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 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.


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'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.


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.


1 comment:

  1. "By the way, the google image search for "unicorn puke" is surprisingly unsatisfactory."

    There just isn't enough unicorn puke in the world. It's sad, really.

    I'd just like to point out that it's not state-financed prostitution, it's state-taxed legalized rape. The city-states don't subsidize prostitutes, they are profiting by legalized rape.

    This whole economics-fail bit, where it's clear John Norman has no idea where his food or clothes or nice furniture or ANYTHING really comes from just makes it clear what an entitled privileged spoiled brat Norman really was. He's not Tarl Cabot, he's Strawchick.