Wednesday, May 8, 2019

How to Kiss a Hojacki, by Debbie Urbanski

★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

(Horror) Michael’s wife, Lisa, is turning into a monster, and he’s obsessed with the fact they can’t have sex anymore. (12,136 words; Time: 40m)

"How to Kiss a Hojacki," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 05-06|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.285 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The narration and dialogue are good, and technically there is a plot.

It is probably sending a message about something—menopause maybe?

The utterly clueless, utterly useless therapist adds some comic relief.

Con: That “plot” is Michael’s obsession to have sex with Lisa despite everything. Nothing else drives the story forward.

The story gives us clues that Lisa used to be a woman who loved her husband and her children, but by the time the story starts, she’s already become a monster. Not merely because her mouth is sealed or her blood is a different color but because she cares about nothing and no one except herself. She’s like an infant that demands everything and gives nothing (to quote from a different story in the same issue). The scene where she holds her daughter in her lap is extremely creepy because whatever “Lisa” wants from the girl, it can’t be good.

Michael is a pretty poor excuse for a protagonist. His wife of over 20 years is suffering from a terrible illness that deforms her body and her mind, and all he can think about is sex. They were already down to sex just once a month, so it’s hard to see what it’s that important to him at this point. By the time he finally coerces her into it, one wonders why he wants sex with a thing that clearly is not his wife nor even human.

I have no clue what the ending is supposed to mean.

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4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. The story is about change and how we deal with it. It's also about control and coersion. Trying to force someone to be with we want them to be, rather than let them be who they are. I suggest that although Lisa was changing in many ways, it is Michael who becomes a monster in the end, in his utter refusal to accept change.

    1. Oh that's definitely there too, although I think I'd argue that Michael was a monster from the start; the story simply lets us see how bad he is. But I think it undermines that message by having Lisa turn into a literal monster. That greatly reduces our sympathy for her, and it turns Michael into a madman, not just a jerk.

  2. The author was interviewed about this story ( Apparently, it comes from a place of personal experience. After spending "some difficult years in a complicated relationship", she wanted to "examine how transformations affect our relationships and our ideas about love, especially when only one person in a relationship is being transformed".

    I don't know what the specific details of her experience might have been. In any event, I'm not sure how helpful this story might be as an examination.

    One person in this relationship is literally transforming physically into a "transhuman entity", mute and helpless and no longer functioning as a spouse or mother. The other person in this relationship is fixated entirely on sex, culminating in a rape scene. The examination is awkwardly aided by paper-thin Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton analogues in the background.

    What should one glean from this? My takeaway is that the story was an exercise in catharsis for the author, and has no real value as a morality tale beyond that. People should not rape their spouses. People should also reasonably expect a divorce if they transform into transhuman entities. If you want to examine nuance and ambiguity, then you probably need a more realistic and grounded story rather than the extremes of genre fiction.