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,, 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.


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!

1 comment:

  1. *I've tried not to go with the whole "A real editor somewhere approved this"*

    After the first few books sold fairly well, John Norman managed to cast the dreaded incantation Protection From Editors. I suspect it worked in part because no one wanted to do a line-by-line close reading of his manuscripts. Every word is exactly as John Norman thought it should be.