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February 25, 2012 6:40 PM   Subscribe

ILU-486, a chilling short story by Amanda Ching, in the vein of dystopian classics like The Handmaid's Tale and inspired by recent events in Virginia, has been sweeping the blogsphere.

It has been called "frighteningly prescient" and "The Handmaid's Tale 2012."

Semi-previously.
posted by suburbanbeatnik (66 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
People who like this and haven't read The Handmaid's Tale should read the Handmaid's Tale, because it is much better than this. And has more to say about America in 2012, despite having been written in Canada in 1984.
posted by escabeche at 6:52 PM on February 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


As a story, this is failing me. It is pounding me over the head with message and not letting me breathe. "Kayleigh Bent" is the feminine equivalent of "Dash Riprock," and -- okay, I won't go on.

Since I feel kind and I like to see that she's touched a nerve, I'll say that she's got an excellent vision, and this would probably make a great screenplay.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:57 PM on February 25, 2012


Sweeping? Hardly.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:01 PM on February 25, 2012


It reads like it was written by a mildly talented teenager.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:06 PM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, posting fiction on Metafilter really brings out the haters.
posted by Alison at 7:13 PM on February 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


I was ready to dismiss this story as soon as I read the opening words -- I was bothered by the redundant phrase "likewise also" -- but then I realized that I was reading a quote from the Bible and decided that maybe I ought to form my opinions more slowly.
posted by compartment at 7:17 PM on February 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Holy crap: from the "Angry Black Lady" link, Utah Bill Criminalizes Miscarriage.
posted by XMLicious at 7:21 PM on February 25, 2012


Oh, wait, I missed the year; that's from two years ago. It didn't get signed, hopefully?
posted by XMLicious at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2012


I get the impression from the story that the author is a fan of Ron Paul.
posted by michaelh at 7:32 PM on February 25, 2012


...nope looks like that Utah bill became law, slightly modified. So if a woman can be found to have intentionally caused a miscarriage she can be charged with homicide. And the language specifies that it applies to "an unborn child at any stage of its development", so it applies even in the first trimester.
posted by XMLicious at 7:47 PM on February 25, 2012


Yes, everyone, let's please compare and judge a short story to one of the finest examples of writing of the 20th century, that's really productive.
posted by incessant at 7:53 PM on February 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I love rage inducing fiction. I couldn't tell what the exact quality was through a haze of hatred, but it got the blood pumping well enough.

Also, wonderful use of In Medeas RAAAAGE.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:02 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Every part of you belongs to you."

The story was good, but that line in particular is fantastic. Love it.
posted by cmyk at 8:14 PM on February 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Not a bad job of postulating possible futures based on current political events, but there's no point in pointing out its literary flaws. It's a didactic polemic, not a good short story (character development? Oh well).

Reading it is worth ten minutes of your life. The frightening persistence men, especially, have displayed in passing laws to control women's bodies and sex lives can't be pointed out too often; and a decent narrative can have a greater effect than a snoozefest of a story in another lefty 'zine.
posted by kozad at 8:21 PM on February 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's not Shakespeare, but it doesn't have to be. I've certainly read worse sci-fi polemic. And it's gripping stuff; the abortion vans, the signals, the estrogen sensors in the pipes. I like her ideas.
posted by emjaybee at 8:28 PM on February 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I liked it, although IMO it could use a few rewrites and an editor. If you're interested in this sort of story I would urge you to watch "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days", a claustrophobic story of illicit abortion in Soviet Romania.

Not to minimize the lunacies of contemporary American political discourse, of course: "ILU-486" is gripping in how it takes these ideas to its logical endpoint. I personally am a sucker for dystopia, and I feel there are too few credible dystopian stories that involve human fertility and/or a strong female perspective. (Of course, P.D. James' "The Children of Men" comes to mind; the film adaptation of which, while interpretive, is stellar.)

But in danger of stating the obvious: Soviet Romania actually happened.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:30 PM on February 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


First page: TV good, government bad.
posted by telstar at 8:30 PM on February 25, 2012


The blog post on the "sweeping" link is mostly about Romania.
posted by XMLicious at 8:44 PM on February 25, 2012


Regarding the law in question...would'nt this negate things like drinking ages, contract law, and statutory rape, and other such age related statutes?
posted by sfts2 at 8:45 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm now imagining New York City-State and it's inhabitants.
posted by hellojed at 8:58 PM on February 25, 2012


I did enjoy it, and found it better than most of these quickly produced topical diatribes, so YAY AUTHOR(ESS)!
posted by Samizdata at 8:58 PM on February 25, 2012


Seconding 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Damn.
posted by lumensimus at 9:35 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, I'm surprised at the negativity here too. As a dystopian short story, it's pretty gripping, and imaginative too. (But then, I was raised on sci-fi stories that were long on world-building and short on character development, so that's more or less what interests me in a story anyway.)
posted by otherthings_ at 11:16 PM on February 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Great story. This quote, from Some Disagree, deserves wider spread:

Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about the subject of abortion, conservatives who claim to believe in small government should remember that Roe was so decided at least partially because the implications of adequate enforcement would require the kind of police state that this story relates.

posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:22 PM on February 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


This gave me chills, seriously, especially the lines:

HELLO THERE. WE HEARD U NEED THIS.
DON’T WORRY, WE LOVE YOU.
EVERY PART OF YOU BELONGS TO YOU.

I made it into a picture, even.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:56 PM on February 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Anecdote time: back in my salacious past, I was dating a guy, and the subject of the great What If came up.

"I was adopted," he said, "and I'm happy my mother gave me that choice at life. I would never want any child of mine to be aborted."

"Okay," I told him, "then if it happens, you'll never know." Calm as if we were discussing the weather.

He was gobsmacked by that, I think just because I'd said it - that I'd actually gone and asserted my control over my own body. All of me belongs to me.

Right there, with his assumption that He The Man got to make the decisions about my body, he'd lost the chance of ever, ever, engaging in any kind of meaningful discussion about it. Is it your uterus, pal? No? Then why you talkin'?

Needless to say, it didn't last. And no, I never needed to have anything done -- but if I had, he never would have known.
posted by cmyk at 12:33 AM on February 26, 2012 [32 favorites]


I"ve had an unplanned pregnancy. And I'm the most pro-choice person you'll meet.... but I don't know that I agree with your approach cmyk.

Whilst the choice is the woman's the discussion, barring violence and ugly recriminations, is for both the people who donate dna. In my opinion.

I would be furious if a hypothetical partner of mine had said to me what you had said to your ex. I would at least like to state my case in either direction. Which is the option I gave my ex at the time. We didn't agree..... and we didn't survive... but I knew his opinion from the beginning and I never held that against him.
posted by taff at 12:44 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


For various reasons I was, and currently still am, dead-set against reproducing.

I did offer the option to split up, if it was that big of a concern to him. He didn't take me up on it, so I suppose it wasn't as important as he claimed.
posted by cmyk at 12:46 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whilst the choice is the woman's the discussion, barring violence and ugly recriminations, is for both the people who donate dna.

When one party only has to endure thity seconds or so of ejaculation while the other has to carry a parasite/the baby for nine months, with all the risks that entails, I don't think this can ever be an evenhanded discussion.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:17 AM on February 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


When one party only has to endure thity seconds or so of ejaculation while the other has to carry a parasite/the baby for nine months

The fetus isn't a parasite. That's a pretty horrible way to think.

What about the one that has to cut checks for almost two decades? They get no say, huh?
posted by codswallop at 1:34 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about the one that has to cut checks for almost two decades? They get no say, huh?

Those should welcome an abortion and stop whinging about wearing condoms if they don't want to take the consequences.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:49 AM on February 26, 2012 [19 favorites]


I've had those "what if...?" conversations with partners, and luckily we've always been on the same page. Unfortunately, as I've noticed from my own experience and that of my friends, it usually takes place after you start sleeping with someone. I think if you feel really strongly one way or the other, then you owe the other person the option not to sleep with you in the first place. It rarely works out that way, though.
posted by sundaydriver at 2:34 AM on February 26, 2012


I'm not saying the man should have 50% voting rights by any means. But I think, it's only fair, if it's physically and emotionally safe for the woman, to at least hear his input. That's all.

But never if he's violent or a relgious nutjob likely to do something really dreadful.

And then, if the woman decides that the best thing for her situation is an abortion, do it with my love support and baking.



Also... not liking the parasite word.
posted by taff at 2:38 AM on February 26, 2012


But I think, it's only fair, if it's physically and emotionally safe for the woman, to at least hear his input. That's all.

Which is fair enough, but the problem is that if you're in a loving, kind relationship you should be doing this anyway; I can't imagine my wife would've kept a hypothetical pregnancy to herself and gotten an abortion without me knowning, nor that she would've worried about bringing up the subject with me for fear I would turn into a raging nutjob on the subject. It's one of those things people in good, equal relationships do and people in bad relationships can't.

And the power ratio being what it is, it is far more true that women have to worry about being forced into a pregnancy they don't want, than it is for men to be "tricked" into making a woman pregnant, despite the vast amount of self pitying mens rights bunkum about it.

Which is why it is important that the public norm for pregnancy and abortion should be that the only person's opinion that matters is that of the woman who is undergoing the pregnancy, that nobody else should have a say in whether or not she should keep a baby. Not even the father.

Also... not liking the parasite word.

Well, that's what a baby is medically speaking, a drain on a pregnant woman's resources, even when the pregnancy goes flawless. It's also much more than that of course, but it is helpful to sometimes remember that.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:41 AM on February 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Martin, you don't seem to be accounting for the full context of the original comment, which was about taff having promised her then-boyfriend that she would not tell him if she got an abortion. Respond to the whole thing, please.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:38 AM on February 26, 2012


I think you'd better reread this thread yourself, as it wasn't taff that made that particular promise...

Nor was I responding to anyone's particular situation, but rather to the more general principle taff proposed for themselves.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:58 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


carry a parasite -- people who think this way probably shouldn't reproduce anyway.
posted by crunchland at 6:03 AM on February 26, 2012


I think that way, and I don't want to reproduce. That is why this story was so powerful to me, and why I keep having nightmares along these lines every night as supposed liberals keep conceding that the Christian Right has any kind of point at all with regard to abortion or contraception.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:16 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


But I think, it's only fair, if it's physically and emotionally safe for the woman, to at least hear his input. That's all.

I agree with this. Worth noting that in cmyk's particular case she had just heard, and was responding directly to, his input.
posted by ook at 6:16 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, I would recommend reading the story. It's not really good, but it is competent. Maybe anti-choice distopias should become an American fiction thing.
posted by fuq at 7:03 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I loved the story, but then I've always been a sucker for dystopia.

The central meme of the story: "We love you; every part of you belongs to you!" seems to be an affirmation rather than argument, and that's probably for the best. If the scenario depicted stems from applied Christian belief, it runs up against one of the key doctrines:

"What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [...] ye are not your own." - 1 Corinthians 6:19.

Having been raised in a Christian household, that's the verse that sprang most quickly to mind when I read that meme. I'd forgotten, however, that based on context the verse deals most specifically with fornication.
posted by The Confessor at 7:16 AM on February 26, 2012


taff: Whilst the choice is the woman's the discussion, barring violence and ugly recriminations, is for both the people who donate dna.

They had the discussion. He stated his opinion, which was inflexible and didn't leave room for any mitigating circumstances. Was further discussion really warranted?
posted by FrereKhan at 7:45 AM on February 26, 2012


Also, I have recently reproduced twice (by proxy -- I don't have the required gear) and I think parasite is a totally apposite word. They begin as parasites, and become less and less so over time.
posted by FrereKhan at 7:47 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fetus isn't a parasite. That's a pretty horrible way to think.

Parasite, noun:
An organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host's expense

What about the one that has to cut checks for almost two decades? They get no say, huh?

Who would they be cutting checks to if the fetus is aborted? Nice way to get a shot in about how horrible you think child support is without it being, you know, relevant at all. That is a pretty horrible way to think.
posted by ndfine at 7:47 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I did offer the option to split up, if it was that big of a concern to him"

In general if a man has any desire to control the outcome of his sperm becoming or not becoming a human life... vasectomies and condoms should be essential for any sexual encounter. Don't want to pay child support for 18 years and be morally culpable for the rearing of your own offspring? Great! Vasectomy.

I find it interesting that men who want to control whether or not their sperm become children pressume women should offer them condom free sex while damaging the females fertility for the benefit of the man's condom free penis in vagina orgasms.

If a man wants a woman to have condom free sex with his non-vasectomized self, then it should be assumed that if a condom breaks or she misses a pill and a pregnancy happens it will be up to her what she wants to do with the pregnancy, including carrying or not carrying the pregnancy to term-NO MATTER what she has said about her thoughts on abortion before actually experiencing a pregnancy. And if a child results than both parents should be responsable emotionally and financially for the child. If the parents are able to find replacements for their duties in the form of adoption and both parents agree on this plan, then adoption can be an act of ensuring those duties to the child are performed.

In the event that a child is born and both parents do not agree on an adoption plan they are both responsable for providing for the child.

If those consequences sound scary, then not having sex is also an option.
posted by xarnop at 7:48 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's not Shakespeare, but it doesn't have to be.

It may not need to be Shakespeare, but can it at least aspire to being Threads? No question in my mind that film has a political agenda (nuclear disarmament), but it's also an amazing movie. That's pretty damn important. As the saying goes, if you just want to send a message, use Western Union. No one wants to sit through a commercial for your POV disguised as a story.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:01 AM on February 26, 2012


If those consequences sound scary, then not having sex is also an option.

That particular line sounds very right wing. Interesting that both sides have come to a similar solution.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:08 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


"[...] her face making an expression that looked like this: O_o."

Really? Really?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:14 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


There is a difference between "you can control your entire body, but if you want not to wear a condom, not to have a vascectomy, and also not to have a baby but are against abortion, your choices are to find a woman who wants to be entirely responsible for multiple modes of birth control or not to have sex" and "once you have sex a single time you have agreed to being pregnant even though there is a safe and currently legal way not to be".
posted by jeather at 8:16 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Being a female who's reproduced, and who is also in a good relationship with a male, I have to say, still, while I would tell him what I had decided if I decided on an abortion, I would not ask for his blessing or permission. If he had objections I would listen, but it would still be my decision.

And I have absolutely no idea what anyone's talking about who says his possible future child support payments give him some sort of say in this decision. That's completely nonsensical.

Just the same as if he said "I'm going to get a vasectomy." He wouldn't need my permission, because it's his body. I would only want an explanation if it was a complete switcheroo from our previous plans for a family, because I'd want to know what changed his mind and if anything was going on. But I would never presume that he needed to ask me for permission.
posted by emjaybee at 8:47 AM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Semi-previously" should go here, I assume.
posted by homunculus at 9:28 AM on February 26, 2012


What does science fiction tell us about the future of reproductive rights?
posted by homunculus at 9:32 AM on February 26, 2012


To those of you not keen on the word parasite, I would ask that you never look into the consequences of human activity to the natural systems that we have exploited to become what we are.

We are ALL parasites... to certain degrees. The value of our outputs questionable in the grand arc of time.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:37 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a gripping story. People who go on about its literary merits are missing the point entirely.
posted by monospace at 4:04 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about the one that has to cut checks for almost two decades? They get no say, huh?

Wah, wah, wah. Poor thing has to pay support on a child they engendered. Don't want child support? Either keep the damn thing in your pants or USE BIRTH CONTROL. I really, really get sick of whiners that say, "She tricked me/lied to me, and had a baby anyway." Why is it some men don't think they have to be responsible for their reproduction?

I'm off to fume about the Virginia thing. Bastards. It's OK to control a woman's reproductive tract, but if any of those jerks that worked on this DIDN'T want a baby, you know how that would go down.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:33 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those referencing the Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood herself retweeted the link to this story today.
posted by amaire at 10:22 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just wanted to say, vasectomy =/= abortion...
posted by FrereKhan at 11:38 PM on February 26, 2012


Also: A woman should not be forced to either have a child, or have an abortion. But neither should a man. It's (hypothetically) kind of shitty if a couple discusses it, decides they don't want a child, they use condoms... but one breaks, she gets pregnant, then decides unilaterally that she wants the child... and the father is forced to support that child that they'd previously decided they weren't going to have. She should absolutely have the child if she wants, but maybe there should be some one to mutually opt out of paternal support.
posted by FrereKhan at 11:42 PM on February 26, 2012


Also, vasectomy =/= the pill or condoms.
posted by FrereKhan at 11:43 PM on February 26, 2012


FrereKhan: if that's the sort of thing you need to worry about in your relationships, that your partner will trick you into having a child, you need better relationships.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:17 AM on February 27, 2012


FrereKahn, I disagree. Pro-choice means that a woman is under no sort of moral obligation to make a determination on abortion-parenting-or adoption before actually experiencing a pregnancy. People's feelings can change after actually feeling a pregnancy in their body.

It is not your body. You don't know what it feels like, or what it will feel like for your partner. If they thought they were ok with abortion--- (or with NOT getting an abortion) but after a pregnancy they feel different and change their position they have every legal AND moral right to change how they feel about what is happening in their own body and what the entity in their body is or means to them.

You have no right to expect a woman to give you a predetermined decision on something she hasn't experienced yet and she has every right to change her mind.

NO ONE, not a man or a woman, has the right to have sex without an obligation to children who may result. If birth control fails and woman is unable to obtain an abortion for whatever reason, she has an obligation to that child whether she wanted it or not. If she can find alternative people to take over the role that can be a part of her responsability for making sure that the child is cared for. If there is no one else, then it falls to her to do what she can to keep the child alive and cared for. Dad's carry the same responsability whether they meant for their child to be created or not. If you created a child and they need you, it doesn't matter if you intended to reproduce by having sex or not---- sex and reproduction are NOT gauranteed seperate.

And any born children who result and live with the consequences should be put before adults desires to be childfree and not have to deal with it.
posted by xarnop at 5:05 AM on February 27, 2012


I read the short story. I think that it is powerful in it's own right, and stands well. Yes, the writing style is more colloquial... any heavily influenced by our early 21st century technological behaviors... it is still able to bring forth in our minds a spirit crushing, mind numbingly cruel world.

A world that I will die to prevent coming to pass...

I respect the right of women to have full dominion of their bodies, independence in their thoughts and actions, and full cognizance of the choices they face and in turn the decisions they make.

I know that I will not always agree with them. They will not always agree with me.

I think that cmyk has the right idea. A man need not ever know. Full stop.

To minimize my chances of such a decision being made, I take necessary precautions. I also engage those who I am with in a respectful manner about sex. A ladies preferences are adhered to. I behave responsibly.

It really is just that simple.

These days... well let's just say I'm exploring other options. Some phases of life come to a close, and others open.

I'm taking a high level approach to my humanity. It may just keep my inner snarky Cast-Iron Sonovabitch at bay for a while longer...

But hey, I LURVE my new Sun Type 7 USB keyboard.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 5:07 AM on February 27, 2012


MartinWisse: Not talking about tricks, talking about obligations.
posted by FrereKhan at 11:34 AM on February 27, 2012


xarnop: I was talking about was a situation where one party unilaterally decides to have a child agains the wishes of the other, when the pregnancy was accidental and unplanned, and within the control of the mother to terminate.

I think that's a different situation from the one you outlined, where the mother wants to terminate but is unable to for some reason.

Otherwise I agree 100% with everything you wrote, except: NO ONE, not a man or a woman, has the right to have sex without an obligation to children who may result.

I don't see why that can't be morally negotiated between a couple.
posted by FrereKhan at 11:48 AM on February 27, 2012


Ok, I agree that no one has a right to have sex without obligation. But that's not what I was suggesting anyway.
posted by FrereKhan at 11:51 AM on February 27, 2012


This was pretty decent, and the message printed on the heart gave me chills too. People who are picking on the few neologistic lines are patently refusing to enjoy it. If expanded it would make a great action comic, tbh.

Also, seriously, what are you supposed to say when a dude tells you he doesn't want you to abort "his child"? Is there really any way to take that into consideration besides saying you won't tell him about it? It's not a conversation that I want to have with a boyfriend, but the disrespect originates on his side.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:19 PM on March 10, 2012


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