Thursday, January 10, 2013

Narcissus in Chains chapter 37

Richard and Anita are now going to have sex. Unless a particular part about the screwing catches my eye, I'm probably not going to say a lot about that. Sex is sex.

Instead, we're going to talk about love and terrible people, and look in at the pair to see how long this is going to take.

I think part of the reason the sex scenes in Anita Blake, Merry Gentry et all fall so flat is because we, the readers, do not give one flying fuck about the characters. Merry is still (passably) an okay character. This is less because she's better written and more because she's not human and was not raised in a human enviroment, so her psycopathic tendancies are more understandable. She's a fairy princess from the days when they would eat your children. We don't expect human behavior from her, and we're not pissed when we don't get it.

Same thing goes with weres. We don't expect completely human behavior, and we let a lot of things float that we'd call bullshit on if the character were human, as long as the non-human behavior is in character for the animals. (Remember, sports fans: Leopards eat people too).

But Anita is human, and she doesn't get the same excuses other characters do. She's not fighting a beast inside of her. She never shape shifts. She does not get the excuse of instincts, heightened aggression, or full moon blues. She's held to a normal standard of behavior.

And normal people do not leave other people out on their back porch to die just because they don't want to get the carpet dirty.

He half-walked, half-staggered to the bed, laying me on it, going to his knees beside it. He was laughing as he crawled onto the bed beside me. He lay beside me, his knees hanging over the side of the bed,
There are about four words in that paragraph that no longer look like words to me.

Anyway, Anita's basic failure as a human being makes her unlikable, and that gives readers a problem. Readers don't like to see bad people rewarded. Anita gets rewarded all the fucking time with powers and sex and more sex and more powers, and more powers that come from sex, and pretty hot guys who, apparently, never heard about scissors. And that makes us angry because Anita does nothing in the books to deserve hot guys and sex and magic.

You know District 9? One of my all-time favorite movies? The story only worked because Wikus was a racist piece of shit at the beginning, and he stopped being one in the end. Because an awful, awful lot of bad things happen to him, and he earned every single one of them in the first thirty minutes of the movie. If he'd been a nice guy with no objectionable character traits, we probably would have hated the movie completely.

“I want to run my beast through you, Anita.”
Oh, so THAT'S what they're calling it now. I thought we settled on Mr. Winky.

Richard is also horrible. He's horrible not because he fails at basic human morality, but because he fails at leadership. He is doing a terrible job with the wolves, he has no control over his emotions, he allows himself to be set up as his author's strawman for her arguements against conventional morality, and he lets Anita screw with him. He's a ball of aggression and teeth without a backbone to support it.

And now we're supposed to be aroused by watching them have sex.

And now their beasts are touching.

That's probably my biggest issue with LKH's sex scenes, beyond watching two horrible fake human beings get it on: The metaphysical shit. I can relate to most of the mechanics of normal sex, but how the fuck am I supposed to relate to this:

My beast rose as if from a great, warm, wet depth, up, up to meet the warm, burning rush of Richard’s energy. He pushed his beast through me, and I could feel it, impossibly huge, the brush of fur so deep inside me that I cried out. I felt his beast as if it had crawled inside me and was caressing things from the inside that his hands would never have touched. My power seemed less certain than his, less solid. But it rose around the hard, muscled fur like velvet mist, swirling through his power, through my own body.
I don't have visions of deep forests and dark places here. I think that Richard's beast is pawing Anita's kidneys and lower intestine. That is not romantic.

Ugh, and more talk about how big Anita's men are and how they have to be careful of her. I'm suddenly reminded of Mae West. "Forget about the six feet, let's talk about the seven inches." Aren't guys, like, you know, mostly the same size?

And good fucking GOD, people, don't ever use the words "Wet Hammering" in connection to lovemaking. It'd be a good band name, but I don't think "Oh!" when I see that, folks. I think OW.

The thing about books, kids, is we want our characters to earn their happiness. We want to see them do great things and then get a shiny reward. If the reward doesn't match the actions preformed, too big or too small, we become unsatisfied with the story. If Wikus had gotten to go home at the end of District 9 we would all have been unhappy. But the fact that he keeps paying for being a racist shithead long after the movie itself is over (Given that Blomkamp has NO PLANS to do the fucking sequel yet, goddamn it, we must assume it is forever) we are sated. Not happy, maybe, but sated. With Anita getting to bang Richard after making Gregory wait god knows how long for decent medical attention, we're just as unsatisfied. All Anita has done is whine, get hurt and have sex.

I'm not minimizing the rape, here. It was a horrible thing, and she'd be fully justified taking time off to recover  from it.

But stories aren't interesting when a character licks their wounds onscreen. They are interesting when a character says "fuck it" and starts taking an active hand in their life. And Anita, for all her posturing and grandstanding and tough-girl attitude, is passive as fuck in this whole story.

...given what they're doing in the background, that MIGHT have been a poor choice of words.

Punishment/reward is a real dynamic in storytelling. It's one of those things that the consious mind doesn't see, but that the unconsious latches onto like a limpet. We want Cinderella to become the princess every time, and also for her stepsisters and stepmom to be punished.

Anita Blake stopped being Cinderella a long, LONG time ago.

YAY! The chapter's done! I'm now going to go wash my eyes out with bleach, and the rest of you are welcome to join me.


  1. "Ugh, and more talk about how big Anita's men are and how they have to be careful of her. I'm suddenly reminded of Mae West. "Forget about the six feet, let's talk about the seven inches." Aren't guys, like, you know, mostly the same size?"

    ~5-6", more or less. Depends on how you measure it. Even really tall guys aren't usually much outside of that range. 20% taller than average is a big deal - 6'10" instead of 5'9". 20% longer than average isn't a big deal - 7" instead of 6".

    And really well hung guys? Sometimes have severe blood pressure problems when they get hard. Like "I need to sit down before I pass out" type problems. To say nothing of the problems involved in trying to hide those random boners guys get during the day.

  2. Pretty much in agreement with all that you said--Anita is a horrid person, but consistently rewarded for it, the sex scenes are unarousing, the characters are boring, and Anita is passive while insisting to the reader she's not. All very, very shitty traits of the series from this point on.

  3. A logistics problem just occured to me - Anita has been awake for - What? Close to two days now? And it's been a stressful two days, with lots of drama and trauma and learning horrible new ways to hurt other people. Richard hasn't had a better time of it. They're both exhausted, stressed, and probably pretty grungy what with climbing into a filthy oubliette and the forced transformations and spewing limbs going on all around them.

    And they pick now to have sex? Forget it Hamilton. At this point there's no way Richard can keep his eyes open let alone get his dick hard.

    1. There was mention of a shower at one point, but it was a very passing mention.

      Ah, but sex is a driving passionate need that human beings MUST HAVE OR least according to LKH. NOTHING is nonsexual in her writing from here on out. NOT. ONE. THING.

      Personally I'd think that snuggling for comfort would be psychologically safer than grappling for pleasure. But that's just me.

    2. I'd say at this point that cuddling would be A) A lot more comforting than sex, and B) Would be the only thing either of them are capable of at this point, shower or no.