Sunday, November 05, 2006

Romances with Toilets

My title reminds me of "Dances with Wolves" but has nothing whatsoever to do with wildlife or history. I write alien romances set in advanced worlds, and occasionally I try to envisage how future societies will manage the call of Nature.

Once upon a time, the King of a large, modern, Western country
came to visit one of a major auto-maker's design facilities. Both the Gents' and Ladies' bathrooms on one floor were closed to the public and reserved for their visiting Majesties' exclusive convenience.

As I recall the tale as it was told to me, their Majesties availed themselves of the opportunity (Royalty always goes when the opportunity presents itself, or is respectfully presented), took the entire entourage in with them (the host had assumed that the entourage would wait outside, and go afterwards), and conversation continued uninterrupted by any acknowledgement whatsoever that the setting was temporarily less formal.

My source has completely forgotten ever telling me this. He says I imagined it. I never forget a good potty story (but I do have strange dreams).

Hollywood movies have scenes set at urinals all the time. The loo seems to be a good place for mobsters to hang out, have conversations, assess each other's manliness, and sometimes kill each other.

I don't recall too many sci-fi movies with scenes in similar settings.

Bathroom scenes are part of my world building. The logistics of necessity are important to my fashionista heroine when she is marooned on a previously uninhabited island in INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL. She warms up to the hero considerably when he takes the time to fashion a decent toilet seat for her.

There are bathroom fixtures I've considered that would probably never get past an editor of romances. Just like only villains in Regency romances have bad breath, no one breaks wind in a spaceship, and there is no mechanism to deal with a problem that even aliens ought to have... I would have thought.

It's simply not heroic to back up to an interior, miniature porthole.

If water might be a precious commodity in outer space, much might be done with suction and air pressure (I suppose). Also recycling. One has to think of physics, and chemistry, and gravity, and logistics.

Assuming that all romantic aliens are humanoid... now I pause to think of the alien who kept his genitals in his knee caps... and if one could eliminate waste through ones feet, that could be convenient, depending where one lived, but again, it would not be romantic.

I've never been sure about fictional bathrooms on spaceships that appear out of nowhere at the push of a button. Walls move. Space is created with no discernable impact on the size of the living area. Solid bathroom fixtures appear. How? Is the bathroom like Dr. Who's Tardis? I could accept a shower, but not a jacuzzi, I guess. But, then, I am not a plumber.

Why push a button? What about a Clap-On Crapper? What fun if the alien-romance's human heroine were to clap her hands in delight over some unrelated matter, and the toilet would shoot out of the walls, slosh and retreat, and reappear until she had the wit to stop clapping!

Can any reader point me in the direction of a well designed alien loo?

Best wishes,

RAH interview

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post! Provacative, to say the least. ;-)
I'd say Battlestar Galactica's gender-neutral loo, perfect for plotting sedition or sexual assignations. But would they qualify as alien, since they're the human race? They're certainly in 'sort of' alien conditions I suppose.