Sunday, March 21, 2010

Where's that quarter?

No idea when it's coming out, but Arcana sent Jim a preview of Coin Operated Boy by Steven Prouse and Rob Grabe. It was for February, so it may already be out. Turns out that it's two interrelated stories, the other half being Coin Operated Girl.

It's an interesting idea but I'm not sure about the execution. The first story is about a party girl who's burned out on men but not sex. There's never any indication of what she does for a living, but she builds an android in her living room to keep the sex going without the emotional entanglements. She has a guy friend (with whom she's had sex at some point, I think), who's aghast at her creation. Me, I'd be working on mass production, fame and fortune, but he's more concerned about her self imposed exile from human sexual and emotional contact. The android has oddly rouged cheeks and a honkin' huge wind-up key in his back, not to mention disturbingly vacant eyes, which would probably make him stand out pretty quickly, but no one in the world seems to notice when he's out and about. Natually, trouble ensues when the android develops feelings for his creator and attacks the guy pal. I'd have thought she'd win some Nobel prize or something for making this amazingly complex android out of a dress makers dummy.

The second story is of a female android created by a corporate scientist. She's developed to be a call girl, more or less, but escapes. She's rescued by a guy who promptly falls for her. The corporation (which seems to consist of just the scientist and his assistant) hunts her down, ends up taking the guy hostage to get her to come in, and generally utterly fails at controlling its creation. In this one the android kills someone, albeit someone portrayed as deserving killing.

I understand we're going for metaphor here, but there's too much that doesn't make sense that distracts me. Both of these androids are created for sexual usage. The creator of the boy one is a nice girl who's just lost touch with her humanity a bit. The creator of the girl one is a terrible pervert and all around scum, mistreating his assistant along the way, just for kicks. What's the difference in the motivations of these two creators? The first is creating the android for her own sexual pleasure while the second is creating the android to rent it out for the sexual pleasure of others. Money makes you evil, apparently.

There's really no difference between the creators, other than the bankroll behind them. Well, the corporate guy is a lot dumber, considering how he designed his android in a way that it could defeat the one and only method of locating it that he'd put into it. At least homemade android girl didn't put any considertion into security for her creation.

I think Prouse was going for some exploration of relationships in both stories, though there's less of that in the second story. It's not overly believable that right after meeting this android the rescuer guy is going to fall in love with it. Lust, sure. Life risking love? Not so much. To the extent Prouse was examining the consequences of removing oneself from human contact in the first story, it was a good story. That the android developed feelings for its creator shouldn't have been a surprise. She ostensibly created it with feelings, just not feelings for her. The premise is whack, though, because she bemoaned finding love with a human guy, then made an android that didn't have feelings for her and was just for sex. She could have gotten that with any number of guys without all the trouble. Its a deus ex machina that's bordering on Rube Goldberg.

It's not a bad pair of stories to check out, but don't go in thinking it's any more than a one off science fiction riff. Last month's stand alone story in Scalped did a far better job of exploring human emotions in a single issue, but this one's at least good enough to provide some food for thought.

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