(urth) Wolfe: Misogynist or Realist?

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Sat Oct 21 11:42:49 PDT 2006

On 10/20/06, Jack Redelfs <jackredelfs at gmail.com> wrote:
> I have been interested the discussion of evolution, but I'm not
> sure if a convincing case has been made for "chivalry is biology."
> Evolution "says" that society can't allow men to kill fertile women
> wantonly. But evolution has no problem with men beating and
> humiliating their wives, or raping and enslaving strangers.
> These actions don't interfere with reproduction so evolution
> wouldn't seem to "have an opinon" on them.

Actually, some of these behaviors are probably favorable at
some level to the reproduction of the genes of those who
perform them. Not beating wives, though; that tends to kill
babies. The one place it makes evolutionary sense is in
cases of jealousy.

(Note that I am not saying anything about morality here.)

> It's so very easy to say that there are countless
> authors, in literary and pulp fiction, that describe horrid behavior toward
> women in obsessive detail - what about Samuel Delany's _Dhalgren_,
> for one example?

You must be thinking of _Hogg_, or perhaps _Equinox_ (a/k/a/_The
Tides of Lust_). Those books record the actions of some truly vile
characters. _Dhalgren_, not so much. I'm stretching my brain and
I can't think of anything in _Dhalgren_ that would support this

I'm a bigger Delany fan than I am a Wolfe fan, but _Hogg_ is the
one Delany book that I'm pretty sure I will _never_ reread. It's the
only book I've ever felt unclean after reading. The titular character
is a "rape artist" -- a man who rapes women for pay, to achieve
other men's revenge.

A lot of what the book is about is evil by proxy: not only Hogg
himself, but a lot else is going on throughout the book in which
one character performs another's evil. It's ... horrendous, in the
most literal sense of the word. It's a very powerful book, but it's
just no fun to read, at _all_, on _any_ level.

> Wolfe doesn't even come close. Someone
> already mentioned Stephen King and Clive Barker, "but they write
> horror, so it's okay.."

That were I, and I was being somewhat ironic.

> In one respect Wolfe's
> work IS similar to horror authors like Lawrence Block and
> Clive Barker. The Bad Guys quite often "win."

Yep. But then, I would claim that a goodly percentage of
Wolfe's work partakes of the horrific.

> That's the beauty of Gene Wolfe. He doesn't hit you over the head
> with a moral message, like many authors do (Heinlein, anone?)
> There's no Wise Old Man to explain what lessons you "should"
> be learning from this scene or that.

Actually, there are passages where various characters deliver
homilies. Silk does it a _lot_ in LONG SUN.

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes, writer, trainer, bon vivant
Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open
sewer and die.
  - Mel Brooks

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