Until scientists discover definitive evidence of life on other planets, everything about it will remain speculative. And although Hollywood has produced an abundance of memorable fictions about our intergalactic neighbors, one important aspect of their lives has long escaped intensive scrutiny: sexuality.
"It's really hard for us to think about sexuality outside of our own bodies and our own parts," says Suzie Silver, an associate professor of art at Carnegie Mellon and creator of the Internet-based art community The Institute of Extraterrestrial Sexuality. "There are so many possibilities."
In 2009, Silver approached Jasdeep Khaira and Christopher Kardambikis, co-founders of local art publisher Encyclopedia Destructica, about compiling a book that explores the reproductive practices of life on other planets. "I was really excited," Kardambikis says. "Asking people to think about and produce work about non-humanoid extraterrestrial sexuality? A thousand times yes."
The colorful, 288-page volume titled Strange Attractors: Investigations in Non-Humanoid Extraterrestrial Sexualities was published in June. The book features sketches, paintings and brief prose pieces, including a book review written by an alien. A 120-minute DVD contains animated and live-action vignettes. The 70 contributors include Silver herself (with Hilary Harp) and names like Peggy Ahwesh and Jacob Ciocci. A Sept. 21 release party features screenings and live readings.
Strange Attractors is a playful, unabashed attempt at exhausting the possibilities of extraterrestrial intercourse. "It just seemed most interesting to approach this idea from as many different angles as possible," Silver says.
Alien sex is depicted in every way conceivable, from interweaving tentacles to miniature projectiles that travel in and out of funnels. Shannon Moulton's video "Green Portal 43" depicts visiting extraterrestrials creating an erotic film based on observed human behaviors that turn them on.
For Silver, it's all a welcome respite from literary and cinematic depictions of alien sex, which are often highly anthropomorphized. "Even if there are planets with water, and about the same temperature, and even if the same evolutionary process were to occur, there's no guarantee that you're going to end up with anything like a primate," she points out.
Silver says contributors to the Institute of Extraterrestrial Sexuality's blog are touring the country promoting Strange Attractors. Asked who he believed the book's target audience is, Kardambikis responds, "Everybody. Everybody should want a book about alien sex."