Weeding Womb


Lobsters by Charles Stross. (Text available online.) Benjamin Disraeli once referred to someone as "...inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity...", among other things. Charles Stross, sadly, fits into the same category as the target of Disraeli's words.

Don't read this story if you can't quote at least one entry of The Jargon File, AKA The New Hacker's Dictionary. The author is a Slashdot-flavored jargonaut in the extreme, and some points really need you to have some inkling of the culture reflected by the Slashdot crowd.

Yet, for the same reason, don't read this story if you can quote an entry: The extreme uses of jargon (and abuses of same) start off cute, but begin to grate after a few pages. It completely lost me at the point where the main character was referred to as looking like a 'Stallmanite'? How do you 'look' like one of RMS's cultists acolytes? (I'm gonna get it for that one....) You wear a Linux shirt with a big "GNU" magic-markered in before "Linux"? Hell, Google only has 30 results for the term, and one of those results is the text of the story!

It's an obvious extrapolation, I'll grant, but it's not actually in heavy (or even moderate) use yet. Short stories, on the whole, shouldn't be fostering neologisms. Novels sometimes do - Neuromancer must have dragged a few words into the geek mindset - but more often fail. (How many of you say that a violent battle is "Hellfought"? How many of you can name the novella that's from?) Short stories have less chance of spawning a genre, and a similarly reduced chance of adding to the readership's vocabulary.

The plot itself is even ripped out of the wet-dreams-turned-nightmares of a Free Software bigot. The main character travels across the face of the planet, thinking up new ideas, using them to make people millions, and giving the copyrights for such ideas over to an open source type group. (Well, open source is a misnomer - it seems to have more in common with the subset of the open source movement called the Free Software Foundation.) In return, his travel and lodging and such is given to him by those he's helped. He makes little money, but lives well. Everything is good. (Ooops! Forgot the dead kittens someone keeps sending him.) Almost everything is good. That is, until he meets his ex-fiancée. She works for the IRS. She (as an IRS employee) wants him to come home and start making taxable money. She (as a domineering female) wants him to come home and settle down and help make babies.

Ah, what's that I hear? "Domineering" is too harsh? Or sexist? Not really, since in their salad days, the main character and Ms. IRS were into the whole BDSM thing, with her being dom and him being sub.

You know this is going to be a good story already, don'tcha? Dead kittens and dominatrixes and www, oh my!

And then there's the lobsters. Apparently a KGB experiment in turning the relatively simple lobster brain into a neural network got free. But they're a side plot.

The worst problem with this story is the end, which I'm jumping to right now because reliving it in my mind's eye isn't pleasant. Basically, Mr. Open Source and Ms. IRS have made up and are getting back into the good ol' bondage fun. Fine. Even if Mr. Open Source was ambushed and bound, he seems to like this. Hey, whatever floats his boat, I'm cool with it. It ain't me, it isn't in public, everyone's consenting, it's cool.

Then it becomes seriously uncool. The main character has out-and-out stated... well, let me quote: '"I just don't feel positive about having children," he says eventually. "And I'm not planning on changing my mind any time soon."' Okay, so he doesn't want kids. It's also pointed out that, despite their BDSM sessions, they've never swapped bodily fluids. Such things may be spilled, I gather, but never anywhere where ova meets spermatozoa. It seems that, despite the main character wanting to marry, he does not want kids.

So what does his darling bride-to-be do? Once she's got him bound and gagged, she mounts him and has sex with him. Correction: She rapes him. (Then glues her labia shut. No, really.)

In the laws of the black-walled realm of my soul, it doesn't matter what the hell you like in the bedroom, as soon as one person forces their whims upon the other (who is asking afterwards why she did it - stressing that he did NOT consent), then it is rape. In addition, it's a rape that's going to end with a child the rape victim doesn't want (and can't even abort, since he's not the one carrying it), and a wedding the victim probably doesn't want now that he's marrying his rapist. God Almighty, it was abhorrent when it was acceptable in Deuteronomy*, it's abhorrent here!

But is it suppose to be some Deeper Meaning? That the IRS is out to rape the Copyleft movement? That people who like bondage deserve what they get? Or was it just a nice unpleasant way to end the story?

Look, whatever. All I know is that we have a story that starts with a geekfest and ends with a rape. Decide for yourself if that's what you want to cuddle up with on a cold winter's night.

*Deut. 22:28: If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;

22:29: Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

Translation from King James to Modern Len: If a man finds an unmarried (virgin) and unengaged (not betrothed) woman and rapes her (lay hold on and lie with, implying she needs to be held down in order for the man to have sex with her), AND they're caught, then the rapist can give his victim's father 50 silver coins (be they shekels or denarii or whatever) and he has legally paid for and purchased the woman, so he can rape her legally for the rest of her life. Yep, kids, Biblical law takes "You break it, you buy it." and makes it into "You rape it, you marry it." Of course, a broken vase has slightly less feeling than a raped virgin. But hey, men are strong and women are property, right? Gimme that ol' time religion....

The Archon

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