Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Troubling Adult Situation In My Story

(If any minors are here, please skip this topic. Moderators, I understand if you want to move/delete this.)

In my story, I have a situation that troubles me, partly because of reader reaction.

The science fiction scenario: Hero (Paul) has met an artificial intelligence within a virtual reality game world. “Nocturne” is nominally a griffin, because it’s a VR fantasy world. They talk a lot (through the interface of her game), and she has some ability to interact with Earth by methods like talking people into contributing money to charity. Hero finds he’s romantically attracted to her; she’s smart and has a similar personality. She also doesn’t physically exist and she’s not only not his species, but not even a biological creature.

Brain uploading tech gets invented. For complicated reasons he signs up, so he’s now physically dead but a copy of his mind exists within the game world. He is a digital mind with a body only in VR. He agrees to live as his former game character, also a griffin. Yay! Except Nocturne now wants to make their relationship a sexual one (the game’s internal rules are detailed enough), and he’s troubled by this. As currently written, he agrees pretty quickly. At this point, several readers gave me blushing-face icons in their critiques, even though I provide very little detail beyond “yes, they totally do it and they’re happy about it”.

It gets worse. They start exploring what other people have done in this game world, and before long they meet a man who lives with a bunch of children. You can guess what they find him doing, eventually. The narrator says almost in these words, “I’m not gonna describe the details.” The griffins go berserk and kill him, repeatedly. When the man revives, he makes this argument: “These kids aren’t full human-level intelligences and never were. They’re basically game puppets made for my enjoyment, so nobody real is suffering.” Okay, creepy as hell and Paul feels the same way, arguing the point. But then the man says, “You’re banging something that looks like an animal. Also, how old is she?” Answer, around one year. Paul is not pleased to have this pointed out. Nocturne’s answer is simply, “I’m not a kid, damn it!”, expressing that she’s mentally and emotionally mature and that this situation is one of several where basic assumptions about our culture don’t apply anymore. I’m not trying to endorse any of that, but the fact is that my hero has a relationship with a 1-year-old AI talking, quadruped animal.

So… as the writer I’m squicked by having to write that, but “that’s what happens” based on the logic of the story world. I’m okay with being squicked. Trouble is, the critics who were blushing at the implied griffin sex scene are a warning sign that maybe they’ll stop reading when they get to the really creepy part. Am I risking having readers go from “oh, these characters are having sex and it’s odd because of the science fiction griffin AI stuff”, to “I shouldn’t be reading this”?

You can either explore brave new worlds in your fiction, or not. Some people are offended by the implications of brave new worlds, while others prefer either to ignore the unpleasant aspects or remain safely at home altogether. These are two distinct groups, who tend to not have a lot else in common either.

So, as an author you must choose your audience. You can’t have both. For my part, I raised a very similar pedophilia-ethical question in one of my own novels. It’s squicked a lot of readers over the years, and I’m sure my sales would be far better if I edited it out and pretended the issue didn’t exist. But it’d be artistically wrong for me to do so, as I think it’s a good mind-preparer for the deeper ethical questions that follow. As much as I love sales, I’ve therefore left the scene in place.

I’ve chosen my audience, in other words. So far I haven’t regretted it.

I’ll read a lot of stuff that would otherwise squick me, if it’s an important, organic part of the story - which it sounds like this is. If it’s there as pure p*rn and the author is revelling in it…no.

Also, if your readers are shocked at the mere suggestion of having it away with a griffin, they wouldn’t last five minutes around here :slight_smile:

Game time is flexible.
A simulated year does not take a year in RT.
If I recall correctly, your AI was created independently from the Game world.
Your AI created the Gameworld?

So… this would be my logic, The AI griffin, when created, had all of the resources of her virtual world to grow and mature her AI. A series of patchwork emulations of emotional growth and mental growth with sped up time to integrate/grow… So, RT rules do not follow for maturity. This should be worked out and played with, because you can get emotional mileage out of this… and if there’s anything REAL left in this world, it’s going to be emotions.

The puppets, while she may not admit this intellectually, are obviously her children. With the VR world now a huge bandwidth sucking experience, maturity can only come with time… if it all. If the growth and maturity patchwork is based on real human readings/recordings then maternal issues ust be buried in there somewhere.

Again, that would be my logic. And I think it would be useful for emotional depth and conflicts.

I see no cause for reprimand or deletion here.

Personally, I think it’s pretty brave of you to tackle this. Is it going to squick some readers? Absolutely. But I think it’s laudable that you’re willing to bring up such hard questions.

That said, you have to ask yourself whether you’re willing to risk turning off some readers (and likely face some steep criticism) for the sake of these issues.

Just my two Zimbabwean dollars.

That pretty much sums up my feelings on it, too. Yes, you’ll probably lose some readers – but you’re going to lose readers for a lot of different reasons that are completely noncontroversial, too, and you’ll never be able to predict them all or please them all. So if it’s important to the story you’re trying to tell, and if you can make peace with the fact that you may get criticism for it, then I think it’s worth keeping.

Husk and PT already summed up my feelings. I know some of the limited negative reviews I read of MCA Hogarth’s Earthrise were from people who were pointedly squicked by the bit of incest involved. However, despite two of the characters from the main group participating, and it being a part of the two characters’ culture, it wasn’t a major focal point of the story and the main protagonist had the squick factor most readers might feel, making it feel more acceptable to have the squick feeling and move on. The other negative ones (meaning three star rating X3) either came across as being strict reviewers (never give anything above a 3 star- 4 star if it’s their favorite of all time), bothered by a strong female protagonist or simply don’t understand what a Mary Sue actually is :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, Dwale makes a good point as well. It shows a certain amount of bravery to bring up such a difficult subject in a story, and if handled with care, could be quite an incredible read. There are always going to be people who hate your writing, for you can’t please everyone all the time. It’s up to you what parts they might or might not hate :stuck_out_tongue:

If it still bothers you, Grey’s suggestion holds some definite merrit and could be worth working into the story proper.

I am a bit confused about what exactly you think will squick your readers. Implied griffin sex I think most readers can survive and additionally presents interesting transhuman/posthuman concepts. Kij Johnson’s Fox Woman had incestuous fox mating, and the fox fell in love with a human. Also, the crowd cheered during the sex scene in Wolf Children, just saying. I think if someone is picking up a book about griffins and virtual reality worlds, they won’t be too turned off by implied sex.

I don’t think you have much to worry from readers regarding the pedophile as it sounds like the moral compass is more or less in tune with the moral view at large. On a tangent, I think it would be interesting to explore this VR world you created as both a prison and liberation. Could be an interesting way of exploring different colors of morality in virtual spaces.

Similarly, I do not think you have to fear about the whole moral exploration of posthuman age and maturity, generally people are more challenged by old in young body than young in old body. I do not think your one year old griffin AI will be an issue if she is portrayed as an adult.

I think there are far more squickish works out there. Let the Right One In is about a centuries old vampire in the body of a kid, assisted by a pedophile who reasons it isn’t wrong if the creature inside is old. Mysterious Skin has some pretty graphic scenes of molestation as well as the aftermath. Coin Locker Babies… well a classmate put the book down after the first page. At least to me, it sounds like your story is relatively pushing some boundaries, but not outside the boundaries. One of my down the pipeline projects is a story on fictionalized moral complexities in a center-left “dystopia” drawn from academic theories. Some of my plans are built for shock value, designed to encourage the reader to think and consider or walk away. Yours sound more organic, as has been said, and less designed for a confrontation between yourself and your readers.

Everyone here does make some valid points, I think though, you may want be looking a little more at the character(s) maturity levels, because maturity is subjective to the species.

AIs have the benefit of learning everything another knows, so even if one is a year(or a few days) they could have the live experience of several hundred others, thus making them more mature than a human of the same (chronological) age.

Pete though, is different. He had his life as a biological, and transferred that to electronic. Now is he still the same age, or has his life started over? Either way he’s still as mature as he was before(maybe even more so).

As for the man with the children? You clearly stated that by calling them children. By definition, they’re not mature(regardless of intelligence), so I feel that the griffons are right in their chastisement of him.

…as for including the sexual situations, I’m with Huskyteer

if it’s an important, organic part of the story - which it sounds like this is. If it’s there as pure p*rn and the author is revelling in it…no.

The thing that makes me twitch is:

The narrator says almost in these words, "I'm not gonna describe the details."
I'm not a fan of that kind of breaking the fourth wall, but I have weird picky habits.

People write things to push the boundaries and ask questions that should be asked all the time. This sounds like one of those.

It does make me wonder if that’s the feel of the narrative as a whole, kind of like Dresden Files maybe?

I find it a convenient coincidence that I just happened to read something that might help illustrate two of the points that were made earlier in the conversation: that some acts can and may be illustrated if it furthers the story and that the acts themselves don’t need gory detail to be impactful.

At Biggest Little Fur Con in Reno, Nevada, I picked up a copy of Circles: The Years Keep Rolling By, the latest and final set of stories from the Circles universe. There is a specific scene which illustrates both points in the previous paragraph: that content only needs to be illustrated to some extent, and that said content or scenarios can be used when trying to illustrate an important part of a story or a character’s background.

I’ll try to keep the universe description brief as I’m sure most of you have heard of it; the summary is for people who might be new and/or not heard of the series. Thanks for humoring me!

Circles is a slice-of-life series created by Andrew French, Scott Fabianek, and Steven Domanski. It is/was published by Rabbit Valley Press. The story revolves around gay characters living as roommates a house on Six Kinsey Circle in Boston, Massachusetts, and follows the stories of their lives as they live, play, cry, and celebrate together. The principal characters are Paul “Paulie” Mayhew (Canine, Owner of Six Kinsey Circle), Douglas “Doug” Pope (Otter, Paulie’s mate), Taylor “Taye” Dooley (Kangaroo, Actor), Martin Miller (Skunk, newest house member, then Taye’s boyfriend), Arthur Korsky (Bear, artist), Kenneth “Ken” Brassai (Cheetah, professional modeler).


Highlight below to read the text clearly.

[size=10pt]In the latest and final set of stories in the Circles universe, there is a moment where Paulie has a heart-to-heart discussion with Ken, who reveals that he was sexually abused by one of his uncles, a former army solider whom he admired and looked up to. The sexual abuse wasn’t limited to one time and happened over the course of many years, from the time Ken was eleven or twelve years of age. Ken, during the abuse, struggles with his sexual identity and develops coping mechanisms to survive, some of which are causing complications with his current relationships.

Ken, having finally build the courage to strike out, injures his uncle, whom is trying to force him to do something he doesn’t want to. With the help of one of his true friends, Ken eventually manages to escape the situation and leave Georgia. He eventually moved to Boston, at which point he becomes a resident of Six Kinsey Circle. Where we meet Ken as he starts out at the beginning of the story: a cheetah with no interest in lasting sexual or emotional relationships with other people due to distrust.[/size]

In this particular case, the authors of the story handled the explanation well: there is just enough detail to understand the initial acts and the repercussions these acts had on Ken as an adolescent, but not so much detail as to make the act itself the entire focus of the narrative. This means that we as the audience can be repulsed by the acts of Ken’s uncle and have more sympathy for Ken and his lack of attachment at the same time.

I can immediately empathize with Ken on a number of levels because of what he suffered in the writing, endearing him to me further and making him seem even more alive. I can also appreciate how repugnant his uncle is for performing such acts – especially on a recurring basis. I feel the authors of Circles: The Years Keep Rolling By executed the content well, and I suggest that it be reviewed by anyone considering using sensitive topics in their works to illustrate a character or moral dilemma.

Without reading all of the replies, I do have to say that yes, the subject matter of Gamer #2’s fantasies a bit on the squick side.

But lordy WOW the moral, social, and ethical questions it brings forward are 100% worth the discomfort factor (bearing in mind we don’t want details on Gamer #2’s ‘fun’). I’d almost be willing to read it just to study the rationalizations for both the Protagonist, the AI, and Gamer #2.
But in Gamer #2’s defense - the griffon AI is a fully realized identity; mature even though her code is only 1 human year old (now, let’s determine her age in computational cycles) - whereas Gamer #2’s constructs are barely even AIs. It’s the difference between a hooker and an inflatable Lucy Lovedoll.

At least the Protagonist holds off until he becomes a griffon to tag his VR girlfriend - so he neatly avoids the whole ‘bestiality’ stigma.