Monday, October 1, 2007

Making "The Makeover Men"

I've written here before about my admiration for the writings of James Tiptree, Jr.. How her stories--classics such as "The Screwfly Solution" and "The Women Men Don't See" and "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?"--really struck a chord in me and opened my mind to a whole other range of possibilities of what science fiction could do. Not everything Tiptree wrote was great, by any means, but she was a very honest writer and invariably a thought-provoking one. I appreciate that.

So it comes to pass that the one story I've ever written that is blatantly, if not shamelessly, influenced by by Tiptree has been published. You can read it now, in fact. Just click on over to HelixSF and take a look-see. I'll wait. Or, if that seems like too much effort and you remain unconvinced, here are a few of the opening grafs, to give you a taste:
Four billion years. That's how much the universe had invested in crafting women into the epitome of perfection.

So I could be forgiven, I think, for taking a certain well-founded pride in the fact that every day I did evolution one better.

Hell, who was I for false modesty? I did evolution five or six times better. I loved women with a driving passion, and it showed in my work.

Kris St. Joy, for instance. When she first came to You-Genes, Inc., she wasn't hard on the eyes by any means, but nobody was mistaking her for a model, either. Now, eighteen months later, she could turn every head from Houston to El Paso without breaking a sweat. Her breasts were particularly gorgeous, with areolas that sported complex bioluminescent Celtic knotwork.

I didn't mind admiring my work, even bragging about it. My portfolio was filled with my patients' success stories. Kris, for instance, went with our popular Courtesan package — general vaginal tightening coupled with a fifty percent labial reduction and a hundred percent clitoral enlargement. She also opted for a refinement of her buttocks, to create a more "heart shaped" profile (her words), as well as an extra two inches added to her legs, increased joint flexibility, and an overall five percent metabolic reduction in bodyfat — brand-new tits and ass excepted, of course.

In my younger days (back when I had a social life) I got to be casual friends with a bartender at one particular night spot I frequented on occasion. One evening, I witnessed a terse, icy exchange between him and an attractive woman who'd just ordered a drink. The night before, apparently, they'd met, gone home together, had a prodigious amount of sex and parted ways the next morning. He was indignant and insulted by her obvious regret. "What does she want from me?" he groused. "I asked her phone number this morning--not that I was ever going to call her--and she wouldn't give it to me. What a bitch."

He was offended because she saw through his insincere facade of chivalry. Or rather, what passed for chivalry in his worldview. I found the whole affair depressing, a feeling which has intensified over the years as I've slowly come to the realization that I, myself, am capable of the same brand of self-centered cruelty and perpetrated such behavior more often than I care to admit. Nothing so ham-fisted and crude as by former bartender friend, but no less unpleasant.

"The Makeover Men" was (and remains) the most difficult story I've ever written. Technically difficult, because it took years to write. There were untold numbers of blind alleys and discarded drafts written before I hit upon this final form. I gave up on it several times, but it kept calling me back. More than that, however, was the psychological difficulty of it. To make it work, I had to force myself into some unpleasant places that I don't like to admit exist.

All writers expose themselves to a certain degree through their work. There's no denying that I invest parts of myself into everything I write, be it "Cyclops in B Minor" or "The Final Voyage of La Riaza." But this time, perhaps because the work in question is considerably more confrontational than what people would normally expect from me, I feel correspondingly more vulnerable and exposed. Not unlike that woman from the bar all those years ago. I just hope my efforts are worth it in the end.

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