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From: "Timothy Reilly" <treilly@ozemail.com.au>
Subject: (whorl) Re: Digest whorl.v012.n106
Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2001 14:24:19 +1000

In whorl.v012.n106, Rostrum wrote in response to my question "how many gods
does a planet need"?:
> The best estimate I can make, based on my available sample of one planet,
> is thousands and thousands (Thor, Aphrodite, Molech, Baal, Allah, YHWH,
> Jesus, Shiva, Ganesha, Aura Mainyu, Cuchullin, Gaia, Isis, Ra, Brahma,
> Kartar, Thetans, the August Personage of Jade, Cthulhu...).  Some seem to
> be space aliens, some seem to be deified human beings that may or may not
> in the future take up residence on Earth, some are related to indigenous
> peoples, PLUS there's the "real" God...
A nice riposte.  I was going to write that my question was rhetorical, but
this would get us back to individual statements of religious belief...

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes wrote:
> > Are the "minor" gods of the LS whorl all originally other friends
> > etc of Typhon (eg Kypris)?
> No. The Outsider is "a minor god."
Yes, I know but is clearly miscategorised as such.  What about Quadrifons,
Thyone et al ie the "real" minor gods?

> > What does "god"' mean in the LS and SS series?
> It is a deliberately ambiguous, multivalued and multiordinal term.
> The Outsider is _not_ a god in the same sense as the Mother. Neither
> is a god in the same sense as Pas. None of these is a god in the
> same sense that Scylla-in-Oreb is a goddess. Furthermore, Pas and
> Passilk and Kypris, all in Mainframe, are not gods in quite the
> same sense.

This is what troubles me.  LS at least drew a distinction between the real
thing (the Outsider) and the computer scans of malevolent human beings in
Mainframe (called "gods" but really technological manifestations).  But TBSS
blows this out by using "god" to mean almost anything, and thereby depriving
the concept of any real meaning.  At least, I can't define what a "god"
means in TBSS.  If it can mean a space alien (the Mother), why aren't the
Neighbours (or even theoretically the inhumi) "gods"?  They're not, but the
Neighbours we're told have "gods" of their own.  We're never told the
difference even in the Narrator's mind between all these.  I could
understand if he groped his way to the conclusion that the only real god is
the Outsider, but while he often suggests this it doesn't disqualify all the
others as also being described as "gods" by him too.  One wonders what his
definition of a god is.

I don't want to flog a dead horse much longer re astral travel, but Dan'l
> Granted NEW made some handwaving attempts to offer pseudoscientific
> explanations for ... some of ... the Miracles of Severian, how
> anyone can read LONG without recognizing right up front that Silk's
> enlightenment on page one is an unvarnished miracle is quite beyond
> me.
Re LS I don't agree that a subjective sense of enlightenment that may or may
not be due to an aneurism can possibly be compared with FTL astral travel
that breaks every physical rule in the book of science.  I agree that in NS
"miracles" occurred but not anywhere near this order (at least until it
started falling apart with TUNS, but that's another dead horse that has been
flogged enough...).

Re why the Narrator doesn't at least try to astral travel somewhere he says
he wants to be:
> I think it is fairly clear, though, that it could not have
> succeeded -- Horn seems to be able to astral-travel (a) only in
> the presence of an inhum[u|a] and (b) only to places that someone
> with whome he is astral-travelling has been, i.e., to Green
> (because all the inhumi have been there, pretty much by definition)
> or Urth (because wossisface of Soldo has been there).
Exactly - even if the Narrator having been somewhere before can't count (so
perhaps ruling out Seawrack), Hoof/Hide have been to Nettle's place on
Lizard.  So he _could_ at least try to go there.  But despite all his many
protestations about his longing to be back with Nettle he instead goes
across planetary voids to nasty places like Green and Urth.  Since you
appear to agree that on some occasions at least the Narrator is voluntarily
choosing where to go, this just doesn't make sense.  Or it leads to absurd
additions to the rules that make the whole concept even more unacceptable.

> > The problem with giving characters these magic abilities is that
> > it's irritating when they don't use them (or at least try to use
> > them) in the way that would be rational given the motivations
> > they've described.
> Again, agreed in principle; the question then is whether this is
> a failure on Mr Wolfe's part (as it might be) or some clue to
> the actual (as opposed to claimed) motivations of the Narr. Given
> Mr Wolfe's demonstrated skill as a writer of unreliable narrators,
> I think it is at least worth while to spend some time (a year or
> so) living with the assumption that there is something more there
> before tossing the books aside as miswritten.
Much as I admire Mr Wolfe (TBNS is the Book of Gold for me, as for many
others), I've said before on this list that we don't need to be hagiographic
about every word he writes.  To quote alga, TBSS is not the Torah.  We know
Wolfe made mistakes near the end of TBLS in mixing up Mint and Marble.  My
impression, both from such examples and the proofreading of TBLS/SS is that
he's not as careful as he was in writing TBNS.  Certainly he clearly didn't
write TBLS and TBSS in advance, unlike TBNS.  And the number of hanging
characters (eg Master Xiphias) and events (eg the long, boring visit to the
talus factory in LS that some predicted would find relevance in SS) suggest
to me that, sadly, Homer is nodding.  As he's entitled to - he has created a
marvellous body of work and is getting on, after all.


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