I appreciate that is rather like saying ‘don’t stick beans up your nose’ but I am seriously suggesting people don’t read it. It is (I assume unintentionally) a nasty violent sexual assault fantasy with overtones of child abuse. I doubt that is what John C. Wright intended, indeed I imagine he may think of it as morally uplifting but the finished product is bad both morally and as a piece of writing and even by the standards of John C. Wright. I’d say it is easily the most repugnant piece of writing of his I’ve read.
A summary and discussion below the fold.
The story is set in a future with humans and robotic artificial intelligences. The specific setting is an interview between two characters. One is a human who for most of the story is pretending to be a robot. The other is a robot who believes that it is human. The deluded robot character is an inspector of robots cast as a kind of inquisitor character supposedly judging whether new robots are thinking correctly. Most of the story is a dialogue between the two, which amounts to a kind of mashed up mess of John C. Wright’s views on morality, creation and artificial intelligence. The deluded robot character speaks for Wright’s strawman versions of what he thinks leftwing people think and the human advances versions of Wright’s positions. As arguments go it is insipid. Neither argues well and the positions get hopelessly confused because Wright needs a setting in which the deluded robot has to think it is human and that humans are essentially robots but that robots are inferior, while the human has to point out the things Wright sees as flaws in post-medieval thinking while ignoring the more overt stupidity of the deluded robots thinking.
I guess if Wright had kept to the exchange of fallacies he’d have created nothing worse than we’ve read before. His views are confused and reactionary and frequently poorly expressed but he is capable of insight and some depth of thinking.
It is the other aspects of the story that make it far more repugnant.
The human (pretending to be a robot) Wright calls a ‘girl’. Whether he means a young woman or a child isn’t clear but he goes on to describe her primarily in sexual ways. The description is more of a mish-mash of adjectives but casts her as both ‘buxom’ and as having a ‘slender torso’. He also rolls out ‘pulchritudinous’ and ‘callipygous’ (having a nice bottom). The woman/girl (who is naked throughout) is described at various points as making a gesture that is both like here ‘impersonating a school girl’ and like ‘a coquette’s seductive gesture’. The character’s appearance and gestures are repeatedly cast as being sexy and childish in a way that I would have hoped friends of Wright would have pointed out is at best (and being as charitable as possible) creepy.
Even more weirdly, while the deluded robot argues for the position diametrically opposed to Wright’s, he is also given a description, not unlike Wright: ‘tall, somewhat florid and soft about the face, with two chins and sagging cheeks’. Throughout the deluded robot speaks in a pompous, sanctimonious tone that is inevitably reminiscent of Wright’s own.
As the story proceeds the deluded robot whips the woman/girl about her buttocks, demands sex and then finally murders her.
Having read too much of what Wright has written, I can see how he ended up writing something quite so sickening. I don’t understand how friends or supporters of his would think this is a story that Wright should have published or disseminated.
The ‘how’ is that Wright’s writing has deteriorated and that his views of what stories should contain have become so ossified that his stories have to have a heroine that conforms to what he regards as feminine virtues (including being both chaste and sexy and innocent and beguiling) and a villain who must encompass all the things he sees as modern vices, and that a heroine who, if she isn’t rescued by a dashing hero, has to instead die like an early Christian martyr in defence of both her faith and virginity. If Wright was a better writer maybe all of those pieces could have been combined into a story where the nastiness was more deeply hidden in sub-text. Instead, he’s created something that creates an impression of some sort of personal sex-murder fantasy.
I assume that the Rabids and the Rabid adjacent Superversive people (who overlap in the ‘God Robot’ anthology this story is from) hope that Hugo voters will be outraged by the ideological critique in the story. I can only imagine that is what they were focused on when they decided to nominate this. Instead, they’ve decided to highlight a story that reads like some dark, disturbing fragment of Wright’s id.
Ugly, nasty. Like I said, don’t read it. I wish I hadn’t.