12/31/2007

Who Says Published Writers Are Good: Piers Anthony Does To The Metaphor What Jack Bauer Does To Terrorists

I promised to post this months and months ago, yes, that's right, The Crackeristy Scene In The History Of The Written Language. So the hell with it, let's start this year of as it will likely continue - with a spice girls come back with another excerpt from Piers Anthony's seminal work of art: Tarot! gyaaaaah

This is from deep inside chapter 8: Emotion (Desire), the chapter after this happened actually.

That was something like the 18th rape scene in the book, and the one good thing about what you're about to read is that is involves absolutely no rape whatsoever. This is a small consolation though because it is actually more horrible than any mere rape scene.

Because Piers Antony can make whiteprogressives look like feminist anti-racist activists, and kinda like shaft because it is just so crackertastic, to the point of almost being overachieving in that regard.

I should probably introduce the scene properly though. Tarot is a book based around the idea that, somewhere out in the universe, God Himself has apparently decided to create a planet on which he gets to just fuck with the heads of the inhabitants, via these timey whimey floating holodeck-esque psycho-dramas that wander about the planet completely at random.

The planet got called "Tarot" after the first exploration team to find the planet, landed on it, immediately set out a sothern cross or something with their tarot cards, and one of the timey whimey acid trips made the skellington in the Major Arcana come to life and do an impression of that old WB cartoon with the singing frog.

Which says almost everything that needs to be said about the book: it's set in a universe where it's apparently normal for the redshirts on space exploration vessels to play Tarot after landing on unexplored planets, and to then write up that pictures from a pack of cards came alive with dancing skellington in the mission reports.

We don't know for sure that these doofuses were then fired for dropping way too much acid during their missions, but it's a safe bet if you ask me.

But that's just back story! The story proper starts when Brother Paul, Judo-Christian monk (and yes, I really do mean "judo") is sent to the planet Tarot to find out which Monotheist God (because even buddha found a monotheist god when he found nirvana apparently) is best, because obviously if you have a phenomenon that leads to what amounts to bad acid trips, it's not the result of some sort of gas produced by local flora or fauna, nope, it's clearly a Divine Message from the big guy himself.

So Paul steps onto the transporter from earth and gets teleported to Tarot, where he finds a remarkably religiously varied range of human settlers, including mormons, gay misogynistic racist satanists, muslims, a couple other sects of christians, and a few jews.

All of whom are pretty damn certain that their God is The God of Tarot of course.

It also turns out that the planet was inhabited by a single yeti, who was apparently native ot the planet, but who's religious beliefs are unimportant because he's not human. That says everything else that needs to be said about Tarot really. He immediately acts out the racist cover of Amanda Marcotte's book, and is promptly killed even though his shambling bestial nature made him the most likable character in the whole thing. Seriously, when you're deep in the bit where everyone's genitals are made of bits of string, you miss that Yeti with all your heart.

Or at least I did.

Anyway a shit load of bland metaphysics occurs, most of which seems to involve raping the single white female character, and then Paul finds himself reliving his past without any knowledge of his future. Which is where it is revealed that he was a druggie with an addiction to a memory enhancing drug, thus adding a whole DARE message underneath it all that is undoubtably supposed to make the reader feel superior to those gosh darn hippies and stuff, but is so forced that one finds it difficult to care all that much either way. People who set up their own universe with its own metaphysics don't really persuade me to their point of view when their arguement consists of yelling "SEE! IN MY FICTIONAL UNIVERSE DRUGS ARE BAD! SO THERE!" at me for a hundred and 81 pages. However, Paul then quite quickly and painlessly kicks his addiction and fless the drug cartel he was working for because someone talked to him about jesus and stuff.

The woman who does that (played by the same wome who has been raped a shit load by this point, because apaprently God can create complex psycho-dramas, but still has to mind control people actually on the planet into playing the various parts) is of course thrown out of a helicopter off page and a bit later, and thus prompts him to run away into the big bad Little Ethnic! Town of what ever the hell city he's supposed to be in, and attempt to get the protection of the Happy Multiracial Underworld...

...[Paul] wove around and through knots of people until he had lost the narc. Soon he was on a different street. A huge nova-neon sign illuminated as his approach activated its mechanism: CHRIST=GUILT.
Paul smited. Was this unintentional irony? One never could tell with religious cults. He passed under it and glanced back. from the side it said: SEX=SIN. No mistake, evidently; to many religionists, any form of pleasure was immoral, and no person could be holy unless he felt guilty. Even in the joy of true faith, he had to feel guilty for that very emotion of joy.
Yet in some people it assumed and attractively demure quality, and there could be a certain allurement, the security of belonging. What was that one Sister Beth was in? The Holy Order of Vision. His memory had not failed! Maybe that was just another repressive cult, reacting to repressive soceity--but she had been one sweet girl. Why had she had to die?
Paul Paused, feeling a kind of explosion in his chest. Heat erupted and sperad out under his ribcage, a burning tide, slowly fading. Suddenly he understood what was popularly called heart-break. There was no physical pain; the sensation was oddly pleasant. but something that had been subtly vital was gone, evena as he realized its existence. In its place was--guilt.
There was a moment of confusion, then it was late afternoon and he was alone, entering a rundown building. It was unmarked, but everyone who had business here knew its name. It was the Dozens--the hangout of the disowned. More specifically, it was the expressly nonwhite enclave of an age when there was, by law, no societal discrimination based on race or creed. So this institution had no legal foundation.

I should note that that is apropos of nothing really - this was originally published in 1979 from what I can make out, nor was it ever published in South Africa, so he's not writing to an audience who come from a legally segregated country, though he did grow up in one, so maybe it's a relic of an early draft form back in the 60's or something. Or maybe it's all Reagan's fault. who knows.

But neither did the menm cartel [mnem is the memory drug he was hooked on, and yes he just compared a bar where nonwhite people hang out to a drug cartel. - RM] Legality deviated from fact, and no white person was foolish enough to set foot inside the Dozens.
Paul's presence caused an immediate stir. In moments, three husky men blocked his progress. One was the reddish hue of an almost full-blooded Amerind; another was oriental; the third was black. Maybe you just lost your way, snowball?" Black inquired softly.
A snowball was a hundred-percent white person, and would not survive long in this colored hell. Paul dropped into a balanced crouch whose meaning could not be misinterpreted. "No." He refrained from using the counter insult, "pitchball."
"Mine" yellow said. The two others gave way. The Oriental stood opposite Paul, standing naturally. "Karate?"
"Judo."
"Kodokan?"
"Ikyu," Paul replied.
"Nidan," Yellow said.

For some reason I always start to get nostalgic for the days when Jet Lee, Chow Yun Fat and Jackie Chan used to star in their own movies, rather than co-starring against generic american comedian #342, when I read this part. I don't know why.
Also, feel free to make you own "and gesundheit to you too!" jokes in response to that little dialogue, or to imagine a perfect world where this is an introduction to a badly!good slashfic of some kind. Alas...

They bowed to each other, a stiff little motion from the waist. They had just identified their schools of martial arts and respective ranks. Yellow outranked Paul by two grades, and these grades were not casually acquired things; he was quite likely to tromp Paul in a normal match. Paul could fight Yellow if he wished, but he would not remain long the Dozens premises. It would be better to desist from this approach. he had, at any rate, obtained his hearing, which was his purpose.
"I belong," Oaul said. "I am one-eighth black. I'm a casino dealer, a skilled mechanic, and the feds are after me. Mnemdict." This was the one place where he would have nothing to fear from either fed or cartel; the Dozens took care of its own with fiendish efficiency, and its resources extended as far as nonwhite blood did. But first Paul had to gain admittance.
Yellow stepped back and Black came came forward. "We can use a mechanic. But you're seven-eighths white." The tone made it an insult.
"Yes. My name is Paul cenji. I was raised white. But you can verify my ancestry with the bureau of records."
Black produced a button transceiver. "Paul Cenji," he said into it.
In a moment it responded, "Twelve-point-five percent black. Three percent yellow. Trace admixture of other nonwhite. On the lam from fed and cartel this date."
Black studied him critically. "You are in trouble. Your body makes it, by the skin of your prick. But your soul is white."
"try me," Paul said. He knew they would--and before they were through, the truth would be known.
Black spoke into his unit again. This was evidently no standard computer terminal; the Dozens had information more current and extensive than he had believed possible. They knew about his mnem complication and the federal man' offer already! And that three-percent Oriental ancestry; this was the first Paul had heard of that. It must derive from somewhere in his white component; he had not checked that out as thoroughly as the black. "Karrie."
In another moment a brown-skinned girl about six years of age joined them. black gave way to her with a certain formal courtesy reminiscent of the martial arts practice. What was developing?
The child gazed at Paul with open contempt. She had a slightly crooked lip that lent itself admirably to a sneer. "Know the dozens?" She asked.
She was not referring to this building. Not directly. Disconcerted, Paul raised his hands in partial negation. "I know it some---but not with women or children."
"Then haul your white ass home." the girl said.
Paul stared at her. He did know the "dirty dozens," or contests in insult, a typically black form of ordeal. Black humor, in a very special sense. the name of this club derived from it. This was a most appropriate challenge; if he could beat the house champion, he would prove the blackness of his soul, for Whites seldom competed and were not good at this.

Note that when he is facing a big guy who's clearly able to whup his ass in a pull down drag out, he doesn't engage in it, but the moment he's faced by a little girl - who by Paul's own "logic" is gonna be better at cussing his ass into next week than him, because white people seldom competed and were not good at cussing each other out, and Paul was raised white.

Yeeeeaaaah.

I personally would prefer to get my ass handed to me by a grown adult than a little girl personally, but this guy is by this point kind of a serial rapist, so the piss ant cowardice is kinda in character really.

What's really interesting in this seciton however is not merely the fact taht Piers Anthony is seriously trying to convince us that this dweeby racist SOB is a good guy, but the way Piers Anthony managed to write the fantasy equivalent of The Bell Curve, and yet, via some magical depth that he's achieved by just being so shallow in that delightfully faux-intellectual manner of his, manages to pack more complexity into the vast array of fucked up racist language and metaphors than most other racists can manage on purpose.

Now that's talent.

He had come prepared, but he had thought of it strictly as man-to-man. This man-vs,female-child situation was extremely awkward.
Yet this was the way they had set it up. If he wanted to join the club, he would have to perform.
He focused on the child, Karrie. She had demonstrated her readiness to fight with shocking directness. this was as real an encounter as the prospective judo match with Yellow, and rather more to the point. Little Karrie had invited him to depart with an unknid reference to the color of his ass. He had to refute this, turning the insult on his opponent, and rhyme it if he could.
"I'll haul ass home/when you learn to use a comb," he said--and was immediately disgusted with himself. He had gotten the refutation and rhyme, but it was a pretty weak attack. A girl her age would use a comb--if she chose to. Often it was a point of pride to need no comb, or to borrow one from a male companion. So he hadn't really scored. He had merely entered the lists.

Suffice to say Piers Anthony, like many who have gone through life being carefully and passive aggressively middle class, doesn't get "the dirty dozens". It's not about "rhyme" or just refuting what your opponent says. It's about wit, and intelligence, and making your freinds and your opponent's freinds laugh at your opponents expense, because it's fundamentally Afro-American culture's addition to the fine and ancient art of trolling really - except unlike internet trolling it's gotta be fast and it's ideally gotta be fresh and original for maximum effect, and it requires not just genitalia ovals of prodigous size, but a willingness to risk looking a fool - a thing which so often scares people far more than physical violence itself, which at least can be spun after the fact so that your ego doesn't get bruised along with your body.

Fuck academic qualifications, if you can explain in an interesting and witty way why and how exactly someone else's mother routinely engages in sexual intercourse with a herd of bison, you're fucking intelligent and smart, you may still end up living in a cardboard box under the bridge because you failed school (and vice versa obviously), but you ain't stupid. Monkeys beat the shit out of each other, monkeys can play professional sport (except lacrosse, but that's because monkeys consider lacrosse to be an insult to their poop flinging dignity), but the one thing monkeys can't do is crack wise about sleeping with their opponents' mothers and make them look like a fool.

Also advanced tool use, but I'll assume that's a given.

I'll forgoe pointing out what his failure to "get" the basics of a cussing match says about Piers Anthony and everyone else who turn their noses up at both the concept and the language employed. I should howeverwanr folks that it gets worse from here. Much worse. Putting drinks down and keeping a bucket to vomit into nearby worse.

Fine. Assume I'm employing hyperbole then, see if I care when you vomit all over your keyboard.

Note that weird declaration that little brown girls apparently collect men to carry around their combs. If anyone knows what the hell is up with that I'd appreciate it, because it's a weird thing to say, even for Piers Anthony, six year old girls keep men around to carry their combs, okay then Piers, now could you please share whatever the hell you're smoking?

And it should be "haul my ass home", otherwise the beats completely off for what you're trying to do. Man, even your attempt at dialectical grammar sucks the balls of a large and irritable goat. Even though, strictly speaking, any come back from being cussed by a child should emphasis how beneath you engaging in a cussing match with a six year old child is, something like "haul my ass home? Why honey, don't you recognise your own father?" would have worked a bit better than some waffles about combs. Not that that's saying much admittedly.

She snapped right back: "I'll take that comb/and jam it through your chrome." She paused, then struck hard: "With foam."
This was no innocent, despite her age! chrome generally reflected white, not black. Foaming agents were still used by minority group for prophylactic purposes. Score a couple of points for her, she had adapted his concept to his disadvantage.
"If your mama had put foam in, you'd never have come out." he told her. No rhyme--but the insult was stronger: the suggestion that she had been an accidental, unwanted baby. It was hard to put it all together, relevence, rhyme, and insult, without time for thought. But that was what it made it such a challenge. Even many blacks could not perform well at the dozens, lacking the ready wit. If he could handle it, it would more than compensate for the marginal quality of his genetic. Now, too late, he thought of the rhyme: "you'd never have been."
A crowd was gathering. This was their kind of entertainment. Not all of them were against him; he was beginning to prove himself by fighting dozens-style, and a number of them were light-skinned blacks like himself. A dozen or so. A pun, perhaps; the dozen had nothing to do with the figure twelve.


And what a figure! hubba hubba! Sorry.

It derived from a white expression applying stunning or stupefying. If he won this contest, he would have instant friends, and his future would be feasible, if not absolutely secure. "Good shot," one murmured.
Stung, Karrie came back viciously: "Your ma's squirted out/when she fucked that white lout."
"reversed," one spectator commented with professional acumen. He meant she had taken Paul' insult and applied it to him, reinforced by rhyme and another racial reference Those "white" shots were hurting him, here!
He had to take off the gloves. He could not afford to think of Karrie as either female or child;


Yeah, this isn't really gonna be a situation you can rape your way out of methinks.

she was the enemy, out to destroy him. "That was no lout, that was her man. Your ma got two bucks for baring her can."
There was a smattering of applause. Paul had topped her verse with his own, implying that her mother was a prostitute. The mother was always the target of choice in such contests, the vulnerability of every living person. "Two bucks!" someone muttered appreciatively. that figure had been traditional half a century ago; now it denoted impossible cheapness, barely the price of the required shot of foam---which improved the quality of hte gibe. He was hiting his stride now, after a shaky start.
The girl felt the thrust and knew she had been wounded. Maybe she was the accidental child of a prostitute. the insults were not intended to b accurate reflections of one's opponent, but if one struck close to home to make a person lose his composure he was also losing the contest. "Get out of here, seven-eights ball!" she screamed. "Go back to your ma's lily-white cunt!"
"Hoo!" someone exclaimed admiringly. Losing ground, Karrie had struck hard indeed, producing a marvelous eight-ball pun on his white ancestry, and calling him a motherfucker. That was close to the ultimate insult, almost impossible to top in the normal course of the game, and in this case he was unable to reply in kind. She could not convincingly be called a motherfucker. He realized now that the match had been weighted against him; some prime insults did not apply females or children. karrie presented a disconcertingly small target.


"females"? What, like if you ever end up in a situation where you need to cuss out a female elk or something? Not even women or girls...

Still, he was warmed up now, and not out of it by any means. "My ma's africa; I never saw her cunt./And it's none of your business, you little black runt."
No comment from the gallery. Paul had defended himself aptly enough, but had not taken the attack to her. He had lost the initiative.
Karrie sensed victory. She went for the kill. "Her ass is in afirca so she can see/how to get a cure for your pa's veedee."

Oh say can't you see/VD is easily treatable with antibiotics these days.

Making him the child of venereal disease. How was he to top that?
Suddenly it came to him: the irrefutable implication, utterly dastardly. The fecal connection! [!!! - RM] "when you pa fucked your ma, he missed the slit;/he peed up her ass and didn't quit;/and you came out as brown as shit." A triple rhyme, yet!
Karrie stared at him, defeated, unable to respond. He had really nailed her, making her the spawn of urine and defecation. but there was no applause from the audience; all stood in stony silence.
Then he realized: he had won the dozens, but lost his objective. for he had by implication likened all brown people to feces, and yellow people to urine, including his own nonwhite components. In his heat to win, he had let the means justify the end, and so destroyed the value of that end. Only a white soul would have conceived and executed that insult.
Once again, he had grasped salvation--and discovered a turd.


Few! well it's over, people hiding under your keyboards can come out, out long national nightmare is over, and with it, 2007.

I think I hate 2008 already.

for those who were feeling nauseous before, and still are, let me just give you a smooth, contextless chaser of subtext from E.E. 'Doc' Smith's classic sci-fi yarn Galactic Patrol:

"Clamp a leg-lock around my waist, Kim," he directed, the flashing thought in no whit interfering with his prodigious axe-play, "and as soon as I gt a chance, before the real tussle comes, I'll couple us together with all the belt-snap I can reach-whereever we're going we're going together! Wonder why they haven't ganged up on me, too, and what the lizard is doing? Been too busy to look, but thought he'd've been on my back before this."


Whew, the year's looking better already. Just stay vigilante and remember: The fecal Connection!

2 comments:

Doug S. said...

So, at the end of the scene, the "seven-eighths white" character ends up revealing his own racism to himself and the world?

R. Mildred said...

Yes, "at the end of the scene" that is revealed to the world. And I'm pretty sure that within the "logic" of the tarot universe he's not racist because he's 1/7th black and is really just a bit miffed at losing the cussing match more than anything else.

But the sad sad thing is that this scene is really just a way to set up for the bit near the end when Jesus condemns himself to hell for Paul's negrotude - becaue apparently jesus believes in a randomized christian heresy about how africa is filled with the children of set.

And so we get to the truly epic finale, in which people's genitals are made of string and jesus and muhammed have a nice chat about their respective followers while the single female character farts holograms all over the place.

I Am Not Making This Up.