It’s going to be a weird day.

Last night my dreams were all about talking to dream friends about how weird the previous night’s dream was. Also I got calligraphy tattoos on my right shoulder blade that were designed so I can read them in my reflection.

True story. I feel a bit discombobulated.

What was on the tattoos? Signatures. Several of people I used to work with and some from famous authors. Mark Twain was one of them. It’s an idea so odd I might have to use it someday in a story.

What was the previous night’s dream? I’m glad you asked. Me and my questing buddies ( a collection of friends who bear no resemblance to anyone in real life) were carrying around cans of vegetables to throw at the invading aliens.

Tuna cans and cat food did not work. Only vegetables. Yes, even in dreams I run experiments and test hypotheses.

The aliens never chased anyone, they were more of a a random encounter threat. So mostly the dream was us going about our daily business.  We kept getting lost in the dream city (a combination of NYC, Chicago & LA that seems to stand for Urban Environment in my subconscious)

And there was an interlude where we critiqued a porn flick on a huge TV in the bar where we went to escape the aliens.

It was a supremely weird experience, but I didn’t expect I would spend another night analyzing it in my sleep. I spend a lot of dreams talking and reading, but this was a new one.

My brain. It’s a fun place.

If I Wrote A Bestseller…

If I wanted to write a story with broad appeal,  I would build characters from a shortlist of comfortable archetypes,  introduce them with defining backstory snapshots stapled to the text like operating instructions, and launch them into a familiar plot template front-loaded with action. I would trim the extra word weight out of every scene with the dedication of an ultralight backpacker cutting off toothbrush handles.

I could make my prose a hungry verb-driven creature ready to compete with the best soundbite journalism. If someone wants to pay me upfront to do that, I will. Seriously. Want me to write a thing? Give me the monies up front, set me a deadline, I will write a thing.

Left on my own,  I would rather explore the muddy ditches and swampy wilds of wording and see what I dig up there. I like to wander, to ponder, to chip ideas out of other ideas, and to  ravel up thready patterns of letters and sounds, ideas and emotions into narratives. When I do that long enough, magic sneaks up to nip at my creation, and the bits and pieces sparkle to life.

And hey, I’m on my own. So. Dirty excavations, rocky prose carving, and tapestry-story weaving it shall be. That’s all I have to say about that.

Birds & bees and kissing in trees

Supers. Sex. Let’s have the talk.

If you’ve ever read and enjoyed a superhero comic book,  ever watched a Marvel movie or a DC-based television show, you must have wondered. How would it work for a speedster f’rex? Or for the invulnerable and super-strong? How do Superman and Lois Lane get it on?

Some books and shows tackle the subject head-on. So to speak. The book So Not A Hero and Jessica Jones season 1 come to mind. Vividly. The Superman question has been the subject of several famous essays, including this one by Larry Niven. It’s even an official TV Tropes entry.

The world in Rough Passages doesn’t have superheroes except in its graphic novels. (Yes, those exist.) But roughly 5-10% of the population over the age of 45 undergo a powerful metamorphosis of some kind, so that “um, how?” question does come up. <nudge-nudge, wink-wink>

In my world….

People develop phenomenal psychic or elemental  talents, others grow fur or scales or tails, and many more deal with altered hair, skin, or eye color. The psychological impact alone can be shattering. Physical changes play critical roles in personal identity, not to mention relationships intimate and social.

And looking at the bigger picture, it’s hard in this world to argue about the validity of transexual identity, f’rex, or whether atttraction to the same sex is natural or no.

Sexuality changes are common enough that everyone knows someone who knows…etc.  Oh, yeah. It isn’t common, but it happens. Go to bed with external plumbing, wake up with internal. Or vice versa. Or BOTH. In working order. Or neither. Does sexual preference change with plumbing or even with minor externals like skin or hair? Does identity? No…or yes, or maybe…depending on the individual.

Just as in our world, those lines can be blurry and cross–and “acceptance” debates have been high profile for far longer than in our history. This is not to say stigma and shame are gone. Or discrimination. Far from it. Visibility doesn’t resolve problems. Sometimes it feeds confrontations between those with conflicting beliefs. (and from conflict arises drama, and drama becomes story. But I digress.)

Other considerations: pornography, the sex trade and fetish communities have all developed quite differently than here. At first glance these things might not look much different from the ones in our world, but rollovers bring whole new options to the sexual smorgasbord.

The upside to all this physical variety is that more people can find willing partners and develop satisfying emotional bonds. There are new horizons to explore. If you can imagine it, someone somewhere is doing it. The downside? Not all those partners are interested in the people interested in them. No one wants to be treated as an object. Sexual violence and its attendant legal definitions, issues of consent, and a number of other tangles are all present, with twists as unique to that world as the changes of rollover itself.

All the variety also means someone somewhere is charging for it and/or recording it too. Lucrative (and some places even legal) employment options abound for those who can act a little and have talents or traits that would require special effects in this world. Those who regenerate in minutes,  those who cannot feel pain, those who can breathe underwater, those who have “animal” parts…there’s an audience for everything.

People change. Human nature doesn’t.