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the sleep of reason

by Michael Swanwick

with illustrations by
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes


77. [Plate 61]
The Apotheosis of Elena

Elena was not much of a thinker. She was by nature a doer, a corrupter, and a destroyer. But that doesn't mean she was stupid. Far from it. Her mind (not that anybody had ever noticed) was as bright as a dime.

In an idle hour, she picked up a paperback that was lying around, and started to read. It was The Second Sex. From there she moved quickly to Sexual Politics, The Female Eunuch, and The Feminine Mystique. Before she knew it, she was reading MacKinnon, Rich, Morrison, Penelope, Russ, and dozens of feminists more. It was as if somebody had lit a fire in her brain.

Contrary to what most people think, reading a book won't change your life. But reading lots and lots of books will. Elena read and thought and pondered, until finally she came up with one of those truths that are as simple as a bone, and yet always so astounding when they arrive:
       Women are people.


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So stunning, so true, so hard to accept! Women are people. Which is to say that women are... men. Female men. Nothing more, and nothing less. Which is to say they're no damned good.

Armed with this knowledge, Elena went straight to her backers, the three ancient female scientists who had created her in order to wreak vengeance upon men for their own dry and loveless lives. Eleanor, Enid, and Annaprudenzia had given her a woman's mind and body along with the heart of a man. Now she would give them something in return.

Elena told Eleanor that she was not nearly so old as she thought. She told Enid that a certain handsome grey-haired magnate had a secret passion for her. She put Annaprudenzia to bed with a hot whiskey, and then played "mother-may-I" with her until the foolish old thing no longer knew what her sexual orientation was.

And that was just the beginning.

She set the three to fighting with each other. She forced them into humiliating alliances and bitter rivalries. She elated them with hatred, and then she made them crawl. "How could you do this to us?" they cried piteously to her. "We created you! What kind of monster are you?"

"I am the New Woman," Elena declared. "Everything you gave me - property rights, sexual freedom, the vote - I take for granted. I'm not in the least grateful for them. They were there when I arrived, and they cost me not a cent. You might as well expect me to be grateful for my beauty or my intellect!"

"But we gave you those too!" Eleanor said.

"And money!" Enid added.

Annaprudenzia wept openly. "We sacrificed everything for you!"

"Tough titty," Elena said. And, standing on the backs of her predecessors, she flew into the future.


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This is the 77th of 80 stories by Michael Swanwick written to accompany Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos. For a listing of the most recently available stories, go to The Sleep of Reason.

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