(urth) BSG Spoiler vs Wolfe

Thomas Bitterman tom at bitterman.net
Fri Mar 27 11:05:44 PDT 2009

On Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 12:22 PM, James Wynn <crushtv at gmail.com> wrote:

> Enamel:
>> Baltar starts out as very much as if Wolfe had written him.
>> His relationships are based solely on the sex that his money
>> and fame can get him.  In the end he grows a lot through
>> his relationship(s). He is a better man for them.
> I find no support for this. If he grows, I don't see it occurring through
> his sexual relationships. Possibly, he has (if he has) through other events
> and by managing to focus less on sex.

His attitude toward sex changes as his character changes.  Why he changes
(and if that change is growth) is a matter for interpretation, and would
need an entire thread to itself.

One of the advantages of Wolfe's character development over that in BSG is
> that he is quite overt in portraying the limits of potential character
> development through mere sexual encounters. It's the difference between the
> perspective of a middle-aged and older man and a bunch of Hollywood
> twenty-somethings.

I think this might be an important cause of the difference.  I would replace
"advantages" with "differences", though.

> Enamel:
> >Which Wolfean protagonist can say the same?  Sev?  Silk?  Latro?
> Arguably all of them and more. Redemption through _love_ is a major common
> theme of Wolfe's works.

What sort of love?  Love of something higher, sure.  Romantic love of
someone else, not so much.  Who is the great love of Severian's life,
through whom he finds the strength to undergo his trials?  Heck, when does
Severian ever just sit down with a girl and watch the sunrise while they
talk?  Wolfe may not be a young man, but his heroes often are, and that's
what young people do.

>> Short stories should be left aside.
>> The sort of character-development-through-a-sexual-relationship
>> I'm referring to takes more time than a typical short story has.
> This makes no sense to me. The story arcs in the finale required far less
> "character-development-through-a-sexual-relationship" than just about any of
> Wolfe's short stories.

I am referring to character development through the series.

>>> But your original statement that "In Wolfe people apparently have sex to
>>> show what bad people they are, >>and suffer for it later" is simply not
>>> based on...well, anything that I can see.
>  Enamel:
>> [snip]
>> There were some destructive ("bad") relationships, too.
>> That happens.  Wolfe knows that.
>> He just seems uninterested in portraying any good ones.
>> [snip]
>> Severian/Jolenta - Sev as date-rapist
> Once again, this *does* seem intended to show to show Sev in a bad light.
> As opposed to the neutral light (at worst) shown on Starbuck's and Roslin's
> seedy sexual adventures.

I have given my (non-seedy) interpretation of the Roslin episode in the
finale.  But I am referring to the series as a whole - these characters
engage in sex and have relationships as complicated, realistic people for
complicated, realistic reasons and experience a variety of outcomes, some
good, some bad, some other.

> Enamel:
>> Silk/Hyacinth - Silk loves unworthy woman, kills self over it
> Errr...no. He kills himself when she *dies*.

I stand corrected.  Not a real growth experience, still.

> After she meets Silk, she only has sex with other people out of loyalty to
> him--to protect or aid him. Compare this to Ellen Tigh who commits adultery
> as often as she can out of boredom or manipulative cruelty--she is from
> beginning to end a manipulative, cruel person for whom sex is rarely
> anything but some kind of poison...including for Saul (as Adama attests
> early on).

The Hyacinth/Ellen analogy is closer than that - Ellen has sex with Cavil on
New Caprica in order to try and save Saul.

>> Able/Dsiri - romantic love points in the wrong direction, and he is less
>> for having it
> You're just trying to stir things up right? You don't really intend to
> defend this position, right? It is so off track, I can't imagine where to
> begin in order to correct you. You should put a </snark> tag after this.
> People might think you really have no ability to appreciate what's going on
> in a Wolfe story.

They may think that already.  In any case, my (current) theory in short:
Able is a 14-year-old in an 18-year-old's body.  He's horny as hell and
starts getting it regularly from a hot older chick (who has magical
enchantment powers to boot).  He ends up becoming her champion, having
adventures and slaying dragons and all the good stuff that happens in tales
of chivalry.  In the end, though, it was all a sham.  She is an
onotologically inferior being and he would have been better off skipping the
whole thing and loving The Most High directly.

>> There are Doors - have sex and die
> In TAD sex is truly an existential event and it requires far more sexual
> development than the drunken encounters that so typically occur in BSG.

By sexual development do you mean being dragged into the back of a parade

> Enamel:
>> Latro - he may have sex, but can never really have a relationship
> When his love is killed, Latro mourns over her long after he has even
> remembered why he's mourning. Talk about your
> character-development-through-sexual-relationship.

Not knowing why one is mourning is not character development.  It's just
weird.  It's not even clear whether one can mourn for no reason.  One could
be depressed, but to mourn would seem to imply mourning something or

> Enamel:
>> Horn/Seawrack - she's a giant prawn!
> And yet sex with toasters doesn't bother you!

No one has sex with toasters.  The skinjobs are arguably human - there is
evidence of interbreeding with humans.  They bear a lot of resemblence to

>>> You are essentially ascribing to Wolfe the stated opinions of Incus.
>  Enamel:
>> St. Paul.  And I'm not ascribing them to Wolfe, just describing what I see
>> in his work.
> Well, that shows an appalling lack of sensitivity when reading Wolfe...or
> St. Paul. That's just sad.

If interpreting St. Paul as anti-sex is insensitive, at least I'm in good
(and extensive) company.  St. Augustine is in the lineup next if you want to
pitch around Paul.

>> Said another way, Wolfe never seems to portray a
>> healthy, sexual relationship, one in which his characters
>> grow or benefit from each other.  Not untroubled,
>> not happy-ever-after.  Just healthy.
> Abel and Disiri?

See above.

> Silk and Hy were together almost alone for 20 years after they were married
> until she died. There's no evidence that she was anything but faithful after
> they left the Mainframe. What's the unhealthy part?

There's no evidence of _anything_ for that 20 years that I can recall.
Saying "they had a good relationship" and actually showing it are two
different things.

> Horn has some problems with his oldest child, but his 20 year relationship
> with Nettle seems to be one of devotion although they are neither perfect
> people and even though *gasp* they began their sexual relationship is horny
> teenagers.

I though Horn and his son was a well-drawn relationship.  They met each
other face-to-face, both got to talk a lot and do some exposition, both got
some action in, they turn out to be more-or-less-equals (Horn is a father on
Green last I remember), they each come to conclusions about the other
reflective of their characters and some shared experience.  Compare to
Horn's wife.  On Short Sun she gets very few lines.  Horn writes some
touching letters to her, says he misses her, but it's a monologue.  The
horny teenagers part was the best part.

> And then he died...

Did he die?  I don't know what was going on their, and I don't think anybody
else (except maybe Wolfe) really does, either.  See recent posts on this

>> In the end everyone is dead.  But for other good relationships:
>> Adama/Roslin
> There is actually very little sex in this relationship since Roslin is sick
> through most of it. If Wolfe did this, you would probably argue it proves
> what a prude he is.

If Wolfe did this, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

>> Athena/Helo
> This is a relationship engineered deliberately and deceitfully by the
> Cylons in order to get a baby out of Helo. Sharon is actually pre-programmed
> to have her fall in love more easily. This relationship was one of those on
> my mind when I said that in BSG sex only occurs out of treachery or cruelty.

"Only" is too strong a word.  The Cylons (especially at the beginning) are
the bad guys.  Of course they use sex as a weapon.

> Granted, things turn out sort-of-okay in the end, but this is accomplished
> by the BSG writers devoting surprisingly little time to either of these
> characters working through the obvious baggage.

The whole thing struck me as very Wolfe-like.  She acted like she loved him
for so long that in the end she did.

>> Saul/Ellen Tigh - troubled, but ultimately happy, an interesting contrast
>> to Silk/Hyacinth
> The contrast with Silk and Hy is unfavorable to Saul and Ellen.
> I understand why the BSG writers did this. They wanted them to be the
> template for Zeus and Hera after they settle on Earth.

I would think Hera would be the template for Hera.

> But this hardly buttresses your core argument.
> It is impossible to say whether the Tigh's relationship ever ends up happy.
> Since they are Zeus and Hera, I'd say not. It's true that Ellen did not have
> an opportunity to do something evil during the finale. I presume she will
> within days after settling on Earth.

It was said in the series "All Ellen ever wanted was to be with Saul".  If
one accepts this, then huge swathes of her bad behavior gain meaning as a
cry for him to pay attention to her instead of the bottle and the ship.  Now
that they only have each other, maybe that is all over.  But, again, open
for interpretation.

> wynn:
>>> If I were to ascribe a moral to sex in BSG it would be
>>> "sex invariability causes people to act treacherously or cruelly."
>  You've confused Wolfe and BSG.
> I stand by my statement.

"Invariably" is too strong.  I cannot remember a time where Anders acted
treacherously or cruelly (to a fellow BSG fleet member) due to his
relationship with Starbuck.

> wynn:
>>> We like what we like. I wouldn't spend 2 minutes watching
>>> "Grey's Anatomy" or similar dramas regardless of how
>>> interesting (to some) or realistic the relationships are.
>>> Not my cup 'o tea. That's what the flashbacks in the finale
>>> reminded me of. They certainly didn't move forward or
>>> explain anything in the current narrative.
>  Enamel:
>> We agree - soap operas don't interest me, either.
> Well, what are we arguing about here? Half (at least) of the BSG finale was
> soap-opera.

The series, as a whole, tackled so many of the same issues as Wolfe does -
what does it mean to be a person?  what is a good religion?  is history just
a big cycle? - that the difference in the way relationships are portrayed
really struck me.

Usually I read Wolfe so I can wonder "If Latro keeps forgetting things, what
happens to his personal identity?  How brave can he be if he can't really
imagine any long-term effects of his actions?".

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