Yupe

Professor Allan Scott is dressed in a girl's school uniform, a blonde wig, and robes, and reading a volume entitled Hogwarts: A History. He puts it down and smiles at us welcomingly through his now rather incongruous white beard.

"Yupe," he says. "A neologism built on a neologism built on a neologism. A portmanteau word of Youth and Gupe, which is itself a contraction of Guplicate, which is a portmanteau of Gu and duplicate, and Gu is a genericised brand name inspired by a word in another language. For all the apparent ugliness of the actual word "Yupe", if you look at it linguistically it has the intricacy of a snowflake."

He gets up in order to gesture more widely.

"And why do we need such a word? Because sociologically, we feel that opportunities for sexual activity should be restricted below a certain age - an age which still varies between jurisdictions, though a consensus is slowly converging on the late teens.

"In Second Life, which was one of the early virtual communities with customizable avatars, your default avatar started out with no genitals. You had to specifically buy genitals if you wanted your avatar to have some." Screen shot of Second Life avatars with genitals of various sizes and shapes. "And, indeed, Brandy and Clint also start out with no genitals; the original actors on whom they were modelled wore body-stockings. Like Ken and Barbie, they weren't anatomically correct. But, of course, the inherent property of Gu is that it can adopt any shape, and it took, I would imagine, about 17 milliseconds for someone to think 'sex doll'.

"No problem while Gu was rare, just as when the World Wide Web was only used by a few adult scientists there was no need to build it with content filters. But as Gu became widespread, just as when the Web became widespread, we faced a problem: There was content that was inappropriate for minors and no way in place to prevent them accessing it.

"Now, there are a couple of ways to address a problem like that. The early World Wide Web, for the most part, assumed everyone was an adult unless there was something to indicate that they weren't, and warned people, sometimes, when they were about to access adult content that they needed to agree that they were a legal adult in order to do so. Of course, that was completely ineffective as a content filter, and so filters had to be built into the client end instead.

"Because Gu isn't an open system owned by, effectively, everyone, but a proprietary system owned by a single company, it has more exposure to potential litigation and so it has to do a little better than that. Increasingly, its solution is to assume that you're not an adult unless you can prove otherwise - to put the burden of proof on the user - and to restrict the actions you can perform accordingly, which has led to widespread user outrage. It's really a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario - whichever path you take is going to get you criticized, and not just criticized but vilified. Vilified - isn't that a perfect word? From a root meaning 'to make vile'.

"Anyhow. Hence, Yupe - a form, or rather mode, of Gu which doesn't permit Gupes to form genitals, and in its more advanced versions detects sexualized actions and does its best to prevent them.

"Leading, of course, to an unprecedentedly massive amount of cracking activity by hormone-driven young people."

Mix through to a Clint, captioned "Teenage Gu-cracker".

"Yeah, I make a pretty good thing out of fake IDs. My dad tells me about when he was a kid - he got bullied because he was a nerd. Me, I have protection from the jocks. They're all my customers. Nobody messes with me, or next time they try to pretend to be 18 to beat the Yupe... lights and sirens, you know what I mean?" He gestures whirling police lights with one hand.

Vox pop in a characterless location, this time just with teenagers. All of them are anonymous Brandys and Clints.

A Brandy: "Everyone does it, you know? It kind of scrapes that you have to sneak around, but nobody thinks it's wrong."

A Clint: "I wouldn't do it. I mean, you're breaking two laws, one with the sex and one with the cracking, plus you're going behind your parents' backs. No, I can wait."

Another Brandy: "I just want to be a kid for a while, you know? I don't need to drink and have sex and all that adult stuff to enjoy my life, I can enjoy doing kid stuff. There's plenty of fun you can have with Gu without making out with it." She makes an "ugh" face.

A third Brandy: "I tried it once, but it was kind of creepy. I'd rather be actually with my boyfriend, you da? It's just not the same. We're careful what we do, and it's safe enough without having to use Gu."

Another Clint: "My parents don't think it's a big deal - they'd rather I had safe Gusex than unsafe realsex, anyway. And so far there's no law that says they have to make me use Yupe. I'm hoping that by the time one passes I'll be adult anyway, but... it'd be a victimless crime."

A third Clint: "There's some really nasty stuff out there - I mean, it's not just straight sex, there's a world of possibilities, and most of them... I'm not ready. I've backed right off the whole thing, trashed my files, and... I'm trying to hold out. There's kind of a fascination, though, you know?"

A fourth Clint: "This is the greatest thing that's happened to teenagers ever. I love Gusex."

Cut to a sequence from the indie comedy Bob & Lola. Bob and Lola's teenage son Tony finds a text site with a headline: "Hijacking your Dad's Identity to Beat the Yupe." Dramatic three-stage close-up on his lustful look. This is followed by a soft-filter "dream sequence" with a Gupe of exaggerated female proportions kissing him passionately on the couch, which falls backwards, obscuring the continuation of the fantasy.

Cut to Lola, later, doing the accounts. She focusses in on a line item we can't see. Her face is stricken, then angry; the light in the room dims, then flickers like lightning. She storms out of the room bellowing, "Bob!".

The viewpoint next follows Tony as he walks up to the front door, whistling cheerfully. As he opens the door, a jug flies out of the house over his shoulder and crashes on the ground behind him, and suddenly, as if the door had been soundproof, we hear an argument going on at high volume - Bob protesting while Lola shouts accusations.

Tony enters the living room to find his father kneeling on the floor, bent backwards, while Lola - who's a tiny, doll-like woman - brandishes a rolling pin in his face.

Tony: What's going on? What did Dad do now?
Bob: I didn't do it!
Lola (furious): He's having an affair with a girl your age!
Bob: I'm not!
Tony: [is stricken]
Lola: Oh, yeah? So how do you explain...
Tony (strangled voice): Mom...
Lola: Shut up, Tony, I'm about to murder your father. Bob, you weasel!
Tony (a little louder): Mom...
Lola: WHAT?
Tony (mumbling very quickly): itwasn'tDaditwasme.
Lola and Bob: WHAAAT?

Zoom in rapidly on Tony, terrified and sick-looking, then mix through to the running gag of Tony in his room, grounded, bored, bouncing a tennis ball off the ceiling. It hits him in the face. He lies back and sighs.

Back to Allan Scott.

"And sadly," he says, "that episode was based, not just on one true story, but on many. Not all of which ended so well, either, if you can use 'well' as a description of how that one ended. Like any security situation, it's an arms race, and sometimes the attackers are ahead of the defenders.

"And Yupe is not just for youth any more. Business travellers are also booking Yupes under pressure from their partners." This is in voiceover, across a stock shot of a city street with Gupes, or presumably Yupes, walking back and forth. "Religious believers are defending themselves from temptation by Yuping rather than Guping. There are rumours that in the next version of Gu, Yupe mode will be an option you opt out of rather than opting into, and that opting out will require one of the more secure forms of ID."

You are across from Serena Koslowski. "Can you confirm those rumours?" you ask.

"It's certainly something we've been asked for," she replies, "and we're reviewing the implications carefully. At this time, though, there are no immediate plans for implementation in the next release."

"But it could happen someday?"

"Oh, many things could happen someday. My advice is, don't believe everything you hear, especially about Gu. And most especially about Gusex. Lying, rumour, innuendo and exaggeration surround sex as dark surrounds night."

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2 Responses to Yupe

  1. Mike Reeves-McMillan says:

    Bob and Lola are named for my wife’s late “Uncle” Bob (actually her father’s former business partner) and his wife. Apart from the names they bear them absolutely no resemblance whatsoever.I might, if I go back and revise this, include more vox-pops earlier in the novel. They’re a good way to get a wide spectrum of opinions on an issue into a short space.It’s possible that some of the opinions may strike you as unlikely for teenagers. You might be surprised. I’m not saying they’d necessarily be widely held, mind you.

  2. Mike Reeves-McMillan says:

    Does anyone know if there’s an actual name for that cliche where the camera pulls in on someone’s expressive face in a series of three increasingly tight close-ups, accompanied by dramatic music: “Dun, Dun, Dun!”?

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