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Rachel Swirsky climbs inside the mind of a violent misogynst

Harpy1

A couple of days ago, Rachel Swirsky — an award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer who posts at Alas, A Blog and sometimes comments here on Man Boobz as well — sent along a link to a brilliant, brutal, and horrifying short story she’d recently published in Apex Magazine. Titled “Abomination Rises on Filthy Wings,” the story is essentially her attempt to get inside the mind of a violent misogynist.

As the editor’s note to her story explains:

Swirsky wrote this piece after talking to multiple editors who worked with horror stories, all of whom reported receiving many submissions about men murdering their wives or ex–wives. Despite the fictional veneer and supernatural justification [for the murder], many have the feel of personal revenge fantasies, and most characterize the women through disturbing, misogynist stereotypes. Swirsky wanted to see if it was possible to write a story that included all the markers of the trope but nevertheless subverted it.

In writing the story, Swirsky told me, “I drew heavily on Manboobz for mood and imagery, to try to get the sense of the narrator.”

So, enjoy. But first, I should warn you that the story is very violent, very disturbing, and could very well be triggering. So giant TRIGGER WARNING.

Here’s the LINK.

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John Smith
John Smith
8 years ago

It’s a graphic and disturbing story. I would have to say it’s well-written but I don’t see how it manages to subvert the trope of men murdering their wives.

Andrew Johnston
8 years ago

Shit. So editors for journals of fiction routinely receive stories like that, huh? Must be a fun job, very rewarding.

I wonder how many submissions include attached notes like the bits in italics. “Yes, I know it’s a first-person story in which the narrator brutally and graphically murders someone, but it’s just a character. I don’t think like that, I swear.”

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Couldn’t make it all the way through. That was torture porn.

Exactly WHAT was she getting from this place?

kittehserf
8 years ago

Two sentences were enough for me.

katz
8 years ago

Nicely done, and of course most of the meat of the story is in the italics, as the “author” oscillates between embracing the fantasy and distancing himself from it.

Shiraz
Shiraz
8 years ago

Actually, I get how she was influenced by Manboobz — not by the regulars, but from the vile misogyny Dave exposes every day.
That bit how the narrator says he can’t tell women apart, and the hateful way he talks about her body and sex. Women aren’t human, his male rage should be applauded as a natural defense mechanism that’s triggered whenever a disgusting female tries to domesticate him or asks to be seen as human…oh, as if a woman could be human.

Yep. Very MRA. It was a grueling read, but I guess she made her point about misogyny.

Noadi
8 years ago

I wonder if this was posted on an MRA site without the blurb about why she wrote the story wouldn’t get it and instead applaud the story as telling it like it is? Never mind I don’t need to wonder, I know they would.

nik
nik
8 years ago

i like the premise of her writing the story, but in knowing this, and probably with the multiple meta commenting, i did not feel i got into the head of the first person narrator at all. i think a greater effect would have been to read a disclaimer only in the end, as well as the premise, for me at least. maybe i am just not enough into the genre. it didn’t trigger me, it’s a bit yucky, and i liked the harpie idea but i don’t know, something was missing. i try to understand the idea of fiction and subversion and actually see much of the online misogynists with their colourful vitriol as mostly desperate fantasies..encouraged by complicity and anonymity, men full of fear that they are losing control, leashing out. i would be interested in reading a story refused by editors for being to obvious ‘kill the ex fantasy’.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Couldn’t make it through.

The worst part is that I read an anthology where a LOT of the stories read JUST LIKE THIS. It wasn’t a horror anthology either; it was supposed to be about alien sex, but apparently consent and niceness weren’t part of the deal.

xna232stang
8 years ago

That was absolutely disgusting. And it wasn’t written to subvert the trope so much as to say, “Some men actually feel this way, I think.” That was not worth reading, and if I’d known how bad it was going to be, I would have saved myself the trouble. Also, in addition to the trigger warnings, you should put some NSFW warnings on there and perhaps some general warnings about graphic violence being used relentlessly to prove a shallow point more fit for a 500 word blog post and not a short story.

“Yep. Very MRA. It was a grueling read, but I guess she made her point about misogyny.”

“I wonder if this was posted on an MRA site without the blurb about why she wrote the story wouldn’t get it and instead applaud the story as telling it like it is? Never mind I don’t need to wonder, I know they would.”

This won’t make it through moderation here, but all I have to say is that you guys are absolutely out of your minds. First, that one of your rank-and-file actually wrote this short story is bad enough. That you guys think that men just routinely go around feeling like the narrator of this story just because they sometimes say “mean” things about women or advocate for men’s rights says a lot for what you guys think about men.

This will be the last time I read this blog. Y’all are a bunch of hateful psychopaths.

wordsp1nner
wordsp1nner
8 years ago

The story is… brrr. The authors she reference should really do a better job at hiding their Id.

In other news, my cats are feeling better, though they are both on anti-biotics. Pantalaimon (nee Frost) lets me pick him up and do anything. When my parents and I skype, I pick him up, Lion King-style, to show them his belly spots.

Jade doesn’t put up with that shit, but she is starting to come to me more, and she’s eating and playing a lot more now.

cloudiah
8 years ago

The italics are definitely the key — I’m actually really glad I read katz’s comment before reading the story. It is still an upsetting read, though. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but I am a bit freaked out. 0_o

So instead I am going to re-focus on wordsp1nner’s kitties! Glad they’re feeling better. Belly spots are the BEST.

grumpycatisagirl
8 years ago

I also could not make it through that story. I am glad now to be able to congratulate wordspinn1er on improving cat health, a much nicer thing.

wordsp1nner
wordsp1nner
8 years ago

So, um. someone on Ravelry posted this:

It is possibly the weirdest song I have ever heard. I thought Manboobzers might like it.

kittehserf
8 years ago

Wordsp1nner’s kitties in avatar! Wordsp1nner’s kitties getting better! Yayyy!

kittehserf
8 years ago

Bill Oddie singing about knitting? I’ll have to listen to that tonight!

Takes me back to String, string, string, string, everybody loves string …

baileyrenee
8 years ago

Well that was fucked up. Well done though.

I’m glad that she made the imagery so over the top, it made it a lot easier to get through. Reading the tame by comparison (I hope) stories that it was based on would have been a lot more disturbing to me.

I wonder if this was posted on an MRA site without the blurb about why she wrote the story wouldn’t get it and instead applaud the story as telling it like it is? Never mind I don’t need to wonder, I know they would.

Barf, I was thinking the same thing.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Yeeeaaaah, I read a story that was pretty much snuff porn, with a woman sex worker being graphically mutilated. I didn’t make it through.

And in the same fucking anthology, there was a guy raping an orangutaun, a blob that made every man, woman, and child fuck themselves to death, and I think I gave up after that. Seriously, the book was called Alien Sex, not Alien RAPE.

baileyrenee
8 years ago

LBT… Jesus Christ….

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

RE: baileyrenee

I KNOW! I had no idea what I was fucking getting into, the book was marketing itself as something completely different to what it was. It really skeeved me out.

I dug up my old blog entry on it, and of the sixteen stories, I made it through half of them. Six were rape, bestiality, necrophilia, or snuff, and two had no sex in them whatsoever. It was horrifying.

L'Âne d'Eau
8 years ago

I shouldn’t have read that just before going to bed. The author is a good wordsmith, and effectively creates a very grotesque and gory narrative. However, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be certain of the intention of the story (with the author’s notes blurring the line between fiction and reality and outing the writer as a person with a skewered world view) if I hadn’t read David Futrelle’s preface first. I don’t know what a reader who just stumbles on that text would make of it.

But, as I said, I shouldn’t have read it just before going to bed. Now I must look for something capable of soothing my mind, like lovely watery-eyes kobolds.

grumpycatisagirl
8 years ago

LBT . . . is this the book you were talking about? If so, I’ll make sure never to read it and will have you to thank for the warnng. Yeesh, there are quite a well-known sci-fi authors here . . .
http://www.amazon.com/Alien-Sex-Masters-Science-Fiction/dp/0451451422/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1377576054&sr=8-2&keywords=alien+sex

grumpycatisagirl
8 years ago

Oh, I didn’t know the link would embed like that. I hope that’s okay . . .

Cassie
Cassie
8 years ago

I don’t think it was very good at all. There was no subversion and there was no narrative really. Just a vague feeling of anger.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

RE: grumpycatisagirl

Yup, that’s the one! Unless there’s another anthology by that name with Ellison and Niven in it. (To be fair, Niven put in ‘Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex,’ which was light and funny and everything the rest of the book wasn’t.)

I admit, I enjoy reading ANYTHING that involves humans and non-humans trying to interact and get along, but godDAMN was that book gross.

baileyrenee
8 years ago

It’s weird, I’ve seen some BRUTAL movies in my time, but something about reading a really descriptive, disturbing story messes with me a lot more. I’ll take A Serbian Film over reading American Psycho any day.

Don’t why my brain works that way, but it does.

MordsithJ
8 years ago

Funny, I’m the exact opposite. I love reading creepy, disturbing stories (I’m even considering the Alien Sex book now, because my tastes really are that weird) but extreme violence in movies makes me wince. Go figure.

baileyrenee
8 years ago

MordsithJ, I think with me, reading something crazy makes me think about it more. I have to create the images in my own head and that makes them stick, and usually turn out a lot more fucked up. Watching something, it’s already there, and if things get bad it’s easier to tell myself that it’s fake. Reading something is more… intimate, or sincere sounding, I can’t think of the right words really. It’s hard to explain but words just burn into my mind easier than video.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

RE: MordsithJ

I’d HIGHLY recommend against it. Most of the stories were not just skeezy, but also not that good. If you want disturbing stories, I can give you much better recs!

MordsithJ
8 years ago

Sure, hit me with ’em.

Redcap
Redcap
8 years ago

Oh hey, she wrote “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window”! I loved that story!

I think she missed the mark just a -tad- on this story though. The subversion’s there, but it only works if the reader is familiar with the concept of the Unreliable Narrator. So I guess it depends on the audience. (I agree, misogynists would totally miss the point.)

cloudiah
8 years ago

@Redcap, I think that’s a good point. I think if I had read this not filtered through Man Boobz, I would have had a very different reaction.

But I definitely think there is a talented writer there, even if I’m not sure this story worked completely. (Rachel, if you’re reading, I hope you don’t think we think you’re bad for writing this. I’d actually love to see you jump in here and talk about the process of writing this!)

ikonografer (@ikonografer)

it is perhaps one of the most overwrought stories i’ve ever read. it lacks cohesion, particularly as the unreliable narrator cycles from rationality (running from the house), to near insanity (stopping his flight to jerk off?) really? i won’t speculate as to the author’s intent, but clearly there’s a conflation between violent misogynist and sociopathic serial killer. not only does she not manage to “subvert” anything, but the only thing she manages to do is look like someone grossly underinformed about….well, anything that might pertain to telling a story.

i’m sure the dyed in the wool feminists here would be more than happy to disagree, but here’s a factoid for you: i spent both my undergraduate and graduate career, as well as a significant amount of my professional life, reviewing – and editing – horrible writing. i’m not being remotely partisan (too bad, so sad for you) it’s just a bad piece of writing. no matter what idiot gave her a nebula award, or where she’s published. sadly, her other writing might even be good, but with an introduction like this to her work, well, i won’t be buying anything she’s written.

cloudiah
8 years ago

the “dyed in the wool feminists” here have had a mixed reaction to this work, but keep feeling superior to everyone if it makes you happy @ikonografer.

Or, you know, fuck off.

Now really going to sleep.

katz
8 years ago

The subversion’s there, but it only works if the reader is familiar with the concept of the Unreliable Narrator. So I guess it depends on the audience. (I agree, misogynists would totally miss the point.)

There’s that whole problem for writers with what you can and can’t expect your readers to understand, and the biggest issue is unreliable narrators: What can you have your characters believe without people thinking that you believe it? At the end of the day, nothing. There’s never a guarantee. Well-established authors have some leeway if the rest of their canon indicates that it’s not what they really believe; new authors pretty much have to accept that the first things they write are establishing in the reader’s minds what they themselves think.

So it’s thorny. But assuming you want to address “What kind of person fantasizes about killing his wife?”, then I don’t think there’s really a better way to do it.

katz
8 years ago

For anyone who doesn’t have the stomach for the whole work, here are three of the italicized portions alone. TRIGGER WARNING: There’s still graphic descriptions of violence.

These are a great illustration of the conflicting mindsets you see in these hardcore misogynists. They’ll post these graphic, masturbatory descriptions of how women are going to be screwed when the revolution comes. Part of them wants it completely unashamedly, even proudly. Another part of them secretly wants it, but realizes it’s socially unacceptable and is aware of the need to distance themselves from it so that they don’t get in trouble with the deluded masses who aren’t ready for the truth. And another part of them realizes it’s wrong–still wants it, but maybe doesn’t want to want it, so there’s always that element of self-loathing.

A note from the author:

There’s truth in all fiction. Writers are never separate from what they write. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

I’m not going to kill my ex, but I probably should have.

Don’t tell anyone I said that.

If she turns up dead, it could be a problem.

If I’d really killed her, I’d have bought a butcher’s knife and relied on the internet to instruct me on how to joint her, cut by cut. I wouldn’t cook her. Wouldn’t want her rump roast churning in my guts. Wouldn’t want her to be part of me forever, infiltrating my lungs and stomach and fingernails.

No, I’d cut her up to make it clear that she’d never been a person in the first place, never been anything but a grinning sack of meat.

Remember, this is a story.

It has nothing to do with me. It’s an extrusion. A waste project of the imagination.

Forget what I told you about writers who claim to be separate from what they write. It was bullshit. It sounded good enough for fiction. I’m telling the truth now. It’s all just stories.

thekidwiththereplaceablehead

i would be interested in reading a story refused by editors for being to obvious ‘kill the ex fantasy’.

Does anyone remember what thread that quicksand fetish guy was on?

baileyrenee
8 years ago

And it wasn’t written to subvert the trope so much as to say, “Some men actually feel this way, I think.”

She doesn’t “think” that, she was TOLD that, did you read the editor’s note? It was inspired by stories that people would send in all the time.

This won’t make it through moderation here

I love when people say that.

That you guys think that men just routinely go around feeling like the narrator of this story just because they sometimes say “mean” things about women or advocate for men’s rights says a lot for what you guys think about men.

Uh… no. Why does some men = every man on the planet? Do you actually think we think this shit is normal?

This will be the last time I read this blog. Y’all are a bunch of hateful psychopaths.

Kbye.

@ikonografer

Yea, you’re not really breaking any hearts here. Looks like about half of the people who have commented aren’t fans of the story either.

katz
8 years ago

David: We’ve got a socking situation in the Roosh thread that you ought to look at.

hrovitnir
hrovitnir
8 years ago

I quite liked it, as much as you can use “like” for those kind of stories. The stilted, broken-up element reminded me of some of the old horror stories I read as a kid (minus the sexual violence).

It’s hard to say what I’d think just reading it devoid of context though. I think it’s fairly clear that as a story it is written as a commentary on the narrator, but it works best knowing the where the inspiration came from.

It is pretty disgusting, but that’s the idea.

Shadow
Shadow
8 years ago

I found it very well written. I’m a huge fan of writers/songwriters who can inhabit the minds of other people, so I enjoyed the story for the believability of the character. But, I really don’t get why it’s considered subversive. I mean, is this type of character often presented as a hero or something? This is not the case as far as media I’ve consumed but since that’s only a tiny iota of what is out there, this is me genuinely asking

Argenti Aertheri
8 years ago

Well that was…different. By which I mean I’d rather be playing my video game and being attacked by heads with arms attached and some really painful claws. That’s obviously pure fantasy, this…well, we’ve seen enough MRA rageporn around here. I can totally see how she got this from the shit they say, but it’s still horrible and Poe’s Law kills it. They’re just so vile that you can’t tell this from the levels they’ll sink to.

xna232stang — we’re so sad to see you go! Oh wait, you’re brand new here…

I am absolutely your of my mind though, you got that part right.

Re: ikonografer — this ine’s been here before right? Ever have anything to say that isn’t TB;DR (too boring)?

Radical Parrot
8 years ago

@xna232stang: Nice ableism there, asshole.

You know, isn’t a psychopath someone who lacks the ability to feel empathy for others and regret for their actions? As in, they’re genuinely unable to feel them? Yet most of the entitled men who write their fucked-up revenge stories probaby aren’t like that. They are fully capable of empathy, but choose not to feel it towards women. A little dehumanization goes a long way in making normal people think and do terrible things. That’s a way scarier thought than there just being a couple of individuals with anti-social personalities in an otherwise peaceful unicorn rainbow candyland world. And way more realistic, I might add.

Oh, and as has been pointed out: some men =/= all men. Do you need everything spelled out for you?

Bottom line, take your dumb comment and stuff it. Nobody is going to miss you.

marci
8 years ago

There is far worse out there than this. I have read some things online that made me depressed for the human race for a couple hours at least. If most people find this kind of stuff shocking and horrible then I am very relieved to hear it. But it also means that they might need to take their blinders off. The internet has changed our lives for better or worse…sadly the bad side is that it also exposes the masses to some truly evil minds.

kittehserf
8 years ago

LBT – speaking of aliens and humans, I saw this cover and had to show it to you!

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Not really seeing the Man Boobz influence either! It feels more like a rehash of a lot of weird-dude-fantasy stuff rather than a comment on. Perhaps I’m too just tired to get it.

While we’re on Bill Oddie, or just a little past him, could I just tell everyone that his Australian tour recently was as “An Oddie But a Goodie”? Somehow that really entertained me.

markb
markb
8 years ago

It’s splatterpunk. I don’t think it quite captures the sense of being put-upon and exploited that is generally exhibited by misogynists. They mostly see women as vampires, not harpies. Using men’s sexual desire to extract money and gain status (because in their world those are the only motivations for anything that human beings do).

Howard Bannister
8 years ago

This won’t make it through moderation here,

It always makes me laugh when I see messages like that. “I’m in enemy territory, where they’ll cut me right down! They’ll hate me for existing! They’ll–”

“Hey, dude, you want a donut?”

“…they hate me, and won’t let me say anything. RUN AWAY!!!”

This will be the last time I read this blog. Y’all are a bunch of hateful psychopaths.

Dave’s frequently quoted much worse stuff straight from the manosphere. That you think this is all made up and slanderous is just HILARIOUS.

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