cover image Off Limits: Tales of Alien Sex

Off Limits: Tales of Alien Sex

. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-14019-9

In her introduction to this volume, master anthologist Datlow (Blood is Not Enough) observes that science fiction ``has traditionally been a bit hesitant about dealing with sexual and gender themes,'' but this collection of 20 short stories gives it a try and often succeeds in evoking the ``alienness'' of all sexual relationships. The best stories rely not upon interstellar orgies or futuristic sex toys but upon the sexual foibles of human beings on 20th-century Earth. ``Oral,'' by Richard Christian Matheson, concerns a man who interacts with the physical world only through somebody else's description, and the woman who tries to provide that description. Matheson takes everyday, neutral objects like wine glasses and sea shells and infuses them with a sensuality that makes them seem alien and fantastic. In Bruce McAllister's present-day ``Captain China,'' a young boy forced into prostitution faces a bleak reality that has timely and disturbing overtones. Of the more traditional SF stories, Neil Gaiman's darkly humorous poem/screenplay, ``Eaten,'' features a PI whose search for a missing woman leads him literally to hell, while Simon Ings's ``Grand Prix'' is an action-filled account of a man who can neurally link himself to his race car. A few stories lose themselves in an attempt to be different--like ``Sextraterrestrials,'' an eccentric but boring record of an E-mail poetry competition between Joe Haldeman and Jane Yolen. Overall, however, this is provocative reading not just for SF fans but for all those who sometimes feel that the opposite sex is just too strange to be from the same planet. (Feb.)