‘Spar’ by Kij Johnson

The One About Sex That Wasn’t Just About Sex:

A woman has sex with a shapeless alien. Lots of sex. Weird sex. Disturbing sex. Sex that goes on for months or possibly even years, as the pair are trapped together inside a tiny spaceship lifeboat. There are cilia and tendrils and muscle and slime, and piss and shit and snot, and bleeding and gagging and internal things breaking and worse.

It penetrates her a thousand ways. She penetrates it, as well.

The first time I read this (multi-award winning) story I almost fell over on a packed tube train. That’s how powerful it is. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know where to look, or exactly how to feel.

“It’s deeply unpleasant… offensive on many levels,” Johnson has said of the piece, “this is a story I love without liking it at all”.

However, it’s also a beautiful, brutally honest meditation on grief and anger and boredom and loneliness in relationships, and on the ways we fail to communicate (and not just with aliens).

Okay, maybe beautiful is going too far. Tendrils, though.

(from At the Mouth of the River of Bees, Big Mouth Press, 2012. Read online here)