Book ID: What sci-fi series did I read in the mid-90s?
December 5, 2014 6:58 PM   Subscribe

Yet another book identification question with minimal details: I read a science fiction series - I think a trilogy - that I acquired in a used book shop in the early to mid-90s. They probably weren't brand new at that point. There was sex in it, and aliens.

Here's what I remember:
--They were paperbacks.
--Pretty sure there were aliens.
--I think that each of the books had a single word title, or two words in which one of them was "the."
--They might have been from an author whose last name started at the beginning of the alphabet, because I frequented the store regularly and at least at one point I went through what was there in a somewhat methodical manner starting with the A names.
--I vaguely think that a beach was involved - either there was a picture of a beach on one of the covers, or there was a major plot point of an alien landing on a beach?
--There was at least something explicitly sexual in the books, maybe sexually violent? Maybe the aliens had some sort of non-human-like system of sex? I read them at about age 13 and I don't think I was old enough to really understand what I was reading. The only thing that really stuck was the sense that they made me a bit uncomfortable. I don't think it was something more straightforward like garden variety explicit sex, because I had read romance novels. I don't think it was something like incest, either. I think it was something alien.

I know that's not a lot to go on, but does it ring a bell for anyone?
posted by marginaliana to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Piers Anthony wrote a bunch of freaky sci-fi and fantasy novels with weird sex stuff in them. The "Apprentice Adept" series has almost all 2-word titles and I seem to remember it having sex in it. I barely remember it but maybe it's kind of a mix of science and magic stuff? Bio of a Space Tyrant is all one-word titles. I don't remember if there's sex. The Virtual Mode series are all 2 word titles in the form of "*something* Mode"

L Ron Hubbard wrote a 10 volume series which is basically complete ramblings and weird sex. Mission Earth or somerthing like that?
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:07 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

After a brief googling I'm putting my money of the Bio of a Space Tyrant series by Piers Anthony
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:09 PM on December 5, 2014

There's also Stephen Donaldson's Gap cycle. There's definitely sex, if I remember correctly, weird rapey sex. Like the story somehow simultaneously sort of excused the rapist at the same time as condemning him. I believe this was a big part of the plot of one of the books. But maybe I'm mixing it up with his Thomas Covenant series. I read it in my mid 20's and it made me uncomfortable.
posted by pennypiper at 7:23 PM on December 5, 2014

The Gap series is an interpretation of Der Ring des Nibelungen so I think marginaliana might remember that more.

The Anthony series seems more likely to me. He makes everyone feel icky and uncomfortable.
posted by Justinian at 7:33 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's Bio of a space tyrant. It fits in a lot of ways except there's no aliens.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:39 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Uncomfortable sex scenes and beaches says West of Eden to me. Three of them by Harry Harrison featuring humans and an intelligent reptile race. Or dinosaurs or something.
posted by fshgrl at 8:06 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm ashamed to admit I bet it's Piers Anthony's Cluster series. Seriously weird alien sex.
posted by canine epigram at 8:06 PM on December 5, 2014

Even all these years later, Bio of a Space Tyrant still makes me feel awful.

There may not be aliens, but there was sex: "his career as military man, politician, executive and statesman was greatly misunderstood by the public, most notably his various affairs with women, which are a major focus of the series."

Gag. I read all six of these in a single weekend and it made me physically ill.

The only other thing I can think of, which only partially matches the criteria, might be David Gerrold's War Against The Chtorr series? As I recall there was a fair amount of violence and also some rather non-vanilla sex in them.
posted by doctor tough love at 8:11 PM on December 5, 2014

Pretty sure it's not Anthony's Apprentice Adept or Mode series. Adept series, yes, there's sex, but none of it fits your description, and the most odd-sex part of that series, in my opinion, would be the "game" in one of the books. Mode, they might well make you uncomfortable - some of the books have portions that are pretty triggering - but in a non-consent way, not weird-alien-sex.

I haven't yet read all his books, but he definitely has many series out there, and it would fit his typical modus operandi...
posted by stormyteal at 9:42 PM on December 5, 2014

For this to fit, your memory would have to be playing a lot of tricks on you, but when I think of sex and SF from that era, what comes to mind is John Varley. He's at one end of the bookshelf. His book Steel Beach is from the right timeframe. He also had a trilogy with single word titles and aliens: Titan, Wizard, and Gaea. And I recall there being enough sex throughout his oeuvre to make me wonder if my parents would be cool with me reading it (I suspect it's actually super tame, but I remember very little).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:02 PM on December 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe Butler's Xenogenesis series?
posted by stebulus at 6:58 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also thinking Piers Anthony's Cluster series. Weird sex, weird typography.
posted by escabeche at 8:00 AM on December 6, 2014

Seconding John Varley's "Steel Beach" which had the memorable opening line 'In five years the penis will be obsolete'. Lots of genetically-engineered sex in his books. IIRC the big thing in Steel Beach is that the main character ends up having sex with his/her illegal self-clone.

This was not a trilogy, but there was a second book set in his "Eight Worlds" universe called "The Golden Globe" and various short stories.
posted by Poldo at 9:22 AM on December 6, 2014

I second stebulus. My immediate thought was Octavia Butler.
posted by slipthought at 2:17 PM on December 6, 2014

Response by poster: It was definitely not Piers Anthony, because I read a bunch of his Xanth stuff so I think I would have remembered that he was the author. It wasn't Octavia Butler, either.

The John Varley series seems possible - the titles sound right, although the plot summary doesn't ring a bell.

They could have been pretty old when I read them - it was a used book shop, so there were plenty of books from the 60s and 70s in there.
posted by marginaliana at 3:26 PM on December 6, 2014

I used to find C.S. Lewis miscategorized a lot in used bookstores...wild guess, but you wouldn't be the first to think his planets trilogy a bit erotic. And there were lots of complete sets out there...
posted by cookie-k at 4:14 PM on December 6, 2014

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