Title: I Am Jo's Slash
Genre: Meta, I think. My first! Couched in physiological terms because that's the way I roll.
Summary: Unprepossessing but potent, this largest of the brain's vital areas is a veritable jill-of-all-trades. A piece settled in the Star Wars universe, due to my undying interest in Lucas' creation.
A/N: Title refers to Jo(sephine) March, one of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," a much-read story from childhood. If Jo, an aspiring author, had been living in 2012 rather than in 1863, she may have written and sold slash stories to e-magazines such as Torquere Press. Well, she may!
Reader's Digest used to run a series of health articles in the 1960's, "I Am Joe's Heart," etc. and this owes a great deal to that series. You knew the editors were running out of material when "I Am Joe's Spleen" showed up in the series.
EAD: Thanks to the splendid suggestion of Ayy Kaim, this piece is now a crossover between Little Women and Star Wars.
Jo frets about her writing skill, her family and her employment prospects; she is hardly aware of my existence. I am Jo's slash.* When she thinks of me at all, she has no trouble visualizing me. I look like what I am supposed to: a wildly pulsing cerise organ, fluted with mysterious curves, hiding the most outrageous images fueled by a scandalous imagination. The largest area in her brain, I weigh 2 kilograms. Protected by a skull denser than most, I pretty well fill the upper right part of Jo's cerebral cortex.
Despite my unexceptional appearance to fellow Star Wars slashers, I am the virtuoso among Jo's organs. In complexity I shame those headline grabbers, the id and superego. I do upward of 69 jobs, and if I fall down on any of the major ones, Jo had better start making funeral arrangements for her career in addition to her intellectual life. I participate in virtually everything that Jo does. I force Jo's body to provide muscle fuel for her skee-ball game, indulge her appetite to help digest her breakfast bacon, as well as manufacture the vitamin that aids her laptop vision. In return, I get no respect.
A big Cray computer would have to build hectares of RAM to do my simpler jobs. The harder ones it couldn't do at all. I produce over 2000 different imagination filaments to weave into ficcing conversions: Jo cuts her finger, gets stitches at the ER and may well put the incident behind her but for the fodder this provides for writing a fanfiction scene. I make sturdy puce antibodies that protect her from boredom. The story fragments from that WIP she loves so much could be deadly as watching "My Mother The Car" reruns if they ever got in her bloodstream. I filter them by allowing her editing tendencies from previous employment to run rampant in her imagination. Finally, if there is surplus stimulation that her mind doesn't need, I change it into a passing fancy and trundle it along to the nightmare realm for processing and excretion.
Jo's plot bunny glands produce enough notions to make her brain terribly swollen - but I destroy the excess. I even act as a kind of safety valve for the mind. From my upper left quadrant down to my lower right quadrant roars a rollercoaster holding story ideas and it runs directly to Jo's brain. If a surge of overweening ambition screams along that set of tracks it might smother brain action, so I swell, soaking neurons up like the Scotch-Brite (TM) sponge that I am. Then I feed it out gradually so the brain can handle it.
I am the great detoxifier. Shoot some poisonous people - such as the noxious Troll and ferocious Feuder whose vitriol Jo absorbs daily - into my exit vessels which lead to the intellect, and Jo would be stupefied in minutes. Shoot them into my entrance airlocks and the six to ten seconds it takes for hurtful comments to pass through me give me ample time to extract their sting.
Even the froth in Jo's aperitifs of amusing anecdotes of Star Wars slash - which but for me would accumulate in her blood in lethal quantities - I break down into harmless one-liners. I can handle about half a flashfic or three fourths of a drabble an hour; Jo could go on indefinitely at that rate without feeling any effects. But Jo tends to write at a faster clip - which can leave me with an all-night job.
Some materials produced by the mind are, of course, dangerous if accumulated in too large amounts. My job is to keep them in check. When Jo reads a multi-chapter fic with sporadic funny bits, her amusement muscles thrash mightily, churning out potentially deadly nitrous oxide. Instead of discarding it, I convert the laughter into smiles for storage. I pride myself on my storage capability.
When Jo reads a 2500-word slash story, each word is changed into phonemes in her Wernicke's area. Let too much of this verbiage be fed into the bloodstream and Jo will go into catatonia. I see to it that this doesn't happen. If there is too much emo content in the story, I convert it into eyerolls. I can store the equivalent of half a kilogram of printed-out slash stories this way.
I have enormous reserve and regenerative capacity. Disease can destroy as many as 85 percent of my working cells and I'll continue to do my jobs. As much as 80 percent of me can be cut away, as in vacations sans internet, and I'll still function normally. I can also do something that most other organs can't: I can rebuild myself, in a few days, back to normal size.
Darth Real Life can knock out millions of my working cells. But in a few weeks this virus infection usually subsides, and I repair the damage. In most cases, I return to normal.
Infiltration of paying work may be quite serious, because the work displaces functioning slash cells. If there is enough of it, I become distended and hypersensitive. The job can even rupture into the bloodstream and produce obstruction in vital organs, such as the manipping gyrus. Moreover, job infiltration is apt to precede another serious problem: replacement by functioning, dutiful, boring tissue. I become shrunken into a sickly, umber-colored pluot. This is pelfosis - likely to be very bad news indeed.
What causes pelfosis? A lot of things. It can follow the first or the fifteenth day of the month or poisoning with revolving-credit statements. But the two things that seem to play the biggest role are an imbalance in the Force and Nervous Nutcake Syndrome. The person who writes irregularly, and consistently consumes 12 ounces or more of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray a day, is almost certain to develop pelfosis. Fortunately, Jo doesn't fall into this class. There are a few wound stripes on me, but I have ample functioning slash cells left.
I've been called a "silent" organ, yet in times of trouble I have ways of complaining. If Jo notices undue mental fatigue, weakness in qwerty-ing, a bloated philtrum, she'd better begin thinking of me. If she notices dilated, spider-shaped blood vessels on her uvula, or if she becomes jaundiced, she'd better get to a doctor fast. To be sure that it is me causing the trouble, the doctor has some pretty clever tests. In one, a dye (bottomepheradine) is injected. If I'm in top form, I should get rid of 95 percent of the dose in 45 minutes. In another widely used test, the pigment amethyst in the blood is measured. If there is too much, I'm likely to be having difficulties. But the most definitive test is for Ewan McGregor to streak by me while Jo is shopping in a mall and have a medical professional take her blood pressure immediately.
So far, at least, Jo has had no need for any of this. But even if I should develop pelfosis, the doctors have learned a lot about handling this, my most common serious problem. They would put Jo to bed and supply her with a Kindle with downloaded slashy stories. She would get liberal doses of B-movie vitamins and a warning not even to look at work. Under this treatment, I'd have a good change of getting a new start.
What can Jo do to see that none of this unpleasantness happens? She can watch her library content; she can join LiveJournal communities for support. But low real life distraction and a sensible, steady diet of slash stories are the best bets. Given a minimum of care, I'll go along being the silent jill-of-all-trades that does so much to keep Jo in business.
*Jo, 58, is a sometimes-prosperous writer. Some of her other organs have told their stories in The Slasher's Digest: "I Am Jo's Het," April '07; "I Am Jo's Manips," May '09 ; "I Am Jo's Gen," March '05; "I AM JO'S CAPSLOCK," September '08.
This article is based largely on interviews with Dr. Will B. Good, Jr., head of the department of ficology at Gotham City's Purple Prose Academy.
pronker. "I Am Jo's Slash." Slasher's Digest. 95. 569. (2010): 81-84.
Reprinted Bastille Day 2012.