Adam Stephanides adamsteph at earthlink.net
Sun Jan 29 07:38:52 PST 2006

I looked at _Attending Daedalus_ a few months ago and wasn't impressed. As best as I can remember, these were my main objections:

1. I really would like to accept Wright's reading of UotNS, and by extension the first four volumes, that the whole religious aura with which the Hierogrammates surround themselves is a conscious deception. Doing so would render UotNS much less frustrating. But I can't. The religious elements in UotNS just don't read like they're a fraud; and if they are, too much of UotNS doesn't make sense or becomes irrelevant. (This may seem to contradict my position in the argument with Roy he refers to, but it doesn't. I argued that there was no evidence they Hierogrammates had any direct or privileged access to the Increate's will or commands. They still believe themselves to be carrying out the Increate's will, just as believers in the real world believe themselves to be carrying out God's will.)

Subsidiary to this, in Wright's discussion of short stories by Wolfe which he views as guides to interpreting the New Sun series, he mentions (iirc) several stories where religious symbols are used to manipulate people, but ignores the more numerous stories where the religion is real.

2. Why would the Hierogrammates go through all this rigmarole? Surely they have the capacity to place a white fountain in the Sun without Severian's help. If their only interest is the reproduction of their species and they don't believe in their "religion," why bother to put a black hole in the Sun, spend a thousand years trying to "uplift" the humans of the Commonwealth, and only then recruit Severian as their "Conciliator," after first arranging for him to become autarch? Wright doesn't have a good answer to this. Iirc, he suggested that the Hierogrammates did all this so that the religion of the Conciliator would be passed down to the Ushasites. But, as we see at the end of UotNS, it isn't: the people Severian meets have forgotten it, and Severian makes no effort to enlighten them.

To be sure, the Hierogrammates' reasons are mysterious in any case. But if they believe in their religion, that at least can explain why they act so mysteriously.

3. This is a lesser point, but I didn't buy Wright's claims for the great influence of evolution (in the biological sense) on the New Sun books.


-----Original Message-----
>From: "Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey at stic.net>
>Sent: Jan 28, 2006 1:38 AM
>To: urth <urth at urth.net>
>Last spring I argued, largely with Adam Stephanides, in large part about the
>role of the Hierogrammates in the Increate's designs for humanity. Simply
>put, I contended that the Hierogrammates were doing the Increate's bidding
>when they did whatever they did to or for Urth's sun, and therefore to that
>branch of humanity affected by the coming of the New Sun. By "Increate" I
>meant God, more specifically the Judeo-Christian God, as I believe the term
>has been commonly understood, aka "Pancreator" and "Outsider".
>Recently I received and read Peter Wright's _Attending Daedalus: Gene Wolfe,
>Artifice and the Reader_. The book was written by 1999, but wasn't published
>until 2003, so the SHORT SUN books were not discussed.
>It is unfair to the author to summarize a whole book in a few lines, but it
>seems to be his contention that the Hierogrammates were selfish manipulators
>of humanity, that Severian was a hapless, rather foolish puppet, sans
>divinity in his orchestrated role as Conciliator. He believes that Wolfe
>wrote the Urth Cycle to be understood this way, that Wolfe played an
>elaborate mind game with the reader, playing on reader expectations to
>hoodwink the careless reader into believing otherwise. He even holds that
>"Increate" doesn't refer to God; it refers to the Hieros.
>Wright goes further, suggesting that the LONG SUN and SOLDIER series, and
>even PANDORA, serve as "metafictional commentary" on the Urth Cycle. If
>Wright is right, then I've been wrong. Surely others of you have read
>ATTENDING DAEDALUS. Nigel? I would be interested in hearing other's
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