Thursday, July 18, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #53

Art by Joey Jordan
The two stories in this month's Diabolical Plots bring two very different moods and styles. One is a slice of the absurd, a satire of politics and social media and authoritarianism. The other looks at a situation no less corrupt, no less dominated by abuses of power, but with an entirely different feel to it. It's dark and it's visceral and it's rather disturbing, looking at punishment and justice and religion in some uncomfortable ways. Both do interesting things with their worlds, though, and work to expose hypocrisy of systems that don't lend themselves to introspection. Let's get to the reviews!


“Little Empire of Lakelore” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires (1935 words)

No Spoilers: I’d say this story has some problems with logic but seeing as how logic was banned yesterday I think that’s actually a point in its favor? Or... Well, in any event, it’s a piece that peeks into the life of a very small empire, the Little Empire of Lakelore, and catches us up ont he comings and goings of the royal family, which seems to be composed of the Lord Titanius and his son, whose primary hobby seems to be banning (and inevitably unbanning) various things, actions, and people. It’s a weird piece, with an interesting use of nonsense, and it stays fairly charming and throughout.
Keywords: Laws, Government, Photographs, Pollution, Nonsense
Review: This is a rather weird story, and one that proceeds in a bit of stream of...well, not consciousness, but more like it’s one random thought moving into another, people acting on their whims and to the indecipherable rules that they have written into their world. Rules that contradict and limit and don’t really bring them any closer to their happiness, but which they seem compelled to make. Egged on mostly by the nagging of the Lord’s son. And I do think that it makes a bit of a statement on privilege and on the dangers of having those most eager to abuse power the same people who have the power. Because what results is a complete mess, with people running around without reason, without logic, trying to follow the letters of the law when those letters don’t seem to spell actual words or sentences. The piece leans into that, and I do love the way that everyone tries to live up to these laws even as they know that they’re awful. Even the Lord tends to hate his own rules, and ends up changing his mind when he can remember. But that he allows himself to be talked into in the first place speaks to his certainty that he should rule, his arrogance and his desire to be above people. All the while this tiny empire functions largely by chance, because a lot of the people living there who are actually responsible for things like making food...just don’t listen. They go about their business and so everyone maintains the status quo. Only a status quo, though, that is riddled with problems and that isn’t really functioning for most people. A status quo that lacks logic and so stands on the shoddy foundation of nepotism, corruption, and hypocrisy. And with all that it’s just a fun story, delightful in its absurdity and yet just sharp enough in its satire to make it well worth checking out. A great read!

“Lies of the Desert Fathers” by Stewart Moore (3549 words)

No Spoilers: Doctor Wainwright is a neurosurgeon and pioneer of a kind of “treatment” for criminals where she surgically alters them, implanting them with “sanctifications” that reverse those parts of themself that “cause” the crimes they committed. Compulsive liars are made able only to tell the truth. Sex offenders and wiped of the ability to become aroused. Not all of these punishments are new, but the delivery is, and yet the story shows that relying on a religious and neurological fix for crime can run into a lot of problems, especially when looking at what kind of behavior and actions are still allowed. It’s a chilling read, tense and violent, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Keywords: Brain Implants, Behavior Modification, Crime, Religion, Murder
Review: This story begins out as a kind of murder mystery, and I love the way it builds from there, fleshing out the abuses that have been visited on the “brothers” of this religious institution that is essentially a kind of jail. A jail that performs involuntary brain surgery on its inmates. Having the piece unfold from the doctor’s perspective gives it that added bit of creepiness, because from the start we’re in the head of someone who Believes in what she’s doing, who is certain of her faith and conviction not just that she’s doing the right thing, but that these people want what she has done to them. It’s not something she questions and it’s not something that inmates seem to be able to disagree with. And so it becomes a kind of truth that she continues to act on, that she continues to use to hurt more and more people. Until this murder shakes her a bit and sets her to figuring out who could have killed someone, given the restrictions she’s put on everyone’s brains. Which is a neat mystery and one that the story does a good job misdirecting for a time. Because the answer seems obvious for a while only to be twisted into an answer that is nicely shocking. And I do like the ending, as violent as it is, because it shows the danger of Belief, and what is still allowed even from people who feel that they’re doing the right thing. Torture isn’t outlawed, nor murder, nor anything, and the idea that Justice can be anything that doesn’t allow for consent is the toxic seed out of which all of this grows. It’s an unsettling story but one very much worth spending some time with. A disturbing but strong piece!


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