Life imitating sf: Criminalisation of the Female Body edition

Paul Raven @ 21-02-2011

There’s a long-standing tendency in science fiction circles to wheel out the few isolated examples of successful predictions embedded in sf stories; who hasn’t been reminded, in tones of awe and/or satisfaction, that the late Sir Arthur C Clarke “invented” the geostationary satellite*? Heck, I’ve done it myself. It’s a pride thing, I guess, even for those of us who know damn well that science fiction isn’t about making predictions; I suspect it stems from the underdog status of the genre, causing a desire to justify its existence to those who consider it worthless. But I digress… as I often do when gearing up to deliver grim news.

There’s no pride or joy in being able to hold up Charles Coleman Finlay’s Futurismic story “Your Life Sentence” as a successful prediction. Indeed, it’s the sort of story I’d hope would help prevent the events it portrays becoming true, and – according to Finlay himself – was repeatedly rejected by other venues as being “too implausible”. Which makes the news that a Republican legislator has introduced a bill that would not only criminalise abortion, but also place the burden of proving that a miscarriage was naturally caused on the woman who suffered it, a sad and anger-making thing to hear.

Sadder still is the revelation that attempts to pass such a law are a yearly occurrence. The more I watch the control-obsessed thrashings of America’s religious far right (and their imitators elsewhere, in the Middle East and even here in Britain), the more I have to chant my own personal mantra of faith: that these must be the frantic death throes of old ideas as they refuse to make the transition to a new phase of human society, the last twitches of a chrysalis from which something better and brighter might crawl.

They must be. Otherwise we really are completely fucked.

[ * Clarke didn’t invent the idea of geostationary sats at all, but he was apparently the first to suggest they’d be useful as hubs of a global communication network. ]

[ ** It should go without saying that comments defending the right of anyone to tell anyone else what they can or cannot do with their own body will be deleted. Bigotry has more than enough platforms already; go and find one. ]


NEW FICTION: YOUR LIFE SENTENCE by C C Finlay

Paul Raven @ 01-07-2010

There are many different types of science fiction, from the classic Competent Men in their gleaming spaceships to the noir-tinged dystopic cities of cyberpunk. C C Finlay‘s “Your Life Sentence” is another type again, and maybe one of the most important and powerful – the sort that asks “what will happen if this carries on?”, but which asks it about something that’s – all too sadly – well within the boundaries of the possible.

Though I believe he started writing it before then, we received Charlie’s story not long after the announcement that the House and Senate of the State of Utah had passed a bill that would criminalise miscarriage. A dark serendipity, perhaps, but it makes “Your Life Sentence” one of the most timely stories we’ve ever published here. I hope you enjoy it.

Your Life Sentence

by C C Finlay

You sit in the bathroom, pants puddled at your ankles, and stare at the vase of orchids on the marble counter: the blossoms curl like purple teardrops.

Brandon, your husband, raps on the door.  “Hey!  Did you fall in?”

“Out in a second,” you answer.  For added verisimilitude you rattle the toilet paper roll.

“Well, call me if you need a lifeguard.”

You hate the joke.  “Sure thing,” you answer with saccharine cheer.

You live in a world that requires the bravado of false cheer.  For the past several days you’ve suffered from the too-familiar cramps, but you’ve been in denial, blaming the iffy paella valenciana at the restaurant two nights ago.  No more.  Only the deep breathing techniques you learned in Lamaze class the first time you were pregnant ease your panic.

“Honey!”  Brandon pounds at the door.  “We don’t want to be late.”

No, you don’t: the weekly doctor visits are a condition of your parole, after the second pregnancy.  Even you think that’s only fair.

“Almost done,” you answer.  A shudder runs down your spine, like a finger dragged across a keyboard badly out of tune.  You rise and pull your pants up.  The bowl flushes automatically, but you refuse to look back.  You tuck in your blouse, yank open the door.

Brandon stands there with a shoe in one hand and a big dumb grin on his square face.  “Know what week it is?”

“No,” you lie.  He leans over for a kiss and you dodge him.

“Week nine,” he says, laughing as if it’s a game.  “We’ll have the doctor fill out the Certificate of Conception, then call your parole officer.  Then if we have to check you into the hospital for the next thirty weeks–”

“Thirty weeks in the hospital — that’s almost like prison.”  You grab your keys and purse from the dresser.

“We’ve just got to stick to the plan,” he says earnestly.

Brandon has a plan, an answer, for everything.  It’s why you married him, and you liked that about him for a long time, even after you realized most of his answers don’t work for you.  “I think I left my ring in the bathroom,” you say, because you left it in the bathroom.  “Can you get it for me?”

“Sure!”

As soon as he turns away, you go to the garage.  You’re already driving down the street when he dashes out the front door.  He hops after you on one foot, still holding the shoe, shrinking in the rearview mirror as you speed out of the cul-de-sac. Continue reading “NEW FICTION: YOUR LIFE SENTENCE by C C Finlay”