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Jordan Derek Hartnett
Posted on Saturday, February 10, 2007 - 11:59 am:   

Mr. Van Gelder,

Besides science fiction & fantasy, what do you like to read?

What magazines are your favorite to read outside of the science fiction & fantasy genres?

Thank you,

Jordan Hartnett
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Saturday, February 10, 2007 - 05:44 pm:   

My guess would be GVG subscribes to Cannibal Cuisine Quarterly, then reads slush. :-)

Dave
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Saturday, February 10, 2007 - 06:49 pm:   

The stuff John Joseph Adams puts on his desk.

Matt Hughes
Majestrum
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 02:38 am:   

Matt Joked: "The stuff John Joseph Adams puts on his desk."

Good one, Matt! :-)

Dave

PS: Aside (for JJA); John, were you ever published in CLA (Contemporary Literary Criticism) back in the 80's?
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 08:51 am:   

I inherited eclectic reading tastes and if I had all the time in the world to read, I'd probably be reading more popular science books (esp. natural history), more noir crime novels, and more general nonfiction. (When I worked as a book editor, I used to say rather truthfully that my recreation reading was all dead authors.)

These days, the magazines I read outside the SF/fantasy genres include (in no particular order) WIRED, PARENTS, PARENTING, MEN'S HEALTH, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, THE NEW YORKER, and CANNIBAL CUISINE (they're no longer quarterly, Dave).
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 09:20 am:   

Dave,
JJA would have been a babe in arms back then ;-)
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Don Mead
Posted on Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 05:24 pm:   

In regard to next month's issue, Gordon's "cannibal" fetish works in my favor ;D
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 08:11 am:   

Ahh, another tasty cannibal story coming up, I presume? Bring it on!:-)

In my recent column at the F&SF website, I discuss (near the end of the piece) 3 cannibal stories (all coincidentally from F&SF), one of which is Carol Emshwiller's "Killers," which I note has made the Nebs prelim ballot. I'd kinda like to know what any of you thought of this story after giving my take on it in the column.

Best,
Dave
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 08:16 am:   

Here's a link to Dave's column: http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/2007/dt0703.htm
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 10:14 am:   

Interesting analysis, Dave. The unsavory ethics and sexism (and self-righteousness?) in 'Killers' does seem to support a violent double standard. Maybe because on some weird, subconscious level, both men and women sometimes fantasize about stringing up their partner till they're "ready?" :-)

Have you heard of the cannibal Sagawa? His cannibalism could be seen as the gluttonous extreme of a necrophilous desire for consummation. When Sagawa murdered and ate a female Dutch student, he was defended by Japanese artists and intellectuals, who said her death was 'necessary to Sagawa's art.' Sagawa became a famous celebrity in Japan, wrote cook books in which he described his victim's flesh as "fine white sushi." He's still alive, living free, last I heard.

As for "Killers", maybe the author's cold objectifcation of the terrorist's plight was somehow necessary to her art . . . .
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 04:10 pm:   

Ellen offered: "JJA would have been a babe in arms back then ;-)"

Thanks, Ellen. When I was moving weekend before last, I came across two volumes of CLC I was in, and saw some reviews from a John J. Adams. Thought it was a possibility it was F&SF's JJA, never having met him.

Best,
Dave
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 04:20 pm:   

Bronwyn said: "The unsavory ethics and sexism (and self-righteousness?) in 'Killers' does seem to support a violent double standard. Maybe because on some weird, subconscious level, both men and women sometimes fantasize about stringing up their partner till they're "ready?" :-)"

(Smiling) Well, I don't know about that last, but from the evidence given in the story the woman was just plain pissed off at being rejected by this starving, docile, bedraggled terrorist who gave no indication that he wished to harm her--or anyone else. The woman's motives were base and self-centered; mean, nasty, and revengeful. And yet...this story gets nominated for a Nebula? Is this the kind of SF we wish to showcase to the public in our annual Nebs volumes, for those who only buy maybe one or two SF books a year? I'm scratching my head. I just don't get it. :-)

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read my analysis of the story, and for offering your thoughts on it.

Best,
Dave
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S. Hamm
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 05:40 pm:   

Dave, are you under the impression that we readers are meant to find the behavior of Ms. Emshwiller's narrator admirable? -- acceptable? -- amusing? That the story valorizes her betrayal of "terrorist Joe," or suggests that he had it coming, as in the standard biter-bit scenario?

If so, your reading of the story strikes me as willfully perverse. What do you make of the title?

(For the record, I'm equally mystified by the Nebula nomination. "Killers" ain't top-drawer Emshwiller by any stretch.)
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 06:25 pm:   

I'm not sure how old JJA is but I believe he's under 30 (he'll have to respond for himself) which would make him a bit young in the early 80s and even in the late 80s....
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 06:45 pm:   

S. Hamm queried: "Dave, are you under the impression that we readers are meant to find the behavior of Ms. Emshwiller's narrator admirable? -- acceptable? -- amusing? That the story valorizes her betrayal of "terrorist Joe," or suggests that he had it coming, as in the standard biter-bit scenario?"

Precisely the opposite. The narrator is petty, mean, and vindictive...and a cold-blooded murderer who feels no remorse for her actions. She is hardly a prime example of the human race. Her ethics are no better than the guy she killed..and who had done nothing whatsoever to her physically or verbally. Nothing, in fact, but scorn her with a favorable look toward another woman.

What I found most interesting, however, was how Ms. Emshwiller gives high ethical marks to animals (killed by men) in the other pair of stories I mentioned, but in "Killers," when a _female_ is the killer we aren't supplied with the fictive emotional "triggers" which might make us feel more sympathy for the ambushed male.

Add to this moral double standard that Ms. Emshwiller has been an active feminist for decades and you can maybe see where an unconscious bias may have crept into the story. Since this is supposition of the shakiest sort, I've purposely not tacitly proposed it--either in my article, or here. Just something to add to the mix when trying to understand the story from the critic's pov.

Your thoughts are appreciated and I've taken them to heart. I'm always aware that as a reader I could have missed, or misinterpreted something in a story like this...which is why discussion is so valuable...and for me so much fun.

I still can't see where anyone might think this story worthy of a possible Nebula award, though, as the _best_ short story SF has to offer the world for 2006. Tain't nuttin' but a scorned woman story that could have happened (and has) thousands of times in human history--and in mainstream, literary fiction as well. I don't mean to sound cavalier, but big whoop. :-)

Best,
Dave
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 07:14 pm:   

S. Hamm: "(For the record, I'm equally mystified by the Nebula nomination. "Killers" ain't top-drawer Emshwiller by any stretch.)"

In my reply to you above, I meant to mention that after I had written, and sent, the article to GVG, I went back and read something like 20 stories of Ms. Emshwiller's, mostly from the 50s and 60s. I made little quickie notes on each of them, and then drew connecting arrows when I spotted a similar theme(s) recurring.

The list is still packed away in some box, but here's a little of what I can recall: in a number of stories the male character is in some way trapped, or is even a robot (a mechanized male figure). The female narrator is always either falling in love with, trying to ameliorate the male's suffering/plight, or helping him to escape. In many of the stories, the female narrator always wants to have sex with the guy while she is in the dominant role (i.e. she is free and he is trapped--either in a zoo in a park in one story, or as a "man" trapped in a robot's body...this last is metaphorical). Her female characters seem always to want to have sex with whomever the main male is in her stories (I remember at least six: some with overweight guys, some with robots, some with regular guys--it doesn't seem to matter).

Yes, the title "Killers" would seem to indicate that the story is about two different sorts of killers. But in this specific story is there any moral equivalence? Don't reasons for killing one another sometimes matter? Yes, they do. Killing in self-defense is sanctioned by society. Killing innocent people (i.e. terrorism) is not. But in "Killers" the female didn't just kill a terrorist. She wanted to have sex with him, and when spurned, _then_ murdered a terrorist.

I'm not sure what this says, but if she had shot him in the back after he had killed one of her friends, or something along those lines, then fine. But all we have here is a sad, pathetic woman who commits a murder. I didn't learn anything new about human motivation, and it struck me as just another melancholy mainstreamish sort of story.

Oh, well. :-)

Dave
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 08:20 pm:   

Hi Dave --

Alas, never been published in CLA, and Ellen's nearly got my age right -- I'm 30, so the only criticism I was writing at that time consisted of book reports.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Monday, February 12, 2007 - 08:43 pm:   

Hi, John,

And here I was all ready to praise you to the heavens for your astute analysis of Jack Vance's works (CLC #35, 1985). :-)

As long as GVG was asked his favorite reading habits, What are yours--favorite genre and non-genre writers/interests?

Later,
Dave
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 08:24 am:   

Dave, I think you may well be right about Emshwiller's sexism bleeding into her story. Happens all the time: an author's hopes, fears, prejudice, etc., seeps into the writing whether or not it's intended. I think that's one of ways in which we as readers immediately identify the writer of a story. Like Hemmingway having his manly hero calling his lover "little rabbit" . . .which after a while I found pretty irritating, as I kept seeing this character kicking like Thumper.

I may not be expressing myself clearly here, but I hope you know what I mean.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 05:25 pm:   

From Bronwyn: "I think you may well be right about Emshwiller's sexism bleeding into her story. Happens all the time: an author's hopes, fears, prejudice, etc., seeps into the writing whether or not it's intended."

If this evaluation of "Killers" is correct, I seriously doubt any of Ms. Emshwiller's more ardent supporters will acknowledge it, which would make it difficult to discuss the story with them objectively. And, I fear, with the ardent my-author-can-do-no-wrong supporters of any given author. Which is too bad.

Any suggestions on how to engage in a meaningful dialogue when "exposing" someone's favorite author, or story? As usual, I'm just thinking aloud about something which concerns me greatly. It has implications on what gets nominated for our awards, who wins them, and how we present ourselves to the outside world through our award winners. We really must begin serious and sometimes painful examination of stories--regardless of who writes them--and not settle merely for the "usual suspects" when giving an award nomination.

Thanks, Bronwyn,
Dave
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 06:44 pm:   

Dave,

You're kidding.

Other than the obvious, that is, soothing the fragile egos of writers and their supporters with honeyed awe, then VERY gently entice them to examine the deeper implications of their stories, I have no advice whatsoever. :-)

You're right that writers (everybody, for that matter) should address the subconscious prejudical seepage from their brains . . . but it's unconscious, and that's the trouble. Because the conscious mind resists, denies and castrates the illumination of dark unconscious material. To confront a writer with his subconscious ticks is frankly disturbing, even if they're hugely humble. Good luck with that. :-)

As for awards, I don't think they really mean much. As a measurement of talent. My impression is that awards are slightly more political in their cast. But I don't know that personally. Gossip. That some award-winners reek of bigotry, or some other detestable human trait, sounds par to me. Every other profession is full of flawed human beings, why should SF&F lack its share? I also think it's slippery-hard to judge a writer by their story . . . think how Nabokov's moral character was probably judged by some people, given the narcissistic pedophile he created in Lolita. Prejudice or bias of one sort or another in writing is sorta inevitable, I think. The documentation of these ugly unconscious ticks, and their archetypal evolution in literary history, is perhaps the larger story of our intellectual growth, or lack thereof, depending on your point of view . . .
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Lars Thorsen
Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 07:47 pm:   

Could it be that the desire to be a writer is an unconscious push to ask for help by feedback of one sort or another, in addition to the urge to clear what is in there out? I of course am doing it for completely different reasons. LOL
The best writers are often the most tortured in life, n'est-ce-pas? But that doesn't mean a tortured life makes for a good writer, and the rest of us in it for the money muddle along the best we can. 40,000 ! makes for a lot of permutations and combinations of possibilities.
Where does reality touch fiction, and can that razors edge be navigated.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 08:19 pm:   

Bronwyn replied: "You're kidding.

Other than the obvious..."

Bronwyn,

I've found that many times in a discussion one must find common ground from which to begin the pro and con of an argument. This common ground is often found in the obvious, and then proceeds from there. :-)

I try to provoke thought on matters that concern me by niggling others to think through my editorials and essays. Every so often I hit a nerve..and if nothing else, the subject is at least brought to light and explored. Doesn't matter in the long view if I'm agreed with or not, but that the subject is brought to light.

I take to heart Sturgeon's famous line to always ask the _next_ question. He often signed books with the symbol he created to express this (said symbol epitomized as the Sturgeon Award trophy). It has a large letter "Q" with an arrow running through it, meaning to ask the next question. One isn't always liked for asking the next question because sometimes they are difficult or highly unpopular ones (ask Socrates), but they are nevertheless necessary in my view.

Especially when any group of folks--in whatever endeavor--become intellectually lazy and/or complacent (as I view a large amorphous segment of the SF reading and writing and voting public today).

Best,
Dave
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 01:01 am:   

Dave,

"Killers" is, we agree, the story of a monstrous act by a petty, vindictive woman. As long as Joe the crazy is her personal property, she's willing to ignore the fact that he’s fighting for the opposite side. At the first hint of rejection, however, she hardens her heart against him, outs him as an enemy combatant, and gets him killed. To her, in the end, he’s just a piece of meat.

When I asked you whether the story valorized her betrayal, or suggested that Joe had it coming, you did a complete 180 from your earlier remarks in the online article and said no. If "no" is the answer you’re sticking with, then where's the feminist bias?

I would argue that Emshwiller is drawing a fairly explicit parallel between the global wars that men fight over big nebulous issues ("Everybody got tired of the war a long time ago . . . I bet you don't even know which side is which anymore. If you ever did") and the local wars that women fight over small emotional issues ("I admire him more and more, and I can see all the women do, too. He could have any one of us. I'm worried he'll get away from me"). Is the analysis here feminist in any progressive sense? I'm not sure. As you mention above, Emshwiller has written repeatedly about women who derive a sort of second-hand power from their sexual relationships, often with weakened or dependent males. The nastiness of "Killers" – I started to say the tragedy, but I think the story is too pedestrian to deserve that term -- derives from the narrator’s inability to regard Joe as anything other than a sex object, or, if you will, a "trophy husband" (if I can’t have you, nobody will! is the relevant cliché). This may be intended as Emshwiller’s critique of the ways in which (some) women (stereotypically) define their notions of self-worth through men, or it may be intended as a simple inversion of patriarchal male attitudes toward women, or both. It seems to me kinda tired, not to mention retro, either way.

But I don’t see any indications that we are supposed to applaud the narrator for what she does, and your claim that there are no "sympathy triggers" for poor doomed Joe is nonsense. Go back and read the story. The narrator is constantly expecting Joe to commit some sort of transgression, but he always behaves in gentlemanly fashion. He thanks her for shaving him and cleaning him up. He trusts her with the crossbow and the knife. He tells her that, although he swore to fight to the death, he'll not shoot anybody as long as he’s with her; "he'll fight someplace else." At bedtime, she leans a chair against her door so she'll hear him if he tries to sneak in; the next morning, the chair is undisturbed. He squeezes her hand and "says how grateful he is." Etc., etc.

Again, when you say --

But on the other hand, as presented in the current story, it is okay to kill a human being (and string him up in the barn for a future feast, at that!) out of selfish jealousy and with no remorse shown whatsoever. Hmm. Human being kills animals for sport: Bad. Human female kills and will eventually eat a human male out of jealousy: Serves him right. Where's the consistent morality here, we ask ourself?

-- I can only repeat my earlier question: "it is okay to kill a human being out of selfish jealousy"? "Serves him right"? Where do you find any of that in the text?

I think you're being willfully perverse. Emshwiller doesn't tell us what to think; she lets the narrator present her own story and allows us to judge the character strictly on the merits of what she says and does. So the question becomes, how much moral guidance do you, as a reader, need? Do you want a postscript in which the narrator, old, alone, and miserable, breaks character and wrings her hands and laments having done such an awful, selfish thing? Do you want the narrator to get her just deserts in some satisfyingly ingenious manner, say, a catfight with the sexy Paiute over who gets to polish off the last slice of Joe? Do you want Alfred Hitchcock to come out at the end of the story and explain that she was subsequently arrested, tried, and sent to the chair by the appropriate authorities?

I do admire the rapidity of the ending. Once the narrator decides, or accepts, that she will not have Joe, she disposes of him, quickly, efficiently, without regret, without even a second thought, in the manner of one who is not accustomed to longing, who sees no utility in hope. That's what she's become. But it's not okay; it's awful.

Best,
S.H.

P.S. -- BTW, I agree with you that the story is only SF in the most tenuous sense. It would work just as well in a Civil War setting. Of course, it would need a catchier title -- maybe something like The Beguiled?

P.P.S. -- I have not yet managed to lay my mitts on a copy of "Hunting Machine," but I did dig out the Nov. 1958 issue of F&SF in which "Pelts" appeared (along with the first of Isaac Asimov’s regular science columns). I think you are mistaken when you say that the "female element has been removed" from that story. It has rather been displaced onto the viewpoint character, a dog who is helping her human master hunt furry critters on an ice planet; the central gag is that the aliens are able to communicate telepathically with the sensitive canine, but not with the presumably higher species that kills for sport. Little slave, what have you done that is free today? they ask her. Remember, this is world. Do something free today. Do, do.

"She wagged her tail hesitantly, lowered her head and looked up at them . . . . I do want to do right, to please everybody, everybody, but . . . . Then she followed the master into the ship."
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Bronwyn Elko
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 09:53 am:   

Hamm neatly put the proplem in its place: just because the scorned woman stoops to murder and cannabalism does not necessarily mean it's Emshwiller's intention is to applaud this behavior. That's what I meant by bringing up Humbert from Lolita: Does Humbert's mania for girl meat mean Nabokov was a pedophile? Maybe . . . or not.

Emshwiller may be suggesting perhaps how certain harsh conditions turn women into monsters. On the other hand, the fact that she's written other stories of similar ilk does suggest (to me) that it's a theme to which she's deeply drawn, for whatever reason. Is she a man-hating bitch? Maybe, maybe not. I don't think you'll ever know for sure without getting to know her personally.

Dave, I applaud you for bringing up tough questions. You're right that the messenger is usually scorned; it's a thankless task, really. Why? Because I think writers are mostly chosen by their subject material, and not the other way around. And once the writing begins, the best we can do is follow the characters around, let their story unfold for what it is, not the way we want it to be. Maybe Emshwiller is exploring her "dark half". Or maybe she's unconsciously letting out her cold rage against men. It's probably six of one, half dozen of the other. But even if she's just plain venting her darkness without any thought or intention (which I doubt very much), she still has right to do that. Like I said, unconscious material always seeps into the writing. Even if it's horrific, it's still worth documenting.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 11:42 am:   

Read "Killers".

Given the context of the story it seemed as plausible as any such post-apocalyptic story can be...

She and her mom were willing to eat their dog. Folk were eating rats. There were a total of four men none of which were becoming that weren't "crazies". Then Joe who maybe is and maybe isn't a terrorist arrives. It becomes evident that he's been killing crazy men. She perceives that as a potential threat.

The only reason given for keeping him alive is her attraction. She wants a man and this is the only one available. Joe of course is ignorant of this (men unaware of what women want...hmm!) and expresses interest in another woman.

In her way of thinking he has betrayed her and then she betrays him. Consumed by jealousy.

If he'd have chosen her then they would have lived "happily ever after". And it wouldn't surprise me if they ate other folk as they deemed necessary.

Of course she misses her brother all through the story SO on the basis of this story I couldn't describe this as "man hating".
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 06:18 pm:   

Hamm said: "When I asked you whether the story valorized her betrayal, or suggested that Joe had it coming, you did a complete 180 from your earlier remarks in the online article and said no. If "no" is the answer you’re sticking with, then where's the feminist bias?"

Hmm. You're confusing me, Hamm. I don't think I valorized her betrayal in my article or here. I'm not sure where you're getting this...unless I was unclear somewhere along the line in my article. The feminist bias comes only in relation to (i.e. in the context of) the other stories I mentioned (Hunting Machine" and "Pelt").

Hamm: "But I don’t see any indications that we are supposed to applaud the narrator for what she does,"

We aren't.

Hamm: "and your claim that there are no "sympathy triggers" for poor doomed Joe is nonsense."

I don't believe I said there were "no" sympathy triggers for Joe. Only that they were not of the same sort Emshwiller went to great pains to give us for the animals in "Pelt" and "Hunting Machine." Yes, we do feel _something_ for poor Joe, but the fact that he is a terrorist takes the _real_ emotional sting out of his murder we would otherwise feel if he were just an ordinary spurned lover. See what I mean? Regardless of how thankful Joe is, this sympathy we may begin to feel for him is totally negated by his being a terorist. At least, this is how I view it; again, especially in relationship to the two earlier hunting stories mentioned.

Also, while I see the female element present in "Hunting Machine" to be lacking in "Pelt," and the mechanical dog in the former replaced by a real dog in "Pelt," you see the female presence in the former incorporated into the dog in the latter. Hmm, interesting, and I see where you're coming from...but I can't help but think mine is the tidier explanation (Occam's Razor and all that).

Hamm: "I agree with you that the story is only SF in the most tenuous sense. It would work just as well in a Civil War setting. Of course, it would need a catchier title -- maybe something like The Beguiled?"

On this we thankfully hold to the same view.:-) Though I do consider it easily enough of an SF story to suit my own private criteria. It takes place in a near future where terrorists are at war with us on our own turf, which is enough for me. But it could have taken place anywhere, in any war, at any time, and thereby the SF element is almost superfluous (save for the timely, dramatic impact the relevance of terrorism holds for us today).

Best,
Dave
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 06:40 pm:   

Hamm: "-- I can only repeat my earlier question: "it is okay to kill a human being out of selfish jealousy"? "Serves him right"? Where do you find any of that in the text?"

The first quote is the conclusion I reached from reading "Hunting Machine," "Pelt," and "Killers." In the first pair _shows us_ that it is wrong for men to kill animals, and we feel _real_, _true_ sympathy for the animals.
this is the way the author has set these stories up, emotionally.

In "Killers," the female protagonist shows no remorse or guilt whatsoever, and _in her mind_, and because of her jealousy and anger we just know she feels it served terrorist Joe right for spurning her. We get this feeling from what the author gives us as motive for the woman's shooting Joe in the back with his own crossbow. While Ms. Emsh went to great pains to gain our sympathy for the slaughtered animals in the first pair of stories, we are given only (by comparison, that is) very little attachment to Joe or his feelings from which our sympathy for him might become real. And this is because--as I read the story--the story is about the female lead and not the terrorist.

The first pair of stories focuses on how wrong it was for the male killers to kill. Here, we are given a female who kills another human being, and because of the motive presented in the story, doesn't think very much about it afterward at all (as if, in her mind, it was justified, right?). In fact, may even eat a slice of Joe down the line.

So this is why I said what I did, and where these conclusions came from.

And thanks for helping me to think through these questions again. I've gone back and forth, again and again, to see if I'm not reading something into the story which isn't there, or if there is some other _plausible_ reading of the story I'm missing entirely. Which always scares me, especially after writing part of an article about it (which I am also sure goes through the mind of anyone who puts their thoughts Out There for the world to see). :-)

Please let me know if I've cleared my views up, or have somehow managed to muddle them even further.

Best,
Dave
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 07:29 pm:   

Hamm asks facetiously, to illustrate his point: "Do you want Alfred Hitchcock to come out at the end of the story and explain that she was subsequently arrested, tried, and sent to the chair by the appropriate authorities?"

(Chuckling in good humor) No, not necessarily. Some stories require us to view twisted personalities and venal motives. Okay by me.

But...your mentioning of Hitchcock reminds me that in virtually every one of Bob Bloch's ofttimes twisted, sick little stories, there was always present some sort of moral justice meted out to the "bad guy." The balancing of the moral scales (sometimes subtle, sometimes ingeniously clever) is what made Bloch's stories so good, so popular, and so well written (even though the reader might not have recognized just _why_ on a conscious level). Again, not that we should expect this in all such tales of horror or murder, but take note that in "Killers" there is no justice (moral or otherwise) given to us for the female murdering Joe. Quite the opposite, as Ms. Emsh shows by the character's actions just what she is thinking. We know the female protagonist by her actions in this case. Actions here speak louder than words, methinks.:-)

In "HM" and "Pelt" there is no moral ambiguity to the stories as the author has consciously shaped them. In "Killers" we are given an inconsistency (or is it a double viewpoint?), in that we as readers know what the female did was definitely wrong. But _she_ doesn't. She believes it was okay to off Joe, and then probably eat him later. In her mind it was okay.

But here is a crucial "But": in the earlier two stories we aren't given the hunters' inside viewpoints from the same auctorial perspective/angle. We are only given their thoughtless and insensitive acts toward animals as being wrong, but without the "inside" view of their heads the author gives her protagonist here. It is _this_, I _think_, that has led me to distinguish the seeming inconsistency in moral viewpoints Ms. Emsh takes in these stories.

OTOH, in all three stories the killers believed they were doing nothing wrong, whether the author showed us this from an internal viewpoint or not. Which, if true, would render "Killers" absolutely consistent with "HM" and "Pelt." Hmm. And if all three _are_ consistent in the view that killing is wrong (whether done by a male or a female) then this blows my original interpretation out the window. It was maybe just that when the viewpoint character's internal mental state is shown (i.e. the viewpoint of the stories was switched) we interpreted/saw the same story in a different light. Which mental elipsis brings me to Kurasawa's (?) _Rashomon_, and a belated nod to this groundbreaking film where differing perspectives of the same event lead to wildly different reports of the same thing.

So much for reality and truth when it comes to subjective reality, right? (Actually, just because four different people can't agree on reality, doesn't mean reality doesn't exist...but that's another topic.)

Aw, crud. Have I just talked myself out of my original thesis on "Killers"? You tell me. LOL

If I have? Oh, well. This is the risk one takes in the critical/interpretive bizness. Sometimes you hit the bullseye and feel great, like the smartest kid on the block. Other times you miss the target entirely and feel like the dumbest thing since the Edsel.

There's still something about "Killers" that bugs me though. If I could only put my finger on it and really nail it down...

Best,
Dave
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 09:23 pm:   

FWIW, I found the list I made from the 15 or so Carol Emshwiller stories I read (not counting the first two) _after_ submitting the "Manumission" article, wherein I discuss "Killers." My one- or two-word notes now seem cryptic to me for the most part. Here are the pertinent ones dealing with the themes of hunting and/or sex (all are short stories):

1. "Hunting Machine" Science Fiction Stories (May, 1957): Hunting
2. "Pelt" F&SF (1958): Hunting
3. "Animal" Orbit 4 (1968): Hunting/sex, noble animal in us all
4. "Abominable" Orbit 21 (1980): Confusing search/hunt
5. "Sex and/or Mr. Morrison" Dangerous Visions (1967): Sex with fat man
6. "But Soft, What Light..." F&SF (Apr. 1966): Sex with robot
7. "Debut" Orbit 6 (1970): Sex with a man, then kills him {See "Killers"; no sex w/man, then kills him}
8. "Chicken Icarus" Cavalier (1966): Sex w/mutant human
9. "Omens" Edges (Nov. 1980): OCD w/fat man, sex fantasy
10. "Al" Orbit 10 (1972): Outsider comes to town {I think this is the one where the guy is put on display in the public square, and is fed and watered like an animal in a zoo. The female protag falls for him, helps him, etc.}

That's it; make of it what you will.

Best,
Dave
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 10:03 pm:   

Dave, did you read another version of "Killers"?

Here are the last two paragraphs:

I sneak away and run home. I wish I'd saved his smelly, falling-apart clothes. I wish I'd saved the dirty, tangled hair I cut off, but I burned that, too. I do find the old hat. That helps them to believe me. I bring the crossbow. It also helps that he tries to get away.

****

They hung Joe up in the depository. I told them not to tell me anything about it. I'd rather not know when we get around to using him.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 10:12 pm:   

Now Dave your column asserts that the narrator shot Joe in the back with his own crossbow. It's also asserted that she feels no remorse.

In the last two paragraphs the narrator has to prove to the group (primarily if not exclusively women) that Joe is a terrorist/killer. She proves it by showing his hat and his crossbow. Joe tries to flee which helps to establish his guilt.

The narrator leaves Joe with the group who hang him up in the depository. She doesn't execute Joe.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 10:30 pm:   

And her request to be spared the dirty details doesn't assert cold heartedness or a lack of remorse.

In fact the story ends at this point.

I haven't read her stories from the late 50s. It should be ridiculous at the onset to expect/demand that she'd have or anyone would have an identical viewpoint practically 50 years later. I don't know if her stories from the 50s are being characterized correctly either.

I do know that she has a website where she states that she likes men.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 10:44 pm:   

Are we then going to believe that she likes men?

And another noteworthy omission in Dave's column is the assertion that the men went off to war. The story states that men AND women went off to war. As I read Dave's column I began to think that he's just making it up to prove his point.

If GVG reads his column (subtle return to thread title) I have to believe that he's letting Dave write whatever Dave has written.

It's like Cory's column. I grimace at the factual errors.
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Lars Thorsen
Posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2007 - 10:47 pm:   

What I'm learning from this discussion is that like Rashomon, each viewer of an event (including seeing a movie and reading a book) comes away with their own experience and memorable moments. Most experiences have overlaps as well as uniquenesses.

As this story is set in a close future, it draws on the present day heavily. I suspect the fact that Arab cultures are patriarchies and severely restrict the activities of the females is part of the unconscious message in that of the female asserting herself against male oppression in a generalized way at this story's conclusion.

Jewish culture is a matriarchy and that is why these two cultures are so at odds, and probably always will be. This is one of the fundamental points of contention. Who's the boss.

The irony of his own weapon came back to get him in the end, oppression of the female; and that she did it behind his back as an oppressed rebeller must most often do to succeed, it's not personal that's why it's not to his face, concludes the picture nicely.
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PM
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 12:03 am:   

Where in the text does it in anyway suggest that the narrator as a woman is being oppressed?

Or that this is a Jewish colony or in the Middle East?

The backdrop of the story maximizes the betrayal to come.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 08:05 am:   

PM wrote: "And another noteworthy omission in Dave's column is the assertion that the men went off to war. The story states that men AND women went off to war. As I read Dave's column I began to think that he's just making it up to prove his point."

Dear PM,

I don't believe it was an omission at all. In our society both men and women are in the military; but it is still (by a vast majority) men who do the fighting. The story states (my copy is packed away from my recent move) that our men were scarce (or whatever the exact phrase was), and in short supply...those of age had all gone off to fight. I wasn't trying to cherry-pick the facts; this is simply what the story states, and is why our protag is so lonely in the first place--all the men are off to war.

PM: "The narrator leaves Joe with the group who hang him up in the depository. She doesn't execute Joe."

I was left with the distinct impression that she killed him, and then the others strung him up to cure in the depository just like it was made clear they did with the other animals they'd killed for food. If this point is vague--or open to interpretation--then it's the author's fault, not the reader's. Also, if our protag didn't kill Joe, then is it clear that the group did? All the story says is that he was subsequently hung up in the depository. Was he hung up alive, to be fattened before they killed him, or was he killed by being "hung"? The story says he was hung up, like the other animals they'd killed for future use.

This is the recurring and frustrating problem with these kind of stories. Important information is left unclear, putting _too much_ of the burden on the reader to figure out what's going on. I'm all for "writing up" to the reader; it's one of the reasons I love SF so much. It challenges us. But there comes a point where the author doesn't play fair with us, expecting us to figure out what the author couldn't (in some cases; not necessarily this one), and gets away with it because it's "in" to be vague and/or open-ended.

When stories are so vague that no one really knows what's going on, we see readers making up all sorts of nonsense about what _may_ be happening, and some are so wildly off the mark that it becomes the case where they are literally making up their own story from an almost blank template (i.e. the author's story). This actually happened with a recent Nebula winner, which gave rise to numerous interpretations so different and off the wall that it was clear that no one _really_ had a _definite_ clue as to what the story meant, or what had happened. Compared to this award-winner, "Killers" is crystal clear, though it seems we are still trying to glean its meaning and import. :-)

Oh, and it is my strong view that just because any given story gives rise to reasoned discussion and interpretation, it does not necessarily follow that it is a great story (unlike the prevailing view in some quarters).

Best,
Dave
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PM
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 11:55 am:   

Dave: "I don't believe it was an omission at all. In our society both men and women are in the military; but it is still (by a vast majority) men who do the fighting. The story states (my copy is packed away from my recent move) that our men were scarce (or whatever the exact phrase was), and in short supply...those of age had all gone off to fight. I wasn't trying to cherry-pick the facts; this is simply what the story states, and is why our protag is so lonely in the first place--all the men are off to war."

Actually the story states: "Lots of women went to war along with the men, but I had to look after Mother." Not a few women but "lots". In fact the narrator goes on to say, "If I knew the war was still going on in some specific place, I'd go fight, but it seems to be over."

In your column you state that Emshwiller is ok with killing Joe and eating him and that somehow, "taking "Killers" to heart and at face value for the high ethical standard it sets, and the message it sends to impressionable young girls who might read this story and think it okay to off a former boyfriend –(can't you just see a future female-perpetrated Columbine here, oh you so sensitive people with the welfare of your chillun at heart?)"

What was Joe doing? Joe "has been killing other men and dumping them at the edge of the village." The narrator perceives Joe as a potential physical threat. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't anyone with common sense do the same?

But the situation is complicated because the narrator thinks that Joe may actually be her brother. So she doesn't kill him outright. She traps him and takes him alive in order to determine if it's her brother.

When she determines that it's not her brother but is actually her enemy she considers killing him. Given the situation who wouldn't? If she lets him go free, Joe will likely continue to kill and will perhaps kill her or others that she knows.

This is in no way an inducement for women to go out and kill men. It makes as much sense as a man who is spurned by a women to say, "Oh she's a lesbian".
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PM
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 12:11 pm:   

From Killers: "I fall asleep at the kitchen table, right in the middle of thinking up ways to kill him. Also thinking about how we've all changed—how, in the olden days, I'd not ever have been thinking things at all like that." The narrator acknowledges that human behavior has changed for the worse.


Dave: "I was left with the distinct impression that she killed him, and then the others strung him up to cure in the depository just like it was made clear they did with the other animals they'd killed for food. If this point is vague--or open to interpretation--then it's the author's fault, not the reader's. Also, if our protag didn't kill Joe, then is it clear that the group did? All the story says is that he was subsequently hung up in the depository. Was he hung up alive, to be fattened before they killed him, or was he killed by being "hung"? The story says he was hung up, like the other animals they'd killed for future use."

The story says: "The women have been out at the bird nets and had made a big batch of little-bird soup. I was glad they'd made that instead of the other." The narrator isn't excited about eating people. The "other" is of course people.

The story says: "They hung Joe up in the depository. I told them not to tell me anything about it. I'd rather not know when we get around to using him." Whatever happened to Joe, the narrator is explicitly telling us that she didn't want to know the details. The narrator felt betrayed by Joe and turned in him to be killed but was not so cold hearted as to participate in the actual process.

And the column makes assertions that anyone should just know better.

1. The author is more sympathetic to animals than humans.

2. The author wants women to go out and kill men.
Or the author considers it ok to go out and kill men.

And then over here on the board we read that she's a "man-hater" or that maybe she's a "man-hater".

It's 2007 and we're still dealing with this shit.

If anyone has anything that really proves the author is a "man-hunter" then bring it forth. Otherwise look in your heart and ask yourself why are you tarring the author? Without proof, folk ought to be retracting and apologizing these wounding comments.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 12:11 pm:   

PM quotes: "In your column you state that Emshwiller is ok with killing Joe and eating him and that somehow, "taking "Killers" to heart and at face value for the high ethical standard it sets, and the message it sends to impressionable young girls who might read this story and think it okay to off a former boyfriend –(can't you just see a future female-perpetrated Columbine here, oh you so sensitive people with the welfare of your chillun at heart?)"

And PM says: "This is in no way an inducement for women to go out and kill men."

I was being facetious, PM. My tongue was buried deeply in my cheek. In my cover letter to GVG when I sent the piece, I said as much, knowing there would be _someone_ out there who would take these particular lines seriously.

Lighten up, mon ami! :-)

PM: "Actually the story states: "Lots of women went to war along with the men, but I had to look after Mother." Not a few women but "lots". In fact the narrator goes on to say, "If I knew the war was still going on in some specific place, I'd go fight, but it seems to be over."

And the number of men and women out there fighting is important to the story how? And how does it impact directly on the germane point of my piece? Right or wrong, it is pretty much a minor, irrelevant point. Not ducking the issue, just saying...

Later,
Dave
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PM
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 12:18 pm:   

Dave: "When stories are so vague that no one really knows what's going on, we see readers making up all sorts of nonsense about what _may_ be happening, and some are so wildly off the mark that it becomes the case where they are literally making up their own story from an almost blank template (i.e. the author's story)."

Dave's column: "Carol Emshwiller is a consummate storyteller. Her tales are exquisitely crafted, each word or scene or evocation of emotion carefully chosen for a desired effect."

Dave, I have nothing personal against you. Emshwiller's story made sense. I don't have to agree with every point in it to understand its logic. However, you're trying to force her story to say things that aren't there. In reading your comments I come away with your viewpoint rather than hers.
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PM
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 12:26 pm:   

Dave: "I was being facetious, PM. My tongue was buried deeply in my cheek. In my cover letter to GVG when I sent the piece, I said as much, knowing there would be _someone_ out there who would take these particular lines seriously."

And all this business about her being a "man-hater" was a joke as well? Was the entire column a joke?

Dave: "And the number of men and women out there fighting is important to the story how? And how does it impact directly on the germane point of my piece? Right or wrong, it is pretty much a minor, irrelevant point. Not ducking the issue, just saying..."

It's a tangential point but worth noting that both men and women went off to war. Also the author would have gone to war if she had not have needed to stay home to care for her mother.

How does it impact the point of your piece? Now that you're describing your piece in part or in whole as a joke you're the one "ducking the issue".
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 12:42 pm:   

From PM: "The story says: "They hung Joe up in the depository. I told them not to tell me anything about it. I'd rather not know when we get around to using him." Whatever happened to Joe, the narrator is explicitly telling us that she didn't want to know the details. The narrator felt betrayed by Joe and turned in him to be killed but was not so cold hearted as to participate in the actual process."

Sorry, but I didn't see it like that. The process she didn't want to participate in was the butchering and dressing of Joe, whom she'd already killed. It's those details she didn't want to know.

PM: "The author is more sympathetic to animals than humans."

In "Hunting Machine" and "Pelt" she is quite sympathetic to the killing of animals. In "Debut" (Orbit 6) she has sex with a man then kills him. In "Killers" she can't have sex with a man, then kills him. By "she" I mean, of course, the lead female character, not Ms. Emsh. In the first pair of stories, it is bad _men_ who kill the animals. In the latter pair, it is _women_ who kill men. But it's only coincidence, of course.

PM: "And then over here on the board we read that she's a "man-hater" or that maybe she's a "man-hater"."

Not from me. I thought I had maybe spotted a double-standard in her fiction, but this is a far cry from calling the author a man-hater, which I never did. It is a legitimate line of inquiry for a critic (or astute reader) to spot underlying assumptions in any author's work, regardless of topic or subject matter, regardless of how sensitive the subject matter may be.

PM: "It's 2007 and we're still dealing with this shit."

Strident feminists from the liberal Left have been saying the same kind of thing about men for quite some time, and I'm tired of this sh*t coming from them too, okay? :-)

I'm exploring a possible contradiction in one of the author's recurring themes. That's all. If the shoe fits, then it bears said examination. If it doesn't, this only means that my interpretation was at fault, nothing more. Whether I am correct or not, aren't you at least willing to entertain the _possibility_ that my thesis might have a grain of truth in it? If not, why not? Why so sensitive?

You're obviously passing over the post where I said that I _might_ very well be in error as to the inconsistency of the author's views on killing (re "HM," "Pelt" and "Killers"). I was willing to admit I _might_ be wrong in service to the truth in this story. Would that you might be willing to be as flexible in your opinions, PM.

Best,
Dave
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 12:49 pm:   

PM: "Now that you're describing your piece in part or in whole as a joke you're the one "ducking the issue"."

Let's not get carried away here, and totally distort what I said. I said that the last few lines (i.e. graph) _only_ were said facetiously, with my tongue in my cheek (I was being sarcastic). _Not_ the whole piece, for crissakes.

Let's play fair, please. And again, I NEVER said Ms. Emsh was a "man-hater." Someone else said that, so please do not associate it with me, okay?

Thanks,
Dave
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PM
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 01:19 pm:   

Dave: "Let's play fair, please. And again, I NEVER said Ms. Emsh was a "man-hater." Someone else said that, so please do not associate it with me, okay?"

I'm for fair play. I'll take this as your statement that you don't believe that the author is a "man-hater".

At this point in the conversation what are you asserting?

Dave: "You're obviously passing over the post where I said that I _might_ very well be in error as to the inconsistency of the author's views on killing (re "HM," "Pelt" and "Killers"). I was willing to admit I _might_ be wrong in service to the truth in this story. Would that you might be willing to be as flexible in your opinions, PM."

I haven't read "HM" or "Pelt". I've discussed how you've misread "Killers". Given evidence I'm certainly willing to change my opinions.

What I've extracted from your column and posts is that you're upset that her story has been praised. It's been mentioned in regard to the 2006 Nebs but I don't see it as having made it to the prelim ballot. Your objections appear to be:
1. The message is bad.
2. The story is not even worthy to be told.

What I walk away from all this with is that you have no interest in the "scorned woman" story, you disagree with her position on hunting (whatever that may or may not actually be), and you're uncomfortable with a woman killing and eating a man (individually or collectively).
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 02:39 pm:   

PM: "What I've extracted from your column and posts is that you're upset that her story has been praised. It's been mentioned in regard to the 2006 Nebs but I don't see it as having made it to the prelim ballot. Your objections appear to be:
1. The message is bad.
2. The story is not even worthy to be told.

What I walk away from all this with is that you have no interest in the "scorned woman" story, you disagree with her position on hunting (whatever that may or may not actually be), and you're uncomfortable with a woman killing and eating a man (individually or collectively).

Pretty much wrong all the way around, PM. Yes, I am puzzled that it has been praised and mentioned for a Neb. Is this the author's best work? No. Given the conflicting interpretations as to its "message," just what is its attraction meant to be? What is so clever, or "deep" about it that makes it even worthy of Nebs consideration?

PM: "2. The story is not even worthy to be told."

Where, for heaven's sake did you get _that_? Wow, you are totally wrong on this point. Dead wrong. I never said or hinted at anything of the sort.

PM: "you disagree with her position on hunting (whatever that may or may not actually be)."

Again, dead wrong. I explicitly stated in my article that she was correct to shame the hunters who killed animals purely for sport. I believe my very words were "No argument from me."
Please go back and read the section on "Killers," and you'll discover the truth in my position.

And, er, yes, I do disagree with the _reason_ the character kills Joe--it was the petty motive of a woman scorned. Very bad behavior, indeed. Do you disagree with this?

As for eating him as well? Or anyone? I hope I'm never in a situation where I had to deal with the prospect for my very survival.

I didn't like the story because the woman was a sad, pathetic, lonely, horny, bitch. Period. She couldn't have her man so she offed him. Period. The only thing that made the murder even vaguely justified was that he was a terrorist. Not much deep thought required here, is there?

I'd very much like to see your intellectual deconstruction of the story, and try to justify the bitch's motives as of high moral character. :-) I'd like to know what makes this story so very attractive to _you_. :-)

Cheers,
Dave
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PM
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 04:05 pm:   

Dave: "What is so clever, or "deep" about it that makes it even worthy of Nebs consideration?"

Perhaps the judges will give some insight. Perhaps not. I may speculate on this at a later time. Whether this story wins the Neb or not is just not an issue for me.

In regard to whether this story should be told:

Dave: "Tain't nuttin' but a scorned woman story that could have happened (and has) thousands of times in human history--and in mainstream, literary fiction as well. I don't mean to sound cavalier, but big whoop. :-)"

That's why I stated that you didn't think the story was worth telling.

Regarding hunting the column raises the point that the author is more sympathetic towards the animals in two prior stories than the human(s) in "Killers". The narrator shows some sympathy toward Joe when she assists him. However, it's not exclusively sympathy. In fact it's emotionally complex. More on this point later.

Dave: "And, er, yes, I do disagree with the _reason_ the character kills Joe--it was the petty motive of a woman scorned. Very bad behavior, indeed. Do you disagree with this?"

The narrator is sympathetic, fearful, and also attracted to Joe. The story depicts this mix of contradictory emotions. It's intended to muddy and not to be so clear. We can sympathize with both the narrator and with Joe. We can also vehemently oppose both of their actions.

It bothers me that you describe the narrator as a "bitch". What would a man do if he hadn't had sex in years and encountered a woman? He'd try to have sex. Likewise in this story the woman wants to have sex. It's believable.

She believes that Joe is going to be with her. It's hardly far fetched that folk seek to punish those who sexually reject them. We're already in an extreme situation where Joe and others are out killing one another. So I consider it believable that she would turn him over to be killed.

My reading of the story is that Joe should have been killed regardless. Joe had committed capital offenses by killing folk. If Joe had chosen the narrator then she would have betrayed her own community. Her needs were driving her in that direction.

The least blameworthy action she could have taken would have been to immediately turn Joe over to the community. But that wasn't the story's intent or direction.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 04:53 pm:   

PM: "She believes that Joe is going to be with her. It's hardly far fetched that folk seek to punish those who sexually reject them."

Right. People meet in bars to get laid every night..and get rejected all the time. It is only the aberrant, sicko types who go the next step and commit murder because of a simple sexual rejection. If a man did it, it would be just as bad, and believe you me, feminists would be screaming from the rooftops.

I love it when folks of a certain political persuasion try to excuse the inexcusable by elevating feelings over rational thought.

Explaining the woman's feelings doesn't excuse how she acted on them. And her feelings weren't any more complex than anyone else's. Boo-hoo for her. She acted like a child, emotionally...by committing a murder. In some circles this behavior is called sociopathic. But alas (and as I have said before), the author takes the sting out of the murder by making Joe a terrorist. It's like the author wanted the protag to have it both ways. She can murder out of jealousy and get away with it because the victim is a terrorist.

Way cool. Pulitzer Prize all the way. Big whoop.

Cheers,
Dave
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 04:58 pm:   

PM: "It bothers me that you describe the narrator as a "bitch"."

She's a bitch because she murdered a man in cold blood because he wouldn't sleep with her. I can think of a lot worse names for her, but I think, at a minimum, bitch will suffice. :-)

Dave
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PM
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 05:05 pm:   

It's a misreading of the story to describe this as "she murdered a man in cold blood".

Joe had admitted to killing. He was responsible for several deaths.

The story doesn't indicate who actually did the killing. We do know that she turned him in. He was found guilty and put to death. Which is a far cry from killing a man in cold blood.

And then he was to be eaten at some later date.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 06:05 pm:   

PM: "The story doesn't indicate who actually did the killing. We do know that she turned him in. He was found guilty and put to death. Which is a far cry from killing a man in cold blood."

I prefer "exposed him" to "turning him in." And I thought upstream you said you didn't know if he had been killed, or just placed in the depository. Which is it? Since the narrator had the crossbow _and_ the motive for killing him, and he was running away, I prefer to believe she shot him in the back. Weapon and motive and opportunity are all given in the story, so while we may never be totally positive on this point, I think I'll stick to mine.

Let's put it this way, if it pleases you: the narrator was directly responsible for Joe's killing, because she exposed him because he wouldn't sleep with her. Doesn't make her motives any better now, does it? She's still a scorned bitch who caused a murder. And it _was_ in cold blood. He had no weapons, was threatening no one, and was running away out of fear for his life. It's the motives and actions of the narrator that are in question here, and are the focal point of the story anyway, right? Right?

Nothing new was added to my knowledge of human emotions, or how some act on them. All I saw was a pathetically selfish, confused woman who would stoop to causing the death of someone who hadn't harmed her in any way, because he wouldn't have sex with her. Quite an uplifting little experience for the SF/F reader, I'd say. :-)

Nobel Prize all the way, I say.

Dave
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Gordon Van Gelder
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 08:11 pm:   

Yes, PM, I read Dave's column before we published it online. In fact, I think I corrected a factual error in it, though it might have been another column (I remember catching something so minor that I can't even recall now what it was).

I think Dave's interpretation of the ending is a valid one. And yes, I'm basically planning to let Dave have his say in this column. In fact, his column next month on alien invasions has some opinions I don't agree with---but they're opinions and they're his. Some of them may be provocative, but I don't see that as a problem unless they're deliberately designed to offend (and I don't think they are).
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S. Hamm
Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2007 - 11:47 pm:   

Thanks to Dave and PM for your VOLUMINOUS comments. I hate to interrupt just when the hostilities are starting to escalate, but there was one other aspect of the discussion that was sticking in my craw, and I couldn't quite figure out what it was for a while. Then I realized it was Dave's description of Joe as a "terrorist," which is not a word the narrator ever uses (unless I missed it) -- and to a lesser degree, Lars's remarks about Arab cultures. Is Joe a terrorist, as we currently understand that term? -- as opposed to, say, a guerilla fighter in some sort of civil war?

I went back to the text (again!) looking for hints as to the nature of the fourteen-year conflict that precedes the events in the story, and all I could come up with was another batch of questions. Which I will now throw out for youse guys to chew on.

1.) Time and place: we're in California, near the John Muir Wilderness, probably in the general area of Fresno. Our narrator's village has been moved "up higher," into the mountains, which must be the Sierra Nevada. We're far enough into the future that serious climate change has taken place: no water means the snowpack must be largely gone, and indeed "there's hardly any cold weather anymore" -- compare this description of the local climate, circa 2007, from Wildernet:

Precipitation falls mainly from October through April. At higher elevations, much of it comes in the form of snow. Snowpack above 8000' can be 25 feet in the winter. Winter temperatures well below freezing and summer temperatures above 100 degrees indicate the normal seasonal spread. Clouds can build up during the summer to produce thunderstorm activity. It is wise to pack for any season when venturing into the high country, with clothing that can be "layered", ready to peel off or add on as the thermometer dictates.

2.) So what were the two sides in the war? Joe and the narrator have only one exchange that is even vaguely political, and it turns out to be a debate about global warming -- the same debate, in fact, we're having right now:

"I bet you don't know which side is which anymore. If you ever did."

"You're the ones heated up the planet. It wasn't us. It was you and your greed."

I haven't been so aggravated since my brother was around. "It heated up mostly by itself. It's done that before, you know. Besides, all that's over. Our part in it, anyway. Killing crazies isn't going to help. You're crazy!"


Is that Joe's main grievance with the narrator's "side"? It's the only one he mentions -- and it seems rather a bizarre argument for an Islamic fundamentalist to be making. No glory-to-Allah, no die-infidel-die. He sounds more like an Al Gore Democrat.

Is he perhaps an eco-terrorist?

3.) Maybe not, because the conflict seems to break along ethnic lines. "Our side put all we could in internment camps, practically everyone with black hair and eyes and olive skin, but you can't get them all." ("Our side" no doubt created a lot of terrorists by sweeping up the innocent with the guilty. Bu-u-ut, shit happens.)

So we're back to Arabs. Or are we?

This is, after all, California, where the combined population of Arab- and Persian-Americans numbers about a million. However, "The enemy was among us even before it started. They could never win a real old-fashioned war with us, they were weak and low-tech, but low-tech was good enough as long as there were lots of them. You never knew who to trust, and we still don't."

Could she be talking about Mexicans? (Black hair, black eyes, olive skin, lots of "them" already among "us.") Are we perhaps dealing with a Children of Men-style scenario where growing scarcity of resources makes illegal immigrants even less welcome than they are now? California is roughly 34% Hispanic. If that population were to become radicalized by a wide-ranging crackdown on illegals . . . .

Too bad our hot-tempered narrator is not more given to ethnic slurs (although the vagueness here is certainly deliberate on Emshwiller's part); we might have a clearer indication of how war broke out. The "greed" argument does sound more likely to have come from a Mexican than a Middle Easterner, unless we are to assume that several (additional) ME nations have been knocked over for their oil resources in the time between now and the events of the story -- which is not an altogether unlikely notion.

4.) When you get right down to it, is Joe either Arab OR Mexican? He gives his real name as "Jal," which could be short for Jaleel, I guess, although I don't know whether it's a common nickname. (It is, BTW, the abbreviation for "Jalisco," as well as the name of a Pakistani rock band.) The narrator, who at first imagines Jal/Joe could be her brother, under all that dirt, describes him thus: "I can't tell if he's a brown man or just weather-beaten, sunburned, and dirty . . . Eyes as black as the enemy's always are. Eyebrows just as thick as theirs." Yet later, "When I shaved his beard, his skin is pale. His forehead, where his hat was, is pale too. There's only a sun-browned strip across his face, just below his eyes." Whatever his ethnicity, the tidied-up, melanin-deprived Joe is clearly able to pass as one of "Us" when he attends the town meeting. He is not "other" enough to disturb the local women whose attentions ultimately get him outed and killed.

5.) What are we to make of the fact that the killer of crazies ("I hope it isn't one of our side. Though I don't suppose sides matter anymore") has been "dumping [dead bodies] at the edge of the village"? Why does he go to the trouble? We can only assume that the corpses ("those men are always such a mess -- dirty and bearded -- I wonder, would I recognize [my brother]?") wind up getting trussed and eaten. ("I wouldn't want my brother in the depository.") Does the killer drag the bodies down from the high elevations and deposit them outside the village to serve as a warning? Or is he dropping off food for the villagers?

Is he too "civilized" to eat the dead himself?

Again, I have no answers, only questions that the text has not resolved for me. I do think it is unfair of Dave to say that "[t]he only thing that made the murder even vaguely justified was that [Joe] was a terrorist," because Emshwiller takes such pains to avoid describing Joe's ideology, which is the now-forgotten basis of the conflict. That said, I am interested to hear what other readers think.
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PM
Posted on Friday, February 16, 2007 - 06:44 am:   

GVG, my issue with Dave is not that he's presenting a conservative viewpoint.

It's this statement: "Seems like animals (even non-sentient ones) are granted some sort of a priori priority status over humans, given the message in "Killers."

And this statement: "Taking "Killers" to heart and at face value for the high ethical standard it sets, and the message it sends to impressionable young girls who might read this story and think it okay to off a former boyfriend –(can't you just see a future female-perpetrated Columbine here, oh you so sensitive people with the welfare of your chillun at heart?)"

Way, way over the line. It's like showing folk kittens in a box. Dave walks over and starts stomping the kittens. What the fuck is Dave doing? Dave's emotional response to the story and his interpretation of the story is not even close to what the author intended.

Now if the entire Emshwiller discussion in the column had been titled "Misreading Emshwiller" then yes that would be funny.

Instead it reads as an attack on Emshwiller which I suggest is entirely inappropriate.
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PM
Posted on Friday, February 16, 2007 - 06:57 am:   

I'm pressed for time here but I don't consider the killing of Joe to be a murder. Or the narrator to be a "cold hearted bitch". I will as soon as I'm able quote the text to support these points.

I agree that Mexicans come to mind. Do Mexicans have olive skin? Emshwiller may be intentionally blurring the description.

I agree that it can read as acts of eco-terrorism.

The text doesn't use the word "terrorist". It uses the word "enemy". As Joe is established as the "enemy", Joe's killing cannot be a cold blooded murder.

Emshwiller wants to blur this by making Joe the enemy somewhat sympathetic. Obviously she's been too successful as Dave considers Joe to be a murdered victim.

So Emshwiller is blurring in order to emotionally complicate the story. Additionally, Emshwiller is depicting social degeneration.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Friday, February 16, 2007 - 08:09 am:   

PM again tries this: "And this statement: "Taking "Killers" to heart and at face value for the high ethical standard it sets, and the message it sends to impressionable young girls who might read this story and think it okay to off a former boyfriend –(can't you just see a future female-perpetrated Columbine here, oh you so sensitive people with the welfare of your chillun at heart?)"

Way, way over the line. It's like showing folk kittens in a box. Dave walks over and starts stomping the kittens. What the fuck is Dave doing? Dave's emotional response to the story and his interpretation of the story is not even close to what the author intended."

PM, please? I've already explained to you once that this paragraph was written facetiously, with my tongue buried deeply in my cheek. I was being sarcastic and _not_ literal. I was having a little fun with some over-the-top hyperbole.

I feel like Alfred Bester when he tried to crack a joke and couldn't get a laugh to save his soul from certain "cats" he dinner-partied with on occasion. Some people just take things too seriously with _no_ sense of humor.

I've pretty much said what I wanted to say here, and the last thing I want to do is get anyone hopped up and angry. There's a fine line sometimes between a spirited and lively discussion, and the point where some may become upset or angry. Not my intention.

I am glad, however, that readers are really beginning to discuss issues beyond the superficial levels allowed in most review outlets.

Since GVG mentioned it upstream, I do hope you'll check out my next column on Alien Invasions, which touches on all sorts of intriguing issues, including another story from F&SF, Carolyn Ives Gilman's "Okanoggan Falls."

I'm sure PM will just love it. :-)

Cheers,
Dave
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Lars Thorsen
Posted on Friday, February 16, 2007 - 08:56 am:   

By the nature of the 'art of writing' an author must leave things somewhat vague so the reader can fill in what is pertinent for them. Thus this story can be several groups vs several groups. It may work better that way than to be overly explicit about who is who. It's a template story set in a future time where conflict is still present in society, only in a much more 'in your face' way than it is today, which might be the main moral of the story, that we will have to be much closer to it than we are now. (Not having read the story myself, I am stuck in strategic analysis, not specificity)

Henry Kuttner and CMCornbluth (sp?) come to mind for sociological future settings. Book collections have come and gone a couple of times in major lifechanging moves since the 60's, so they are not at hand to peruse.

In '95-96 I reread several Heinlein juvenile books I read in 6th grade, 1960-61; it was curious to compare my memories of them with the real thing! I noticed how much they influenced me in terms of moral structure etc.. and my correct and incorrect remembrances. It was a reassessment opportunity.

"Say, can I have some of your purple berries?"

'Yes, I've been eating them for 6 or 7 weeks now.'

"Probably keep us both alive."

'I see by your coat my friend, you're from the "other side", can you tell me please; Who Won?'
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John Joseph Adams
Posted on Friday, February 16, 2007 - 07:49 pm:   

To answer a question WAY upstream...

Dave, for the past couple years, my reading has been almost exclusively within the genre. Prior to that, while being primarly a SF/fantasy reader, I read more widely, including mysteries and thriller type stuff.

To get a sense of what sort of stuff I like to read, you can take a look at the archive of my (now defunct) book review column at Intergalactic Medicine Show: http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=columns&vol=adams_jo hn&article=_allreviews.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 06:15 am:   

Thanks, John. In your review of _Feeling Very Strange_, I notice the John's included Carol Emshwiller's "Al." Is this the story where the guy is chained to a tree (or whatever) in a park, and the female narrator gives him books to read and otherwise helps him out?

Dave
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PM
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 03:24 pm:   

Lars: "By the nature of the 'art of writing' an author must leave things somewhat vague so the reader can fill in what is pertinent for them."

If an author leaves things vague it may either be intentional or unintentional (an error or an oversight, etc.). If it's intentional the author may have intended to simply leave it vague.

But I can't agree with "must leave things somewhat vague". I'm more likely to agree with the author may or may not leave vagaries for the reader to imagine as the reader wishes.
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PM
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 03:38 pm:   

Back to Dave.

Yes I completely understand that you wouldn't think twice of telling a "joke" that equates an author's work with inciting another Columbine. Would anyone want to have their work associated with inciting another Columbine? Even as a joke.

And this is the only part that you call the joke. Evidently you really believe that Emshwiller has more sympathy for animals than humans. And this further concerns me.

And then there are all the "bitch" comments and the awards comments. It just comes across as rather nasty.

There are any number of jokes that could have been made about the story that wouldn't depict the author as being a threat to society. On the face of it there's something silly about a darning society. Who got Joe's socks?

Dave: "Since GVG mentioned it upstream, I do hope you'll check out my next column on Alien Invasions, which touches on all sorts of intriguing issues, including another story from F&SF, Carolyn Ives Gilman's "Okanoggan Falls.""

You do realize that if you pull this stunt three times in a row that this automatically makes you a "woman-hater". I think you employed some sort of three strikes rule against Emshwiller...
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PM
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 03:47 pm:   

Oh and Lars and others who haven't had a chance to read "Killers". It appears in the Oct/Nov issue of FSF. It's a pretty good read.
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PM
Posted on Sunday, February 25, 2007 - 06:03 am:   

Alright I've read "Pelt" and "Hunting Machine".

Let's start with "Hunting Machine". I do not intend to exhaustively discuss the story. It's a story of a couple who just don't care about the consequences of their actions...and a robot hunting dog .

The story explicitly identifies what is and isn't legal for the couple to hunt. However, the husband reprograms the Hound (robot hunting dog) to hunt a brown bear. I consider it important to identify that the couple are hunting illegally.

Later in the story Hound locates the brown bear. The husband has programmed the Hound to aggravate the brown bear as he wants to have a challenging hunt. However when it's time to actually kill the brown bear there's a sense of incompetency.

So we have illegal hunting, needless tormenting of hunting animals, and incompetent hunters to add to Dave's description. And the story ends with a "whatever" attitude as the brown bear is just left on the ground.
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PM
Posted on Sunday, February 25, 2007 - 06:18 am:   

"Pelt" is a story concerned with loyalty. Told from the dog's POV, the dog clearly is challenged to decide who is the master.

If I were to compare "Pelts" with "Killers" I'd discuss how the stories explore issues of loyalty/betrayal.

"Hunting Machine" is less explicitly a story of loyalty/betrayal (well there's the loyal wife) though.

"Hunting Machine" doesn't grey or blur the moral decision/sympathy. The couple are wrong and are unsympathetic. "Pelt" and "Killers" do as the characters have their good/bad points.
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Elizabeth Lyons
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 07:15 pm:   


quote:

What I found most interesting, however, was how Ms. Emshwiller gives high ethical marks to animals (killed by men) in the other pair of stories I mentioned, but in "Killers," when a _female_ is the killer we aren't supplied with the fictive emotional "triggers" which might make us feel more sympathy for the ambushed male.




I think we do feel sympathetic for "Joe". Or at least, I did as a reader. "Joe" or Jal is completely passive. He is weak, sick, starving, traumatized. He lays down his weapons, lets her care for him, makes no threatening move except to hide the crossbow and hatchet under the bed, but that is understandable given his situation. He even tells her where the weapons are located when asked. He goes along with her desire to make up a story about his presence, etc. We are not clear that he is an "enemy" despite some possible clues (big bushy eyebrows but then my Irish dad has huge eyebrows so that's no clue) for his skin is light under the tan and beard. I think he has been portrayed as quite sympathetic. He might even be one of "their side" who has gone crazy and is fighting an imaginary war in the hills against other crazies like him.

As to the narrator, it seems to me that Emshwiller has portrayed the narrator as, for lack of a better word, "bent", or "broken". Here is a woman who stayed behind in order to care for an alcoholic mother when the others left to fight, who then lives alone after her mother's death in a war-ravaged post-ecopalypse world of constant scarcity, eating her own dog, and then rat stew and small bird soup when not feasting on human. She is "strange". She's gone "off" -- at least that's how she appears to me. She is not sympathetic as much as sad, pitiful.

When this man shows up, possibly an enemy or one of the crazy hermits who lives in the mountains -- possibly the one killing other hermits and dumping the bodies -- she is both attracted to him as a scarce male, and repelled by him as a possible enemy, as the killer who has been haunting the village even as he has been providing them with meat.

She is torn about what to do -- turn him in? Kill him immediately? Keep him for herself? Frankly, I think she is an unreliable narrator and I don't trust her perceptions, given what she's lived through. I don't really know what to believe as I read her story.

It seems that Emshwiller is capturing how life in such a world would make everyone a little (or a lot) broken, bent, damaged -- men still think the war is going on and fight on despite its end or have gone insane and live in the hills as hermits; the womenfolk live a hard-scrabble life, resorting to eat dead men when robin stew or rat soup or their pets no longer suffice.

"Joe" is a victim, but so are all these pitiful people. They are all traumatized by their experiences and the world in which they live. This is a world where cannibalism is a means of survival -- where women live alone, eating dog or rat or human when it's available. To me, the behavior she displays is understandable, even as it is morally reprehensible. It's a nightmare vision of a possible future and of the effects of that nightmare world on the people who inhabit it.

If this were a woman living in contemporary America who caught a terrorist and acted this way, I might be far more ready to condemn her, but this is not Kansas and she is not the girl next door turned killer.

You seem overly focused on the fact that a woman killed a man as if this is some kind of sexist story. I didn't read it that way at all.


quote:

We also believe that there are certain stories where an author makes a specific point for a specific purpose and does entertain a philosophy (i.e. belief system) in his or her work, and therefore it is fair game to question an apparent inconsistency, or double standard, in this clearly stated (in previous work) philosophy.




I haven't read "Pelt" or "Hunting Machine" so I have to take your read of both as accurate (although given your review of "Killers", I have my doubts).

It appears those stories were written FIFTY YEARS AGO!

Might I suggest that trying to link these stories the way you have is a tad contrived and intellectually flawed? A lot happens to a person and their writing in fifty years. To make the logical leap that she has displayed some inconsistency or double standard from her works of 1957 and 1058 to 2006 is, well, frankly, contrived and incredible.

YMMV.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 08:32 pm:   

Elizabeth, the narrator does say to Joe that he is the enemy and that he is the one who has been killing the men. Joe doesn't deny it.

Having said that, Emshwiller clearly is making a point that in war, over time, both sides forget what they're fighting for...

The story concerns itself with the narrator's various loyalties to others. Doubt has to be introduced in order to make it all work.

So if Joe were portrayed as the absolute enemy then the narrator would have killed him on sight. Instead we have Joe as potential brother...and sick which brings in the nurturing aspect. If Joe had been in good health then there wouldn't have been a story.

Joe is sick and goes to a woman for help, for nurture, and winds up being eaten. Even more irony is piled on when one considers that Joe was providing the food source by killing the men.

Eating your enemy is nothing new. While hunger was a motive, I'd suggest that hatred of the enemy helped to justify the meal.

Is Joe a victim? He's certainly vulnerable. My predilection is against describing folk as "victims". War is clearly responsible though for what has happened. It has depraved everyone.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 08:40 pm:   

"Pelt" is reprinted in Emshwiller's The Start of the End of it All.

"Hunting Machine" is reprinted in Greenberg, Waugh & Waugh's 101 Science Fiction Stories.

These may be at a local library. This is not an exhaustive list of where these stories have been reprinted. Locus Magazine has more info at:

http://www.locusmag.com/index/s255.html
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 08:56 pm:   

Elizabeth,

Very cogent analysis, and I appreciate it. Really. I can't argue with it, except for perhaps your interpretation of the narrator's motives, for which you make a good case. What I look at, and see, in this story, are the facts. Doesn't matter to me whether the woman is nuts or not; she murders out of petty jealousy and from what is given in the story she is not made to pay for it in any way whatsoever. I would agree that war makes folks crazy, and desperate. This is new? If this is the point of the story...so what and big whoop.

You know, I'm beginning to see a pattern here in my reading. This is the third story I've pointed out over the past couple of years where those defending the stories I was carping about always end up retreating into a defense of character dumbness, or improbable plot idiocies, or character stupidity and/or weakness, or characters who act irresponsibly or not at all rationally by saying something to the effect of "Well, people seldom act rationally, or logically." I'm tired of this excuse being used to explain away just about every goofy thing in any given story. This happens time after time after time, and seems to be where a lot of sf/f writers heads are at now. The "confused," the "illogical," the "irrational," protagonist who does dumb things in dumb, confused, sad stories.

And I'm tired of confused characters, or sad characters, or illogical characters acting out in confused, illogical, or otherwise flawed stories. In Ms. Emshwiller's story we have a sad, pathetic woman who commits murder out of jealousy. So...bloody...what. There's plenty of that going around in real life as well. Tell me something I don't already know, and how to successfully _deal with it_, and I'll read it. A lot of mainstream fiction deals with sad characters who aren't able to cope with society or others in society, or changes in the society around them. This is what makes SF _different_.

Please tell me what you divine as the moral of "Killers." Is it any different than any other war is bad on folks story we've read? Is it that war is bad and people suffer and do desperate acts to survive? That's a statement so obvious that...

If it is something else, please tell us. I'm not being facetious here. I just don't see anything new or different in this story worthy of my _science fiction_ reading experience--and time.

I'm not asking a return to the Heinlein type character who is on top of every situation. That gets boring pretty quick, too, if that is the only type of charcter a lot of authors were to be writing into their stories. But boy howdy, has a lot of _short_ SF/F totally swung the other way for the past few decades, and this reader is tired of reading depressing stories, with depressing, confused, irrational (and in this case) deranged, petty murderers.

There, I feel much better now. :-)

Dave
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 09:06 pm:   

Dave, the answer is 43.

Now there are only so many ways that one can disguise the answer :-)

Of course, Emshwiller would want us to take every precaution to prevent such a war happening that would lead to "Killers".

The larger question is one of loyalty. Joe's death, while important, is just one aspect of the question, "Who should we be loyal too?"
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 09:11 pm:   

and Dave we are who we are.

I'll agree with you that there is a depressing outlook. I keep waiting for the great kitten hugging sci-fi adventure :-)

But it would be for kids and I really hate kid lit...

So we are who we are.

Reviewers, obviously, are in a bind as any breadth of material is going to involve serious psychic agony...
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GSH
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 09:18 pm:   

It's been a while since I read Killers, but didn't the woman's intention toward the man turn at (or maybe on) the point where she suspected he might favor another? I remember thinking about which of the two main characters had been first to betray the other, and to what extent the reader's own gender bias might influence the answer.

Lots going on below the surface with that particular story.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 09:23 pm:   

Yes, GSH, the narrator's intention turns when Joe favors another. (Or at least the belief that Joe is going elsewhere.)

It's an easily read story that is brimming with content.
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 09:48 pm:   

"Tell me something I don't already know, and how to successfully _deal with it"

Make love, not war.

If the narrator had had a husband at home rather than all of the eligible men off at war then none of this would have happened...
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PM
Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 - 10:53 pm:   

More non-stop bits...

Jal, whose name becomes Joe, is an Arabic name that means, "resolution, firm will". Joe says more than once that he will fight to the death.

Global warming has happened. The temperature is 110 in the winter in this particular region. The heat of war creates craziness, both literally and figuratively.

On the one hand this works, but on the other hand no way. The narrator wouldn't be roaming around the woods in this sort of heat...there wouldn't be a woods...there wouldn't be a river.

Rather interestingly, Joe accuses the narrator and her folk (collectively) of creating global warming. And then the narrator attributes it to the earth's natural cycle.

Dave doesn't dig what could be a conservative woman...
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 03:51 am:   

What I don't dig is a conservative woman (or man), or a liberal woman (or man), who commits murder out of petty jealousy. Just another mundane, sad sack character that has strewn the pages of mainstream literature for a long time. "Killers" says nothing that hasn't been offered readers a million times before, including its statement about war, that it creates "killers" on both sides. That war is bad (jeez, I never would have thunk it), and that desperate people get caught in the middle (how original).

The author tries to show a moral equivalency, a blurring of the lines between good and evil, where neither side is good. You'll see this attitude expressed primarily from the far left liberal types if you watch or listen to the news about the war in Iraq. Ho-hum.

Oh, the angst, the suffering...the boredom for the reader. :-)

Dave
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 06:20 am:   

Dave, the story lacks your subtlety.

I doubt that Emshwiller intends for us to dig what happens to Joe either. Or to dig the entire situation for everyone.

Dave, you're too caught up with what happens to Joe. You've yet to acknowledge how the story from start to finish raises questions of where the narrator should place her loyalty. Should she go to war or help her mom? Should she look for her brother or abandon the search? Should she take Joe as her lover or abandon the war/endanger her community? Should she hunt the killer of men? Should she claim Joe as her own or allow Joe to go to another? Those decisions are made but they continue to be questioned.

The value/beauty of the story is its process. It's intended to provoke thought. Reducing it to "sad sack character" "who commits murder out of petty jealousy" is akin to describing a painting as oil on wood.

As to "moral equivalency". Agreed that it's not portrayed as "cowboys and Indians" because most everyone recognizes that these simple distinctions are illusory.

As to the war in Iraq, even Republicans have begun to clue in on this one. It's a sectarian conflict which extends beyond the Iraqi border. The Bush administration has and continues to describe this as an effort to fight terrorists. Undoubtedly there were some in Iraq who would like to kill Americans. The sectarian conflict continues and inasmuch as the US picks a side we're going to have the opposing side as an enemy.

And since we aren't going to be doing sectarian purges this nonsense will continue. The enemy is to some extent unknown (part of a sectarian population) and the sectarian population is what millions. The issue is even more complex than that as intra-sectarian groups are vying for power and using the US as a convenient way to off political rivals.

And should we blithely ignore that troops have tortured, murdered, raped, etc?
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Elizabeth Lyons
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 04:41 pm:   


quote:

Elizabeth, the narrator does say to Joe that he is the enemy and that he is the one who has been killing the men. Joe doesn't deny it.

Having said that, Emshwiller clearly is making a point that in war, over time, both sides forget what they're fighting for...




My complaint with Dave's take on "Killers" is that he has reduced quite a complex story it to a simplistic logline that dismisses so much. I do appreciate him raising the issues since they make for stimulating discussion and made me read the story more closely, but I disagree with almost all his complaints about the story.

As to whether "Joe" is an "enemy" or not, he may be and you may be right. To me it isn't completely clear nor is it really important if "Joe" is truly an "enemy" or just another hermit nutcase who is killing others of his kind, carrying on a lost war by killing the crazed hermits who live in the hills.

What's more important to me is that the war is pretty much over for both sides. What we witness in "Killers" is the harsh reality in which these characters live. Global warming and the ravages of fighting the long war have ruined civilization as we know it. In this case, it's not that both sides have forgotten what they're fighting for -- it's that climate catastrophe and the cost of fighting this war have rendered the war and its reasons meaningless. Any killing that takes place is reduced to a purely personal matter -- is he "friend" or "food"?

In the end, after the narrator suspects that "Joe" is interested in another woman, he is transformed from a potential lover back to "the enemy" and is killed. He will be eaten. But there is clearly more to this story than the "Scorned Petty Bitch Kills Man, Eats Him" headline that Dave is putting forward. The world that Emshwiller has created makes it more than this and I think that Dave is dismissing that.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 05:28 pm:   

Elizabeth,

The facts would point toward Joe being the enemy. The narrator wants to rationalize that Joe may not be the enemy.

When the narrator sets out to hunt the killer of men she is doing it for herself but she's also doing it for the community.

When the community kills Joe it's one of those right action/wrong reason scenarios. But Emshwiller muddles it enough so that it's not clearcut.

Clearly the story pushed Dave's button. We agree that he gave the story short shrift.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 05:32 pm:   

Elizabeth,

It's not that I'm missing what the ravages of war have done to these people. I understand this completely.

But since these sorts of things happen in _all_ wars, and has been played out in countless stories and novels and even historical accounts over the centuries, I'm more interested in seeing something new or different in an sf story. But what are we given? A woman who murders out of petty jealousy. Not for what she believes in or some higher cause, but out of one of the oldest motives for murder in the book. I'm sorry, but this _is_ what happens in the story. You may want to justify, or explain the reasons _why_ she committed murder, but it does not excuse the fact that she _did_ commit murder out of petty, selfish jealousy.

You can play up all of the so-called "layers" or so-called "complexities" in the story till the cows come home; it doesn't change the _result_, now does it? Some of you are trying to make a case worthy of Gerry Spence here, but I'm sorry, I just can't buy it. The story isn't all that "complex" either; I'd characterize it as purposely vague--which too often these days passes for complex. I'm trying to demystify a too easily thrown around word that is used many times to cover an author's vagueness (or lazy writing).

Sometimes vague is good, and is used extremely well. Other times it's not, and is used to cover weaknesses (just to name one reason) in a story. When stories are so vague that no one can figure them out, I don't understand why this is extolled as a virtue. Too often the writer has failed in his job.

So. Everything else in "Killers" being so vague and open to interpretation, one thing the reader _is_ left with is that this lonely woman committed murder out of selfish jealousy. Period. She done the deed. All the author tries to do is muddy the waters (i.e. stack her auctorial deck) so that everyone else (i.e. the reader) is as morally confused as her dipsy murderer is (who couldn't make a decision to save her soul). I don't care for her sad story and don't feel sorry for her, and I don't like making her the "victim" of her circumstances in order to justify her crime. And I certainly don't like the result of her irresponsible, immature actions--which she gets away with.

Blame her actions on global warming. Blame her actions on loneliness. Blame her actions on a melted fudgsicle when she was nine. Doesn't matter. She committed murder out of jealousy..and that's a fact.

Cheers,
Dave
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Elizabeth Lyons
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 05:43 pm:   


quote:

Elizabeth,

Very cogent analysis, and I appreciate it. Really. I can't argue with it, except for perhaps your interpretation of the narrator's motives, for which you make a good case. What I look at, and see, in this story, are the facts. Doesn't matter to me whether the woman is nuts or not; she murders out of petty jealousy and from what is given in the story she is not made to pay for it in any way whatsoever. I would agree that war makes folks crazy, and desperate. This is new? If this is the point of the story...so what and big whoop.




Thanks for the kind words, Dave. Really. I'm glad you welcome dissenting views on your interpretation of the story. I expect that's what this column hopes to stimulate – discussion, debate, looking at issues raised in stories in more depth than the usual reviews that takes place. Also, I commend you for this column as I do enjoy it and this debate.

So, to sum up, you see this story as just another "woman scorned" story. End of story. You object to it because, well, "been there, done that", just another negative dark dystopic story critical of war and its inhumanity, etc. etc. etc. It's SF going in the wrong direction.

You also find this story to be inconsistent with Emshwiller's other stories, "Pelt" and "Hunting Machine", and wonder if "Killers" lets the woman killer off lightly while the other stories condemned men when they were the killers. You hint that it is sexist. Correct me if I'm wrong about your position on this.

As I said above, to me the story is so much more than the "Scorned Petty Bitch Kills Man, Eats Him" headline you've assigned it. To me, this world is characterized by three words: friend or food. Friend or foe no longer makes sense since the war is lost for both sides.

"Joe" is still "the enemy" and is still a killer, and so by all rights, the narrator could have killed him outright without fault. He might have kept his life had he recognized that he should cozy up to the narrator instead of making eyes at someone else. He didn't and ends up as dinner. Harsh, yes. But this world is harsh.

Is she "petty"? Is she a "bitch"? Those are your labels and like all labels, they over-simplify. She is clearly warped as anyone would be if forced to live in this world, but she is also conflicted and she is damaged. First, she is unable to fight along with other women because she had to stay behind and care for an alcoholic mother. The careful details Emshwiller puts in show the conditions in which she survives: taking care of her mother's decaying body, of sprinkling pine needles over the body to stop the smell, eating the family pet, trapping rats and other rodents for food, living on the edge with constant scarcity in an inhospitable environment, eating human flesh to survive in a post-ecopalypse world ruined by war and climate change. Who wouldn't be bent? Does that make her killing him "right"? No! But it explains her actions.

This is a "friend or food", "eat or be eaten" world where, if you are a man, your fate as either a friend or food hangs on whether you look the wrong way at another woman. It is a nightmare world. You have reduced this complexity down to a logline that, to me, minimizes the story as all oversimplifications do.

As to the charge that many SF stories you have critiqued in the past are defended by others, even when the character are "dumb" or "illogical", I can't speak to that since I haven't read said discussions. What I can say is that in SF, you have to judge characters based on the world in which they live, not on the current standards. What makes sense in our world might not make sense in a future world.


quote:

Ms. Emshwiller's story we have a sad, pathetic woman who commits murder out of jealousy. So...bloody...what. There's plenty of that going around in real life as well. Tell me something I don't already know, and how to successfully _deal with it_, and I'll read it. A lot of mainstream fiction deals with sad characters who aren't able to cope with society or others in society, or changes in the society around them. This is what makes SF _different_.




Oh, dear, not another morose ode to the "golden age of SF" when square-jawed men of science flying in rockets solved problems with Fourier Transforms . . .

Yawn.

In your view maybe SF should be different and have different themes and points of view than mainstream literature, but that is not mine. SF is big enough for a number of points of view and themes -- utopic, dystopic, or in between. In fact, I enjoy when SF takes current issues and sets them in the future in order to explore them in changed circumstances.

Another question you raise is the moral of this story. I don't know if "Killers" needs any over-arching moral to make it valuable to me. I'm comfortable with my morals, thanks, and don't look to short stories to be reminded of what's good or evil.



quote:

I'm not asking a return to the Heinlein type character who is on top of every situation. That gets boring pretty quick, too, if that is the only type of charcter a lot of authors were to be writing into their stories. But boy howdy, has a lot of _short_ SF/F totally swung the other way for the past few decades, and this reader is tired of reading depressing stories, with depressing, confused, irrational (and in this case) deranged, petty murderers.

There, I feel much better now. :-)
Dave




Well, at least your column and response to your critics has provided you with some catharsis. :-)


My final objection to your review of this story was your wrong-headed attempt (in my opinion, of course) to measure "Killers" against two stories the author wrote 50 years ago in order to point out some kind of inconsistency between them.

As a writer, I would hope to be given quite a lot of leeway to explore different issues and ideas and themes over a 50-year writing career and even – gasp -- to change my mind on issues. 50 years gives a writer a right to be inconsistent with the stories one wrote at the beginning of one's career. Or at least, I would hope so.

I realize you were looking for some kind of over-arching analysis of the writer's work, some kind of hook for your article, but I think you were forcing this idea of inconsistency, and it came off as contrived and ultimately meaningless.

So this new story might be inconsistent with two stories she wrote 50 years ago . . .

So what!
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Elizabeth Lyons
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 06:05 pm:   


quote:

You can play up all of the so-called "layers" or so-called "complexities" in the story till the cows come home; it doesn't change the _result_, now does it? Some of you are trying to make a case worthy of Gerry Spence here, but I'm sorry, I just can't buy it. The story isn't all that "complex" either; I'd characterize it as purposely vague--which too often these days passes for complex.




I don't find it vague. I find it tells me just enough information to set the stage and create context for the characters' actions.


quote:

I'm trying to demystify a too easily thrown around word that is used many times to cover an author's vagueness (or lazy writing).




Fine. I don't think this story exhibits lazy writing at all. I think the writing was solid and precise. You may squirm because the story does not come out and blatantly condemn the killer for her actions, make her suffer, make her feel guilt, so you can feel vindicated, but I'm comfortable with the story as it is.


quote:

Sometimes vague is good, and is used extremely well. Other times it's not, and is used to cover weaknesses (just to name one reason) in a story. When stories are so vague that no one can figure them out, I don't understand why this is extolled as a virtue. Too often the writer has failed in his job.




Agreed, but if you are claiming this story is overly vague, I disagree. I think it is pretty clear.


quote:

All the author tries to do is muddy the waters (i.e. stack her auctorial deck) so that everyone else (i.e. the reader) is as morally confused as her dipsy murderer is (who couldn't make a decision to save her soul). I don't care for her sad story and don't feel sorry for her, and I don't like making her the "victim" of her circumstances in order to justify her crime. And I certainly don't like the result of her irresponsible, immature actions--which she gets away with.




So, if she had killed him right away, as she was justified in doing, you'd be OK with it?
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 08:23 pm:   

Elizabeth:

”Thanks for the kind words, Dave. Really. I'm glad you welcome dissenting views on your interpretation of the story. I expect that's what this column hopes to stimulate – discussion, debate, looking at issues raised in stories in more depth than the usual reviews that takes place. Also, I commend you for this column as I do enjoy it and this debate.”

You’re most welcome. The column presents my honest views on stories and trends, but with real hope of discussion and debate. There will be times when I have totally misread, and therefore misunderstood a story, and this is where the intelligent debate comes into play. Then there will be times when I am 100% right and everyone else is wrong. :-) I count the current story and discussion as somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

EL: “So, to sum up, you see this story as just another "woman scorned" story. End of story. You object to it because, well, "been there, done that", just another negative dark dystopic story critical of war and its inhumanity, etc. etc. etc. It's SF going in the wrong direction.”

You nailed it, save for the final line. While I do see a decades-long trend involving several elements I find disturbing, this story is but symptomatic of a growing number of recent pieces. But SF is too diversified for me to say that it is all going in the wrong direction. Just a currently popular segment of it, which I try to define and refine through analyzing and discussion of selected stories which exemplify my dissatisfaction.

EL: “You also find this story to be inconsistent with Emshwiller's other stories, "Pelt" and "Hunting Machine", and wonder if "Killers" lets the woman killer off lightly while the other stories condemned men when they were the killers. You hint that it is sexist. Correct me if I'm wrong about your position on this.”

The above is correct. I’m not in a position to state that the possible sexism (let’s say “inconsistency”) is intentional, but I definitely think a case could be made for it, yes. Critics make these sorts of judgments on an author’s career-span of stories all the time (on various subjects, or themes, depending on any individual author’s work, of course). I could be wrong, of course; but I do see several threads in Ms. Emshwiller’s work such that the question can at least be legitimately raised, and honestly explored. Nothing wrong with this, is there, in an enlightened intellectual atmosphere?

EL: “As I said above, to me the story is so much more than the "Scorned Petty Bitch Kills Man, Eats Him" headline you've assigned it.”

It’s not the headline, it’s the bottom line. It’s the reality of the situation that seems so difficult for some to acknowledge. Lest I seem harsh and cruel, I admit there are extenuating circumstances to be considered in any case of murder. But consider this: in war there are war crimes, too. Even in war, soldiers are court-martialed for heinous acts. Especially cold-blooded murder. Though they are in the midst of a war, with the enemy shooting at them from all directions; with the enemy not even wearing uniforms and it is difficult to tell who the enemy even is, they are not permitted to wantonly kill/murder. If they, and are caught, they are brought to justice. Now, justify the woman in “Killers” shooting Joe in the back; not for food or from belief in imminent bodily harm, but because he wouldn’t give her what she wanted. He was an unarmed “enemy,” if you will, and posed no physical threat to her whatsoever (as demonstrated in the story). So you can throw her extenuating circumstances out the window.

Life seldom is black and white. Shades of grey are fine if not everything is always reduced and seen in shades of grey. It may come as a shock to some, but sometimes there is, in this Life, a clear black and white morality to be observed. Unless there is some sort of moral common denominator somewhere, from which the black or white can be drawn upon, then we trod the path of moral relativism (i.e. situational ethics), where extenuating circumstances can be used to justify anything.

Shooting an unarmed man in the back—even during a war scenario—out of selfish jealousy, is plain and simple murder under any circumstances.

EL: “"Joe" is still "the enemy" and is still a killer, and so by all rights, the narrator could have killed him outright without fault.”

Works for me.

EL: “Is she "petty"?”

Yup. Out of all the reasons for murder, while jealousy may be quite common, it is also quite low and therefore “petty” on my scale.

EL: “Is she a "bitch"? Those are your labels and like all labels, they over-simplify.”

Rather, they clarify the moral ambiguity the author attempts to foist upon the gullible (and all too forgiving) reading public.

EL: “She is clearly warped as anyone would be if forced to live in this world, but she is also conflicted and she is damaged.”

Poor baby. “Conflicted”? A distancing characterization meant to elicit sympathy from the reader. We’re all “conflicted” in dire circumstances (i.e. I can do A or B. A is easy but wrong; B is more difficult but morally correct). Most of us get over it and don’t commit murder just because we ain’t gettin’ any.

EL: “This is a "friend or food", "eat or be eaten" world where, if you are a man, your fate as either a friend or food hangs on whether you look the wrong way at another woman. It is a nightmare world. You have reduced this complexity down to a logline that, to me, minimizes the story as all oversimplifications do.”

You over-complicate the obvious; you feel too much instead of thinking clearly. Feeling too much makes one overly “conflicted,” and you then begin to question and doubt your conscience’s moral compass.

EL: “As to the charge that many SF stories you have critiqued in the past are defended by others, even when the character are "dumb" or "illogical", I can't speak to that since I haven't read said discussions. What I can say is that in SF, you have to judge characters based on the world in which they live, not on the current standards. What makes sense in our world might not make sense in a future world.”

Correct. But given that “Killers” takes place in the good old U.S.A in the near future, the standards are those we know, live by, and are familiar with, including (even during a war) the shooting of an unarmed combatant in the back—an act of murder.

Dave says: “Ms. Emshwiller's story we have a sad, pathetic woman who commits murder out of jealousy. So...bloody...what. There's plenty of that going around in real life as well. Tell me something I don't already know, and how to successfully _deal with it_, and I'll read it. A lot of mainstream fiction deals with sad characters who aren't able to cope with society or others in society, or changes in the society around them. This is what makes SF _different_.”

EL: “Oh, dear, not another morose ode to the "golden age of SF" when square-jawed men of science flying in rockets solved problems with Fourier Transforms . . .”

Hardly. :-) Just a hope that there’s something to be said, afterall, for characters who rise to challenges instead of succumbing to them because they are (ahem) so sensitive, so human, so “conflicted.” Characters who—at least occasionally—embody hope instead of despair, melancholy, or a sad existential view of life and its problems. If I find myself in a life or death scenario I’d rather be in a group that accepts the challenge of survival (be it from nature or man) rather than in a group of sad-sack, whiney, breast-beating, “conflicted” losers, who are most likely so mentally unstable and confused as to the Meaning of Life that they’ve forgotten the difference between basic Good and Bad, Right and Wrong. Whether they have square jaws or not is of no consequence to me.

EL: “In your view maybe SF should be different and have different themes and points of view than mainstream literature, but that is not mine.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. SF adds an extra dimension to many of mainstream’s themes. The SF element is the X-factor which hopefully alters the usual social or psychological dynamic of any given situation that the mainstream has played with in varying combinations since time immemorial. But when the SF element is diluted, or mere window-dressing, then what is the point? There’s no new “dynamic” stirring the pot of the mundane mainstream stew.
EL: “SF is big enough for a number of points of view and themes -- utopic, dystopic, or in between. In fact, I enjoy when SF takes current issues and sets them in the future in order to explore them in changed circumstances.”
And just how does the war scenario in “Killers” differ in any meaningful way from a present day war—or any war in the past for that matter? In any war, people caught in the middle are desperate to survive. This story adds nothing new on any fundamental level. Nothing. All it shows us is what a sad, pathetic, “conflicted” piece of squeeze the murdering b***h is.

Dave
PS: I was going to call her a bitch again, but I got conflicted and wasn’t sure just _what_ (oh, _my_) to do. I went back and forth, pondering this and that, couldn’t make up my mind because my sensitive side said one thing and my rational side said something else. So I compromised: I called her a b***h in the body of the text, and a bitch in the postscript. I am now officially “unconflicted.”
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 08:48 pm:   

Dave, perhaps you could define how you're using "bitch" in this context.

Amazes me that you continue to insist that the narrator shot Joe in the back.

And if the narrator had "kept" Joe she still would have been committing at least a crime or two: lying to the community as to Joe's identity and sleeping with the enemy.

I dig how Emshwiller plays with gender expectations (the jealous woman and sleeping with the enemy to mention two).
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 09:06 pm:   

(Heavy sigh)

PM, if a guy shot a woman in the back he would be (at the very least) a prick. I'm sure stronger words would apply as well.

Prick is to male, as bitch is to female.

Therefore, since the woman in "Killers" shot Joe in the back with a crossbow (he was running away, remember?), she is at the very least a bitch.

Both prick and bitch are flexible terms and can be used descriptively in various ways.

Clear enough for you now?

Good night.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 09:31 pm:   

Guess that makes sense to you.

I associate "bitch" with lesser educated folk who do not understand women. I also associate "bitch" with rappers who are degrading women. And I also associate the word "bitch" with anti-feminists.

Then there are those feminists who call themselves "bitches" as a complementary term.

So, Dave, I didn't figure that you were muddling like Emshwiller but wanted to better comprehend your connotation(s).

As for me I wouldn't call him or her a "bitch" or a "prick" as it comes across more as name-calling.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 09:41 pm:   

Dave,

I think you are missing PM's point. The text does not say that the narrator shoots Joe in the back with the crossbow. The ending reads:

I wish I'd saved his smelly, falling-apart clothes. I wish I'd saved the dirty, tangled hair I cut off, but I burned that too. I do find the old hat. That helps them to believe me. I bring the crossbow. It also helps that he tries to get away.

Emshwiller is here describing the process by which the narrator convinces the other women (who are plainly reluctant to knock Joe off) that he is in fact an "enemy combatant." The clothes and the hair are gone, but the hat bolsters her case somewhat. The crossbow (you remember the bit about the fancy carved bolts) strengthens her case even more, because it indicates that Joe is the one who is killing men and dumping their bodies outside the village. The fact that he tries to run away all but clinches it.

As I read it, she's presenting the evidence that leads to Joe's execution by the group.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 10:10 pm:   

As I'm reading Dave, the shot in the back is a way to buttress his viewpoint of the narrator.

It's overly simplistic to say, "Yay Joe!" or "Yay Women!". Emshwiller depicts the crazy men and the cannibal community who are primarily women.

It concerns me that folk unfamiliar with Emshwiller will read his column and have this distorted view of her work...instead of actually reading her stories.

I have this fantasy that Dave will be persuaded to modify or amend these distortions.
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 10:13 pm:   

We've been through all this before, S. Most folks (including GVG) ascribe to the interpretation I've offered. At which point, previously, I said it didn't make much difference. Either the narrator shot him in the back, or turned him in to be shot in the back by someone in the group. Either way, the narrator caused his death out of petty jealousy. She therefore either committed the murder or was a direct accomplice to it.

The last one in possession of the crossbow is the narrator. She turned him in, then when he ran she shot him. It's the best _direct_ evidence from the text we have.

I'm off to bed. :-)
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 10:39 pm:   

"They've all been shot in the back by wooden crossbow darts."

That's the narrator describing what Joe did to the men. Joe uses the crossbow.

Later the narrator comments:

"...we're not good at killing lions. I bet Joe would be, with his crossbow."

This is a tacit admission that the community does not have firearms or any sort of projectile firing weapon.

This will become damning in the end to prove that Joe is the enemy. And of course the bolts.

The narrator doesn't display any interest in taking the crossbow and using it herself. In all likelihood she doesn't know how. Or the community for that matter.

But the community has knives and hatchets. The text doesn't explicitly state how Joe was killed. But if you've ever used a crossbow you'd know that you don't simply pick it up and magically know how to kill with it. The women (the community) had been chopping men up with knives/hatchets/etc. and this is the more reasonable explanation.

If this is GVG's interpretation then hopefully he'll realign it as well.
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PM
Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 10:46 pm:   

Or they might of hung Joe.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, March 22, 2007 - 08:18 am:   

"Soylent Green is . . . PEOPLE!!!"

Sorry. Just had to throw that in.
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Elizabeth Lyons
Posted on Friday, March 23, 2007 - 06:06 am:   


quote:

I do find the old hat. That helps them to believe me. I bring the corssbow. It also helps that he tries to get away.




People are assuming that because he "tries to get away" that he was shot in the back, but it doesn't necessarily follow. The hat, the crossbow and his running away were just proof that he's guilty. The narrator does not say he was shot in the back as he ran away. It's the crazies who were shot in the back with a crossbow dart -- by "Joe".
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Friday, March 23, 2007 - 01:51 pm:   

Hi, Elizabeth,

I think we've all had plenty of opportunity to have our say here. It's clear that so much is open to interpretation that any sort of consensus (on more than one story issue) is unlikely to take place. But we've had our say, and this is a good thing.

This whole thing reminds me of something that happened in my 8th grade Algebra II class. I complained to my folks that I didn't understand what the teacher (Mrs. Hornbeck) was teaching. I told them I had to stand in a long line after class to ask her my questions. They finally concluded that since it wasn't just one or two students who were having problems, but a long line of them staying after to ask questions every day, that it was something the teacher was doing--or not doing--if that many students didn't "get" it. It was most likely the teacher's fault for not conveying the material so that the majority of students could understand it.

When so many readers have so many different interpretations of so many aspects of this story, then maybe...?

I think we've about gnawed all the meat off this bone, but good. :-)

The first of the month there'll be a new hunk of raw meat thrown your way, and the fun will begin all over again.

Who knows, maybe you'll actually agree with me next time. (Hope springs eternal.)

Dave
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Elizabeth Lyons
Posted on Friday, March 23, 2007 - 07:48 pm:   

Dave:

Agreed for the most part re: the lack of meat left on this particular bone to gnaw, except to add that each of us brings to the reading experience a perspective with many unique features. I would argue that it isn't necessarily the fault of the writer that there is a lack of consensus on what their story is about. I expect that there will be differing takes on any story just by the nature of reading a work of fiction. Admittedly, some works of fiction will result in a greater degree of debate over meaning.

I meant to respond in more depth to your latest response to a post of mine, especially the bits about emotionalism and the like, but I ran out of steam due to my personal life intervening in my free time and so never got to it.

Great debate, though.

Besides, agreement is boring. If we were in agreement on all points, there'd be nothing to discuss. :-)
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Dave Truesdale
Posted on Saturday, March 24, 2007 - 08:05 am:   

Elizabeth,

If we ever run across one another at a con--and have a few spare moments--I'm sure we can finish off any stray thoughts we may have ... and probably a lot quicker verbally than in a written venue. Like you, I'd like to clarify a few of my own thoughts, but life and my reading gets in the way and I weary of posting lengthy explanations again and again.

So we can file this one away for another time... :-)

Dave

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