Review of Doc and Fluff

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A Review of Doc and Fluff: The Distopian Tale of a Girl and Her Biker

by Pat Califia

Boston: Alyson Publications

Review Copyright © 1990 by William A. Henkin

Originally published in Spectator



Doc is an archetypal diesel dyke with steel-rimmed glasses, a blonde mustache, and hair worn in "bloody little platinum spikes." Living in some near Road Warrior future when whole communities have been abandoned to eco-disaster and segregationist Laws for the Protection of Racial Integrity prevail in the Free Christian States, she helps women birthin' babies, removes bullets from bloody bodies, and generally aids people in various sorts of distress. She packs a .45, rides a 1500 cc Medusa because she secretly holds Harleys in contempt, and acts as a go-between for the all-female sensimilla-growing tribe at Harpy Farm; the all-black ice-dealing People's Revolutionary Army; the cocaine dealers friendly with the smooth Las Vegas pimp Slim; and her closest bros, the violent speedsters of the Hell's Angels, Alamo Chapter.

By her own choosing, Doc is a complete outlaw, welcome to visit everywhere, welcome to stay nowhere: "more than a guest, but less than a daughter," as the Chief of Harpy Farm says. She describes herself as "the last advocate of free enterprise in America. If it's illegal, if people want it and they aren't supposed to have it, it's my sacred duty to make sure they can have it. For a price." When Pat Califia's first novel opens Doc has just won a pussy-eating contest by making the bitch come harder and more often than the hairy, greasy man who aspires to become a member of the Angels, and then knocking him cold when he sneeringly asks how good she is at sucking cock.

Fluff, on the other hand, is


a child – a thin-faced, long-haired, large-breasted child with legs that went all the way up to Canada and blue eyes the size of the Great Salt Lake. What was she – sixteen? Oh-oh, maybe younger. And she was wearing a laced-up, short-sleeved leather dress that barely covered her butt. Her hair was longer than her skirt, curly, such a light brown that it was almost blonde.

"Like what you see?" the child breathed.


Doc does like what she sees, and even though she doesn't "relish being given orders by this baby doll" since "pretty girls don't usually take care of their toys," once Fluff has nuzzled up to her, knocked her to her knees, fisted her in the bathroom to make her come, and pissed in her mouth for the fun of it, Doc is unwilling to refuse Fluff's request for a ride out of Angels' territory.

Unfortunately, up till this moment Fluff has been the informal property of Prez, leader of the Alamo Chapter. Though he and Doc have been good buddies – "I do business with Doc. She is as close to being family as you can get without putting on colors" – by page 24 Prez has loaded his gun and set out down the highway in chase of what he believes is his, Angels and their bitches strung out behind on bikes, in vans, and in a mood for trouble.

Doc and Fluff is the story of how that trouble is resolved. Fans of Califia's short story collection Macho Sluts, of her writings in the Samois anthology Coming to Power and in The Lesbian S/M Safety Manual, of her early manifesto Sapphistry, or of her regular advice column in the Advocate will not be surprised either by the violence in this book –


Prez was laughing and wiping blood out of his eyes. He was covered with gore. The muscles in his arms were pumped, bulging with his own blood, living blood, and he punched at the ceiling again and again. "Got you," he crowed. "Bleed on me, you dead pig. If you weren't dead already I'd fuck you."


– or by the startling imagery: "Doc thought it was a hoot, having such a dangerous traveling companion. It was like having a pet hand grenade."

They will not be surprised by the raucous, ribald, and almost constant sex, and they will not be surprised that this radical lesbian S/M feminist author knows more about how and why men fuck women and each other than most men do themselves. Nor will they be surprised that this book is a rollicking good read from start to finish, or that it cannot be compared to any other book because no one in history has ever written like Pat Califia.

But they will be surprised by the explicitly spiritual turns she takes in Doc and Fluff. Like the mean, proficient top Califia is fabled to be, she starts her readers toward this untried territory gently and almost conventionally, introducing a series of High Priestesses in residence at Harpy Farm. Though she will reappear, White Owl has gone by the time Doc and Fluff ride in seeking a haven from Prez; though Raven is the current seer, the hangman's noose of silver wire she has recently made to dangle from her belt suggests she has a mission elsewhere. When that mission includes trading herself to Prez for Fluff, Moon Rabbit emerges in the form of a miracle, risen to her post from one step this side of the grave.

All the High Priestesses turn out to be personifications of the Goddess, however, who visits them, speaks to them, speaks through them, and makes several special guest appearances to people who are dreaming or dead. In Her final moments in these pages she is even recognized by her true Consort, none other than Prez himself.


He screamed at Her.

"Yes," She said wearily, "that was the first thing I ever heard you say. And we keep coming back to it."

He was naked. His sexual flesh was pointing to Her, aching, and he was furious with himself for wanting Her.

"I love you for your courage and your will," She said. "You are bold and vital. I wish everything I made had your strength and joy. Even your arrogance is beautiful. But I swear there are times when I wish I had been able to think of a way to do without you...."


Califia's position on the subject of spirituality might – might – be inferred from a brief exchange between her two protagonists as they ride up to Harpy Farm. Says Fluff,


"They think they're witches, don't they?"


Fluff laughed. "You believe all that shit?"

"You think you know everything there is to know about why stuff happens?"


Not only the Goddess, but also Alcoholics Anonymous and Addicts Anonymous show up to help explain why stuff happens in this book, and Doc gives every indication that they're needed.


Doc shuddered when she remembered one particularly gruesome night when she'd spent all her money on crank and forgotten to score a new needle. She had turned her arm into hamburger, trying to hit a vein with a point that didn't just have a burr in it, it was obviously bent. Finally she had thrown the needle on the floor and cut her arm open, then poured the white powder into the wound, pressed it shut to try to drive the drug into her bloodstream. Even as she watched herself do this, she was thinking, at least I'm not smoking ice, you get hooked really fast when you do that. Denial was a maze without a heart. You could wander in it forever.

She had gone to her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting the day she'd gotten out of jail....


Early in their association Doc tells her baby doll, "I am a survivor. If I have a choice between you and me, I will always pick me. Don't ever force me to make that choice, Fluff." Doc's heaviest binge follows her break-up with Fluff; yet, there is room for a reconciliation.

Doc and Fluff turns out to be a bildungsroman, or an "educational novel": a classic form of story in which the hero is removed from her normal world by a set of unusual circumstances, has a transformative experience, and emerges from that experience with a whole new perspective on her life. Fluff does force the choice on Doc – and Doc forces the choice on Fluff as well. In fact, nearly everyone in this extraordinarily moral novel comes through some sort of trial; some are changed, some merely tortured. As reader, your novel education can begin when you are removed from your normal world by opening this book.



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