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Author Topic: EP248: Spar  (Read 29301 times)
stePH
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« Reply #40 on: July 10, 2010, 09:34:15 AM »

I think this conversation would be a lot more interesting if we abandoned it and moved on. Spar is what Spar is; without the use of a dismissive label, what did you think about it?

Pointless waste of time.
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Sandikal
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« Reply #41 on: July 10, 2010, 10:10:38 AM »

I just couldn't listen to more than the first few sentences of this story.  I'm not even much of a prude.  I do read books that have graphic sex in them, including sex that disturbing and/or against my personal preferences.  However, the first few sentences of this story were so disturbing to me, I couldn't continue.
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stePH
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« Reply #42 on: July 10, 2010, 11:11:59 AM »

I just couldn't listen to more than the first few sentences of this story.  I'm not even much of a prude.  I do read books that have graphic sex in them, including sex that disturbing and/or against my personal preferences.  However, the first few sentences of this story were so disturbing to me, I couldn't continue.

I own the Urotsukidouji Perfect Collection on DVD, and I still found nothing to like in this story.
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« Reply #43 on: July 10, 2010, 10:55:59 PM »

....Stories like "Spar" and "Lust for Learning" are masturbatory not because they deal with sex but because they can't move past their preoccupation with their conceits. The fact that the conceits are sexual in nature might have something to do with their respective authors' lack of interest in expounding upon them, but that's just a speculation.

I kept thinking that it might make a stronger story as flash fiction, cut down to it's barest bones and unabashedly just an interesting idea that could be taken so much further. As it is, it felt to me like a very long writing prompt.
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Seraphim
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« Reply #44 on: July 10, 2010, 11:49:56 PM »

I'm glad this one had a warning. I've no interest in any of the territory this story is purported to explore. To this day I've never encountered any sex scene in any book or story that had any serious purpose beyond titillation I could discern. I found if I read them anyway I could not see what those scenes added and was generally disgusted by having let those images inside my head. Since then whenever they occur, I skip ahead and apparently miss nothing of substance to the rest of the story. So if a story such as Spar is so heavily invested in sex and blue language about sex then it is one that I might as well skip from the get go. I tried the first few lines of this story...just to be fair, but my reaction was (as expected) yuck, yuck, and yuck and that was all I could stand and I was sorry I had even bothered at all. Stories about sex, with sexually graphic scenes, with scads of obscene reference and a vocabulary seldom untethered from the scatological...just leave me reaching for a handy gallon of Purell. It grosses me out every time and not in a good way.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2010, 11:51:30 PM by Seraphim » Logged
Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #45 on: July 11, 2010, 12:20:10 AM »

It grosses me out every time and not in a good way.

I can't think of the good way to be grossed out...
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« Reply #46 on: July 11, 2010, 03:17:53 AM »

this story wasn't really my thing but i respect the author for the effort.

what does interest me is that i remember escape pod running five first contact stories over the last year (this, Almanac, Strangers, Ambushes, Thargus), four had female protagonists, all of those had the woman losing their partner in some way.  a couple spent more time on the breakup than the aliens.

since scifi often uses it's speculation as an analog it seems like, from a woman's perspective, losing the comfort of a familiar relationship and going out to meet new people has the same qualities as meeting an alien species for the first time.  i'd be interested to hear female perspectives on this trend.
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Dem
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« Reply #47 on: July 11, 2010, 08:19:29 AM »

This, to me, is an extraordinary piece of work and I nearly missed it because of the warning about graphic language. No criticism, I'm just inclined to avoid what is often the tedious over-use of some common expletives as a badge of 'authenticity'. Nevertheless, some words do make me squirm even though I can also see that offence arises simply because social convention says it should. We live in a world where sex and violence are standard TV fare (cf CSI) but the particular arrangement of a few letters gives some of us apoplexy.

I'm glad I wasn't put off. To me, this was not pornographic although with a different voice it very easily could be and if it were a film, how it came across would depend on what the director thought it was about. To me, neither the content nor the language were gratuitous, put there to shock me, or lacking in any purpose other than to capitalise on titillating exploitation. I don't know who was the victim here; the woman, the alien, or maybe both. There is no guarantee that the bipedal creature appearing at the end was a saviour to either of them and so no ultimate salvation. She may have been climbing to her death or to further exploitation, who knows?

What I do know is that the sense of dissolution of personality, reason, hope, and time created by the endless sexual encounters of each insular and solitary individual gave insight into the lengths human cognition will go to maintain its sense of self and to rationalise its actions. I don't know if the alien was experiencing something siliar but it felt pain and it locked the woman out after something inside it broke. I don't need to know what that was, I was happy to conceptualise it as a part of its spirit, its own survival repertoire, a valuable something that had to be protected.

The story didn't end but then some don't. It didn't leave me hanging either because I could occupy my thoughts with the uncertainties. Where was she going? Was she rescued? Or was the alien being rescued from her? Or were both about to be subject to further de-personalising experiences? In the end, the sexual content and the language seemed to be just vehicles for the expression of attempts at survival in the context of desolation, depersonalisation and loss.
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« Reply #48 on: July 11, 2010, 10:55:34 AM »

To this day I've never encountered any sex scene in any book or story that had any serious purpose beyond titillation I could discern. I found if I read them anyway I could not see what those scenes added and was generally disgusted by having let those images inside my head.

I wonder if that is deliberate, so they can be censored, if necessary, without losing any of the plot.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #49 on: July 11, 2010, 11:14:54 AM »

It's interesting that some of you react so negatively to sexy scenes. In the novel I'm writing, I'm actually running into the problem of there not being enough sex. That is, it's a combination of two things: first, the romance between two of the main characters isn't really selling itself without more obvious displays of affection, and second, the setting is supposed to be this incredibly lush, striking, and vital place. Adding some sexier scenes - maybe not actual screwing, but something a little sexier than the stiff conversation I wrote in my first draft - would give the piece a lot of kick.

And while I'm defending sexiness, there are books where the sex is incredibly important. In the Kushiel's Legacy series by Jacqueline Karey, for example, every sex scene serves to develop a character, explicate the setting, or both. Hell, remember Clan of the Cave Bear and its sequals? I know you read that as a kid - probably scarred me for life. Anyway, while it was certainly a little over the top, most (ok, some) of the sex in those books served a purpose in describing the development of the characters' relationship and cavegirl's sexual and mystical awakening.

So yeah. Don't undersell the sex.
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Talia
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« Reply #50 on: July 11, 2010, 12:16:41 PM »

To this day I've never encountered any sex scene in any book or story that had any serious purpose beyond titillation I could discern. I found if I read them anyway I could not see what those scenes added and was generally disgusted by having let those images inside my head.

I wonder if that is deliberate, so they can be censored, if necessary, without losing any of the plot.

I suspect its a matter of perception and/or what books were read as I, conversely, have read a number of sex scenes that definitely had purposes beyond titillation.
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Yargling
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« Reply #51 on: July 11, 2010, 01:31:01 PM »

I'm glad this one had a warning. I've no interest in any of the territory this story is purported to explore. To this day I've never encountered any sex scene in any book or story that had any serious purpose beyond titillation I could discern.

I've read three, to my knowledge, though all 3 glide over the details for the most part - the 2 Dragon Ages books (a good read even if you aren't into the games) and Isaac Asimov's "Robots of the Dawn"

That said, the majority are that.
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stePH
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Cool story, bro!


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« Reply #52 on: July 11, 2010, 04:06:00 PM »

It's interesting that some of you react so negatively to sexy scenes. In the novel I'm writing, I'm actually running into the problem of there not being enough sex. That is, it's a combination of two things: first, the romance between two of the main characters isn't really selling itself without more obvious displays of affection, and second, the setting is supposed to be this incredibly lush, striking, and vital place. Adding some sexier scenes - maybe not actual screwing, but something a little sexier than the stiff conversation I wrote in my first draft - would give the piece a lot of kick.

And while I'm defending sexiness, there are books where the sex is incredibly important. In the Kushiel's Legacy series by Jacqueline Karey, for example, every sex scene serves to develop a character, explicate the setting, or both. Hell, remember Clan of the Cave Bear and its sequals? I know you read that as a kid - probably scarred me for life. Anyway, while it was certainly a little over the top, most (ok, some) of the sex in those books served a purpose in describing the development of the characters' relationship and cavegirl's sexual and mystical awakening.

So yeah. Don't undersell the sex.

I don't mind a sex scene in a book or movie... my favorite novel Cyteen has a teen boy drugged and molested by an older, very powerful woman in a pivotal early scene that's critical to the story (it's also written rather non-explicitly, but the gist of what's going on isn't hard to figure out).  Jane Fancher's science fiction trilogy (Groundties, Uplink and Harmonies of the 'Net) also has several sex scenes running the gamut from hetero to (male) homo and BDSM; most of these were also integral to the story and not there for simple titillation or shock.

But "Spar", apart from the accident that set up the situation, was nothing but sex.  Feh.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #53 on: July 11, 2010, 04:26:53 PM »

I don't mind a sex scene in a book or movie... my favorite novel Cyteen has a teen boy drugged and molested by an older, very powerful woman in a pivotal early scene that's critical to the story (it's also written rather non-explicitly, but the gist of what's going on isn't hard to figure out).  Jane Fancher's science fiction trilogy (Groundties, Uplink and Harmonies of the 'Net) also has several sex scenes running the gamut from hetero to (male) homo and BDSM; most of these were also integral to the story and not there for simple titillation or shock.

But "Spar", apart from the accident that set up the situation, was nothing but sex.  Feh.

I'm not sure I agree. Interspersed with the sex was a great deal about the POV character's life before the accident, her relationship with her husband, and her struggle to stay sane and maintain a sense of self in the madness of the lifeboat. The story might have had its flaws, but I don't really see it as "nothing but sex."
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Talia
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« Reply #54 on: July 11, 2010, 07:15:50 PM »

Yeah I also have to disagree. Sex was definitely  not the only thing going on in this story, though the other stuff was subtle.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #55 on: July 11, 2010, 08:21:23 PM »

More to the point, the story is in a lot of ways ABOUT sex and what sex means (or doesn't mean).  It would be hard to write a story about the meaning of war without including some gunshots in it, ne?
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lmh
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« Reply #56 on: July 11, 2010, 10:53:48 PM »

For me the story wasn't at all about the sex. It was about the utter desolation of the protagonists plight. In her situation it seemed that sex, and self mutilation were the only escape from total sensory deprivation. The sex was the only way she could interact with her rescuer.

For her sex was distraction, entertainment, control, communication and even something familiar in such an alien environment. I did not get the sense that it was in any way satisfying.

Reading/hearing it in such graphic detail was very unsettling, but was a powerful way to get me to feel the desparation of her situation. I could understand her hopelessness, resignation, fear and loss, and indeed her fight to retain some semblence of herself.

There was nothing nice about this story and even the ending was not filled with hope, rather it was just the end of misery, not a happy rescue.

I love a happy ending, which is why I loved Bridesicle so much. Spar was too disturbing for my taste, but I think that is part of what makes it such a powerful piece of writing. For this particular story it was the only way it could be told.

Should the story have been told at all? That  is a different question, and one that we usually leave up to authors.
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Kaa
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« Reply #57 on: July 11, 2010, 11:02:26 PM »

I purposefully didn't read any of the other comments on this one because I wanted to say that I just didn't like this one. It was an interesting little vignette, but...It just didn't have anything for me to latch onto.

Your mileage may very well vary, of course, but: meh.
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« Reply #58 on: July 12, 2010, 02:07:45 AM »

Very enjoyable and thought-provoking, but more of a scene than a story.  I didn't get any character development.  The intensity remains they same throughout.  Her challenge is sort of to stay sane, but she doesn't seem to be actively trying to do so.  She does retain her humanity, but it's not because of anything she did deliberately.  She said she tried the airlock, so we know that if she had a choice she would not have survived.   I think all these were intentional on the author's part, and helped paint the mood.  But they made the story a little less engaging. 

I think I would have enjoyed a story about this character after the rescue, flashing back to her experience in the lifeboat. 
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lmh
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« Reply #59 on: July 12, 2010, 02:18:11 AM »


So I would counter while our literature does have a history of sexual reference, the more explicit and graphic literary forays have tended to be sources of long standing public disdain regardless of their other literary merits. The whole notion that art needs to shock the sensibilities or challenge tradition, or the common cultural mores never had much traction with me. I'll admit there are limited occasions when use of the arts to challenge some conventions are warranted but that would be more when dealing with some entrenched injustice like Jim Crow laws, or filthy meat packing plants, hence works like To Kill A Mocking Bird, Invisible Man, the Jungle, or the children's books Beautiful Joe.


Seems to me that "long standing public disdain" = "Shock the sensibilities or challenge tradition, or the common cultural mores"

Great writing challenges us to think, pushes the envelope, opens up society and says, "look at this, is this right?". From a story it launches debate. To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Brave New World, much of Shakespeare, the Bible (to mention the ones already mentioned), and countless other of the world's great stories. This is what I really love about great writing, the lingering possibilities of creating social change.

Otherwise it is just entertainment. Not a bad end in itself, and l love a great narrative for its own sake, but there is power in those life changing pieces, where the telling of the story pushes at the edges and confronts something about or within us.

Do I think Spar is one of these? Not really, I think its explicitness is overwhelming, but I think it is a story of despair powerfully told. It has, however, pushed and confronted and created a rollicking debate.
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