(urth) BSG Spoiler vs Wolfe

James Wynn crushtv at gmail.com
Fri Mar 27 13:24:08 PDT 2009

>>wynn: Redemption through _love_ is a major common theme of Wolfe's works.

>enamel: What sort of love?  Love of something higher, sure.
>Romantic love of someone else, not so much.

Disiri? Lara Morgan? Nettle? Hyacinth?
Also, in a Wolfe novel, romantic love is an Earthly sacrament for the love
of Something Higher. It's actually a far more developed view of love than
that presented in soap-operas like the arcs in the BSG finale.

Oops! I see Mark Millman explained this better than I could.

>enamel: 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.

Well, Severian-the-narrator (as with the Narrator of the Short Sun) is not a
"person" in the conventional sense. The Great Love of Severian of course is
Thecla, and they spend a lot of time in Thecla's cell (an interesting twist
on your sunrise scene). It is the genius of Wolfe that Thecla is also the
narrator of NS. It is also why NS might be impossible to "dramatize" on film
or TV.  It is also important to remember that we think of Severian as the
Protagonist, but even more so, he is "merely" the Narrator. The story is not
so much about him as the people he encounters -- Severian merely provides
the POV. This is to a greater or lesser extant the case of Wolfe's other
first-person novels as well. So the question is not whether Sev experiences
"realistic" romance and how he is changed by it, but regarding those who
love him.

>enamel: [snip]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.

Well, nothing could be more complicated than a Wolfe romance.

>>wynn: 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).

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

Well, that shows Ellen's growth through misery, but not through romance.
When she is resurrected and returns to Galactica, it is almost immediately
clear how little she has changed.

>>wynn: 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.

I apologize for the tone in this response. Looking back I think it was
very much uncalled-for.

>enamel: 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).

Actually, he doesn't "get it" from her, until the end of the novel when she
is human. He hopes that he will, but in the meantime he sublimates his
sexual worship of Disiri into something harder (denying himself of both an
edged weapon and the advances of all non-Disiri women and the horny Fire
Aelf).  Also, Able thinks of himself as a 14-year-old, but he has spent
years in Aelfrice as Disiri's playmate. He's been "dialed back" to the age
and memory of when he was taken by the Moss Aelf between the time The Knight
starts and when he is "grown" by Disiri.

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

No, no, no. Wolfe's point is that Abel's method truly Loving Disiri --rather
than finding her available and appealing-- was a stand-in for loving the
Most High God of which he stills knows almost nothing of at the end of
double novel. It ultimately led him to Skye as a great hero.  Wolfe's
perspective certainly does jibe with a lot of things C.S. Lewis wrote and
illustrated in 'The Last Battle', 'The Great Divorce', and 'The Four Loves'.

But once again, there are two sides to this romance. You cannot ignore
Disiri's motivations in loving Able (which we find she does although she has
a strange way of showing it in her initial scene).  Disiri loves Able
because she recognizes that he is Higher than she. Her love is certainly
properly directed, right? To say that Able was wrong in loving Disiri is to
say that Christ was wrong in loving mankind.  It's much more involved than
you are portraying.

>>>enamel: There are Doors - have sex and die

>>wynn: In TAD sex is truly an existential event and it requires far more
>>sexual development than the drunken encounters that so typically occur in

>enamel: By sexual development do you mean being dragged into the
>back of a parade float?

Green doesn't know what the woman in the parade float expected of him, nor
the implications of that agreement, and she doesn't know he is not aware of
that. It would have been a very existential moment for a man who actually
accepted her offer in fact. In our world we have parades. In the Lara Morgan
world they do too, but they mean much more. We aren't told exactly what the
total meaning is, but clearly a parade could mean a lot to some men in that
world.  In the hospital, there is a scene where a man is begging a woman for
sex. He wants their love to truly mean something and she feels that he's
only asking for the end of their relationship. It's really a fascinating
experiment on the concepts pushed by Robert Graves in The White Goddess.

>>>enamel: Latro - he may have sex, but can never really have a relationship

>>wynn: When his love is killed, Latro mourns over her long after he has
>>even remembered why he's mourning. Talk about your

>enamel: 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

Well, you are merely rejecting Wolfe's premise. That's fine. But you can't
reject the premise and then ascribe some other meaning to his narrative.
Wolfe is arguing that we are more than our memories. That Love itself is
more than what we remember about it. That is hardly evidence of an
"unhealthy" relationship, or as you stated here No Relationship At All.

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

Granted. But the same is true for Seawrack. However, Gaelin doesn't see it
that way in the end, and he helped design the skinjobs.  He says that the
Sharons are "all the same because we made them all the same". He laments
that after 2000 years he still can't remember that. There's a case to be
made that he is wrong, that the Sharons in particular *can be* something
more. But you can't deny the authority of his claim.

>enamel: 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.

I confess, that I feel genuine pity for those who have honestly approached
Paul's writings without understanding them. However, I don't think they are
in the majority of Paul's critics. I recommend to a re-reading of Paul,  and
Augustine too for that matter. Granted the starting point of Augustine's
worldview on sex and marriage --founded as they are on Roman mores-- are
unrelatable to modern Western/Christianized eyes; however, it was Augustine
who prayed, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet."

>enamel: 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.

>>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.

Frankly, I found the consummation of Roslin and Adama's feelings to totally
bleed-out anything interesting in them as characters. Roslin becomes totally
passive and Adama turns into a wilting daisy. But, I repeat: This is not
much of a sexual relationship.

>>wynn: 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.

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

Ah! Then you admit at least that my assessment is not far off the point?

>>wynn: 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.

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

Well if it is Wolfe-like, why are we having this conversation?
For all the problems I had with it, this is the most tried and
resilient relationship in the series.

Saul/Ellen Tigh:
>enamel: 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.

It was during her time closely confined with Saul on Galactica that she had
affairs with both Baltar and Zarek.

>>wynn: If I were to ascribe a moral to sex in BSG it would be "sex
>>invariability causes people to act treacherously or cruelly."

>enamel: "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.

I suppose "invariably" is too strong. But every BSG sexual relationship 
(with the exception of Roslin/Adama which is barely a sexual relationship at 
all)  *involves* treachery or cruelty.  So comparing it with Wolfe and 
saying BSG portrays is at ease portraying "healthy" sexual relationships and 
Wolfe only uses it to show people as bad, just doesn't wash at any level.

Anders is a chronic victim in his relationship with Starbuck. Starbuck's two 
other long-term relationships involve almost cheating with the guy's brother 
and daily rape by a cylon in a pseudo-marriage relationship. She takes 
Anders on as a rebound from Apollo. She openly carries a torch for Apollo 
until she dies while finding Earth. It is only the re-constructed Starbuck 
that begrudgingly begins to accept Anders as more than a foil for Apollo. 
Even then, their relationship never rises beyond good friends.

>>wynn: Well, what are we arguing about here? Half (at least) of the BSG
>>finale was soap-opera.

>enamel: 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.

Okay, I'll buy that BSG tackles many of the same themes as Wolfe. But BSG 
did not tackle these themes with the consistency and plotting we expect from 
Wolfe. The romance arcs in the finale (especially) IMO were the opposite of 
a reason to recommend the series. The episodes that focused on the romances 
in general (the Boomer/Athena relationships were a glaring exception) tended 
to make me use the fast-forward button on my DDR (I'm thinking of Starbuck 
and Roslin/Adama right now).

But this is beside the point. To look at Able and Disiri cuddling down in
Aelfrice at the end of The Wizard Knight (as one example) or the whole of
Wolfe's writing and say that " In Wolfe, people apparently have sex to show
what bad people they are, and suffer for it later," is just totally off the 


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