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Author Topic: Pseudopod 86: The Wild Y  (Read 30201 times)

Bdoomed

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on: April 18, 2008, 04:35:49 AM
Pseudopod 86: The Wild Y

By Teej Grant

Read by Ben Phillips

Paul Toland liked it best as high up as he could squirrel himself beneath the bridge, right up there at the nexus, where with superstructure of the bridge itself sliced in to connect with the finished concrete of the street. Here, with his bag of belongings, his bottle, and his razor, he felt safe and content. A small voice from his earlier life told him that this was only a primitive retreat to the womb fantasies that everyone had somewhere in their subconscious; he told the small voice to shut the hell up.

Paul was younger than most of the residents under the bridge and in somewhat better condition (though certainly no poster boy for Health & Fitness Magazine), so he had little to fear from the rest of them. In fact, he was sort of like their king. As long as those damned spike-haired, body-pierced punkers stayed on their own turf, anyway.

Tonight was a sweet one. Late May, nighttime temperature hovering around seventy, almost too warm, but with a frisky and teasing wind to alleviate any discomfort, bringing with it the salty taste of the Bay. It was moonless and quiet, too. By four a.m., Paul was in a deep sleep that was unbroken by even the dreams that tended to haunt his nights.





Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Listener

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Reply #1 on: April 18, 2008, 11:34:08 AM
Purple prose abounded, at least in the first few minutes.  Not enough uses of the word "said".  The plot was okay, but I don't really consider it a horror story.  The sex felt forced and silly.  The twist wasn't unexpected.

Ben did an admirable job given the source material.

I give it a "meh".

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Kaa

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Reply #2 on: April 18, 2008, 02:44:35 PM
I agree somewhat with Listener.  The story had some problems. The Expository Dump(tm) was a bit forced, and if you noticed (like I did) her rather pointed belaboring of the point that only men possess this Wild Y, the ending was visible from at least a parsec.

And yeah, the sex scene? Egregious and unnecessary.  It felt like..."I was supposed to have 2500 words, but I've only got 2200. I know! I'll write a sex scene!"

The only horror in this comes from the thought of having a president that's a dangerous, psycho lunatic, who....

Uh. *ahem*  Never mind.

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Listener

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Reply #3 on: April 18, 2008, 04:38:02 PM

Quote
The only horror in this comes from the thought of having a president that's a dangerous, psycho lunatic, who....

Uh. *ahem*  Never mind.

I wouldn't worry.  It doesn't look like Hillary's going to get the nomination.

*see what I did there?* :)

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Kaa

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Reply #4 on: April 18, 2008, 04:51:11 PM
I wouldn't worry.  It doesn't look like Hillary's going to get the nomination.

*see what I did there?* :)

Oh, yes. Very subtle. :)

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Reply #5 on: April 19, 2008, 01:44:23 AM
The only horror in this comes from the thought of having a president that's a dangerous, psycho lunatic, who....

Uh. *ahem*  Never mind.

Yeah, that was most definately the most subtle political slam I've ever heard in fiction. EVER.

</sarcasm>

Don't get me wrong, I love me some political slams, but they're like fine spices--you only need a little to go a long way.



Kaa

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Reply #6 on: April 19, 2008, 01:49:06 AM
Yeah, that was most definately the most subtle political slam I've ever heard in fiction. EVER.

</sarcasm>

Don't get me wrong, I love me some political slams, but they're like fine spices--you only need a little to go a long way.

Amusingly, the most egregious one I've seen in a while was another Escape Artists story. I can't remember if it was Escape Pod or Pseudopod, but it was the one where the president was a werewolf.  That one was as subtle as an anvil.

[Edit] Pseudopod 042: Full Moon Over 1600.  http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=901.0
« Last Edit: April 19, 2008, 02:03:13 AM by Kaa »

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deflective

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Reply #7 on: April 19, 2008, 07:55:44 PM
this was almost campy enough for me to unconditionally like it. almost =)

Quote from: Kaa
And yeah, the sex scene? Egregious and unnecessary.

completely, this was what pushed it through to camp for me. for a couple moments it was so over the top i didn't have to worry about suspending my disbelief. unfortunately the rest of it took itself too seriously. i'm reminded of listening to infected, the promo is so outrageously over the top that i thought it was spoofing itself. didn't really work out that way.

i thought it would turn out that the woman was a wild y, having sex in the mental space that she was just using a borrowed body. it works alright as an attempt to assuage her guilt though, letting a guy have sex one last time as a man.

Quote
The only horror in this comes from the thought of having a president that's a dangerous, psycho lunatic, who....

i have a harder time with the idea that the checks & balances in government would allow such frivolous use of resources. talk about the ultimate organ donor.


i was also wondering what president has ever had a wife that looks 25? and what city has senior citizens as most of its homeless?



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Reply #8 on: April 20, 2008, 09:07:32 AM
This is the second scifi podcast I have listened to recently that was about a male shapeshifter tricked into becoming the president's wife. The punchline in both was the horror men apparently feel at the idea of being female. Get over it boys. It's not that bad.



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Reply #9 on: April 20, 2008, 02:04:18 PM
This is the second scifi podcast I have listened to recently that was about a male shapeshifter tricked into becoming the president's wife. The punchline in both was the horror men apparently feel at the idea of being female. Get over it boys. It's not that bad.

I don't think it was the horror of being female... I think it was the horror of being stuck married to a sadistic & abusive male.

I know that thought sends shivers through MY spine!

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Reply #10 on: April 20, 2008, 06:50:36 PM
I am usually pretty good at suspending disbelief, but the science here just set off my "OH PLEASE" receptors.  Most of the genetic traits that express as our recognizable features are developmental -- they are triggered as a creature grows.  Even if you could magically change someone's genetic material, your body isn't going to remake itself to match -- it took 18 years or so to make it in the first place.  You completely redraw the blueprints of a house, you still have the same house, unless you want to tear it down and build it new.  If you're gonna tell a shapeshifting story, go ahead and make it a totally out-there mechanism -- don't try to couch it in really, really bad "science."
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 08:28:40 PM by bolddeceiver »



eytanz

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Reply #11 on: April 21, 2008, 04:42:16 PM
I didn't find anything horrifying about this story except the combination of really bad science and many plotholes (here's one - the actor is in prime position to cause real trouble for the president at the end, simply by waiting for a public appearance where he/she can say something really damaging (say, mention something about the president's secret gay lover). One of the rules of spindoctoring is that you make sure that the person in the spotlight doesn't have an ax to grind. If you take a guy who doesn't have much to live for, tell him he has a superpower that can make his life perfect, then take it away, do you really want to take the chance he'll fear retribution enough to not take you down out of spite? And here's another - if you were mounting this sort of operation, why the hell would you care about whether the victim signs a contract? Indeed, such a contract is a paper trail, and thus a potential liability. Sheesh).

Mostly, I think this story suffered for being in Pseudopod - if I were to read it in a general anthology/magazine, I may have been misled into thinking this was a wish-fulfillment story and then the twist in the end would have had some bite, even if it was a campy silly one. But here, I spent the entire story knowing it's going to end badly, and making up scenarios of how it all goes horribly wrong. The end result was sort of an anticlimax compared with some of the scenarios in my head (for example, that this really was some part of an assassination attempt, or that the president wanted to pretend to be dead and the actor was supposed to provide the body, etc.)



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Reply #12 on: April 21, 2008, 05:41:00 PM
I rather enjoyed this.  Yeah, the science was a bit sketch, and I didn't care for the sex scene.  I also felt the ending was a bit vague.  I had to come to the forums to figure out that it was the first lady he would be replacing, rather than some random female victim.
I thought it was fun, if not terribly deep.



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Reply #13 on: April 22, 2008, 04:11:47 PM
I liked this at first, especially the opening on the homeless man.  When the punks were brought up, I thought I was going to get a completely different kind of story than the one I got.  What I got was okay, but when the secret service showed up and we found out Paul was an actor, it started to lose me.  You knew what was going to happen at this point -- or close enough.  After that, it started falling into cliches that climaxed with the ridiculous sex scene. 

And pretty much everything eytanz said, but especially this:
Mostly, I think this story suffered for being in Pseudopod - if I were to read it in a general anthology/magazine, I may have been misled into thinking this was a wish-fulfillment story and then the twist in the end would have had some bite, even if it was a campy silly one. But here, I spent the entire story knowing it's going to end badly, and making up scenarios of how it all goes horribly wrong. The end result was sort of an anticlimax compared with some of the scenarios in my head (for example, that this really was some part of an assassination attempt, or that the president wanted to pretend to be dead and the actor was supposed to provide the body, etc.)

I kept trying to figure out how Dave or Moon over Parador could be turned into a horror story.

Hrm.  Now that I think about it, desecrating feel-good movies' plots to generate horror stories might be an interesting writing exercise.


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Reply #14 on: April 25, 2008, 12:59:59 AM
This is the second scifi podcast I have listened to recently that was about a male shapeshifter tricked into becoming the president's wife. The punchline in both was the horror men apparently feel at the idea of being female. Get over it boys. It's not that bad.

I don't think it was the horror of being female... I think it was the horror of being stuck married to a sadistic & abusive male.

I know that thought sends shivers through MY spine!

Almost missed that it was the first lady he killed (there was a quick reference to 'the first couple')- I assumed the first time I listened to it that it was a hussie/intern/prostitute he killed while coked out ("he's a man of many passions.")  I think that would have been a more believable angle- they would have still been worried about the investigations going on with a missing lewinski-type so they would have needed to transform him to cover it up, but nobody would ever believe the hussies crazy rantings.
He/she now has plenty opportunity to cause a stir and uncover this technology with the first lady platform- unless they really keep him/her away from the public, and then they might as well have just left her dead and covered it up somehow else rather than wasting a rare shapeshifter type on it.

And yes, the sex scene should have never happened.




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Reply #15 on: April 25, 2008, 12:40:48 PM
Man, I don't know what I can say about this episode without being perceived as descending into frothing hyperbole.  Guh.  Hated it.  You can so totally do better, Pseudopod.

Besides the huge amount of ridiculous science fudging that has been extensively documented by prior posters (I like the way bolddeceiver laid it out particularly), the completely unbelievable wish-fulfillment sex with gorgeous woman in the middle that has also been eyerolled upthread (by Listener first), and the ridiculous assumption that the world could ever work this way from a political standpoint (eytanz documents a couple of the misses here but nowhere near all of them) I, like allie above, can't believe the editors thought it was a good idea to run a story whose punchline was "HA HA! You're a woman.  And that's horrible!  See how horrible that is?"

As to TAD's counterargument that it was a female subject to an abusive male and not just merely a female, I think you fell for the smokescreen, my friend.  The final scene is not one of the president coming after the protag with a baseball bat, is it?  We've already established that said mc is a live in the present kind of guy, with no thought for his future, and his horror, at the ending, is looking a mirror (ohhhh, staring in the mirror, nice cliché moment you got there).  So I call foul on the ostensible theme of "but it's the horrible situation, not the double x chromosomes, honest!" ploy.

And I have an exhibit B to add to the story's general misogynistic roots in the form of a barely characterized secret service agent who does not approximate any real life woman but serves just fine in the stereotypical sexy ball-breaker role complete with penis (I mean, Wild Y chromosome) envy. 

Ugh. 

I realize that it's horror's place to be transgressive and talk about taboos.  I'm ok with that.  Unfortunately, sexism falls into the all too common category, not the transgressive one, so really, you totally failed me on this one.  Also, since the woman-hating is clearly part of the theme instead of the dialog or the mc POV (unlike the leprechaun story), this is definitely the worst of all worlds.

I am sad.  But also angry.  I miss Mur.

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eytanz

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Reply #16 on: April 25, 2008, 01:03:02 PM
I, like allie above, can't believe the editors thought it was a good idea to run a story whose punchline was "HA HA! You're a woman.  And that's horrible!  See how horrible that is?"

Actually, if I may offer a weak counter-position, I think the intended horror was supposed to be derived from two sources:

1. The first was that the guy lost his superpower, which was clearly presented as THE AWESOMEST SUPERPOWER EVER(tm). It is not only shapeshifting, but it also cures diseases, makes you immortal, and the process of shapeshifting offers a high better than any drug or sex. But now it was taken from him, since he no longer has a Y chromosome. Ignoring the utter stupidity of this, however, this is still not an effective counter-argument, since it basically amounts to saying that being a man is better than being a woman since men get cool superpowers and women don't. So I'll move on to:

2. The second element of horror is the unwitting gender change. Not the gender that was changed into, but the process of change. This one is the only aspect of it I find mildly redeemable. Being a woman is in no way a bad thing. Nor is being a man. Changing from one to the other against your will can be. If I were to wake up tomorrow and discover I turned female overnight (and have no way to turn back), it would be pretty traumatic. I think every woman I know would feel the same if she were to suddenly be male. So, I think it's valid to interpret the ending as horror without ascribing to a misogynistic world view.

That said, while I think (2) is a valid defense of the story, I don't think it's a sufficient defense. Whether the story is inentionally misogynistic or not, it is certainly ambiguously so. And it is certainly nowhere near a good enough story to make its flaws forgivable. Also, I don't think there is any way around the following argument:

And I have an exhibit B to add to the story's general misogynistic roots in the form of a barely characterized secret service agent who does not approximate any real life woman but serves just fine in the stereotypical sexy ball-breaker role complete with penis (I mean, Wild Y chromosome) envy. 

There have been stories on PP I liked, and stories I disliked, but this was the first story whose acceptance I felt was an outright editorial misjudgement.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2008, 01:04:58 PM by eytanz »



Anarkey

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Reply #17 on: April 25, 2008, 03:08:25 PM
Actually, if I may offer a weak counter-position, I think the intended horror was supposed to be derived from two sources:

Well, now, if you're going to out and out say that your counterargument is weak it's not terribly sporting of me to dismantle it, is it?

Still, a couple of notes to you re: where the horror really lies. I'm not going to pretend I know what the author intended.  I'm not making any argument that the author is a sexist jackass (nor that Pseudopod's editors are sexist jackasses, btw).  The story comes across as pretty damn sexist but I'm not going to infer anything further than what we have recorded in mp3.  Whether it's innocently or accidentally sexist, or whether it's supposed to be undermining a sexist horror trope through the use of camp or whatever, I can't really say.  I have my suspicions, naturally, and they include the idea of "if this was a joke, it was a really badly executed one."  But I'm making no claim as to intent. 

One of the things that muddies the waters about where the horror lies is all the other crappy stuff that has happened to him besides being girlified.  I see those other crappy things (the suddenness and unexpectedness of the gender switch to the protag, the fact that he's being sent off to be some psychotic madman's bitch, the loss of his mighty supahpowahs, and so forth) as the extra cymbal crashes on the horror of his fate (being made a girl), whereas you and TAD argue one or more of those other things as the primary drumbeat, downplaying the 'Oh noes! Girl!' aspect.  Since the gender switch is plot required to make any of the subsequent points, I think you have both been sidetracked from the main point, but there's certainly room for interpretation.  As you so rightly point out, even taking one of these other misfortunes as the primary thrust of how horrible his situation is, you can still end up in 'wow, that's pretty sexist' territory.

Arcwise, this story begins with a man who is a hopeless alcoholic and ends with his complete horror at being transformed into a woman.  The story says, essentially, 'homeless drunk male' > 'First Lady of the nation'.  Which I find bogus.

My argument about the misogyny of the setting is supported by the depiction of the other female of the plot, a secret service woman so powerful she's practically running the country, who has a whole cadre of dark-glasses-wearing lackeys to do her every bidding and can behave as unprofessionally as she likes with no consequences, but who would still prefer to be the boy.  You admit there's no way around this, and I accept that (and agree!), but I wanted to reiterate it, because it's the clincher for me.  I find it not only bogus but offensive.

There have been stories on PP I liked, and stories I disliked, but this was the first story whose acceptance I felt was an outright editorial misjudgement.

Completely with you there, and this was what I meant when I said I missed Mur.

I have to say that I have read and heard stories that I thought had a sexist angle and still enjoyed them, even loved them.  This is not a complete dealbreaker for me, though you'd better do everything else PERFECTLY, if you're going to build such an obviously sexist world and expect me to go there.  This story had many other failings.  If someone tells me they really, really loved "The Turner Diaries" I'm going to think they're racist assholes, because really, the work has no redeeming quality and is one of the poorest  examples of its genre.  If someone tells me they love the "Left Behind" series I'm going to know their worldview is a bit looney and PMD skewed because those books are one of the worst examples of their genre and if they aren't pushing your philosophical buttons, there's nothing worthwhile there.  I said earlier that I don't think Psuedopod's editors are sexist jackasses, and I don't, but I'm struggling, because this story had lots of other flaws, and if they selected it anyway, what exactly about it were they so in love with?  It's hard to believe this is the best thing in their slushpile.  I'm leaning, perhaps, toward the interpretation that one of the editors has a gender switch bulletproof kink (storywise, not sexually) that made the sexist overtones of this story invisible to them because the other gender switch stories we've seen on PP haven't been all that great either.  If that's the case, I recommend that editor give any further gender switch stories to another reader to check for quality and rampant sexism before publishing them. 

BTW, if anyone has a desire to read a story that uses all these themes and has a far greater squick factor and is, IMO, done well instead of poorly, I recommend Ann Leckie's "The Snake's Wife".  It's unfortunately too long for Pseudopod, but it's good horror.

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Reply #18 on: April 25, 2008, 03:30:24 PM
1. The first was that the guy lost his superpower, which was clearly presented as THE AWESOMEST SUPERPOWER EVER(tm). It is not only shapeshifting, but it also cures diseases, makes you immortal, and the process of shapeshifting offers a high better than any drug or sex. But now it was taken from him, since he no longer has a Y chromosome.

Interesting.  I never really thought of it that way.  It does bring an interesting new angle to the story, but somehow I think the author didn't think of this either, preferring to focus on the gender/switch angle.

That does bring up an interesting point, though... will new weapons be developed that can inject female DNA into a squad of Wild-Y soldiers, thereby rendering them killable?

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Reply #19 on: April 25, 2008, 03:56:43 PM
Wow.  Sometimes this forum makes my brain stretch.  I never would have come up with this on my own:

The story says, essentially, 'homeless drunk male' > 'First Lady of the nation'.  Which I find bogus.

but seeing Anarkey write it, I want to bang my head onto my desk over and over for not picking that up.  It's pretty horrible. 

Initially, I didn't get that the whole thing was a sexist gender change "Oh my GOD it SUCKS to be a woman!"  I just thought the guy was tripping because he was going to (probably) end up getting beaten to death/strangled by the president.  Which didn't work at all for me horror-wise, at all.


2. The second element of horror is the unwitting gender change. Not the gender that was changed into, but the process of change. This one is the only aspect of it I find mildly redeemable. Being a woman is in no way a bad thing. Nor is being a man. Changing from one to the other against your will can be. If I were to wake up tomorrow and discover I turned female overnight (and have no way to turn back), it would be pretty traumatic. I think every woman I know would feel the same if she were to suddenly be male. So, I think it's valid to interpret the ending as horror without ascribing to a misogynistic world view.


Also, I'd add that this type of horror is (IMO) is covered more effectively in the early PP Flash piece "Her Shoes."


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Reply #20 on: April 25, 2008, 06:57:00 PM
Well, I'll be the guy to say that I didn't really find this story sexist.  To me, it was clear that the guy was horrified because of the sudden gender change-shock and more so the loss of the sweetest, best piece of luck-superpower ever-- not "Oh my god- I'm a woman?! ewwy!"

You can construe the YY power that woman couldn't have as a sexist, "men-are-better" message the way you can find offensive metaphor in all sorts of stuff that wasn't intentional.     

I think there were a few weak points to the story but sexism wasn't one of them and you guys are being a bit harsh to the PP editors.  Overall I enjoyed it.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2008, 07:00:53 PM by goatkeeper »



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Reply #21 on: April 25, 2008, 09:14:01 PM
Well, I'll be the guy to say that I didn't really find this story sexist. 
...
I think there were a few weak points to the story but sexism wasn't one of them and you guys are being a bit harsh to the PP editors.  Overall I enjoyed it.

I fully believe you didn't find the story sexist.  On the other hand, I'm not certain I can credit the "I didn't find the story sexist therefore it wasn't" argument, specially without textual support of any kind, and given that I've provided quite a lot of textual support for my position, which is that the story definitely is sexist. 

Unless you're positing yourself as an authority on sexism, and believe sexism can never occur without your noticing it, asserting it doesn't exist because you can't see it is a dubious counter.

Perhaps you can shore up your credibility with me by giving me an example of a story you have found sexist.  Then at least I'd know you recognize that stories can be sexist and that you have a sample set which you are using to compare this story to. 

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Reply #22 on: April 26, 2008, 03:36:09 AM
I was completely unimpressed with this story. The horror of being a woman? Sorry, but you'd have to give me at least a minute or two alone before that became "horrible". I get that the idea was that the horror was being the woman the president liked to kill, or that making the "wild Y" a woman ended the chance of transformations, but a minute or two to make the leap would be nice.

And what the heck was that really very silly sex scene in the frickin' chair? I realize that a short, short needs a bit of an info dump, but add to the superpower that the transformation was orgasmic, nearly instantaneous and well, impossible ('cuz the brain is like made of cells with DNA, too). The thing that killed it was not all of that, but the secret service guy who says "i'll never get used to that."

I'm glad that I don't love every story, but I think this one is my least favourite story, ever. Now that we've hit bottom, onward and upwards, please.

Oh, and perhaps this can be the end of the president-is-some-inhuman-entity-but-nobody-really-cares stories. A life-sucking vampire presidential candidate, a suicidal head, a werewolf and a homicidal maniac. Thanks, but no thanks.



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Reply #23 on: April 26, 2008, 05:54:17 AM
Well, I'll be the guy to say that I didn't really find this story sexist. 
...
I think there were a few weak points to the story but sexism wasn't one of them and you guys are being a bit harsh to the PP editors.  Overall I enjoyed it.

I fully believe you didn't find the story sexist.  On the other hand, I'm not certain I can credit the "I didn't find the story sexist therefore it wasn't" argument, specially without textual support of any kind, and given that I've provided quite a lot of textual support for my position, which is that the story definitely is sexist. 

Unless you're positing yourself as an authority on sexism, and believe sexism can never occur without your noticing it, asserting it doesn't exist because you can't see it is a dubious counter.

Perhaps you can shore up your credibility with me by giving me an example of a story you have found sexist.  Then at least I'd know you recognize that stories can be sexist and that you have a sample set which you are using to compare this story to. 
I'm not positing myself as anything, not asserting anything, I'm not interesting in establishing credibility with you or providing textual support to try to sway others opinions about this.  Sorry, I'm a boring forum debater.  I don't use the forums for that.  I'm just saying that I liked the story ok and that I didn't find it sexist.  I admitted that it could be construed as sexist if that's really what you want to construe.



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Reply #24 on: April 26, 2008, 01:34:38 PM

As to TAD's counterargument that it was a female subject to an abusive male and not just merely a female, I think you fell for the smokescreen, my friend.  The final scene is not one of the president coming after the protag with a baseball bat, is it?  We've already established that said mc is a live in the present kind of guy, with no thought for his future, and his horror, at the ending, is looking a mirror (ohhhh, staring in the mirror, nice cliché moment you got there).  So I call foul on the ostensible theme of "but it's the horrible situation, not the double x chromosomes, honest!" ploy.


The counterargument has been made several time since this remark, but I hope to defend my feminist honor a bit.  True, I was engaging in a bit of apologetic rationalization in order to sooth my reaction to the more overt stereotypes in the story.  I didn't mean to imply that the story was without sin, just that the frisson of horror wasn't supposed to come from a sense of "Oh, how horrible it would be to be a female (aren't they nasty)", but rather from "Oh, how horrible that I'm about to go to bed with a slavering, hairy beast of a man."

FWIW, I would rather be a homeless drunk that, say, Laura Bush.  Does that make me a sexist, or does it say something about W?

You've probably noticed that I don't like to dive into the negative; I usually don't comment at all if I don't have anything positive to say.  This story's problems are well documented, and the only positive I could come up with was the above rationalization.  I would hope that faint and flaccid defense would not be equated with praise.

I just don't want to be tarred with the Feather of Chauvinism simply because I didn't sign the petition to go back in time and remove it from existence.  :)

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