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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: RE: (whorl) Fallible Narrators and Even More Fallible Copyists:
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001 15:32:28 

Jerry Friedman wrote:

> Whether skeptical explanations sound contrived and
> improbable is important when evaluating putative
> sacred texts (if that's something one is interested
> in).  In the Long/Short Sun books, I think the
> important thing is that that those explanations are
> literarily pointless (unlike the ambiguity in _A Case
> of Conscience_, which is a large part of the point).
> It may be mildly amusing for us readers to note that
> a fictional reader on New Viron is in much the same
> position as a reader of the Gospels, but I don't think
> that means we readers get anything out reacting the
> same way as someone for whom the truth of the
> narrative is important.

While you're right, you are right in a way that, well,
sort of misses my point. The issue here is _not_ how a 
hypothetical Bluish reader might respond when faced with 
the Books of Silk and Horn; the issue is how _we_ respond 
when faced with the Books of the Suns of Various Lengths --

-- specifically, the question "How the hell are we supposed 
to know what actually _happened_?" How are we to make 
(narrative) sense of this welter of provenances and possible 
provenances, this scribbling of narrators and editors, 
interpolators and (maybe) copyists, any one of whom _may_ 
be almost-arbitrarily unreliable?

Taking my hypothesis for truth, for the moment: Wolfe is 
enabled to do this precisely because his texts are located 
at a peculiar node of the textus of Western culture, a time 
when the authority of narrativity has been somewhat-
successfully challenged by relativistic narrative, 
unreliable narrators, subjectivism, and postmodernity; but
he is writing within a narrower tradition (science fiction)
where the objectivity of narrative has remained relatively
unchallenged. Using the tools provided by the larger 
cultural movements, he is writing, for an audience who
expects narrative to narrate an objectively-consistent
and determinable series of events, in such a way that the
seriese of events may be objectively consistent, but
whose objectivity remains beyond the grasp of that audience.

No. Let me take a step back from that position. It is much
easier to imagine a reader who accepts the events at their
face value, and believes that she has thus grasped the
objective flow of events, than it is (for me) to imagine 
one who believes that Crane's hypothesis is a plausible
(plausible from our, outside-the-narrative, hypothetically-
objective, standpoint) explanation of Silk's enlightenment.

But I believe that this would be a fairly unthoughtful 
reader, and not one likely to be a great fan of Wolfe's.

My point (All together now... "and I do have one") is that
the position into which Wolfe places _us_, vis-a-vis the
events which hypothetically underlie the LONG/SUN books, 
is homologous to the position in which an engaged and
thoughtful reader, even a skeptical one, finds herself 
when vis-a-vis the events which hypothetically underlie 
the Gospels -- "Layer 1 of Gospel formation," to use the
RCC terminology: the actual events, _whatever they were_,
that occurred in Judaea and the surrounding area ca. 
4BC-33AD. (That "fairly unthoughtful" reader, in fact, 
would be in a position homologous to that of of a "every 
word of Scripture is literally factual" fundamentalist.)

I am not, of course, prepared to state that this was
Wolfe's intent. I do not claim to know his intent. I am
stating that this is an interesting homology, a use to
which the Books can be put, if you will; and that I would
not be surprised to learn that this was _one_ of Wolfe's
reasons for writing them the way he did, rather than some
other way. In an ideal world I should like to ask him 
about it, but this is not an ideal world, and I don't
expect the opportunity to arise any time soon.


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