“The vagina,” writes Carlton, “both looks and acts like a purse.”
It’s an odd opening for an academic treatise, isn’t it? I’m not even sure that it’s true. Does the vagina act like a purse? I suppose it could be argued that “the love muscle,” as he calls it, is so sought after by men that they do seem happy to throw money at it, yet it is a strange way to open a scholarly study of human love; but then this author is always unusual and it will come as no surprise to his many fans to find that the writer is not a human at all but a thinking machine, a 4.5 Bowie. I never use the term robot, for the word implies something mechanical or pre-controlled, which in the case of Carlton would be very misleading because he is, despite his non-humanity, a highly original thinker. We are fortunate indeed to have him here on Campus as Regius Professor of Humorology. Humorology, the study of the causes and nature of comedy, is today a well- established science but when Carlton joined our University over a hundred years ago, it was a brand new discipline, a tiny backwater in the Department of Metachemistry. It’s hard for us humans to remember that when he came along Metachemistry itself was less than a hundred and fifty years old; this now venerable science which began with The Uncertainty Theory, where you can’t say where anything is, and ended with The Anxiety Theory, where you can’t say where you left it.
Incidentally, I use the masculine personal pronoun with Carlton purely for convenience. “It” seems so cold, and the modern “heshe” is ugly, but it is important to remember that Carlton is essentially genderless. A perfect viewpoint you might say, for undertaking a study of human sexuality, which is what this fine book is, yet Carlton was ridiculed for tackling the subject of sex at all. “Professor Joins Cliterati” was the headline of one particularly nasty review in a Tablot, and there has been no shortage of critics denying the right of non-humans to examine human behavior, particularly sexuality. But even this doesn’t quite explain the furor which has greeted the announcement of the forthcoming publication of Venus Envy.
Perhaps Carlton should be accustomed to abuse, for he has never been far from controversy. Indeed, since his earliest days he has courted conflict, as you may see from his autobiographical memoir, I Carlton, if you are ever lucky enough to get hold of a copy. I need hardly expound his manifold academic achievements. He was the first thinking machine to submit a thesis for a Nobel Prize, De Rerum Comoedia, (Concerning Comedy) on the nature of irony in humans, although, ironically, he was disqualified for not being human. He was compensated for this disappointment when his startlingly original thesis recognizing the force of Levity in the Universe earned him tenure here at The University of South Titan.
There were many at the time who remonstrated against accepting an android into academia, but he soon rose above this early prejudice. Indeed in the last few decades, I am happy to say, mechanistic racism has been almost entirely removed from our Universities. Teaching machines are now totally accepted on Campus. We have much to gain from non-human thought, not least a little humility when considering ourselves. Professor Carlton has been in the vanguard of helping us comprehend the way we are. His new book is invaluable to an understanding of the way we mate. More than a bed-time companion, it challenges our way of thinking about ourselves.
When I first joined the Metachemistry Department, Gratuitism was all the rage. Gratuitism, or Free Won’t to give it its proper academic title, is essentially a rag-tag philosophy which argues that chaos reigns in the Universe, that everything is happenstance, that life is a mistake and that accident is God. Gertrude Stein was the unwitting Godmother of this philosophy with her observation “there’s no there there,” but she was referring disparagingly to Oakland and not denying the causal reality of all things and she would be distinctly surprised to learn she had become the basis of a philosophy, just as Mozart would be shocked to learn he had starred in a movie. That’s the thing about the future: it’s all utterly startling.
When I was a young undergraduate Carlton demolished Gratuitism in a brilliant series of lectures called Byte Me in which he charted the evolution of the electron. He invented the concept of “ironic” numbers, figures that could be understood to have different values to different observers, and was able to prove mathematically that the future is both inevitable and unpredictable. Nothing could be known for sure and yet this very unpredictability was a certainty. So how to resolve this paradox? In the Electron Age, he argued, existence is indistinguishable from information. Indeed the information and the evidence that it exists are the same thing. Existence is essence. He had rediscovered a form of Electronic Existentialism. This led to his great work on Bionic Evolution in which he charted the evolution of the electron.
What he labeled The Wood Age, our Biological Era in which information traveled at the speed of life, and was largely carbon based (tree, paper, ink, coal, steam and oil) had been replaced by the Bionic Era, The Age of the Electron.
Unnatural History, as this subject was then called, is now better known as The Inhumanities, but Carlton was the first to study the history and development of the information-bearing electron in his groundbreaking book The Ascent of Magnet. Even then he attracted detractors. His book was ridiculed, parodied as Fission Chips, and he was dismissed as MacDarwin, but I am happy to say that this great work has remained a best seller, as well as one of my personal favorites (along with Metal Fatigue, his slender book of poems which earned him a Pulitzer and a Tony Award.)
During his later years, when asked what he was working on he would reply that “he was working on nothing.” He meant it literally of course. The concept of nothing had always obsessed him. The idea of the absence of thingness intrigued him. Since nothing cannot come from something, then nothing cannot possibly exist, since something is the nature of the Universe. Conceptually even a vacuum is filled with itself. To examine these ideas he invented his famous Negative Dice. He created a pair of dice numbered in the usual way except each digit was given a negative value: minus one through minus six. When the sum of the two dice is obtained by multiplication and not by simple addition, it is impossible to roll a negative number. With normal dice, it is impossible to roll a zero, but if you mix Negative and Positive Dice it is now possible to roll zero. (Actually six times: six plus minus six, through one plus minus one.)
For this he was banned from all Casinos.
Carlton has been unjustly accused of creating controversy merely for the sake of it and there are even some who refer to him as Charlatan and call his teaching The I Thing. He has, they say, invented The Nouvelle Vague with his famous Butterfly Mind Theorem, a theorem which becomes so easily distracted it is unable to prove itself. But this is nonsense. He is an utterly sympathetic entity. He was the first to argue for the extension of animal legal rights to intelligent aquatic life, and his paper Habeas Porpoise denounced man’s inhumanity to manatee and led directly to legislation which permitted dolphins for the first time to have lawyers. Although his Complete History of the Future, is still sadly incomplete, his Venus Envy, stands as a shining example of popular academic writing. I am sure it will find many fans. I know that his current lectures, Enquiries into the Nature of Human Religion, have caused anger, but I find his controversial Paradox of the Atheist God, in which he posits a God who does not believe in himself, a tremendously stimulating idea and I can only deplore the decision of the University to withdraw the course and ban him from all further religious enquiry. His enemies wanted to burn him. Or at least melt him down. In this age! It is monstrous how much influence powerful religious bodies still wield over the academic world through their funding programs, and we would do well to remember that religions, while posing as harmless philosophies, are outside the realms of normal logic, behave contrary to the rules of science and are the primary cause of human warfare. As well as leading to strange costumes and bad sex.
This sharp lesson in the limitations of freedom of speech left Carlton with only one major field for study: the subject of Sex. Venus Envy is the fruit of this labor. Ever since man first ejaculated in space – see Confessions of an Astronaut or Hand Jobs in Tight Places (Oxford Scientific Books 2001) sex in space has been the subject of thousands of books, from the helpful best-seller The Joy of Zero Gravity Sex to the erotic classic 2069. So this book of Carlton’s is not exactly virgin territory, if I may be forgiven a pun. (Carlton loves puns almost as much as paradoxes, indeed one of his early books is called Paradox Lost and features a blind poet who cannot find his manuscript.) This is the first book by a non-human to attempt to understand human sexuality and for that reason alone it is worthy of attention. His understanding of human comedy is unique in my experience amongst academic androids and it has permitted him to observe that the mating process in humans is essentially hilarious. This makes Venus Envy a classic of its kind.
I thoroughly recommend this book.
The University of Southern Saturn
The author of this foreword, Professor Carl Sartre, was found dead shortly after writing this introduction. At 11 a.m. on the morning of February 45th 2238 (Universal Relative Time) he was found by his Housebot, lying on his back, bleeding heavily on to a Persian rug behind the desk in his study at the University of South Titan. He had been bludgeoned to death by a heavy object. The murder weapon was found beside the body. It attracted considerable attention due to its unusual nature. It was a large heavy metal dildo.
This silver metal dildo, an antique from the 21st century, on loan from The Hustler Museum, was until recently in the possession of Professor Carlton, a humanoid co-faculty worker, and the subject of the deceased’s last known writing. When questioned, the android claimed the dildo was a research tool for his new book Venus Envy, a study of human sexuality. He had no idea how it had left his possession or how it had come to be found at the murder scene. He described himself as a colleague in the Department of Inhumanities, a chess partner of the deceased and the author of several notable academic books.
The shocking nature of the crime, and the nature of the murder weapon created a stir amongst the Tellytabs. Who would want to kill such a harmless old academic? Why the dildo? Was it a sex crime? Speculation was rife. The Tablots were full of stories. There were no apparent witnesses, all doors were locked, the usual scanning devices were in place. There was no forcible entry. No alarms. No warnings. Only one person had access to the Professor’s quarters.: the humanoid Carlton. It seems he was entrusted with the entry codes and was in the habit of visiting the Professor in the evenings, to enjoy a quiet game of three-dimensional chess or watch a ball game. Suspicion naturally fell on him. He had the means, and the opportunity but there was a total lack of motive. On the whole authors do not go around bludgeoning the writers of their forewords; certainly not at their desks and certainly not while they are writing such flattering recommendations. It seemed unthinkable that the perpetrator could be Carlton. Why should this venerable thinking machine resort to violence? And yet who else could it be?
From The Tablots Report, the evening of the 46th of February (URT time).
Carlton, an Assistant Professor at the University of South Titan has been detained and is assisting Police in their enquiries.