Westworld’s Bullets Are Bullshit: Weird Worldbuilding Questions

So I’ve been watching Westworld, and the bullets are where it starts, as usual.

Because the Westworld guns have two modes of fire: if they fire at a host, which is to say one of the poor android bastards whose job it is to be raped and murdered by the guests, they fire an actual goddamned bullet.  That bullet smashes through glass, punches through rock, and also through the pinata-bloody guts of the hosts.

But if the gun is fired at a human guest, it instead fires a pellet of some sort.  If you’re the Man In Black, then you’re badass enough that the pellet bounces off of you.  If you’re a wimpy noob, that pellet hits you hard enough to knock you back flat on your ass.  But it doesn’t draw blood.



But okay. So even assuming they’ve come up with a pellet that can hit someone hard enough to knock them back on their ass without hurting them (and assuming that backwards tumble doesn’t, say, send the back of the guest’s skull crunching against an oak table, thus crippling them Million Dollar Baby-style), and we’ve established that the guns won’t let you shoot a guest in the face, what about the bullets?

It’s shown that the bullets shatter glass.  Pretty sure having someone shoot a bottle three feet away from your face without eye protection is pretty dangerous, son.

Pretty sure bullets ricochet off of metal sometimes.  Not often.  But with all those bullets flying, chaos theory’s gotta come in at some point and whoops, a bullet bounces off something it shouldn’t have and hits a guest in the heart.

This doesn’t seem like it’s a safe park at all.

And wait: how does the gun know when to shoot? It can’t be a bunch of fancy electronics hidden inside the gun, because a) the gun is the most iconic part of the gunslinger, and having a lightweight gun you break open to reveal a bunch of circuitry would be no fun, and b) you can apparently bury these guns for thirty years and nobody notices they’re missing and they can still function perfectly when dug up, which seems unlikely.

So maybe the gun’s “guest or host” mechanism is in the bullet.  Also unlikely.  A bullet is pretty efficient; it needs most of its space for powder and tip.  You can, I guess, replace some of the mass of the less-efficient bullets of yesteryear with circuitry – but then you’d have the monstrous challenge of trying to determine what’s a guest and what’s a host by watching through the bottom of the gun’s barrel.  It’d be like watching the action through a rapidly-swinging telescope – even with computer speeds, you wouldn’t have enough information to guarantee that the barrel wouldn’t have shifted between the time the hammer started falling and the fire.  I mean, what if there’s a guest hidden behind that bar and you fire a bullet by mistake?

Or maybe the Westworld network is wired into the bullet, with external sensors studded into every wall continually tracking the trajectory of each gun, and only allowing fire when their live-updated three-D models of the place show that it wouldn’t hit a guest, or travel through anything that would hit a guest, or ricochet off of anything that would hit a guest.

Which worked for the first few episodes, where we were mostly inside, but as we go on we see that Westworld is enormous.  There’s empty spaces that rival entire deserts.  They either have satellite-level scans that are accurate down to the micrometer, or they have studded every rock in the desert with unflagging sensors.

But that’s assuming guests use knives!  Remember, the whole point of this show is that you can’t tell guests from hosts – the androids are perfect human-level accurate.

What happens if a guest just flat out decides to stab another guest?

Oh, sure, we’ve seen a mild safeguard in a host snatching a knife away – but that involved everyone seated conveniently around a table.  There are times when the guests are alone in the desert, or yards apart from each other.  When you pick up a knife, does a safety host just start trailing you silently, standing two feet away like the thing in It Follows?

What happens if the guest stabs the safety host, then stabs another guest?  Do the dead rise up to protect the living?

How easy would it be to commit accidental murder here because you didn’t know that the guy you just smashed a chair over was a living, breathing human and you just accidentally caved in his skull?

How easy would it be to bring someone you hated here with the idea that maybe you wanted to murder them by accident, knowing Delos corporation would cover it up?

Speaking of which, we’ve taken to shouting “Pour one out for the construction crew!” every time there’s a shootout.  I mean, how many repairmen does it take to restore this world?  With literally daily shootouts, do they jail the guests in at night so they don’t hear the sound of electric drills and pneumatic nailguns fixing up the place?  Do they have an entire window factory in there somewhere, dedicated to doing nothing but replacing the glass?

Speaking of quality control, people fuck these robots, which leads to the absurd realization that somewhere in Delos there’s a Vaginal Secretions and Semen tasting lab, where very slutty people sip the latest Western Whore Formula and decide whether the oral sex is appropriately flavored.  Imagine a young Anthony Hopkins and Arnold having a studious debate about that.

And, like, the women need to dispense lube.  They have some kind of organs, sure, but eventually they must run out. They’re fucking all the time.  Are the host technicians also bringing in a vat of K-Y Jelly and just topping them off like the guys at the Jiffy Lube?

It’s been established the hosts can get MRSA, which is why the technicians wear those swanky Outbreak outfits.  But… how do STIs work?  It’s also established that the guests have orgies with each other sometimes.  Do they ask the guests to wear condoms?  Or do the hosts have some sort of internal Purell that just miraculously wipes away HSV?

What happens if two guests fuck unprotected and pick up something from each other?  How’s that…

Okay, the point is that I like Westworld.  A lot.  I’m reading up on all the theories, and digging the characters, and I love the scientific trappings.

But every science-fiction story has a couple of threads where, if you tug, you’ll find that really you can’t answer them well.  And it’s fun to try if you’re a fanfic author (or a professional author who decides to write his own rebuttal), but really, a lot of what science fiction runs on is thin ice where you’re better off skating past as the narrative asks, rather than crouching down to look closely at the cracks.

Westworld’s cracks, unfortunately, are right at the top in those damn guns.  And I can’t. Stop. Asking. Questions.

Nothing wrong with it.  At some point you just go, “It’s magic!” and sliiiiiiide past.

(EDIT: My pal Bart points out that in Episode 2, they mention that the future is free of disease. Which doesn’t quite explain how MRSA is germinating inside of these robots if everything’s sterile, but maybe they give everyone an STI shot before entering.)

A Reminder: You’re Being Nice By Saying “Hi” To Me At Conventions

I’ll be attending three conventions over the next three weekends, so this seems as good a time as any to say it:

When I’m at a convention, I am convinced that nobody attending actually wants me to be there. So I stand around in silence, feeling like an awkward imposition – occasionally I’ll find someone I sorta-know through the Internets and work up the bravery to say “hello,” but just as often I’ll take too long to work up that bravery and they’ll leave twenty minutes later without me having said a thing.

And I hear people afterwards saying, “I saw you at the convention, but I didn’t want to bother you!”

Bother me?

Saying hello would be the nicest favor you could do for me.

As a socially anxious person, even a merry “Hey, I just like your work” followed by a quick exit can calm me down like you wouldn’t believe. Making a new friend at the convention, or transforming an online-only relationship into a “Hey I know that person” relationship, or catching up again with someone I had met before was too shy but didn’t think we were “Let’s say hello to each other without a reintroduction”?

Oh, it’s glorious. I’m good if you introduce me. My horror is “not being wanted,” and alas, thanks to years of terrible high school I’ve never recovered from, that’s how I feel all the time.

Saying “hello” to me is actually telling me “You’re not a bother, you’re welcome here, at least somebody wants to talk to you.” And even if I happen to have people I’m with, I always love talking to new folks, or old acquaintances. It’s not an imposition, even though I may sometimes be rushing to a presentation.

So if you see me: say howdy. And if you’re at Sensuosity, or The Geeky Kink Event, or Beyond the Love in the next three weeks, definitely say hi.

You’d be doing me a favor like you wouldn’t believe.

The Late-Night, Double Feature Picture Show: Life At Rocky Horror

The Rocky Horror Picture Show isn’t a movie to me. For me, it’s the feeling of moist rice sticking to the soles of my pantyhosed feet. It’s remembering not to wipe away that crustiness around my eyes because that’s mascara, you dolt, you need to look pretty for the audience. It’s eating french fries and gravy at three in the morning with a bunch of wasted-out weirdos down at the Athena Diner, wondering who I’m going home with that night.

I was Frank. I was the first Frank. And let me tell you, in the town of Norwalk, Connecticut – a place that didn’t have a single nightclub – that was an honor.

Because there was a single art house cinema in Norwalk, and it was a rattletrap organization called the Sono Cinema – headed by a stubborn man with no head for money and a frantic love for beautiful films. Brian would book the theater with the obscure foreign films he liked, and on a good night you’d get five people showing up. Sometimes he ran out of popcorn.

But he’d been told that running the Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight was a money-maker, and though Brian loathed the idea of “popular” cinema, he realized he needed some cash. So he ran it once, and filled the theater, but…

Nobody was doing anything.

He realized there was supposed to be shouting, and audience participation, but this was in the days before YouTube and online tutorials. The Rocky Horror was a purely hand-me-down tradition: you could only learn the rituals of flinging rice and wet newspapers by going to a raucous show and being taught.

What he had was an audience of virgins.

So he asked around. He needed someone stupid enough to dress up in women’s clothing, who would rouse an audience on, who would be shameless.

I wasn’t sure if I could be shameless before a theater full of people, but I was the only one who volunteered. I’d seen a few shows, had the tape soundtrack.

And so there was a pit crew at my house at 9:00 on a Saturday. The Rocky Horror lovers in town wanted this to work – it was a lot easier than driving an hour up to the other show in New Haven – and so I had four people in my room making me look pretty.

My mother had no idea what was going on. “Hey, mom, do you have a fake pearl necklace I can borrow?” I asked. “Crap – do you have any mascara? Oh, yeah, could I borrow some pantyhose?”

She stormed into my room, holding a set of L’eggs at arm’s length, and deposited it in my lap. “Here,” she said curtly. “This is the last thing you ask for. And I don’t want to know what you’re doing.”

And I drove to the Sono, and there was a crowd that I remember as being like a rock star audience but was probably fifty wasted college kids – and I sauntered in, flipping effortlessly to working the room, and when the show started I got up to the front of the stage in a bustierre and silk underwear and yelled, “ALL RIGHT, PEOPLE, HERE’S HOW THIS GOES. WHO BROUGHT THEIR SQUIRT GUNS?”

I became a star. Or at least a star in Norwalk, Connecticut.

I was The Rocky Horror Guy.

And there were other Rocky Horror people, a great cast of folks who I came to love, and they were also vital – but I was the person introducing the audience to the show on Fridays and Saturdays, and so I became the face of the Rocky Horror.

(…Which Brian fucking hated. He hated the gaudiness of the show, he hated the cleanup, he hated the freaks showing up all the time because this wasn’t cinema, it was spectacle, but the money let him play Un Chien Andalou again, so he let me do what I wanted.)

And to me, the Rocky Horror is barely a film. It’s a backdrop. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a flickering blue light where I run up and down the aisles, scoping the cutest girls in the show so I can be sure to plop onto their laps at the appropriate show moment when Frank falls.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a set of crowded bathrooms where we put on makeup and come out to each other, that first time I really understood how complex sexuality was as I saw the straight guy with the broomhandle mustache who wasn’t a woman but this was the only place he would wear a dress, and guys going gay for a weekend to see how it felt, and women switching roles in the show as they tried on butchiness and femme to see how it felt.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a parking lot, where we’d all gather at 10:30 and start drinking lavishly, noting the old crew and welcoming the newcomers, we loved fresh blood because they were either folks travelling from distant Rocky shows to see ours – and they had new lines to shout at the screen, their rituals blending with ours – or they were people who’d never been here before and oh God you gotta see this it’s so wonderful have a hug this is your community fit in.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is my own sexuality blossoming because I discovered that when you’re shameless you will find an audience, and so there were blowjobs in the back of the theater and women fucking me in hearses and sometimes taking someone’s hand and bringing them to the backstage (“Fuck the backstage!”) and discovering that someone else was already making out in there and God, were we all going to kiss each other eventually?

Probably. And we dated, and we broke up, and we cheated, and that was all right because Rocky Horror was the hub. We could be pissed at each other, but this was where we came and this was who we are and maybe I was aching because Bari and I had broken up again but there was the Time Warp and we could always dance to the Time Warp no matter how mad we were.

And people would say, “Oh, I saw Rocky Horror on VHS!” And I tried not to be snobbish, but… you gotta see it live, I’d whisper.

I did that for about four years. And eventually, the RHPS got encrusted – I ran a very loose show, where “fun” was more important than the details, and hell, if you’d seen the show three times and wanted to go nuts as Eddie roaming about the theater, well, does this jacket fit?

But eventually folks who were Very Concerned about the correct costuming wormed their way in, which led to a stage show that was about mimicking the movie perfectly, which led to a hierarchy where you had to train in the ways of Rocky Horror before you could be on stage, which created this barrier between the audience and the show that eventually strangled it.

At that point, I was more like the Rocky Horror godfather. I was an emeritus; I’d show up, do the intro, and then go hang out in the backstage or goof around in the lobby. And eventually it dissolved, along with the Sono Cinema itself.

And when people say, “Oh, Rocky Horror was on TV last night!”, well, I couldn’t watch. I’m sure it’s fine. But I’ve gone to see Rocky Horror in the theaters since, and I’ve discovered that I lied.

Because I go to see the Rocky Horror in the theaters, and it’s not Norwalk in 1989. It’s these other kids, people I don’t know, and for me Rocky Horror is walking into a room full of freaks and knowing every single one. For me, Rocky Horror is that community…

…and the community is gone.

It’s not a bad thing. Bright lights fade. I wasn’t going to be dressed as Frank forever, nor would I want to.

But there’s a film, and there’s a show, and there are remakes. They’re all good. I want you to love them.

Yet there’s no remaking that crappy theater. There’s no getting all my friends back in the same room with that same feeling of hope that tonight is gonna be awesome, we’re gonna cheer, we’re gonna make new friends, we’re gonna kiss in secret and nurture crushes and maybe touch a genital that we didn’t think we’d like except oh I kinda like that.

There’s no going back.

It’s never been the same. It’s been better. Rocky Horror catapulted me into new realms of bravery – I can give talks to rooms because shit, after you’ve faced down a hundred drunken frat boys, “giving a speech” is nothing. Rocky Horror taught me about sex, and fluidity, and tolerance. Rocky Horror taught me how to handle microfame, because I was a star for six hours a week and then I went back to work at the record shop.

All those have built me into something marvelous, and I’ve thought about going back to some theater and seeing if I could become a member of the crew again, but….

That’s trying to recreate a past.

I have a glorious future to head to.

The longing will kill you if you let it.

Whatever happened to Saturday night?
When you dressed up sharp and you felt alright
It don’t seem the same since cosmic light
Came into my life

It’s National “Don’t Be Nice To Me” Day

Yesterday, I posted a sad status that said:

Feeling isolated and alone today. Nobody did anything wrong. I just woke up this morning wreathed in failure. #brainweasels

And I was beswarmed in kind comments. Something like twenty people replied, others sent kind messages, and still others texted me to send love. Which is all wonderful, and I appreciate that, but…

I’ve got a good support system. I have my bad days, but when I have them, I also have thousands of people on my social networks who are willing to sympathize.

Others don’t.

So I am declaring today “National ‘Don’t Be Nice To Me’ Day – and what I’d like you to do today is to reach out to someone who doesn’t necessarily have a great support network and tell them you’re thinking of them. Or reach out to someone who’s having a hard time and hasn’t, for whatever reason, been able to post online to get the support they deserve.

Basically, take the kindness you were willing to show to me yesterday and use that to surprise someone else with love. Don’t tell ’em why you did it, don’t explain what today is – just text them or @ them or DM them to tell them “Hey, you know what? I’m here for you.”

And if you feel like posting this elsewhere on your blog/social media/whatever, thus converting the latent kindness people feel for you into active kindness for other people? Awesome.

Because any excuse to be nice to someone else is a great excuse.

Don’t be nice to me today.

Be great to someone else.

On Porn And Patreon.

So one of my biggest crushes on FetLife, @KattAnomia, opened up a Patreon account dedicated to her porn career – you donate to her monthly, you get a choice of some erotic photos/videos of her. And because I routinely donate to artists I enjoy through Patreon, I subscribed immediately.

Now here’s the weird thing: the Patreon subscription is actually more expensive than subscribing to her personal website. Which she’s had open for months now. I would save about $4 a month by going directly to her site.

Except that would be porn.

Whereas Patreon is for artists.

Which, I realize, is a weird distinction to make. In both cases, I pay to get nude images of one of the most attractive women on FetLife doing naughty things. But because one site is framed as “supporting creators” and the other is framed as “pay me money to whack it freely,” I was biased towards one method.

Put another way, I was -and am! – paying a $4 surcharge to transform a porn star into an artist.

Which is super-weird, because I also routinely subscribe to hot porn for the exact same reasons – if I like what someone creates, I believe they should earn enough of a living to keep creating it. (Try Desperate Amateurs and Kink.com, they’re both awesome and creative.)

But my porn subscriptions are purely selfish things. I buy them, I download all the hot movies to my hard drive, I cancel. I don’t get personally attached to the artist in the same way that I do with, say, Good Job, Brain’s podcast performances or Tailsteak’s webcomic Leftover Soup. With those guys, I feel a connection to them – deserved or not – in that they’ve consistently stimulated my brain for long enough that I’m happy to give them cash because I have not only come to like their art, but the people behind it.

With porn stars, there’s a subliminal aspect where I feel shamed for being aroused by a professional.

And porn stars are a much more personal thing these days, thanks to Twitter and FetLife and other social media. @_slut___slut_ on FetLife writes brilliant essays that detail her life as a prostitute at the Bunny Ranch – which are edited versions of her life, as she still wants to pull in clients, but you can sense her being as honest as anyone can be about their job in a highly-public arena. I know that @KattAnomia loves Magic, and her animals, and her cosplay.

I have a better sense of who my porn stars are when they’re not personally turning me on.

Basically, porn has become a thing where there’s more of a personal connection than ever – even if that connection is, as it often is with my essays, a highly-groomed connection that reflects certain aspects of the star with accuracy but quietly crops quite a bit out of the frame.  That presentation is designed to be appealing, but then again you’ll find very few successful artists who are actively griping about how much they fucking hate their job (unless that hatred is part of their appeal, like it is with Randy Milholland of Something Positive).

And yet I realized that even though I think of porn stars as artists in every way – working hard to maintain their craft, perfecting their portrayal, finding new methods of connecting with their audience – I’m less likely to give them money because it feels stickily selfish.

Part of that is, of course, the shameful way that PayPal and credit cards have stigmatized porn. I was loathe to name Katt’s Patreon account by name because I was worried they might realize what she’s doing and shut her down – though thankfully, Patreon has a very clear description of what it allows as “adult content” and Katt stays within those lines.

But other places aren’t so lucky. Try to be a porn star on GoFundMe, or even just raise funds for a charity through FetLife – you’ll get shut down. You can’t Kickstart a sexy project. And when you look for the Patreon of porn, where you can subsidize your porn stars with small payments, it’s usually some Geocities-inspired turd of a site festooned with flashing ads and created with a Vegas methodology designed to obscure how much you’re spending.

Those sites are designed to hide the porn star and magnify the site – you’ll see their clips for sale, but not their blog posts, nor links to their personal site. Whereas Patreon and Kickstarter are all about encouraging that artist’s connection – creators can turn backers into outright fans, and are in fact encouraged to do so by consistently creating kick-ass stuff and being amusing.

And I realized: I want to treat porn stars like other artists. If they’re happy, and creating stuff they love, and that stuff happens to be porn, I want to have a place where I can quickly subscribe without feeling like I’m shuffling into a darkened alleyway to sneak into the video booths.

I want to go to a place that mixes comics and writing and porn and videos and games all together, tastefully blocked so you don’t have to see it if you don’t want to, where “made you aroused” is merely one of a variety of emotional responses that is acceptable, along with “made you cry with happiness” and “made you laugh” and “made you concerned for these artificial characters.”

And right now, Patreon is that. But because of the way payments work, at any moment, Patreon could decide any sexy creator is violating their Terms of Service – which is, to say, “The terms which their overlords PayPal and their credit card processor sets” – and suddenly *poof*, porn’s back to a backwater.

We can’t mix porn and art, because financial considerations keep excluding porn.

Which is a shame. I’ll keep backing Katt on Patreon for as long as they let me, because it’s a convenient site. I don’t have to memorize another login, and I can see all of my backings in one spot, and I can occasionally get pictures of a very attractive woman doing very lewd things.

I could think of that as a $4 surcharge to transform Katt’s naked work into art.

Or I could think of it as a $4 tax to try to convince Patreon that erotic art is also worth having around.

Either way. I’m staying there for now.