Author Topic: Prostitution in PC014 and EA  (Read 25947 times)

Ragtime

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Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« on: July 02, 2008, 01:13:28 PM »
This story was a lot of fun.  My only complaint is how frickin many Escape Artist stories are there that involve prostitutes?  I mean seriously, it seems like half.  I mean no disrespect to prostitutes, but do so many stories really need to have one?

I agree with this too.  Within in the last week or two, Escape Pod had "The Right Kind of Town" about a prostitute and "Gd Juice," which included one, and Pseudopod had "The Cutting Room" about . . . well, I don't know what it was about.  A fetishist corpse prostitute or something?

Anyway, that's not a criticism of The Grand Cheat, which was far superior to the other ones, and wasn't "about" a prostitute as much as it included one.  Just a suggestion that you either (a) spread out the prostitute tales more; (b) declare "Hooker Week" and make an event of it, or (c) re-examine the members of your acquisitions department's particular hang-ups, as they appear to be buying the good prostitute stories along with the bad ones.

Ragtime

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Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2008, 03:40:23 PM »
I agree with everyone about Rajan Khanna. Actually, I do have another piece in mind for him to read, and it's not Indian-themed. (Our readers do sometimes decline projects, though, of course, so I can't guarantee anything...)

Just to let you know, Ragtime, Escape Artists doesn't have an acquisitions department. The podcasts buy and schedule stories separately. We don't even talk about what stories we're running with each other in advance, so the preponderance of prostitutes in the last couple weeks is just one of those flukes that happens sometimes when you collect a bunch of stuff in a random order. Sometimes, they just happen to coincide.

Jackie Mason once objected to the sex scene in a movie and was told, "But Jackie, sex is very important. Everyone does it", to which he replied, "Everyone drinks soup. Where's the soup scene?"

Four podcasts in 3 weeks about Soup might be a coincidence.  Four about prostitutes (Maybe there were more in Escape Pod and Pseudopod -- I only listen to all of the Podcastles religiously) is a sign of something else.

Perhaps you don't read comic book, but among we small group of individuals who think of ourselves (at least in part) as "Feminist Comic Book Fans," we keep a lists of female superheroes whose back story ("Secret Origins!") include either rape (Black Canary, Hawkgirl . . .) or prostitution (Catwoman, Speedy . . .).  Actually, we keep a list of female superheroes whose back story does NOT include either rape or prostitution, because that list is much, much shorter.  It is basically "only Wonder Woman."  No prominent male superheroes, on the other hand, have a back story that includes either rape or prostitution.

So, when we hear a story with only one female character, and that one character either (a) is raped, or (b) is a prostitute, we immediately notice (and then check to see if Frank Miller wrote the story).  We would never consider that three stories involving prostitutes in the same month would be "just a coincidence."

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Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2008, 03:57:41 PM »
This story was a lot of fun.  My only complaint is how frickin many Escape Artist stories are there that involve prostitutes?  I mean seriously, it seems like half.  I mean no disrespect to prostitutes, but do so many stories really need to have one?

I agree with this too.  Within in the last week or two, Escape Pod had "The Right Kind of Town" about a prostitute and "Gd Juice," which included one, and Pseudopod had "The Cutting Room" about . . . well, I don't know what it was about.  A fetishist corpse prostitute or something?

Was there a prostitute in PP's The Cutting Floor?  I don't remember that.  And what do you mean when you say:
We would never consider that three stories involving prostitutes in the same month would be "just a coincidence."

If it's not a coincidence as Rachel says, what is it?

I mean, only one of the story's you've mentioned is here on PC, the other two are on EP.  The three podcasts are only linked because they're Escape Artists productions, they all have different editors.  Maybe you should post the complaint over at the EP section?

Opabinia

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Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2008, 04:31:20 PM »
And considering that editors buy stories a significant amount of time before running them, and at least PodCastle has had a set story arc which was planned far, far in advance, how could the three podcasts even collude to this?

Is the idea that these four stories which have prostitutes in them were bought at the same time because of something on the news?

hautdesert

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Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2008, 06:53:16 PM »
[
We would never consider that three stories involving prostitutes in the same month would be "just a coincidence."

If it's not a coincidence as Rachel says, what is it?

I mean, only one of the story's you've mentioned is here on PC, the other two are on EP.  The three podcasts are only linked because they're Escape Artists productions, they all have different editors.  Maybe you should post the complaint over at the EP section?

I think it's the idea that the concept of women-as-prostitutes is pretty pervasive in certain areas of genre fiction, so the frequent occurrence isn't a "coincidence" in the sense of "gosh, I just threw heads a hundred times in a row, what are the chances of that?"  It's something that happens too often in general, not the rare occurrence it should be.

And I totally sympathize with Ragtime--even though I'm not a comics fan, I know of the trope she mentions, and I totally understand her reaction.

That said, really and truly, the editors don't discuss their lineups between podcasts, and Rachel doesn't know what EP or PP are running any given week.  I haven't even caught up to EP, and don't listen to PP, since horror just isn't my thing.  Maybe the best thing to do is mention the problem to the other editors.  I've found both Steve and Ben to be very willing to participate in that sort of discussion.

Cerebrilith

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Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2008, 07:40:44 PM »
  Finally, what's wrong with prostitutes? Really?

It's not that there's anything wrong with prostitutes in and of themselves.  They exist and I don't think anyone is saying the fiction here or anywhere else should deny that.  My problem is their overuse.

In my listening of it, nothing made me think the character in the Psuedopod story "The Cutting Room" was a prostitute, though prostitutes have appeared in other stories there.

Ragtime

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2008, 10:02:33 PM »

Was there a prostitute in PP's The Cutting Floor?  I don't remember that. 

It's completely possible that I missed what was going on in The Cutting Floor.  I've only listened to a few Pseudopods, and to be honest it is a solid Third Place in my personal rankings.  My interpretation was that the two guys who were watching through the little window were fetishists who were paying the corpse to get autopsied.  She was an "autopsy hooker" who would get autopsied for a fee for people who get off on that.

But, like I said, I don't really know all the horror tropes, so it's completely possible that there was a better explanation for the girl getting autopsied while two guys watched her.



If it's not a coincidence as Rachel says, what is it?


Like I said, it's a coincidence if three stories are about Soup.  When three stories are about prostitutes, it's  a tired and overused genre trope.  There's nothing "wrong" with prostitutes, but when you compare the percentage of women who are prostitutes to the percentage of women in SF/F stories that are prostitutes, there's something of an imbalance, which makes "coincidences" like this more likely.

If more people thought of it as a "tired trope," rather than an "edgy feature," then we'd only have prostitutes in good stories like this one, and not what has seemed like half of them.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2008, 10:09:36 PM »
There's nothing "wrong" with prostitutes, but when you compare the percentage of women who are prostitutes to the percentage of women in SF/F stories that are prostitutes, there's something of an imbalance, which makes "coincidences" like this more likely.

If more people thought of it as a "tired trope," rather than an "edgy feature," then we'd only have prostitutes in good stories like this one, and not what has seemed like half of them.


For the record, I totally agree with this.

I just wanted to let you know that all the prostitute stories showing up in teh same time frame wasn't planned because the editorial departments for the three magazines are effectively separate (although this story was bought by Steve, and not me, before PodCastle was a gleam in his eye, I can say that I would definitely have purchased it).

I agree with you, though, that rape and prostitution are often used in short stories as shorthands toward creating certain emotional reactions, rather than used effectively and thoughtfully. (I can't comment on how the prostitution was used in the other EA stories because I haven't heard them -- though if one of them is "God Juice," which I heard part of at a reading last month, at least there was a little bit of playing with the prostitution trope?)

ChiliFan

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2008, 09:22:19 AM »
I've only been listening to Escape Pod, but I'm sick and tired of hearing about prostitutes in Escape Pod alone! I think this should stop, but before this happens, to even things up, there should be some stories about male escorts, prostitutes and conmen who extort lots of money out of women, who find them impossible to resist.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2008, 09:36:42 AM »
I've only been listening to Escape Pod, but I'm sick and tired of hearing about prostitutes in Escape Pod alone! I think this should stop, but before this happens, to even things up, there should be some stories about male escorts, prostitutes and conmen who extort lots of money out of women, who find them impossible to resist.

EP150: This, My Body for one.
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cuddlebug

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2008, 09:39:50 AM »
I've only been listening to Escape Pod, but I'm sick and tired of hearing about prostitutes in Escape Pod alone! I think this should stop, but before this happens, to even things up, there should be some stories about male escorts, prostitutes and conmen who extort lots of money out of women, who find them impossible to resist.

Totally agree with you there, Chilifan, I am pretty sick of stories that feature prostitutes. What is it with prostitutes in this genre? Assuming that writers not only write what they themselves find fascinating but they also cater to the audience to a certain degree, then by that logic there must be something about prostitutes that the fandom finds incredibly appealing. Wonder why. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed (most of) the stories, but it can get a bit much.

Anyway, when you requested stories that feature male escorts, I thought of EP 150: This my Body, which seems to fall into that category.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2008, 09:42:56 AM »
EP010: The Girlfriends of Dorian Gray might also count, at a stretch.
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Cerebrilith

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2008, 10:18:12 AM »
In respect to the request for male prostitutes, the already mentioned episode of Escape Pod "God Juice" included two prostitutes.  The male one that the main character used the fancy device on and the one who got her underarm licked in the hotel room.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2008, 10:27:16 AM »
Not that this has anything in particular to do with EA, but Samuel Delany's novel Trouble on Triton features a male character who is an ex-prostitute, and does so in an IMO sophisticated and interesting way.

Are prostitutes-as-overused-trope just a genre thing? I feel like I see them in lit stories, too, or at least the kinds of lit stories that show up in undergrad classrooms. Then you get something like Law & Order, or SVU... or moving more broadly into the kinds of attentions that prostitute-killings get in the media... Feels like it's ubiquitous, to me.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2008, 10:32:21 AM »
Checking through our stock (PodCastle buys more in advance than the other podcasts, at least that I'm aware of), it looks like we've got one more story that involves prostitution in stock. Not sure when it will be airing, but when it does, this conversation could be good grist for the intro.

Cerebrilith

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2008, 10:38:27 AM »
Are prostitutes-as-overused-trope just a genre thing?  Feels like it's ubiquitous, to me.

I think you're right.  They appear in all sorts of fiction far out of proportion to the number of them that could possibly exist in the world.  One website I found estimates that about 1% of American women have worked as prostitutes (http://www.bayswan.org/stats.html) and they do seem to make up a fair bit more then 1% of the women to be found in fiction.

Wikipedia seems to think there's even less of them.  Here's a paragraph listed from their "prostitution" entry

"According to the paper "Estimating the prevalence and career longevity of prostitute women" (Potterat et al., 1990), the number of full-time equivalent prostitutes in a typical area in the United States (Colorado Springs, CO, during 1970–1988) is estimated at 23 per 100,000 population (0.023%), of which fraction some 4% were under 18. The length of these prostitutes' working careers was estimated at a mean of 5 years. A follow-up paper entitled "Prostitution and the sex discrepancy in reported number of sexual partners" (Brewer et al., 2000) goes on to estimate a mean number of 868 male sexual partners per prostitute per year of active sex work, and offers the conclusion that men's self-reporting of prostitutes as sexual partners is seriously under-reported." -- Wikipedia
« Last Edit: July 03, 2008, 10:41:58 AM by Cerebrilith »

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #16 on: July 03, 2008, 10:44:48 AM »
Are prostitutes-as-overused-trope just a genre thing?  Feels like it's ubiquitous, to me.

I think you're right.  They appear in all sorts of fiction far out of proportion to the number of them that could possibly exist in the world.  One website I found estimates that about 1% of American women have worked as prostitutes (http://www.bayswan.org/stats.html) and they do seem to make up a fair bit more then 1% of the women to be found in fiction.
Even that 1% statistic is a little shocking.  One out of one hundred women has been a prostitute?  Does that include a destitute college student trading favors with an acquaintance for money to buy books once in their junior year, or is that only those women waiting on the conrer to pick up whatever john may drive up (that was a really bad run-on sentence, sorry).  I might believe the 1% statistic if we include the former, but including the latter is a little concerning.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2008, 10:48:08 AM »

Was there a prostitute in PP's The Cutting Floor?  I don't remember that. 

It's completely possible that I missed what was going on in The Cutting Floor.  I've only listened to a few Pseudopods, and to be honest it is a solid Third Place in my personal rankings.  My interpretation was that the two guys who were watching through the little window were fetishists who were paying the corpse to get autopsied.  She was an "autopsy hooker" who would get autopsied for a fee for people who get off on that.

Yeah, you pretty much missed the whole story.  It was about two M.E.s that begin an autopsy of a strange corpse which then comes 'alive' and gains sexual pleasure from being autopsied.  I figure she was a vampire or other sort of undead.  Creepy story and well read.

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Like I said, it's a coincidence if three stories are about Soup.  When three stories are about prostitutes, it's  a tired and overused genre trope.  There's nothing "wrong" with prostitutes, but when you compare the percentage of women who are prostitutes to the percentage of women in SF/F stories that are prostitutes, there's something of an imbalance, which makes "coincidences" like this more likely.

There is another saying which goes something like "Never ascribe to maliciousness that which can be ascribed to incompetance".  I am not saying that the editors are incompetent, mind you, just that you might be seeing patterns where none exist.  I find it difficult to believe that there is some kind of sexist, misogynist, prostitute fetish conspiracy at Escape Artists.  Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, to paraphrase Freud.

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If more people thought of it as a "tired trope," rather than an "edgy feature," then we'd only have prostitutes in good stories like this one, and not what has seemed like half of them.

This is a fair argument, but has nothing to do with Escape Artists editorial decisions.  The overuse of the prostitute trope is solely the problem of the writers at large, not the people who buy the stories we hear on EA.  It is entirely possible that "The Right Kind of Town" was simply the best story that came in that month.  I don't know; I am not one of their editors.  Is the trope of the prostitute overused and rarely used well (or interestingly)?  Sure.  Just make sure that you have the right target for your stones.  In this case it is not Escape Artists.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2008, 10:57:28 AM »
Quote
Like I said, it's a coincidence if three stories are about Soup.  When three stories are about prostitutes, it's  a tired and overused genre trope.  There's nothing "wrong" with prostitutes, but when you compare the percentage of women who are prostitutes to the percentage of women in SF/F stories that are prostitutes, there's something of an imbalance, which makes "coincidences" like this more likely.

There is another saying which goes something like "Never ascribe to maliciousness that which can be ascribed to incompetance".  I am not saying that the editors are incompetent, mind you, just that you might be seeing patterns where none exist.  I find it difficult to believe that there is some kind of sexist, misogynist, prostitute fetish conspiracy at Escape Artists.  Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, to paraphrase Freud.

Especially when there's a decently long discussion about if PC is sexist against men.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2008, 10:57:46 AM »


There is another saying which goes something like "Never ascribe to maliciousness that which can be ascribed to incompetance".  I am not saying that the editors are incompetent, mind you, just that you might be seeing patterns where none exist.  I find it difficult to believe that there is some kind of sexist, misogynist, prostitute fetish conspiracy at Escape Artists.  Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, to paraphrase Freud.

I don't think anyone is ascribing malice.  But when you throw heads seventy five times out of a hundred every time, that's not a coincidence--the coin is weighted.  

I doubt anyone is suggesting there's a misogynist prostitue fetish conspiracy at EA.  I'd lay real money there isn't, actually, just from having met and spoken to several EA editors.  But I think what happens is, the image, the trope, gets used and internalized, and writers and editors who haven't thought about the issue don't see it as a problem.  They're not doing it out of malice.  But it still could be examined more carefully, and if it were, likely the occurrences of it would be different and less distressing--not because anyone is censoring anything, but because they're more aware of the issue, and able to question why they're reaching for a particular trope and whether they really want that.


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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #20 on: July 03, 2008, 11:06:55 AM »

Especially when there's a decently long discussion about if PC is sexist against men.

Yes, the irony of that is hard to miss.

But I think it's worth discussing the issues, from either side.  It's better to have opinions and arguments laid out, to hash through things.  I firmly believe that just considering all the different arguments and ideas is in and of itself part of a solution.  Like I said, being able to say, "You know, I never noticed that, or thought of it that way before," can make a difference.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2008, 11:34:40 AM »


Yeah, you pretty much missed the whole story.  It was about two M.E.s that begin an autopsy of a strange corpse which then comes 'alive' and gains sexual pleasure from being autopsied.  I figure she was a vampire or other sort of undead.  Creepy story and well read.


At risk of having my off-topic comment branch out into another off-topic comment, who the heck were the two guys at the end peeking in through the little window, if not her Johns?

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #22 on: July 03, 2008, 11:41:20 AM »

Especially when there's a decently long discussion about if PC is sexist against men.

Yes, the irony of that is hard to miss.


Irony is one possibility.  The other possibility is that we're right and they're wrong!   ;)

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2008, 11:47:32 AM »

I don't think anyone is ascribing malice.  But when you throw heads seventy five times out of a hundred every time, that's not a coincidence--the coin is weighted.

So if we have three stories out of the three hundred or so stories of the combined podcasts the coin is weighted?  I admit that I am making that number up, but you have to look at how many stories EA has produced.  What is the precentage that have prostitutes in them?  All I am saying is that I think Ragtime has mistaken coincidence for a wider (and legitimate) problem.  Her complaint was worded in such a way as to imply that there was some kind of editorial decision behind having a few stories with prostitutes run within weeks of each other.  I don't see how that could happen, and I require more proof than an analogy about soup.

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I doubt anyone is suggesting there's a misogynist prostitue fetish conspiracy at EA.

Ragtime seemed to imply that.  She (I am assuming she is a she) even said twice that it was not a coincidence.

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I'd lay real money there isn't, actually, just from having met and spoken to several EA editors.

My point exactly.

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But I think what happens is, the image, the trope, gets used and internalized, and writers and editors who haven't thought about the issue don't see it as a problem.  They're not doing it out of malice.  But it still could be examined more carefully, and if it were, likely the occurrences of it would be different and less distressing--not because anyone is censoring anything, but because they're more aware of the issue, and able to question why they're reaching for a particular trope and whether they really want that.

Valid point.  However over used this trope happens to be, and I agree it is, it has nothing to do with Escape Artists.  Ragtime's comment was not entirely about the trope's over use in fiction.  It was only after someone else pointed out that it was a coincidence that a few (not as many as she herself implied either) prostitute stories happened to appear on three different podcasts within weeks of each other that Ragtime address the larger issue of the trope's overuse (and even then she still declared that it wasn't a coincidence, which is where I entered the picture).  If she had merely intended to use this as an example of the trope's overuse, great and I welcome that kind of discussion; it is timely and obviously an important issue.  However her wording implied that it was somehow the fault of EA's editorial staff. 

I don't mean to be argumentative.  If you check out my comments on one of those stories ("The Right Kind of Town") you'll see that I agree that the prostitute trope is tired and rarely used inventively.  I agree with you and Ragtime on the larger issue.  I do not agree with her that there is the appearance of bias when it comes to EA's editorial choices.  I maintain that sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, and this recent 'to do' is just that.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #24 on: July 03, 2008, 11:53:56 AM »


Yeah, you pretty much missed the whole story.  It was about two M.E.s that begin an autopsy of a strange corpse which then comes 'alive' and gains sexual pleasure from being autopsied.  I figure she was a vampire or other sort of undead.  Creepy story and well read.


At risk of having my off-topic comment branch out into another off-topic comment, who the heck were the two guys at the end peeking in through the little window, if not her Johns?

Since they were not explicitly mentioned earlier in the story (and it seems like the kind of story that would have mentioned that) and considering they come in at the end, my take is that they are a part of the girl's fetish group.  So in that sense, yeah, they are her 'Johns'.  I still don't think this is a prostitution thing, but if it is, then this is an excellent example of how the author has subverted the genre trope. 

I still think has to be some kind of supernatural bent with that girl; you don't end up in the morgue by accident, and the kinds of incisions made are not the kind you heal from (easily).  Someone thinks you are dead.  I could be wrong, but the whole idea that she was some kind of masochistic undead hedonist who gets her kicks out of being autopsied made perfect sense.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #25 on: July 03, 2008, 12:12:12 PM »
In my listening of it, nothing made me think the character in the Psuedopod story "The Cutting Room" was a prostitute, though prostitutes have appeared in other stories there.

  I think she may have been a demon of some sort, but not a prostitute. Did they ever mention the circumstances of her body's discovery? I know they mentioned it being admitted, but the rest of my memory of that story is frankly a gory and disturbing blur.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #26 on: July 03, 2008, 12:19:28 PM »
In my listening of it, nothing made me think the character in the Psuedopod story "The Cutting Room" was a prostitute, though prostitutes have appeared in other stories there.

  I think she may have been a demon of some sort, but not a prostitute. Did they ever mention the circumstances of her body's discovery? I know they mentioned it being admitted, but the rest of my memory of that story is frankly a gory and disturbing blur.

IIRC, the body was found in an alley or park (typical) and that there was no cause of death.  The experienced M.E. found the circumstances of the girl's "death" and discovery to be suspicious and irregular, and he also noticed that there was "something" wrong with the body.  Demon works for me too.  I just don't think that the girl was alive in the usual sense, and so I look for a 'supernatural' aspect.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #27 on: July 03, 2008, 12:29:37 PM »
I've only been listening to Escape Pod, but I'm sick and tired of hearing about prostitutes in Escape Pod alone! I think this should stop, but before this happens, to even things up, there should be some stories about male escorts, prostitutes and conmen who extort lots of money out of women, who find them impossible to resist.
EP150: This, My Body for one.
EP010: The Girlfriends of Dorian Gray might also count, at a stretch.

Mur's story, EP061: I Look Forward to Remembering You, is also about a male prostitute.  Why I'm helping with this question I'm not sure, but there  you go.

Ann and Rachel have already made the point that there is no schedule coordination between Escape Artists podcasts.  I have no involvement in which Pseudo and PodCastle stories are scheduled when.  I'm still helping with PodCastle on the technical side, but except for episode #1 I've never advised Rachel on the release order.  In the case of Pseudopod, I usually don't even know what's up that week until I hear it on my iPod like everyone else.  Ben and Al know what they're doing, so why should I look over their shoulders?  And certainly no one can try to schedule around me, because I'm disorganized enough that occasionally I'm not sure on Wednesday which story is going to run that week.

So is it a coincidence?  Yes, it's a coincidence.

I'm not going to address anything deeper in this thread because I'm not exactly sure what it is we're being accused of.  Is the hypothesis here that I have a prostitute fetish, and that's coming across in my story choices?  I'd call it unlikely.  I know my major fetishes, and they don't leave a lot of room on my mental calendar for something as mundane as prostitutes.  My real fetishes haven't shown up at all yet on Escape Pod.  I have to go to other fiction podcasts for them.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #28 on: July 03, 2008, 12:34:38 PM »


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I doubt anyone is suggesting there's a misogynist prostitue fetish conspiracy at EA.

Ragtime seemed to imply that.  She (I am assuming she is a she) even said twice that it was not a coincidence.

I think it could easily not be a coincidence and also not be the product of a deliberate choice on Steve's part.

If Steve goes down to the corner to get a cup of coffee, and gets a nice big JFK half dollar in his change, when he reaches into his pocket for a coin to flip, he's going to grab that nice big coin.  There's no reason for him to question what comes up when he flips, I mean, a coin flip is practically iconic as a non-biased way to determine something.

If someone comes up and says, "Hey, your choices are not random," Steve has two choices.  He can say, "No, I'm flipping a coin.  It's got to be random, so there."  Or he can say, "Really?  I thought it was all right, because I'm flipping this coin.  Let's see."  And then undertake to test the actual randomness of the coin.

Now, it may be that it'll come out as it should, once the numbers are examined.  Then again, it may not.  Or it may be that enough other coin flippers are using weighted coins that Steve might find he wants to be more aware of a long streak of heads.  Or something.

You're absolutely right, there needs to be more data if we want to know whether it's a coincidence or not.  But essentially every editor is working with a coin that's weighted one way or another (those weights include things like how much of what sort of thing is turning up in slush, as Steve points out in the other thread, that's a considerable weight all by itself and not the fault of the editor), and it's good to question just where that weight is and whether or not it's something you want to take into account.  If no one raises the question, if you don't ever ask yourself, you're stuck just saying, "But it's a coin flip!" and never actually knowing what's going on.



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I don't mean to be argumentative.  If you check out my comments on one of those stories ("The Right Kind of Town") you'll see that I agree that the prostitute trope is tired and rarely used inventively.  I agree with you and Ragtime on the larger issue.  I do not agree with her that there is the appearance of bias when it comes to EA's editorial choices.  I maintain that sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, and this recent 'to do' is just that.

I'm not allergic to arguments!  :)  But I mostly agree with you.  I'm not familiar enough with the whole gamut of EP stories to make a call one way or the other, but I don't think Steve would ever knowingly pick things that were actively misogynistic.  I'm just saying, since it is so prevalent in other places, when it shows up at EP, even though I know Steve wouldn't do it on purpose, it may still be "not a coincidence" without any malice or action on his part, and it's worth at least asking if it really was, or if there's something else going on that it might pay to be aware of.

The issue is very much worth bringing up.  If Ragtime's comment struck you as confrontational and accusing, it might be worth remembering that "it's just a coincidence" is the automatic answer in places where it is manifestly not a coincidence.  And it's hard, when every time one mentions it the answer is "you're just seeing things", to be even-tempered and pleasant--possibly harder to be even-tempered when it's happening in a place you have otherwise felt comfortable and welcome in.  It's hard not to feel angry.  And sometimes if you're unrelentingly polite and nice, no one actually gets that it's a problem and nothing gets done.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #29 on: July 03, 2008, 01:04:21 PM »
I think it could easily not be a coincidence and also not be the product of a deliberate choice on Steve's part.

I think his above post puts an end to this part of the argument :)


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Now, it may be that it'll come out as it should, once the numbers are examined.  Then again, it may not.  Or it may be that enough other coin flippers are using weighted coins that Steve might find he wants to be more aware of a long streak of heads.  Or something.

You're absolutely right, there needs to be more data if we want to know whether it's a coincidence or not.  But essentially every editor is working with a coin that's weighted one way or another (those weights include things like how much of what sort of thing is turning up in slush, as Steve points out in the other thread, that's a considerable weight all by itself and not the fault of the editor), and it's good to question just where that weight is and whether or not it's something you want to take into account.  If no one raises the question, if you don't ever ask yourself, you're stuck just saying, "But it's a coin flip!" and never actually knowing what's going on.

Oh there is no doubt.  Wading through slush piles is no fun, I imgaine, and of course every writer thinks that their story is original and groundbreaking (I keed, well, half keed).  With the preponderence of fiction out there I am not at all surprised that these sorts of coincidences occur.  In fact, I am surprised they don't occur more often.  If the coin is weighted it is weighted on the writers' side, I think, not the editors'.  Discussions like this one are the balancer.

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I'm not allergic to arguments!  :) 

That's good!  :D

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But I mostly agree with you.  I'm not familiar enough with the whole gamut of EP stories to make a call one way or the other, but I don't think Steve would ever knowingly pick things that were actively misogynistic.  I'm just saying, since it is so prevalent in other places, when it shows up at EP, even though I know Steve wouldn't do it on purpose, it may still be "not a coincidence" without any malice or action on his part, and it's worth at least asking if it really was, or if there's something else going on that it might pay to be aware of.

Sure, it is worth asking, and Steve did reply.  As did others.  I found Ragtime's comment confrontational, and I think it was meant to be.

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If Ragtime's comment struck you as confrontational and accusing, it might be worth remembering that "it's just a coincidence" is the automatic answer in places where it is manifestly not a coincidence.  And it's hard, when every time one mentions it the answer is "you're just seeing things", to be even-tempered and pleasant--possibly harder to be even-tempered when it's happening in a place you have otherwise felt comfortable and welcome in.  It's hard not to feel angry.  And sometimes if you're unrelentingly polite and nice, no one actually gets that it's a problem and nothing gets done.

This may be, and I do keep it in mind, however, the attitude you describe is held by a great many people who aren't interested in hearing an answer that doesn't agree with their idiology.  These people also tend to be confrontational.  I am not trying to imply that Ragtime is one of these sorts of people.  Not at all.  I have never met her and know nothing about her.  However, if you make a confrontational comment, expect confrontation.  Also expect that you are going to get replies like "you're just seeing things" because in some cases that is exactly what is going on. 
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #30 on: July 03, 2008, 01:06:13 PM »
I'm not allergic to arguments!  :)  But I mostly agree with you.  I'm not familiar enough with the whole gamut of EP stories to make a call one way or the other, but I don't think Steve would ever knowingly pick things that were actively misogynistic.  I'm just saying, since it is so prevalent in other places, when it shows up at EP, even though I know Steve wouldn't do it on purpose, it may still be "not a coincidence" without any malice or action on his part, and it's worth at least asking if it really was, or if there's something else going on that it might pay to be aware of.

I took a minute to sit and think about this.  I think it's a good point, and I wish to withdraw the huffy and defensive portions of my earlier tone.

If you want to talk about gender-based patterns in Escape Pod fiction, please do, and I will listen.  I don't promise to agree or to apologize, but I'll try to repress any kneejerk reactions to feeling attacked and consider the meat of the arguments.  I personally feel that my freedom to choose any story I want or to shape EP any way I want is more constrained than an outside observer might think...  But that, too, could just be my perceptual bias and I could be wrong about my own freedoms and choices.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #31 on: July 03, 2008, 02:29:28 PM »
Are prostitutes-as-overused-trope just a genre thing?  Feels like it's ubiquitous, to me.

I think you're right.  They appear in all sorts of fiction far out of proportion to the number of them that could possibly exist in the world.  One website I found estimates that about 1% of American women have worked as prostitutes (http://www.bayswan.org/stats.html) and they do seem to make up a fair bit more then 1% of the women to be found in fiction.

Wikipedia seems to think there's even less of them.  Here's a paragraph listed from their "prostitution" entry

"According to the paper "Estimating the prevalence and career longevity of prostitute women" (Potterat et al., 1990), the number of full-time equivalent prostitutes in a typical area in the United States (Colorado Springs, CO, during 1970–1988) is estimated at 23 per 100,000 population (0.023%), of which fraction some 4% were under 18. The length of these prostitutes' working careers was estimated at a mean of 5 years. A follow-up paper entitled "Prostitution and the sex discrepancy in reported number of sexual partners" (Brewer et al., 2000) goes on to estimate a mean number of 868 male sexual partners per prostitute per year of active sex work, and offers the conclusion that men's self-reporting of prostitutes as sexual partners is seriously under-reported." -- Wikipedia

Those numbers aren't contradictory. 1% have been prostitutes at some point in the past. 0.023% are prostitutes right now. And as Chodon says, we'd need to define exactly what "prostitution" means, in the contexts of these studies.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #32 on: July 03, 2008, 02:40:42 PM »
I've only been listening to Escape Pod, but I'm sick and tired of hearing about prostitutes in Escape Pod alone! I think this should stop, but before this happens, to even things up, there should be some stories about male escorts, prostitutes and conmen who extort lots of money out of women, who find them impossible to resist.
EP150: This, My Body for one.
EP010: The Girlfriends of Dorian Gray might also count, at a stretch.

Mur's story, EP061: I Look Forward to Remembering You, is also about a male prostitute.  Why I'm helping with this question I'm not sure, but there  you go.
A time-travelling male prostitute, no less. And a far better pick than Girlfriends, which never explicitly mentioned sex (that I can recall, anyway), and had nothing to do with money. I'm reasonably confident that you could make a case that the central character was prostituting himself and not get laughed out of the building, though.

And now that I think about it, the prostitution in I Look Forward to Remembering You never actually happened...

I ahve no idea where I'm going with this.
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Rachel Swirsky

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #33 on: July 03, 2008, 03:12:42 PM »
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I personally feel that my freedom to choose any story I want or to shape EP any way I want is more constrained than an outside observer might think.

Dude, seriously. I was so convinced for the months before PodCastle started that all the flame wars were going to be over whether or not there was enough traditional fantasy...

Windup

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #34 on: July 03, 2008, 04:32:50 PM »
There's nothing "wrong" with prostitutes, but when you compare the percentage of women who are prostitutes to the percentage of women in SF/F stories that are prostitutes, there's something of an imbalance, which makes "coincidences" like this more likely.

If more people thought of it as a "tired trope," rather than an "edgy feature," then we'd only have prostitutes in good stories like this one, and not what has seemed like half of them.


For the record, I totally agree with this.

I just wanted to let you know that all the prostitute stories showing up in the same time frame wasn't planned because the editorial departments for the three magazines are effectively separate (although this story was bought by Steve, and not me, before PodCastle was a gleam in his eye, I can say that I would definitely have purchased it).


Of course, prostitutes are just one of several seriously over-represented professions in fiction.  Detectives (both police and private), reporters, soldiers, secret agents, assassins, millionaire philanthropists, doctors, lawyers, C-suite executives, and for some strange reason, architects all appear in the fictional world far more frequently than their numbers in the real world would suggest. Partially, they're convenient because they naturally interact with a lot of people, tend to be involved in dramatic situations, and tend to have unstructured days into which adventures can be inserted. (OK, I admit this doesn't explain the architects.) If you want to write an adventure story about a Wal-Mart clerk, the first thing you have to do is get him away from his store long enough to have the adventure. (Yet another reason to lament lack of vacation time among Americans...) Their jobs are also recognizable, so you don't have to burn up a thousand words explaining what a Logistics Optimization Specialist does, unless it happens to be absolutely essential to the story.

So, I agree using prostitutes is a crutch, but so are lots of other jobs held by fictional characters.


<<<WARNING: God Juice spoiler coming up; stop now if you don't want to know more about the story.>>>







(I can't comment on how the prostitution was used in the other EA stories because I haven't heard them -- though if one of them is "God Juice," which I heard part of at a reading last month, at least there was a little bit of playing with the prostitution trope?)


Yeah, the hooker showed up to rescue the heroine - she had been hired, it just wasn't clear by who or for what when our unsuspecting villian opened the door for her.  Now, it could have been done with a bellhop or a waiter, but making the rescuer a hooker was way funnier, at least to me.  It was one of several brilliantly-played inversions in that story.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #35 on: July 05, 2008, 07:16:10 PM »
Of course, prostitutes are just one of several seriously over-represented professions in fiction.

What Windup said.  Fiction doesn't represent real life with anything like statistical accuracy, nor would we want it to.  Overuse of prostitutes is just one element of this, and I don't think it's worth getting too excited about.  It's not nearly as extreme as the totally unrealistic numbers of starship captains, whom I keep reading about but I believe account for 0% of the general population.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #36 on: July 05, 2008, 09:34:10 PM »
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I personally feel that my freedom to choose any story I want or to shape EP any way I want is more constrained than an outside observer might think.

Dude, seriously. I was so convinced for the months before PodCastle started that all the flame wars were going to be over whether or not there was enough traditional fantasy...

Instead, the two biggest fights have been "PC is sexist against men" and "PC's prostitute stories make it sexist against women".

Ain't that a kick in th' head?

But the more this stuff comes up, the more I think this forum needs a FAQ.  Editors/moderators: I respectfully suggest that someone start up a wiki at one of the following sites, or host one elsewhere, so that we enthusiasts may cooperatively throw links to oft-repeated threads, references to frequently linked topics, and various and sundry other things that have been/ought to be "stickied" to the tops of these forums.

(I was just going to start one myself, but this isn't my company, so I thought I'd at least ask first.)

http://www.wetpaint.com/
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http://www.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Wikia
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #37 on: July 07, 2008, 06:04:47 PM »
Oh hey!  This conversation sounds incredibly familiar!

Ragtime, I'm with you, not necessarily on how prostitution is over-represented (I think Windup and Roney have fair points there, and I can't comment on the PP story at all) but on how tiresome and uninspired the overuse is.  Detectives and spaceship captains usually get to do fun and interesting stuff.  Occasionally, they differ from one another.  All the whores get to do is be in danger and be killed, sex up the main characters, or have hearts of gold (sometimes all three at once!).  Yawntastic.  And when someone wants to have a prostitute but make it slightly different they change it into a man!  Whoa!  Because that totally breaks new ground.

Riiiiiiiight.

And when I say I'd like to see stories with fewer prostitutes in them it's never because I have a problem with prostitutes, it's because I'm sick of the shorthand. 

I don't like stories with elves in them either.  Same issue.

So yeah, I'm down with EA checking twice on their prostitution content to make sure it isn't same old, same old.
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SFEley

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #38 on: July 07, 2008, 07:23:03 PM »
All the whores get to do is be in danger and be killed, sex up the main characters, or have hearts of gold (sometimes all three at once!).  Yawntastic.

I'm curious: have you listened yet to "The Right Kind of Town?"  Or, for that matter, to "The Grand Cheat?"  (I'm totally convinced myself that the Pseudopod story that week relates to prostitution, so I'm not going to address it.)

I don't think your characterization applies to either story.  I certainly want to be open to criticism, but are you criticizing us for stereotypes that are actually in the stories under discussion -- i.e., for things we're actually responsible for -- or for stereotypes that bother you in general and you just want to make sure we avoid them in the future?
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wintermute

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #39 on: July 07, 2008, 07:47:22 PM »
I don't like stories with elves in them either.  Same issue.
What do you think about EP165: Those Eyes?
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Anarkey

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #40 on: July 07, 2008, 08:08:30 PM »
All the whores get to do is be in danger and be killed, sex up the main characters, or have hearts of gold (sometimes all three at once!).  Yawntastic.
I'm curious: have you listened yet to "The Right Kind of Town?"  Or, for that matter, to "The Grand Cheat?"  (I'm totally convinced myself that the Pseudopod story that week relates to prostitution, so I'm not going to address it.)

I don't think your characterization applies to either story.  I certainly want to be open to criticism, but are you criticizing us for stereotypes that are actually in the stories under discussion -- i.e., for things we're actually responsible for -- or for stereotypes that bother you in general and you just want to make sure we avoid them in the future?

Nope.  Haven't.  I'm a couple of iterations behind on both PC and EP atm.  However, I did hear episode 134, "Me and My Shadow", where everything I characterized was VERY MUCH in evidence.  I'm only here because of my amusement that this thread seems related to what I tried to say months ago.  Whether what I said then can apply to these two stories I can't say (yet), though I'll admit to trusting other posters and the general tenor of the conversation that this was (likely) the same sort of thing.  I'll definitely let you know if I think these particular two stories get a pass or not, when I've heard them.  I was also trying to (gently) address the parallels that Windup and Roney drew between the excess of prostitutes and the excess of private dicks and architects in fiction.  Yes, neither are in proportion to the population, but that's not the only problem with having too many prostitutes.  It's what the sex workers do and do not get to do in stories, whether they have agency, whether they get to be protagonists, whether they are characterized deeply or used as shorthand or stand-ins for real characters, and whether they represent a whole person or just their given profession.  Maybe all this and more applies to these two episodes (I'm quite curious to find out, now) creating a couple of good iterations of prostitutes, worth hearing. 

Still, I didn't want Cerebrilith or Ragtime to think no one else had ever said anything in this regard, and that they were unsupported or alone in their opinions.  And I am still beating the drums for you to avoid these stereotypes in the future, yes.

I don't like stories with elves in them either.  Same issue.
What do you think about EP165: Those Eyes?

We'll see.  Haven't heard it yet.  Though knowing I have elves to contend with in an upcoming episode of EP is...well...not exactly exciting for me.  Still, I try for an open mind.  Maybe it will be the best elf story since LoTR. 

I tried to write an elf bondage story once, in reaction to the whole lily white eternal perfect elf business, but I got bored with it before I got to the end.  It's still possible I'll go back to it someday.
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wintermute

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #41 on: July 08, 2008, 06:55:06 AM »
I don't like stories with elves in them either.  Same issue.
What do you think about EP165: Those Eyes?

We'll see.  Haven't heard it yet.  Though knowing I have elves to contend with in an upcoming episode of EP is...well...not exactly exciting for me.  Still, I try for an open mind.  Maybe it will be the best elf story since LoTR. 

I tried to write an elf bondage story once, in reaction to the whole lily white eternal perfect elf business, but I got bored with it before I got to the end.  It's still possible I'll go back to it someday.
I have to say, I'm with you on the elves. Tolkien gets a pass for having actually been original with them, but there are very few varieties of elves that I can actually bring myself to care about. The elves in Peter F Hamilton's Pandora's Star / Judas Unchained, and Dark Elves in Warhammer Fantasy are about the only examples that come to mind at the moment.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #42 on: July 08, 2008, 08:24:30 AM »
I've been wondering about "Union Dues: Freedom with a Small 'f'" in this context.  Stripper isn't the same as hooker, though "car dates" are mentioned.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #43 on: July 08, 2008, 09:34:59 AM »
I've been wondering about "Union Dues: Freedom with a Small 'f'" in this context.  Stripper isn't the same as hooker, though "car dates" are mentioned.

But the only time the protagonist does one, it's to pull a gun on the guy and get information leading to the rescue of an infant.  She wasn't there just to "be in danger and be killed," she was the main character so she wasn't "sexing up the main character," and she certainly didn't have a "heart of gold."

If the complaint here is that sex worker characters are mere placeholders and don't get to do anything, I would offer that story as a counterexample rather than an example.  Same for "Right Kind of Town."  I would agree with Anarkey about Mike Resnick's story, "Me and My Shadow," but so far that's the only Escape Artists story mentioned that seems to meet her criteria for clichés.
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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #44 on: July 08, 2008, 05:27:45 PM »
Oh hey!  This conversation sounds incredibly familiar!

I agree with you entirely on that story (and nearly agreed with you in the thread, except that you seemed to have said it all more clearly than I could).  My impression in this thread was that it was the quantity (or rather, coincidental airing) of stories with prostitute characters that was at issue.  The debate about the quality of each character would be better carried on in the individual story threads.

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And when I say I'd like to see stories with fewer prostitutes in them it's never because I have a problem with prostitutes, it's because I'm sick of the shorthand. 

And it's not just in fiction.  I was sure I'd read somewhere in The Guardian that their style guide frowned on describing someone (particularly a victim of crime) as "a prostitute", because unlike other professional descriptions (such as "Mr Smith, a bank manager" or "Miss Brown, a hairdresser") it's a short-cut in the reader's mind not just to socio-economic pigeon-holing but also to moral judgement.  This is a trick frequently abused by the press in the UK, and not just the tabloids.  (I think The Guardian preferred the clumsy formulation "a woman who worked as a prostitute" partly because its clumsiness draws the reader's attention to the distinction.  But if it is in their style guide, it's not in the online version that I could link to.)

Anyway, the recent characters who worked as prostitutes in PC and EP (can't speak for PP as I'm many months behind) didn't strike me as fitting any lazy stereotypes.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #45 on: July 13, 2008, 12:52:56 AM »
I've got to say, I like the prostitution stories. They're frequently the ones I send to my friends. EP's "This, My Body" and "I Look Forward To Remembering You" actually are two of the ones I recommend to people who don't usually read sci-fi or listen to podcasts.

It seems like there's a pretty good reason there are more stories about prostitutes than anything else: they're more interesting than most groups. It's like complaining that there are more astronauts in sci-fi than there are window-washers. Astronauts, superheroes, werewolves, aliens, elves, prostitutes, magicians, time-travellers and mad scientists  have more interesting lives than, well, normal people do, so of course they're going to be overrepresented.

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Re: Prostitution in PC014 and EA
« Reply #46 on: July 13, 2008, 09:31:19 AM »
I've got to say, I like the prostitution stories. They're frequently the ones I send to my friends. EP's "This, My Body" and "I Look Forward To Remembering You" actually are two of the ones I recommend to people who don't usually read sci-fi or listen to podcasts.

It seems like there's a pretty good reason there are more stories about prostitutes than anything else: they're more interesting than most groups. It's like complaining that there are more astronauts in sci-fi than there are window-washers. Astronauts, superheroes, werewolves, aliens, elves, prostitutes, magicians, time-travellers and mad scientists  have more interesting lives than, well, normal people do, so of course they're going to be overrepresented.

I don't think that prostitutes really belongs on that list of people with interesting lives.  Everything else on that list is either supernatural or in an active adventure seeking profession.  They have interesting lives for the most part because they seek it out.  Prostitutes on the other hand are generally caught in miserable subsistence lives.

Just because a story includes a prostitute who leads an interesting life does not necessarily mean that that persons life is interesting because they are a prostitute.  Not all, but a large number of stories could be written with the sex worker in question with some other profession leading an interesting life and still work just as well if not better.

I'm definitely not of the opinion that prostitutes or any other character type should never be used, but like anything else if they are over used or used where they aren't really appropriate then they weaken a story.