Stories begin with a seed – a character, a situation, an idea, an image, something. “Voodoo Doll” began with the thought that, instead of an external brace to restrict a limb’s movement, a device could be surgically implanted around the joint.
From there, it quickly became all of a woman’s major joints – elbows, knees, hips, shoulders – and the device became a radio-controlled brake. The technical details (at least a sufficient number for a fictional story) fell into place. The device would not force movement, but merely restrict it by engaging a pair of miniature ratchet disks. The minimal power required would come from a rechargeable battery. The battery would be recharged by voluntary muscle movements. And so forth.
I enjoy inventing this kind of thing, especially when I don’t have to actually make it work. Technically, this story is science fiction because it requires technology that is not yet available. But it’s more Michael Creighton near-term, just-about-here technology rather than Arthur Clark’s so-advanced-that-it’s-magic technology.
It would not surprise me if a team of world-class experts could make it work today.
Once the technology was clear in my mind, the use of a doll as a controlling interface was obvious. And it was equally obvious that the doll would act as sympathetic magic, as voodoo dolls are purported to do.
In my mind, the title, “Voodoo Doll”, does not refer to the doll itself, but to Lori. She has made herself her husband’s living doll.
Originally, I had expected the story to end with the honeymoon. But extending the voodoo premise to Voodoo Island was too enticing to ignore. The short story quickly became a novella. I wrote the entire 30,000 words in a week. That’s about 120 paperback book pages. I have written 25,000 words in a week several times before but 30,000 is a new personal best. Another couple of days to edit it and it was ready to be posted.
Readers have commented that they were disappointed that most of the action on the island used physical bondage – chains, ropes, and leather straps – rather than the implanted governors.
I can understand their reaction. I, too, liked the cool technology better than bog-standard bondage.
But, sadly, the story demanded visible bondage as soon as an audience was included. If the invisible technology were used exclusively, then Lori would have appeared to be an actor, her actions voluntary, and her ordeal less severe than it was. In particular, it would have made her look like an exhibitionist who did not suffer from her public humiliation.
I went to some pains to ensure that the audience understood that Lori was suffering as much as it appeared. That they were being given an authentic experience. That was required by the “cursed woman as victim” premise.
Authors often comment that they cannot always control where their characters will take them. This is a perfect example of that phenomenon.
This story incorporated three themes.
First, it discusses the nature of masochism more explicitly than my previous stories. Lori’s therapist is given an opportunity to explain that masochism is not a mental illness and is, in fact, a successful evolutionary strategy for Lori and others like her.
I know that this part of the story is rather too didactic for porn, but I indulged myself anyway.
Second, this story gave me an opportunity to discuss the induction of a normal segment of the population into sadism. I have long believed that the rise of Nazism as a popular movement under Hitler was not an aberration. Any people, Americans included, are only a couple of steps away from engaging in exactly the same behavior at any time.
In this story, the guests were given the necessary circumstances to cross the line. The guests were transported to an unfamiliar environment. A new group norm was created. The behavior was sexualized to provide motivation. Authorities were present to relieve the guests of personal responsibility. The victim was separated from the guests and dehumanized. The guests were presented with a series of carefully designed stages in which they were made more active participants at each stage.
I believe that those circumstances would be sufficient to make almost any American a sadist. In fact, the majority would require far less than that.
Until now, all of my stories have been about masochism. I have used various tricks to avoid discussing sadism. It was interesting to finally write about the flip side of the S&M coin.
A third theme is slavery. It might appear ironic that the story explicitly decries historical slavery at the same time that Lori has voluntarily and happily enslaved herself to her husband but I don’t see it that way. Historical slavery and BDSM games are entirely different things, even when the BDSM game is a lifestyle commitment.
Rather than detailing all the differences here, I will content myself by pointing out that Lori is not truly oppressed. In the brief moment when she thought that her husband might try to force her to perform for guests every week for economic gain, she was appalled. And would have ended her marriage. A real slave never has the luxury of saying “no”.
What is ironic is that, at the same time that the guests on the island are being told about the evils of slavery, they are being encouraged to act as the worst kind of slave masters. And they embrace the role with enthusiasm.
This story does not discuss good and evil explicitly, but I expect that any reader who wants to read it as a morality tale would not have difficulty doing so.