I remember reading a short, perhaps 10 pages, sci-fi story, perhaps from the 1960's, pre New Wave or soon after, about a space shuttle crew member who routinely awakened from the rocket's blast-off induced blackout before everyyone else, who was secretly in love with the captain and used the few precious moments alone with him to gently stroke the captain's hair, face and lips.

A radical plot for its time, poignant and touching, for which I've never been able to find a reference. I believe the inexpensive paperback book in which the story appeared was a collection of unrelated short stories.

Full details of what the plot was about weren't revealed until the last paragraph or two. Seems, in light of New Wave and subsequent developments, this story deserve at least a footnote somewhere, but Google comes up empty.

1 Answer 1


This is the 1953 story The World Well Lost by Theodore Sturgeon. The last line:

He put out his huge hand, and with a feather touch, stroked the sleeping lips.

And, re: the blackout period:

But some anomaly in Grunty's gigantic frame kept his blackout periods down to thirty or forty minutes, while Rootes was always out for two hours or more.

The blackout wasn't related to blast-off though, but to the really ridiculous kind of warp drive that featured in the story

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    It's possible, but this was a pretty famous story in its day, because it had the first sympathetic portrayal of gay characters in American genre sf. As it says in the end notes to "A Saucer of Loneliness" (the Collected Stories volume in which it appears) "the story was ground-breaking when it was published in 1953". Jun 30, 2015 at 18:36
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    I understand this followup probably is in violation of Forum rules but I gotta' say thank you to Organic Marble!
    – Russell
    Jul 1, 2015 at 0:09
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    Thanks are awesome, but checkmarks make the site go round! If the answer is correct, please mark it by clicking on the gray checkmark to the left! Jul 1, 2015 at 0:35
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    After reading and re-reading The World Well Lost in Universe Vol. 1, No. 1 (delivered yesterday) it's apparent I'd forgotten many of its plot details over the years but not the central concept of the story. YES, it is the story I asked about!
    – Russell
    Jul 7, 2015 at 13:17
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    That "stroking of lips" is of course a sexual assault upon an unconscious and nonconsenting victim. That story must be the earliest instance of a sympathetic portrayal of a perpetrator of same-sex sexual assault.
    – user14111
    Mar 17, 2016 at 0:13

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