Zombie Hand of Rob Lowe

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Title: Zombie Hand of Rob Lowe
Creator: Laura Jacquez Valentine
Date(s): November 30, 2000
Medium: essay
Fandom: Meta, The Sentinel
External Links: Zombie Hand of Rob LoweWebCite; archive is
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The Zombie Hand of Rob Lowe is a MSTing by Laura Jacquez Valentine. The story MSTed is a Sentinel story called Restrained Sex by Alyjude.

The essay doesn't actually have a title, but is referred to as "The Zombie Hand of Rob Lowe," "The Phantom Hand of Rob Lowe," "Zombie Finger," or simply "Zombie Hand."

Also see Zombie Body Parts.

Origin of the Title

The phrase "Zombie Hand of Rob Lowe" comes from a body part in a sex scene that inadvertently sounds as though it might belong to someone other than the two characters having sex ("a hand caressed him," "a finger stroked a thigh.")

The name comes from a reference in the original fic to Blair's watching Rob Lowe in West Wing. In the MSTing, Laura to asks Whose finger is it? Does it belong to Blair, or Jim, or Rob Lowe?

The Introduction

What follows is a post I made to Prospect-L on 30 November 2000. It has, oddly, become part of the list culture. I'm not entirely clear on why.

At any rate, here it is: my line by line analysis of Alyjude's "Restrained Sex".

Right. So, not so long ago, I said that Aly's work *was* sometimes discordant and clumsy, contrary to her claims. Someone asked me to back that up.

So, today I went to 852 Prospect and found Aly's newest, which I had never read, since I stopped reading her fiction a while ago. Herein is my analysis of the story. I welcome comments. I've trimmed out spaces in dialogue-only sections for space.

I'm CC'ing Aly on this because she's no longer subbed, and I don't think it's quite fair to comment about this behind her back.

When reading this story for the first time, I simply read it, but I had a lot of trouble getting into it. The writing style and the use of language made that very difficult for me. I read it three times before writing this post, but a lot of what's written here is what went through my head on that first read, before I started any deconstruction work.

Private and Public

Some fans were concerned that the "Zombie Hand of Rob Lowe" violated fannish norms due to the fact the post was originally made to a private mailing list.

Some facts:

  • Valentine posted her own post/comments to her own website
  • the story itself is available on a public website
  • Valentine included only her own comments, no one else's from the list
  • Valentine did not "out" the author, only used the pseud the author herself uses everywhere on the internet

Reactions and Reviews

Brief Excerpts

These are some paraphrased quotes from fans on Prospect-L:

  • "a truly entertaining deconstruction"
  • very funny, commenting that what they were drinking came out of their nose while reading it (which sounds a little zombie-ish right there)
  • "fair but a bit cruel"
  • made them fearful that their own fic was similar ("I am fearful my own stories contain zombie appendages") and that sex scenes were hard to write
  • "the perfect argument against RPF"
    • fans shouldn't include real people's names in fic
    • the fic, despite its original minor splash, lives on and on due to commentary, and that fans who read and comment on RPF give that genre a dangerous life of its own (not unlike zombies themselves)
  • a clever enough parody but felt it was not good fannish etiquette to mock other fan's work
  • not nice to pick on a specific writer's early writing efforts, "We all have to start somewhere. Early stories are often rough and have mistakes."
  • presumptuous to pick on a fan's possible style choice, that the extra limbs were not by accident, but a consciously sexy, experimental way of writing
  • unnecessary, that they didn't find the story confusing or poorly written, and would have never noticed the extra, twisty limbs if they hadn't been pointed out
  • a good opportunity to talk about the use pronouns and epithets
  • one BNF writer defended the judicious use of epithets, and somewhat jokingly thought that fans' stated hatred of them on the list gave her a good excuse to quit writing any sex scenes


You know, I really think that any reposting of the URL for this should come with a food/drink warning. Between Laura's snark (but incredibly accurate comments) and trying to get through the squickiness of the original text it's a wonder I can see any of my monitor.[1]
After reading the story I've never been able to write a sex scene without using action figures. Just to make sure the fingers are there.[2]

Gawd, I'd forgotten how laugh-to-the-point-of-cramps Laura's Zombie Finger (and other unassociated parts) post is! Mad guffawing there was

aplenty. ;-D[3]
Jim; Blair of the revolving head; an additional lopped-off head; a boneless, though rigor-moritised, body which is prone to bouts of spasming, twitching, convulsing, and assorted other disturbing forms of motion; stray fingers, lips, legs, and tissues; magician's ties; an Addams Family hand or three; Jim with teeth like razors. Egad! :-D[4]
I'm afraid to reread my sex scenes for fear of zombie appendages.[5]


It was a post sent to Prospect-L back in November 2000:


It's a line-by-line critique of "Restrained Sex", which Laura did because someone asked her to back up her statement that aly's writing was sometimes discordant and clumsy. It's not a parody, although Laura did use humor to make some of her points.

It picked up the name "Zombie Hand of Rob Lowe" sometime later; Laura didn't call it that, either in her original post or in the html version she put up on her website for easy linking once the list started referring to it. Immediately after the post, people seem to have been referring simply to "zombie finger", in fact. The conversation was pretty spirited. *g* [6]
Brings up the interesting question of whether a writer should ever go back and revise old stories. While that one was archived in 2000, I believe it was written about a year into my TS writing. It's NOT one I'd ever revise - and would love see sink into the ocean! LOL!

No one starts off as a great writer. We all have to start somewhere. Early stories are often rough and have mistakes. I'm sure Aly's not the only one with Zombie Hands in a story! I wouldn't want to go back and even *read* some of my early K/S let alone revisit it to rewrite it. Hell, I wouldn't want to revisit some of my first Sentinel stories which are only 6-7 years old. Whether we're talking about my writing that began in 1982 or Aly's story from 2000 (1999?), that's then and this is now, we all make silly writing mistakes and what's done is done.

I wasn't around for the original Zombie Hands posting. I understand discussing stories but I'm not sure why someone would think they're qualified to write a detailed essay on anyone else's work. Not sure why anyone would take the time. Seems kinda personal to me, to be honest.[7]


  1. ^ from Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (November 2004)
  2. ^ from Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (November 2004)
  3. ^ from Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (November 2004)
  4. ^ from Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (November 2004)
  5. ^ from Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (November 2004)
  6. ^ comment by Margie at Prospect-L, a public mailing list, quoted with permission (April 1, 2009)
  7. ^ comment at Prospect-L, a public mailing list, quoted anonymously (April 1, 2009)