so the other night i couldn’t sleep, a regular problem for me (my head runs like a hamster wheel), and i decided to tackle an older anthology, the 2008 del rey book of science fiction & fantasy: maybe a few stories would help to stop the hamster wheel, right?
i know “the goosle” made a splash when it came out, with a great deal of back-and-forth as to its appropriateness in the anthology, moral standards, shock value and so on. and i am reminded, again, of what it takes to get that result. it’s a really freakin’ well-written piece of fiction, one of the best thus far in the anthology (i’m reading it straight through). it gets under your skin; it turns your stomach; it makes you want to cry. also, to my eye at least it is one of the few stories thus far that felt very whole, very homogenous in its construction. while so far the various stories has been of good quality overall, many are forgettable, and some of them have what i see in a lot of speccy stuff: the thing that makes it speculative isn’t really necessary to the tale. you could change the speccy-part, sometimes even remove it entirely, without affecting the story overall.
“the goosle,” however, is a different beast. it is a whole tale, rounded and full at all points; more interestingly, it is the realistic aspect that is the speculative piece here, and no, you can’t take it out without making the story the same flat puddle as the many varieties of its forefather, the versions that tell you in candy-colored pictures about a cannibal woman who checks the readyness of her kidnapped child victims by pinching their fat, all the while nattering about the sheer butchery and pain she’s going to inflict upon them.
i was in college many, many years ago, over a decade before “the goosle” came out, and i was in a seminar on art and censorship. the dialogue hasn’t changed a jot, trust; we were debating things like piss christ and american psycho in exactly the same framework as was deployed on both sides of “the goosle”. the framework hasn’t changed, but what it takes to invoke that framework seems to have. i’ve never rated the ellis, i thought the serrano was a cheap shot (lol just remembered he did those ejaculation photos as well, the unintended puns of too little caffeine . . . ) but now we have a far greater amount of sex and violence in works everywhere, many of them celebrated and with fandoms of their own. it takes a little, well-crafted story to remind us just how horrible these things are, and to provoke all the old responses, both good and bad.