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Posts Tagged ‘imaginative fiction’

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We pillage and plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We extort and pilfer, we filch and sack.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
Maraud and embezzle and even highjack.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
 –  X Atencio

I often struggle to comprehend the incredible ability of the modern mind to not only reconcile cognitive dissonance, but to apparently function without even being aware of its existence.  Last week we had to endure the false “controversy” over Disney’s announcement that it was making changes in the animatronic figures featured in the 1960s-era Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  The story was covered in a number of places, but the writer from The Mary Sue made it easiest to zero in on the point I wish to make, so here she is:

Starting next year, Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride will no longer include the iconic Auction scene as we know it, in which animatronic “wenches” are sold as potential brides.  The pirates in the scene chant “we want the redhead,” but that redhead will now be reimagined as a pirate herself.  In a statement…Senior VP of Imagineering Kathy Mangum said, “We believe the time is right to turn the page to a new story in this scene, consistent with the humorous, adventurous spirit of the attraction.”  I took regular vacations to Disneyland growing up and absolutely loved the Pirates ride.  Yet I do remember, even as a child, finding something off about this scene.  I never tried to articulate it, and didn’t yet know terms like sex trafficking, but I did know that these women for sale weren’t in keeping with that “humorous, adventurous spirit” that permeates the rest of the ride…

So Vivian Kane, like so many puffed-up prudes, imagines she can project her adult feelings back into her child self, pretending that she “knew” there was something about the slave auction scene that “wasn’t in keeping” with the other activities of pirates.  Which other piratical activities, pray tell, is slave-taking “not in keeping” with, Vivian?  Robbery?  Kidnapping?  Arson?  Extortion?  Torture?  Murder?  I mean, it’s not like the famous song heard throughout the ride doesn’t list them.  In order: “We pillage, plunder, rifle, loot, kidnap, ravage, extort, pilfer, filch, sack, maraud, embezzle, hijack, kindle, char, enflame & ignite.”  Most of these are synonyms for “steal”, the last few connote arson, and though murder is basically cheated of a direct reference, it’s present as the warning “Dead men tell no tales” (intoned earlier in the spookier part of the ride).  But “kidnap and ravage” in the first verse there is pretty clear; it’s a nicer way of saying “abduct and rape”.  Because despite the weird 21st -century idea that pirates are somehow humorous, whimsical characters with ridiculous vocal mannerisms, they are actually (note the tense; they’re not mere historical figures) violent criminals, hijackers and robbers at sea with little compunction against mayhem, torture, murder and yes, rape.  But while nobody has yet managed to sell the idea of a humorous ride centering around terrorists, a kids’ movie series about carjackers or a “Talk Like a Rapist Day”, somehow pirates (bizarrely conceived as forever locked in the late 17th century) have been stripped of basically all of their realities (except maybe the ships) and re-imagined as lovable seafaring clowns led by strangely gender-and-sexual-orientation-ambiguous performance artists with highly idiosyncratic fashion senses.

Now, I’m not arguing against black humor; I’m actually a fan of it, and plays like Arsenic and Old Lace are among my favorites.  I see absolutely no problem with using very nasty subjects such as theft, murder, insanity, war, tyranny and yes, even rape and slavery, in entertainment (even humorous entertainment), provided it’s done competently (“dead hooker” jokes are badly overused & I’ve never seen one act as anything but a cheap laugh).  And the historically-illiterate man-children who have a problem with the existence of female pirates can sit and spin; here are two articles to start the rotation.  My problem is the neo-Victorian pretense that rape (and by extension, sexual slavery) is one topic that is absolutely off-limits, even when depicting fictional characters who joyfully commit every other crime of violence imaginable, including murder and torture!  Another example of the same asininity is provided by “feminists” who moan lugubriously about the lyrics of the Rolling Stones songs “Under My Thumb” and “Brown Sugar”, while failing to notice that the narrator of “Sympathy for the Devil” is boasting about having caused murder, war and genocide (because clearly, sexual exploitation of one single woman is much worse than the Holocaust).  This is the old “fate worse than death” argument writ large across the face of our whole decaying culture; it’s worse than ridiculous, it’s completely deranged.  If murder, piracy and the sack of whole cities are fit subjects for a “humorous, adventurous” amusement-park dark ride, so is “sex trafficking”; and if Disney’s going to start removing all subjects of moral panic from its properties, I’d like to see how it’s going to replace all of those witches.

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I stayed rather busy last week, from walking with SWOP in the Seattle Pride parade on Sunday (because somebody has to speak up for sex workers, since Gay, Inc won’t), to spending an overnight in Portland with one of my favorite gentlemen (whom I’m going to call Ghost Rider, a nickname that he approves of), to going to see Wonder Woman on Thursday night with Jae.  I wasn’t really planning to see it, because as regular readers know I’ve been a major Wonder Woman fan since childhood and DC has been totally fucking up every single superhero film it has made in this century, from a dark, murderous Superman to a clownish Green Lantern, and I just couldn’t bear to see that done to the Amazon princess.  But Jae asked me to take her to the movie and I wasn’t about to disappoint her; as it turns out, I’m really glad she asked because I was extremely pleased with the film, which may well be the best DC superhero flick ever (including the justly-beloved Christopher Reeve Superman).  I’m not saying it was flawless, but I was easily able to overlook the flaws due to the superlative portrayal of Diana’s personality and character and the skill with which the director depicted her growing from a sheltered princess into a heroic, unstoppable champion of righteousness and compassion.  In the sequence where she truly becomes Wonder Woman, a charge across no man’s land (the film takes place in the First World War rather than the Second of the traditional story) to rescue a village whose plight has moved her heart, I literally cried out loud, sobbing at the beauty and power of the scene.  It was quite an experience, and I highly recommend the picture to anyone who enjoys superheroes or strong female characters, and especially to anyone who has an adolescent daughter to share the experience with.

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People die in these circumstances.  –  Darci Tierney

I saw this video pop up a few days ago; someone decided to compile all of the silly window cameo jokes from the old Batman TV series, and it seemed an apropos feature given Adam West’s recent demise.  The links above it were provided by Tim Cushing (“patience” and “bicycle”), Jillian Keenan (“happens”), Radley Balko  (“partisanism”), Cathy Reisenwitz (“whatsoever”), Kevin Wilson (“game”) , and  Lenore Skenazy (“lucky”).

From the Archives

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At long last, The Forms of Things Unknown is out; some people are saying it’s even a stronger collection than Ladies of the Night, and the reviews I’ve seen so far are good.  Those reviews are really important, so if you read the book (either in paper format or Kindle) and like it, please take the time to do a review for me on Amazon.  Even if it’s a short one, Amazon likes seeing reviews and the more there are, the more my book will show up on the radar of people who haven’t heard of me before.  That will boost sales of both Forms and Ladies, and of the essay collections I plan to release before the end of the year.  A gent is helping me to set up a merchant site (there are a few bugs, but I’m hoping we can fix them) on which to sell both books, autographed copies, the last four copies of the special edition Chester Brown did for me last year, future books, autographed photos, maybe even copies of my friends’ books and more!  But for right now, let’s concentrate on The Forms of Things Unknown; you can buy it in either paper or Kindle form on Amazon in the US, the UK, France, Germany or Italy, or order it from Barnes & Noble.  Or if you prefer, you can get an autographed copy for $26 if you live in the US, $31 if you live in Canada and $36 if you live anywhere else; the price includes shipping, which is why it’s more outside the US.  Of course, you could set up a book reading at a local bookstore for me; that would get me to fly to you so I could autograph your copy in person!  If you’d like to do that, email me & we can plan.

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Luke is in the desert and whining.  –  Palette-Swap Ninja

I adore double parodies; they take real skill to pull off well, but the results are so often amazing.  Today’s video, the first in a series of 11, is both the funniest Star Wars parody and one of the cleverest Beatles parodies I’ve ever encountered.  It was called to my attention by Mistress Matisse, and the links above it were provided by Tim Cushing (“nope”, “Loki” and “black”), Grace (“amateurs”), Rick Horowitz (“Star Trek”), and Lenore Skenazy (“lockdown”).

From the Archives

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At last, it’s here!  After literally years of delays, and months of design and composition, The Forms of Things Unknown is ready for sale!  This time there are two stories you haven’t seen; the first, “Trust Exercise”, opens the book and I gave a sneak preview of it back in December.  But the other, “Eight Minute Warning”, concludes the book and isn’t anything like any other story of mine you’ve ever seen (except that a sex worker is mentioned in passing).  If you’re interested, you’ll just have to buy the book!  Another thing you’ll need to buy it to see is the rest of the fantastic cover art by Chester Brown; see, this one’s a wraparound cover, so the image here is only the front.  The rest is a surprise (and yes, I’m teasing you again).  As with Ladies of the Night, I’ll be selling autographed copies here, but if you plan to buy through Amazon I have a special request:  please purchase your copy in the first week of May, in other words from this coming Monday through the following Sunday.  The reason I ask this is that a lot of sales in a short time will trigger Amazon’s algorithms and make the book much more visible to new readers who don’t know about me yet.  Also, if you like the book please write a review; a large number of positive reviews (I believe it takes 30 or so) will trigger yet another algorithm.  By taking these steps, you can help me in two ways:  once by your kind purchase of the book, and again by making it more visible to new readers; many of them may also buy Ladies of the Night!  As always, y’all have my sincere thanks, and I both hope and believe y’all will love the book!

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I don’t read much recent fiction, so it’s not surprising that I’m unfamiliar with T.J. Corcoran’s work.  He is, however, apparently familiar with mine, and a couple of weeks ago he reached out to me to ask if I’d be willing to host an excerpt from his new book (with a link to his Kickstarter at the end).  The subject matter (an anarchist society & a celebration of the “live and let live” philosophy) certainly fits here, so I said yes; judging by the blurbs he sent along he’s a controversial figure even in libertarian circles, but he isn’t the first controversial guest columnist I’ve hosted and he certainly won’t be the last.   

2064, Morlock Engineering office, Aristillus, Lunar Nearside

Mike groaned. “Wam, I do not need another fucking problem right now.  The Veleka tunnel issue still isn’t resolved, we’re behind schedule on rubble clearance because that last fucking load of bulldozers are somewhere in a orbit instead of down here where I need them, the damned Boardroom group -”

Mike realized that Wam’s eyes were wide and he stumbled to a halt. “I shouldn’t be venting at you. OK, what’s going on?”

“Problems with the Bao Johnson deal. One of the security contracts we own now is Leon’s Poker House.  A few hours ago some Mormons smashed up the place and threatened the working girls.”

“We agreed to defend Leon’s?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Leon’s, right next to all the new Mormon arrivals?”

Wam sigh. “Yeah.”

“Let me guess. We didn’t pick which gigs we took – Bao hand picked them and gave us his dogs?”

Wam winced, embarrassed. “Yes.”

“Fucking great.”

Wam was silent.

Mike sighed. “Not your fault, Wam.  What do you need from me?”

“We signed the version four security contract, so we’re responsible for adjudicating who smashed up the casino and threatened the hookers, then collecting damages.”

“That’s easy enough – the Mormons, right?”

“Yeah, we’ve got video.  But we’re not actually set up as a security firm.  We don’t have an investigator or a negotiator.  There’s no process, Mike.”

Mike rubbed his eyes, then pinched the bridge of his nose.  “You’re too polite to say it, are you?”

Wam held back a smile.  “Say what?”

“Too polite to say that this idea of using the First to pick up a security gig was idiotic.  That I got us in over our heads.”

Wam’s smile started to show. “I wouldn’t say idiotic…”

Mike waited for the other shoe to drop.

“…but I might be persuaded to say ‘not very well thought out’.”

Mike nodded. “Fair enough.”

“…or I might use the phrase ‘spreading yourself too thin’.”

“OK, I get it-”

“…or perhaps ‘a distraction when you should be’-”

Mike raised his hands and feigned warding off blows. “Stop kicking a man when he’s down.  What do I have to do?”

“Watch this video, then go talk to Mark.”

On the screen the virtual camera first focused on the marchers coming down the street, banners high.  The point of view kept retreating as the marchers advanced.  Confused Chinese immigrants stepped out of the way.  The sound slowly ramped up and the chants became louder.

Wam froze the video. “Here, on the left is Mark Soldner, LDS branch president -”

Mike sighed.  “I know Mark.”  He rubbed his eyes.  “Oh, do I know Mark.  Go on.”

“The facial recognition software has names for most of the others in the crowd, and the majority of them are all living in apartments owned by Soldner Apartments or in homes sold by Soldner Homes.”

Wam fast forwarded through twenty minutes of chanting and picketing.  “And here the first rock gets thrown.”  Then the crowd streaming inside and overturning poker tables.  Wam paused the video.  “I’ll give the Mormons one thing, they’re polite even as they’re busting the place up.  Did you catch how they said ‘please’ when they asked the gamblers to step back from the tables?”

“OK, so now what?”

“You’ve got to negotiate with Mark directly.”

“It’s never simple, is it?”  Mike sighed.  “Can you arrange a sitdown with Mark?”

“Already set up.  Three o’clock today, his place.  Address is in your phone.”

2064, Soldner Apartments office, Aristillus, Lunar Nearside

Mike stepped into Mark Soldner’s office.  Mark looked up from a stack of paperwork, saw Mike and smiled.  “Give me just one second?”

Mike nodded and looked around.  The place was nice – nicer than his own office, at least.  Carpeting underfoot, a large walnut desk, three flags on the wall behind.

Mark signed the last sheet, and then stood up and extended a hand.  “Sorry about that, Mike.  Thanks for coming in.”

“I’ll get to the point – ”

“The casino issue.”

Mike nodded.  “Exactly.  We’re insuring them, and the damage you folks caused -”

“Mike, let me cut to the chase.  You and I agree that initiating violence isn’t the right way to settle disputes, right?”

Mike blinked.  Was Mark going to apologize and pay up that easily?  “Right.  So -”

Mark held up a finger.  “This wasn’t our first protest – did you know that?  We’ve been out there every Saturday for three months.  But even after knowing how we feel – about our homes, about our community, they stayed in business.”

Mike’s face clouded and his hope that this was going to be easy disappeared.  “That’s irrelevant, Mark.”

“No, it’s very relevant.”

“The point is that you destroyed someone else’s property.”

Mark shook his head.  “We did a little damage, but it was symbolic.  The important thing, though, is that we did it only after the casino started things.”

Mike narrowed his eyes.  “Started things?”

“High Deseret was a decent neighborhood before the casino moved in -”

“Mark, this is a tangent.  The casino said said you initiated the trouble, and as far as I can tell the video backs them up.  Unless you’re going to suggest that the casino started the violence -”

“Absolutely I am.  They ran a casino in an area where they weren’t wanted.  That disrupted an entire neighborhood.  It’s not physical damage, but the violence to the integrity of a community -”

Mark saw Mike rolling his eyes, and stopped.  “Mike, I give up.  I thought I could talk sense with you, make you understand where our families are coming from, but I see I can’t.”

“That’s right, you can’t.”  He balled one fist.  “So let’s get to the point:  you owe damages.  And you’re going to pay them.”

Mark’s eyes narrowed.  “Mike, you don’t want me to pay up.  What you really want is for your revolution to succeed.”

Mike stared at him.  “What?”

“You’re disgusted with the false authority and socialism that’s been rising on Earth for the past few decades, and you want to start a new society.  A new country.  I’m in agreement with that.  We’re allies here, Mike – with just a few tactical disagreements.  And like all good allies, we can work out those disagreements.”

“What are you saying?”

“The war is here.  We must hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.  Do you know that quote?”

“Don’t be cute.  What’s your point?”

“My point is that if you and I are in alliance, we can fight a Revolution, and maybe win it.  But if we’re fighting each other over petty stuff like poker and prostitutes…then you and I are not in alliance.”  Mark paused and looked Mike straight in the eye.  “Let’s be brutally honest here.  You need me more than I need you, Mike.”

Mark stood and stuck out his hand.

Mike looked at the proffered hand.  “The cost of you helping out the Revolution is that I let you drive Leon’s Poker House out of business?”

Mark kept his hand out.  “They don’t have to go out of business.  They just have to move somewhere else.”

Mike stared at Mark’s extended hand.  The revolution was probably doomed even with Mark’s help.  But it was almost certainly doomed without it.

Mike hated himself for it, but he started to raise his own hand.

But if he compromised and sold out a small business, then what was he standing for?  Freedom…as long as someone richer, someone more powerful didn’t want the infringe on it?

And what was he compromising?  Not his own freedom.  No.  Someone else’s.  Is that who he was?  Someone who sold out the small fry and gave special privileges to political allies?

He felt his hand falter.

If he didn’t take this deal, he’d probably lose Mark from the Boardroom Group – and he might even have him defect entirely.  The threat to negotiate a separate peace was unlikely – but not impossible.

And if Mark signed a separate peace, the revolution would fail, and he, Javier, Darcy – everyone – would end up dead or imprisoned.

He had to make this deal.

But what precedent did it set?  If Mark had free rein to smash up any bar he didn’t like in his quest to build what he saw as a decent society, where did it end?  Zoning?  Minimum wages?  Undesirable, but people could live with that.  But would it end there?  First one compromise, then another.  How long until drug prohibition?  How long until no-knock raids, email surveillance, confessions under torture, asset forfeiture?

No.

Mike let his hand drop to his side.

“Mike, I’m not asking for much, just -”

“You’re asking for everything.”

Mike pulled out his phone and dialed.  Wam answered on the second ring.  “Wam, I need men outside Leon’s casino.  No, not guards – I want a full fire team.  Armed and armored.  And cut a check to Leon for the damages; we’ll eat this one.”

He hung up.

Mark looked taken aback.  “Mike, let me ask you to reconsider – the Revolution needs us.”

“Yeah, Mark, it does.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to sell out someone else’s freedom.”

Sound interesting? You can contribute to his Kickstarter!

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