Don’t read the John C. Wright story in the Hugo Packet

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.

 

 

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39 comments

  1. Mark

    Apparently I’m really bad at taking good advice.

    Ugh, pass the brain bleach.

    (Is the wrightquisitor going pop at the end meant to show that if JCW had fallen for our foolish leftish ways he’d have gone pop once he inevitably saw his error? On second thoughts, let’s not think about it too much)

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  2. William R.

    “He also rolls out ‘pulchritudinous’ and ‘callipygous’ (having a nice bottom).”

    Some children are fond of security blankets. Wright, on the other hand, seems to hold dear his security thesaurus. I imagine that he never leaves his bed without strapping it to himself like a nuclear football.

    Not long ago, I left a comment at File 770 saying that I’ve never gone out of my way to read Wright’s stuff–I’ll catch a linked blog post here and there, but I’ve never read any of his fiction outside of what I’ve seen quoted elsewhere–but it struck me that I’ve rarely seen him use contractions. It’s a minor stylistic choice that doesn’t really play into *what* he says, but it struck me as a fairly transparent attempt to come across as more scholarly than he really is: nothing can be informal; even a brief blog comment has to double as an academic essay. His sesquipedalian loquaciousness only adds to this impression. There’s a difference between proper grammar and pomposity.

    Of course, my exposure to his work is more limited than any of yours, so take my impression for what it’s worth. All I can say is that even if I were inclined to agree with his message, his presentation would still roll my eyes far enough back for me to see my own brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lurkertype

      Nope, you’ve got it right. (There, a 5 word sentence containing 2 things JCW would never write even in a blog comment.)

      “Security thesaurus” is a perfect description. He never uses one word when he could use two, and never a short word when a long one might almost kinda fit.

      Has anyone had the misfortune to talk to him IRL? Is he that pompous in conversation? I bet he is. He must be SO insecure about his intellect/education. Gotta be tiring.

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      • ligne

        that’s something that Fred Clark (of the Slacktivist blog) commented in his review of the Left Behind books.

        when the authors introduce the Satan character he’s described as always fully expanding words where lesser people would use contractions, and how this is a sign of how eloquent he is. Clark pointed out that it’s often the opposite: it tends to come across as the behaviour of someone who isn’t quite confident enough to use the language idiomatically.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jenora Feuer

    ‘buxom’ … ‘slender torso’ … ‘pulchritudinous’ … ‘callipygous’

    Is Mr. Wright aware that ‘Hartman hips’ are mostly a cartoon thing as a form of deliberate caricature?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Doris V. Sutherland

    A colleague and I were reading his novel Somewhither together. We saw a chapter that ended with these two paragraphs and we were all “uh, wow”:

    “She made a noise of irritation in her nose, and yanked her hand out of my grip. Or tried to. All that happened was that it made her shrug her shoulders, which caused a jiggle to travel down the curves of her half-naked and all-wet body, and she made a little gasp that sounded unintentionally sensuous.

    When she yanked, it was like yanking against a stone statue, and this made her shoulders tilt one way and her hips tilt the other, displaying her figure to her best advantage. It was almost as if nature designed women to look good struggling in a man’s grasp.”

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      • Doris V. Sutherland

        More from Somewhither:

        “One of the girls stepped forward, knelt and bowed her head to the ground, so her generous cleavage was well displayed a moment before her lovely hair was on the floorstones, and her hips, round and pink as the lobes of a peach, we’re hoisted aloft behind.
        ‘Master, I am Urad-Betti.’
        ‘Please get off the ground, Betty. I am an American, and we are all equal to everyone else, and a damn sight better than most. Don’t bow to me.’
        She straightened up, so that she knelt with her hips over her ankles, her feet tucked under her. She had been trained to sit with her shoulders back, so that the fabric of her tunic strained against the swell of her pert bosom. I put her age at maybe sixteen. Old enough to wear lipstick, and, if her parents were permissive, to stay out until eleven. No later.”

        In fairness, the main character *is* a teenage boy ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    • Lurkertype

      Holy crap, Doris. That is, uh… yeah.

      (PS for your upcoming book, don’t forget the Lovecraft decon- and reconstruction of novella “Litany of Earth” [which I think was kept off the ballot by shenanigans] and the new sequel novel “Winter Tides”.)

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  5. Doris V. Sutherland

    (By the way, on the age thing: I’m not sure if you picked up on this, but the woman is meant to be Brigitte Helm’s character in Metropolis. Helm was apparently in her late teens when the film was made, although she could eadily have passed for a twentysomething)

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    • Mark

      If so, that’s decidedly odd – Helm wasn’t buxom at all, and she doesn’t seem to fit his descriptions in general. I suspect we’re getting JCWs id on the page again…oh dear, pass the brain bleach back.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Cora

      This makes sense, since Brigitte Helm’s character Maria/Robo-Maria in Metropolis is the perfect dichotomy between saintly (and presumably virginal) madonna and shimmy dancing robo-whore, which should appeal to Wright. She also really appears to have been in her teens, because silent and early sound era cinema had no issues placing teen girls in heavily sexualised roles they would never be cast in today. However, she wasn’t buxom, because buxom women were not fashionable in the 1920s.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lurkertype

        IOW, she/they are dialed right in to his perviness — if only she had giant gazongas. So he fan fic’d.

        Pretty sure there’s at least one movie out there titled “Robo-Whore”, not to mention all that have such in them, from Metropolis to Ex Machina.

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  6. Lurkertype

    So, he who fulminates that the evul libruls have ruined everything with sex and violence writes a story all about violent pedophilia?

    A right-winger is projecting?

    Might as well have said, “Sun appears to rise in east, water is wet, cats are strong-willed.”

    I am taking Camestros’ advice and giving sympathy to all those who read it. Nobody’s gonna notice the bad pontificating about ideology when a girl is beaten and murdered.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JJ

    Well, despite having given myself a pass from ever having to waste any more time on Puppy crap, because this story is so short, I was going to read it anyway.

    But this… I just don’t understand how someone who professes so loudly to be so Christian can write pedophiliac fiction which sexualizes and abuses girls. And I can’t for the life of me fathom why his spouse would see nothing wrong with it — I’d have been headed for divorce court a long time ago. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lurkertype

      Doesn’t he have one or more daughters as well? And here he is out encouraging the culture that causes men to leer at them when underage.

      It’s like the old Hays Code in movies — you could only show “degeneracy” as long as it was punished in the end. Naturally, the movies did as much as they could get away with, and then the “bad” people were killed or jailed in the last scene of the movie. Meanwhile, you’d had 1.5-2 hours of “prurient” fun.

      The Mrs. defends such unthinkable positions that I can only figure it’s Stockholm Syndrome, which happens to a lot of conservative women.

      I don’t understand many things about Puppies, but that Mrs. JCW sticks with him and his misogyny, and Mrs. Brad sticks with him and his fellow-traveling with a guy who thinks she’s sub-human… that I really don’t get except that there’s fear and co-dependency and maybe financial reasons.

      Me, I’d change the locks, throw his stuff out on the lawn, and hire the best divorce lawyer in town.

      Thankfully I chose wisely and married a sensible man who’s never cruel, racist, homophobic, perverted, and only sexist by omission, ignorance, and enculturation — but he’s gotten a lot better in the past few years. He’s never mansplained at me and now recognizes it in other men. When I point out sexist things, he’ll think about it and go “Huh. I didn’t see that but yeah.” He’s pretty woke for a SWM. He has less hair and more pounds than when we met, but I still wuv him. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Space Oddity

        I’ll be honest with you–I’d find this stuff less worrying if it were straight up pornography. It would rank a “yeesh” and a quiet hope that the author is just getting his kinks out this way. But this is more disturbing, because it thinks it isn’t porn, and, to paraphrase Croenberg, because it has a philosophy. Stuff like this, you can only wonder just how deep the rot goes.

        Liked by 3 people

  8. Stevie

    Thank you for your efforts on this. In future, an amendment to ‘read neither the story nor comments upon it unless you have cornered the market in brain bleach’ would be helpful. In the meantime I’m going back to my T. Kingfisher short story collection to disinfect my mind…

    Liked by 2 people

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