Ethics vs. Morals in A Game of Thrones

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The binary pair of philosophical terms in my title has for twenty years served me in class lessons on Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but it seems an update is in order.  Though little has changed, philosophically speaking.  As I write, on my left hand I observe striking workers with signs decrying Verizon corporate greed, and on my left, a candidate who has never held public office, yet has occupied eerily similar positions to Verizon’s CEOs, has effectively secured the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

Both the terms “morals” and “ethics” denote codes of behavior with regard to right and wrong.  They don’t even differ most materially in the kind of behavior; the real distinction lies in the source of the code, and the extent of responsibility.  Imagine three concentric circles, each larger than the last.  Smallest, at the center, is the personal sphere of the individual.  Largest and farthest reaching is the moral sphere: this encompasses all one’s relations to other human beings, and covers behavior as diverse as killing and how to drive an automobile.  Between these two circles, much closer to the individual and covering far less area, lies the ethical sphere: here, the code is much more murky, because laws and rules simply don’t / can’t cover every nuance of all human relations.

The epitome of an ethical commitment is a promise (giving one’s “word.”)   With few exceptions, no police officer forces these upon the individual; no court passes sentences on the breaking of them.  If you promise your daughter to spend more time with her this weekend, and you break your word, there may indeed be a consequence, but it won’t come in the form of a fine or time served, and thus the violation can be easy to ignore/forget.

In my textual analysis and application, I’ll confine myself to just two pairs of parallel scenes in the recent season 6 debut episode of Game of Thrones. These issues are of course shot through the entire series.

The screenshot above shows Tyrion Lannister attempting to bestow a coin on a beggar with a child, yet unable to speak her language.  Varys must complete the act of charity for him.  Tyrion has a conscience and compassion, but he’s smart enough to know that the city’s unrest can’t be solved by treating the symptoms.  He’s probably identifying with the smallest and most helpless person he finds on the steps of the beggars, epitomizing Hobbes’ principle that nothing is done without some shade of self-interest.  Moreover, his detachment as Varys must translate for him accurately models the cold distance of government welfare programs.  The morality of his act is understandable; we sympathize; but ultimately empty.

A direct analogue to this scene is not far to seek, as we catch up with Arya Stark, recently blind, reduced to destitution, rags, and a money-bowl.  Rather than a handout, she receives a beating with a quarterstaff from the Waif.  She has only words, at present, with which to defend herself: “I can’t see.”  Her antagonist isn’t buying: “That’s your problem, not mine.”  So much for handouts.  In fact, the Waif promises “See you tomorrow,” and leaves Arya the staff, presumably with which to practice for the next encounter.  What looks on the surface like an act of petty cruelty, I predict is actually an attempt to break Arya out of her cycle of dependence upon charity.  Clearly of mixed motive, Waif’s actions have no relation to the established moral level, and their good component belongs to the ethical realm only, serving a “greater good” than most people can see on the surface.  “Tough Love” is ethics in practice.

Second parallel.  Sansa Stark is rescued in the wilds by Brienne of Tarth, who formerly served her mother.  Brienne’s oath: “I will shield your back and keep your counsel and give my life for yours if need be.  I swear it by the old gods and the new.”  Sansa’s reply: “And I vow that you shall always have a place at my hearth, and meat and mead at my table, and I pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you dishonor.  I swear it by the old gods and the new.”  Vows and oaths, especially ones that can be learned by rote, are an artificial means of encouraging both moral and ethical commitments, and sometimes oathbreaking is punishable, as on the Wall.  So they occupy a sort of nether-ground between morals and ethics.  But my concern here is with the nature of this agreement.  First, notice it works both ways, as an exchange.  One might argue that Lady Stark has the better of the bargain, as her commitment involves no hazard to her life, as Brienne’s does.  Hers might even be claimed to be a token response; however, this is hardly true in the world of Westeros.  Aristocrats often demand immoral and dishonorable acts of their thanes, and maintain their very hearths and tables by those same acts.

As for the Maid of Tarth, it’s important to notice that her vows (accompanied by the laying of her sword at Sansa’s feet,) and her earlier commitment to her mother, are undertaken wholly voluntarily. We might, having witnessed the fate of Ned Stark in adhering to a standard of honor, worry about Brienne’s future in making such alliances.  There is one vital difference: Ned was essentially pressed into service as the Hand by King Robert, and forced to import a vulnerable code of behavior into a hostile environment at King’s Landing.  Brienne, by contrast, remains a free agent and bestows her service where and how she judges it is most needed and deserved.

If I can for a moment contrast their relationship to that of a modern day employer and employee, the analogy is not as tortured and uninstructive as it might first appear.  After all, Sansa offers sustenance in exchange for labor.  But what’s more useful is to notice what else is in this agreement that is absent today.  In offering to shield Sansa’s back, Brienne essentially promises not only competent service, but loyalty.  Ask any professional ball-player today what loyalty is, and you might be baffled by the response.  As for the average corporate or industrial employee, they might, not without legitimacy, reply that they don’t give any where they don’t receive any.  On the other side, Sansa’s pledge not to demand dishonorable acts might find little recognition in today’s competitive workplace.

So this reciprocity agreement, or quid pro quo, has a strong ethical component that many human relationships sorely lack.   If the reader doubts this, consider how other players engage in the Game of Thrones.  Jamie Lannister to his sister/lover Cersei: “Fuck prophecy, fuck Fate, fuck everyone who isn’t us. We’re the only ones who matter, the only ones in this world.  And everything they’ve taken from us we’re going to take back, everything and more.”

Our lives are infused with ethical problems, great and small, for which no “official” or actionable rules exist.  We receive guidelines and encouragements to “do the the right thing,” but no consequence exists for a multitude of transgressions. “Shall I take thirty seconds of my day to return the grocery cart to the corral, against the off chance that it will damage someone’s car and the certainty that someone else will have to collect it for me?”  As my common example suggests, the number of people out there operating in the world without any ethical sense, again demonstrating Thomas Hobbes’ claim that people only act out of selfish motivations, is high enough to cause concern.  Once the cart has served the shopper, she abandons it on the spot with no regard to the hazard it poses to others–there’s nothing in it for her, that she should bother with it any longer.

Because few people’s ethical commitment is as high as Brienne’s or Ned Stark’s (or Captain America’s,) a civilization must have a set of moral rules, in Westeros enforced by the Sparrows: “Sinners confess.”  Yet moral codes often reside in the custody of sadists, hypocrites, and people who believe they are personallyA  above the rules.  Hence the need for codes of honor, promises, and ethics.

Westeros, though clearly a land where moral codes function often to shield the actions of ambitious power-players and where ethics are rarely and cryptically rewarded, still may be offering us incentives to be more ethical in our own society.  On a visceral narrative level, we hate the bad (paradoxically “moral”) characters and, with as little love as some of the others may invoke, we are invited to explore how their motives might be put into better practice.

Students can especially benefit from training in how to distinguish the moral decisions and acts of fictional characters from ethical ones.  And these are visually observable as well as narratively.  In a late, brief moment absent from Steinbeck’s novel, for example, Tom Joad in John Ford’s screen adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath (1940) observes a water faucet that careless children have left running in the government camp.  He wordlessly shuts the tap and moves on.  An easily missed moment, and some audience members might puzzle at its inclusion.  Ford wants us to connect with how far Tom has come, ethically, from the man who bitterly smashed a whiskey bottle in the road in an early scene.  Who thinks of other people?  Conserving water, if only for a generation that might not appear on Earth a hundred years into the future, serves as a pertinent example of how ethical people may be far ahead of their time, spearheading good actions that only become moral imperatives, for the masses, at a late and convenient hour.

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Why Teachers Should Never Be Paid Anything, Ever

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by Ed Anger

If I only had a dollar for every dime an American educator rakes in. . .wait. . .ugh, let me start over.

Right, money. Teachers.  Money and teachers.  Seems almost criminal to put them together in a sentence.  Who ever authorized those yupsters to dip into their own pockets for classroom supplies like post-its, highlighters, Sharpies, pencils and crayons, staples, paper clips, notebooks, props and costume bits, not to mention treats for Halloween and Christmas, anyway?  Students ought to do without them–all those computers the school district provided aren’t there just to set your espresso on, you know.

And since time is money, likewise for any minutes whatsoever spent grading essays, exams, lesson preparation, professional development, parent meetings, tutoring, and all that, either after school or at night or on weekends.  That’s ridiculous.  Teachers should be out shopping the boutiques and mall stores for those luxuriant wardrobes they all seem to possess.

A young teacher, like a young artist, ought to live on the ragged edge of starvation.  When he can’t be offered hospitality, he’d best consider himself as “fasting,” cleansing both body and spirit, like a freshly mopped lavatory.

But (I can hear someone beginning a lecture,) “Teaching is a calling, like becoming a Jedi Knight–it takes the highest commitment.”  Bah.  It’s a gig.  They really ought to hold classes at night, so they can all work real day jobs and contribute to a responsible citizen’s tax bracket.

And what’s all this nonsense about irony, symbolism, lowest common denominator, long division, evolution, and debates about Pluto, anyway?  Computers, I say!  Fast ones.  Get on the train, people, or get off the tracks!  Not everybody gets summers–almost all of July and well into August, except for mandatory meetings, plus several Fall and Spring holidays like Veteran’s Day–off!  Who the heck, today, has the leisure minutes for long division?   And Pluto never fetched me my slippers!

Someone named Thoreau (Odin’s son in Norse mythology, as I recall.  Take that, Mrs. Spencer!) whined: money corrupts everything it touches.

He was right.  Benefit packages, retirement pensions, and that God-forsaken tenure should go, too.  Any CEO will tell you those are not normal.  Anyone who spends ten-twenty-five years in a job ought to grateful they still have it, not looking for more handouts.

Speaking of tenure, don’t even get me started on college professors.  What’s that?  Sure, most of them work part-time.  Right, adjuncts.  Those layabouts.

Grading countless dozens of essays, tutoring into the night, teaching semi-literate students in courses no one else wants, no office space, no benefits, little pay.  Every aspiring teacher should look at them and see the writing on the wall.  Change majors while you can, guys and dolls.  Meanwhile,  anyone with that level of masochism needs to jog down to the Psych Dept. and get herself a nice dose of free therapy.

 

[Contributor’s Note: Ed Anger freelances when and where he pleases, and can appear in any guise.]

 

Poem at Christmas, Inspired by a Reassimilated Astronomer

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By Shawn Stjean

A Ray, high in the window of East, flashing on this single patch of desert

Arrives Here and Now, a missive from a thousand years ago, or two.

A Wanderer stands, or kneels, or sprawls alone, only as sand or stars are alone,

Hurled by the fist of Cosmos,

Not haphazardly or forgotten.

Near Moons and Mountains eclipse,

Snow blankets,

Time and Tide part,

Shadows lurk at one’s heels, wading from shore of the terrestrial Sea.

But to eyes raised for the next Word, we wait in the clear.

Read the Book of our Song.

Thrust your arms–push off, past the weeds, drink, and breathe in.

Swim with us:

We Stuff of energy and matter, gravity syncing us in swirl.

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Vote For Something That Matters: Books!

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http://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2015

I try here at Clotho’s Loom to promote these guys a few times per year–they’ve done a lot to increase the visibility of Indie Authors, and I’ve never heard of them never asking for a dime from anyone.  Goodreads provides forums for writers and readers, hosts giveaways, allows one to rank books on any number of reader-generated lists, and make friends as with any other social media.

So take a few moments off from following those other less-vital campaigns, and see if you can’t discover your next several reads, while helping keep literacy alive in America.

P.S.  I don’t have a book in the running. . .this year. . .

Stephen Colbert Follows Suit; But Is the Joker a Card or a Player?

Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush chats with Stephen on the premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Tuesday Sept. 8, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Review by Google“>Shawn Stjean

It’s literally true that men’s suits are tailored too small these days, and visibly obvious as the veteran comedian struggles to fill the large seams of David Letterman’s/CBS’s Late Show.  For years following his apprenticeship as a correspondent on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, Colbert ran his own Comedy Central program back-to-back with Stewart’s, and the pairing guided liberals through the American media landscape with satire akin to a crime that, a few hundred years ago, anyone from Jonathan Swift to Benjamin Franklin’s brother could have been tossed into prison for.

Neither The Colbert Report nor The Daily Show ran perfectly: at just a half-hour per episode, four episodes per week (when we were lucky,) only four hours of content stood on offer, and half that devoted to increasingly lightweight interviews with authors promoting books, celebrities on junkets pimping movies, with an occasional human rights’ activist or even president thrown in.  But although a few real questions made it through, they were not often answered, with Stewart reduced to posting extra content online.  Still, these retirements left a couple of hours that America could ill-afford to lose: the foibles of politicians mocked, the mis-doings of the corporate power structure targeted.  I haven’t been this disappointed by a major player cashing out since Borders bookstores folded.  Colbert, in his persona as a staunch reactionary, remained impervious for a decade or so to the slippery slope we’re all on; meanwhile, his mentor couldn’t help but take it more personally.  Perhaps both men wished to move on before machinery of the 2016 election season really got cranked up: Trump and his clown-car of other knaves meant to distract us for a year and more from the real players dealing from the bottom of the deck.  I’m sure Stewart had grown weary of his part in the charade.  Meanwhile, Colbert, slightly shifted to the left and into the palatial Ed Sullivan Theater, remains in the game–sorta.

More great talent flushing.  Letterman wasn’t really kidding with all those jabs at “the Network” over the years.

Others will replace the discards, of course.  John Oliver, who stood in for Stewart-on-leave and now gets a half-hour per week on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, has proven something of a wild card.  He devotes a sustained 15-minutes (watch the program–this is more than anyone else) to one of our nation’s social problems, anything from the plight of chicken farmers to prison system injustices.  He doesn’t dilute the content with interviews, either; while these must have been the cost of doing business on basic cable, HBO can afford the ante.

But it appears as if Stephen Colbert has begun to tread the path of greats like Drew Carey and Craig Ferguson, whose diminution into ever-lower-stakes venues confront us all with the cost of extended play, even when The Price Is Wrong.  His expanded format requires Colbert to interview even more now, and even though his presence is edgier than Letterman’s (he and Oliver flipped each other the bird this week,) and he has the cred to draw celebrities with the gravitas of Tom Hanks now, it’s mostly going to consist of “good fun.”  At least he’s retired the worn-out Letterman staples such as the Top Ten list–and viewers may miss Dave’s flannel, dry wit and relentless repetition of a gag until the laughs came.  Stephen, by contrast, flashes like sharkskin and shows as many teeth.  It’s part of his schtick to represent himself as wealthy enough to buy the pot, but I have to wonder if the muscles at the corners of his mouth aren’t already aching, his armpits chafing.  How long can he keep up the bluff?

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British Infiltration: Rockers Ryker Sear, Lux Lisbon Fight the War for Discoverability

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Ryker Sear is fronted by Regan Vincenza and James Torselli

Review by Google“>Shawn Stjean

I’m about as far from a London music-scene insider as an introverted teacher from east-coast US with few social media connections can be; and yet, they found me.  And if these up-and-coming bands can root me out and evoke a review, they’re a lot closer to the mainstream than maybe even they know.  That’s the beauty of the great artistic endeavor in the 21st century: if you’re a writer, a painter or illustrator, a musician, a prophet or pundit–whether you’ve got battle scars or henna tattoos–you can scream your message to a global audience.   If you’ve got the the talent, the brains, and the balls–not necessarily in that order–then dare to deafen the masses!

I admit I’m a little concerned over the ultra-competitive gene such an electronically facilitated/driven marketplace will breed into the DNA of the younger generation.  Social Darwinism is never pretty, and social-media-darwinism (SMD) won’t likely class it up (“she with the most friends, wins”).  But maybe there are enough followers to go around.

Sure, you’ll have to give your art away for awhile, which is how they found me.  But ask yourself: is that any worse than an office internship, or signing five figures deep into student loans, or pulling an oar on the good ship EvilCorp until your passage is paid?  As Lux Lisbon themselves put it, “Money doesn’t make a man a man.”

Maybe it’s worthwhile to describe the tactics by which this war can be fought by the guerrilla non-elite.  My publishing imprint has a Twitter account which is completely automated, to the extent that all I do is choose people and entities to follow back–and if they have anything to do with books, or art in general, I do.  That way, I don’t dilute the imprint “@GlasDaggrePubs” with a bunch of unrelated connections–hoping to attract more writers and artists.  Now, the folks across the pond, being undoubtedly more savvy at the game than I, followed me, and I followed back.  They then thanked me with a follow-up reachout, by name, and offered a link to some free tunes–which I ignored.  Here’s the key: persistence.  The next day, Stu from Lux Lisbon e-mailed me directly, with a cleverly worded message that the link had been broken, but would now work.  A harmless fabrication, there, I suspect.  But, I decided to spare the bandwidth for their new EP, which is routed through their website with plenty of YouTube video links.  Never a single Ask for money.  And now, the crucial requirement, without which no amount of promotion can save an artist:  Much as one would do with a car radio, I decided to give three songs only a listen–for about thirty seconds each.  If nothing grabbed me in that amount of time, case-closed and on to the next thing.  Well, on the third random press of the old electronic jukebox button, “Show Me the Money” got its hooks into me.  So yeah, the talent end of the equation is, and always will be, the necessary bullet in the gun.

Standouts from the Get Some Scars EP include “Demons You Show” (good enough to feature an alternate, acoustic duet version to anchor the album) and “The Devil Got Me Dancing” (instant classic–trust me.)  Stuart Rook and Charlotte Austen trade lyrics clearly influenced by early Springsteen in their relentless resistance to one-and-two syllable words, but more importantly, simplistic meaning. Someone in this outfit happens to be an inventive videographer, as well, and they’re tech-literate enough to offer multiple download formats for all your devices. Check it: http://luxlisbon.com/

A year earlier, the initial process followed by Regan from Ryker Sear had not, details aside, been dissimilar.  She kindly offered me some merch when I wrote to praise a the free video (and remember, I’m nobody special) which I declined on principle until I could at least write a review (both bands have cannily maintained online stores–I agree, screw the middle-man, he earned nothing!)  And, that last vital requirement reveals itself: you’ve gotta be deadly patient–I mean Viet-Cong patient.  Discovery happens, but like songwriting–any kind of writing–it’s slow process and one-soldier-at-a-time recruitment.

Ryker Sear have got HD videos up on Vevo: http://www.vevo.com/watch/ryker-sear/to-the-ending/QMGR31402673 Soundcloud:https://soundcloud.com/rykersear and of course the inevitable YouTube host through their own site: http://www.rykersear.com/ “To the Ending” alone is a great track, a great music video, and deserves airplay here in the States better than 90% of what’s getting it on the commercial stations glutted with tired 80s/90s recycled junk that never was very good in the first place. “Forever Criminal” makes a worthy follow-up. Unlike the lyric-agile tongue-twisting and acousti-fused material of Lisbon, Regan Vincenza’s voice weights her tunes in equal proportion with a punchy percussion and juiced-guitar riffs that will make Sear‘s body of work more appealing to the traditional rock crowd.  Their EP is 2012’s Tell Me Why, with free single release “Forever Criminal” promised for this October 13.  The material of either band may not sound fully cooked in the ears of music-industry professionals, but then again, it hasn’t been commodified, homogenized, and neutered yet by pros, either.

Remember, youngsters, you may not be raking in much on the front end, but you’re also not paying a mortgage payment to the Man in promotional fees, letting an agent take his blood-pound, or signing deals that will lock you up for another three albums, like the rock legends of old had to do.

As for you fans, you need to know that these guys have fanbases still modest enough in size to be appreciated, up close and personal.  Write the band members–they write back!  Years from now, as every twerp with an iPhone17 is bragging to his pals about his great musical taste, you’ll be able to say you’ve been following the greats since the 20-teens.

Do your best, and the money takes care of itself.  Heat the oven, and the bread will bake.  Or, as I like to opine when in a metaphor-mixing mood, sweat always rises to the top.

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Lux Lisbon is Stuart Rook, Charlotte Austen, Tom Cooper, Jamie Shaw. EP cover.

Evil Archetypes of Pop Culture: Satyrs, Succubi, and Other Sexual Predators/Book Review: Crea DelRand’s “Lure of the Prairie Monster” and Monster Erotica

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King Kong (2005) can be read as symbolic landscape hosting the battle between reptilian/predatory aspect of the Freudian Id and the life-force aspect of the Id.

Review by Google“>Shawn Stjean

For this eighth entry into the blog’s most popular essay series, I’d like to change up the format and combine a review of a particular writer’s work with my more general, cultural analysis.

First, as you read what follows, you must understand one thing.  I’m a man.  Which means: it’s okay if I’m completely wrong after this sentence ends; just don’t expect me to admit it.

As deep as we all are into the era of postmodernism, when a “new” genre gains popularity, it’s a safe bet that it addresses some old need in a refreshed manner, rather than having recognized a facet of human nature no one’s ever uncovered before.  The rise of Monster or Creature Erotica in not only the marginalia of video game and porn sites, but in the mainstream book culture, signals such a resurgence.

One of the most overlooked episodes of Homer’s eighth-century B.C. epic the Odyssey, excised from most high-school textbooks, concerns the adventure of the protagonist on the isle of Circe, the witch/exiled goddess.  Pedigreed as the daughter of the sun, we may safely infer that the Olympians have not banished her because she conforms to their idea of a “good girl.” Hermes, whose phallic stone herms can to this day be found all over the peninsula, explicitly instructs Odysseus to threaten Circe with his sword and rape her (though most translators employ poetic euphemisms).  Turns out, however, that Circe is a willing victim, and much of her mysterious power blooms from yonic symbolism–the island itself, her voice, her weaving, her drugs that turn men into beasts.  A full year after his “victory,” the hero is still there, in what his men call a “trance,” and the crew must nearly riot to tear him from her arms.  Although Homer casts the details more subtly than most mythmakers, overall this looks like a satyr/naiad seduction of a mortal (or incubus/succubus, if you prefer more medieval terms.)  We humans constantly wage cold war with the demands of our Freudian Ids, (to complete my jargon-journey into the twentieth century,) and they, as incarnations of powerful desire, are absolutely capable of knocking us down, sucking the air from our lungs, and drowning us–at least for a time.  And, most frighteningly, all without us necessarily acknowledging it’s happening, at the conscious level.

Now, the shadowy Id–often mischaracterized as our “evil” self–also comprises our very life force, the power that gets us out of bed in the morning, keeps us seeking and striving and sowing and reaping all day, so its cyclical ascendance over the ego (our manufactured identity) and superego (our “moral” self) needn’t be a terrible thing.  If we can break the spell.

DelRand’s story (packaged as an inexpensive e-book on Amazon and other e-tailers, and sampled on her over-18 blog https://creadelrand.wordpress.com/) treads the edge between fantasy and realism, as undoubtedly much of the genre does. Heroine Tess isn’t fulfilled by her sexual encounters with “ordinary” men.  To be clear, the problem lies in intimacy and sensitivity, not physical dysfunction or performance issues.  A century ago, her dissatisfaction would have been diagnosed by male doctors as some variety of female pathology: frigidity, perhaps, or nymphomania.  I suspect the genre’s writers–many of whom are women, though pseudonyms abound–have often used this motif as a convenient plot device. However, monster erotica can be interpreted, as here, in the vein of social criticism.  Our culture groups its inhabitants in so many ways: by race, religion, ideology, age, income bracket.  Naturally gender and sexual orientation could not escape polarization, either.  Tess’ tale begins post-coitus with her lover, an alpha-type who’d rather break up with her than confront her unarticulated needs, lest he have to confront some inadequacy of his own.

DelRand swells the fantasy structure in her second act, when Tess awakens–minor SPOILER follows–to find herself grown to many times the size of her “small self” (a phrase I read as code for “inhibited, repressed, oppressed self”).  Now she can mate with the titular monster, described by locals as “Godzilla” but suggested by the narrator more in terms of a giant primate, like King Kong.  Thus can her empathy and identification with him as Other be <ahem> worked out.  She’s been, after all, complained of by her erstwhile boyfriend as a kind of monster herself.  So, while for the local (male) farmers the roaming monster could be a psychological projection of some other evil, for Tess–I don’t think this too much of a stretch–he functions as a means to embrace and love her wild, Jungian animus: her own male side.  However, the ending of the tale comes, perhaps like sex itself, predictably and yet a bit abruptly–dare I say unsatiatingly.  But maybe that’s the point.

One need not embrace theoretical feminism to recognize the tragedy of a culture that pollutes something as natural as sex, to the extent that many normally functioning adult males will admit to having tried Viagra for no reason beyond innocent curiosity.  The problem comes down to the fact that few men and women talk openly about sex: why pornography centers around the penis but rarely features male faces, for example, or why its dominant fetishization is so often facial ejaculation.  Who could blame a woman who interpreted this cliche’ climax as revealing a lust for degrading domination of women, perhaps out of frustration over his powerlessness in other aspects of life (like the competitive workplace.)  It’s just as likely that a man’s base instinct to enjoy such an act comes out of the same deep-seated need for total acceptance by his partner.

Vulnerability over the need for acceptance and love seems obvious when considering women (threat of rape, 9-month extended periods of pregnancy, regular menstruation being accepted parts of daily life) but not so much for men.  Yet DelRand approaches it with the male line “You need so much. I can’t give you enough. You know, it’s terrifying to a man to be with a woman who needs more than he does.”  As a man with many male friends, however, and at the risk of burying the point, I’d urge this writer to resist and revise such mouthpiece material.  Most of us guys would have lashed out, in various stages of anger or frustration or humor, “You’re such a horny bitch/wench/slut!” (a slur being the quickest way to defuse someone else’s legitimate complaints/requests, and evocative of a ever-present double-standard).

So, from my admittedly limited engagement with the genre, the monster-porn fantasy seems to me to fulfill the unconscious female desire to regress the male into his simpler, more primitive form, one perhaps less verbally articulate but more intuitively responsive, undamaged by the demands of his acculturated ego.  Also, of course, as the still from King Kong hints, the feminine need for security, safety and protection by males (correction–the right male) from violent, unsavory predators seems equally served by such fantasies.  DelRand’s monster folding Tess into his gentle palm, an homage to the famous effect from the Kong movies, illustrates this need. In short, there’s a lot more going on than sex here.

Perhaps it’s a dangerous assumption that the target audience for such non-violent erotica is primarily female, but the subject is too broad not to limit it somehow.

For those interested, the subject of fantasy sex need not be male-forbidding.  Jon Norman’s underground 1970s-and-beyond Gor series–a counter-Earth orbiting the opposite side of our sun–explores many of these themes from a man’s perspective, especially of sexually inhibited men and women freed of cultural brainwashing.  Though not technically of the more recent Monster Erotica subgenre, this sci-fi set of cult classics–particularly the first half-dozen of the series–might strike a chord with fans, though undoubtedly too masculinist and chest-thumping for many in the  audience, a sort of analog to the Harlequin Romance.

By the way, some of these authors produce their more mainstream fiction under other identities, for reasons of the marketplace.  I imagine this to be an excellent means of stretching one’s writerly muscles: sex, especially, is notoriously hard to write without invoking unintentional laughter (as many anxiety-causing topics do, cf. gallows humor).  It makes sense, then, that purposeful humor would be a staple of these stories–and a good laugh vents repression and discomfort, too. So it’s a genre meant to be fun.

Well into the nineteenth century, novels themselves–any fiction–were a source of guilty pleasure in Europe and America.  A gentleman would either posture himself as above such “nonsense,” or at minimum be discreet enough to hide such books among the compartments of his home.  Certainly wives and daughters would have the decency to conceal theirs.  And now, as then, if fiction were more compelling and attractive than truth, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Purchase links:

http://www.amazon.com/Lure-Prairie-Monster-Crea-DelRand-ebook/dp/B00UGSWQOE/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lure-of-the-prairie-monster-crea-delrand/1121318957?ean=9781483551050

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