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The Fur Side
or,
Gestella

Dreamed 2013/7/2 by Chris Wayan

THAT DAY

I'm reading tales by Susan Palwick. The Fate Of Mice: Rodney escapes the shadow of Algernon and other human tales of mice to pull a Stuart Little. Beautiful Stuff: a great story of a zombie businessman for peace.

Then comes the horrific Bluebeard fable Gestella. Guy meets teenage werewolf girl in the Balkans, seduces her, lures her to San Francisco. But she ages at canine speed, and once she's not young and beautiful he cheats on her, then tricks her into getting stuck in canine form and locks her up. And then tells the pound she's a biter so she's dragged off to be euthanized.

THAT NIGHT...

I dream I'm living in a politically polarized future California. I'm firmly on the fur side; the human supremacists aren't just specist but openly fascist--proudly quoting Hitler, talking of racial pollution, and threatening fur activists with death.

Lunch time at my San Francisco high school. I go to the end of the long outdoor table where the furs sit.

I talk with a tall rangy kid, part human, part ape, but with a squirrelly tail--he writes exposés for the school paper, condemning the supremacist movement. I think he kind of baits them; worries me a little. Does he realize the full danger? Still, it's his life.

He has a crush on a gorgeous cat/ermine girl from another school. Well, more than a crush; she may like him too...

A white-haired old lady (human-looking) sits with us too, surprising everyone; as with homophobia earlier in the century, there's a generation gap. But THIS old lady's on the fur side.

Lunching at an outdoor table: me, a cat, an ape with a squirrel-tail, a mothgirl, a kitsune... and an old lady with wolf eyes. Dream sketch by Wayan
NOTES IN THE MORNING

So was my dream a critique of Palwick? I think so.

LATER THAT DAY

The dream's pointing out that Palwick's fable is a great heartbreaker and feminist enrager, but it's false on three counts:

  1. Palwick exaggerates the tragic ephemerality of wolves. Canines do age faster than other bright critters--parrots, cetaceans, ravens, elephants, apes like us (though giant squid die young too; but they're a hard sell as tragic heroines). But wolf lifespans aren't seven times shorter! 3-4, maybe--wolves die young in the wild because hunting's hella hard. And part-time wolves with a lot of human genes should age slower still. Mortality does suck, but...

  2. Her fable's set in San Francisco, the animal-rights capital of America--the first city whose pound quit killing its inmates. Here even biters get retraining classes, not the death penalty. Yet pound-as-death-camp is so compelling that I read Gestella three times before I caught the lie--and I live here, have talked with a retrainer of abused dogs--they walk biters on my hill! (Though it's true dog-wolf hybrids are legally unadoptable so some do get killed.) The fable implies that even my home town, under its New Age mask, is still death to women and other voiceless beasts--just like Stella's lover under his sweet talk. Warns the reader to beware America's (and men's) sweet-talk promises.

    But this cynicism has a cost. Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built In Hell describes the real covered-up history of San Francisco's 1906 destruction and anarchist rebirth, showing that the Hobbesian view of a civilized veneer over savagery is just false. In crisis, people spontaneously help each other; it's business-as-usual that creates predators. And Gestella perpetuates the Hobbesian lie, primes you to see predators under masks. Slandering a whole city on top of a whole gender really puts the villa back in villainy! When the truth is, most queers, runaways, perverts and monsters who move to Sin City have good reason not to crawl home, even if that first lover who lured them here turns out to be a jerk. Should Stella have stayed in the Balkans?

  3. Gestella's lover isn't a jerk; he's a murderer. On first reading I felt guilty, since I too like beautiful teenage girls--and wolves. But do I act like him? Does anyone? I'd fall for the young Stella, and I might well drop her as a lover when she started looking like my mom--but does that mean I'd stop caring about her, or dump her as a friend? And if I DID, why would I still want to control her? And even if I was that much of a shit, why would I murder her? Palwick conflates the secrecy and tensions ANY illicit/stigmatized sexual relationship engenders, with a specific sexual orientation (pedophilia plus beauty-obsession)--warning readers against those awful perverts. (Palwick's hardly alone--I just finished Kerry Greenwood's Unnatural Habits with its look at flapper-era Melbourne's underworld. Greenwood and her heroine Phryne Fisher empathize with gays, trannies, prostitutes, even madames and pimps... but PEDOPHILES are beyond the pervert pale. They're as evil as... nuns! And Greenwood knows her evil nuns. Those slave-run laundries, brrr.)

    Palwick cheated. Stella old, poor, lost in a strange culture, rejected, unloved--that'd be a cautionary fable fitting Palwick's premises. Men are jerks who like youth and beauty, they'll dump you as you age--okay, fair warning. But Stella MURDERED? Slandered so she'll be unadoptable, caged, killed? Horrendous, gripping... but this tars all us perverts with a sociopathy rare in ANY sexual orientation, even (shudder) normal. Think the pervert doth protest too much? For a century FAGGOTS were either called predatory sociopaths (not just gay men corrupting young boys--remember that 20-year spate of "killer lesbian" movies? Thanks, Hollywood!) or (at their most charitable) psychosexually immature losers who avoided real love, commitment and marriage. So said straights--and would they lie? "I thought people like that killed themselves."

    So this tale of a male San Franciscan teenophilic furvert who also just happens to be a sociopathic killer has a certain historical whiff to THIS male San Franciscan teenophilic furvert. Makes ME want to bite someone: Palwick. Though even furverts sometimes gag.

An old lady with yellow wolf eyes. Dream sketch by Wayan


LISTS AND LINKS: animal people - shapeshifters - wolves - bias & prejudice - seniors & longevity - beauty & ugliness - politics - school - Only in San Francisco - a dream of that ermine girl: The Chute - Kerry Greenwood provokes a Nightmare Transubstatiation - Solnit, Rebecca

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