(urth) Second hand books and Musings

Dave Tallman davetallman at msn.com
Sun Aug 31 06:04:57 PDT 2008

Hi Tim, welcome to the discussion.

> There has been alot of debate on the lists in the last while about the exact moral nature of the Hieros.  It occurs to me that an indication of their true nature may be given by the fact that
> beautiful faces are hidden behind horrible masks (which of course are also hidden behind masks).
The fact that  the Hierodules have beautiful faces under their two masks 
doesn't really help indicate their true nature, in my opinion. It still 
makes them ambiguous. They owe their beautiful faces to the 
Hierogrammates, who evolved them from marine life. They use hideous 
masks so that people will fear them and let the autarchs rule, and masks 
over that to make the people believe they want to hide their ugly 
appearance. So there are quite a few levels of deception here.

We have had extensive debates about the morality of the Hierodules and 
Hierogrammates, but I'm not sure we have approached the problem with the 
extra information from the BotLS and BotSS. When Wolfe chose to tie the 
new series to the old one, he had a second chance to tell us how he 
intended us to see the moral issues in BotNS. Andrew (thalassocrat) had 
a theory that Wolfe completely subverted the old series with the new 
one. In that view, all of Severian's adventures were against the will of 
God, and the entry of Silk into his life changed things so that they 
never happened, reverting history to the do-nothing future of Master 
Ash. I believe that theory has been successfully refuted, and that even 
Andrew doubts it now.

So what about the opposite theory, that the new series is meant to 
validate the old one? Everyone agrees that Silk is good, and it seems 
that the memories of his visits have influenced the character of the 
aquastor Malrubius. Aquastors are not puppets -- what they say and do is 
based on their beliefs. We know this because the Severian of UotNS is an 
aquastor without realizing it. So an endorsement by Malrubius of the 
purposes of the Hierogrammates is to some degree an endorsement by Silk, 
and thus an endorsement by the Outsider.

Hierogrammates are "holy slaves" trying to do the will of God, even if 
they can only guess at it. We know from BotSS that demons playing God 
(or Typhon playing Pas) get taken over by the real Outsider. Pas has 
become truly good, and the Outsider says that Kypris will as well, 
because she is the goddess of love and all love is of God. Wolfe also 
said in an interview that "The Outsider is not a form of Severian. 
Severian is a form of the Outsider." It seems to me that Wolfe holds 
that those who try to serve God end up doing so, at least in his universe.

On the matter of the Ascians, I think Wolfe is saying that human 
creativity will win over any attempt to subvert language. Orewellian 
"newspeak" attempted to prevent people from having incorrect thoughts, 
but Loyal to the Group of Fourteen was still able to express his own 
story. One does have to parse it carefully to get all the nuances, and 
that is certainly true of everything that Wolfe writes.

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