George R. R. Martin doesn’t seem like the type of author to have any dark, hidden shames hidden in the reaches of his back catalog. When your best-known work is filled with incest, rape and murder, you have to do something pretty weird to shock your readers.
There is one story Martin has written that would make even his most hardened fans a little squeamish. That story is Meathouse Man, and it is, in Martin’s own words, “the darkest, bleakest, sickest, most twisted thing I ever wrote.”
That might seem like an exaggeration, but it’s not. It takes a lot to make the Song of Ice and Fire series seem innocent. A book would have to be truly messed up. It would have to be something like – oh, I don’t know – an entire novella about a guy sexually abusing dead women’s corpses.
Which, incidentally, is what Meathouse Man is about.
A Story That’s Not For The Squeamish
The story focuses on a young man named Trager, starting with his first visit the “The Meathouse” — a brothel where men use the zombified corpses of women for their pleasure. Some of these women are dead criminals, although others have been kidnapped and murdered so that their dead bodies can be sold for sex. The Meathouses surgically removed the brains from the corpses and replace them with machines that let customers control the bodies with their minds.
It’s a story that doesn’t skimp on the details. Martin goes into graphic description that’s sure to make anyone uncomfortable – even having his protagonist muse over whether the corpses enjoy it.
The plot plays out when Trager tries to fight his addiction to the Meathouses by dating real women. He soon finds that human relationships are too difficult, though, and heads back into the Meathouses, and back into using lifeless bodies for his pleasure.
The Spark of George R.R. Martin’s Dark Side
The reason the story is so dark is because Martin was trying to impress a hero. Harlan Ellison, the author who wrote the incredibly bleak I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream, asked him to contribute to a series called The Last Dangerous Visions. Martin, afraid he couldn’t do anything dangerous enough to live up to his task, explored the darkest reaches of his mind and came out with Meathouse Man.
Ellison didn’t accept it, possibly being successfully grossed out by another author, but Martin managed to get it published in another magazine.
Reviews were mixed. On one hand, an adaptation of the story was eventually nominated for a Hugo Award. On the other were the written reviews, which were a bit harsher. One, quite aptly, opens by succinctly summarizing the story with: “This is some f*cked up shit.”
The story still has a meaningful legacy. Martin credits it with letting him explore his dark side and moving away from cheap, melancholy plots. Without Meathouse Man, A Song of Ice and Fire might never have happened.
It went on to enjoy a second life, too, as a graphic novel. Jet City Comics, apparently deciding that this was a story that needed to be accompanied by pictures, bought the rights and adapted it into a comic, letting a whole new generation explore the most twisted part of George R. R. Martin’s mind.
Still, the story has managed to slip past most people’s radars. For the time being, this is a part of Martin’s past that’s been locked away in a closet somewhere, almost entirely forgotten.
That doesn’t mean, though, that Martin is ashamed of what he wrote. “It is not the sort of story that lends itself to liking,” the author has said, “but it is a powerful piece.”
YouTube Channel: The Dark Obsidian
Featured image via io9
h/t Live Journal