Reading is a popular way to pass some pandemic time – especially if the topic is sexy space creatures. (Credit: Wokandapix from Pixabay)

Surviving the coronavirus crisis has led many of us to pursue new interests. Some took up knitting. Some made their own sourdough starter. Some began reading about the sexual exploits of virile aliens with blue skin hailing from a fictional, far-off planet. 

Whatever works, we say.

The “Ice Planet Barbarians” series — which follows a crew of women space explorers and their pornographic misadventures with the aforementioned aliens — is a new hit. (And perfect timing, what with the government releasing its big UFO report and all.) Author Ruby Dixon’s passionate fictional universe is dominating Amazon’s science fiction bestseller list, with parts of the series comprising eight of the top ten slots. One installment even broke through to the top tiers of the internet retailer’s overall bestseller list.

There’s no mistaking these for horror, either. “You’d think being abducted by aliens would be the worst thing that could happen to me. And you’d be wrong. Because now, the aliens are having ship trouble, and they’ve left their cargo of human women — including me — on an ice planet,” one book’s description explains. “And the only native inhabitant I’ve met? He’s big, horned, blue, and really, really has a thing for me…”

Fantastic. But why are we telling you about this? Because in addition to finding ourselves oddly captivated by the premise, this is also one of the more fascinating women’s pandemic success stories we’ve heard.

The “Ice Planet Barbarians” books are actually several years old, it turns out. (The first edition was released in April 2015.) But as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, and workers continue to be furloughed or fired, one individual found herself posting on social networking site TikTok about the books she turned to.

“Miss Ruby Dixon has created, I would say, one of the only fantasy worlds … that I would seriously consider moving to,” reader Emma Carter said in her May 2021 post, before describing some of the creatures’ more intriguing anatomical features. (Note: Carter’s TikTok post contains a significant amount of colorful language — which this writer would admittedly happily employ outside of work hours, but will warn others about before viewing all the same.)

Prior to the post, Dixon’s self-published series had a small cult following, but little more attention had been paid to it. Now, it’s blowing up. The author, who describes herself as shy, told CNN the attention has been equal parts “amazing and terrifying.”

For the most part, both Dixon and her now-rapidly-expanding fanbase keep these books in the spirit they’re intended — as good, dirty fun. But her journey as an author, as well as her overnight success, have also shed some light on the pervasive sexism that plagues women writers. For example, Dixon recalls a supervisor asking her once if she ever engaged in the sexual scenarios she writes about with her husband. “And I wondered, do people ask crime writers that?” she rhetorically asked.

Their fans face similar shaming, too, it seems. “There are a lot of conversations in the BookTok community about misogyny and snobbery when it comes to books like these,” Carter said in her recent interview. “This is literally a sci-fi book written for the female gaze. So what if it’s not highbrow literature? Women can rage against the patriarchy in their real lives, and then read about a fun fantasy world and be smart and complex enough to know the difference.”

She adds, “We’ve got to stop demonizing things that women like.”

Whether she means here on Earth or beyond, we can’t help but agree.