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Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2003 08:25:25 -0800
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: Re: (urth) DOORS: The hive-like society

Adam Stephanides wrote:
>I may be forgetting something again, but I don't remember getting the
>impression that unmarried men were in grave danger, Al Bailey's fate
>notwithstanding.  In any case, marrying for the reason you suggest is
>trading possible death for certain death, which seems to me like a bad

Whoops, we've lost track of the point that the men are marrying for love,
the women are marrying for socially sanctioned reproduction.  (Then again,
maybe I'm wrong on that supposition.)

>> This then is the social contract.  The man gives up the doll when he
>> marries: his wife becomes his "goddess," the one that the doll was
>> preparing him for.
>I haven't yet reread TAD, but I was looking through it, and I came across a
>couple of things which cause problems for your scenario.  The woman at the
>haberdashery tells Green that her father had still owned a doll after he was
>married. (125)  A bodyguard sees Tina and tells Green "You got one of those?
>I used to have one myself." (303)  This seems to me an unlikely remark if
>most boys own dolls: sort of like saying "You went to school as a kid?  So
>did I."  Then there's the doll hospital.  Your theory would imply that most
>of the people who leave their dolls there to be repaired get married soon
>afterwards (since you say men keep their dolls until marriage).  And the
>shopkeeper refers to the typical client as a "boy," not a man (9).

Strange (or maybe "predictably"?), I see those quotes you give in a
different light entirely.  Let's re-imagine the doll as an infant pacifier
to heighten the effect.  The haberdashery woman makes (or makes up) her
embarrassing admission in order to paper over her customer's socially
strange behavior -- she is trying to say there is nothing embarrassing
about it, but to me her actions speak louder than her words.  The
bodyguard's line is more pointed, and less to me the "You went to school .
. . ?" you see it as than a "Yea, I had a binky once . . . as a baby."  As
for the shop keeper, I don't think I take the term "boy" as literally as
you seem to: while I don't take it in the sense of a derogatory term for an
oppressed class (i.e., "boy" used by whites for adult black males), I tend
toward seeing it an affected form of shop talk.

Then again, if we could translate "malicapata" as "he performed his own
unmanning and died as a result," and we could establish that this was a
typical consequence of goddess worship (seems easy enough), and such
selfish suicide was widespread in Otherworld, many pieces would fall
together.  But that is a new topic for a different post.

I do not insist that all dolls belonged to pre-bridegrooms, nor that only
men give them up.  I am trying to solve the puzzle of why we are told more
than once that Otherworld women become destructively violent at the sight
of a man with his doll.

Which brings us to the question of how could species-perpetuating
reproduction happen if it is literally suicide for the male?  (Granted that
spiders and bees and ants and all sorts of others do it this way.)  It
seems to me that some men would mate/die for Love (Eros) along the goddess
worshiping lines, and others might mate/die for suicide (Thanatos) . . . so
what is the suicide rate among men?  What if this number were channeled
into fertilization programs, where each one donated enough zygotes for a
woman to have many more than 25 offspring?  (How many more, anyway?  Total
50?)  Could this suicidal minority support the species?  Seems possible.

So what do all the men do?  The married ones do not seem to be secluded in
harems or anything: Joe is a boxer.  (To spell it out: Jennifer is afraid
he will die in the ring rather than in her arms.)  In the parade we seem to
see men as soldiers, men as politicians giving each other flowers and
cigars, so they can fulfill these roles, too, and the text is silent over
whether or not marriage is required.

(Back to the street parade: My supposition is that a married man would not
be allowed to watch that parade, somehow; and/or if a married man was
targeted by the ice queen, she would see his wedding band and ignore him,
i.e., de-target him, and probably signal the police to pull him out of the
parade for public drunkenness.  But this is just supposition.)

About the "Family Maintenance" bill in Otherworld Congress, Adam wrote:
>I'd forgotten that quote.  But while it proves the existence of
>"super-mothers," it seems to tell more against than in favor of your theory
>as a whole.  Powerful groups are rarely targeted for involuntary
>sterilization; note also that the bill has been vetoed, meaning that it had
>passed Congress.  It's more likely that the motive for the bill is similar
>to that of extreme right-wing proposals in this world to sterilize "welfare
>mothers": that children in such large families are likely to be badly reared
>and/or drains on the public purse.

Really?  I thought that Microsoft/Bill Gates was targeted for
"sterilization" precisely because of power.  (Since I'm stressing the
sociopolitical power of motherhood in Otherworld I think it is misleading
to think of "eugenics" programs against non-elites in our world.)

(Hmmm.  I saw "family maintenance" as translating to "making families
available to more women"; a broadening of the franchise.  You posit "family
maintenance" as meaning "maintain or restore the strength of the family by
limiting its size," if I understand it correctly.  And supposing that
political talk translates at all!)

But I see no evidence of a welfare system at all in TAD.  I do not see
motherhood in Otherworld as stigmatized in any way -- to the contrary, it
seems to be something so alluring that women (not all, mind you) are
willing to commit murder.  So while I can see your eugenics reading, I
cannot see the social situation it seems to rely upon; otoh, the eugenics
reading does not address the drive of Otherworld women to become mothers
when it is not entirely a biological necessity.

I'm happy you can see the "super-mothers," although I'd rather you see them
as just the mothers that I think they are.  I sense that you still cannot
see the rather desperate pre-mothers: Gloria Brooks (maybe), the ice queen
(definitely), and even Fanny.  I don't think we actually meet any
Otherworld mothers in the text, but we certainly meet two pre-mothers.
There is also wife Jennifer, of course, and her tempered but present drive.

If you want the line about the bill to be just a "Planet of the Apes" gag
to get across the alien side of Otherworld, (women with zygote holding
tanks; mothers who routinely birth more than 25 children) I can see that
without argument.

>And I don't think the bill, if passed, would have increased the number of
>male deaths.  It's true that, to keep the rate of population growth fixed,
>more men would have to become fathers.  But I don't recall any indication
>that the society is aiming for such a fixed target; and men aren't coerced
>to become fathers, though there is presumably social pressure to do so.

"Social pressure" like the ice-queen float in the parade?  "Coercion" like
that implied when the ice queen says, "I'm not one of those people who put
a gun to your head . . . If you should change your mind"?  Or the naked
coercion when she  goes after him with a knife? (23)  Is the following
passage indicative of social pressure or coercion?: [Dr. Pille talking
about the ice queen incident and why Green was diagnosed as an "alcoholic"
which the hospital workers call "sex change"] "Breach of promise is quite
serious, as you must know. If I had said you were sound except for your
concussion, you'd have been taken to another hospital, and eventually to
prison.  By classifying you as an alcoholic, I was able to keep you at
United and keep you off of psychoactive drugs" (101).

(The dark humor: by rights, Green should have been sent to the hospital
prison for his [ignorant] behavior, yet North, with his violent rap sheet
and ties to secret societies, has still been assigned to the simple
hospital.  Shows the social weighting of their crimes, I supppose.)

But I think we can agree that TAD is not at its core about population
growth, be it "Malthusian nightmare" ala Harrison's MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM
(where sterilization becomes a tool to tame overpopulation), or its
opposite, the infertility crisis die-off.

Since Adam Stephanides and Roy Lackey have both rejected my sense that
there are non-virginal gays in Otherworld, it may well be that they are
right.  (I thought that there was something other than tears that would
activate a sexually arousing doll.)  Maybe I read too much Delany as a
teenager, but the gay substratum seemed to me to be more than Green
avoiding a (what I suppose to be gay) proposition on Earth (207), and Green
saying "I'm not gay" to the antique-collecting woman (233).  (I could have
sworn Green said it another time earlier on in Otherworld, but I can't find
it now.)  And more than just TAD being a novel written in the 1980s where
sex = death for men.

But still, to make my point clear even as I recognize that it may not be
supported by the text: I thought that Sheng was offering a garden of
Earthly Delights in his "paradise" underground (with all those mattresses),
that it was "Sheng's Grotto" with more than tea, opium, and playing cards
being offered (note the "male root" given -- so Green can get "males"?).
Sheng as a panderer to sensual pleasures not offered by above ground
society.  "Welcome to the Underground," as it were.

In addition to that, I find something very shady about North witnessing Al
Bailey's "doing" by Gloria Brooks . . . that he would be so passive when
his friend/recruit is being killed seems odd.

(More about Bailey: since the post-coitus/post-ejaculation death is more
like dying by AIDS, then how come Bailey is an instant KIA?  Well maybe
some guys do shuffle off in the big O . . . or maybe she just gave him the
mercy killing with a pillow, a murder the victim would not resist, knowing
that it was merciful.  Explains that whole "gun to the head" thing: like
Theresa Russell's line in, iirc, "The Black Widow" -- "Are you going to
die, or are you going to die happy?")

So then I started wondering if North wasn't perhaps gay.  He might have
been going to have a tryst with Al (lethal or otherwise), with "bum a
cigarette" as the cover story for others.  North might have killed Bailey
(he certainly seems homicidal enough with Green, even in nonsexual
situations) and then blamed it on Gloria: after all, North is the witness
and we know how crazy he is.

A lot of North's behavior strikes me as being homo erotic, but then again
much alpha male behavior strikes me the same way (again, too much Delany?
Too much William Burroughs.).

(To guard against reading homo eroticism where none is present, I was just
now trying to remember that quote where Paul Newman is drunkenly saying to
va-va-voom wife Elizabeth Taylor something like "Is it wrong for two guys
to like each other, is that a crime?"  But whoops!  That's Tennessee
Williams.   I'm doomed.)

Ejaculation as the death-trigger, I can see that easily enough.  And yet,
wow, what a  Catholic Christian utopia nightmare!  No
fornication, no auto eroticism, sexual congress is performed one time for
reproductive purposes.

(Oh yeah, another reason why Otherworld women might resent the goddess: she
is not a goddess of motherhood, she is a goddess of love -- her whole deal
is multiple lovers, a trait which would not fit well in Otherworld society.)

Enough wheel-spinning on this retread.  Onward to Attis!



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