The Men: Queer Representation (Gay, Asexual, Bisexual, Lesbian)

QUEER REPRESENTATION (PART 2)

Post hidden under the cut due to graphic depiction of self-harm. Please mind the trigger warnings.

-Gay Men-

[TW: Hate Speech, Self-Harm] Gay men are raptured and never mentioned again in the book. Prior to the rapture, there's time to cram in a single unnecessary use of the f-slur. Note that Peter, who is gay or bi, is a mentally ill man whose life is a series of what his mother believes to be self-inflicted disasters and suicide attempts. Peter's mother is certain she doesn't want her loved one back: "[Peter] had to make everyone who loved him hate him. She wanted Peter safe with every cell of her body, but she didn't want him back."

Peter set the table for dinner, talking about how he was going to get a horticulture certificate, because he now loved gardening. He believed that plants were love. Ruth listened and made approving noises, though she couldn’t help thinking this would end like all the other things: the Jungian therapy abandoned after three sessions; the training to be an aromatherapist; the sign language classes; the three girlfriends and two boyfriends; the $10,000-a-week rehab for alcoholism he didn’t have; the rescue dog he’d adopted, then brought back to the shelter the same day, after which he went home and took ten Xanax and slashed his wrists and called 911. Then Ruth’s husband, Tom, came home. Peter ran to the bathroom to change before Tom saw, but Ethan said to his father immediately, giggling, “Peter’s wearing Mom’s clothes.” Tom looked at Ruth and said, “Peter’s here?”

Later, Ruth thought they should have disappeared then, when it could have all ended on an okay note. But it happened at the synagogue later that night, after three hours of fights and tantrums, of Tom saying he would throw Peter out if she didn’t, of Peter saying, “Why not just kill me, Tom? You’re too much of a coward, that’s the only reason,” of Tom telling Ruth, “Tell your son to have some dignity,” of Peter telling Tom, “Your problem is you can’t stand your stepson being a fag,” of Tom saying, “You’re not even gay. You’re a fake. You’re a fake and a goddamn parasite,” of Peter saying, “I knew you were just this bigoted. And in case you didn’t know, you’re racist too.”

And Ruth talked about how Peter had consumed her life, never gave her a break from pain. She was getting old and had a young son, but Peter still had to be the star of the show. He would lose his job and get kicked out in the street and find some lowlife to break his nose just so Ruth would come and kiss it better. All the phone calls from hospitals, the suicide threats; he had to make everyone who loved him hate him. She wanted Peter safe with every cell of her body, but she didn’t want him back.

-Asexual People-

[TW: CSA] The only asexual person in the novel is a man who runs a children's ballet troupe in order to sexual preys on children (including Jane), which is a common TERF rhetoric against ace people. (The TERF "logic" is that ace people sexualize children by pointing out that some children are ace, therefore other children aren't ace, therefore those children are being "sexualized". None of this is in good faith and it is all exclusionary gatekeeping bullshit.) Then the author backtracks and says the character isn't really asexual because he masturbates. That's not how asexuality works! Scene Score: This is regurgitated TERF bigotry that wasn't properly researched at all.

Everyone was in love with Alain. Alain didn’t like to work with dancers who didn’t seem infatuated at the first interview. He said art was a child of love. He himself was asexual, he liked to say, with one hand on a fourteen-year-old’s nape, the fourteen-year-old lit up like a jack-o’-lantern, ready and not ready. We all dreamed of seducing him. One night, a group of us discussed what we’d be willing to do if Alain would be our boyfriend, vying to best each other with the sacrifices we were willing to make: Would you give up dancing? Would you be in a wheelchair? What if he never even fucked you? What if he fucked you, but then you had to die in ten years? Five years?

Although he didn’t have sex with other people, Alain was not asexual. After each boy left, he liked me to stay in the room while he masturbated. He didn’t mind if I looked at a magazine, but if I tried to leave, he became enraged. One time he told me not to “fuck him around.” To me, those masturbation scenes more than anything had the power of nightmare.

-Bisexual People-

The word "bisexual" does not appear in this book. Peter is thought to be "bi or gay" because he has a past history of dating both men and women, but we never learn what he considers his identity to be. Jane, the white protagonist, spends most of the novel in a romantic and sexual relationship with her Black lesbian lover--and ultimately chooses her husband over Evangelyne twice--but we never hear what she considers her sexual orientation to be.

I would normally put her in the bisexual bucket without hesitation, but the one sex scene she has with Evangelyne is cringingly awkward and uncomfortable. Evangelyne uses a strap-on to pleasure Jane, who has to keep her eyes closed the whole time. Jane then feels annoyance, embarrassment, and what I would almost describe as a sort of sullen resentment when making Evangelyne come. She has to counsel herself not to cry through the event, and is only okay again when the event is over.

Then she held me down and kissed me, and I moaned without thinking and prepared to be ravished. I didn’t know if this was right, but when she touched me, when she entered me, I didn’t dare open my eyes and it was good like sex, and it was, it really was, and I came. And came again and came. It went on a while before it seemed to be diminishing, hurting a little, and she stopped. She kissed my face, and I didn’t dare open my eyes. Then I sobered, faced with the task of making her come, which I went at first with my hand, too timidly, unconfident, plagued by terrible memories of boys and Alain. I was both grateful and annoyed that she’d taken the strap-on off and tossed it somewhere, that she didn’t expect me to don the strap-on, which might have been easier but weird. And I was about to dive in orally (those words, “dive in,” passing through my mind and being comical in a way that was unfunny), but she asked me in actual words, as I could never do, if I wanted a vibrator, and I said, “Okay.” The vibrator she helpfully found almost instantly made my hand numb, and I kept thinking, Don’t cry, don’t cry, and this could go on forever, and I had to look at her cunt and it made me embarrassed, but soon she tensed all over and her legs straightened out, and the feeling of making a woman come, which was mainly the same, just relief that you’d succeeded. Then I didn’t know if I should do it more. I did it more, just gently, trying to intuit it, but that terrible fear had returned. A hotel bed like the one in the Jokers Wild. I was touching another woman’s cunt. But she did come again, less dramatically, almost resentfully, then took my wrist and moved my hand away. She kissed me on the head, and it was okay then.

This does not feel familiar to me as someone who used to identify as a bisexual woman. While not everyone is comfortable with pussy (and that's okay!) this doesn't read to me like someone who is eager to please a partner but just isn't sure what to do with that particular body part. Instead, this feels like a scene written by a straight woman who can't imagine being sexually attracted to a woman. I will note here for the record that Sandra asserts she is "a straight person" and isn't "attracted to girls". Scene Score: I don't know if bisexual rep even exists in this book, but I don't like whatever this is.

In case you didn't know, being gay isn't a choice. There's a grueling selection process and you have to be invited to compete. I was in the lesbian qualifiers in '89, but got knocked out in the biathlon. Also my algebra scores were weak & I wasn't attracted to girls.

Story idea: Piecing together disparate clues, a man comes to realize gay people are the only humans. All others are unconscious beasts developed for breeding, and now controlled by evil aliens. But can he convince a secretly gay vice president to act while there's still time? See I'm a straight person so it's OK for me to make jokes about how we're unconscious beasts only good for breeding. I mean, not like I'm punching up, more like I'm punching another straight person in the shoulder in a fun way like "surely we can share a joke at our own expense" and then he bleats mindlessly and tries to mount me.

-Lesbian Women-

I saved this for last because it's a LOT. I will note that this book does one thing right that the (again, strikingly similar) Stephen King's Sleeping Beauties failed at: it doesn't portray lesbian relationships as inherently better or purer than m/f relationships. We see this first with Alma, who is angry and in grief at the beginning of the novel because her girlfriend, Evangelyne, has broken up with her: "bitches broke your heart and just fucked off." (Yes, the same Evangelyne who will hook up with Jane after the disappearances.)

Letting Alma come over was bending the rules, but Alma was depressed, because Evangelyne, because bitches broke your heart and just fucked off, and of course the bitch in question was an academic star and Alma worked the counter at a burger joint, so Alma should have known, but no, she’d fallen in love.

Indeed, Evangelyne sounds like an inconsiderate girlfriend who discouraged Alma from becoming involved with Evangelyne's communist party movement: "She even thought she should have done more with the ComPAs when she was with Evangelyne, though Evangelyne had discouraged it. That should have tipped Alma off that their relationship was doomed." (The ComPAs are a grassroots communist political party that Evangelyne started in college. They are the ones who fix everything after the disappearances using volunteer community labor. How? Well, they print a lot of flyers and distribute them all over the country somehow and...that seems to do the trick. The logistics in this novel are maddeningly invisible.)

Alma was totally down with that. She even thought she should have done more with the ComPAs when she was with Evangelyne, though Evangelyne had discouraged it. That should have tipped Alma off that their relationship was doomed.

Alma shakes herself out of mourning her ex and her missing brother to notice that there are a lot of "improbably beautiful women...mostly single now" in the wake of the disappearances. There is no suggestion that most of these women might be numb from grief or shock right now and not interested in a relationship, and some of these passages feel like they edge into making Alma seem... hypersexual? predatory? That homophobic myth that lesbians can't be trusted because they'll compulsively seduce every woman?

All around were the improbably beautiful women of West L.A., and Alma couldn’t help thinking that these girls were mostly single now. She’d been huddling in a dark room, and all this—but even as she thought it, the urge to watch The Men came back full force. She had to make herself think about something else. Free mansions. Hot girls. Food. She found a food bank tent and was given a silver pouch of allpurpose egg mix, a cardboard tube of government spaghetti, a loaf of unsliced bread, and a comically huge paper bag of brussels sprouts. Alma flirted with the food bank girl, smiling into her eyes, complimenting her bracelet. On the ride home, she felt unbalanced in a good way, like she might fall in love again and have a new life. She didn’t even really want to watch The Men.

Alma hooks up with a woman (Christine) in a neighboring mansion to the one Alma is squatting in, mostly to give an excuse for why the child POV character (Blanca) is allowed to hang out at Alma's when plot is happening, as Christine is Blanca's aunt. This relationship is light and breezy and seemingly mostly sexual; "Christine liked to sit up after sex, sentimentally talking about her [missing] husband" and then Alma sleeps over before leaving in the morning.

Alma sometimes startled those same deer, walking barefoot back from Aunt Christine’s. Other times she stayed at Christine’s overnight. It was an irresponsible spark thrown off from the first bad days with Blanca, when Christine would appear at the mansion to try to get Blanca to come home to bed, while Blanca screamed at her and called her a slut. Christine would bounce nervously on her heels and smile at Alma sideways, killing Alma. Then Alma went home with Christine one night and created a new equilibrium. Christine liked to sit up after sex, sentimentally talking about her husband, often glancing at a framed photograph of Nelson Mandela he’d hung beside the bed, so Alma pictured the husband as Mandela, a handsome old man with a shock of white hair and a beatific grin. He’d been a piss-poor communicator but had a big heart, and that was what mattered, Christine said. Alma said consoling things, and it was dumb but nice. Christine always let Alma keep The Men on, and it was sweet how Christine slept with one arm thrown over Alma’s waist, how she got up early and made pancakes from a mix, singing along with a Taylor Swift album. At the same time, Alma had a frantic feeling of time being frittered away.

Back to Evangelyne, I wondered if she was perhaps more considerate than her embittered ex thought, but no. She's the leader of an important and rising grassroots communist movement, but she never answers her phone except in one case: "Evangelyne always had her phone turned off and never answered texts or voicemails, unless she was fucking you or trying to fuck you. The phone was for the fucking girl only; for all other purposes, you had to text her acolytes." This is not how party organization works, but the detail is repeated later because it's just that important to Evangelyne's character: she only allows access to herself in the cases of women she's trying to seduce.

She mercifully interrupted, asking me to try Evangelyne’s number again. I did it gratefully, using her heiress phone, a normal cheap phone except you knew it was an affectation. I also knew we were wasting our time. Evangelyne always had her phone turned off and never answered texts or voicemails, unless she was fucking you or trying to fuck you. The phone was for the fucking girl only; for all other purposes, you had to text her acolytes. Still, she gave out her number, and people couldn’t help trying it, then feeling hurt when she didn’t respond. Now I texted to the heiress’s dictation: still in the car w jane, hot on yr trail. r u at the club yet?

It went to voicemail again, and my mind was racing. This didn’t have to mean she was dead. She only answered her phone for the girl she was fucking.

Evangelyne discards her lovers swiftly and apparently without regret; when Jane arrives in town unexpectedly after the disappearances, Evangelyne takes her into her bed and Jane never asks "whose place I was taking, who that dildo was lying in wait for" and no one ever tells her.

I almost started laughing when she reached down and got a dildo from the side of the bed. She cocked it interrogatively, Yes or no? I wanted to ask whose place I was taking, who that dildo was lying in wait for, but I just nodded.

Over the course of their relationship, Evangelyne is moody and difficult, punishing Jane with emotional withdrawal when Jane asks personal questions. Jane becomes Evangelyne's personal assistant--a detail that is more sinister than it might seem at first glance, until you realize that she's repeating the role she had as a child when she was the personal assistant for the man who sexually abused her--and handles all the important logistics of the communist party while Evangelyne remains the charismatic face of the movement and plays while Jane works--a cruel repeat of their unbalanced emotional dynamic in college.

Those forty-eight weeks were the weeks of the Commensalist Party’s first short, brilliant life. They were also the weeks of our friendship, when I was at Evangelyne’s side while she made history, carrying my battered copy of On Commensalism to branch meetings when there was just one branch, designing ComPA flyers, working the laminator, working the phones. I neglected my studies to be her muse or amanuensis, or whatever I was. I neglected my marriage for her, though my marriage turned out to need not much, to get along fine without me.

Evangelyne was learning to skateboard then, so everybody had to have a skateboard, and sometimes in that first hour they all irresponsibly skated downtown while I stayed behind with Deakin, writing/dictating the we’re here texts.

Jane is unhappy in this relationship but sees herself as useful: a political wife to aid Evangelyne's ambitions to be president. Even so, she is worried by Evangelyne's prickly personality and sometimes fears she might leave Jane behind: "She used the first person singular—“I'm flying to California”—as if I weren't there. I remembered again that the Men [viewing] we were supposed to attend was at her ex's house. Half the ComPAs in L.A. had dated her, of course, but in this context, it felt different." Jane is relieved to announce that the flight had been canceled, but Evangelyne just arranges a private plane.

They all glanced at Evangelyne then, checking hopefully to see if she’d decided to run. Evangelyne smiled noncommittally, looking at Ground Zero as we passed. She mentioned that she was flying to California that evening and had to keep an eye on the time. She used the first person singular—“I’m flying to California”—as if I weren’t there. I remembered again that the Men thing we were supposed to attend was at her ex’s house. Half the ComPAs in L.A. had dated her, of course, but in this context, it felt different.

I thus felt some satisfaction in announcing that our flight had been canceled, so time was not an issue. There were no other flights to L.A. tonight. But at this, the bioethicist got excited and said she thought she could get us a private jet, if Evangelyne was interested. She knew a woman who’d inherited a jet. Evangelyne said, “Hell yes.” Everyone laughed at her excitement. I too managed to laugh. One of the Com- PAs put in shyly, “Wouldn’t people think it was hypocritical if you flew in a private plane?” Another ComPA scoffed. “Come on. They call Evangelyne hypocritical for breathing air.”

When Evangelyne begs for Jane to choose her over The Men, her plea focuses less on love and more on the tangible things she can give Jane: "I love you more than that Leo loves you, and I'm going to be president. What is he? What did he ever have to give you? I don’t want to be offensive, but in that world, you're a housewife with no skills and no options. Think what you can do here. Think what you can be. Don't be a goddamned fool. Choose me."

“I don’t even know if you’re hearing this. If you are, I don’t know how to convince you. I get that you lost your family. You’re not Poppy Beacham. You don’t owe me this. But if I’m right, you’re not just killing me. You’re killing all the work we did. We’re so close to getting there, Jane. We can make this world everything humans ever dreamed of—all the wildest dreams anybody ever had, that’s all within our reach. I love you more than that Leo loves you, and I’m going to be president. What is he? What did he ever have to give you? I don’t want to be offensive, but in that world, you’re a housewife with no skills and no options. Think what you can do here. Think what you can be. Don’t be a goddamned fool. Choose me.”

[TW: Racism, Murder by Cop] The scene fades to black as The Men return, Jane's choice either unmade or left unsaid. Once returned to the moment before the event, she remembers that cops are waiting at Evangelyne's door and that only the rapture prevented Evangelyne's murder by cop. With her lover's safety in mind, Jane... moseys down the mountain on which she's been camping, heads into town, visits a small pizzeria, asks for a Diet Coke, and then finally gets around to calling Evangelyne with a warning only to find she's too late. This is presented as tragic not because Jane has lost her one true love, nor because a Black woman's death simply IS tragic, but because Evangelyne was the key to turning around climate change.

When it went to voicemail, I couldn’t speak. I hung up and dialed the number again. This time I prayed silently, moving my lips. I was promising to work here as I’d worked there, to help Evangelyne to power. If I started driving now, I could be with her by morning. Some brilliant people need a wife; maybe everyone, to optimally function, needs a wife. I could end her problems with the HOA in a day. I could be at the door if cops came. I was thinking of the dead lands in The Men. We had to act or the oceans would die, the temperatures would rise until terrestrial life died, plastics would accumulate in our lungs and blood until all life was gone. I was back by the grace of real gods; surely that must have some meaning. All resistance to us must fail like a failing wave that crumples against a shore. She had to be there. We could still save this world.

(As I'm writing this, I'm struck that "Black woman is killed by cop" is how the remarkably similar Stephen King's Sleeping Beauties ended, too. I don't know what to do with that coincidence. The books really are extremely similar: the "dream land" in Sleeping Beauties is much the same as the "demon world" in The Men. And there is a "Door" that the humans have to find to escape.)

(Arthur Chu) It's an inversion, Our Place in Sleeping Beauties is an ambiguous Heaven while the men are sent to what is obviously Hell

I have to also say that I am puzzled how Sandra can claim that this book breaks down gender binaries, when Jane's and Evangelyne's relationship seems to mirror the most toxic ideals of traditional conservative "helpmeet" marriages: Jane expects to suppress all her desires as The Wife and support Evangelyne as the, like, Lady Husband. That's not how queer relationships tend to work!

Speaking of the magical spell, we have to talk about Poppy. She's Evangelyne's first girlfriend, dating her when Evangelyne is a 16 precocious Black girl and certifiable genius while Poppy is 22 years old and a white gay changeling living among the poor white trailers.

Poppy was a real out gay girl with match-straight cherry-red hair she cut herself and piercings in her nose and lip. She was beautiful in an alien way, her pale eyes spaced wide apart, her body so skinny it read as an absence of body, her skin bright white. When she said she was a changeling, she meant it. She believed it was in her astrological chart. It was true that her sweat smelled better than other people’s, that her hair was peculiarly silken, that she had a physical intensity that was transfixing if sometimes jarring. Poppy Beacham ate meat with her hands, went swimming in her clothes, touched everyone familiarly— she would rest her hand on the shoulder of a store assistant to ask where the toothpaste was. All the men in Barclough, Vermont, knew who she was, even if they didn’t know her name.

Poppy is mentally ill and one day Evangelyne makes the innocent mistake of telling her about ancient Yoruba death rituals (the Yoruba people are a West African ethnic group that mainly inhabits parts of Nigeria) and how "the Yoruba king was buried with scores of other people, who were sacrificed so they could continue to serve him in the other world."

Poppy becomes obsessed with ritual human sacrifice, at first believing that Evangelyne's Black community perform human sacrifice now, and eventually going on to craft her own ritual that causes the disappearance of "The Men." Her blithely telling her white family about the Yoruba king leads directly to Evangelyne's entire Black community and family being massacred by cops in a scene reminiscent of the Waco, Texas massacre of the Branch Davidians. Evangelyne is the only survivor and is unjustly imprisoned as a cop killer.

In prison and surrounded by sweet white women-- no really.

She had suffered at the COs laughing and mimicking her when she tried to chant in Yoruba. She also spent a lot of that year crying about her problems to other inmates, which went surprisingly well, considering that 90 percent of them were white and 100 percent had their own problems. A lot of COs taunted her and kicked her around—she was a cop killer, after all—but there were prisoners who treated her like their own child. People are a lot of things.

In prison and surrounded by sweet white women, Evangelyne puts pen to paper and writes her own communist manifesto. Unsure who else to send the finished draft to, she desperately reaches out to Poppy--who, while still mentally ill, has written to Evangelyne swearing to do whatever she can to prove her innocence. Poppy takes the manuscript to all the right journalists, professors, and lawyers, and mobilizes an army of white people to get Evangelyne all the resources, attention, and legal aid she needs to get out of prison and become a rising political star. Evangelyne returns the favor by cutting Poppy off forever.

She’d been in that prison about a year when she got a letter from Seattle, Washington. The envelope was covered in Forever stamps, though the letter was just four sheets of paper. Poppy wrote: I moved to Seattle (do you think it’s far away enough?! haha!) but the mail works just the same here. Been in the hospital a looong time. Then it took a loooooong time to find you because I’m dumb and no one wanted to help me! But I been writing to the government and newspapers and everyone to tell them you never shot anybody. Don’t they know those cops are the same lying dumbasses who bought my crap about how you were sacrificing kids to Hoodoo??? But nobody listens I guess when they see the letter’s from a loony bin. Like a crazy bitch can put you in prison, but the same crazy bitch can’t get you out! So I maybe can’t make it better what happened BUT I’M CRYING FOR YOU ALL THE TIME.

She was planning to send a copy of this mess to Cornel West. She knew he taught at Princeton and thought a package addressed to “Cornel West, Princeton University, New Jersey,” had a chance of being delivered. She’d even convinced herself the typewritten pages would impress him with their authenticity. Then she thought again and mailed it to Poppy. At the time, Poppy was already infamous in the LGBT community of the Northwest. She was everyone’s worst-ever girlfriend, a universal muse and stealer of hearts who periodically went catastrophically mad, ran amok, and left scorched earth. She dated a celebrated artist, then a restaurant owner, then two poets in a row, then a journalist, and ruined all their lives. Everyone in lesbian Seattle had a story about calling 911 on Poppy. Often she peddled books and junk in the street, and once she built an imposing art structure in Discovery Park that she said was a “religious machine.” There was a brief controversy about its removal until Poppy set it on fire herself and was carted to a psych ward yet again.

From the letters, Evangelyne knew Poppy was currently going out with a local journalist. She now sent Poppy her manuscript, along with a letter curtly asking if Poppy’s girlfriend could read it and maybe help get it published. For a few weeks, nothing came from Poppy. Evangelyne couldn’t sleep for rage. In the never-dark prison night, she stared at the ceiling of her cell, thinking about the deaths at ARRI, about sacrifice and whose human sacrifice mattered, about Poppy’s cheery, babbling narcissism that Evangelyne could not switch off. She thought about Cornell and the beautiful life she could have had if Poppy had never crossed her path. In the nights, her anger turned to fear, which made the prison feel like the last safe outpost on a haunted Earth, and Poppy the evil that stalked outside, a demon from a hell realm. Even Uncle’s abuse now felt like part and parcel of Poppy, as if there were an Uncle-and- Poppy entity that had fouled Evangelyne’s mind with rape and incest, then gone on to butcher her family. Then, after three weeks, a package arrived from Seattle. In it were three photocopies of the manuscript Evangelyne had sent. All over each copy were notes: one set from Poppy’s girlfriend, one from Poppy’s English professor, and one from Lucinda Gar, whom Poppy had met in a coffee shop and enlisted to help. Poppy enclosed a letter that said, “Let me know if you want ANY more help! WE ARE ALL HERE FOR YOU!!!”

It's unclear whether the author thinks Evangelyne is unkind for cutting Poppy out of her life. The emotional math is more than a little hard to balance: Poppy undeniably ruined Evangelyne's life and was absolutely racist in her youth in ways that Evangelyne condemned her for, but put in real work to perform restitution for the tragedy she caused whilst unmedicated and in a combination bipolar fit slash PTSD episode***.

[TW: Rape] ***The event which sent cops out to Evangelyne's home was when Poppy called Evangelyne out to her home to rescue her from being repeatedly raped by her uncle and his friend. Evangelyne brings three male relatives with her to help rescue Poppy, but Poppy screams when she sees strange men waiting for her outside in the dark. She then lapses into a nonverbal trauma episode which requires hospitalization, and therefore can't explain to the cops that Evangelyne and the boys didn't actually harm her.

Obviously all this has been carefully contrived to make it as emotionally fraught as possible. Poppy's racism is described in the narrative as a function of her uneducated upbringing at the hands of white racists melding with her bipolar disorder and hazy grip on reality, not something she consciously perpetuates. Evangelyne's abandonment of Poppy comes on page 249 of a 270 page novel, after we have already been primed to see Evangelyne as a user who climbs over people on her way to the top and leaves them behind: Jane, Alma, and the anonymous "half the other members" of her political party that have dated her. Of course the reader is primed to see Poppy as yet another stepping stone that Evangelyne clambered over on her way to the top. Which I....do not like.

Myself, I'm inclined to wholeheartedly support Evangelyne for cutting Poppy out of her life while being angry that no one else in "the LGBT community of the Northwest" for not getting Poppy mental health treatment. There's a strong vibe to the effect that the queer community is enjoying the drama of falling for Poppy's manic pixie skinny white girl aesthetic and then washing their hands of her when her mental illness "ruins" lives.

At the time, Poppy was already infamous in the LGBT community of the Northwest. She was everyone’s worst-ever girlfriend, a universal muse and stealer of hearts who periodically went catastrophically mad, ran amok, and left scorched earth. She dated a celebrated artist, then a restaurant owner, then two poets in a row, then a journalist, and ruined all their lives. Everyone in lesbian Seattle had a story about calling 911 on Poppy. Often she peddled books and junk in the street, and once she built an imposing art structure in Discovery Park that she said was a “religious machine.” There was a brief controversy about its removal until Poppy set it on fire herself and was carted to a psych ward yet again.

This neglect of one of their own leads to the predictable effect of ending in Poppy's tragic death, and the unpredictable effect of her sending everyone with a Y chromosome to hell in the process. Evangelyne learns this mere moments before the disappearances when a package from Poppy arrives in the mail.

It contained roughly fifty pages of psychosis. At first glance, this looked just like the letters Poppy had written her in prison. Evangelyne started to leaf through rapidly but almost immediately stopped at a drawing of beakless birds labeled DEMON FREINDS. She’d never seen a drawing of Poppy’s demons, and she started to read the writing below. It was about how Poppy was fated to burn to save the dying Earth. She was the first sacrifice required by the demons of earth and sky. A thousand other women would burn with her; their names were written in light. The sacrifice of the Thousand would open a Door to the demon realm. “Then the Evil will be pulled through that Door and the demons will Take them for their Keeping. This is the Second Sacrafice, a Sacrafice as aweful as the time of Noah.”

Evangelyne almost stopped reading then. She had wandered into her kitchen and glanced at the trash can. Still she didn’t throw the letter away. Instead, she sat down at the table and turned on a lamp. She read on about how, through the grace of the demons, the world would become a haven of peace, ruled over by wise queens. Pollution would be cleaned up, and the “genecide of Earth” would come to an end. But the Door would be left open, and some “Lot’s Wives” would look back through it, feeling pity for the Evil Men. The Evil would sense them there and start to march toward the Door, “like dogs on the scent.” If the Door wasn’t closed, these Men would find the opening into the world and flood back in. Then everything would go back to before. The Thousand would have burned in vain.

[TW: Immolation] These thousand are the "Burning Girls" that have been briefly and mysteriously alluded to a couple time in the novel, and which receive a fictional Quora post on page 111. They don't come up much in the novel; 12 of the 18 references in the novel are clustered in this one Quora page section. Were they also hearing voices and suffering from mental illness like Poppy? Unknown. Did they come up with the ritual together or individually or was it fed to them by the "demons"? We don't know. Evangelyne is the only one, apparently, who receives an explanatory package; none of the other 999 girls apparently sent anyone a similar packet warning *their* loved ones about the hitch. Rude.

What is your opinion of the Burning Girls conspiracy theory? Top Answers Jarray Montez, Ex-Rookie - Now: Bemused Quora user - 2 year mark achieved Answered October 15 For anyone who’s new to this, The Burning Girls is a conspiracy that asserts that the Disappearance was somehow caused by a handful of women around the world who set themselves on fire. Some believers think the Burning Girls saved the world from overpopulation or nuclear war. For others it’s demonic and these girls died in a Satanist sacrifice. Either way, the conspiracy espouses a fiction and glamorizes the issue of suicide. What’s true: At least 200 women died of burning on August 26th/27th. But how unusual is this? It’s hard to find numbers for how many women burn to death on an average day, but if you consider that 2,200 people commit suicide daily, it isn’t that insane to see this as coincidence. Also it’s likely a lot of these women were murdered. Given the lack of police investigations in the confusion after the Disappearance, we don’t know all these burnings were suicide, or even that burning was the cause of death, where it might be a murderer disposing of a corpse. These are just some considerations why the Burning Girls is not based on solid facts.

1. 271 women burning themselves on the same day as the Disappearance, with possibly many others that were never reported. 2. Some Burning Girls being connected to eminent figures (e.g. the niece of Mette Frederiksen, who is Danish prime minister, the daughter of Karen Xi, the GenPro founder, and there are others). I don’t agree with people who call this evidence of conspiracy, but it is reason to stop and think nevertheless. 3. Several Burning Girls leaving behind writings that seem to show pre-knowledge of the Disappearance or other events. These kind of writings are also not typical for a suicide note, as many mental health professionals have attested. 4. Three of these writers (Adelgonda Tozzi, Maria Dietrich, Anonymous #2) talking about other women who will burn themselves and calling this a “sacrifice.” Of course they are using different languages, but the translation is very precise. 5. Time of death for all Burning Girls (where this is known) within an hour of the Disappearance, with only a couple exceptions. These exceptions could also be unrelated people who decided to burn themselves that day by chance and not true Burning Girls. 6. An international cover-up, with e.g. the Chinese Communist Party banning all mention of the Burning Girls on the internet, and a near media blackout in many Western nations. Also, while I do not approve of all the actions of Burning Girls protesters, many have been arrested who did not set fires or threaten anybody, but were simply sitting in a park. When there is this violent crackdown on all sides over what is only an idea, it cannot help but arouse suspicions.

Rhiannon Bourghetti, Blocked by Condoleezza Rice on LinkedIn Updated October 21 I think the Burning Girls crap is doing society a service by unveiling just how many irrational people we have amongst us. See, people like me always knew that the majority is dangerously irrational and useless, but now we finally have proof. The thinking goes like this: One unexplained event happens (the Disappearance), therefore the world no longer has a cause and effect and make-believe reigns. And of course the make-believe is about Satanic rituals, because what in life is not Satanism, from mythical child abuse scandals in the nineties to the very suspicious fact of some Democrats ordering pizza in “Pizzagate.” TLDR: This sh*t is cuckoo bananas.

Lesbian score for the novel: one dead Black woman at the end killed by cops, one dead white girl suffering from bipolar disorder killed by suicide (or demons). Alma reboots back to the beginning of the novel (like everyone else) which means that she's transported back to before she used the event to cure her alcohol dependence. It's implied that Jane might choose to look up Alma and try to help her with that for old time's sake in a friendship Alma won't remember, but it's also implied she might not.

That's what I have for queer representation in this novel: it's bad. This is getting long so I'm going to post it now. I have other criticisms about racial representation in the novel and overall world-building fail, as well as line-by-line thoughts on practically ever page, but I need to go lie down because I've been at this for several hours now. (Sorry!)

Some of you have asked how you can compensate me for this labor (thank you!) which has consumed me from Sunday onward. I will post a link to my donation sites, but if you REALLY want to help me: please buy a copy of Cinder the Fireplace Boy and consider leaving a positive review. Reviews are marketing for indie authors like me who don't have a budget for advertisements.

Some others will question why I did this project, because people always do: I must be doing it for clout, out of hate, from a place of greed, because I'm so bitter-hearted that I have to make others suffer. Wrong. I get very little out of these live-reads and I always hate posting things that an author may read and feel bad about. No, I do this because I feel like I have a talent for it and because it's my way of giving back to the community. I'm too disabled to march at Pride, but I can bring receipts when people say "read it before you criticize!" If I can save a trans woman from having to read a transmisogynistic novel for review, even better.

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