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Strange Lusts / Strange Loves" (2020) by Jabari Weathers

Speculative fiction has always been the material representation of our desire to bring about a better world. Science fiction provides imaginative blueprints for what our future could become; fantasy writers conjure up ideas of how we might behave if the laws of the universe were a little bit different; even dystopic and horror stories birth an optimistic outlook in their own way—by facing our anxieties and fear, we can better understand how to overcome them.

But it isn’t the trappings of these genres that constitute the true power that speculative fiction holds. Lasers and phasers, wands and wyverns, these are simply tools that allow us to explore how people and societies work. Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea is an exciting adventure story of wizardry and dragons, true, but it’s also about a young man’s attempts to own and rectify his mistakes. The Matrix series of films serves up bullet-time martial arts and robot-squids aplenty, but also asks us to question our relationship to the powers under which we serve, and analyse what it means to be “free”.

Sexuality, then, is just another social issue that speculative stories can discuss. How, with whom, and how often we have sex has been dictated, policed and scrutinized in every human civilization. It is the responsibility of the collective of storytellers who speculate, to include gender, desire, sex, and eroticism in their explorations of the possible, in their imaginings of the fantastical.

Strange Lusts / Strange Loves is a collection of interactive fiction that touches on themes of human sexuality. Call them games, stories, or textual experiences, these works demand from their audience an engagement that traditional short stories do not—cannot—expect. As the six works are sequentially released, readers will be thrust into the driver’s seat (Control terminal? Saddle?) and asked to steer the story, asked to personally confront sex in its delightful, depraved, dreary, and dreamlike guises. 

With each release, you will find that every piece is extraordinarily different from the others in subject matter, tone, style, and use of reader agency. Just as sex and intimacy have the capacity to be both funny and serious, the interactive stories in this anthology range from humorous to somber. Each is composed of a unique combination of emotional notes that illuminate the ways in which sexual journeys can be so particular to the people embarking on them. 

It is our hope that readers will find multiple ways to connect with these works, just as there are multiple ways to play through them. These pieces are meant to be experienced more than once so that you can explore the paths not taken in previous readings. Take some time to investigate each opportunity to impact the narrative, whether in small or significant ways. Maybe you will recognize a part of yourself or your own history within one story only to find yourself in unfamiliar but curious territory in another. You may even learn something new about your own inner-workings while pausing to consider which option you will choose at one of the story’s intersections. Sometimes the most meaningful revelations are found in the farthest corners of the labyrinth that is an interactive story.

Sharang Biswas is a writer, artist, and award-winning game designer. His nonfiction writing has appeared in publications such as Dicebreaker and Eurogamer, while his fiction has been published by or is forthcoming in Fantasy Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Sub-Q Magazine, Baffling Magazine, and Neon Hemlock Press. He is the co-editor of Honey & Hot Wax: An Anthology of Erotic Art Games (Pelgrane Press) and Strange Lusts / Strange Loves: An Anthology of Erotic Interactive Fiction (Strange Horizons). You can find Sharang on Twitter as @SharangBiswas, or visit his website
Yeonsoo Julian Kim is a game designer and cultural consultant who designs tabletop RPGs, LARPs, card games, and writes interactive fiction. Some of their games include the interactive horror novel The Fog Knows Your Name published by Choice of Games, and the card game Battle of the Boybands published by Game and a Curry. Other games they have contributed to include Kids on Bikes, Teens in Space, Magical Kitties Save the Day, Mutants and Masterminds, and they are currently working on Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Their game about using food metaphors to talk about BDSM in secret, Pass the Sugar, Please, can be found in Honey & Hot Wax: An Anthology of Erotic Art Games.
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