Sleeping Beauties: Part 2, Chapters 9-11

[Sleeping Beauties Content Note: Trans Exclusion and Erasure, Misogyny, Violence Against Women]

Sleeping Beauties Recap: When this book first popped up on my radar, I expressed some concerns about the content on Twitter. This week, I purchased the book and read through it. As I read, I live-tweeted my thoughts on Twitter. This is a compilation and expansion of my tweets. The live-read will be spread out over multiple posts.

Sleeping Beauties, Part Two: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. Chapter 9-11

(Tweet Link) Thread #5 for Stephen King's Sleeping Beauties and my live-read focusing on trans exclusion.

Tiffany is gone. Lila's lack of reaction makes me doubt whether I misinterpreted the kiss entirely. Maybe it wasn't a kiss? Maybe King thinks women just pull each other's faces towards theirs for a nice friendly facebump once in awhile? I don't know. I'm lost.

One last thing about the pregnancy because a few people have asked: these were actual doctors. Erin and Jolie were doctors of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Georgia worked at Planned Parenthood.

Tiffany knew she was carrying a boy and knew she wouldn't survive (idk) and has left 10 commandments for her baby boy to live by. The 10 Commandments are tragically misspelled, because this book is the hackiest hack job I have ever read. ...and I have read the full Deathlands series by "James Axler".

Linda is brought back into existence on this page to lactate for Tiffany's baby despite already weaning hers. "Linda quit nursing Alex a while ago" sounds like a deliberate choice, so King isn't aware some women nurse for years? and that nursing for years in a situation where the alternate food is "burned deer" and "raw berries" is... maybe a good idea? Wasn't Alex only born, like, 2 months ago? Tops? Linda might've weaned if she couldn't nurse, but then she wouldn't be able to nurse now. What are they feeding a weaned two-month old infant????????????

Never mind, I refuse to put more thought into this than the authors did.

“Gerda Holden? Oldest of the four Holden girls? She’s disappeared.” Which almost certainly meant something mortal had happened to her in that other world. They all accepted this as a fact now.

They have "accepted as fact" they could die at any time from their bodies being killed, but they're still planning ahead a gas refinery.

Oh my god, I am going to set this book on fire.

Remember Elaine? The black woman who was sensible and good and kicked Frank to the curb when his domestic tyranny became unbearable? We haven't seen her at all since she fell asleep, only hints and pieces that she's terrorizing their daughter (Nana) for missing Frank. She is now--apparently--going to drive to the Tree and idk destroy it or something, for the women's own good. I had, yaknow, hopes the women might discuss the Exit in their Meetings, but Elaine (the one black woman) is just going to decide for them.

but this evening Elaine had an important errand to run. One that was more for Nana than it was for her. For all the women of Dooling, really. Some of them (Lila Norcross, for instance) might not understand that now, but they would later.

There's pages about how Frank was a bad husband not because he was a tyrant who scared his wife & daughter but because he doesn't do dishes. (I've lived in an abusive marriage with a tyrant who didn't do dishes. The tyranny was worse than the dishes.) And once again we equate XY chromosomes with maleness. Man = Penis = XY chromosomes. King is just doing this on purpose now.

A man’s home was his castle, so the saying went, and etched into the XY chromosome was a deep belief that every man was a king and every woman his serving maid.

Look, when I started this a lot of well meaning people were like "if it helps, I think he just ignores trans people entirely". No. It doesn't help. And this isn't ignoring us. Callous insensitivity isn't a good thing and it's not ignoring or neglect. When a narrative takes the time to say Man = Penis = XY, that doesn't "ignore" trans people, that's a direct fucking attack on us. Cis people sometimes don't see or remember these passages because they don't hurt you. Okay! But that's privilege. The passage hurts us. This right here is telling me, the reader, that I can't be a man because I don't have a penis. No, that isn't helpful or benign or neglect.

So just.


For the future, when trans people are wary of a book, please do not say "if it helps, I think the author ignored you!"

Okay, back to the book. I apologize for that tangent. Group hug, ya'll, we got this. *punches the air*

There were many nice things, but not everyone could be content with those things. Take all the whining and whingeing that went on at the Meetings, for instance. Nana had been at some of those meetings. She didn’t think Elaine knew, but Elaine did. A good mother monitors her child, and knows when she is being infected by bad companions with bad ideas.

So to be clear, our one black man is the antagonist in the real world and our one black woman is the antagonist in the dream world. And the message we've received from Lila (protagonist) is that the best possible world is one repopulated from scratch by white women. This was published in 2017 during a swell of white nationalism and white supremacy and no it's not a mistake or an accident. This book is racist and everyone who contributed to its publishing is complicit. Write me up as "toxic" if you want, it's still true. I liked Elaine, I adored her, she was the counterpart to Frank being awful, but now she's a man-hating shrew who hates her own daughter.

As @TurianBatman points out, this is a "paradise" that is:
- all white
- no trans people
- the queers die

Each time paradise has been "threatened" it's because a queer, black, or mentally ill person got in and wrecked shit up. And the paradise isn't even that grand! A woman just died from lack of medical care, but there's "no pedophiles", what the fuck.

after which Molly had walked the two blocks back to her house in the gloaming. By herself. And why could she do that? Because in this world there were no predators. No pedophiles.

Elaine is a completely different character now. Is it magic or bad writing?

The liquor had disappeared first, of course; women liked to drink, and who taught them to enjoy it? Other women? Rarely.

Welp, we've reached the point I predicted: apologia for Frank's abuse. Fool that I was, I had thought Frank's early justifications for his abuse were meant to be seen as incorrect and disingenuous. I thought  we were being shown, with a subtle touch, how abusers lie to themselves in order to justify their actions. Nope! Turns out Frank really was just a good man being pushed too far by his bitchy wife.

Nana’s lips had tightened, trembled, and then she had burst. “I miss Daddy! I miss Billy, he held my hand sometimes when we walked to school and that was nice, he was nice, but mostly I miss Daddy! I want this vacation to be over! I want to go back home!”
“Don’t you remember how he shouted at us?” Elaine asked. “And the time he punched the wall! That was awful, wasn’t it?” “He shouted at you!” Nana shouted. “At you, because you always wanted him to do something . . . or get something . . . or be something different . . . I don’t know, but he never shouted at me!”

I mean, we could argue this is just a tired child misremembering abuse in order to romanticize her father, but c'mon it's not. You can't have a subtle narrative when the mother (Elaine) is cacklingly evil and twirling a sinister mustache. Nana was previously stated to be 12 and on her first period; Elaine was gentle and thoughtful. Now.... we get.... this?

Nor was that all. She had been holding hands with ugly little Billy Beeson from down the block. She missed her little boyfriend, who probably would have enjoyed taking her behind a bush so they could play doctor. It was even easy to imagine Nana and the scabrous Billy at sixteen, making out in the back of his father’s Club Cab.

Is King seriously giving us an 12 year old Black girl who is sexually active with a 16yo boy? I'm horrified by this. What the shit.

C.M. Stone @CeeEmStone  So with both main male characters, their self-aggrandizement and BS justifications are all RIGHT? It's like this book is gaslighting us.

That is what it feels like. I feel sick that I thought the initial "subtle" portrayals of abuse were handled well.

MamaDeb Persists ✡ 🍩 @_mamadeb  I don't think so. I think Elaine is imagining what the kids would be like AT sixteen, but they're both eleven now.

Ah, okay, this is..... slightly better. Still really awful! Better. The passage was confusing anyway, because the whole "she'd been holding hands" happened SIX MONTHS AGO IN ANOTHER WORLD. Elaine, we are informed, is embittered from her years volunteering with abused women. They always go back "to their chains". Elaine equates wanting to be with a man to insanity.

There would be women who wanted to return. Not a majority, Elaine had to believe most of the women here were not so insane, so masochistic, but could she take that chance? Could she, when her own sweet Nana, who had shrunk into herself every time her father raised his voice— Stop thinking about it, she told herself.

Can I just say how garbage this is from a narrative point of view? Elaine hasn't existed for pages. If anyone should leap into this role, it ought to be Lila. She even has the right name association: Lilith, who rejected Adam. Lila wouldn't even need to be acting rationally; she could be upset by Tiffany's death and blaming the men who knocked her up.

You can't... just, from a writing perspective, you can't just summon a character out of stasis to present a big threat all of the sudden! You need to build up to it. The reader should have some sense of who they are and why they're doing it. Not an infodump as they do it. This isn't just anti-feminist and misogynistic and racist, it's bad craft. King wrote "On Writing", he surely knows better than this.

“How long have you been here?” “At least eight months.

Tiffany, who died yesterday, was "seven months" pregnant. Lila, who arrived LONG after Tiffany, says she's been here "eight months". *weeps* This is the thing that breaks me. She was "seven months pregnant" mere pages ago and one day previously in Lila's time frame.

*keening wails*

“Is there anything to eat? I guess I really must not be dead, because I’m starving.” “Sure,” Lila said, helping the other woman to her feet. “Scrambled eggs and toast, how does that sound?”

WHERE ARE THEY GETTING BREAD FROM. What season is it??? It was starting to be winter at, like, 4 months in? and they're at 7-8 months now? So it's maybe March?

We cut away from the women's world to build tension re: whether Elaine managed to burn the tree or not, to return to the men's world. Two escaped local drug dealers are holed up in a cabin (why don't they just drive to Vegas????) and contemplate their future. I laughed, because this is literally the first time someone has questioned who they'll fuck with women all gone.

The news on the radio had initially caused Maynard to fall into gloom. “Is this the end of fuckin, Lowell?” he’d asked. A little blue at the thought himself, Low had replied that they’d think of something . . . as if there might be some alternative. He was thinking of some old song about how birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it.

That actually is of interest to me, and I'd love to see a good writer tackle the problem. There'd be guys realizing they're bisexual but never had to think about it before, of course. There'd be "artificial" women--androids and dolls. And you'd have a lot of sex-working men who impersonate women for pay. Both online, over the phone, and in person. If there was any kind of stock market left at this point, I'd put all my money into whoever makes Real Dolls.

I'd be interested, truly, in a straight male writer honestly grappling with the "who do we fuck and how" question in a setting like this. Because heterosexuality for men is so deeply tied into toxic masculinity and once you kiss a boy you're not manly anymore, etc. etc. But many men do crave affection and physical touch and kissing and there's no longer any women on earth to satisfy that need. I feel like a good author (a good one, not a bad one) could unpack a lot of toxicity that way. But here we are with this hot mess.

I'm going to go get some food, brb.

*rubs forehead*

Rather than go anywhere else in this chaotic world, the Drug Lords are going to Storm The Prison and kill the woman witness. They could drive to Vegas, but they're instead going to attack Local Law Enforcement just in case the witness wakes up. There's something surreal about how no one even considers leaving this town to go anywhere else.

Like, this is just blatant author-driven nonsense to throw a curve ball at Clint and Frank as they battle over Eve. Might as well make them professional jewel thieves determined to steal the Sapphire Eye left in the prison library or whatever. And since we only briefly saw these characters, like, once before this plan, we have zero investment in it. This is so badly written. I don't care if Owen did write all this and Stephen just stamped his name on it, your dad is Stephen Fucking King! What, you didn't have a copy of On Writing to thumb through before you wrote this, Owen?

Vonnugut's Rule 8, even!! This is blatantly broken, time and time again!

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

As are #1, #2, and #3, while I have you here.

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.  Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.  Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

Lila wants nothing! She's a floating observer in the Women's World, always unsatisfied but never wanting anything concrete. Clint wants... the book to be over? We get no sense that he wants Lila back, he's just sorta doing what Eve tells him. What does Eve want? We don't know if she wants  mankind to fail or if she harbors a hope that they'll surprise her with kindness. Elaine wants to never see another man again, that's the only "want" I can find in this novel. Frank wants his daughter cured. That's it. There's no action in this book, there's just characters mechanically following the demands of the author.

Alexandra Scarin' @alexandraerin  Secondhand, she reads like a demon/fairy queen: random, cruel, unnecessarily complicated, and implacable. I don't think she's meant to.

*nods* This is exactly how she reads, yes, and it doesn't fit her purpose in the story at all. It's just.  No.

atypicalfemme @atypicalfemme  That quote doesn’t even make sense! If he’s going to be biased, at least get his facts straight: X and Y are different chromosomes!

Yeah, there are multiple references to "the XX chromosome" and "the XY chromosome".

Anyway. We've acquired a Chekov's Bazooka for no adequately justified reason.

The last time Lowell had seen him, the bearded gnome had gleefully displayed his latest toy: an actual goddam bazooka. Russian surplus. Low needed to get into the women’s prison to assassinate a snitch. That was the sort of mission where a bazooka could actually come in handy.

This is Terry, who has been drunk and asleep most of the book. Everyone has just embraced the supernatural rumor of Eve.

The only way out was through: through Norcross to Eve Black, and through the Black woman to the end of this nightmare. Terry didn’t know what would happen when they got to her, but he knew it would be the end.

The only thing they know is that an unreliable drunk prison guard said he say Eve sleep without cocooning. That is literally all they know. But they're going to storm the prison and possibly die--Clint has guns now--because they believe a woman who can cure everything is in there. This is supposed to be a treatise on mankind, but there isn't a single human in these pages.

M. E. Gibbs @LunarFlight  And this could have been solved SO EASILY by having a couple of prison guards over hear Eve's chat w/ Clint and then tell everyone else.

YES! King could've justified all of this! That's what second drafts are for. Like, I know some writers are terrified they'll fuck up. This book? Everything in it is fixable in a second / third / fourth draft!

Terry has forgotten the faces of his wife and daughter since he hasn't seen them in four days.
I feel like the ball was dropped timeline-wise. This would be way more plausible if it was either still the first day (and he was in a sleepless panic) or months / years later. If it was still the first day, then everyone would be panicky and on adrenaline. Fine. If it were months / years later then people would be feeling like no cure was coming. They'd be desperate for a magic fix. But on Day 4, I feel like most folks would be numb and just kinda.... assuming that The Government Or Someone will fix it soon.

Randomly, there are cocooned women floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I guess from plane crashes?

A new character is introduced (sure why the fuck not) to give Frank's side a mess of plastic explosives. I'm frustrated by the fact that Frank's side has no idea--and no curiosity--about Clint's motives. This is important. They believe Eve is or has the cure. Why do they (correctly) assume she doesn't want to come out? Why not assume Clint is keeping her there? Maybe Clint doesn't want the women to be cured. Maybe he'll kill Eve if Frank gets too close. You'd think Frank would want to plan for that.

It’d take a bazooka to blow a hole in this wall.”

...This book was written specifically to infuriate me.

unleafed æspens @thebytegarden  I love that this thread started as a look at trans rep or lack, and now is just pure professional indignation at lack of craft.


I guess I should note--because a weird complicated sideplot is happening--that at least 5 women in our story are still awake.

- Eve is in prison.
- Angel, an amoral conscienceless killer, is in prison acting as Greek chorus.
- Jeanette, a tragic victim of domestic violence and prison rape, is in prison.
- Van, a prison guard, is tailing the Bazooka Boys.
- Mika, a news reporter, is also at the prison (now disappeared from the narrative after helping to smuggle guns to Clint).

This feels a touch odd, just because the book promised a world without women. 99% men isn't 100% men.

“We’re going to take her to the sheriff’s station. While Terry’s questioning her, I’m going to get a team of doctors from the state hospital down here double-quick. Between the cops and the docs, we’re going to find out what she is, what she did to the women, and whether or not she can fix it.”

Clint and Frank meet. This should be a big scene! Clint asks Frank's intentions for Eve. Everyone thinks she has a magic fix. "What she did to the women" when this plague started in Japan/Australia makes no sense.

The Tree is here, this is the battlefield, the plague should have started here, but then the women wouldn't have tried to stay awake. And you could even have that struggle to stay awake if the cocooning happened slowly over time! A few women every night.

Some books are bad because the premise is bad, but this book didn't need to be bad!! Everything here is salvageable! All you have to do is have the plague start here and build slowly. Then it makes sense to see Eve as Patient Zero! I am upset by how close this came to not being garbage! This could've been a good book! If editors had been employed! Go read @alexandraerin on this, esp. if you're doing NaNoWriMo or feeling Imposter Syndrome-y, because YOU CAN DO IT.

It's trite to say that writing is re-writing, but writing IS re-writing.

God, and if the cocooning was happening slowly over time, that could be your reason for a ticking clock mechanic. Eve says she has to stay alive until [arbitrary date] or all is lost. You know what would be better? Staying alive until last woman sleeps. Then we would have a vested interest and care about Jeanette's struggle to stay awake. As it is, I do not care about this. Why should I?

I already know what will happen if she sleeps; she'll get scrambled eggs and toast.


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