous landscape is something that must be experienced, not described.
One problem I had was that, without an outside viewpoint, you only ever see trimortal relations through the eyes of other trimortals. They can only ever accept it as “normal.” As I thought about the problem, I came up with a solution. Far Worlds rules said no faster than light transportation. But it said nothing about cryogenic transport. Andrew cleared the idea, so I introduced a second race that was named the guests.
Are the guests technically human? Not even they know. But they gave me the outside perspective I needed. They also permitted me to expand the depth of the world. They were also something the reader can more readily identify and attach themselves too, as we often prefer characters with whom we sympathize and connect with.
Connecting these two ideas into one, I had only to come up with an overall plot. That was the worst of it, as I couldn’t concoct something off the top of my head. So I wrote. Then proofread it. Then wrote and edited it. When I finished, I realize there was a good plot there, it just needed to be shuffled around and organized. This approach took longer than planning it out ahead of time, but it still got me to what I needed.
After that, it was a few touch ups, and the rest was history.
*- McCarthy wrote the novel No Country for Old Men upon which the aforementioned movie was based. I loved the movie but the novel is still on my to-be-read list.