Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Galatea in Utopia, by Nick Wolven

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(SF) On a whim, Rick decides to make himself 100% female for a night out with friends, but he meets a special guy who falls in love with “her” and he’s not sure he wants to be female for him all the time. (10,676 words; Time: 35m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average

"Galatea in Utopia," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 01-02|18, published on by .

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

Pro: As I read this story, it's about the conflict Rick feels as a gay guy having a relationship with a straight man who can only accept him if he’ll “be the girl” for him—in this case, literally. The revelation that Alan isn’t really stuck in his present form—he just tells that story to get guys to transition for him—makes him no different from guys in the real world who claim to be straight but are mainly interested in submissive gay guys who'll dress up for them. (I think this is probably rare these days, but I knew people in such relationships as recently as 30 years ago.)

Rick eventually feels abused by the relationship, even though he entered it willingly, and he walks away from it. But part of him still wants to be Alan’s Galatea, carved by his desire, not his hands.

It was an interesting touch that he still went by "Rick" even when his form was 100% female.

Con: The story seems to have a few contradictions in it. First, we’re led to believe that these transitions are easy and essentially cost-free, but later we meet Betty who is suing her ex for making her transition into a form that is expensive to transition out of.

Second, in the first part of the story, it seemed that most people changed form on a routine basis and that few people opted for 100% male or female. Later, though, Alan talks about the world being a mix of people who change and people who don’t, and Rick talks about Alan forcing transition on guys who were “perfectly happy” being guys.

There’s also a fair bit of narration about people looking disdainfully at Rick for being male in a 100% female body, and yet the implication I drew from most of the story is that no one would care.

It's not a surprise that the culture has rules and taboos, but I never felt it was clear to me what those were nor that they were introduced in the smoothest way.

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10 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I'm a little bewildered by this story. It's got a whole bunch of elements that sound like they should make sense, but... become really weird the moment you start thinking about them.

    For one thing, what's with the "75% female"; "90% male"; etc.? That seems a deeply weird way to define things. What's the different between being "90% female" and "95% female"? The story makes a big deal about it, stressing how Rick's choice of "going all the way to 100%", but I'm not seeing what the actual significance is, except I guess more time in the chamber. The one thing we do get (that I noticed) is this:

    But here I am, one hundred percent XX, heels up to here and woman-parts like nobody's business, and the whole point of looking this way is to be the brashest eye-magnet in the house.

    The conflation between being very womanly and very sexy -- that's kind of disturbing. Is a less-sexy woman only 90% XX? Seriously, what the heck?

    And going beyond that... the conflict and manipulation, as presented by the story, just don't add up for me. Alan's abusiveness, as the story presents it, is that he specifically wants somebody who identifies as male, cornered into remaining female.
    I'm... not really clear on what alternatives Rick is even hoping for? Is he holding out for straight Alan to reconcile himself to gay sex? That doesn't sound like a huge improvement.
    And while Alan's offer of "when the mood is right, we'll put you in the chamber" is definitely douchey, it's also a delineation between sex and non-sex. Would it be that insane for Rick to go back to his preferred sex for even a week, and not have sex for a week? Again, the story is pulling everything about its premise back to sex, in a way that really undermines its emotional stakes. Rick is saying "I could go back to a body form I prefer; me keeping this form is something I consider abuse; but it's still better than being in a body I like but not having sex then."

    It just feels... poorly thought through, in ways that are really important to the story's core.

    1. Yes, the line about being 100% woman to be the biggest eye magnet bugged me too. It certainly seems like there's XY "eye candy" in the story too. And therefore the person who really stands out is Alan -- at least in Rick's circle.

  2. > The story seems to have a few contradictions in it. First, we’re led to believe that these transitions are easy and essentially cost-free, but later we meet Betty who is suing her ex for making her transition into a form that is expensive to transition out of.

    This, I think, they actually do explain: It's a matter of body mass. Changing the mass that you have is "simple," but adding mass (Betty's bulking out; Rick's desire for height augments" and fundamental changes of shape) -- those are more difficult and more costly.

    1. I thought about that, but it seemed that removing mass should be much easier than adding it in the first place.

    2. Where do we see examples of removing mass? Especially, of removing mass as something expensive?

    3. Betty was bulked out, right? And she was unhappy it would cost so much to return her to normal.

    4. Ah, good point :)

      I'd venture that changing body mass -- up or down -- is what's expensive. But you're right, it shouldn't be *that* big of a deal. I think. :P

    5. Well, the impression I got was that bulking up had been no big deal, so she was surprised that losing was going to be expensive. If any change in mass were expensive, that'd have been slightly easier to believe.

    6. My impression was that some people have an easier time with transitions than others -- for physical and financial reasons. Rick mentions having "good bones" which his parents paid a lot for. He could get upgrades which would lessen the time to change, but doesn't bother -- sticking with what he knows.

      With Betty, the change to male was originally going to be permanent. So undoing those changes may be more difficult and expensive. Rick mentions having hair retractors and implants which presumably are designed to change shape.

    7. This is one of those technologies that probably makes better sense if you don't try to think very hard about it. :-)