Readthroughs and Random Thoughts

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Mind Fuck, Manna Francis; Chapter Thirteen

Chapter thirteen starts with Toreth’s meeting with Tillotson, and they’re negotiating salaries for Toreth’s team. Here, we get to see another side of Toreth which I love but haven’t seen discussed that much—he’s a good boss. I guess it goes with his strong work ethic, but he’s both good at what he does and good at seeing the potential in, and harnessing the talents of other people in his area, and when they’re good, he advocates for them. Throughout the series it’s something he both does well and which seems to evade the attention of a lot of others (except Sara) until a crucial moment.

Anyway, Tillotson is a complete bureaucrat and wants none of this, and for everything to be organised as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Toreth wants people recognised and paid to their abilities, and he advocates for workers who’ve been good to him.

“Mistry. I’m sure she’s a good enough investigator, but a promotion to level three and a third of the way up the pay scale? I don’t see any outstanding cases credited to her.”

“She’s very sympathetic.”

Clearly, Tillotson, too, has no idea what Toreth’s team actually get up to or their skill levels or abilities. Thankfully, he does.

Yet again, this is one of those moments where I am stunned into disbelief at the sheer accuracy of the writing here… I think this is the upper-management of every government department ever.

“Sympathetic?”

Look it up in the fucking dictionary. “Yes. She’s good with people. Witnesses, particularly. People tell her things they didn’t mean to, and it all adds up. If the witnesses don’t talk to someone, we don’t get any evidence, and then we don’t close any cases. Unless you’d like me to run a lot more witness interrogations with damage waivers and all the rest of the trimmings.”

Oh, Toreth.

The hilarious thing about this—other than the fact that he’s right—is that this ability to negotiate like this comes from his work and training… the same which Tillotson seems perfectly oblivious to. And by this point, even if Tillotson realises that Toreth has the upper hand, there’s sweet FA he can actually do about it, unless he wants to just be petty and needlessly power-trippy, because as Toreth has pointed out: having Mistry working her magic means that time and money are saved and potential drama is averted.

And when Tillotson asks why level increase is needed, he spins a bit about how she’s been headhunted by another department who are offering her nicer benefits including a housing upgrade. And backs it up with “Sara checked it out.”

“Hm, why does she want to stay?”

Because I’m not as much of an arsehole as you and most of the others here. Toreth smiled. “She likes me.”

“Oh. Maybe we should let her go. Then CF can pay for the psych discharge.”

He laughed politely. With Toreth’s reputation, most people would’ve come up with a different comment. However, Tillotson’s mind didn’t work like that. As far as Toreth could tell, it was mostly filled with numbers and division politics, with people existing only in relation to the wages they cost, the expenses they submitted and the kudos they generated. Sex had no budgetary implications.

I love this meeting SO SO SO much. Firstly, the inner-workings of I&I fascinate me. Like the broader world of the Administration, they’re so close to real that they’re very easy to relate to and understand, and they’re written with a sense of fun, and… detail. Also, I love what Manna does with dialogue: each of her characters has a very distinct voice, even the ones who could have very easily been background props.

Then there’s the fact that I&I runs like a lot of government departments in that everyone there is a bit screwy in their own way. I&I obviously attracts some extremes given the nature of the work, I guess: you get the number-obsessed govi types like Tillotson who have a hard time getting that people are actual human beings rather than just spreadsheet names, and then you get the Toreths who have a hard time getting that people outside his immediate concern aren’t just vessels containing information pertinent to the cases he’s sorting out.

It’s kind of how I imagine working for ASIO to be: not full of super-slick, sky-high-IQ agents, but full of ordinary-ish people who are obsessed with their jobs and quite isolated by them, misunderstood, misrepresented and treated with suspicion from the general public, and who were a little bit different to begin with, hence them being attracted to the job—and getting hired to begin with—and probably, after a few years there, being a little bit more different.

(Not that I ever have worked for such an agency or know anyone who does, btw. This is all speculation, so if anyone thinks I know too much, I actually don’t. 😉 )

Anyway, Toreth basically bargains with Tillotson, scoring Mistry a bigger pay increase than he’d initially aimed for for the “loss” of the housing upgrade he’d mentioned, and gets others on his team similarly sorted.

Tillotson then asks how things are going at SimTech and mentions that Legislator Nissim has been asking what’s going on, while he’s still thinking that it’s simple tech!fail and not really I&I’s case. But Toreth doesn’t believe that the wiped security records and the sim killing people due to tech!fail happened coincidentally.

“I’ve had memos inquiring whether it wouldn’t be better to take the case out of your hands.”

From whom? Nissim? Departmental friends of the Tefferas? Suddenly cold, Toreth sat up straighter. “I beg your pardon, sir?”

Tillotson smiles sourly at the unusual politeness. “I told them you were my best senior, and you have the best—or at least the most expensive—team. So I suggest you get out there and start justifying this.” He gestured irritably at the screen.

Toreth stood up, his stomach still fluttering from the shock. “Yes sir.”

You actually have to hand it to Tillotson in a way. He’s not entirely incompetent when it comes to dealing with people: he can motivate his staff.  Sort of.

And you have to hand it to the slickness of the writing there. Such a subtle little thing which could have not been detected, huh?

Later on, at Toreth’s flat, Sara is commenting on his lack of homely surroundings. To be less polite about it: Toreth lives in something of a mess. Not really having a need to keep the place (which, to be fair, sounds tiny, and tiny living areas are hard to keep clean, dammit) clean since it’s only ever him and Sara (who he doesn’t feel the need to impress because she accepts him regardless of his flaws) in there anyway, he’s left it become overrun with pizza boxes, exercise equipment, and clothes. This used to be my bedroom situation, only there were ashtrays and lots of bits of paper and books and cosmetics involved as well, so I’m rather sympathetic here.

Tidying up, because that’s the sort of relationship Sara and Toreth have, Sara points out that he should probably hire a cleaner, but Toreth doesn’t like that idea: he doesn’t want strangers going through his stuff.

It’s an interesting little insight into his character: I assumed initially he’d be kind of anal-retentive (as I assumed Warrick would be as well) but I suppose work and other out-of-home activities consume his life and he’s not really a homebody who’s into cooking food so he wants quick-and-easy stuff which means “pizza,” and well, stuff accumulates and mess happens. Like I said, it’s really easy for a small space to become a pigsty.

Anyway, over the mess— and then dinner (Thai takeaway)—they talk about work, which leads to Toreth’s experiences with the sim, and then… Warrick. Clearly they have an awesome, affectionate buddy relationship, with Sara laying her head in his lap in a completely non-sleazy manner while he recounts what happened.

When he’d finished, Sara helped herself to another beer and said “Does Tillotson know you screwed him?”

Toreth, of course, has handled this like a boss.

“Fuck, no. I fudged his alibi to ‘with a lover, confirmed by surveillance and interview.’ Identity concealed on request, not relevant to the case, et cetera. I got a security recording of him going in and out of the RC so I’m in the clear. Tillotson never wants to upset corporates, so he won’t ask who it was.”

Perfect, isn’t it?

Sara then asks what he was like, to which Toreth explains that he was good, especially since he’s new to “this sort of thing.”

“I didn’t know you did that kind of thing.”

“Sometimes.” He shrugged. “Not very often.”

“Can’t find someone to do it with?”

“No, that’s not a problem. Good tops are hard to find.”

She laughed at the immodesty. “And you’re good, are you?”

“I’ve had compliments.” He leered down at her. “Want to find out?”

It wasn’t a serious question and Sara didn’t take it as one. “I don’t do kinky. So why don’t you do it more often?”

That’s one thing you have to hand to Toreth: all his issues aside, he’s probably one of the more well-adjusted characters in anything ever regarding his sexuality. He’s refreshingly honest and straightforward. He sees sex as something to do for enjoyment; he’s kind of hedonistic about it but he’s open and not weird about anything and there’s nothing personal in it for him. (Something which has probably helped him not have much weirdness on his part after that encounter with Sara.)

And if his work ethic extends to his performance, he’s probably quite good at it, too.

Anyway, he explains to Sara that he’s not into the BDSM thing because of the whole social scene (which cracked my shit up because I haven’t read this book in ages and had forgotten about this conversation and I remember making that last post about Shades referring to real life scene people and some of their, um, interesting behavioural funtimes). In addition, Toreth doesn’t really like the lack of spontaneity which comes with the scene and its players when everything is spelled out by participants beforehand. Which on one hand is understandable, I guess. For the fantasy aspect, I guess.

On another hand, it just screams so many types of wrong—and potential for Really Fucking Bad Stuff to happen— that it’s scary. Until you remember that, in his own funny little way, he and Warrick have sorted out safewords and somehow managed to get things in motion without overly long discussion. Like a lot of things about Toreth, he looks a lot scarier with just the facts than the whole package, I guess.

I still don’t think he’s anything near as terrifying or awful as Christian Grey, though, and after reading this chapter and then the next chapter of Shades, I’m still wanting crossover fic where Toreth either winds up seducing him or interrogating him. (I’m not picky. Either—or both— would be awesome.)

Toreth admits that “respectable corporate guy” as they’re calling Warrick at the moment, doesn’t have a list of likes and dislikes, and that’s a big part of the appeal, and suggests that he’ll learn and come up with one.

“You’re going to do it again, then?” She sounded mildly surprised, as well she might. Toreth had rather surprised himself at SimTech when he had arranged another real-world meeting with Warrick.

“Yeah, I am.”

“Not while the investigation’s in progress, though?” Then her eyes narrowed. “You didn’t screw him again already?”

“A couple of times.” He finished the bottle. “And I’m seeing him tomorrow.”

“Oh, Jesus. Tillotson will blow a fuse if he finds that out.”

“He won’t. Warrick’s not going to tell anyone.” He tapped her on the nose with his beer bottle. “And it’s not going to get onto the network, is it?”

So here we get to see that while he’s normally professional and sensible… he’s taken two major risks: he’s trusting Warrick to remain true to his word—and he’s continuing to see him—and he’s trusting Sara to keep her mouth shut about it. And given how well Sara knows him, this must be such a weird exception for Toreth that she’s probably wanting to say something—but she can’t. And maybe Toreth does have training and an ability to work out who’s going to be more likely to keep secrets than most—but given things like his concern that a cleaner would go through his stuff, and other small hints that he’s not really a sharer when it comes to him and the rest of the world, these aren’t exactly insignificant things for him.

Even when he makes a bare hint by leaving a suggestive opening in the conversation about the time he and Sara had sex—he’s both dying to find out (and from my angle, it’s almost like he’s hoping she does remember and still likes and cares about him in the same way regardless—it’s a weird little test from him) if she does remember—and still scared that if she does, it will ruin things between them—it’s a rare, intimate risk that he’s taking. And it’s significant because of who’s involved. If Sara was no one, it wouldn’t matter. But she’s… Sara.

And she changes the subject.

“You know, I never thought I’d see you of all people getting into an interrogator junkie.”

“A what?” Toreth blinked, distracted from his fishing expedition. “No fucking way!”

I was giggling at this one; it’s another little so-typical-it’s-believable thing in this world. Think about what uniforms and power or authority do to people: there are people who have a thing for cops. Or military people. Or firefighters. Or… you get the impression. (Funnily enough, I think the uniform/career fetish thing applies to just about anyone in a work-related uniform except for retail workers. But then again, retail workers don’t have the sort of power or authority that just about every other uniformed job has with it, right?)

And yeah, folks, FetLife’s confirmed that there are interrogation junkies, who seem to bear some resemblance to Manna Francis’ fictional ones. Some of them seem to have a—I wouldn’t quite call it romanticised, but it’s kind of glorified, I guess—idea about interrogators, and some of the arguments about how t0 recreate accurate or realistic settings for roleplay kink have cracked my shit up or scared the hell out of me. (Protip: talking about doing away with safewords because they don’t use them in Guantanamo Bay is probably a bad idea. It’s probably kind of hazardous to try waterboarding at home. And seriously, there are some people who get a bit too into the specifics of “how to break someone psychologically”  under the guise of sexual roleplay. …I suppose the idea of people getting off on doing this stuff in real life is even creepier than the idea of people just doing it because they believe that the ends justifies the means and that it’s a necessary evil. Or maybe that’s just me.)

“No?” She arched an eyebrow. “Screwing him with his arm up his back? Sounds like it to me.”

“Bollocks does it.” Taking the piss was one thing; this was something else. “Do I look that desperate for a fuck?”

*snort* So that was Toreth’s problem? The idea that he would take advantage of that and have to rely on that to get sex? I love it: in a way, it’s again about his work being a big part of his identity, which is, underneath his sometimes casual attitude about it, something he takes very seriously.

“You should be careful with him, that’s all.” Toreth couldn’t tell whether she was serious or not. “Next thing you know, respectable corporate guy’ll turn up outside your flat with your name carved in his chest. Remember Helen the psycho stalker?”

Oooh. Interesting, and dammit, there is stuff I want to say right now but won’t, though did anyone else catch a hint of concern from Sara there?

“Oh, fuck yes. Thanks for reminding me.” Toreth opened a new beer and downed half of it, trying to wash away the faint embarrassment the memory always stirred up.

Again, interesting. He clearly likes attention from sexual partners, and takes pride in his prowess, but he doesn’t want it because of what he does, and he doesn’t want it from the vulnerable and crazy. Now, if this was a certain other bad dude I’m reading about…

It was a well-known rule at I&I that anyone who went through a genuine high-level interrogation and came out the other end wanting to fuck interrogators was guaranteed to be certifiably nuts. Of course, he’d insisted on learning that lesson the hard way.

(And this is the bit where, you just go “WTF HAPPENED?” because dammit, that is shit we the readers need to know.)

“He’s nothing at all like her,” Toreth said. “Exactly the opposite, in fact. Doesn’t even want to hear about it. He’s…” Not a junkie. Not a typical submissive.

(Yeah: hell no. Can we say topping from the bottom, ladies and gentlemen? Also, randomly on this: this is something that there should be a whole lot more of in fiction. Because it’s way more complex and interesting and it doesn’t make all the hideous mistakes that certain other writers do when they make their submissive characters simpering idiots who are rather ambiguous about being submissive. I’ve only seen two examples of this done really fucking well and explored in depth: one is here, and another was in a particular Ace Attorney fic.)

Toreth thinks about him a bit more, and then considers the fact that he’s gone back for subsequent sexual encounters with Warrick which is another thing that makes this such an odd situation—and assures Sara that Warrick doesn’t know where he lives.

Even though, when you consider it—and interestingly enough, it’s something Toreth hasn’t told Sara—he easily could find out. So even though they do have a close relationship—probably closer than anyone else Toreth interacts with—he still has his stuff that she isn’t privy to.

I fucking LOVE this chapter, by the way. This is the stuff that makes you want to meta and psychoanalyse everyone and have theories and see other peoples’ theories about character’s personalities, and just, yeah. God I love this stuff. There is so much going on here, but it’s all so cool and subtle.

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12 thoughts on “Mind Fuck, Manna Francis; Chapter Thirteen

  1. KBInSantaMonica on said:

    Long time reader, first time poster here. I want you to know how much I am enjoying your analysis of Mind Fuck, and to thank you for your efforts. I have read entire series a few times but I have never done this sort of deep dive. Actually, I have never done a deep dive on any sort of literature. I was a math major in college so I could claim that I don’t have the tools or training to do so. But I do know enough to recognize that The Administration is special, and this is helping me understand why. Toreth, Warrick and whole TA universe sticks with me in a way that very few books do. I am now giving the chapters a nice thoughtful read in anticipation of your posts. This evening I was reading chapter thirteen while walking my dog. As soon as I finished, your post popped up in my email, what a happy fluke.

    • Readthroughs and Randoms on said:

      Aw, thankyou! I love the series and after reading it every time have just longed to have people to discuss it with… because there is *so* much going on IMHO. (And RL friends of mine are sick of hearing me fangirl like a crazy thing).

      >>> Toreth, Warrick and whole TA universe sticks with me in a way that very few books do

      SO MUCH AGREED. 😀 For me, Toreth is one of the few characters in *anything* I’ve felt any sort of similarities with (which explains my rather obvious bias, I guess) but I love a lot of the others just as much… even the background characters are interesting and awesome. 🙂

      Manna Francis has done something amazing for the world. I just wish more people could see it. 🙂

      And thankyou for joining in! I look forward to discussion with you now! 😀

  2. Cyn on said:

    Oh, NICE. Toreth’s breaking his patterns in a big way with Warrick. He’s fucking the same guy more than once; he’s screwing a witness on a case; he’s falsifying (or at least fudging) evidence. But he doesn’t really stop to think about it until Sara calls him out on it.

    I honestly think Toreth could’ve gone on fucking Warrick indefinitely without giving it a second thought if not for Sara, who serves as an important plot device here by making him acknowledge that there’s something more than his usual one night stand going on here. He has several of these epiphanies in the series, with various characters playing the catalyst role — Dillian, Carnac in his own way, and Warrick himself on several occasions. Each one of these epiphanies shakes Toreth up, jolts his world, and sparks the character development that makes him (and not Warrick) the true protagonist of the series.

    But at this early fragile stage, it was Sara who pointed out the obvious. She was the only one who could. And, notice how awesome their relationship is, because she asks him the hard questions without panicking him, freaking him out, judging him or making him lash out at her — all of which shows that she knows him REALLY well, because this is the sort of thing that would make even most normal guys freak out a bit. You can just see the wheels turning in Toreth’s head at this point.

    As for Warrick, I think the whole discussion of interrogator junkies is interesting. Warrick’s clearly not one, not in the psycho Helen sense anyway. And yet… he is one in another sense. He doesn’t want to hear about I&I, but he gets off on the handcuffs, on the edge of danger, on the fact that Toreth, by virtue of physical strength and training, could hurt him. He clearly loves the way that Toreth can read and gauge his responses, can anticipate his needs and wants and top him physically and psychologically. And he’s too honest with himself to pretend that he’s not fully aware of how Toreth developed and honed his skills. And he gradually becomes addicted to it, to Toreth, in ways that even he admits aren’t entirely healthy. He’s horrified by what Toreth does for a living, but some part of him wants it. (Witness the scene in a later story, where Toreth accurately guesses that Warrick’s big fantasy involves Toreth ignoring the safe word and going too far — something Toreth would never actually do, and something Warrick has too much sense to want in real life too. But he still fantasizes about it.) If that’s not being an interrogator junkie, I don’t know what is.

    But Toreth, who is never anything but professional about his work, can clearly take or leave the domination/submission element of their sexual encounters, at least at this stage. He clearly doesn’t top much during casual sex, for one thing. And at this point, it’s a game to Toreth; he figures out what Warrick wants and then gets off on the ability to “solve” him, to deliver (or not, as he sees fit). He doesn’t seem to need it the way Warrick does, on its own merits, for purely sexual purposes. And so he can be genuinely taken aback by the notion that Warrick’s only after him for his uniform and torture techniques.

    • Readthroughs and Randoms on said:

      YES! I LOVE Toreth’s epiphanies, too… even some of the really painful ones. What I love too, is how stuff that would probably not seem like such a big deal to a lot of people IS a big deal because it’s *Toreth* we’re talking about here. The fact that even he’s noticed that he’s returning to Warrick *again* and can realise it’s out of the ordinary for him means that it’s pretty damned massive stuff we’re talking about here.

      For me, I think the point where whatever Toreth was feeling for or thinking about Warrick became significant was at the end of Chapter Twelve, where he finds himself smiling after Warrick’s walked away and essentially beaten him at the game again. It’s such a tiny, almost insignificant thing… but for Toreth, it’s not.

      she asks him the hard questions without panicking him, freaking him out, judging him or making him lash out at her — all of which shows that she knows him REALLY well, because this is the sort of thing that would make even most normal guys freak out a bit.

      I love their relationship. And a HUGE part of that comes down to Sara: she knows how to work with Toreth really well (again, it’s something that makes you see why people think she’d be suited for para work) to make him feel safe and comfortable enough to be able to reveal this stuff. And he needs it, whether or not he realises that– and he appreciates Sara in a thoroughly awesome fashion (OMFG, Control) whether or not he’s particularly skilled at demonstrating it in a way most people would consider normal.

      In a way, I guess Warrick’s fascination with Toreth is to do more with the power aspect: he wants the risk. But he doesn’t have any delusions about Toreth’s job… and he realises that Toreth isn’t exactly getting off on what he does and that it’s not personal for him. I see Warrick as more someone with masochistic tendencies who’s happened to find someone whose skills are compatible with what he likes sexually rather than an interrogator junkie.

      it’s a game to Toreth; he figures out what Warrick wants and then gets off on the ability to “solve” him, to deliver (or not, as he sees fit).

      YES! That’s one thing I LOVE about Toreth: for him, so much of what he does is about cracking people, and that’s something he gets to do professionally and that he does just for the sheer interest factor. I completely *get* why Warrick is so damned appealing to him, especially if when he’s “cracking” people for work and he knows at one point or another they’re going to break, and he basically finds one who *doesn’t*.

      And so he can be genuinely taken aback by the notion that Warrick’s only after him for his uniform and torture techniques.

      I can imagine working at I&I would come with a lot of suspicion towards outsiders and their perceptions of you and what you do. Interestingly enough, though, it’s noted a few times that Toreth is attractive (and that he has a great body) yet he seems to relish compliments and attention for his appearance… but not so much like that for his appearance as a para. It’s just a nifty little quirk within him, and to me shows that he’s *really* serious about his job.

      Another point on this as well: there’s a clear class divide between say, an I&I officer and a corporate, too, and that adds something as well, I guess, and probably puts up defenses with someone like Toreth.

      • Cyn on said:

        Oh, absolutely. That class divide exists in much the same way today. A corporate CEO and a cop (cause, well, that’s basically what Toreth is) don’t tend to mix in the same circles. Sure, SimTech ain’t exactly Google or Wal-Mart, but you can understand why Toreth feels a bit out of place; Warrick isn’t the type of guy he’d be likely to meet in one of the bars he frequents.

      • Readthroughs and Randoms on said:

        Since Toreth is a senior para-investigator, and he manages people and has the capacity to advocate for them to be moved up classifications, I’m guessing he’s about a “level four” in a civil service capacity. Which wouldn’t mean he’s doing particularly poorly for himself, but he works hard for a fairly middle-class income. (Though I have this headcanon about Toreth coming from a lower-middleclass household… I’ll probably elaborate a bit more on that further down the track).

        Warrick on the other hand…? I’d think his salary would look something more like what, say, a small business doing specialist work– say, pen. testing or something– would be on. So like you said, he’s not exactly Bill Gates or Zuckerberg, but he’s a fair hike up the food chain from Toreth. And that HUGELY changes the power balance, too.

        (It also brings out a sense of stubborn pride and refusal to be “bought” in Toreth later on, and I can only imagine how distasteful he’d find the idea of being treated like– or feeling like— a fetish-for-hire.)

        Funny: when you think about it like that, there’s YET ANOTHER similarity the series shares with Shades, only its handled well and reasonably here, and completely ignored in Shades.

      • Cyn on said:

        I’m not sure what “level 4” means in real terms — is that an Australian or British thing? But yeah, I share your headcanon about Toreth. He strikes me as someone with something of a chip on his shoulder about wealth and privilege, which, yeah, is pretty common to working class job cultures like police or civil service, but is also probably very justifiable given the stuff that Toreth encounters in his job every day. After all, he knows better than anyone how the law is selectively enforced and how the privileged are above it. But some of that probably stems from his childhood and background, too.

        It’s interesting that “corporate” is an actual tangible thing in their world. It’s a status that can be bestowed — or stripped — but that offers a lot of protection. In our world, we might assume someone gets privileges based on money or celebrity, but there’s no actual designation. In the Administration’s world, there is actually a corporate designation that brings certain institutionalized and formalized privileges along with it.

        And I wonder about Warrick sometimes. After all, he founded SimTech in a basement, was sort of the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of the Administration world (before they became uber-successful), having worked for it based on an idea that he had. He wasn’t born into corporate privilege. Or was he? After all, it’s mentioned more than once that Dillian has corporate status too, which I doubt would be granted to engineers unless they had some sort of inherited status. Also, Warrick’s family – erm, well, no, I won’t spoiler that one. But it is interesting how comfortable he seems with corporate circles. You don’t get the sense that he feels out of place, or like he has something to prove — what would once have been referred to disdainfully as “new money”. You get the sense that he doesn’t abuse his privilege but he’s aware of it and is comfortable with it, as though he’s grown up that way. Which, again, is hard to figure given what we know about his family.

  3. Allie on said:

    Thank you for these commentaries, which I found via the mannazone site. (I’m mostly skipping over the Shades stuff because I haven’t read the books, and don’t intend to, even for the sake of your snark.)

    I think Ms Francis may have been a UK civil servant, and it shows in both the bureaucratic details and the wider political structures she has created.

    I love that this chapter starts with Toreth arguing for a housing upgrade for his staff and ends in the tiny chaos of his own staff housing – he doesn’t seem to have applied for his own housing upgrade. Is this because he doesn’t care, because he is not used to better, or because he is externalising a feeling of not being worth better?

    I was interested that you said that Toreth is well adjusted about his own sexuality. It is clear later in the series that sex with strangers is something he runs away to when things get emotionally difficult. I wonder whether sex is the one thing which didn’t get messed up for him during his upbringing because any mention of it was wholly omitted, and this enabled it to become his emotional security blanket.

    • Cyn on said:

      Not wanting to give away spoilers, but sex is something that *definitely* got messed up for Toreth in his upbringing. (Read “Gee” if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) And yes, I agree, he definitely uses sex with strangers as a crutch when things get emotionally difficult, though I would argue that it’s a sign of him not being well adjusted in that area.

      I think what this referred to was specifically his sexual orientation in the male/female sense. Toreth is obviously very comfortably bisexual, and has no issues with that part of himself. Of course, the society in which he lives probably has as much to do with that as Toreth himself. Gay, straight, bi, whatever… it’s all No. Big. Deal. in Manna’s fictional future, which I think is probably very realistic considering how much attitudes about that sort of thing have changed even over the past fifty years or so. It’s certainly plausible (and encouraging) to think that prejudice against gay people will basically disappear over the next couple of generations.

      I also think that more people in Manna’s universe seem to be bisexual or have more fluid sexualities as opposed to identifying as “straight” or “gay”. I think this is also pretty plausible; if we get to a point where sexuality stops being a political label or a badge of identity, people might feel more comfortable being wherever they happen to lie on the spectrum, rather than putting so much stock in being either-or. There are some people in the Administration universe who are pretty clearly straight (like Chevril or Sara), and there are others who seem to be pretty clearly gay (like the colleague of Warrick’s that gets Toreth so jealous at the party … her name escapes me at the moment) but it seems pretty reasonable to assume that plenty of other people have come to the conclusion that sexuality is fluid, situational, and not so black and white. And since society is accepting of this, they don’t have to grapple with it so much as they’re free to just be who they are.

    • Cyn on said:

      By the way, this is a spoiler (so don’t read ahead if you haven’t gotten here yet, because this won’t be as rich without the payoff). But your comment made me think of what is quite possibly one of my favourite lines in the entire series, from “Then and Now”:

      Toreth at fourteen, learning lessons about sex and control while Warrick had been exploring the power of imagination and discovering that all it took for people to believe was an illusion that felt good enough.

      And if that doesn’t encapsulate them perfectly, I don’t know what does.

  4. Just out of curiosity, but which AA fic were you thinking about?

    • Readthroughs and Randoms on said:

      The one that I was thinking of was the Porn Train series (by Red on A03 if you haven’t seen it) where there’s a submissive-but-cool-with-it Phoenix and a rather hesitant-to-be-dominant-but-doing-so-for-Phoenix’s-sake Miles, though thinking about it now, I guess Cup of Tea, easily one of my favourite fics from that fandom (and by the writer of my favourite piece of fanfic EVER) would fall into that category, too.

      Actually, Ace Attorney fandom generally does a decent job with BDSM fics. I can think of a few exceptions (which I won’t mention because I’m not really into picking on fic writers who are possibly still learning and who don’t have, say, a publisher and editors to proofread and all the rest of it), but on the whole, the AA people do a decent job with BDSM.

      Actually, one of my other Administration-loving friends was someone I met in AA fandom. Now I’m wondering if I actually know you. 🙂

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