“Salmonella Men on Planet Porno” (novella) by Yasutaka Tsutsui
English Publication History:
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (Alma Books, 2006)
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (Pantheon Books, 2008)
Original: Japanese, 1977
Translated by Andrew Driver, 2006
Synopsis: Dr. Suiko Shimazaki is pregnant on the planet named Nakamura, but she hasn’t been impregnated by a man; rather, the androspore of the native “widow’s incubus” has planted the seed of life in her. The research team is unwilling to bring the abomination to full term in six days’ time, so Yohachi must enter the humanoid camp nude to participate in their obscene activities—to learn the cure—but not before entering the libidinous jungle.
Pre-analysis Brainstorm: Modern society is a human invention; it’s a man-made construct based on a long history of beliefs, premises, laws, superstitions, conquests, interventions, morals, norms, taboos, etc. Compare this with the animal kingdom where animals, too, have simple and complex relationships. In the animal world, the societies that developed are evolution necessities and change very little—no beliefs penetrate the society, nor the history of their laws, morals, etc. Aside from the million-year long process of evolution, their societies are stagnant but necessarily stable.
In various (all?) human societies, taboos, in particular, remain a core part and remain stable regardless of whatever revolutions transpire. The sexual revolution in America brought sexuality to the forefront of social importance, but, even nowadays, the topic of sex is still considered a near-taboo topic of touchy conversations.
Analysis: In “Salmonella Men”, the Japanese society of the future still maintains the taboo subject of sex; however, the planet they are on is filled with nothing but sexing plants and sexing animals—the planet just screams sex. All around the scientific expedition, the flora and fauna go through the course of nature, a ravenously libidinous affair in which everything is a target of desire. A small number of them continually protest at the lewdness of the planet’s life, damning it all obscene. Consider that the flora and fauna are going through their motions of evolutional necessity, so why should that be obscene? It’s only obscene to the eyes of the humans, who have brought subjective views of what is right/wrong, just/unjust, or good/bad.
The topic of sex among the men of the scientific camp is less than taboo—they speak about the women as small conquests, yet the elderly doctors of the camp have the strongest subjectivity, which is counter-intuitive because, as academic and medical doctors, they should be the most objective, detached, and observant; yet, they consider “Planet Porno” to be a land of absurdity, obscenity, and indecency. When one woman becomes pregnant, not by one of the men but by one of those so-called obscene plants, it becomes apparent that the only solution to her troublesome and very pronounced pregnancy is to contact the natives–”They went around permanently naked” (196) and participated in frequent acts of debauchery right in the open without any sense of shame.
To learn the secret of stopping or reversing the pregnancy, they decide to send a member to the native camp, but they have always been rejected because of their poor manners, which run counter to their own—the natives glorify the act of sex while the humans consider it a taboo. They person they need is,
the kind of person who has no metaphysical conception of the sex act, but who at the same time has an endless supply of powerful philanthropic urges towards the sex act itself …. Someone who’s happy to have sexual intercourse with any partner, no matter who. (202)
They look to Yohachi—the degenerate pervert, the libidinous lecher, the licentious deviant, the corrupt copulater—to be able to integrate seamlessly into the native camp, partake in their various ways of coitus, and learn the secret of the suspect plant’s impregnation of their camp’s female.
So, regardless of any society’s taboos, the taboos are part of life—everyone know what they are and, in private, these are unveiled within the secret lives of many. As mentioned before, there is also a history is social traditions, customs, etc.; this history serves a purpose even if it’s less applicable to today’s modern world. In “Salmonella Men”, the scientists’ knowledge of the “open sexuality” taboo is what brings about the solution and they use the weakness of one man—Yohachi—to bring fruition to the conclusion.
While taboos are part of our society, we all harbor knowledge of them and use them to our benefit when we feel the need. Bare in mind that, while sex is a social taboo in many societies, that doesn’t stop advertisers from using watered down sex to sell a product. Taboos can be a weapon or a tool.