In my long-running erotic space opera, The Journal Entries, there’s been an almost as long-running thread around sexbots. With few exceptions, the sexbot stories have always been about second-hand robots; ones whose previous owners for one reason or another have died or abandoned the robot, leaving her (it’s almost always a “her” robot) to figure out how to live life without someone who absolutely needs and requires her presence.

Part of the reason I have avoided “first owner” stories is that they don’t interest me; my own reasoning is that men would buy a completely deferent sexbot because they themselves are not very competent human beings, because actual relationships with real individuals are hard, and because they’re the sort of men who would take an easy route out rather than engage in any sort of self-examination.

It may show my lack of thought, but until today I hadn’t stopped to connect that thought with two other ideas running through the fabric of our society. On the one hand, the Men’s Rights Activist movement is eagerly awaiting the emergence of sexbots, woman-shaped substitutes that will provide them with the release valve they say they need.

On the other hand, there’s the idea that women are called upon to engage in “unpaid emotional labor.” Emotional labor is the requirement of a job to depict specific emotional states toward customers or clients: you must be cheerful, or optimistic, or attentive, all emotional states you must somehow pretend to have even when your own life is not any of those things. “Unpaid emotional labor” is the acknowledgement that, outside of work, men are allowed to be angry or grim, whereas a woman being any of those things in public is assailed with requests to “cheer up” and “stop being a downer debbie.”

Relationships require some emotional labor from all parties involved. But sexbots don’t require any emotional labor at all. The “good enough” AIs MRAs eagerly await will do all of the work, and need nothing in return.

Which brings us back to the main point I’ve been making about men and sex. I fully believe that upwards of one-third of all men really don’t like sex. They like orgasms and they like expressions of their potency, but the whole sex thing, its sticky, icky wetness, the need to study and learn its ins and outs, its requirement that one negotiate fairly with a partner and come to an agreement on getting everyone’s needs met, just isn’t their thing. It’s too much work.

So when MRAs breathlessly await the coming sexbot revolution, what they’re really saying is simple: MRAs are lousy men. They’re bad at being human beings. And they don’t want to learn. “Relationships are hard. Let’s go shopping.”

This morning on Twitter, someone posted their commit log for a book they’d written. The commit messages read “Book,” “Book and stuff,” “I erased a bunch of stuff,” “Book stuff,” “More stuff,” etc. etc. Basically, a bad commit log.

I decided, in the interests of science! to show my work.  While a lot of it is “stuff,” there are some interesting tidbits, like “Making room here for a straight sex scene,” and my favorite, “Please stop talking and start boinking, girls.”  Note that it is in reverse order, most recent at the top:

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Last night I bought the second (or third) Blake Snyder book on plot and genre, Save The Cat Strikes Back, and in chapter one, while he’s describing his “one line” plot descriptions, we come across this gem:

On the verge of returning to Earth after another routine mission, a rules-obsessed warrant officer lets an unknown alien species onto the ship; but when the creature kills one member of the crew and begins to grow in power, she must do what is right rather than what she’s been told or else all on board will meet the same deadly fate. (Alien)

I read that and was flabbergasted: Dude, did you even watch the movie?

It isn’t Ripley who lets the alien into the ship. Ash lets the alien into the ship. The whole idea of the “rules-obsessed officer” breaking quarantine is anathema to an essential tension within the plot. The entire point of the film is that Ripley was right to begin with. Ripley foreshadows the doom that comes to the Nostromo. Her words have weight. That’s why she survives. That was a standard trope at the time, the girl who adheres to the rules is the survivor, and Ripley always followed the rules, down to her last log entry.

The best thing James Cameron ever did with Ripley’s character in the sequel is make her a risk-taking rule-breaker. Because the moral values conflict between “saving Kane when you have everything to lose” and “saving Newt when you have nothing else to lose” is incredibly powerful and valuable and instructive, and this facile plot description completely takes away that sharpness of that contrast.

Here’s a provocative thought.  Joseph Campbell defines The Hero’s Journey this way:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

In my last post of black writers and Paranormal Romance, I wrote that black writers “already live in a world of immanent, anarchic threat from vast and powerful forces,” namely white America.  I added that when white characters deal with paranormal forces those threats are beaten back, often comprehensively, but for black writers, the idea that the evil in which they live might be vanquished is childish Disney fairytale stuff.

The coming of the new Star Wars movie with a black Jedi character is intriguing as hell.  The setting is one that allows anyone to go through the Hero’s journey, and the Star Wars universe carries enough cultural cachet that we will allow anyone in it to go through that journey, so long as the story is told well and with sufficient polychrome.

Star Wars is a special case.  When The Hunger Games came out, Twitter erupted in protest that Rue was cast with a black actress, despite the character in the book clearly being black and being from a primarily black district.  The idea that a black character can enter a topsy-turvy world and learn to harness its forces (what screenwriters call the fun-n-games part of the plot), then return to bestow boons on his fellows is deeply threatening to the fundamental American psyche, or at least that portion that indulges in convenient racismthe ones who say “I’m not racist but…”

Which, unfortunately, is a lot of people.

They’re not racist but America was better before women, gays, and minorities started to agitate for equal rights.  They’re not racist but they prefer it when they don’t have to think too hard about whom to trust, skin color is a sufficient proxy.  They’re not racist but the convenience of having a community that can be exploited and abused with impunity was really, really nice.

A black person completing the hero’s journey is oxymoronic to these people.

It didn’t used to be this way.  Eddie Murphy was a brilliant example of this: Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop are both classic hero’s journeys, and the former ends with Billy Ray Valentine not only holding onto his fabulous powers, but successfully sharing them with his fellow man.  (A caveat, though, is that Murphy’s character never shares his earned power and authority with other black people.  In a lot of cases, other black people barely exist.  Even Trading Places makes much more noise about Valentine being poor, rather than black.)

As black equality demands center stage, as a black president enjoys his “lame duck” status while getting a lot of stuff done, the white audience for the idea that black people deserve even the opportunity to go on a hero’s journey has shrunk appreciably.

I wrote this scene a while ago as an explanation for (a) why magic works in the Yowler universe, and (b) how this answer solves the Drake Equation:

“The what?”

“The Drake equation,” Nick said. “It’s a famous formula. It says that if we look at all the stars in the universe, and calculate the odds of there being one that supports life, and run the numbers, there ought to be a certain number of radio-capable civilizations we can hear right this moment.”

“And what does this Drake equation say?” Tatia purred. Damn, she could get to him that way, couldn’t she?

“Right now, there ought to be between 200 and 400 radio-capable civilizations in the Milky Way But there aren’t. We haven’t heard from anybody. And now the Natural Philosophy people have an idea why.” Tatia stared at him, waiting. She wasn’t going to give him the pleasure of asking, which she knew was what he wanted. “Some four billion years ago, a star in our neighborhood of the galaxy went supernova and blew out a huge section of space around us. It may have contributed to the mass that makes up the Earth and stuff, since heavy metals are made by supernovas, but the big deal was that it swept space clear of something. We don’t know what.” Nick’s speech was speeding up. He was getting excited. “But the NP people think that whatever the star did, it suppressed a feature of the universe: the feature that will automagically becomes realization.”


“We know magic worked, right? Well, what if it works absolutely everywhere, naturally, except around our Solar System?”

“But it has worked,” Tatia pointed out.

“A few times. And very weakly. What if that were just mere shreds, dust, vapor of what the Universe is really like? What if all that observer stuff we see at the quantum level isn’t just weird, it’s just weakly weird compared to what the universe is really like? In most of the universe, the moment you will something it become reality. It’s just on Earth, which is privileged in this special way, where that doesn’t happen.” Nick was full in the grip of didactism.

“How is that priveleged?” Tatia said. “Don’t you want magic to work?”

“Hell no!” Nick said. “Just think about it. The second you evolve something with the intelligence of a lemur, the entire world is doomed. The mere thought ‘I want him dead’ or ‘I wish he would disappear’ becomes mutually assured destruction. That’s how it solves the Drake equation: we’re alone in the universe because we don’t have magic. Our ancestors didn’t blow this planet to rubble before we reached this level of consciousness.”

Which I think wraps everything up quite nicely.

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