Dreamed 1994/9/22 by Chris Wayan
I'm reading "Spellsinger," a fantasy by Alec Dean Foster set in a world where most warmblooded species are intelligent. Their interspecies sexual customs intrigue me as much as they intimidate his hapless hero, a native of human-supremacist Earth who gets stranded in this, to him, primitive-looking world.
He steps into a tavern, and finds a striptease show: a female ermine in a tree teases a multispecies (and mixed gender) audience. Jon is deeply shocked that he's sexually excited by an animal--and perhaps that he sees her as animal, inferior, not a differently-shaped person.
Later, playing dice, a fox wagers his wolf girlfriend for a night! Jon is appalled--slavery, sexism!
They're equally shocked at his assumptions. He mistook technological simplicity for social barbarity. She likes this fox, but likes variety too. She gets off on this sex game where the dice, not anyone's pickup lines, decide. (And such games are safer in her society, since sexual diseases don't readily jump species). Bohemians, not barbarians!
But even when he realizes she's a player not a pokerchip, Jon just can't get in bed with this girl--why, she's a wolf!
A very hurt and insulted wolf... "Are you saying I'm ugly? Furless apes have some nerve acting fussy!" And so on...
The book soon dwindles into a standard quest tale and never fully mines the ore-vein he's found. But it's there. Such lovely potential for misunderstanding, for surprises!
And fur is a real issue. Genetic engineering has advanced faster than space travel: the folks next door fifty years from now are far more likely to be amped-up raccoons or indescribable mixtures of half a dozen species grafted onto a human foundation than either aliens from Tau Ceti or just plain 20th Century humans.
Why don't more science fiction writers follow the implications out? Folk tales of every culture show a deep need to have animal people to talk to, to compare instincts and senses with. Or to borrow from! Infrared sensors, new immune systems, rain-resistant fur, proper night vision, the ability to digest cellulose, a decent sense of smell...
After all, the first use of any new biotechnology, (vitamins dyes drugs surgery) is military or medical (or both), but the second is artistic and cosmetic. Despite government regulation and religious hysteria, that's how it always goes. First you get rubber tomatoes, next you get strange bohemians, then you get a fad, then your sister is doing it and next thing you know... here comes grandma.
THE SLAVE DANCERS
My uncles have built an open-air theater in Seattle. I'm one of the first in, for the new show. The stage is an open field: the long back yard of my uncles' house. The audience area has a nylon canopy, though no walls. There are no seats, which puzzles me. The woman leading us in says proudly "Watch!" and hits a button. Chairs rise from the lawn!
Their pattern's peculiar. On the left edge, by the fence, a thin tongue of chairs reaches forward, but there's a bay in the middle and a large dense block on the right. Evidently they're set so they won't interfere with the action--different plays can have different-shaped stage and audience areas. Clever.
I go sit at first in the heart of the block on the right, where I'll be inconspicuous. A girl comes in, sits on the grass just in front of the tip of the tongue. The usher doesn't object. If she can do that... I get up, go sit near the front of the tongue where I'll be close to the action. She grins at me.
I performed recently on stage myself. Just a small part. I liked it, though. The director of this play offered me a somewhat larger role, but I declined: I'm not ready yet for that much time and responsibility. But at least I can sit in front and if they draft audience members (as this troupe sometimes does) I'll do that gladly. I love performing, as long as it's improv with no time-commitments.
The open-air play begins. A caravan on the Silk Road, deep in Central Asia. A group of slave girls escape from their mandarin boss as the caravan weaves thru a tall-grass prairie. They flee up the aisles. Slow motion projection, on a gauze screen hanging from the lip of the bandshell we sit in, shows the slaves wriggling through the tall reeds, uncannily flexible, like ferrets or ermines, wide-eyed and wary. It's a beautiful dance--the setting is just an excuse.
Gasps and muttering in the audience--why, the dancers are bare-breasted! Guess that must be risqué here in Seattle.
But in slow motion you can see clearly that these controversial breasts are moving very strangely, rippling, crawling like a mouse under Naugahyde! Muscles in there. These dancers aren't purely human: some otter or ermine genes, I bet.
A middle-aged man in a fedora hat, circa 1950, elbows me and whispers "What tits, eh?" He's nearly drooling! I know the fifties were a breast-fetish era, but I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now. The dancers' lithe bodies squirming through the reeds, their wide-eyed fear and courage and determination to be free... those turned me on more than mere bare breasts.
But he leers at me, trying to get me to agree. I'm embarrassed, sitting by him. Is he typical? Does the audience appreciate, or even SEE, how beautiful and sexy the dance is, how moving their break for freedom is? Or are the producers exploiting the dancers, is it all just an excuse to sell tickets to see tits?
I'm sweating and uncomfortable now, under this man's gaze. A box of disposable tissues or bar napkins appears, so I wipe my face with one. The napkin feels weird. I look closer. It's a box of disposable breasts! Shaped paper breasts...
God, what is it with Seattle?
And the dancers were so good, they put their souls into it! Did these clowns even notice?
After the play, I get to talking to the girl in the front row. I say "My dad has a prosthetic branch! His hand was crippled in the war--frozen in a claw--but it'll hold what you put in it. So he has this tree branch like a back-scratcher, with a handlike end that can pick up things better than his hand can." I go get it, to demonstrate. Find my dad's arm/branch hanging in back of the theater's little bandshell. Take it down to the left edge of the yard, and wait on the grass.
A representative of my father arrives immediately: his current wife. My stepmom. She barks at me.
No, she's not mad or anything. She always barks. She's a dog. Not ugly, a dog. A Shelty, a small collie breed. Named Molly. Bet she loves her parents for that bit of cute.
Like most Shelties, she's always nervous. Her eyes whiten in fear as I try to lure her close enough to attach the prosthetic. Don't ask me how it fits on, or how she operates it; I can't see any way. A dog just doesn't have enough fine-motor nerves to run a prosthetic hand, let alone a whole arm. And it's big enough to tip her right over, even if I can strap it on!
I think back to those lithe dancers peering through the reeds, and can't help comparing their grace to our nervous, clumsy dance--me, my dad's lost arm, and my barking, jittery stepmom, with no place to attach it.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
On the joint advice of my therapist and a doctor, I did try a serotonin booster (buspirone), despite the dream's warning. It triggered gut pains and insomnia, but those particular Mollycules didn't affect my mood at all. I stayed as high-strung and nervous as a Sheltie.
I gave up at last. Should have listened to the dream, not those so-called experts.
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