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!! U B THE ASS TO RISK!!: porn quotes in Pat Cadigan’s “Synners”

Few moments later the other screen lit up with a 3-D graphic of a human brain seen in three-quarter profile from llie left. The legend at the bottom of the screen said, New-VidFmt. “Looks like medporn to me,” Rosa said.

He nodded at Joslin’s brain on the screen. “We really have little idea of what will come up out of that organ through a direct pipeline. We can make a few educated guesses, and we might even be right about some of it. I understand the, ah, feel-good clinic doctor had already stimulated output through altered implants on one, ah, patient. They were watching pornographic images when the police arrived.” “Indisputable proof of this thing’s entertainment value,” Manny said dryly. “If rather mundane.” “One wonders about the not-so-mundane. The images were feeding only to a screen, but not from the screen directly to another recipient,” said Travis. “We’ve established that output is far easier than input.

“You do and I’ll own you. Won’t that be embarrassing, in hock to a dataline module. I’ll reset all your defaults for food porn.”

“Fool yourself all you want now, but that’s all it would have been. One in two million make it as artists. The rest end up in little dumps that pretend to be galleries, or doing porn for next to nothing. That’s a real prestige career, isn’t it. As a hobby it would have probably done you some good.

“How’s the diet going? Should we switch to food porn?” “No, thank you,” he said primly. “The weight is coming off, I’m fine. I haven’t watched food porn since I got my buttons.” “That’s what you call them?” LeBlanc was amused. “The buttons that switch off the urge to overeat. Is there something sick about that to you?” “Hey, they’re your implants. Excuse me, I mean buttons.” LeBlanc shared a secret smile with Gabe.

“Look at that,” LeBlanc said, pointing at the dataline. “Damien Splader’s going to do a talk show from prison. They send him up for life, and he gets his own show. Just what we need, another porn show. Prison porn. You know something like sixty-eight percent of all new programming on the dataline is some kind of porn now?” “Where’d you get a figure like that?” said Shuet. “News porn?” LeBlanc looked at him evenly. “Hey, a tabloid should know.” “Oh, how could there be prison porn? Who would get hot looking at prison stuff?” “Who would get hot looking at food?” Silkwood said glumly.

“Diversifications porn! Right? We could tell our horror stories for a cam, let the home audience know what kind of hell we go through to give them those commercials they eat up with two spoons. Sorry,” she added to Silkwood. “No offense.”

“Stuff s junk,” Silkwood declared. “Worse than all the porn put together. I don’t know why we had to go into the music-video business. The company’s survived this long without it.”

Somehow he’d put disaster porn on the top-middle screen, and they were running the Twenty-Five Worst Air Crashes series.

Rivera had had the benefit of that for fucking weeks, while he’d been sitting with his thumb up his ass figuring he was dealing with some CPA whose idea of porn was a stolen spreadsheet.

Valjean had a screen for every porn channel, jammed together in the wall so that food porn overlapped med porn overlapped war porn overlapped sex porn overlapped news porn overlapped disaster porn overlapped tech-fantasy porn overlapped porn she had no idea how to identify. Maybe nobody did, maybe it had just bypassed the stage where it would have been anything other than porn. Meta-porn, porn porn?

“Fucking right there’s nothing fucking wrong with porn,” said Quilmar. Quilmar was one of the stone marathoners. He’d taken so many years off his age, he’d have been nine when he’d cut his first single (okay, maybe eight and a half), and he’d had it polished and tightened so much, his lovers said the dimple in his chin was actually his navel. Maybe, Gina thought, the Beater hadn’t been so rucked after all to do what he’d done. “Porn is the fucking secret of life, sister-mine. If you can’t fuck it and it doesn’t dance, eat it or throw it away. That’s the fucking order of the universe, and I’m at the fucking top of the food-fuck-and-dance chain.”

Gabe couldn’t hear the reply, if there was one. He found himself facing an array of screens set into a wall, all of them displaying a different sequence of images. His eyes shifted back and forth in a frenzy as he tried to make sense of each one, and for several moments dizziness threatened to knock him over. There was a sudden firm grip on his arm. “That one’s pretty interesting, if you’re a connoisseur of tech-fantasy porn.”

There was a pause. “You must watch a lot of tech-fantasy porn. I knew it. I could tell just by looking at you.”

“It was later that music started to stand for something,” she went on suddenly, in a quieter voice. “There were all these ideas, the ideas were in the music, the music was in the ideas. These performers would cut these releases, and they’d say shit like, ‘Well, my album’s fighting against this’ and ‘My album’s fighting against that.’ This was before anyone got the bright idea to do the monster benefits to feed the hungry. You probably don’t know what those are. Nobody does that anymore. Now they go get the hungry with cams and they call it, I don’t know, ‘poverty porn’ or ‘slum porn,’ or I don’t know what they call it.

“Never mind, they got such killer video on it, you don’t have to be old enough, just tune in disaster porn. Watch the Jesus-boy in the army fatigues take out a thousand kids in one sweep, you are there. But there was crazy shit before that, nutsoids with knives, nutsoids with guns, nutsoids with crazy fucking shit for brains, like the guy that took out Lennon.”

“I want it to matter,” she said. “I want the fucking music and the people to matter. I don’t want fucking rock’n’roll porn to go with the med porn and the war porn and the weapons porn and the food porn—shit, it’s all porn, goddamn fucking video porn.”

Gina took hold of his arm. “Don’t tell me you got a secret life with med porn, too.” “Oh, if you’ve seen one tracheotomy, you’ve seen them all,” he said in a blase tone as she urged him forward.

Leaving Manny a simulated punch in the stomach for the loss of his simulated girlfriends and his simulated secret life, for the loss of his simulated job. If he was losing it all, he might as well leave Manny with a real punch in the stomach. The idea gave him a rush of pleasure that temporarily overrode the pain. Take it out of porn, make it something real. Do one real thing. Hell, he might never do another.

This morning he knew next to nothing, and he’d already forgotten some of that. Mental gridlock. Mental gridlock probably looked something like what he was seeing on the screen now. From the Hollywood Freeway back to La Cienega, Santa Monica Boulevard looked like a long, narrow parking lot. “Hey,” said the hostile-looking man next to him. “Do we have to watch this? Why don’t you put on some porn?” He was wearing a too-tight yellow plastic overall with a red noose around his neck. The bartender sneered. “What’s the matter, you never heard of gridlock porn?” “It ain’t porn unless it’s on a porn channel,” the guy said. “It’s obscene enough for me,” said the woman on Gabe’s right.

His partner, tracking Rosa at five paces, wasn’t much different, except all his teeth were in his mouth, and his bald head was adorned with sex-porn decals.

Don’t do it. The thought cut sharply through the gathering fog in her mind, and hysteria was pushed back again. As they stood in the dubious shelter of the doorway of a disaster-porn bar, she watched the people milling around in the street or struggling to move south. Somehow they’d crossed through that without getting trampled and without the kid, Keely, losing his precious bundle.

Fucking right there’s nothing fucking wrong with porn,” he said. “Porn is the fucking secret of life, sister-mine. If you can’t fuck it, and it doesn’t dance, eat it or throw it away. That’s the fucking order of the universe, and I’m at the fucking top of the food-fuck-and-dance chain. And I don’t know what that is”— he gestured at the limo, which was now on one of the screens in Valjean’s living room—”but it makes me horny, and that’s all that matters.”

Instead of the tech-fantasy porn clip, he was watching Gina. She was lying on a cot with wires in her head; behind her closed lids her eyes moved back and forth. Gina-porn? “That’s a good way to put it,” said a familiar voice.

“It’s no more of a prison than you were ever in,” Mark’s easy voice said soothingly. “After all, that’s entertainment. Isn’t it? One person’s pain being another’s entertainment. One person’s grand love affair being another person’s porn. That’s all it ever meant to anyone. ‘Don’t know what it is, but it makes me horny, and that’s all that matters’—other than that, nobody cares. It doesn’t make a difference to anyone. A drop in the consumer bucket, to be drunk up, digested, excreted, and fed back into the food-fuck-and-dance chain. Food-fuck-dance-and-be chain, excuse me, whether it’s you and Gina, or you and your virtual playmates, you and your wife, you and Sam, or just you and your carefully cultivated, fully formed pain.”

“I came up starving after most of a week, and there was nothing but those fucking seal-packs from the survivalists, fucking banana mash, fucking navy bean soup. And food porn on the dataline. Would you believe the fucking porn channels were some of the first shit back on the air?” He shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”

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