So I’m reading all these really interesting new books lately from friends and I’m really excited to share them with everyone. I came across “An Angel Has No Memory” and I thought it was worthy of sharing with all of you. The author, Peter Tupper, was kind enough to come over to The Belle and tell us a little about his new release!
Greetings. My name is Peter Tupper. I’m a writer and journalist in Vancouver, BC, and I’m here to tell you about my new book, An Angel Has No Memory, published by Inkstained Succubus.
The woman– the Asset– the Toy– turned to face her, focussing her entire, though limited, attention. “Good day, Ms. Chung,” she said.
“Hello, ah, Gold,” Rose said, on edge. She knew about the Fulfilment House’s Assets, people who had agreed to have their bodies surgically reshaped into images of beauty and strength, and their brains augmented with millions of dollars worth of hardware, so their memories and identities could be erased and reprogrammed depending on the assignment: anything from sex worker to lawyer to assassin. She had seen images in the parent corporation’s advertising, but she’d never been face to face with one.
This one smiled at her with the tranquil, uncaring expression of a happy child. There was no complexity in there, no resentment, no hidden agenda or angry judgement waiting for her to make a mistake.
In An Angel has no Memory, Rose works as a programmer for Assets, people who can be programmed with whatever personality and skills are needed for the assignment. In between assignments, the Assets are kept in a child-like amnesiac state, and live in a carefully controlled environment where they exercise and do simple art. (If you notice a resemblance to a certain Joss Whedon television series, please keep it to yourself.)
Rose deals with the anxieties and frustrations of her job by pretending to be an Asset in their blank state, even stealing a set of Asset clothing and wearing it at home. She finds relief in being like a child or doll, separate from everyday life and the demands of being a person, and being cared for by others.
This is similar to the BDSM practices of submission, ageplay or petplay: stepping away from our society’s injunctions to be capable and responsible at all times. What people find puzzling and disturbing about masochism is the way it goes against the assumption that everybody wants to be more powerful, more free. Masochism is fundamentally perverse, but it meets the needs of the masochist, not only for suffering or for a lack of responsibility, but for recognition by another.
Going to an even further stage is disability pretenders, people who fantasize about being paralyzed or that their limbs are amputated. It’s more than just the physical state of disability, or the fantasy of such. Functionalist sociologist Talcott Parsons identified what he called “the sick role”, in which the sick person is exempt from social obligations and not responsible for their condition, but must comply with medical authority and try to get well. Those who aren’t deemed sick are considered hypochondriacs or malingerers, and are effectively cheating. The sick role has its rewards.
When I was a kid, I went through an odd week when I really wanted to have a hearing aid, like the guy I had seen on a PBS kids show. Bear in mind, this was back when hearing aids were boxes bigger than a first generation iPod, with visible wires connecting to big earpieces, and you had to wear it on your chest to pick up people speaking. It made the wearer’s deafness extremely visible. I made myself a toy version with some string and a bit of wooden train track, and wore it for a while, then got tired off it. These days, hearing aids are much smaller, able to fit into the ear canal, and people who use them are less visible or even invisible. I doubt a modern hearing aid would have had the same impact on me; it wouldn’t have been visible enough.
In Lars von Trier’s film The Idiots (1998), a group of mentally and physically sound people gather to pretend to be a commune for people with severe mental disabilities. They go on expeditions into spaces like public pools and supermarkets where they twitch and drool. Even “the idiots” themselves don’t agree on why they are doing this; some want to shock the bourgeoisie, others see it as self-exploration and creative expression, others want a break from regular life. At least one member of the group really can’t cope with “real life”, further complicating the issue.
In Chuck Pahlaniuk’s Fight Club, the narrator attends support groups for people with incurable physical illnesses, partaking of their unconditional acceptance and support, because he cannot acknowledge he is depressed and lonely.
In Vicki Hooks’ erotic stories of amputee pretending, which sometimes combine with transvestism, the protagonist’s apparent disability does not lead to social isolation, but instead to friendship and romance.
Even the TV series Glee had a character who faked a stutter to avoid social interaction, and another who claimed self-diagnosed Asperger’s to excuse her obnoxious personality.
If masochism is fundamentally a need for recognition by another, then it would make sense that a person would voluntarily take on the role of the abject, the sick, the disabled, the weak, the primitive. This performance simultaneously sheds their old identity and creates a new one, one that is “special” and visible.
The problems start when you remember that some people can’t leave the “sick role” when they feel like it.
You can find Peter on the Web at http://www.petertupper.com