Sunday, November 05, 2006

Worldbuilding: Is going to the toilet going too far?

Have you ever "seen" anyone go to the toilet in a romance?
Well? Have you?

It's a strange phenomenon. In a romance novels (I assume they are classified as romance novels), heroic characters can deploy "butt plugs" in loving detail, but the reader cannot follow them into the bathroom for anything other than a wash.

In my world view, the bathroom is a very important place, not least because it is one of the few places where most heroes and heroines are allowed to be completely private... or not, if one happens to be aboard Tarrant-Arragon's space ship, Ark Imperial, because he is one Big Brother who really does watch everything his guests do.

On the loo is a very good place to be, if one is surrounded by unscrupulous mind-readers, and a lot of FFandP characters are psis, these days.

Bathroom scenes or latrine-trench scenes are part of my world building. The logistics of necessity are important to my fashionista heroine, Princess "Marsh", when she is marooned on a previously uninhabited island in INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL. She warms up to the super-practical 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 equipped with carbon filters. Do carbon filters actually work? I'm off topic, a bit here, but I do so love the MythBusters tv series. They do such practical and interesting experiemnts!

Returning to science fiction romance, and assuming that all romantic aliens are humanoid... now my mind wanders off to think of the alien who kept his genitals in his knee caps... I wonder how many different toilet designs would make sense.

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:

Schuyler Thorpe said...

I'm not sure if bathrooms are the *most* functional pieces of scenery in any given science-fiction/fantasy novel, but I suppose that--in a pinch--it can provide some interesting scenes for the book.

I've done it for at least three books of mine. And haven't had a problem.

But a starship?

I dunno. I haven't really addressed that concept. Except for Captain Janeway and Neelix, I doubt Captain Kirk had a real problem finding the bathroom. :0P