Sunday, 25 January 2015

Satire, power, offence and SCUM.

I sometimes think the biggest constituency in the world is the well-meaning idiots. They want to do the right things and they want to think the right things, particularly now that everyone not only has opinions but is expected to express them all over the place, all the time. They are well-meaning, so they (for instance) get sucked by Britain First (no, I am not linking to them in any shape or form) printing a picture of a doggie or a dignified veteran and don't read the small print where the facism lurks.
At the moment, the well-meaning idiots are worrying about offensiveness. It's OK to disagree with other people's religious beliefs, they bleat, but do you have to be so nasty and rude about it?
The answer is yes. Yes, you fucking do. Ridicule is an effective, sometimes devastating weapon and a necessary one. Well-meaning idiots don't get satire, in the same way that they don't get fiction (all erotica writers get asked, endlessly, if they have done or regularly do all the sexy things they write about, and when you ask the latest well-meaning idiot to put the same question if s/he thinks JK Rowling attended Hogwarts herself, they get all huffy...)
Satire isn't 'nice' because satire is born out of rage. Good satire should make you uncomfortable even while it's making you laugh, but great satire actually aims to ^make things better^. The intention is to shock you into examining your own behaviour, or the behaviour of people you have allowed to hold positions of power. Being 'offended' is sometimes the equivalent of the metaphorical good kick up the arse that makes you see the world in a different way.

And it is about power, at bottom. The powerful don't satirize the powerless. They may mock, degrade, humiliate and harm them, but they don't satirize them because they don't need to. Satirizing radical Islam, by the way, is not about insulting or degrading non-white people - what is being attacked in this form of satire is a violent, homophobic, misogynistic superstition that is used to justify brutality and murder.
It's the power differential that makes the SCUM manifesto an exhilarating satirical work, whereas all those Angry Neckbeard sites about putting women back in their place may be uninentionally hilarious at times (Return of Kings you just know is written by a clammy-palmed drip from his parents' damp basement) but, because men are far more dangactually dangerous to women than women are to men, even when misogynists are insisting that they are being funny, the message that lingers is not 'Women have too much power and should be nicer to men' but 'Some men are really, really inadequate'.
Mind you, that's the point at which SCUM starts feeling less like satire and more like a Good Idea.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Sunday Snog: Black Heart

I'm normally far too lazy, disorganized or otherwise engaged to join in the Sunday Snog but this weekend I just happen to be at home, awake, and reluctant to go anywhere, so I thought all those of you in the same boat might enjoy this little extract from Black Heart - two snogs for the price of one.

Feet padded along the hallway and Gary came back into the room; at a murmured command from Rosa he knelt beside Daniel. There was another prolonged moment of silence, and then she said, ‘Look at me.’

She stood before them, smiling, at her ease, holding a multi-tailed flogger in one hand, dangling it lazy by its little looped handle. Her leather trousers fitted her perfectly, caressing her long legs; her black shirt was unbuttoned low enough to reveal a black lacy bra and the upper curves of her breasts. Daniel had never wanted a woman so much in his life.

‘So much potential,’ she said, in the same soft, dreamy voice. ‘Pleasure and pain, and both together. Stand up, both of you.’ The last sentence was rapped out sharply, and they both scrambled to obey her. When they were both on their feet, she moved up close to them, close enough to touch, and Daniel struggled not to reach out for her, though he longed to do so. But it was Gary she went to first, lifting his chin with one finger and kissing him, lightly at first, then with greater intensity. Daniel was standing close enough to feel the tremor that ran through the drummer’s body, and he clenched his fists. Waiting his turn was exquisite torture: would she kiss him, too, or would she decide it was more fun not to? He thought of the night he’d seen her beating another man, how his blazing jealousy had mixed with a strange, compelling enjoyment of his own suffering.

Then she was in front of him, twining her fingers in his hair, holding him still, and her mouth was on his. The kiss was hard, demanding, sending tiny explosions of ecstasy throughout his whole body, and it was only with a great deal of effort that he managed not to wrap his arms round her and prolong it when she finally pulled away.

‘Face one another,’ she said. ‘Hands on each other’s shoulders, lean into one another, and stay still.’