(urth) BSG Spoiler vs Wolfe

James Wynn crushtv at gmail.com
Fri Mar 27 13:29:36 PDT 2009

Of course, the following quotation is Enamel's although it looks like it is 

>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, 
>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

From: "James Wynn" <crushtv at gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 3:24 PM
To: "The Urth Mailing List" <urth at lists.urth.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) BSG Spoiler vs Wolfe

>>>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 
>>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 
>>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 
>>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 
>>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
> directly.
> 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 
>>>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. 
>>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.
> 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.
> 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.
> Athena/Helo
>>>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 
>>>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 
>>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 board.
> J. 

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