"Open Earth," a sci-fi graphic novel about polyamory in space
I discovered this on AL.com, a mainstream newspaper site for the state of Alabama. Not quite what I expected there, though Alabama does have Huntsville, home of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
Open Earth was written by Sarah Mirk of Portland, author of Sex from Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules. The artists, Eva Cabrera and Claudia Aguirre, also draw Kim & Kim, a "science fiction adventure comic about two young queer women working as dimension-hopping interplanetary bounty hunters."
Here's the AL.com article, including a long interview with Mirk. Excerpts:
The 'sweet' and 'sexy' guide to polyamory in space
By Will Nevin
If our ability to travel and survive for extended periods in space gets better, but our will to curb greenhouse gasses and global warming stays about the same, what might happen?
What would life be like if we just abandoned Earth?
What would we take with us? Stuff would be limited. ... But our morals, our philosophical views, our outlook on life and love and relationships wouldn’t have to fit in an overhead bin.
And yet, would we leave them behind anyway?
Last September, Limerence Press — an Oni imprint that focuses on sex education and erotica comics — published “Open Earth,” [which] imagines life above a ruined Earth to be very different from the one most of us know now, in that the next generation — one born in space — might view monogamous relationships as a thing best left on the dead planet below.
“Open Earth” is warm and funny and (being on an adult line) just a little spicy. It was also one of the most revolutionary things published last year. I chatted with Mirk via email on how the book came together, about love and diversity and what the future might hold for the world she has created.
Q: How would you summarize "Open Earth," and how would you describe Rigo, the main protagonist?
Sarah Mirk “Open Earth” is an upbeat, erotic sci-fi story set on a space station after the climate collapse of Earth. It chronicles a day in the life of the people growing up on the station, who have intertwining friendships and sexual relationships. Rigo is part of the first generation of people born in space. At 20 years old, the space station California is all she knows, so she’s skeptical of her parents’ interest in Earth traditions like monogamy and ruminating on the past. ...
Science fiction, collectivist philosophy and an exploration of polyamory might otherwise be taken up in separate works, but here, they're interwoven themes. How do these subjects speak to one another, and ultimately, how does "self" figure into all of them?
...In my mind, the generation of space-born young people see themselves as individuals, but because they’re living in very tight quarters and with extremely limited resources, they don’t have the same concepts around property, ownership and jealousy that we do today. The biggest difference, from a relationship standpoint, is that people are free to be intimate with whoever they want — there is not an expectation of monogamy, because that would lead to tension and resentment. Instead, the norm is that you can have sex with whoever you want, but you’ve got to be honest and open about it. No secrets! No one has a private room on the ship, everyone has at least one roommate and hogging space to yourself is discouraged. But they’re not collectivist zombies. I think humans will always be interested in having privacy, which is the core of having a self. On the California, the most precious commodity is privacy. Every conversation is subject to eavesdropping, everyone knows who is hooking up with who — even if they’d rather not. ...
The parents’ generation is much more tied into how history shapes identity — they named their kids after heroes on Earth and are trying to keep those stories and traditions alive. But the younger generation doesn’t see themselves that way, they see identity as more fluid, ever-shifting and not rooted in history at all. ...
Read the whole piece (Feb. 13, 2019)
A review in Mirk's hometown Portland Mercury: Polyamorous Sci-Fi Graphic Novel Open Earth Feels Lost in Space (Oct. 11, 2018)
By Andrew Jankowski
“Honesty keeps us alive” is a recurring phrase in Open Earth, the debut graphic novel penned by comics writer, author, and (full disclosure!) former Portland Mercury reporter Sarah Mirk. The motto refers not only to the practice of sharing the small quarters of an Earth-orbiting space station, but to its citizens — especially a polyamorous generation that has only ever lived in space.
...Open Earth presents a day-in-the-life look at life aboard the space station California... . Rigo narrates in the California’s official language, Spanglish, and it’s obvious that racism and body shaming are deader than monoculture and capitalism. The book’s main conflict, Rigo’s desire to move out of her parents’ quarters and into those of a partner, is only a problem because she doesn’t know how to tell anyone involved — her parents, her partner, or her other partners. Rigo’s life is a no-frills utopia or, depending on how you feel about non-monogamy drama, a cheery dystopia.
...Open Earth succeeds as an easy, low-stakes read about navigating multiple romantic relationships and having sex in space. But it’s disappointing that the book lacks out-of-this-world situations, especially since the medium of comics is constrained only by a budget of imagination. The space station Rigo lives on ends up looking like a utility closet much of the time, and despite a diverse cast, no one except Rigo has much personality. Furthermore, considering the explicitness of the book’s sex scenes, the space sex is unforgivably tame. ...
...Open Earth has potential as a series, especially if it goes on to explore the other characters and expand its plotline about this new generation taking the station’s cultural reins. As a standalone, though, Open Earth feels more interested in education than story.
While we're on graphic novels, there's the sweet queer poly Sugartown by Hazel Newlevant. Publisher's description: "A bisexual, polyamorous love story for the modern era. Hazel is already in a happy relationship when she meets Argent, a woman who works as a dominatrix, but is sweet and tender outside the bedroom. How will she negotiate this new romance with her boyfriend back home? And what about his other girlfriend?"
Two pages from it: