Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween

One thing that bothers me about my faith is Halloween.

Specifically, our response to halloween. That it is an evil thing to be avoided at all costs. Because, ew, there are dead things and ghosties and things that are "ungodly" and must be avoided. Because darkness cannot be of God.

As I've been editing Prince of the Gray Keep  I am reminded of the two things I'd have had in front of The Book, if it were a real book and not a self published thing. The first is, of course, something from C.S Lewis:

"The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighborhood of the Holy. Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar."

IMHO, this cuts to the very heart of The Book. I once sat down and committed the great sin of Literacy, where I tried to find the deep meaning of my own book. Naturally, because I am a Christian, I decided it was Spiritual Warfare of the deepest kind. Because I find my faith so deeply woven into my own work, I find myself forced to balance the scale. If I do this right, you'll find the evils of religion balanced with its goodness. Or, as my personal theology would have it (And God am I about to jump off the deep end here:) the theology of God, and of goodness, splayed against the theology of Oroborous, the closed system, something I define as evil. Evil exists in its purest form when it masquerades as goodness. It appeared in Jonestown, in Waco, in the darkest moments of history.

The second quote, however, is what I think of every year at Halloween.

It is a paraphrase of G.K. Chesterton, but I believe the paraphrase should stand on its own. It is a defense, I feel, of everything I've ever stood for:

"Fairy Tales don't teach children that Dragons exist. Children already know that Dragons exist. Fairy tales teach children that Dragons can be killed."

I think the greatest sin Christianity has ever committed is its choice to avoid any dialogue of evil. Of what it is, of what it might be. We are afraid of it. We fear what Satan might be, so rather than calling it by name, we decide that it is this kind of music, that kind of behavior. So we hedge ourselves around and decide that We Won't Talk About This (Caps required). And because We Won't Talk About This, we lose the greatest defense we ever had against evil itself.

I grew up in a "safe" home. I was educated about drug abuse, so I haven't become a drug addict. I was educated against alcohol abuse. God willing, I will not be an alcoholic. I was taught about anorexia. Bulemia. Codependancy. I know the catch phrases. I know what a twelve step program is.

No one taught me about self harming. It was the unspeakable sin. It was the thing no one could tell me about, because it was too crazy to be mentioned. Surely I was safe. Surely I would avoid that.

I had defenses against everything else. Self injury was what got me.

Evil gains power only when you don't talk about it openly. When it is a secret thing, it gains a terrible power.

Halloween is our chance to take the secret thing into the light. Our cultural haunts, our shadow ideas of evil. We bring them out and show them to each other. In doing so, we see them as the shams they truely are. There is no danger in these things to us, if they are silly costumes we put on and then take off again. And by doing so we distill evil into its truest form. We distill it. We identify it. We open a dialogue about it.

And in doing so, we build our defenses against it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gor: My retrospective.

Okay, I can't just let Gor go without one final post summing the whole thing up. Admittedly, it's really easy to sum the whole thing up...

But I need to explain why.

The problem I have with the Gor books is, what they try to be (interesting discussion of morality and philosophy) is not what they actually are (...porn.)

No, no parentheses. It's fucking porn. That's the whole basis of its appeal. The people who read Gor, who imulate its characters, who hold it up as something good, are people who are kinked that way. I know exactly how this feels, because I have my kinks too, and most of what can feed it is trash.

John Norman? Does not see his work as porn. He sees it as a vehicle for his ideals, and that's where the book fails. First, because the only people who will take his ideas seriously are the people who have that kink. Second, because the books do not present an arguement for the rest of us. 

I had the same problem with Anthem. I have the same problem with most Christian fiction, and that's my freaking camp. The author doesn't just assume that they're right. They assume that they're so obviously right that the rest of us must be freaking blind to have an alternate opinion. With Christian fiction, it fails because your religion is your baby, and you get offended when someone takes a shit on it. Anthem failed because unmoderated selfishness is wrong, just as unmoderated selflessness is wrong. Gor fails because John Norman isn't looking any further than the tip of his own nose. Or some other organ.

Here is how I know that Norman's got it completely wrong. I am female. I have a huge submissive streak. And by submissive I don't mean "bring out the whips and chains." I mean that when I face opposition to something I want, I am more likely to back down than not. If Norman were right, I should have found happiness in this submission.

I do not.

Instead, I become so psychotically miserable that I either have to remove myself from the situation RIGHT NOW, or else become medicated.

If Norman were right, I should be happy in my job. I am not.

If Norman were right, I should have been...yeah, I was going to draw a paralelle with the assault in my past, but that episode fucked me up so bad that I can't even go there. I cannot imagine that situation ever making me happy or fulfilled.

When am I happy? When I am acknowledged as a person. When my goals are lauded, when my needs are met, and when I can curl up in bed and not have to worry about being abused on any level. Some people do not consider BDSM abuse, and if you're kinked that way, it's not. These books are about rebooting women who are not kinked that way. 

No human being, EVER, would be happy in this society. Not Tarl Cabot, not Strawchick, not Tarl's girlfriend, nobody.  

The saddest thing is, the other examples I cited as Issue book fail are actually trying to accomplish something real. Ayn Rand survived communist Russia, probably wittnessed the Holodomar on some level, and decided the whole world needed to change so that never happens again. She went too far in the extreme, but that's what she was trying to do. Christian Fiction authors believe that if they don't motivate the world to get saved, every one of you will perish, and they'd rather get spit on than risk losing the world. Sure, they do a terrible job most of the time, but, and this is the key, there is usually some level of alturistic motivation behind it, and I cannot fucking believe I just applied the word "altruistic" to Ayn Rand, but there you go.

Gor? Popular culture promises every guy a hot girl as a door prize for being born (Girls are promised a hot guy as a reward for being pretty). This rarely happens. Most people process this, accept it as part of growing up, and cope.

Gor is John Norman's attempt to rewrite the whole world so that he, specifically, can get the door prize. There is wish fulfillment fiction and then there is...this.

To close this up? There is an author named John Ringo. He writes sci fi books...and more often than not these turn into BDSM porn books. There's the episode in Princess of Wands where the friend of the main character runs off with the Black Rose society and Bad (GOOD!) things happen. There's the second Council Wars book that goes from The best interstice warfare ever to sex in a techno-magic harem. And then there is Ghost.

Let me acknowledge that I have read Ghost, and leave it there.

Ringo isn't pretending that his books are anything more than escapist fantasy. He's not trying to rewrite reality's code to make it more in tune with his ego. Even he admits Ghost is fucked up. REALLY fucked up.

And he makes John Norman's points better than John Norman ever could.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

State of the CW--the Great Self Publishing Exparament

Last April and May my ambitions took a gut shot. I realized that it didn't matter how perfect conditions seemed or how hard I worked, how close I got to being "good enough" for professional publishing or what, it wasn't going to happen with this book. And that if I did the "smart" thing and wrote another book to sell, it'd be two years to write and perfect the book, another two-three years submitting to agents, and another six years submitting to publishers, all without a gaurentee of any success at all.

That, more than the thing that happened in April and May, is what made me decide to self publish my books. Yes. It's a career killer. But the thing is, and I cannot emphasize this enough, I don't have a career as a writer. I don't consider myself an author. I consider myself a writer the way I consider myself a knitter. It's a cool hobby and it's awesome that I get to make money at it, and it's even more awesome that people are buying my books and reading them. Would I have liked to have been a professional? Fuck yes. But I'm not going to shoot for the moon anymore. It's unhealthy. It takes me to a really dark place that I just don't want to visit anymore.

So in June, I sat down and wrote out "the Plan". Here, in a nutshell, is what The Plan was:

Write many small things, some directly related to The Book (Exiles) and some that are not (Starbleached)

Publish one a month

Double sales every month

Publish The Book when number of people buying the new books indicates publication of The Book would be successful.

I've spent part of this month assessing my sales and what they mean. And I'm about to post some numbers, some terrifying small numbers, I know, but some numbers nonetheless. Because from here on out? My success is ENTIRELY dependent on YOU.  And if you're going to spend money buying my books? You deserve to be in on this part, too.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Captive of Gor chapter seventeen

Two chapters left. Come on, it's almost over with...

Strawchick assures us that this past weeks have been THE BEST WEEKS OF HER LIFE, right as we're reading about Rask selling her. I guess Rask just didn't like having girlfriend hanging around.

No, actually he sold her because he was getting too attached, and being attached to a woman is like, tres bad or something.

And John Norman continues to fail at everything.

In the beginning, following my total conquest by Rask of Treve, I had been summoned night after night to his tent. I had served him in a delicious variety of ways, to our mutual pleasure, for I had been well trained.
Yeah. Because if a woman doesn't enjoy the sex, it's her fault.

Inge and Rena were not in the basket with me. They had been given to the huntsmen, Raf and Pron. In the fashion of Gorean huntsmen, both girls had then been freed and given a head start of four Ahn, that they might escape, if it were in their power. After four Ahn, Raf and Pron, running lightly, carrying snare rope, left the camp. The next morning they had returned, leading Inge and Rena. The thighs of both girls had been bloodied.
I found I was now the victim, the prisoner, of “slave needs.” I now understood how girls could weep and scratch at the walls of their kennels, how they could squirm, moaning, shackled in their pens, how they could press their face and flesh against the cruel bars that confined them in their tiny cages, moistening the obdurate, grasped steel with their tears. How can a free woman even understand this?
It's called Stockholm Syndrome, and if you get the right medications and therapy, we can clear that all right up.

On Earth millions of women live empty, unrewarding lives. They are sexually deprived, denied their femininity’s right to be so powerfully desired, so lusted for, that they are taken in hand and made slaves.
This, this right here, is the part that is just fucking disgusting about these books. My life is empty and unrewarding, not because I work in a shit job, but because I don't have slave-sex in it. Hell, let's be more specific: because I haven't been raped. My life is "unrewarding" because men don't lust after my boobs and coochie enough to violate my rights as an individual and take my freedom of choice away. No. I must be "taken in hand" like I'm fucking six years old and disobediant.


This makes it sound like I'm a prisoner of my boobs and sex drive. And it's all projection. Because he wants to rape me, he assumes I want to be rape. He is unable to even concieve that somebody might not want the same things he does. This is the single most offensive thing in the whole boat, and I now want to go wash my brain out with soap.

But Strawchick does one thing right:

I had asked one thing of Rask of Treve, before, stripped, I had entered the tarn basket. “Free Ute,” I had asked him.
SHE GETS OUT OF THIS BOOK! THE ONE GOOD CHARACTER SO FAR GETS TO LEAVE THIS STINKING BOOK!

So Strawchick gets sold and works at a tavern. What kind of work does she do?

The men I served, Targo’s men, and others, who might have me for the price of a cup of paga, I gave much pleasure, and from them, too, I received much pleasure.
Did you expect anything better?

Then the creepy guy with the talking monster buys her, drags her to a warehouse, and demands that she serve him. She refuses, bravely, and then there is a great reveal!

The man lifted his head, and shook it, clearing his vision. “El-in-or?” he said. “Master!” I wept. I pressed myself to him. He regarded them. Then he said to me, “I am of Treve. Do not stain my honor.” By the hair I was dragged from the presence of Rask of Treve, and his head, again, fell forward on his chest.

Oh, noes! What will they have Strawchick do?

Well, do you remember pages back when they revealed the dastardly purpose for which she'd been brought from Earth? No? Well, they want her to assassinate Tarl Cabot! AKA Bosk of Port Kar!

...you have no idea who that is? You are so lucky.

So she gets to the point where she is about to give Tarl the poison, and then decides that she'd be better off telling the truth she wouldn't dare smear Rask's precious honor. She tells Tarl that she was ordered to poison him at the last possible second, and they go haring off to punish the evil doers and rescue Rask, only to discover he escaped! OH NOES!

Oh, and Rask only came to Port Kar to find her! But sadly, Tarl will only sell her for twenty gold pieces and Rask never buys his women. Strawchick and her One True Wub Master will be parted forever! Even though she now has reason to believe he loves her too!

And then...ugh.

but I was content in the knowledge that he, whom I loved, lived.
That, right there? Is my personal definition of unconditional love. Love is something you feel outside of yourself. You'd rather see your loved one happy than own them. Think the Rose and the Nightengale. 

Norman needs to get his nasty paws off genuine feeling.

Now the sad, sad narrative is winding down and Strawchick is whining and whinging about how much she misses Rask

And then, the last chapter! WE'RE GOING TO FINISH THIS BOOK TODAY! YAY!

Tarl/Bosk is now our narrator. NO MORE WOMAN FAIL GUYS! And Strawchick has told him that Talena is alive and in Verna's hands! WHY SHOULD WE CARE? And he watches her wander his halls mooning over her lost love-love-love, and then...

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my sad duty to inform you that, beneath my bitch-craft exterior, I am a sopping romantic. My favorite movies include Pride and Prejudice, Kate and Leopold, and there is even a place in my cold, withered heart for Breaking Dawn. I've also been watching My Little Pony and enjoying it. I mention this because I want you to understand. It takes a lot of cutsie to make me upchuck. And the ending of this book? Man the vomit buckets. It's gonna get bad.

The tarn strike was sudden. I had been waiting for days for it to happen.

Gee, I wonder what woman raping warrior of Treve this could be?

The tarn’s talons struck the delta wall, and, wings beating, it clung there, and put back its head and screamed. I saw, for one moment, the helmet of the warrior, and his hand extended downward. I heard the girl cry out and run to the saddle, and seize the hand. “No!” I said to Thurnock, putting my hand on the arrow, thrusting it to one side. He looked at me wildly. “No!” I said, sternly.
Because Tarl Cabbot can never stand between a chick stealing rapist True Love

Thurnock fetched it, and brought it to me. It was heavy, and leather. It was a purse, and it was filled with gold. In the light of a torch I counted the coins. There were a hundred of them, and they were of gold. Each bore the sign of the city of Treve.
See? Get it? Get it? Rask, who never paid for a woman before, has paid for this one. He really, truely loves Strawchick! HE LOVES HER! HE LOVES HER!

How do I feel about this ending?








But the good news is...it's DONE. I do not have to read this awful awful book anymore. NO MORE GOR! NO MORE GOR! YAY!

...but now I have to pick a new, terrible book, don't I? What was the list for the last one?

2. City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
3. Eternal Prey, Nina Bangs (Yes, indeed it is a blissful vacation of stupid)
4. Mission Earth: Black Genesis.

Yeah, there we go.

I'll be accepting imput all week, and we'll start up the next book on Sunday!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Captive of Gor 16

I am reviewing this because editing is giving me a headache. That is the only reason. This book sucks this bad. I do not remembering it being that goddamn awful.

Okay. It'll be okay. I can have booze when I'm done. Everything is good. And Strawchick and Rask have just had sex. Things will get better from here.

“Let her be chained under the moons of Gor,” had said Verna. Rask of Treve had laughed.
Or...not.

First of all...why could Strawchick's new humiliation not be onscreen? And if this conversation couldn't be on screen, why couldn't we just skip it? Do you know what the title of this chapter is? I am chained beneath the Moons of Gor. It's not like we expected Strawchick to be having a tea party back on Park Avenue.

...oh, we're going to find out about all this. As a flashback. Whoop-de-fucking-do. I'm so excited. (/sarcasm)

So Strawchick is happy after her adventures in Rask's sleeping furs. She even apologizes to Ute! Isn't she a wonderful person!

No. No she isn't.

As I could, during the day, I had made it my business to pass near the tent of Rask of Treve, that he might see me. But he had scarcely seemed to notice me. 

Last night it had been different! 
He had noticed me then!
About a month ago I confessed that I had been assaulted under conditions that could have been consensual. The thing that haunts me about what happened? It's not what happened to me, or what I did before, during, or after the assault. it was the fact that I didn't matter. The things that happened were awful, but it was realizing and understanding that I was kleenex to this guy, that he cared so very little about me as a human being that destroyed me.

My point? Strawchick is a deluded idiot, and so is John Norman for the massive OOC character shift he's about to put Rask through. Men who use women for sex, in that fuck'em and leave 'em sense? DO NOT CARE ABOUT WOMEN. The words "NO FUCKING SHIT" cannot be written big enough on this passage.

Verna calls Strawchick on her shit, then demands she be chained out under the moons of Gor, naked, of course, and...uh, we get to listen to Strawchick moan about how great sex is, and how once a woman experiances it she basically becomes an animal.

Thank you, Norman. Fuck you too.

I wanted to seek the feet of Rask of Treve, on my belly, abjectly, as befits a slave; I wanted to cover them with soft, abundant cascades of hair, water them with salty, plentiful tears; I wanted to lick them, deferentially, lengthily, with a small, warm tongue; I wanted to kiss them, timidly, tenderly, again and again, over and over, pressing moist, hot, pleading, hopeful lips to them, not even daring to raise my eyes to his.

 After this GOES. FUCKING. ON, Verna comes out and humiliates Strawchick more, then leaves the camp with Talena. YAY, this will be the next Gor novel. Which I am not reading, and you can't make me. Also? Verna wants to "submit" to Marleanus.

Ten bucks says that happens in the next book.

The slave then, so alerted, instantly stood ready, cognizant, apprehensive, frightened, on her tether.
This is a PERFECT description of an abuse victim, and how they begin to behave towards their abuser. THIS IS NOT HOW A WOMAN BEHAVES TOWARDS A LOVER.

 Indeed, it is not unusual for a master and his slave to love one another with a richness and depth perhaps unknown, perhaps impossible, amongst free couples.
FUCK you, Norman, and FUCK the people who highlighted that passage as something worth repeating.

Sometimes, however, she may beg to be tied and whipped, for this reassures her that she is still of interest to, and important to, the master. Better the whip and his anger than his coldness or indifference. “Have I not been pleasing to my master? I fear I may have been insufficiently pleasing. I beg, therefore, that he will see fit to instruct me, to admonish me, to reprove me, that my many faults, those of an unworthy slave, may to some extent be rectified, that I may be more pleasing to him.
Let me point out that this, and the other passages quoted? Are nominally things that Strawchick is thinking while she is chained to the ground. WOW.

The one good thing about this? It gave me a beautiful idea for revisions in the first half of Prince of the Gray Keep. I probably shouldn't do it, but I am just that pissed off with the concepts of this story.

How does her chaining end?

With Rask having sex with her, still chained. Because this is romantic. I'm going to puke.

And we are now moving into the part of the book that is so cutesy wootsy fluffy it would make the characters from MLP:FIM vomit in your lap.

“What are you now?” he asked. “Only your slave,” I whispered, looking up at him, “only your humbled, helpless slave, Master.” He laughed. I smiled. “I have heard,” he said, “that there is an insolent female slave in camp, a proud, unconquered girl.” I shook my head. “No longer, Master,” I said. “Did she escape?” he asked. “No, Master,” I smiled, “she did not escape.”
This goes on, my loyal blog-readers. It goes on. And on. and on. And then he sends her away, and Ute gives her a roll, and she goes off to work, and the chapter ends.

Not very entertaining, I know.  But I've had enough of being annoyed by Strawchick tonight. You wanna know what's less annoying than Strawchick?

This is.



Let's hope that gets the bad taste out of your mouth.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Captive of Gor chapter 15

Oh, hey, Ute's back!

The guard, by the hair, threw me to her feet. I looked up at her with horror. The left side of her forehead was still discolored where I had struck her with a rock.
Yes. Strawchick aka Elinor Brinton, our protagonist, is at the mercy of the slave girl she betrayed to slavers, beat over the head with a rock and then left for dead rapening. This will not end well for her. For the rest of us, we will get our vicarious pleasure from this. And it is all the pleasure we will ever get, because I re-read the ending and, uh...

By the way, the google image search for "unicorn puke" is surprisingly unsatisfactory.
It's that bad.

Anyway, the Ute and Strawchick reunion (/kickass Paul Simon reference)

It becomes apparent via bullshit clothing references that Ute is second-in-command, or thereabouts, in Rask's camp. And Strawchick cost Ute her freedom by bashing her in the head with a rock. Ute proves she is the better human being by not immediately doing that to Strawchick. She does, however, immediately figure out Strawchick's plan to get Ute's parents to adopt Strawchick out of gratitude, proving that Strawchick is still dumber than a bag of gravel.

We then copy and paste the conversation Strawchick's had with just about everybody else since the start of this book...

By the hair, Ute, bending over me, yanked my head painfully up. 

“Who betrayed Ute?” she demanded. 

I shook my head. 

Ute’s fists were excruciating in my hair. “Who?” she demanded. 

I could not speak, so terrified I was. 

Please, Strawchick, for the love of God. Listen to Yoda. Don't imitate him.


She shook my head viciously. “Who!” she demanded. 
“I did,” I cried. “I did!”
“Speak as a slave!” demanded Ute.

 “El-in-or betrayed Ute!” I cried. “El-in-or betrayed Ute!”
 “Worthless slave,” I heard a voice behind me say.
Yes, Rask, Strawchick's owner and future penis, has heard what she did. Oh, dear, how humiliating! How terrible! How do I feel about this turn of events, given that Strawchick is suffering greatly?

Sadly for me, Ute is a good person. She treats Strawchick like she's just another slave, and not a terrible hell beast that destroys all she touches. Meanwhile Strawchick spends all her time whimpering in fear, so there is that. After a while, Strawchick becomes irritated with Ute.

Because Ute isn't treating Strawchick as a favorite.

Then Strawchick says that she's shirking her tasks as often as possible, because, you know, she's a lazy stupid stuffed shirt intended to prove all John Norman's arguements about women are valid, and...uh, then John Norman fucks up. Ute catches Strawchick not washing the dishes properly, and decides she needs an object lesson. She has Strawchick take the pan outside where there is a pole with chains on it, and this happens:

“The girl’s wrists,” said Ute, “are tied together, and then she is tied, suspended by the wrists, from the high pole. Her ankles are tied together and tied, some six inches from the ground, to the iron ring. That way she does not much swing.” 

I looked at her, holding the pan.
 “This is a whipping pole,” said Ute. “You may go now, El-in-or.”
Ute. Is. Bad. Ass. Awesome. OH. MY. GOD, why is this woman not the main character? She's betrayed by a bosom companion, she treats her fellow slaves with DIGNITY and RESPECT, she gets respect from ALL the things Men in this story, and she says things like that. This is not a threat to whip Strawchick. Oh, no. This is an acknowledgement that Strawchick isn't even fucking worth threatening. If this girl were the main character, in another ten pages she would have organized the slaves, male and female, into an absolute rebellion, the whole planet would have been thrown into revolt, a Final Stand would be made, and then Ute would retire with her Fully Equal boyfriend as a librarian in some backwater country, because fuck that leadership shit.

...actually, that's probably why she isn't the main character.

Moving on.

Life in the camp is described, and also Strawchick's misery at not being acknowledged as potential rape meat a dancing slave. She is SOOOOO conflicted. And Inge and Rana are dragged into the camp too! Because if we had fewer characters, THE PLOT MIGHT ACTUALLY GO SOMEWHERE!

Inge and Rana are sent to the same shed as Strawchick, and Ute first imposes her authority over the newcomers, and then demands that they not abuse Strawchick. Or else they will be beaten. She defends her betrayer. WHY IS THIS GIRL SUPPORT CAST?

Right. John Norman book.

Then Free And Noble Verna gets in on the action, too. Seriously, there are so many potentially awesome characters piling in at the last minute, I really don't get this. It's going to go nowhere, of course, but just...DAMN IT, I COULD BE READING A GOOD BOOK RIGHT NOW!

Of course, Verna was only freed to humiliate her captor, because Men Are All That Matter. Then they go through a party, where Strawchick shows the quality of her training, and is further humiliated by Verna and her master...who begins to remember that She Has Boobs...and Stuff from the first books are revealed. Without going into a lot of detail, John Norman's self insert primary main character, Tarl Cabot, has a girlfriend, and Rask captured that girlfriend and has her as a slave. This probably pays off later in the series, but I have no intention of reading Conan: The Knockoff any more than I already have.

Then Strawchick is finally allowed to serve in the main feasts, though she is told very strongly not to let herself be raped, as that would diminish her value as a slave.

I hate these books. Have I mentioned that yet? That I hate these books?

Anyway, she moans about being given the privelage she moaned about being denied, and then goes and picks berries with another girl. Only she steals most of them, is caught, lies about it, and then gets branded by her master. And one paragraph is really satisfying:

“It marks you as a traitress,” said Rask of Treve. He looked at me, with fury. “Be marked as a traitress,” he said. Then he pressed the third iron into my flesh. As it entered my flesh, biting and searing, I saw Ute watching, her face betraying no emotion. I screamed, and wept, and screamed.
Ute should be the main character, guys. Ute should win all the things.

Then Strawchick gets beaten. First, one lash for every letter in each word she's been branded for (Liar, theif, traitoress) and then however much Rask wants to beat her, and then...WOW, Norman. Just fucking WOW.

Ten more strokes he gave to the helpless slave girl, who twice more lost consciousness, and twice more was awakened to the drenching of cold water. And then, as she scarcely understood, hanging half conscious in the fires of her pain, she heard him say, “Cut her down.”
How the FUCK did you miss dropping out of First Person like that? There's a lot of excuses--bad editor, typing one handed--but...DAMN. That is some prime-grade writer fail right there. Look, I get that it's hard to maintain tense (Taker was an unholy bitch to edit, given there were whole paragraphs where I dropped out of present tense, and yeah yeah yeah I know, I probably left a lot of mistakes in there) and maybe perspective is just as hard (I dunno. For me, keeping the voice going is kinda, uh, natural) but DUDE, that's writing 101!

And if it's a style choice...it doesn't work. Mostly because the perspective change goes on for another paragraph. And it IS possible to do a torture scene without dropping perspective like an idol singer falling off key. See Endurance by S. L. Vehil for a good example. (...ya know, Cherijo sure gets the shit kicked out of her. It gets kind of satisfying after a while. Jarn, I liked. Cherijo is in the same category as Sookie Stackhouse. Book=good, character=SHOOT ON SIGHT)

...I have to keep reading this, don't I? Fuck.

So Strawchick gets locked in a box for her own stupidity, and...

The girl in the slave box was under no delusion as to who it was who owned her.

We drop out of first person AGAIN for another whole paragraph. Look, I will be the last person to accuse a professional writer of what "typing one-handed" implies, but...uh, this is happening an awful lot.

Also? After a couple of days, all they feed Strawchick are bugs and water. Then Strawchick is released, and...

Elinor Brinton heard the padlocks unlocked. She heard the flat, heavy bolts slide back. She saw the small door swing open. On her hands and knees, painfully, inch by inch, she crawled from the box. She then collapsed to the grass.

Look, are we having seizures or something? Are you just not reading this shit anymore? HOW DO YOU DROP PERSPECTIVE THIS MAY TIMES? I'm not going to bring this up again, but this is happening literally every other page. It's happened before in the book, but it came off as Strawchick feeling miserable for herself. It's not working anymore. It's reading like every other paragraph, Norman forgot who was talking. Oh, She's still feeling miserable for herself. Woe is me, I've been branded, and so forth, but the tense changes are far, far more interesting than her moping.

Oh, hey, we haven't brought up worldbuilding fail in a while.

It could perhaps be mentioned that such work, cooking, cleaning and laundering, and such, is commonly regarded as being beneath even free women, particularly those of high caste.

...then why do you have free women in this culture? And I'm dead serious. WHY. ARE THERE FREE WOMEN IF NONE OF THEM DO ANY WORK?

Equality of the sexes is not about avoiding work. It's the fucking opposite. It's about getting valuable work. In our modern culture, "women's" work has been devalued by technological advances. Spinning, weaving, basic cooking/baking/canning/preserving and clothing manufacture are done outside of the home due to advances in the textile and manufacturing industries, therefor women have less to do in the home and bring in a smaller income.

Okay, I'm about to go off on a tangent that will, again, break Norman's whole universe. My hobby? Is spinning yarn and knitting lace. I know a little about the history, a little about the traditions, and a LOT about the actual manufacture. And the one thing that is bleeding fucking obvious? Weaving and spinning are women's work. Because large scale thread production? Takes a while. A. LONG. WHILE.

And while we're at it, let's take a second to really look at all those clothing descriptions Norman gives us. First off, they obviously have some large scale looms to justify giving even rough-spun fabrics to slaves as garments. And they can waste a lot of fabric, because the slaves are given peroidic changes of clothes. There is, at minimum, a weaver's caste that is NEVER FUCKING BROUGHT UP, but that does a shit load of work. Second, the dancing silks.

Oh, my God, the dancing silks.

Silk is not an easy fiber to work with. Silk fiber comes from moth cocoons. Fine silk thread is made by taking a whole bunch of cocoons and boiling them, then finding where the moth started making its fiber and unwinding the whole cocoon in one piece. You do several of these at once, adding just enough twist to the thread to keep the individual strands of caterpillar spit together.

This is what it looks like in Thailand:




This is how you get the diaphanous, thin, fine threads that you make things like silk gauze out of. Now, there's a couple other methods to getting silk thread out of cocoons. The first is you use tiny tiny pieces of silk, in a staple (aka individual hair) length similar to REALLY good wool, or you use silk caps, which are a stack of about sixty or so cocoons, cut open, spread over a board and allowed to dry. Neither of these methods produce really fine thread, so I assume that on Gor, their silkmoth-analogue cocoons are unwound strand by strand.

These are jobs that women do. That have high value, because they produce luxury items. And women in this type of culture DO these jobs because it makes them valuable. Just as men slay dragons because it makes them valuable to the village, women knit shawls and weave wedding veils.

When we got industry that could do these jobs for us? We dumped most of them on the industry, because HOLY FUCK, if you don't have an aptitude for it, spinning and knitting can be FUCKING BORING. If you like it, you are as sad and twisted as I am and a part of you knows it.

But again: GOR DOES NOT HAVE THESE INDUSTRIES. There IS a job for women to do here that has value, and it's not sitting pretty on Terl Cabot's arm. And because "Slave training" does not include "How to use a drop/supported spindle" (There is no way in FUCK Gor has a decent wheel. Otherwise the girls would be tripping over them every ninety minutes) I HAD assumed that the free women were doing it.

Apparently, they are not.

Also, also? Yo, John?

there are often public slaves who tend the central kitchens in cylinders, care for the children, but may not instruct them,
Yeah. They're gonna teach the children. You can't not teach children if you take care of them.

OH, and this is the VERY FIRST MENTION OF CHILDREN IN THIS SERIES. I think they've been keeping them in the textile mills, right next to the spinning wheels.

Thirdly?

Such girls, also, have a low use-rent, payable to the city, should young males wish to partake of their pleasures. Here again, the mere word of the free person, that he is not completely pleased, is enough to earn the miserable girl a severe beating.
Thank you for supporting state-financed prostitution. AND RAPE.

This whole passage SCREAMS "I DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW WORK GETS DONE IN ANY SOCIETY", actually. Apparently the only people who do ANY real menial work are slaves.

And again, textile production and food production are MENIAL TASKS in this society level. SO WHY ARE THE SLAVES NOT TRAINED IN THIS? Jesus Christ, even a pleasure slave isn't going to be fucking all the live long day. They've got 'em ironing shirts and washing them. Give Strawchick a spindle and a set amount of shit to produce, and she'd stay in one room all day long with no danger of escape.

Oh, and ONE BEATING and ONE TRIP TO THE PENTALY BOX has cued Srawchick of her lying, her stealing and her pride. Right. Well, we needed a Psychology Fail merit badge to add to the collection, didn't we, John? Oh, wait. Strawchick is still proud to be a virgin.

...well, we haven't seen Rask around in a while, anyway.

So she's all dolled up, and of course she hates every minute of it, and forced to wear earrings, of all humiliating things, and shipped off to the master's tent, where she's forced to dance. And the whole dancing scene?

It's. Awesome.

The energy in it, the momentum, the internal monolouge in Strawchick's head, it all works. If the whole book were like this I'd be screaming READ THIS SHIT from the rooftops, even with the misogyny. WHY IS THE WHOLE BOOK NOT LIKE THIS SCENE?

Of course, Norman has to ruin it:

“Of course,” said Ute. “They are men. Too, do not fret. You will come to be pleased that they so strip you, and look forward to it. It is quite a compliment to a woman. She should be flattered.

Yeah. I should be flattered that somebody I don't know finds me pretty enough to assault me. No, thank you, John.

After the dance, Ute dolls her back up and she's sent off to Rask's tent. Strawchick warms up some wine, and there is this one sentence that stands out:

I saw my reflection in the redness, the blondness of my hair, dark in the wine, and the collar, with its bells, about my throat.
Syntax? Sucks. Structure? Double suck. Image expressed? I. LOVE. IT. Seriously, we've gone from UTTER FAIL to these momentary stepping stones of quality. Ute's character, the dancing scene, a couple descrptive sentences...it's like I've wandered off into a different book or something.

Oh, don't get me wrong. The suck is still there.

I did so, and he, spilling some from the broad rim of the crater, I feeling it on my chin, and throat, as it trickled under the collar, and body, poured the remainder of the wine down my throat.

WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

So there are sweet, seductive moments, and I'm actively enjoying this scene...and then Strawchick opens her mouth and, using about five hundred words, tells Rask what essentially boils down to "fuck you."

It does not end well.

END OF CHAPTER.

Hey? Guys? Got a minute? Read Blog. NOW.

First off, sports fans, check out the Publishing schedule. I've made tiny changes. Most noteably? I'm going to see if I can't push out Prince of the Gray Keep a little earlier than planned. I'm not 100% happy with the momentum I've gained this month (Okay, actually, I am, because it's doing what I wanted it to do from the beginning. It just kinda, uh, died last month) but I don't want to lose it. TENTATIVE release date is November 15th. We'll be doing all the fun promotional stuff in December.

That said...uh...can I be awfully self-centered for a minute? And discuss the actual buying of the book thing with you guys for a second? Oh, if you don't want to, that's fine. No hard feelings, I don't wanna pressure you or anything, and I'll let you know if/when Prince goes on a free promotion, which will happen. You can go over there and get comfortable and I'll bring a Gor review and cookies to you in about an hour. The dastardly plotting thing is going to happen after the cut. Now. If you do like reading my books and you do plan on buying a couple...


Friday, October 19, 2012

The Dip

Okay. If you've read this blog for a while, you'll know I have *issues*. And I don't mean gee, sometimes I get a little sad. I'll be the first to admit I am probably crazy on a level that few people want to deal with.

Which sometimes gets in the way of creativity.

First, you have the Rejection Roundhouse, which is the biggest reason I decided to stop trying for professional publication (Sorry, but if the only outcome of an effort is, I spend days sunk in a suicidal depression, that effort is probably not good for me.) This also effects IRL things. But the biggest problem I have is The Dip.

The Dip is what I call the thing that happens when a project is finished.It takes a lot of focused energy to work on things. This creates a really awesome high. I feel good with the world. Everybody loves me. I will conquer all. I finish the project, wrap it up, hit submit/publish/whatever and spend about one day basking in the glory that is my completed work.

And then my brain, exhausted from days of pumping out happy chemicals, mutters "thank GOD that's over" and sinks like the Titanic was carrying an atomic bomb when the iceberg hit. And floundering through the mess left afterwards? It SUCKS.

Worst part is, it's not something that can just be, like, fixed. It's natural brain chemistry, I think. Only thing that can fix it is throwing myself whole hog into a brand new project.

Ah, well. That's the ramble for today. You'll get another chapter of Captive soon. Ish. I just don't want to deal with the stupid today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Captive of Gor chapter 14

Okay, so after my rage yesterday, today should be easier, right? Right?
 
In a word? NO.

This was now my second day in the secret war camp of Rask of Treve. When his tarn had dropped, wings beating, into the clearing among the tents, they ringed with a palisade of sharpened logs, some twelve feet high, there had been much shouting, much welcome.
So either Strawchick has spent two days tied to Rask's tarn, or John fails at chronology.

He drops her off with his headwoman, which is (gasp!) so progressive! and then goes off to do whatever. She's going to have to go through a wedding collaring ceremony, so she's fed, and dressed, and how she'll be introduced to the crowd, and then allowed to wander around freely because everybody knows she won't escape.

Does she try to escape?

Do Tarns shit in the sky? (BTW WHAT DOES TARN SHIT LOOK LIKE?)

This isn't effective, though, and she begins to complain that she hates men, they make her work. 

I hated men. They made us work! Why did they not do their own cooking, and polish their own leather, and go to the stream or the washing shed and wash their own clothes?
Evil. I would, however, point out that the traditional division of labor is not "Women are useless, go work in the kitchen". Oh it is NOW, because "women's work" was devalued for one reason or another, but the work that women do in this era, historically, is work that needs to get done. And I don't think they were all that big on washing their own clothes.

Also? What warrior worth his own sword is going to let somebody else prep his armor and weapons for him?

So after wandering around the camp, Strawchick goes back to the tent, cries, and gets a slavery pep talk from the headmistress. The existance of penalty brands is established, for lying and stealing, and gee, I wonder who is going to wind up with a couple of those. And then we get another massive description of the fucking camisk again.

Seriously. We have already established the fucking clothing. The description is effectively, "This is a tunic. It is sooooooooo sexy. This is a different tunic. It is soooooooooooo sexy." And then a description of how All Slaves Love The Tunic, and how it seperates them from free women and...

Oh yeah. This part.

The next two paragraphs contain so much fucking fail I kind of cannot believe that it got written. How anybody can be this STUPID is beyond me. So go get up, go get your favorite alcohol, if you're at work wait until after this is done, and then come back when you've got a nice happy buzz to put between you and the UTTER FUCKING STUPID I am about to blog.

Free women had ambivalent attitudes toward the garmenture of slaves. They professed to approve of this degradation appropriately inflicted on mere slaves, but it was also said that they envied the slaves, the lightness of their garments, the air upon their bodies, the wonderful freedom accorded their limbs, so different from the heavy, bulky, confining layers of their own garmenture.

The free women have to wear basically burquas because men are SOOOOO lustful they will get raped and it is their own fault. So they envy the women who are raped on a regular basis, because OH MY GOD, they get to wear a light t-shirt. But only from behind their hands, because vocally they approve of letting the slaves be degraded. Nowhere in all of this do the women get a CHOICE in what they wear. No. They have to taylor their clothing to around MEN and their inability to control themselves around the deadly power of va-jay-jay.

And this book is supposed to be pro men.

It might be mentioned, in passing, that the Gorean free woman is commonly veiled, and that veils are denied to female slaves. This is appropriate, as they are animals. What fool would veil an animal?
 Possibly, one that doesn't want his animal to get raped. Because, you know, he might be concerned about his "animal's" well being.

A Gorean master commonly will know every inch of his slave, every curve, every crease, every wen, every pimple, every hair. How many husbands of Earth, I wonder, know as much about their wives.
Yes. Because viewing your women as property means you love them more than viewing your women as people. 

Being dehumanized is fucking traumatic, kids. And if you think of your woman as an animal, it isn't much of a streach to go from raping her to killing her, just because you feel like it. Husbands don't treat their wives the way masters treat slaves because they know this treatment isn't right. 

I wondered how many couples might be so precious to one another. Each so magnificently and joyously fulfilled, living the biotruths of human nature, of man and woman, of masculine and feminine, of dominance and submission, how could either even consider leaving the other?
You know when someone is precious to you when you put THEIR well being over your own. The needs of your genitals become secondary to the needs of theirs. Also...with this paragraph it is confirmed. John Norman is fucking insane.

Also, also? The man can sell the woman. The woman can't leave the man, but he can dump her on the side of the road like a puppy in a burlap sack and not feel bad about it at all.

I thought of the emptiness, the vacuity, of so many marriages. Might they not be redeemed, perhaps by so little as an act of will, a command, and a handful of thongs?
Because marrages and love are founded on trust. I trust that my mate will treat me like a human being and love me and my goals. I will do the same for them. Imposing your will on your mate will make YOU happy. It will break their trust in you and end the relationship. You might continue living together, but trust me, it is easy to give into inertia and continue to stay in an abusive situation just because you don't want to deal with the fallout of leaving. This does not mean that you love the person. It means that you are abused and the abuse is, sadly, the easier short-term option.

And now, for the next two passages, please replace the word "Slave" with the word "rape" and think about Todd Akin's rape comment.

Other Goreans tend to be less tolerant about these things, and feel that if a woman is stupid enough to allow herself to be captured, then she should be a slave.
So it's tolerance to consider that maybe a woman isn't responsible for a man's attraction to her. It's tolerance to consider that maybe, just maybe, the responsibility for rape is on the rapist and not the rapee. It's tolerance to think that maybe, just maybe, being forced to do or be something that you don't want to do, or be, is a bad thing.

And hey, you think I'm pushing it on the "replace slave with rape" thing? You think maybe I'm trying to see something that fits some bullshit feminist adjenda or something?

Others, with a psychological subtlety perhaps surprising in a primitive culture, recognize that a girl may covet the collar, and will thus court it, for example, walking at night on high bridges, frequenting certain areas of the city after dark, taking unnecessary journeys, and such.
There isn't a word. There isn't an image macro. There is nothing that can sufficiently express how bone-numbingly, mind-chillingly UTTERLY FUCKING STUPID that paragraph is.

When I worked the night shift at a bakery, I had to walk in front of a bar every night because I did not own a car. I was careful. I carried mace. I made sure to walk right next to the highway if I had to. Every night for two years. I walked because I had to, and not because I wanted to be raped. And right now, where I live? Sometimes I go walking at night. Because it is hot during the day and the stars are, frankly, fucking incredible at night.

A woman should not have to moderate her behavior to avoid being attacked. A man should not have to moderate his behavior to avoid being attacked. A man or a woman should have every right to go out at nine pm for a jog if eight pm is hotter than hell. The victims of violent crime ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for their victimization. You cannot make someone decide not to do something. You can only survive it and, possibly, make DAMN sure they pay for the attempt.

Anyway, after John Norman sets humanity back about nine million years, he indulges in a wet dream about a woman from a rich city being enslaved, dragged back to her rich city, humiliated, and then raped by a random dude in a back room, thus making her see that she wants to be a slave!

And then Strawchick goes through the collaring ceremony and, instead of Rask having sex with her, is sent to work in the camp...because we need another couple chapters before this torture FINALLY ENDS.

Captive of Gor chapter Twelve-thirteen

I don't ask a lot of books. I read AND ENJOYED Twilight and its sequels and the Sookie Stackhouse novels, when I wanted to bat the leads across the room. This is because, beneath their unlikable personalities (Sookie: PICK. ONE. OR THREE. JUST PICK SOMEBODY) there is a decent human being. I might not like that Bella is choosing devotion to a stalker-ific son of a bitch, but I DO recognise that devotion and love are her positive traits. I might not want to be her friend, but I wouldn't sweat it if I had to depend on her because I know she's not a total waste of skin.

This chapter proves that Strawchick has no redeeming qualities. At all. She deserves every minute of what has happened to her and at this point I'd like to set her on fire.

Strawchick and Ute are out picking berries. Tied together via leather straps and collars, because they might run. Also, having two chapters worth of words dedicated to describing a slave girl tunic is apparently not enough, because we get another description of it. We really need to know what this looks like. Got it?

Also? Strawchick is stealing Ute's berries. Also? In flashback, we find out that Verna the Panther Girl was captured and that Strawchick made the other women beat her, and then told her this straight to her face. And now we're picking berries. I just skimmed about five pages worth of material. You're welcome.

The caravan is attacked by tarns. Because they're so far away, Ute decides that she and Strawchick finally have their chance to run away from the caravan. And Strawchick? Who has spent the whole book wanting her freedom? Who survived a night buck naked in murder forest a couple chapters back? She doesn't want to run. Ute says the following:

“You will come with me or I will kill you!” screamed Ute.
In retrospect, Ute is an interesting character. She was captured during a pilgrimage, enslaved, sold to a man she fell in love with, who sold her, who she still loves anyway, and has been, save for the nose ring incident, the one uniformly nice character in this book. Why is she not our main character?

Having been threatened, Strawchick runs after her, hysterical, and she lets us know what happens to the girls the tarns catch. Do you really need to guess?

If he is a young tarnsman, and she is his first girl, he will take her back to his own city, and display her for his family and friends, and she will dance for him, and serve him, at the Collaring Feast. If he is a brutal tarnsman, he may take her rudely, should he wish, above the clouds, above her own city, before even his tarn has left its walls. If he should be even more brutal, but more subtly so, more to be feared by a woman, he will, in the long flight back to his city, caress her into submission, until she has no choice but to yield herself to him, wholly, as a surrendered slave girl.
If there is any justice in this cosmos, when John Norman dies he's going to be locked into a mobius strip chalk board with an endless supply of chalk, and forced to write "I will not rape women" while a rape victim follows behind him with an eraser.

So Ute and Strawchick escape and spend a blissful few days as free women. Wait, scratch that. Strawchick enjoys being free while Ute spends her time trying to keep Strawchick alive. Strawchick is utterly useless when it comes to surviving in the wilderness. She also doesn't get that having fires when you're being hunted by professional hunters is a bad idea, and she insists that Ute keep the fires lit.

So naturally, this happens:

“Look!” whispered Ute. Through the brush, some two hundred yards away, moving in the darkness, we saw two torches. “Men,” moaned Ute. “Men!”
They escape this time, but a couple days later, Strawchick is off by herself when she finds out their hunters are right on their heels. Now, please remember that Ute is the only reason this girl is still free. She's the only person who has been anything remotely like nice to Strawchick. She's been keeping Strawchick fed. 

“Oh, Ute,” I said. “I set the snare far down the game trail. And as I was going away, I heard it spring and heard an animal...Please get it, Ute,” I begged. “I do not want to touch it. It is so ugly!” 

“All right,” said Ute. “I will get it.” She returned to her work.
 I cast a frightened glance backward, down the trail. “Hadn’t you better hurry?” I asked.
Yes. Strawchick just set up the closest thing she's had to a friend, the girl who is keeping her alive and free on Gor, up to be captured by men who she just heard loudly plan to rape the girl they're hunting. Because she's got a better chance of escaping if the men chasing them THINK they've got them all. Oh, and you know how I said yesterday that Strawchick is dumber than a bag of rocks?

the other crossing her ankles and lashing them together. I was pleased. Ute had been taken. I only feared that she might tell them that I was about. But somehow I knew that she would not. Ute was stupid. I knew she would not betray me. I thus, cleverly, eluded my pursuers.
I may have over-estimated her intelligance, here.

There really is nothing I can say about these chapters. The point of them is that Norman doesn't want Strawchick to go to Ar. She needs to be captured by a tarn rider. And she needs to do it while demonstraiting that Women Are Evil. The problem here? In comparison, Ute, the girl who planned on running, comes off as a fucking saint. All I want to do is drop the book in acid, and I can't because it's an e-book on my computer and that would be bad.

She steals from a village and gets captured by a tarnsman who is OH NOES! the mystery slaver from back in the pens of Koroba and OH NOES AGAIN! is also Rask of why should I even give a fuck? and he fights for her and insults her and tells her that he never pays for his women, but as soon as he saw her he had to have her, and I am just so not interested. 

This woman is stupid, she's manipulative, she's cruel, she's stuck way the hell up, and she deserves every bit of this, and the really sickening thing is the guy who wrote her? Thinks that I and every woman on the face of the planet is exactly the same way, while simultaneously writing characters who are closer to reality. Ute would have made a perfect main character for this story. She's likable, her story is much more sympathetic, I can see her character arc going places, and I am so sick of this terrible bitch I could scream.

End of chapter. Tomorrow: John Norman actually uses the word "rape" in the text.

Monday, October 15, 2012

*headdesk*

Writing can be hard work sometimes.

Also? I hope to God I  can make Gray Fox (third Exiles novelette. ALMOST DONE) be something approaching good. It's going to require lots and lots of restructuring--I can see how to do it, and that's a really good sign--and a couple of other things.

Ah, well. I'm going to release a short story in November (No promises about the book trailer, though that IS another project I'll be working on) that shouldn't take too long to clean up. It's something I'd written a few years ago and forgotten about. It's also something that is going to be fun to do a cover for. I'm actually more excited about doing the artwork than I am about doing the story itself. And it's a story that I kind of love, so that's saying a lot.

...seriously. Lots and lots of work.

That is all. I needed a chance to vent to you guys.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Captive of Gor chapter Eleven

So if you remember the last two chapters, Strawchick AKA Elinor Brinton has been abducted from her slaver owner by Panther Girls (aka wild things) and sold to a dude who called her Cookie, symbolically burned her Last Posession From Earth, and almost got eaten by Cookie-man's giant talking man eating pet before running out into the Goren wilderness, bare-ass naked, to be eaten and devoured by the Things of the Night?

How does she make it back to her slaver owner, Targo/Torgo? We never find out, because the next chapter opens with her getting her ears pierced.

First of all, I understand wanting to skip the boring parts and not wanting Strawchick to wander around in the fucking woods by herself again, but John? Dude? There is no way in fuck Strawchick survived the woods naked on her own. Girlfriend is dumber than a bag of rocks on acid and BTW I still haven't forgive you for the Random Talking Bear-Monster-Thing. I might have two X chromasomes instead of your preffered target audience of XY, but I AM smarter than this.

Second...Strawchick was a model on Earth in the same era, or thereabouts, as Edie Sedgwick. Let me remind you what Edie Sedgwick looked like:

Those things? On her ears there? Those are earrings. And one of the trademarks in the seventies were earrings pretty much like what Edie's rockin' in that picture up there. So why are you asking me to believe that a model from the seventies would not have had her ears pierced LONG before she became a Gorean love-slave?

But hey, I'm expecting logic from a guy who wrote this sentence:

There were tears in my eyes, for my eyes smarted.

Because it'd be really weird if your knees were weeping, I guess. Moving on.

ALL the other girls are upset. Apparently pierced ears are a Slave Mark above and beyond the branding every girl got when she entered this lovely club, and NOBODY in this group, other than Earth-Girl-Is-Easy Strawchick is willing to go under the needle.

You know? A lot of the "customs" I've seen in this book so far? Have something similar on Earth. And there is nothing in this book so far that is not something seen in Caucasian culture, or something that we White Folks haven't absconded with and then bastardized. There's a great essay on cultural perspective that kind of makes me realize how very, very, VERY lazy this is (not that I'm any better, mind). The ear piercing thing is just kind of the last straw. It's a little like how sci-fi books mention MODERN masters and then Random Name, to sell that Random Name is just as good as Shakespere and Stephen King. Here's this cultural thing that is common on Earth that has a completely different meaning here. Because women only wear decorations for men. 

Now we take a long break from screaming slave girls to discuss the Culture and History of Turia. Which I don't care about. NEXT!

The girls are being kept in pens for training. Oh, hey, we haven't murdered many commas in this chapter. This needs to be fixed:

When released from the pens a girl is almost always desperately eager to please her master, that she not be returned to them, for further training.

These cages are heavily barred, and the bars are rather, irritatingly, widely set, but we cannot squeeze between them.


That's better. Damn, those uppety commas. If we don't practice decimation they might get uppety and start asking for equal rights! Keep 'em barefoot and in the sentence fragments, I say.

Oh, hey, Strawchick wasn't actually degraded by having her ears pierced. Let's do her nose, too! Equality among the sexes slaves is always a good thing.

So there is a discussion of training, and of what the girls eat (Stew) and of more training, and more of what th girls eat (stew) and...okay. This has to be addressed.

Steve Brust is a writer I love, and I actually got to meet the man personally a couple years back. One of the best pieces of world building advice he gave me (...and the room full of people around me, because this was not actually my question) was that you start with the food. So the endless descriptions of slave fare COULD be serving this purpose...

...but it's not. Because "start with the food" IMHO means you first look at the land your characters live on, what could grow in that ecology, what they would have to do to produce those staples in sustaniable levels, and what jobs this industry would create in their community. As an example, the world of Rise of the Winterlord and Prince of the Gray Keep (Due out in December. End needless self promotion) the Gray islands are...well, islands. In a cold zone (I'd say north, but...um, not exactly.) The islands aren't majorly small (Hawaii to Indonesia size) but have a tiny growing season. They can grow a wheat-analogue, but the growing window is pathetic. Bread is a luxury. Mostly they eat sea-based products (Deepwater fish and seaweed. They have limited access to shellfish and the products of a reef-type ecology) or things that can grow well when its so cold outside, spit goes "clink". Five hundred years down the line from Rise, the Isles have a highly developed import/export culture...but their biggest import is still grains, and their biggest exports are plant-based oil (olive oil analogue) and products from a fungus that grows on the oil plants.

The girls on Gor? Eat stew with bread.

And the entire fucking universe breaks down once you start thinking about it.

The stew? I'll buy that. Stew is stew, you throw water, meat and some potato/carrot/cellery analogue into a pot, add salt, you get stew. But Bread? Gor might have bread, but if Gor does have bread, it is too valuable to give to slaves.

Here's what you need to have for bread to be a cheap thing: You need to have farms, and I mean massive, mass-production, be-careful-or-we'll-repeat-the-dust-bowl kind of farms. Also, the technology that makes large-scale farming a posibility. Plows. Things that can use plows, that aren't going to eat you or your children. Graineries. Flour mills. Bakeries. None of which are described even once. We get slaves and slave pens and descriptions of breif clothing (rather than brief descriptions of clothing) but not one description of waving fields of wheat-analogue. Do you know why America is memorialized for "amber waves of grain?" because those endless fields of wheat means we have enough grain to make bread that make bread-lines a possibility. Do you know why "Let them eat Cake!" got Marie Antwonette cut down a few notches? Because there was a drought and France's crops failed and they didn't have the wheat to make bread. A lot of the riots of the french revolution? Were about getting their hands on flour. 

I'd also go as far to say that Gorean social structure, which has NO emphasis on family whatsoever, does not support farm as an industry. Gender ideology aside, farming requires a family. Farming requires a large family that does not need to be paid a standard wage. The reason why farm wives had ten kids? At about six, sprog number ten becomes another pair of hands during Planting Season and Harvest Season. Slaves on Gor are not viewed as potential baby-making machines, but rather as toys for the sexy-sexy. If you had farmers on Gor they'd be looking at women's hips in terms of child-bearing and not how many times they could play hide the salami.


If wheat-analogue is scarce and the bread-making industry is so small it doesn't appear in this book even once (Seriously, John. How hard would it be to thread in one description of a bakery?) then bread becomes valuable. Too valuable to be given to slaves.

Oh, and one more thing? Do you know why women are historically bakers? Because it's a lot of labor. A LOT. OF. LABOR. And it is best accomplished on a large scale when you have all the population working at it, rather than just half. Men can do the outdoor half, women can do the indoor half, and twice the work gets done. Twice the work=bread on a large scale. And the chicks in this book? Are not working. They are sex toys for men. They are either slaves for the sexy-sexy, Free Companions chosen for the sexy-sexy, or cloistered virgins awaiting their chance at the sexy-sexy.

In short? Gor is a hunter-gatherer society, not a farming one. By giving his slave girls a staple common to Earth society where women are free to work themselves into an early grave, John has broken his universe.

And the worst part? he is dedicating pages to food porn. And unlike Hunger Games and Sunshine, because John wants to degrade his slave girls, the food porn isn't very porny. Accurate depiction of bread in this kind of society? The part in Hunger Games where Katniss and Gale go bananas over a couple whole wheat rolls, and the part where Peeta, the baker's son, admits that the only bread his family, the baker's own family, can afford to eat is stale. Not "EW MORE BREAD GIMME ANOTHER PASTRY". (Jesus. They don't have farms and they're feeding "female animals" pastries.)

I know it's a small point, I know it doesn't really matter that much in the scale of things here, but for fuck's sake, the man is dedicating pages to something that breaks his whole universe.

And that whole rant about wheat? Is more interesting than reading about slave guards playing grab-ass with Strawchick, which is what I've been doing for the last few pages.

I had found, over the recent weeks of my bondage, to my fury, that men were becoming ever more interesting and attractive to me. How this thought angered me! I must struggle against it! Part of this was doubtless simply because I was in bondage and the effect of this on a female is no secret. She is dressed, if dressed, in a certain way, which excites both her and men; she must obey; she is familiar with bonds and being made helpless, which, aside from the security involved, impresses the mastery upon her and is sexually stimulating; she is vulnerable, and she is, for most practical purposes, legally and institutionally accessible, accessible as a female; indeed, legally and institutionally, as she is an animal in the eyes of the law, she is literally, and thus is accessible as, literally, a female animal; certainly she is owned, and she knows, particularly if she is a pleasure slave, that she is intended for, is seen in terms of, and exists for, the pleasures of men. That is her raison d’ĂȘtre, to serve and please men. It is hard then not to see men as her masters, for that is what they are; and she naturally, ineluctably, finds them attractive, men strong enough to command her, and do with her as they wish.

First of all, is it just me? Or halfway through that paragraph (which is in itself half a paragraph) did this stop being Strawchick's internal thoughts and turn into John Norman ranting? Also, there's this one "sentence" that...oh, fuck it. Here it is again:

She is dressed, if dressed, in a certain way, which excites both her and men; she must obey; she is familiar with bonds and being made helpless, which, aside from the security involved, impresses the mastery upon her and is sexually stimulating; she is vulnerable, and she is, for most practical purposes, legally and institutionally accessible, accessible as a female; indeed, legally and institutionally, as she is an animal in the eyes of the law, she is literally, and thus is accessible as, literally, a female animal; certainly she is owned, and she knows, particularly if she is a pleasure slave, that she is intended for, is seen in terms of, and exists for, the pleasures of men.

Apparently the humble comma has become an endangered species. John has moved on to wholesale slaughter of the semi-colon.

Also, and I might be wrong in this, but I think most of Norman's later Gor Novels were self-published. This was not one of them. I've tried not to go with the whole "A real editor somewhere approved this" because my stuff got rejected wholesale and with prejudice, and that means I've got no room to talk about shitty writing, but I have to say it here. Somebody read this sentence. Somebody with grammer training. Somebody whose job it is to look at sentences and fix them. They saw that lovely train wreck up there and left it alone. 

The scarier alternative--which I've seen comparing the published version of Twilight with the ARC--is that the train wreck is an attempt to fix an even bigger train wreck.

So the Guards are lusting after Strawchick and Strawchick is lusting after the guards, and I'm back to trying to find the plot instead of picking at the shitty writing. And...oh yeah. I forgot about this part.

The thing that I hate most about this book? It's not the shitty writing. I actually kind of like that. It's not the rampant mysogyny, the racism, the terrible worldbuilding, the lack of logic. Really, all these things are icing on the crazy cake and something that is fun to bitch about.

But to me, the heart of any book are the characters. I love Sunshine because Rae Seddon IS TOTALLY WHO I AM and the people around her ARE TOTALLY MY FAMILY. I love the Mercedes Thompson books because Mercy kicks ass, and it'll probably be yours. I love Hunger Games because CinnaKatnessGalePeetaJohannaFennickAnnie RUE! (sobs!) and I squee over every encarnation of Sherlock Holmes I've ever met because he is just that awesome. Even Twilight is redeemed by Alice, who should have been the main character of the series if there were any justice in the world.

The characters in Captive of Gor are all, every one of them, right down to the most minor character you can imagine, terrible people. The only thing that should happen to Gor is carpet nuclear bombardment. Not because of the slavery, the mysogyny, or the rampant stupdity, but because of the utter lack of anything remotely resembling moral character. None of these people are good, and the only lucky thing about this series is it is all fiction.

Two characters I may have mentioned in passing are Ute and Inge, fellow slave girls and Strawchick's sort-of friends. Ute, especially, has been Strawchick's comforter. The one who pets her head and tells her everything will be alright. Right now, Strawchick is sharing a pen with Ute, Inge and Lana, who is basically Strawchick 2.0. Ute and Inge clean the pen, Lana and Strawchick do not. Ute and Inge ask Lana and Strawchick to help clean the pen, and they refuse because they are far too valuable.

Here is what a sane person does: clean the pen, because otherwise you'll be beaten, and withdraw the friendship from this terrible woman, who is taking a great deal of comfort from your kindness and who doesn't deserve a single ounce of your time.

What do the ONLY two nice people in this book do?

Tie Lana and Strawchick's nose rings together and then torture them with the string. After the cage is cleaned, the two formerly nice people tie Lana and Strawchick to the cell bars by the nose ring and leave them there, all day.

From this point on the interactions with the other girls and Strawchick are basically catfights, followed by exceptional cruelty, followed by pretend kindness, followed by mind numbingly stupid betrayal, followed by something that straddles make-up sex so firmly those paragraphs should have their own dildo. Also, Strawchick lies, gets caught lying, gets a reputation for being a liar and hates how everyone else views her. She's better than that.

This is a real attitude that real people have. I'm dealing with several people like that at my job. I don't get it at all. I get it when the rep is because of gossip and isn't true, but when you know you earned it, why do you hate that people see the real you?

Back to review.

...oh for fuck's sake.

My thoughts strayed back to that terrible night, when I fled from the hut, into the darkness, leaving the beast feeding on the carcass of the destroyed, bloodied sleen.

NO. This goes back at the beginning of the chapter. I've just read six pages about cat fights, lying slaves and girls being tied up by their hair that I didn't bother blogging about because it was that boring. I don't care about how she got back to the slave chain now. I want her to get out of the slave pens and on with the story.

Nope. Basically, Strawchick wandered around in the murder forest until she stumbled upon a member of Targo's team, who stayed behind while everybody else went on to Koroba. Ah, well. At least he didn't chase her with his space ship.

And then the flashforward is over and Strawchick rambles on about how Women Are Natural Slaves, and then we find out that Verna the Panther Girl has been captured by a character from the first Gor book. And Targo's hundred girls are on their way! Have we forgotten about them? I sure had. Also, Rask is attacking Places. The outlaw. Who was mentioned once, a long time ago, back when Strawchick met Torgo.

God, this chapter is long.

And we get a recap of how Rask attacked Torgo, because even John Norman knows its been too long for us to remember who the fuck this guy is.

THIS CHAPTER IS WAY TOO LONG.

But there is one plus. This line of description:

...only the wild, bleak crags of the scarlet Voltai...
Is a few letters away from being the best Twilight/Gor Crossover EVER.

...the wild, deep craigs of the scarlet Volturi. And I would totally pay money for a cage match between Tarl Cabot and Aro. Strawchick can be Bella's first meal post vamping.
 Oh, and you know how Strawchick is scared of men?

Women, it was said, had special reason to fear Rask of Treve. It was said he had a gargantuan contempt, and appetite, for them. It was said that when he used a woman, he then branded her, with his name, as though she, once used, no matter to whom she might afterwards be given or sold, could truly belong only to him. It was also said that he would use a woman only once, claiming that he had, he, Rask of Treve, in once using her, emptied her, exhausted her, taken from her all she had to give, and that, thus, she could no longer be of interest to him.

Wanna take bets on who her master will be? Oh, and after all that description, Strawchick gets a random mysterious male visitor!

Once, there was a visitor to the pens, a tall stranger, partially hooded, who wore robes of blue and yellow silk, those of the Slavers. He had, over his left eye, a strip of leather, which was wound about his head. He was shown through our section of the pens by Targo.






Gee, I wonder who this could be! We're not going to find out. Instead Ute and Inge, realizing that Strawchick is a terrible human being, stop wasting time on her, and she has to beg Lana for friendship. Lana, of course, uses Strawchick for favors and extra food. They deserve each other. Strawchick then dreams about her MYSTERIOUS VISITOR. AND THEN...end chapter, THANK YOU GOD.

TOMORROW: ...I hate this fucking chapter with the fire and passion of ten thousand suns. All I had to do was see the title, and I now have the frantic urge to start rocking in a corner. STRAWCHICK PICKS BERRIES! CW GOES FUCKING INSANE!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Captive of Gor Chapter Ten AKA Mommy do I have to?

I took this month off. This means that the little book that would have been released in November is being released in December (Prince of the Gray Keep, not that anybody is really, like, reading Rise of the Winterlord right now). But that does not mean I am doing NOTHING this month. I'm writing my ass off, boys and girls. Planet Bob, the sequel to Starbleached, is finished. The next Exiles book is...uh...fuck if I know. Seriously. Word count wise we're over halfway done, I've had a lot of fun letting these characters bounce around but...uh, I haven't really found a story yet. The problem here is, it's kind of a bridge story. This is what I call a book/episode/strip/whatever where we're connecting point A to point C and creating that point B in the process.

Oh, the story is there. I know it's there. I'm confident in my abilities. There is more of a story to Gray Fox today than there was yesterday, and I'm confident that I will have the full story, plot and all, by Tuesday. Which is also when I figure I'll be done with it.

The good news? After this, it is on to Project: Dragon, which has been languishing in this special hell for about a year and a half now. If I can reshuffle the plot points in Gray Fox, Project:Dragon has a hope of survival. Which I am glad for, because I heart that book so very much.

My point? I'd rather review Captive of Gor and be enjoyably drunk than muddle my way through Casey's confrontation with (CENSORED). And that in itself is sad, sad, sad shit. Which will be better tomorrow, when I am not tired from work, and I have properly assimilated that my job? As The Writer? Is to fuck with you.

Something that John Norman has never quite grasped.

Where were we?

...right. Strawchick being confronted by big animal...thing. This is why I've been avoiding this book like it has plague.

She cowers in front of the chained up animal that had entertained her not too long ago (I am not looking up how long ago this damn thing appeared in the book. You cannot make me. There is not enough booze in the world) and realizes that Dude In Clown Paint (seriously. There is a dude talking to her, and he is in clown paint, and we are supposed to be intimidated, and not thinking about Insane Clown Posse) (Who I have never listened to in my life) sounds familiar. Oh, noes! HE IS THE MAN THAT KIDNAPPED HER BACK ON EARTH! What does this dastardly, dastardly man say to her, having reaquired his chosen Earth-slave?

“Hello, Cookie,” he said.
I swear to God in heaven, I copy-pasted that directly out of the Kindle. This part, too:

“You’re a pretty little cookie,” he said.

I am shaking in my baby-seal skin leather boots. (/Megamind awesomeness) (and awesomeness in general)

So then the Cookie-man suddenly goes all Gorean "Kneel, bound slave" on Strawchick, and of course she just sits in the grass like a good little pleasure slave, because All Women Are Slaves For Realsies.

Oh, and this happens:

I now, commonly, knelt immediately, naturally, appropriately, gracefully, pleasurably, not thinking about it, in the position of the pleasure slave, but I did not do so now, for I was terrified.

One of the "rules" of writing is that every word you attach to a noun dilutes all the other words attached to it. So if you say it is a "stormy day", well, nothing happens to "Stormy" because there's nothing to dilute. "Gray, stormy day" is passible, but not as clear as "Stormy." "Bland, hot, gray, ugly, stormy, wonderful day" has no meaning whatsoever, and neither does "immediately, naturally, appropriately, gracefully, pleasurably, not thinking about it" because by the time you get to whatever it is on the end of the adjective chain, you've forgotten who the fuck is talking. The whole book is full of this shit, but this is the one that jumped out at me. It's a little like reading "whack-a-mole".

Okay, one more and then I promise I'll start recapping the goddamn book:

“The proud, arrogant, rich Miss Brinton,” he remarked, speaking in English. 

“No, Master,” I whispered, in English. 

“Are you not Miss Brinton?” he asked. 

“Yes,” I whispered, “I am Elinor Brinton.” 

“What is she?” he asked. 

“Only a Gorean slave,” I said. 

“I never thought to have you at my feet,” he said. 

“No, Master,” I whispered. 

“It is not unpleasant,” he said. 
“No, Master,” I whispered.
Wish fulfillment much, John? Also? If you have a giant hell beast on a chain, and your hand is on the lock? Bet your ass I'll agree with whatever you say.

Cookie man gives Strawchick a bathrobe from her old apartment, to drive home that she owns nothing, I guess. For some reason I'm remembering the horrendously racist book Calico Captive that I read when I was a kid, where the main character spent most of the book mooning over a pretty dress the indians had taken away from her, and the rest of the book hating the French who were being so nice to her because They Were French, Goddamn It. (I loved the book as a kid but I kind of hate its guts now)

Anyway, she offers him anything if he'll take her back to Earth. Money? Phhh, not enough. What about Gold? Diamonds? Not enough...but maybe...OH NOT THAT! Yes that. Okay, well, maybe...Oh, nevermind ugly slut. Also, Strawchick remembers that somebody tried to pay her a hundred dollars for a kiss and she considered it. Didn't do it, but considered it because selling a kiss is like prostitution only, you know, not, and oh fuck, I think I just broke my italics.

And then...oh, for fuck's sake, John.

Besides I did not kiss men.
The one place that practially screams "COMMA ME GODDAMN IT", and you don't put one? Did you use them all up on that monster adjective tail? DID YOU KILL ALL THE THINGS PUNCTUATION AND THE REST OF US MUST DO WITHOUT? And...wait a minute. WAAAAAAAAIT A GODDAMN MINUTE HERE.

So I chilled the fellow with a look of utter disdain, turned about, and left him behind me. “Please, Miss Brinton,” he called out plaintively, “don’t be angry. I apologize! It was only a joke, a joke!”

I get it now. This is what she did. This is what motivated the writing of this god-awful book. You know, John? I probably would have turned you down too. First, because I'd be fucking offended and...uh...becausekissingsquicksmeoutandIreallydon'tlikedoingit

Moving on!

We get more "But on Earth I was this!" and "On Gor, I am this!" and "I am Elinor Brinton!" and yep, I'm bringing this out YET AGAIN:

Also?

She must, at so little as the least word or gesture, provide subtle, lengthy and complex delights, gratifications and pleasures to a master, rendering him services in her bondage of which a free woman could not even conceive.”
I don't know which is more disgusting. The concept expressed by that sentence, or its basic structure.

Ya know what? I'm going with structure. Norman couldn't actually fix the concept, you know?

We're now deep into this chapter, kids, and I have yet to find a fucking point. I've learned how she was branded, and that it worked like a light switch, and that salve was involved, and that they really did sneak into her bedroom after she passed out to put a collar on her, and then leave. She's also had time to smoke two cigarettes. 

And hey, remember when I said how her being "chosen" back in chapter one was kind of rapey?

“It may interest you to know,” he said, “that you were marked for abduction at the age of seventeen. In the intervening five years we watched you carefully, maturing into a spoiled, rich, highly intelligent, arrogant young woman, exactly the sort that, under whip and collar, becomes a most exquisite slave.” 
I drew on the cigarette, in fury.
FUCKING. EW. Also, I DARE you to "draw on a cigarette in fury". Go ahead. Smoke, as an expression of fury.

And hey? Chapter Ten? Hello? Can we have some sense here? I'm not going to ask for, like, a fucking PLOT or anything, and I rather like all the fail we're having, but a point to all this? It'd be kind of nice.

Okay. So it seems they had some nefarious purpose in kidnapping Strawchick, hence all the elaborate-ish-ness with her kidnapping. And apparently this purpose is best served by a virgin, because heavily veiled references to sex are used.

What IS it with shitty pulp writers and this mincing around that word? It doesn't even have four letters. You can use it and it won't burn your book down. Nobody has slept with Strawchick, and this is good for Cookie-man.

And then, RIGHT WHEN WE ARE GETTING TO THE POINT OF THIS CHAPTER, we're interrupted by a "sleen" outside. Because cutting right to the point would make John Norman's head explode. Then Cookie Man beats Strawchick for being insolent. And whatever satisfaction I derive from this is completely ruined by how far off track we've gotten. The good news, however, is Norman finally uses the word "virginity" in the text, instead of dancing the dance of seven silken veils around it. The bad news is, the text then implies that to kneel as a pleasure slave is probably not work-safe, and I really did not need the mental image of Strawchick's altogethers. Cookie man symbolically burns Strawchick's robe, and the point, oh, my lovely readers, the point is SO FAR AWAY right now...

Oh! It's on the very next page!

“It is our intention,” he said, “to have you trained as a slave girl, to give exquisite pleasures to a master. And then you will be placed in a certain house.” “Yes, Master?” I asked. “And,” he said, “in this house, you will poison its master.”
...what?

you will poison its master.”
Yeah. That's what I thought you said. And it doesn't make any more sense now that you've said it. You're serious? THIS is the only girl you could use for your assassination attempt? Strawchick? The dumbest sack of estrogen I've seen since my grandmother's hormone therapy? STRAWCHICK is your secret weapon? STRAWCHICK?

DUDE. She's more likely to EAT your poison than give it to Tarl. This girl makes rocks look smart. Okay, maybe she could have pulled this off if you hadn't told her, but now? No way. She'll fuck it up. No matter what you do for her, she'll find a way to screw the pooch. Or else she'll just tell Tarl Cabot about it, and he will kill your ass. Oh, I'm sorry. Am I spoiling the end of the book for you? No? Because it's predictable?

Okay, then!

And then the wall explodes! The sleen attacks! Cookie-man's pet monster kills and eats it. And then, because everything up to this point has made something approaching sense, Norman drops acid while he's writing:

“Stop!” cried the man. The beast looked at him, eyes blazing, its face drenched in blood. “Obey your master!” I cried. “Obey your master!” The beast looked at me. I shall never forget the horror I felt. “I am the master,” it said.
Nothing in this book has indicated that animals can talk. Nope. This is just sprung on us. It's like "My mother poisoned my dog". Nothing leading up to it. Nothing to foreshadow this turn into WTF land. Nope. Norman just drops it right on us. Strawchick runs out into the darkness, and the chapter ends.

Next chapter? Uh...I think Norman woke up after the LSD hit, looked at what he'd written the night before, and made a blood pact with his typewriter to never speak of this again. Because we go STRAIGHT to Planet (slave) Girl! and we NEVER find out how she gets back with Torgo.

There. Chapter Ten is reviewed. I'm going to go curl up in bed with a raspberry beer.