Fetish Fiction

Time for another book rant, and don’t get all squirmy over the title of this one. For once in my decadent life I’m ranting against fetishism!

I’ve been reading Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind. This is the second book in his Sword of Truth series, the first being Wizard’s First Rule.

Now, in Wizards…, Goodkind had his protagonist tortured in graphic and extended fashion. I read that long enough ago that I don’t recall my reaction at the time, but I do know the author eventually made a point with it (the protagonist forgives and aids his torturer, thereby showing us what a swell and compassionate guy he is).

One of the details of his torture was that he was made to wear a collar and led around like an animal. His torturer was female. Eventually she forced him to be her partner in some sado-masochistic sex games. But again, in the end there was a point to all this, so I sorta let him get away with it.

Now, in book #2, there’s another band of women that want to put a collar on Our Hero. And we’ve had a glimpse at the private lives of these women, wherein one made a fellow skin his good friend alive, and be rewarded by teaching a buxom young novice how to ‘please a man.’ Charming stuff. Before she leaves them, she does a bit of skinning of her own, just to keep in practice, you understand, and we get to witness her leading these poor bastards around by strips of their skin.

When I was reading this stuff, I was reminded of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series where once again, women are leading captives around on collars (this time the captives are also women, so we can get that lesbian thing going on… lesbian sadism… you can’t get any better than that, right?). Now mind you, these aren’t ugly cast iron collars with thick chains attached. They’re always delicate things, almost like jewelry, but the magic keeps the captive from removing them or breaking the chain (or some skulls). We wouldn’t want anything aesthetically unpleasing in our torture scenes, now would we?

I just don’t get this stuff. If you want to write fetish fiction, just go off and write it and sell it in an adult bookshop and have fun. I have no gripe with fetish fiction. Just don’t shove it in my mainstream fantasy books, ok? What is this connection between fantasy, as in sci-fi/fantasy, and fantasy, as in dial 1-800-fantasy for a good time, our horny leatherBabes are waiting for you?

Understand, I’m not saying that torture should be off-limits. It’s an easy way to get you hating the bad guys and feeling compassion for the good guys. But there’s is no need to get naked and roll around in the gore and the pain. Sketch it out, but keep the books decent, will you? If Goodkind wrote his (consensual) sex scenes with the same kind of frankness and detail that he writes his sadism scenes, he’d be behind the counter at the bookshop, on sale to adults only.

And if you want to put stuff this graphic in your books, at least give the reader some hint of that on the cover, so we don’t give these novels to our kids to read, or buy them ourselves for that matter. Personally, I’d be happy to read fantasy novels with graphic sex scenes, but I can do without page after page of lovingly crafted depictions of skinning alive and cattle prod-esque tools to the testicles and so forth. Not only do I find it revolting, I find it so un-subtle as to be amateurish.