(This is currently posting while I’m away at the last day of PAX Prime. Hopefully I’m having loads of fun and NOT being tortured! Enjoy!)
Most people will gladly tell you just how much their Monday’s suck. Some might even say that their boss tortures them in Monday morning meetings with a long list of “tasks that must be accomplished by _____.” (The blank is usually filled in with whatever amount of time would make for the most stressful week possible.) This is why readers love to escape into a great science-fiction or fantasy novel.
Welcome to the Judas Cradle or the nightwatch. It’s an Italian torture device. When certain muscles are used, the victim can’t fall asleep. Basically, a harness would lower the victim on to the “seat” with the point inserted into an orifice. The victim was tortured by intense pressure and stretching of the orifice. It didn’t always kill ’em—nope, it just tore muscles that usually turned septic. If they were lucky, it impaled them. Unlike the torture devices used in SF/F novels, this nasty creature was real. It was used on real people.
George R. R. Martin‘s pretty damn famous for being ruthless and brutal to his characters in the Song of Ice & Fire series, so why do we read it? Are we gluttons for punishment? Do we have a twisted love of watching characters be maimed and killed? Why do we enjoy torture? Whatever the reason, we devour it and beg for more. (Just see Weird Al’s song recently at the Emmy’s about how George needs to type faster). Anne Bishop has some particularly gruesome ways of torturing and killing characters in her Black Jewels series. Torture is not limited to Mr. Martin. In fact, it’s almost a staple in certain sub-genres of speculative fiction.
Despite reading novels where characters are tortured at length, there’s a buffer in literature. A protective shell that separates us from the torture and makes it less real. I can read about torture and murder in The Game of Thrones. I can read about it in The Silence of the Lambs. But show me a picture of the Judas Cradle and my stomach turns.
Or how about this one? Saw Torture. They sawed you in half. *shudder*(If you’d like to give yourself nightmares, you can check out the 10 Most Gruesome Torture Techniques from Medieval Times on io9 or just head straight to this page on Medieval torture.)
The next time you want to complain about how an author kills a character or how much your boss is a slave driver, just remember: it could be worse.
It could be medieval torture.
(Images are copyright George Dvorsky and i09 and used under Fair Use for the intent of educational purposes.)