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From: <akt@attglobal.net>
Subject: (whorl) Re: Digest whorl.v012.n105
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 13:28:48 

From Shellac:

> Yes, I'm very aware that I have named myself for a product made from
> insect goo (as silk is) and once used for phonograph recordings.  It's
> all rather "fannish" I suppose, but occasionally I find it amsusing.
> I used to laugh out loud at whoever it was who signed as "Sergeant
> Rock", being an occasional DC war comics fan.

I miss the Sarge. If you are still out there, could you please give us a
salute, for old times?

From Ratty:

>          Women to be picked up and dumped at will. Well, we all know
> the Odyssey is partly behind this narrative, and Odysseus was hardly a
> model of faithfulness to his wife. What is of note, though I don't
know how
> much Wolfe has thought about this, is that pre-Christian heroes like
> Odysseus don't really undergo the kind of moral transformation we have
> to expect in literature of the Christian (and "post-Christian") era.
> Odysseus does not change as a result of his descent into Hades; no
> and moral resurrection" here; and he's about as vicious at the end as
> has been all along. But both Horn and Severian are becoming better
> though not very dramatically. They make a little progress, not great
> progress. In the case of Horn, it's Silk's influence, in various ways.
>          Rape? Hey, what else are women for? Sure, MY WIFE is to be
> protected (and maybe yours also, if you're my equal), but the rest are
> game, to be used at will. That's the "ancient heroic" attitude, pretty
> much. (Though Homer was not totally blind to the problem, as the first
> of the Iliad shows.)

Ratty, while I appreciate the general tone of your screed, I have to
object to its specifics (well, you knew I would, didn't you?).
Specifically, then, not only is there no rape in The Odyssey, but women
are treated as powerful and controlling figures. There are four
important featured players, as I recall: Calypso, Circe, Nausica and
Penelope. Helen and Athena are significant background figures, while the
women he encounters at the boundary of Hades are formidable, if
sorrowful. Nausica is only a girl, but as a princess she compels
respect, and much of the story is told directly to her and her father.
No one could possibly call the other women victims. The outlook is so
feminist that Samuel Butler, in fact, speculated that the true author of
The Odyssey was a woman (Robert Graves concurred, alo c.f. Harold Bloom
and -The Book of J-). Women in the Greek plays get somewhat similar
treatment. (I hedge because this is a big subject and could be argued
for a long time; also there is the actual position of women in Greek
society, which was not so hot.) The Iliad, granted, is different, a war
story, and two women are treated as sex slaves. Their male counterparts
were slaughtered, however--plus ca change.

Let's go even further back, to Gilgamesh. At its opening, G, the king
and partly divine as well, is having his swinish way with the
about-to-be brides of the town (droit de seigneur). But, significantly,
the entire populace objects and appeals to the gods, which sets the plot
in motion. The other women of the epic, the ritual prostitute who
humanizes Enkidu, G's mother Ninsun (a minor goddess, to be sure), and
the uncanny tavernkeeper (who has a name that I've forgotten) are
treated with great respect. The *dis*respect G and Enkidu show to the
goddess Inanna is punished direly. The Scorpion Woman and Ziasudra's
wife (OK, as wives you've accounted for these) get equal billing, even
though Z's wife doesn't have a name. (Neither does Mrs. Noah.)

So I object to your thesis of Wolfe's using epic as an excuse. Epic is
more complicated than that. And I hardly think the Middle Eastern view
of women served up by the Bible--multiple wives and concubines, Mary and
Martha etc.--is more progressive. Let's not forget that Mary's
impregnation was exactly the same as that of Zeus's numerous
ladyfriends. She didn't exactly ask for it, did she?

>          Wolfe, I'm sure, is quite sympathetic to some of the concerns
> feminism. Men have very often treated women very badly, historically,
> Wolfe wants us to think about this fact.
>          Rape and also the sexual abuse of children is pretty damn
> and he's trying to deal with it. It's clear that HE does not approve
of it.
> Where traditional epics like the Odyssey might find Odysseus'
> "good stuff," and the Kalevala presents Lemmenkainen's fornications as
> humorous, it's pretty clear that Horn's and Severian's follies are not
> up for our amusement. Even in Jack Vance, though Cugel gets his
> comeuppance, his dalliances are presented as light humor. I don't
> Wolfe ever presents adultery or fornication that way. Wolfe's
"realism" is
> designed to make us uncomfortable, but I don't think his own moral
> perspective is hard to discern.

Well, I leave this up to others.

From Rostrum:

> At a minimum, Horn is at fault and bears responsibility for insisting
> Seawrack sing for him.
> But what does Horn think about the rape?  He says that the fault is
> own, and he says the song is no excuse, but he does mention it,
> wanting his readers to excuse him.  (Of course this is Silk|Horn
> Is Silk dragging an honest confession from a rapist who wants to
> himself, or is Silk finding the true cause behind Horn's attempt to
> himself?)

To have her bleeding to the point she cannot swim? Perhaps you are
excusing him too much. Until the Wooly Bug's post, I tended to do that

> And while Silk|Horn's killing of Jahlee was wrong, I think it's
> understandable, considering the danger to Nettle and the depth of
> betrayal.  In spite of Silk's contributions to the whole thing, it is
> amazing that Horn could learn to love as a daughter the creature that
> almost killed Sinew, leading to a major rift in his marriage to
> To bring Jahlee to Lizard was a huge imposition on Nettle, requiring
> to put a lot of trust in Silk and/or Horn.  It's not just Silk|Horn's
> trust in Jahlee that is broken, but Nettle's trust in Silk|Horn.

Yes, this is the point that I bump up against. Why, when so much of
these books, or this book as we might as well call it, has to do with
S/H's coming not only to terms, but coming to love as a father these
three demonic creatures--a subject I found truly enthralling and worthy
of serious contemplation--does he throw it all away so quickly? He
started way back with Quetzal, an interesting, complicated character.
The end of RttW seems to make trivial a huge investment of effort in a
really chewy subject.

From Tim, re astral travel:

> "Petty"...well it substantially decreased my enjoyment of the series,
> leads directly to the issue discussed previously as to whether Wolfe
> writing Science Fiction or Science Fantasy.  It is something of a
> disappointment to find it's the latter after the earlier books in this
> "universe of discourse" (TBNS and TBLS) suggested the former.  As I've
> before, why doesn't the Narrator try to astral travel to Seawrack or
> (the two places he repeatedly says he wants to be) once he's
discovered this
> useful ability?  The rules of astral travel don't seem sufficiently
clear to
> rule this out.  Instead he goes (involuntarily it seems) to Green, and
> seems eventually voluntarily) to Urth.  The problem with giving
> these magic abilities is that it's irritating when they don't use them
> at least try to use them) in the way that would be rational given the
> motivations they've described.

This bothered me a lot on first reading. I got over it, for sheer
enjoyment of the other worlds, but never completely--bringing it up
makes me uneasy again.

> What on _urth_ I'm talking about is that TBLS is IMHO (and not only
> clearly juvenilia by the standards Wolfe established in TBNS,
especially in
> terms of narrative style but also content.  I won't repeat discussions
> are in the archives.  Obviously such aesthetic judgments involve
matters of
> opinion.  That's mine.

I felt *exactly* the same way. And am in the archives as saying so. What
brought me around is admiration for the plot structure, which is
formidable (*unlike* that of SS, which seems, well, sloppy--complicated
but sloppy).


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