Naturist fiction as a genre has been experiencing wonderful growth lately. There are more and more of us who write it, many more and more of us who read it, and with group projects like the Murder in the Nudist Colony anthology, there has been improved visibility. *There’s a call out now for contributions to the next collection, Romance in the Nudist Colony!*
It seems to me that one of the most important tropes to come out of our collective activity as writers in this genre is the metaphor of nudity as a superpower, or as a way to access superpowers. Across the many intersections with naturist fiction in which we write – science fiction, fantasy, mystery and historical fiction among others – the message often boils down to how nudity allows us to be better, stronger, more perceptive, more intuitive.
In many of the books by P.Z. Walker, nudity is required for the characters to access hidden abilities. Sheila, the heroine of the Naked Crow series, discovers and develops her shamanic abilities in this way. Plenty of other characters in the series enjoy nudity as well, but without any magical or mystical outcome; nonetheless, even those characters eventually feel more attuned to nature and to their humanity through nudity. In a newer series starting with the title See-Through, police officer Emma Nelson discovers a special superpower but, once again, she can only access it when naked. In the Mirror Earth series, we learn that the inhabitants of the naked planet, while not without their own problems, are at least more attuned to their environment and better able to find natural solutions.
In Nick Alimonos’ Ages of Aenya, the heroes Thelana and Xandr are accustomed to nudity even though the society they live in is not. Their nudity is essential to their worldview and to their abilities, not only as battle-hardened warriors but also as decision-makers. They represent an ancestral link to nature in a way that is not so much savage as pure and direct. (It’s important to note that Alimonos does not consider his work to be naturist fiction, but rather fantasy in which there are elements that could be interpreted as naturist in character.)
Robert Longpré’s series beginning with A Small Company of Pilgrims, features a main character, René Beauchemin, who discovers that by meditating without clothes, he is better able to understand the messages of the archetypal identities that surround him. In a manner not unlike Sheila’s unencumbered access to her spiritual guides in the Naked Crow books, René gains a nude communion with archetypal guides along his journey to self-acceptance.
All of the examples above are culled from fantasy, mystery or science fiction interacting with what could be called naturist fiction or naturist-friendly fiction. An example from a more speculative-historical novel comes from my own work, Aglow, in which Marisol, Zé, and all the characters in the climactic scene learn of their special powers as a nude collective in the landscape. Only naked, and only united, can they perform the ancient rite of El Dorado to alter the immediate environment and facilitate Clevina’s childbirth.
Even in the many works of naturist fiction – the majority – that do not involve superpowers, there is always the outcome that naturism is a boon in and of itself, for all the reasons we know: respect for the body and for others’ bodies, respect for the environment, and a healthier and more natural lifestyle. This is because the ur-metaphor of nudity is truth: the lifting of the veil, the uncloaking of mystery, the greater intimacy with what can be known. Nudity as superpower simply takes the step of imagining what more could lie beyond that veil…