Thursday, December 9, 2010

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Futuristic Sex Slaves: The Next Generation

Silver Bound

I had a really strong reaction to SILVER BOUND by Ella Drake. I mean, tense-in-my-gut strong. As a matter of fact, some elements in the story disturbed me quite a bit. And with writers such as (warning: link takes you to graphic images) Hideshi Hino under my belt, it takes a lot to disturb me. But in my case, being disturbed is a good thing, because I like being disturbed. It makes me think.

Allow me to explain.

To start, SILVER BOUND reminded me of Stephen R. Donaldson’s THE REAL STORY: The Gap into Conflict, (which I highly recommend if you haven’t already read it, but it’s not for the faint of heart). While Donaldson’s novel is space opera and has sex scenes, it’s not a romance. The three main characters are connected to each other in unexpected ways, however, which in part came to mind as I read SILVER BOUND.

But the main similarity between the two stories is that both heroines are subjected to a form of mind and body control. In THE REAL STORY, the heroine (Morn Hyland) is subjugated with a “zone implant” that, through the use of a remote, can cause changes in her biological functions. There are sex scenes involving her that are titillating (because at that point, she can control her body’s sensitivity), but also extremely disturbing because of how the implant has changed her and is used against her. Another interesting aspect is how she uses it to help herself.

In SILVER BOUND, the heroine, Jewel, goes through a similar procedure, called “silver tipping,” which involves nanotechnology. As a result, Jewel is transformed into a sex slave. That is the jumping point for the story.

Now, here’s the part that prompted my strong reaction: the silver-tipping was so detailed and compellingly described that I had difficulty reconciling it with the “erotic” side of the story. Because the “erotic” elements were so tied into the silver-tipping, I couldn’t give myself permission to enjoy them (the romance, no problem, because of spoilers I won’t go into here).

The inclusion of nanotechnology made it particularly intense for me. And the reason I put quotes around erotic is that I wonder, in retrospect, how erotic the sex scenes really were (at least in the beginning). Upon further reflection, I realized that SILVER BOUND is actually a very subversive take on the futuristic sex slave trope.

And what a trope it is, because many erotic science fiction romances use it. But I don’t think SILVER BOUND should be considered an erotic science fiction romance. Like with Morn from Stephen R. Donaldson’s THE REAL STORY, some of the sex scenes involving Jewel are disturbing because she’s a slave. What’s so erotic about that?

Fortunately, she’s paired with a hero who isn’t titillated by her status and taking advantage of her is the last thing on his mind. Sheriff Guy Trident is actually disturbed by her nano-induced state. All of which gives this story more depth than you might expect from a science fiction romance with spicy sex scenes.

If you’ve read SILVER BOUND, what are your thoughts on this aspect, or on the sex slave trope in general? Are we ready to take futuristic sex slaves to a new level?

Joyfully yours,

Heather