Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Ronin Reads – Artifice

Title: Artifice
Author: James Woolfson
Artist: Winona Nelson
Type: Webcomic
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance

One android gone rogue. One prisoner. An entire retrieval squad dead. This entire situation has left Deacon, a prototype military android so advanced he’s officially referred to as an “artificial person,” in serious hot water. His handler naturally wants to get the truth out of him; after all, if he claims to be such a good soldier, why did he kill the entire squad to save one man who should have already been terminated? As the story delves deeper into Deacon’s time with Jeff, the colonist that was taken prisoner, everyone discovers that Deacon may be capable of more things than just following orders… such as falling in love.

Yes, we have a science fiction gay love story on our hands, and a damn good one at that. Today’s work is brought to us by Alex Woolfson, who runs the website Yaoi 911 and produces a few webcomics featuring male-on-male romance, Artifice being one of them. His connection with the sexuality present in his story is apparent as he tackles quite a few related issues in this book with remarkable skill.

Jeff is an openly gay person trapped on his puritanical home planet of Da Vinci Four, and while Deacon was not always aware of his sexuality, the revelation throws his handler into a tirade about how it is “sick.” Of course, this could also be construed as disgust at the fact that an android and a human are making love, but either interpretation lends itself to the other as subtext.

Admittedly, it falls into a similar trap that Beauty and the Beast did, in that Deacon and Jeff’s romance can easily be interpreted as Stockholm Syndrome. Jeff did spend quite a bit of time as Deacon’s prisoner and there were some aggressive moments between the two in the beginning, so some people could find their budding relationship suspect. But I find that it works very well because, without mincing words, the two of them are absolutely precious together. Watching these two is very sweet as they really do feel like people in love, one of whom is still wrestling with this new feeling. The artwork in particular really sells Deacon processing his new and unfamiliar emotions, almost like watching a boy achieve manhood. The fact that the two are objectively pretty people doesn’t hurt either.

This story is very reminiscent of Blade Runner or Ex Machina, and not just because they feature a perfectly humanoid robot. Artifice reaches into the subject of what really separates a program from a true artificial intelligence and what their rights could be. Throughout the book, the officials insist that Deacon is to be referred to as an “artificial person” rather than a machine, yet they also refer to him as a “tool” and even his handler treats him like property. Like the aforementioned movies, Deacon’s character is questioned and tested through an interview that pushes the limits of his protocols. Artifice has a significantly different outlook on life than the other two, but to say more would give away an absolutely superb ending.

I simply cannot recommend this book enough as it embraces everything I believe the comic medium can achieve at its fullest potential. The characters and environments are rich and the situations are tense and intimate (sometimes in more than one way). I can’t help but wonder if the story would play out the same way if it were written after the national legalization of marriage equality, but it still holds up fairly well if you take that into account. Definitely a must-buy.

And if you’re the sort who gets grossed out by two guys kissing, what the hell are you doing reading my postings?

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