IF Comp 2014: Venus Meets Venus (kaleidofish)


Venus Meets Venus is a largely linear Twine story about a romantic and sexual relationship (though it is very clear on not being a love story). I read it through to the end.

This is a story about a cis lesbian in her first relationship with a trans woman.

It is not making many formal experiments; the presentation is a slight variation, mostly in color and font size, from a Twine standard, and the story mostly moves forward.

It uses throughout the image of a number to represent the status of a couple. There were a few times when I felt that it strained that image to the point of being distracting. Mostly not, though.

Mostly, it’s just incredibly raw. It addresses the uncertainty of sex, the vulnerability and emotional challenge from the first date to the established relationship, the social context, the complicated feelings that the protagonist has towards activism in light of her new relationship. The protagonist’s reactions seem like they’d be hard to invent without personal experience, but there’s enough artistic structure that one doesn’t feel like it’s a pure diary entry, either.

A couple of reviewers have commented about the protagonist being “not very likable”. It’s true that she does some things that aren’t a good idea or aren’t kind or fair in the context of her relationship. More than that, though, the story spends a lot of time with thoughts that she herself realizes are problematic but is nonetheless experiencing: difficulty reconciling her expectations for what an activist trans woman “should” act like with how her girlfriend actually behaves, for instance.

These rang really true for me.

I’ve never been in a situation like this one myself, but it reminded me of being in college when it seemed like the majority of my friends were queer or questioning, and I… wasn’t. Through my friends, I was spending enough time with these issues that suddenly the heteronormativity of popular culture seemed incredibly glaring and omnipresent, in a way I now found alienating, but I didn’t qualify as queer either. I was sometimes attracted to women at an abstract level, sometimes had mild crushes, but when it came to serious feelings, I was consistently, tediously heteroromantic. I would never share the full set of experiences my friends were going through. I would never need to face down social pressure in the same way, never earn self-knowledge at the same price. I would always be partially on “the other side”, to them, in the position of privilege, tied to the system that was creating their problems. I seemed to myself comparatively boring. It was irrational, self-centered, and unhelpful. I knew that even at the time, but that didn’t make the feeling go away.

So: effective, well-written with only a couple of spots I thought might have benefited from an edit; honest and raw but at the same time accessible. A strong entry, though also one that I found very tough to read through.

Reviewed also by PaulS, Sam Kabo Ashwell, and Jason Dyer.

8 thoughts on “IF Comp 2014: Venus Meets Venus (kaleidofish)”

  1. I feel like the biggest problems in their relationship were just wanting totally different things. Macy wanted a slow, romantic relationship; to keep her secrets to herself. Lynn wanted immediacy, simple answers without wavering between “yes” or “no,” to just get out there and let the world take things as it will.

    This is something that comes up a lot in hetero relationships in the media (Macy embodied as the stereotypical woman, Lynn as the stereotypical man), and while I often see one side vilified (the “male” side is brutish and dull, or the “female” side is overly sensitive and prudish), I never see it acknowledged that they’re just two different modes of being (with plenty of variations in between), and neither is any worse than the other. I actually got a little slut-shaming sense out of this story, without the possibility of an open relationship ever even mentioned.

    Neither Macy or Lynn was wrong. They loved each other, but the things they wanted were too different, and the inevitable breakdown occurred. The trans issue was just one stumbling block that aggravated the unstable set-up.

  2. I actually got a little slut-shaming sense out of this story, without the possibility of an open relationship ever even mentioned.

    Hm. I didn’t read that as slut-shaming per se; I had more the sense that Lynn was acting in a way that violated the terms of the relationship that they agreed on, and she knew that, so her sense of guilt, and Macy’s reaction, were both coming from that place.

    1. Sorry, I should have clarified — it wasn’t the cheating that struck me as slut-shaming, but the constant condemnation of Lynn’s desire to sleep with multiple women, without any lasting emotional connection.

      1. Ah, mm, hm. I see what you mean, though this read totally differently to me than the guilt-about-sleeping-with-people in a certain other game this comp, because in this case it felt as though it was more grounded in actual personalities rather than being an announcement from the narrator.

        I can see how it could be read differently, though.

  3. Call me horrible cissexist scum, but I’m not sure why so many people say that Lynn was unlikeable. Maybe it is because the story set me up to expect the worse (It is sad beyond magnitude that society is currently set up in such a way that “not murdering her girlfriend, Macy” is a good thing and not “duh, you’re SUPPOSED to not murder people”) , but I didn’t see Lynn as outright horrible. The worst thing she does is cheat on her girlfriend and afterwards she admits to Macy that she fucked up, rather than cover it up. I’m not saying that cheating on her girlfriend was okay. It wasn’t, and Lynn herself admits that.
    But why does Lynn’s behavior seem so terrible when the rest of it doesn’t seem that different from the behavior of other people? (And I don’t know about the trans community, but I do know that in other communities, there are people who say if you’re one of us then why don’t you do anything.)
    Because we get the story from Lynn’s perspective and she outright says that she’s a bad person who doesn’t deserve such a wonderful woman as Macy, it seems like the reader/player gets a skewed perspective where Macy is always in the right and Lynn is always in the wrong. But these kinds of things happen in relationships. And “Venus Meets Venus” isn’t a love story so much as it is a relationship story.
    It was a really good, very strong work with emotion, personally I didn’t find it to be a tough read but maybe that’s because I knew that if I put it down it would be hard to come back to and I needed to make sure that Macy was going to be okay, and it’s a shame to know that it probably won’t score very well for not being “interactive enough”.

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