Monday, September 12, 2016

Rooms Formed of Neurons and Sex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

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(Near-Future SF) Lydia's boyfriend, Ross, was just a brain in a jar. So how, exactly, did she injure him during sex? (6,295 words; Time: 20m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Award-Worthy

I'm not quite sure what award, though. Lengthy and explicit descriptions of very kinky sex may be too much for some readers.
"," by (edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas), appeared in issue 12, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Lydia knows she's got what it takes to be a talented writer, if she could only get the chance. At the start, we laugh at that, but by the end, we realize what a rare talent she is. She passes through the following stages:

  1. At the start, she takes her "Naughty Nurses" job seriously enough to study nursing. The content is explicitly sexual, but it doesn't turn her on at all. She has to be paid to do it.
  2. Then she "meets" Ross. Their encounters are sensual but not sexual, and yet they turn her on immensely. This, she's willing to do for free.
  3. When she meets him for real, the magic is broken, and the merely sensual talk doesn't do it anymore, and so their relationship becomes explicitly sexual. Now she wants to own Ross.
  4. Once she learns she has to share him, she devotes herself to writing, and her work is again extremely sensual but not overtly sexual. She and her followers are all turned on. Now she's even paid for doing what she enjoys. ("Objectifuckation" is a hilarious term, by the way.)
  5. She visits Ross to rub his nose in her book success. The "breakup sex" is so vigorous because it doesn't work for her anymore. She feels bad that she profits from the accident.
  6. Finally, she uses her gift to give Ross what he desperately wants and needs--an ending. All her debts are paid, and she starts a new chapter in life.

Ross follows a simpler path. His own impulsiveness is what got him into the jar in the first place, so it's not surprising that he continues to be reckless. And selfish. And deceitful. But it seems that he's been seeking an end his whole life.

Con: It's unrealistic that Lydia is able to help Ross will himself to die, unless the implication is that she turned him off, in which case there would have been consequences.

It's disappointing that Lydia's feelings about Ross's injuries are "the way you'd feel bad for a deer hit by a car." She had once loved him, or so she claimed, and this is so callous that it makes us think less of her.

Disclosure: As a gay man, I don't find any of the sex in the story appealing in any way, but nor do I find it particularly appalling either. It's possible I'm missing much of the impact the story will have on readers. I'll be interested to hear feedback from others.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. It's unrealistic? It's unrealistic that a brain in a jar (with USB ports!) could exist either! I have no problem with that part. ;-)

    I find it touching.

    As for the sex: I find the whole story quite erotic, but not any particular act.

    I'll be looking for more of Steinmetz.

  2. Critics of Wagner's Ring have occasionally observed that it's funny how the Tarnhelm can transform a man into a dragon but it cannot turn a tenor into a bass. We can easily suspend disbelief for the major concept of a story and yet still have trouble with mundane things.

    The brain in a jar is central to the what-if of the story, and we swallow it easily. But the scene at the end where Lydia essentially talks Ross into letting go of life just came out of nowhere. Even if you believed that people can will themselves to die (although if so, why do depressed people go to so much trouble to commit suicide), a brain being artificially supported would seem to be immune to any non-supernatural mechanism for that.

    Anyway, I thought it was an excellent story. This was one of the few blemishes on it.

  3. Good story, thanks for the recommendation. One of the very few first-rate SF-erotica stories. Vanishingly unlikely that I would have found it on my own.

    I'll also look for more of Mr. Steimetz's stuff.