“Did you like the book you bought?”

“Well, when Sarkan gets…”

“Whoa! you’re not going to spoil it for me, are you?”


“Because I might want to read it.”


The next day, she left the novel on my nightstand.

San Francisco, California, United States

Apple iPhone 6 + Pro HDR
4.15mm (35mm), 1/30sec @ ƒ2.2, ISO 160

The next morning she stated matter-of-factly, “You finished it last night.” “How do you know,” I asked? “Because the bookmark is on the first page.”

(This book won the Nebula for best novel, Locus Award for best fantasy novel, and Mythopoeic Award for adult literature. It also was a Hugo finalist.)

Before I started reading, she cautioned, “It has a sex scene in it.”

I didn’t know what to make of that. On one hand, would it be as tame as a certain page of The Crystal Cave, that everyone but me in my prep school’s sixth grade Reading class could probably cite the page number of to this day?

But certainly she could remember that I refuse to buy anything on the Kindle because when I first got one, I downloaded many of the popular free books? Amazon’s recommendation system still thinks all I want to read are various novels involving a handsome rich misunderstood scion or prince of demon vampire succubi who gets changed through the power of giving multiple orgasms to an understanding and sensitive heroine.

When I got to the aforementioned part in this particular novel, I found it more Crystal Cave, less modern-day softcore romance—even tamer than a 60’s era romance novel.

But I also understood why she mentioned it. There is something unnecessary and out-of-place to its inclusion in a fantasy that can only be explained as being some peculiar fetish of the author.

If you do not happen to be an avid reader of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, let me explain by recounting something that happened a long time ago:

I don’t read that much sci-fi/fantasy now. Not because I can’t, but rather the opposite—I can’t seem go to sleep until I finish the book I start. But in high school, my friend C— put me to shame. In the space of time where I would read one SciFi/Fantasy book, he’d have read three or four, all with better retention.

During free periods, I, being an unapologetic nerd, hung out with the other nerds in a room across from the Dean’s office. This was mostly a tame affair, only getting noticed when I was GMing an RPG and the ensuing laughter (and my loud voice) carried to the neighboring classrooms. This would cause a teacher there to pause class to come in and admonish us to pipe down. (It was worth it, every time.)

One day, my friend C— had a science fiction book out. I became attracted to the artwork on the cover.

“Oh *pfft*,” I said dismissively after a closer look.

“What? Why?,” C— asked.

“It’s written by Jack L. Chalker,” as if that explained everything.

The other people in the room had their interest piqued toward our conversation.

C— queried, “What’s wrong with that?”

“All his books are the same.”

C— considered it before giving a studied response, “No, this one is different and much better.”

“No it isn’t,” I replied. “I’ve read, six… seven… eight… nine! of his books and I have his number.”

“How do you know, you haven’t read this series. It’s really original…”

I cut him off. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll ask two questions and if the answer to either one of them is ‘No,’ I’ll not only take it back, I’ll read the books.”

Now even the studious ones were peeking out at us from behind the cubby.

“Okay, shoot.”

“First, does someone in the book have a sex change? Second, are there women with tails?”

The challenge hung in the air for a pregnant moment.

“That’s not relevant to wh…”

C—’s response was quickly drowned out by the laughter of everyone else in the room.

(And yes, when the teacher from the neighboring classroom came in to tell us to quiet down, it was worth it.?)

When writing the article, I was saddened to find out that Jack L. Chalker is dead. ?

Well I hope he’s up there in sci-fi fantasy heaven, a world of fungible gender inhabited by sex kittens with tails.

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