Browsing the lesbian science fiction section on Amazon, I became intrigued by a collection of books by Liv Nilsson. They all had strange covers and, more strikingly, pretty much the same summary:
Typical reading time: Six hours. 19 short stories plus a bonus novel. Lesbian science fiction. There will be new gadgets and new discoveries and new medicines in the future, but maybe more important is that the lives of people will be different… WARNING: Adult language and scenes of explicit sex. Adults only, please! NOT FOR ANYONE OFFENDED BY ADULT SEXUALITY IN ALL ITS VARIATIONS.
Reading time and number of stories varied, but nothing else. It’s not a lot of info to figure out what these books are, except that they seem to be “soft” science fiction (i.e. based on soft sciences such as sociology) and had lesbian sex to some degree.
They were available on Kindle Unlimited so I thought, nothing to lose. I’m not the girl to turn down free lesbian books.
Pros: nostalgic lesbian science fiction
I picked Convolutes to investigate because the two women kissing on the cover seemed promising.
Here is the result of my investigations. These are erotic science fiction short stories, or at least Convolutes is. There seem to be a few worlds used over and over, so the apparently unrelated stories come together in a kind of hallucinatory vision of evil queens, secret police, butch engineers, wild west mail order brides, sex slaves, archives, android sexbots, and lesbian brothels. Butch women are called jodies, femme women are fluffs. Men are few and far in between; tropes are plentiful.
So far, so good. There’s a style to Convolutes that reminds me of women’s press 1970s-1980s feminist science fiction I used to read in the Women Studies’s Resource Centre when I was at university.
That style has a lot of nostalgic appeal to me. I wanted to find out more about the world building, and at first I had the hope that I would.
Repetition and flat characters
The repetition in these stories was really noticeable, and I began to doubt it was structural so much that the author simply writes the same things over and over; not just tropes, but actual writing.
The worst, most unforgivable case, is when the exact same story appears twice in a row under different titles, but with extremely light copy-paste: character’s names, “bum” swapped with “arse”, a different name for the lubricant. The first version also had a couple of extra scenes. Otherwise, the stories were literally word for word the same. There’s no excuse for that.
Adding to the repetition is the sex. The stories are mostly sex. Repetitive sex. No lesbian romance to be found—you know characters are in love, I guess, because of dialogue like:
“I love you. Do you love me?”
“Yes, I think I do.”
Excuse me while I shed a sentimental tear.
Other emotions are equally flat. When someone is horrifically bereaved, you know she is sad, because: “She cried.” Characters face certain death with variations of “We’ll be in trouble if…”
The sex was pretty passionless, too. Desire and arousal are shown through wet vaginas (and they are always wet), sexual pleasure through “gushing”. Characters instruct each other what to do in what comes across as a bored, detached way. And they rarely stick around long enough to make me care about them.
I had hopes of the novel, but it’s not really a novel so much as longer stories loosely linked together by mentions that the world is coming to an end, and a rigid culture of high heels wearing femme “fluffs” and jeans and boot wearing “jodies”.
The story in the “novel” we spent longest with and was most developed, a story about a sex worker fluff who becomes involved with a jodie and worries about telling her about her job. Even this one l didn’t sell me on the romance—they seemed to hook up randomly and be destined for each other because they enjoyed having sex together.
I felt I know a lot about the writer’s fetishes, because they are repeated over and over. Four inch high heels. “Show me something” followed by exposure of breasts or crotch. Face sitting. Nipple piercings. Random paragraphs of unnamed other women having sex in the middle of the story. Women bending forwards and spreading their buttocks to expose themselves. Careful specification of the exact amount of crotch hair on a vulva.
If these things are bulletproof kinks for some readers, then I’m sure this book will meet their needs, and I suppose they won’t be trying to read it beginning to end anyway, just one at a time until they, uh, fun their purpose.
For myself, I began to think that if one more character said “Do you have any high heels?” or “Show me something” or “Yes, that’s what I like” I would scream, and not in ecstasy.
Bit of a let down
I guess I’ll never know if anyone rebels against the insane Queen who burns people in public spectacles at which ice cream is sold.
A pity. Because that I found really interesting.
I wouldn’t feel so disappointed, to be honest, if this had been just a set of sex stories with light SF trappings. I realize my sense of being let down is because some of the settings were really intriguing, and felt wasted.
I’m not sure how to answer this. As erotica goes, it wasn’t my type, but erotica is a very personal thing. Some aspects of this book are really well done.
But the copy-pasting the same story twice in a row? That’s just sloppy.
Publication and Availability
Convolutes is exclusive to Amazon, and available as an ebook only. It is available on Kindle Unlimited.