By Larry Niven

He's faster than a speeding bullet. He's more powerful than a locomotive. He's able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. Why can't he get a girl?

At the ripe old age of 31(1), Kal-El (alias Superman, alias Clark Kent) is still unmarried. Almost certainly he is still a virgin. This is a serious matter. The species itself is in danger!

An unwed superman is a mobile Superman. Thus it has been alleged that those who chronicle the Man of Steel's adventures are responsible for his condition. But the cartoonsts are not to blame.

Granted that the poor oaf is not entirly sane. How could he be? He is an orphan, a refugee, and an alien. His homeland no longer exists in any form, save for the gigatons of dangerous, prettily coloured rocks.

As a child and young adult, Kal-El mest have been hard put to find an adequate father-figure. What human being would dare try and punish him? His actual, highly social behavour during this period indicates an inhuman self restraint.

What wander if superman drifted gradually into schitzophrenia? Torn between his human and kryptonian identies, he chose to be both, keeping his split personalites rigedly seperate. A psycotic desperation is evident in his defense of his "secret identity."

But Superman's sex problems are strictly physiological, and quite real.

The purpose of this article is to point out some medical drawbacks to being a kryptonian among human beings, and to suggest possible solutions. The kryptonian humanoid must not be allowed to go the way of the pterodactyl and the passenger pidgeon.

(1) Superman first appeared in Action Comics, June, 1938


What turns on a kryptonian?

Superman is an alien, an extra-terrestrial. His humanoid frame is doubtless the result of parallel evolution, as the marsupials of Australia resemble their mammalian counterparts. A specific niche in the ecology calls for a certain shape, a certain size, certain capabilities, certain eating habits.

Be not deceived by appearances. Superman is no relative to homo-sapiens.

What arrouses Kal-El's mating urge? Did kryptonian women carry some subtle mating cue at appropriate times of the year? Whatever it is, Lois Lane probably doesn't have it. We may speculate that she smells wrong, less like a kryptonian woman than like a terrestrial monkey. A mating between Superman and Lois Lane would feel like sodomy - and would be, of course, by church and common law.


Assume a mating between Superman and a human woman, designated LL for convenience.

Either Superman has gone completely schizo and believes himself to be Clark Kent; or he knows what he's doing, but no longer gives a damn. Thirty-one years is a long time. For Superman it has been even longer. He has X-ray vision; he knows just what he's missing(2).

The problem is this. Electroencephalograms taken of men and women during sexual intercourse show that orgasm resembles "a kind of pleasurable epileptic attack." One loses contrel over one's muscles.

Superman has been knowen to leave his fingerprints in steel and in hardened concrete, accidentally. What would he do to the woman in his arms during what amounts to an epileptic fit?

(2)One should not think of superman as a Peeping Tom. A biological ability must be used. As a child Superman may never have known that things had surfaces, until he learned to suppress his X-ray vision.

If millions of people tend to shamelessly wear clothing with no lead in the weave, that is hardly Superman's fault.


Consider the driving urge between a man and a woman, the monomanical urge to achieve greater penetration. Remember also that we are dealing with kryptonian muscles.

Superman would literally crush LL's body in his arms, while simultaneously ripping her open from crotch to sternum, gutting her like a trout.


Lastly, he'd blow of the top of her head.

Ejaculation of semen is entirly involuntry in the human male, and in all other forms of terrestrial life. It would be unreasonable to assume otherwise for a kryptonian. But with kryptonian muscles behind it, Kal-El's semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine-gun bullet(3).

Artifical insemination may give us better results.

(3)One can imagine that the Kent home in Smallville was riddled with holes during Superboy's puberty. And why did Lana Lang never notice that?


First, we must collect the semen. The globules will emerge at transsonic speeds. Superman must first ejacultae, then fly frantically after the stuff to catch it in a test tube. We assume that he is on the Moon, both for privacy and to prevent the semen from exploding into vapour on hitting the air at such speeds.

He can catch the semen, of course, before it evapourates in vacuum. He's faster than a speeding bullet.

But can he keep it?

All knowen forms of kryptonian life have superpowers. The same must hold true of living kryptonian sperm. We may reasonably assume that kryptonian sperm are vulnerable only to starvation and green kryptonite; that they can travel with equal ease through water, air, vacuum, glass, brick, boiling steel, solid steel, liquid helium, or the core of a star; and that they are capable of translight velocities.

What kind of a test tube will hold such beasties?

Kryptonian sperm and their unusual powers will give us further trouble. For the moment, we will assume (because we must) that the tend to stay in the seminal fluid, which tends to stay in a simple glass tube. Thus Superman and LL can perform artifical insemination.

At least there will be another generation of kryptonians.

Or will there?


A ripened but unfertilized egg leaves LL's ovary, begins its voyage down her Fallopian tube.

Some time later, tens of millions of sperm, released from a test tube, begin their own voyage up LL's Fallopian tube.

The magic moment approaches...

Can human breed with kryptonian? Do we even use the same genetic code? On the face of it, LL could more easily breed with an ear of corn than with Kal-El. But coincidence does happen. If the genes match...

One sperm arrives before the others. It penetrates the egg, forms a lump on its surface. The cell wall now thickens to prevent other sperm from entering. Within the now fertilized egg, changes take place...

And ten million kryponite sperm arrive slightly late.

Were they human sperm, they would be out of luck. But these tiny blind things are more powerful than a locomotive. A thickned cell wall won't stop them. They will all enter the egg, obliterating it entirely in an orgy of microscopic gang rape. So much for artifical insemination.

But LL's problems are only just begining.


Within her body there are still tens of millions of frustrated kryptonian sperm. The single egg is now too diffuse to be a target. The sperm scatter.

They scatter without regard to what is in their path. They leave curved channels, microscopically small. Presently all will have found their way to the open air.

That leaves LL with several million microscopic perforations all leading deep into her abdomen. Most of the channels will intersect one or more loops of intestine.

Peritonitis is inevitable. LL becomes desperatly ill.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of sperm swarm in the air over Metropolis.


This is more serious than it looks.

Consider: these sperm are virtually indestructable. Within days or weeks they will die from lack of nurisment. Meanwhile they cannot be affected by heat, cold, vacuum, toxins, or anything short of green kryponite(4). There they are, miniscule but dangerous; for each one has supernormal powers.

Metropolis is shaken by tiny sonic booms. Wormholes, charred by meteoric heat, sprout magically in all kinds of things: plate glass, masonry, antique ceramics, electric mixers, wood, houshold pets, and citizens. Some of the sperm will crack lightspeed. The Metropolis night comes alive with a network of narrow, eerie blue lines of Cherenkov radiation.

And women who Superman has never met find themselves in a delicate condition.

Consider: LL won't get pregnant because there were too many of the blind mindless beasts. But whenever one sperm approaches an unfertilized human egg in its panic flight, it will attack.

How close is close enough? A few centimeters? Are sperm attracted by chemical cues? It seems likely. Metropolis has a population of millions; and a kryptonian sperm could travel a long and crooked path, billions of miles, before it gives up and dies.

Several thousand blessed events seem not unlikely(5).

Several thousand lawsuits would follow. Not that Superman can't afford to pay. There's a trick where you squeeze a lump of coal into its allotropic diamond form... --(4)

And other forms of kryponite. For instance, there are chunks of red kryptonite that makes giants of kryptonians. Imagine ten million earthworm- sized spermatozoa swarming over a metropolis beach diving to fertilize the beach balls... but I digress.

(5)If the pubescent Superboy plays with himself, we have the same problem over Smallville.--


The above analysis gives us part of the answer. In our experement in artifical insmination, we must use a single sperm. This presents no difficulty. Superman may use his microscpic vision and a pair of tiny tweezers to pluck a sperm from the swarm.


In its eagerness the single sperm may crash through LL's abdomen at transonic speeds, wreaking havoc. Is there any way to slow it down?

There is. We can expose it to gold kryptonite.

Gold kryptonite, we remember, robs a kryptonian of his supernormal powers, permanently. Were we to expose Superman himself to gold kryptonite, we would solve all his sex problems, but he would be Clark Kent forever. We may regard this solution as somewhat drastic.

But we can expose the test tube of seminal fluid to gold kryptonite, then use standard techniques for artifical insemination.

By any of these methods, we can get LL pregnant without killing her. Are we out of the woods yet?


Though exposed to gold kryptonite, the sperm still carry kryptonian genes. If these are recessive, then LL carries a developing human fetus. There will be no more Supermen; but at least we need not worry about the mother's health.

But if some or all of the kryptonian genes are dominant...

Can the infant use his X-ray vison before birth? After all, with such a power he can probably see through his own closed eyelids. That would leave LL sterile. If the kid starts using his heat vision, things get even worse.

But when he starts to kick, it's all over. He will kick his way out into the open air, killing himself and his mother.


Is there a solution?

There are several. Each has drawbacks.

We can make LL wear a kryptonite(6) belt around her waist. But too little kryptonite may allow the child to damage her, while too much may damage or kill the child Intermediate amounts may do both! And there is no safe way to experiment.

A better solution is to find a host-mother.

We have not yet considered the existence of Supergirl(7). She could carry the child without harm. But Supergirl has a secret identity, and her secret identity is no more married than Supergirl herself. If she turned up pregnant, she would probably be thrown out of school.

A better solution may be to implant the growing fetus in Superman himself. There are plenty of places in a man's abdomen where a fetus could draw adequate nourishment, growing as a parasite, and where it would not cause undue harm to surrounding organs. Presumably Clark Kent can take a leave of absence more easily than Supergirl's alto ego.

When the time comes, the child would be removed by Caesarian section. It would have to be removed early, but there would be no problem with incubators as long as it were fed. I leave the problem of cutting through Superman's invulnerable skin as an exercise for the alert reader.

The mind boggles at the image of a pregnant Superman cruising the skies of Metropolis. Batman would refuse to be seen with him; strange new jokes would circulate the prisons... and the race of Krypton would be safe at last.

(6)For our purposes, all forms of kryptonite are available in unlimited quantities. It has been estimated, from the startling tonnage of kryptonite fallen to Earth since the explosion of Krypton, that the planet must have outweighed our entire solar system. Doubtless the "planet" krypton was a cooling black dwarf star, one of a binary pair, the other member being a red giant.

(7)She can't mate with Superman because she's his first cousin. And only a cad would suggest differently.