11 July, 2008

True(sdale's) colours

Just a few quotes that I think will be sufficient to show why I don't reckon it's worth engaging with Dave Truesdale's SFSite review of 'The Goosle' point by point, although many kind readers and readers-to-be of the story have stepped up to do so. These first few are from Mr Truesdale in an Asimov's forum.
I'm thinking about writing this cutting edge retelling of the Hansel and Gretel Grimm's fairytale, where, when Hansel is captured in the "witch's" house and held in her cage, that instead of her asking for a bone from him (as in the original), she asks him to stick his little penis out for her to grab (a play on boner, sorta). Hey, and to really grab readers and show that anything goes in SF and is to be applauded, Hansel is sexually buggered in the ass [I like Troo's reaction to this: 'Personally I'm all for sexual buggering in the arse. I can't be doing with that non-sexual buggering.'], given it to him in his poink hole, by an adult who is his gay, masochistic, travelling companion/"daddy". And to spice things up, I'm thinking of adding a line by Hansel (deep characterization), where he, for a brief moment, questions if he *likes* being f**ked in the ass.

Of course, the bad guy ends up dead, but from another agent, and _not_ because he's a child raper/f**ker.

Whaddya all think? Who should I send this prospective story to? Sheila? Stan? Gordon? Ellen? Shawna?

I think this is a terrific, cutting-edge, risque, retake on an already "grim" fairy tale, and what better angle for shock value than to go this way. After all, this has never been done before, and I think I'm on to something special here. SFWA's Nebula voters will really love this one, won't they? Or if not them, then the Horror crowd will surely nominate this one for an award. I'm coundting on it.

Now all I have to do is write it. :-)

Steven: "I think Mr Truesdale has just read Margo Lanagan's "The Goosle" in Ellen Datlow's "The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy". Clearly it has had an effect on him."

Yep, and yup.

Will writers stoop to anything these days, because their own imagination is lacking? I'm not for censorship, for heaven's sake, but when do we censor *ourselves*? Where does editorial responsibility and discriminating taste come into play? Aside from pure shock value, what was the point of this particular retelling? What was gained?

Will Ellen's next collection from Del Rey feature a retelling of Snow White (one where Snow has a little sister, perhaps?), and the Seven Dwarves are evil and up to no good? Will they take Little Snow hostage and give it to her over and over and over to the point where she even begins to think she maybe likes it (as Hansel briefly considers if he likes being buggered)?

Every so often we have to lift our heads above the forest in order to properly see the trees, to take a good look at the grand design once again. :-)

SF and Fantasy can do better than this; it should aspire much, much higher than this sad, sorry excuse of a "retelling." Sorry, folks, this is just the way I feel about this story. I also don't believe anyone is a prude when objecting to what almost could be considered child porn. I'm sure NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Love Association] would really like this one (and this fact by itself should tell you a lot), so a measure of proper perspective on our part isn't a bad thing from time to time. Just sayin'.


Twas my understanding that the "witch" was eating Hansel's buggerer's guts out as Hansel watched. Hansel didn't get his revenge on the bad guy, the witch did. And for the record, I'm not upset about the gory violence in the story, Ellen. It was the fact that, to me, the author turned to the worst sexual perversion there is, the rape of a child (and in this case homosexual rape), for shock value. And then add the one line where Hansel thinks he might like it, and I thought this was a really, really bad message to send. How does homosexual rape of a _child_ add anything of value to this fairy tale (aside from shock value)? Could you please answer this one question for me? Please?

You can always trot out the catch-all defense of any art and say it was art for Art's sake and there shouldn't ever be censorship, and freedom of artistic expression always trumps everything. This doesn't mean folks can't criticize art in any of its forms. There was a recent bruhaha about somebody sticking a crucifix up someone's ass, displaying it, and calling it "art." As a general proposition, Ellen, where do we as a society, or you as an editor specifically, draw any lines as to what you will or won't publish. Certainly you do have limits, don't you? What might they be?
Truesdale has also contributed this comment, over at Ellen's livejournal:
When Margo Lanagan set out to write “The Goosle” she was staring at a blank screen. She could play God. Every twist, every turn in the story was hers to choose. As were the theme, the characters, and everything else about her story.

Now please consider the following: rape of any kind is a despicable act. Period. Regardless of who commit’s the rape.

There is adult rape by a man against a woman. There is adult rape by a man against a man. There is child rape by a man against a girl. There is child rape by a man against a boy. Four scenarios.

Because of the subject matter of Lanagan’s story, the retelling of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale, her choices (once she decided to go with a rape scenario in the first place), was pretty much limited to the latter pair of choices: man rape against a girl child, or man rape against a boy child. The choice was hers and hers alone. She could have chosen to have the nasty old man rape Gretel, but she didn’t. She chose to have the nasty old man rape Hansel. She, and she alone, chose gay rape of a boy child.

If, as some have offered here, I am homophobic because I objected to gay rape of a child, then what does this say of Lanagan’s choice? It was her choice to portray gay rape of a child as a nasty, horrible, terrible thing, was it not? It certainly was not this reviewer who wrote a homosexual man into the story. It was certainly not this reviewer who wrote into the story that this homosexual would rape a young boy child. It was the author.

If the author, or anyone posting here, is concerned that homosexual rape of a child in this story tars all gay men--or promotes a stereotype in the minds of some--then this is the author’s fault, and not that of a reviewer who declaims against such a scenario.

If anyone promoted (unintentionally, albeit) the stereotype that all homosexuals are male child rapists it was the author. She had other choices, but chose this one. What makes it even worse, is that she chose to include the line where Hansel, even though for a brief moment, questions whether or not he likes what is being done to him. With this in mind, now reverse the roles. Pretend that Gretel is the one being raped and entertains the thought--even for a brief moment--that she might like it. Isn’t this thought what we see in movies and on tv, when the jerk off says to someone (the police), “but I could tell she wanted it”? And we hate the asshole even more for his crime, don’t we? For his barbarian attitude toward women?

But Lanagan has a homosexual child rapist telling Hansel he knows Hansel likes it, and even Hansel has his moment of doubt. This, then, makes the gay rapist even more despicable. So why is it that some here have decried my objection to this set of circumstances by insinuating that I am homophobic and wish to tar all gay men as child rapists? Or have something against gays?

I also objected on the grounds that of all the limitless, possible scenarios the author could have gone with in this story, she went with homosexual child rape, and I questioned this as well (the line in the review about the idea well running dry). It was Margo Lanagan’s choice and hers alone, when she decided to write about a thoroughly depraved, disgusting, gay child rapist (who got his comeuppance, but not at the hands of Hansel), not me. She has portrayed a gay man in the worst possible light, not me.

So who’s the one promoting a bad image of gay men (as I have been accused of here)? Please look at the story and think about what I’ve just said. Lanagan had choices. She chose rape. She chose gay rape. She chose gay child rape.

I room with a retired gay man who, in his spare time, writes graphic gay sex short stories (and sells them). Even he has said that he, and his publisher, won’t touch gay child rape. Not to their liking. Are they homophobic?

There’s one last reason I didn’t care for the “child abuse” in this story, and it has nothing to do with anything above. Somewhere back in the ’80s I began to notice an uptick in the number of sf/f stories that in some way or other (the main story, or background, a line here and there) had aspects of the dysfunctional family/child abuse. The physically abusive father either to the mother or some child, the runaway father, the alcoholic father, the sexually abusive father (mostly given to the reader by indirect reference)--that sort of thing. Boy, take your pick; it seemed like SF writers were taking their cue from the public awareness of this issue brought to the fore by the media, and on morning talk shows of the era (who cater mostly to women), and even unto the present. From one line references all the way to the focus of the story, there were inordinate numbers of stories having something to do with the dysfunctional family. And I have grown weary of them. Not that the issue isn’t important, no sir. Doesn’t matter whether the stories are good or bad, or how well they’re told, or anything else. It’s just a weariness of reading so many stories including something about a dysfunctional family. It’s pure numbers. So when I again saw the child abuse in “The Goosle” I thought, “Here we go again, another dysfunctional family “type” story, now finding its way into a retelling of a fairytale; can’t authors these days come up with anything different?”.
Yes, I think he's done himself enough damage publicly not to require my lambasting him, along with everyone else's. My story has a lot of darkness and brutality in it, but compared to Dave's crude, crass and irrational responses, 'The Goosle' is a tiptoe through the tulips, with added kittens.


Blogger Farah said...

But the protagonist isn't homosexual. Did he not notice that sex scene with the woman?

11 July, 2008 16:04  
Blogger Among Amid While said...

I know - there's a recurring emphasis on 'homosexual' child rape as somehow worse than hetero that several people have commented on. And the unpleasant hetero-sex (conducted within the child's hearing and knowledge) is clearly not an issue for Dave; he only gets offended when it's man-on-boy. However frantically he claims not to be homophobic, it's there in the words he himself chose.

11 July, 2008 16:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! Where would you start your rebuttal after those series of comments. You're right to take the high road, he has hung himself by his own rope. A story with a strong, or shocking, or controversial scene like that--whatever way you view it--is going to challenge people and, for some, cause reactionary comments. But your readers have championed you, which in the end, is proof of a very successful work. Congrats.

12 July, 2008 02:57  

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