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Shadow & Claw (The Book of the New Sun #1-2)
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2011 Reads > S&C: Gene Wolfe is not a misogynist

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message 1: by Lepton (last edited Feb 23, 2011 03:19AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lepton | 176 comments Before all the sensitive types start in on Gene Wolfe's treatment of women in Shadow and Claw, I thought I would head off such criticisms by exploring women's freedom in Wolfe's Urth.

On Urth, women are:

1. Permitted to learn to read. There are actually a number of women in the narrative that not only can read but also can read and understand something akin to Latin. But, don't you dare call it Latin, because it's not. Gene Wolfe said so.

2. Free to wear clothes or not as they see fit. Much care is taken that women should be offered to wear clothes and even clean clothes when their pathetic nature raises our empathy and pity. Yet, a woman is also apparently free to disrobe and thrown herself naked and pleading to exchange sex for the life of a loved one.

3. Free to sell her body for money legally. Money? Good. Sex? Very good. Sex for money? Men have money; a woman, her sex. How can that be wrong?

4. Free to be beaten. That a woman should be suffered to live for giving offense to a man is a blessing onto her. She may be beaten and pushed down and she is not hurt much.

5. Free to be imprisoned unjustly. In this enlightened age of the far future Urth, women are suffered to live despite they give offense to men and the law of Men. The expense and time to imprison and persecute...err...prosecute a woman in light of her actual value to society is a charity granted to her and her sex.

6. Free to be tortured. That the Order of the Seekers for Truth and Penitence should seek to imprison and torture women clearly indicates that women are thought to be capable of speaking truth or even knowing truth. Similarly, this would also suppose that a woman has a soul capable of penitence or that a woman possesses a soul at all.

7. Free to be publicly maimed and executed. The branding and public execution of a woman suggests the physical vessel of the woman's body contains a space for moral instruction through ritualized excruciation and killing. A woman is no mere animal that can be killed or beaten without conscience. Her body and her life are valued enough to bring forth a physical and moral revulsion to a public branding and execution that is not only a moment of moral teaching but also Thanatonic catharsis.

8. Free to be raped in prison. Make no mistake. In past ages a woman in captivity was the rape toy of every guard and low level official in the prison system. Under the care of the Order, a woman may only be raped as a form of torture by the head inquisitor or his designee. She may be bartered amongst the inquisitor and his inferiors, but she shall not be abused by any other men.


These are only some of the many freedoms that women enjoy in the world of Urth so lovingly and intellectually crafted by Gene Wolfe. I for one salute his feminist spirit and his magnanimity to grant women a dignified and full existence in the world of his own creation.


Colin | 278 comments I see what you did there...


message 3: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6261 comments I wish I liked Joanna Russ more.


message 4: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 23, 2011 06:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
A reader is also to free to imagine that when an author creates an unjust or morally corrupt fictional society, it automatically means the author can only be *endorsing* that society. A reader retains this freedom regardless of how ludicrous its use in interpretation is.


message 5: by Jenny (Reading Envy) (last edited Feb 24, 2011 08:04AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments I love when a person states an opinion in such a way that to disagree with him/her implies that you are somehow weak, stupid, or in this case "sensitive."

I'm not far into Shadow & Claw but there is definitely misogyny here. Even silly little pokes like the school for torturers no longer being open to women because women always went too far smacks of it, and that was in chapter 1 or 2.

I've never been one to let misogyny get in the way of my enjoyment of a book, however. I also love to read Anthony Bourdain despite of his open disdain of vegetarians.

So, I dunno, nice try. Maybe we sensitive women should simply be grateful for what we are given (or the women of Urth are given?), but I've never let a statement like that keep me from stating my opinion.

Jlawrence wrote: "A reader is also to free to imagine that when an author creates an unjust or morally corrupt fictional society, it automatically means the author can only be *endorsing* that society. "
This is also true. I think we had a similar discussion when reading The Windup Girl... was the violence necessary, etc. So while I don't know anything about Gene Wolfe and wouldn't probably use misogynist as my first label, that doesn't mean the books themselves don't contain misogyny.


Larry (lomifeh) | 88 comments This is also true. I think we had a similar discussion when reading The Windup Girl... was the violence necessary, etc. So while I don't know anything about Gene Wolfe and wouldn't probably use misogynist as my first label, that doesn't mean the books themselves don't contain misogyny.

This is my litmus test for a book, does the content match the story? Does it get silly or overdone? In the case of this book it seems to fit the story so I can excuse it for that reason. This is versus the Terry Goodkind books where he seems to just like to rape or almost rape his female characters or have other weirdly S&M bits or strange bits.


message 7: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: Jlawrence wrote: "A reader is also to free to imagine that when an author creates an unjust or morally corrupt fictional society, it automatically means the author can only be *endorsing* that society."

This is also true. I think we had a similar discussion when reading The Windup Girl... was the violence necessary, etc. So while I don't know anything about Gene Wolfe and wouldn't probably use misogynist as my first label, that doesn't mean the books themselves don't contain misogyny. "


Yeah, I was mostly responding to Lepton's suggestion, through his layers of sarcasm, that because Wolfe includes horrible things -- misogyny, institutionalized brutality (note that 4, 5, 6 and 7 apply equally to Urth males) -- in his fictional society, that that means Wolfe is in favor of those things. I think it's a major fallacy to assume that an author who presents unjust or cruel things in their fiction *must* be in favor of them.

*Sometimes* it's true - Dante certainly felt that all the gruesome tortures depicted in his Inferno were completely just and necessary. He felt this so strongly that he placed some of his personal enemies among the recipients of these tortures.

But Severian's society is not a locale for the meting out of an absolute divine (or Dante-esque) justice, it's a deeply flawed, human society. Much more than deeply flawed, it is repeatedly depicted as a *fallen* society - a society in a massive state of regression and degradation. This regression applies across the whole societal range - social equality, scientific knowledge, political and judicial systems, etc. This includes institutionalized brutality towards females and males whom the state declares criminals, legalized slavery, prostitution, etc.

And it includes misogyny, both in its general culture and, I believe, in Severian's worldview. But I don't think Severian's worldview nor his society's worldview = Wolfe's worldview. Severian is not one of those characters who acts as the author's surrogate or mouthpiece, instead Severain reveals what this fictional world is like, what its values are, and what his own distinct personality consists of.

As a related note, it's interesting to me the way Severian views his fallen society. He has repeated daydreams of upturning the social order and wiping away the layers of ignorance and corruption. This is the motivation of his swearing allegiance to Voldalus. We are introduced to this feeling of his as early as chapter 1.

He's no crusader, though. His extreme emotional loyalty to the torturer's guild contradicts his revolutionary impulse. He does not put the work into untangling this contradiction, and is left with the muddle of believing he can be both a servant to the guild and to Vodalus. It makes him a complex, morally flawed character, but this is believable - I know plenty of people with contradictory beliefs. ;)

For a Wolfe character who is a kind of an anti-Severian, who is not morally flawed and actively crusades against an unjust social order, see Father Silk from the Book of the Long Sun.


message 8: by Sean (last edited Feb 24, 2011 09:50AM) (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Both John Norman's Gor series and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale present worlds where it's okay for men to tie up women and rape them, yet they're vastly different works. Norman presents Gor as an awesome place, whereas Gilead is a dystopia. Atwood suffers from a severe case of anviliciousness, so there's no doubt that her book isn't misogynistic. Wolfe, however, goes for subtlety so it's possible for someone doing a shallow reading to come away thinking The Book of the New Sun is on the side of Gor. But such a reading is akin to the people who thought American Psycho was advocating rape and murder.


message 9: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Sean wrote: "Norman presents Gor as an awesome place, whereas Gilead is a dystopia. Atwood suffers from a severe case of anviliciousness, so there's no doubt that her book isn't misogynistic. Wolfe, however, goes for subtlety so it's possible for someone doing a shallow reading to come away thinking The Book of the New Sun is on the side of Gor."

Yes. I wrote above that Severian's society is "depicted as fallen" in the books, but this isn't consistently true. Severian has an urge to upturn the social order that rushes up occasionally, but in his usual actions and thought, he actually accepts a *great* deal of how his society is run. So the fact it is fallen is not telegraphed a la a usual dystopia, but pieced together over time.


message 10: by Lepton (last edited Feb 24, 2011 05:41PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lepton | 176 comments Jenny wrote: "I love when a person states an opinion in such a way that to disagree with him/her implies that you are somehow weak, stupid, or in this case "sensitive."

Just to be clear, Jenny, I do think Gene Wolfe is a misogynist. As I have argued previously, this is a work of fiction. Nothing is required. The author is in complete control of the world that he or she chooses to create. Gene Wolfe created a world and populated it with women that are made to suffer the worst indignities for seemingly no other reason than intentional cruelty.

Here's a thought experiment for everyone in the discussion. Replace women in this story with black men and make Severian white. Are you sufficiently offended now? Would you think it more or less likely that Wolfe has a problem with race if that were the case?

I am not saying that Wolfe is directly advocating misogyny, however he is creating misogyny. He places misogyny in much of the actions and attitudes of his characters. He subjects his readers to such indignities as having to read such dreck and then would like to be patted on the head and credited for being intellectual and complex while peddling such sensationalist fare. Further still, he profits directly from the sale of these works that visit such indignities upon women.

It's morally repellent. And this is the exact reason why I said that I did not want to read a book where a torturer was the lead character. I frankly do not understand why people wish to subject themselves to such things in their free time.

Actually, screw it, Wolfe is advocating misogyny. He gives voice to it. He creates it. He puts it in the world. He puts in your mind. He may not be beating or raping a woman, but he is directly describing these acts and utilizing them for his own ends.


Larry (lomifeh) | 88 comments Lepton, this and the other thread I think you just have a problem with him and look for everything you can that is negative regarding him. You might want to step back a bit and try and be objective.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments Nobody is forcing anyone to read any of these books. If they aren't to your liking, wait until the next choice.


message 13: by Colin (last edited Feb 24, 2011 07:32PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Colin | 278 comments This seems like a troll, so I will only say that your thought experiment is not very strong. You might as well just cut to the chase and call Wolfe a Nazi, making Severian a Nazi and make women Jews.
Such comments don't do anything to advance the overall discussion of the novel. All it does is mire the conversation in hate and negativity. It is unfortunate that you really hate Gene Wolfe and this book so much. I hope you've got a good comfort book somewhere that you can read and relax with.


Lepton | 176 comments I think it is funny that people seem to think that I am emotionally involved in some manner with Gene Wolfe or that "I hate him".

He created content and situations that I think are morally repellent to most people. That is a statement of fact.

He chose to create that content and those situations above all other possibilities that he might have imagined or put his creative energy into. That is a statement of fact.

He chose to place women in some very uncomfortable, degrading, abusive, and deadly situations above all other choices he might have made. That is a statement of fact.

I guess my expectation in this discussion is that people can be shocked into some awareness by my presentation then perhaps see past the presentation to the intellectual argument being made.

I will state this more simply. How is any of this appropriate? Is this entertainment? Am I entertained? Have we become so desensitized to the suffering of others, imagined or not, that a "fallen world" needs to incorporate rape, public executions, torture, violence and rampant misogyny? Isn't our own world "fallen" enough?

When exactly did it become at all appropriate to even think upon let alone depict and discuss in an entertainment context the rape, murder, and torture of any living thing, woman or not.

This book is gross. It's ugly. Why do I want to spend my time with ugly? Why does anyone? I really don't get it.

I find nothing of any redeemable value in the entire two volumes.


message 15: by Sean (last edited Feb 24, 2011 08:49PM) (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Lepton wrote: When exactly did it become at all appropriate to even think upon let alone depict and discuss in an entertainment context the rape, murder, and torture of any living thing, woman or not.

When has it not been? There's rape and murder in Sumerian mythology. There's rape and murder in Greek mythology. I'm pretty sure there's rape and murder in Indian and Chinese mythology.

"This book is gross. It's ugly. Why do I want to spend my time with ugly? Why does anyone? I really don't get it."

Because literature is supposed to reflect the world, and the world is often ugly and gross, and people do get raped and tortured, and there are misogynists out there. A writer who ignores this is just telling fairy tales for small children.


message 16: by Lepton (last edited Feb 24, 2011 09:24PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lepton | 176 comments Two points, I suppose.

1. I had thought we had moved beyond the social mores of ancient cultures, don't you think? We generally do not have slavery in the Western world. Women are generally not treated as chattel. There are laws constraining any number of immoral offenses to person and property. So, I would say that to the degree that such things offend our moral sense, I don't see any particular value or even the least bit of appropriateness in illustrating and giving voice to offensive and immoral content in an entertainment context.

2. Literature is to reflect the world? Hmm, first, this ain't literature. It's pulp, fantasy Sci-Fi. It's not Gogol. It's not Chekhov. It's not even DeLillo. Second, the world is often ugly and gross and literature has to reflect this? So, you're saying there is no possibility of literature without these things, without this ugliness. Seems like a pretty bleak perspective to me. I can't say that I am the most broad reader of literature in the world, but I can certainly think of literature that indeed did not include rape, torture, and murder, and I would not consider those bedtime stories.

And frankly, your tone is condescending, but perhaps mine is as well.


message 17: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Lepton wrote: "Two points, I suppose.

1. I had thought we had moved beyond the social mores of ancient cultures, don't you think?"


You're moving the goal-posts.

We generally do not have slavery in the Western world. Women are generally not treated as chattel.

Why are you privileging the Western world? There are other cultures out there -- are they somehow illegitimate, not worthy of our attention because they don't totally fit with your post-Enlightenment mores?

. There are laws constraining any number of immoral offenses to person and property. So, I would say that to the degree that such things offend our moral sense, I don't see any particular value or even the least bit of appropriateness in illustrating and giving voice to offensive and immoral content in an entertainment context.

We have laws, but murder and rape still occur and will occur even if no author ever writes about them again. Sweeping it under the table does no good, and is frankly insulting to the victims -- after all, in the world according to Lepton, Tori Amos never should've penned "Me and a Gun" because it's about rape, and we can't have any art dealing with acts that society condemns.

Do you really believe that no author should ever describe anything that's illegal or immoral? By that metric, it would've been wrong for a writer in the 1950s to depict homosexuality or miscegenation. Really?

2. Literature is to reflect the world? Hmm, first, this ain't literature. It's pulp, fantasy Sci-Fi.

Such distinctions are entirely artificial. Need I point out that the Library of America has volumes of Lovecraft, Dick, Chandler, and Hammett, pulp authors all?

In any event, Wolfe, like Dick, LeGuin and numerous other science fiction authors, is taught in colleges so the case for declaring him not-literature is pretty thin.

Second, the world is often ugly and gross and literature has to reflect this? So, you're saying there is no possibility of literature without these things, without this ugliness.

Not every book has to depict every form of ugliness, but a book that ignores all ugliness completely, as you seem to be advocating, is a lie.


message 18: by Tamahome (last edited Feb 25, 2011 04:31AM) (new)

Tamahome | 6261 comments "Women in Refrigerators" http://www.unheardtaunts.com/wir/

Comic book writer Gail Simone's wierd list of how superheroines have died in comics. (via Geek's Guide to the Galaxy)


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments Rape and murder... sounds like the Bible too. So that brings up another set of questions, if you follow Lepton's logic.

I really think the details are the world, the background, which sets the stage for an interesting story that we may not have experienced before. That is the point of fantasy, the otherworldness it allows for. What about The Blade Itself, which a lot of us have read? One of the main characters is a torturer. But that makes him interesting. If all we had were daisies and bunnies and blue skies, what interest would it hold? I don't condone something just because I read about it. I'd never be able to read the news!


message 20: by Noel (new)

Noel Baker | 364 comments We generally do not have slavery in the Western world. Women are generally not treated as chattel.

Why are you privileging the Western world? There are other cultures out there -- are they somehow illegitimate, not worthy of our attention because they don't totally fit with your post-Enlightenment mores?

Wooh gotta defend Lepton a bit here.He is not just 'privileging' the west here, I think he is pointing out that by and large, the west does not have slavery per se. In other parts of the world slavery is very much alive and kicking. Anyway, to quote your dodgy grammar, 'privileging' the west is ok in my book.


message 21: by Noel (new)

Noel Baker | 364 comments Jlawrence wrote: "Jenny wrote: Jlawrence wrote: "A reader is also to free to imagine that when an author creates an unjust or morally corrupt fictional society, it automatically means the author can only be *endorsi..."

Let me see, misogynist diatribe, torture to uphold current doctrine, repression and ruthless extermination of dissenters. Hmmmm does sound that sound like a history of Catholicism at all? Now I find out that a purportedly intelligent author actually converted to this?


message 22: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 25, 2011 04:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Lepton wrote: I had thought we had moved beyond the social mores of ancient cultures, don't you think?

We may have moved on. The world of Urth has regressed back to them. That is one of the themes the book explores, that you seem to take as just a case of Wolfe getting his kicks. But history shows that societies can and do collapse, mighty empires do decay, moral and civic progress can regress. That is what the books are reflecting on a large scale, and why they have all those ugly elements. Severian is very much a product of his society, so there's a lot that he accepts. The complex way Wolfe presents that regression through the mixture of science fiction and fantasy elements and through the worldview of the narrator is one of the things that qualifies Book of the New Sun as something worth reading and worth analyzing, whether you regard it as literature, entertainment, or both (or neither).

I also find worthwhile the strength of the imagery and writing, the layers of possible interpretations and, as Jenny and Adrienne mentioned, the complexity of Severian's character (including his moral failings) and the sense of otherworldliness.

Lepton wrote: but I can certainly think of literature that indeed did not include rape, torture, and murder...

I can, too, but if you are taking the position (correct me if I'm wrong) that the inclusion of any of those things automatically makes a work irredeemable, than the following works are irredeemable:

The Bible, The Odyssey, The Iliad, The Oresteia, Oedipus Rex, Medea, The Aeneid, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Dante's Inferno, Crime & Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, the list could go on and on...

You say an author is free to write anything -- but you seem to not believe this *should* be the case, since you only want authors to write about non-ugly things. The exercise of their freedom to write about ugly things is itself an immoral act to you. You are entitled to that position, but it really leaves no room for discussion of a vast many things, fictional and real.


message 23: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 25, 2011 01:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Noel wrote: Let me see, misogynist diatribe, torture to uphold current doctrine, repression and ruthless extermination of dissenters. Hmmmm does sound that sound like a history of Catholicism at all? Now I find out that a purportedly intelligent author actually converted to this?

Yes, the Catholic church has that in its history, but by no means a historical monopoly (I believe you can also think of deity-less 20th century organizations that achieved the same on much greater scales, yes?). The cruelties of the torturer's guild may indeed be a critique of that portion of Catholic history, there are some similarities indeed - that's interesting to think about...

Also, I personally know modern Catholics who disagree with the current Vatican's positions. I would also imagine that they're not really in alignment with the Spanish Inquisitions' tactics, either. ;)


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments Jlawrence wrote: "We may have moved on. The world of Urth has regressed back to them. That is one of the themes the book explores, that you seem to take as just a case of Wolfe getting his kicks. But history shows that societies can and do collapse, mighty empires do decay, moral and civic progress can regress. That is what the books are reflecting on a large scale, and why they have all those ugly elements. Severian is very much a product of his society, so there's a lot that he accepts. The complex way Wolfe presents that regression through the mixture of science fiction and fantasy elements and through the worldview of the narrator is one of the things that qualifies Book of the New Sun as something worth reading and worth analyzing, whether you regard it as literature, entertainment, or both (or neither). "
Well stated, and this is what I'm looking forward to in my reading of the book.

I may not have been very interested in Wolfe before, but now I'm feeling strangely committed. *grin*


Jeffrey J | 38 comments ...I may not have been very interested in Wolfe before, but now I'm feeling strangely committed. *grin*

I was/am interested but am even more so now, lol


Lepton | 176 comments I really can't agree that there is anything of worth in these books. There is nothing complex about it. There is nothing worth considering or thinking about.

If one has nothing better to do than to attempt to imbue some sci-fi fantasy pulp with literary grandiosity, have at it, I suppose.

The books thus far are gross, misogynist crap. That this supposed intellectual giant of an author that you all seem to suppose he is chose to spend his time and energy creating such depressing, dreary, and monotonous garbage is beyond me. Why would one want to spend years of one's life with one's mind in this world of Urth? Why would anyone want to spend his or her time and energy imagining and creating a world that visits upon its people such suffering and injustices?

It's intellectual masturbation. I would have preferred that he flushed his dirty hankies down the toilet than subject the world to such abject garbage.


message 27: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Lepton: I would have preferred that he flushed his dirty hankies down the toilet than subject the world to such abject garbage.

Well, there's not much more to discuss, then. I wish you better luck with the next book you read. :)


message 28: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Lepton wrote: "I really can't agree that there is anything of worth in these books. There is nothing complex about it. There is nothing worth considering or thinking about."

While I appreciate your open mind, I do not feel that this is a productive area of discussion.


message 29: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments At the risk of being accused of misogyny myself, I thought it was pretty funny when the part came up about women no longer being accepted into the guild of torturers because they went too far. Seriously, life is much more enjoyable with a good sense of humor. And the foundation of a good sense of humor is being able to laugh at oneself. If Wolfe later writes a jab at chubby white guys in their late 30's, I'll probably find that amusing as well.

I'm getting a strong flashback to this thread: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/3....

Lepton, I honestly mean no harm and say this without any malice, but that chip on your shoulder is enormous.


Boots (rubberboots) | 499 comments Gene Wolfe is not a misandrist

Before all the sensitive types start in on Gene Wolfe's treatment of men in Shadow and Claw, I thought I would head off such criticisms by exploring mens freedom in Wolfe's Urth.

On Urth, men are:

1. Permitted to learn to read. There are actually a number of men in the narrative that not only can read but also can read and understand more than one language.

2. Free to wear clothes or not as they see fit. Much care is taken that men should be offered to wear clothes and even clean clothes (if they can wash the dirt and blood out) unless it's fuligin which is considered distasteful to wear in public. Yet, a man is also apparently free to disrobe and throw himself naked at any woman who presents herself.

3. Not free to sell his body for sex because it's clearly stated in the book that prostitution is illegal. However I'm sure if a man wanted to sell himself he could do it because law enforcement is busy with other things.

4. Free to be beaten. That a man should be suffered to live for giving offense to a woman is a blessing onto him. He may be beaten and pushed down and he is not hurt much.

5. Free to be imprisoned unjustly. In this enlightened age of the far future Urth, men are suffered to live despite they give offense to women and the law of women. The expense and time to imprison and persecute...err...prosecute a man in light of his actual value to society is a charity granted to him and his sex.

6. Free to be tortured. That the Order of the Seekers for Truth and Penitence should seek to imprison and torture men clearly indicates that men are thought to be capable of speaking truth or even knowing truth. Similarly, this would also suppose that a man has a soul capable of penitence or that a man possesses a soul at all.

7. Free to be the slaves of a female cult because why would any self respecting man not want that.

8. Free to be raped in prison. Make no mistake. In past ages men in captivity were the rape toys of other prisoners in the prison system. Under the care of the Order, a man may only be raped as a form of torture by the head inquisitor or his designee even if he has to use an iron strap-on or some brown powder to do it. He may be bartered amongst the inquisitor and his inferiors, but he shall not be abused by any other men.

9. Free to grow up in a prison from birth learning how to torture and kill prisoners.

Hmmm... This post looks an awful lot like another post I've read except it's the exact opposite and yet it's the exact same; I wonder how that works?


message 31: by Noel (new)

Noel Baker | 364 comments Jlawrence wrote: "Noel wrote: Let me see, misogynist diatribe, torture to uphold current doctrine, repression and ruthless extermination of dissenters. Hmmmm does sound that sound like a history of Catholicism at al..."

Cue Monty Python.......oh no! it's the Spanish Inquisiton!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments Philip wrote: "t the risk of being accused of misogyny myself, I thought it was pretty funny when the part came up about women no longer being accepted into the guild of torturers because they went too far. Seriously, life is much more enjoyable with a good sense of humor. And the foundation of a good sense of humor is being able to laugh at oneself. If Wolfe later writes a jab at chubby white guys in their late 30's, I'll probably find that amusing as well...."
Seriously, that made me laugh. Like he was waiting to see my reaction,seeing if I was paying attention.


message 33: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments Jenny wrote:"Seriously, that made me laugh. Like he was waiting to see my reaction,seeing if I was paying attention."

Sneaky funny.


message 34: by Tim (new)

Tim (zerogain) | 93 comments I have to love these posts by Lepton. I loved Windup Girl (obviously I'm a deviant, a misogynist, and worse) and now after reading this I really have to get these books.

I don't know if this happens in these books or not, but I always find it interesting that we seem to be stuck between these morally bankrupt characters in a crummy world or upright paragons of virtue in a world where their choices mean squat.

It seems to me that in all fantasy and sci-fi where the Good and Morally Appropriate choice can be and is made, that the world has really Star Wars-like tendencies of very obvious GOOD and EVIL. You know, GOOD is pretty, EVIL is ugly, etc.

On the other hand we have people like those in Windup Girl who make these self-motivated morally corrupt choices because that's the way of the world. It doesn't matter if you're good or evil because the choices are irrelevant, and those concepts don't really exist. (Wind-up, Snow Crash, Neuromancer, etc.)

These are the only choices we ever get. If anyone has an example where the hero stands up for its (lets not be (insert offended identity)-ist, here) beliefs against the system and then is destroyed for it, as happens in history, with most real heroes posthumously recognized for socio-political gain, I'd like to see it.


Lepton | 176 comments I have a rather indistinct memory of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom but it seems to me this was a rather futurist society with some interesting anachronisms wherein women definitely had some strong roles. Further, it contains conflicting interest groups neither of which is particularly good or particularly evil. And, the hero(es)/anti-hero(es) fight for a cause that is important to them and have real consequences for the characters, not so much for the world at large, if I remember correctly.

That book is like a billion times better than Shadow and Claw.


message 36: by Al (new)

Al | 159 comments Tamahome wrote: "I wish I liked Joanna Russ more."

Johanna Russ comes across as a bit dated, I think, in some of her work. Have you read the Alyx stories, though?


message 37: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6261 comments Al wrote: "Tamahome wrote: "I wish I liked Joanna Russ more."

Johanna Russ comes across as a bit dated, I think, in some of her work. Have you read the Alyx stories, though?"


Nope. Just parts of The Female Man and We Who Are About to. Good?


message 38: by Al (new)

Al | 159 comments Jenny wrote: "That is the point of fantasy, the otherworldness it allows for."

I'm only a few chapters into a reread but this it exactly for me. (I'm a fan, btw.) I particularly valued the way the cracks and unacknowledged contradictions in Severian's world bashed up against the same components in our own in a way that almost had to be deliberate on the author's part.

I had the advantage of reading these as they came out and had no idea what the heck was going on for long stretches until some hint suddenly illuminated a whole bunch of what I'd read. Usually the flash then echoed back to contemporary (1980's) life. It helped that I tended to read SF in marathon mode and generally would burn through a book in a weekend or long afternoon: necessarily details would sort of accumulate without being fully scrutinized and then all pop at once. Big fun.

I remember being totally hit with the sought after 'sense of wonder' a number of times. It would probably be a spoiler to talk about the details of that. A parallel for me was Satryicon (the book or the movie; hey, there's one for the thread) or some of the classic Parzival stuff where elements that are indigestibly odd are delivered as if describing lunch but in a way that makes something in my everyday world suddenly seem odd as well.

Another point of luck is that I have little or no visual imagination (a percent of the population doesn't) and am hopelessly non-concrete. I can only imagine what poor Lepton is getting drug through. Probably we need to assign someone to issue alerts to him/her in advance so that when an author is about to do a good job of communicating some evil sh*t s/he can give it a pass.


message 39: by Al (new)

Al | 159 comments Tamahome wrote: "Al wrote: "Tamahome wrote: "I wish I liked Joanna Russ more."

Johanna Russ comes across as a bit dated, I think, in some of her work. Have you read the Alyx stories, though?"

Nope. Just parts of..."


I recommend giving it a shot...I think most appeared as short stories and then got collected into a volume.


message 40: by Noel (new)

Noel Baker | 364 comments Al wrote: "Jenny wrote: "That is the point of fantasy, the otherworldness it allows for."

I'm only a few chapters into a reread but this it exactly for me. (I'm a fan, btw.) I particularly valued the way the..."


Did you just say that Lepton is on drugs?

That explains a lot .


message 41: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments Zachary wrote: "Hi all! I found this message board and thread via Google Alerts. It sure makes for fascinating reading!

I just published a post on my mostly Wolfe-related blog which largely responds to this threa..."


Very interesting article, thanks for linking to it.


message 42: by Lepton (last edited Mar 02, 2011 06:46PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lepton | 176 comments I am continually amazed at people's capacity to misconstrue and mischaracterize my arguments so I will attempt to state them in full again for the deeply forgetful and the TLDRers. My arguments do not revolve around the idea of characters as mouthpieces for the author's beliefs. The arguments involve the agency of the writer, the agency of the reader, and the morality of depicting, distributing, and profiting off of immoral acts.

It's a simple and compelling argument:

1. This is a work of fiction, therefore nothing is required.

2. The author consciously chooses what he or she will include in that work of fiction.

3. If a work of fiction includes rape, murder, torture, misogyny, etc, despite all the varied and multitudinous acts and experiences that exist in our own world, let alone all the possible imagined ones that could pertain in a science fiction context, the author is consciously choosing to showcase these morally abhorrent acts over all other possibilities.

4. When an author deploys these immoral acts in the narrative, he or she is to be held accountable for subjecting his or her readers to depictions and descriptions of deeply immoral acts.

5. When an author creates characters, situations, relations, power structures, societies, etc that implement morally abhorrent acts and systems, he or she creates suffering in this narrative world. He or she gives voice to it. He or she creates an experience of suffering for his or her characters and by extension for the reader. He or she creates the experience of suffering for the reader.

6. As a passive consumer of such objectionable and immoral acts, the reader is drawn as a mute and impotent observer into this morally turpitude, debasing the reader's sense of agency and personal responsibility in the face of immoral acts.

7. Finally, when these deeply immoral acts are brought forth in an entertainment, for-profit context to excite and disturb the reader, the author literally profits from creating a world of violence and suffering in his or her own mind, visiting that violence and suffering on characters of his or her own creation, and subjecting the vicarious experience of violence and suffering on the reader.

8. The author can be said to support, endorse, and condone such immoral acts in that he or she creates these deplorable acts and situations with full conscious choice, then seeks to distribute and profit from the creation of the experience of violence and suffering. Immoral acts are created by the author. They are described and articulated by the author. They are situated as a device in a narrative context by the author. He or she creates characters meant to suffer the indignity of these acts and subjects the reader to that suffering. The author distributes and profits from these depictions of suffering and violence. In every manner other than committing of the acts, the author creates and endorses those acts by bring them into being in the world in a narrative context.

That's it.


Nathan | 21 comments Lepton wrote: "In every manner other than committing of the acts, the author creates and endorses those acts by bring them into being in the world in a narrative context."

No. I must say, you may have a troll skill of OVER 9000!!!!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments No religious texts, no history books. No mythology. Movies are pretty much out. As is the news.

Perhaps he enjoys basket weaving.


message 45: by Jared (new)

Jared (jared_king) | 51 comments He must have a high troll skill, as im being drawn into the argument...but i think i have a good point to make.

Firstly a question for Lepton:
Do you place the same argument on all books/movies that use violence/sex/any other arguably 'immoral acts' to elicit an emotional response and thereby entertain? or is it just misogyny you are having a crack at?

My arguments do not revolve around the idea of characters as mouthpieces for the author's beliefs

Is the title of your original post just troll bait? Worked like a charm.

From Zachary's post:
...Dawkins's terrible misinterpretation of the text. He emphasized the importance of taking the text in context, and not taking the passive narration of the events (and almost all of the historical books of the Bible are narrated in such a way) as an endorsement of them.

You cannot control people's interpretations of text. You can be as blunt as you like, but people still take what they want/need. The fact that one book has caused so much trouble over the centuries is 'testament' to this. Some are just ill equipped - it might be a lack of context or lack of intelligence or other factors.

I fail to see how Severian is a mysoginist tho, he 'loves' just about every woman he comes upon. ;)


message 46: by Jared (new)

Jared (jared_king) | 51 comments Or maybe avoid adult fiction altogether.

Love it :)


message 47: by Jenny (Reading Envy) (last edited Mar 02, 2011 07:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2859 comments P.S. I really love Houellebecq. I'm not sure what Lepton would say that says about me. ;)

From now on, should I consider WWLS?


message 48: by Lepton (last edited Mar 02, 2011 09:03PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lepton | 176 comments Questions:

Do you find pornography offensive? Do you find pornography degrading to women? Do you think purveyors of pornography to be generally moral or immoral people?

So depictions of sexual abuse and of sexual degradation of women and, in some puritanical contexts, of consensual sex among adults are offensive and distribution of and access to those depictions are severely controlled in the US, but somehow rape, murder, torture, and misogyny are somehow less offensive and permissible in an entertainment context?

Which seriously offends the senses and the human spirit the most, sex or violence?

By the way, I love how you all seem to resort to backhanded, condescending, infantilizing, ad hominem attacks when your intellectual measure cannot withstand a cogent argument that you happen to not agree with. Bravo.


message 49: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Lepton wrote: "Questions:

Do you find pornography offensive?


Nope.

Do you find pornography degrading to women?

Depends on the pornography and how it's produced.

Do you think purveyors of pornography to be generally moral or immoral people?

Morality is a social construct with no objective meaning. Some people may find Larry Flynt immoral. I do not.

So depictions of sexual abuse and of sexual degradation of women and in some puritanical contexts of consensual sex among adults are offensive and distribution of and access to those depictions are severely controlled in the US, but somehow rape, murder, torture, and misogyny are somehow less offensive and permissible in an entertainment context?

And this, kids, is a perfect example of a "straw man".

By the way, I love how you all seem to resort to backhanded, condescending, infantilizing, ad hominem attacks when your intellectual measure cannot withstand a cogent argument that you happen to not agree with. Bravo.

I've seen plenty of people offer counterarguments to your claims, which you've either ignored or handwaved away.

Also, didn't you say that you were going to abandon this conversation? There's nothing more trolltastic than threatening to take your toys and go home and not following through. Well, except for the classic, "Lurkers support me in email."


message 50: by Jared (new)

Jared (jared_king) | 51 comments By the way... Troll rep +1000 hehe


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