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Azram Legion
Jan 23, 2005

Drunken Poet Glory

HamsterPolice posted:

I mean, isn't Severian like 15 years old? And yeah he lives in some kind of medieval environment. He lost his virginity to clone prostitutes iirc.

Something like 15-16 when he starts his (physical) journey, yeah, and more than a decade older when he pens the Book of the New Sun that we read. After that, I'm not sure talking about age as a function of linear time makes sense.

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hell astro course
Dec 10, 2009

pizza sucks



Azram Legion posted:

It is easy to forget how utterly ruined both Severian and Thecla are by their life circumstances. For the first half of Severian's life, the only interaction he has with women is taking care of "clients" - and of course seeing someone who may be his mother be decapitated at the yearly feast-day ceremony. Thecla, meanwhile, was raised to be kept as a hostage who was expected to leverage her position as hostage into influence.

Speaking of Thecla, I've been listening to the ReReading Wolfe podcast, and one of the things they mentioned was how she is basically named The Claw. It is such a stupid, obvious thing, but I never noticed it before, and it has a lot of implications that I can't really make sense of. It is hard to imagine that it isn't intentional on Wolfe's part, but accepting it as intentional opens up quite a can of worms. Was Thecla's life as guided and planned as Severian's? How much of what we read about happens because someone set it up in precisely this way?

Totally. I just mean I've always been under the impression that we're supposed to perceive this as a character 'flaw' that illustrates the mental gymnastics he goes through, and it was not written with the current cultural discourse in mind, nor is it intended to be a mouth piece for regressive opinions... which is unfortunately all-too-common in a lot of fantasy and scifi.

my bony fealty
Oct 1, 2008










Joan Gordon said something like Wolfe was definitely a "traditionalist" when it came to gender roles, and that Rosemary was too, his views would be considered quaint and sexist by modern standards but I've never perceived him as a blatant misogynist or creep like some sci fi authors.

when Wolfe did write women protagonists they are pretty good, shoutout to Holly and Cassie.

Azram Legion
Jan 23, 2005

Drunken Poet Glory

hell astro course posted:

Totally. I just mean I've always been under the impression that we're supposed to perceive this as a character 'flaw' that illustrates the mental gymnastics he goes through, and it was not written with the current cultural discourse in mind, nor is it intended to be a mouth piece for regressive opinions... which is unfortunately all-too-common in a lot of fantasy and scifi.

Yeah, I agree with this completely. I think a large part of it is that Wolfe wrote so much from the point of view of specific characters, rather than omniscient narrators. If Wolfe himself had gone off on long spiels about women and power and how we torture those we love, I would have probably been too turned off to keep reading. When Severicla does it though? That's just good writing that shows us how warped their view of the world is.

my bony fealty posted:

Joan Gordon said something like Wolfe was definitely a "traditionalist" when it came to gender roles, and that Rosemary was too, his views would be considered quaint and sexist by modern standards but I've never perceived him as a blatant misogynist or creep like some sci fi authors.

when Wolfe did write women protagonists they are pretty good, shoutout to Holly and Cassie.

At the same time, there is no doubt in my mind that this is true. From everything I've read, Wolfe seemed like a "romantic libertarian" - someone who idolized the idea of an independent man (not person, man) taking care of his wife and family, and better left without state interference. He was obviously anti-capitalist in his early writings, but his idea of a replacement - some sort of idealized frontier society with minimal state interference, is the sense I get - always seems naive to me. The sort of ideal society that requires 99% of the world's population to die before there's enough room and resources for everyone to live that way. And, as you say, very clearly built around traditional gender roles.

The good thing about Wolfe though, is that he didn't write to reinforce his faith, his views on relationships, or his ideology. He explored them, he used imagery and themes from them, but he didn't let them dictate the narratives, and he didn't write to reach their conclusions. I mean, people call the Solar Cycle a catholic work, but it is also a work where the savior rapes and kills his way across the land, and where the Eucharist is directly translated into polyploidization and hybridization. We all remember that part of the New Testament where Jesus says "Touch this sentient liana to travel through time!" right?

Amuys
Jan 2, 2017

Muuch Muuch


my bony fealty posted:

IGJ is definitely the best part of Short Sun and yeah when they start travelling to Urth it gets real good.

This Long Sun reread has got me thinking that (gasp) Long Sun is better than New Sun. At the very least it doesn't get anywhere near the attention it deserves. Silk is just a really great character.

This opinion may change once I get to the second half which iirc is kinda bloated and a lot of nothing happens in a lot of pages. But Nightside and Lake are really really good.

It kinda helps that Silk lives in a relatively 'normal' city and actually had social interaction with normal people. The slice-of-life moments where he's bumbling around cooking tomatoes and helping the sibyls were great.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Azram Legion posted:

Speaking of Thecla, I've been listening to the ReReading Wolfe podcast, and one of the things they mentioned was how she is basically named The Claw.

I remember not being 100% onboard when whichever host that was first posed that theory. But every time her name comes up that guy always repeats at least twice, "Thecla. The Claw. Thecla. The Claw." and it's starting to drive me crazy.

Azram Legion posted:

I mean, people call the Solar Cycle a catholic work, but it is also a work where the savior rapes and kills his way across the land, and where the Eucharist is directly translated into polyploidization and hybridization. We all remember that part of the New Testament where Jesus says "Touch this sentient liana to travel through time!" right?

I've always found the Solar Cycle to be an effective Catholic work, if maybe not a good one. I like almost everything in his oeuvre having to do with robots/nonhumans aspiring to be like humans, and that's a pretty clear parallel to how humans should aspire to be like God.

I was gonna flippantly disagree with your second point and make a Moses + Staff = Boner joke but someone proposed the theory that Silk could travel to the Red Sun Whorl because he has a staff made of liana vines because the lianas were the juvenile form of the inhumi and all of a sudden that's starting to make a certain kind of sense.

Neurosis
Jun 10, 2003


Fallen Rib

Hammer Bro. posted:

I was gonna flippantly disagree with your second point and make a Moses + Staff = Boner joke but someone proposed the theory that Silk could travel to the Red Sun Whorl because he has a staff made of liana vines because the lianas were the juvenile form of the inhumi and all of a sudden that's starting to make a certain kind of sense.

I thought we got a perspective on what juvenile inhumi are like from Jahlee, and they were more or less just little reptile-like critters? Or is there a more extensive lifecycle in which what Jahlee showed us can be accommodated? Or was she lying - but I doubt
she was lying in full, since iirc she recounted meeting with Horn on Green, which gave her a connection relevant for the story?

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I'm well past due for a re-read. I've also gotta pin down where the vine theory came from 'cause it seemed like something that was relatively recent and supplemented the explicitly verbalized information.

At the very least they're raised to our explicit attention frequently.

Also ReReading Wolfe and Marc Aramini have started a bibliography of Wolfe Secondary Sources. I'm usually down for reading about what others have written about Wolfe, but that's a longer list than I was expecting.

my bony fealty
Oct 1, 2008










The Liana thing came from Aramini iirc, it makes a lot of sense when the narrator starts astral projecting independent of any inhumi

I for one kinda buy the whole Aramini theory about the one planet being the other planet, it offers thematic closure to the whole series that nothing else does

Neurosis
Jun 10, 2003


Fallen Rib

my bony fealty posted:

The Liana thing came from Aramini iirc, it makes a lot of sense when the narrator starts astral projecting independent of any inhumi

I for one kinda buy the whole Aramini theory about the one planet being the other planet, it offers thematic closure to the whole series that nothing else does

I didn't buy it at first but the thematic resonances and symbolism piled up until I've started thinking it's probably correct.

Of course, we don't know this is the fate of Ushas - the Severian Silkhorn encounters is different from the one we read, as indicated by some timeline problems with Triskele and a couple of odd things Severian says (eg 'no one would believe this'). So it's probably a different iteration of the universe (I guess that ties in to why it's called the Solar Cycle).

my bony fealty
Oct 1, 2008










Neurosis posted:

I didn't buy it at first but the thematic resonances and symbolism piled up until I've started thinking it's probably correct.

Of course, we don't know this is the fate of Ushas - the Severian Silkhorn encounters is different from the one we read, as indicated by some timeline problems with Triskele and a couple of odd things Severian says (eg 'no one would believe this'). So it's probably a different iteration of the universe (I guess that ties in to why it's called the Solar Cycle).

Yeah I think that's the only interpretation that makes sense, there's too much discrepancy with Severian's age, Triskele, and Merryn being there and I don't think Wolfe would have made that mistake - very convenient to have an explanation of universal cycles that repeat with differences sometimes minor and sometimes major. There also seems to be some suggestion that the universe of New Sun is one where Christ the savior was never sent by God, whereas in Long Sun there's an explicit reference to Allah which implies it's maybe closer to our own, if not the same. But that then opens how Green could be Urth, if Urth wasn't submerged into Ushas in the Long Sun cycle... who knows!

anyhow here's some Wolfe ephemera I got my hands on, the handout from his funeral





I love that particular quote because it's about a third of the way through Citadel so it's like, of course I like stories Severian, I've been reading this one for like a thousand pages you dummy, why would be this far into it if I don't like stories? Which! lends credence to the idea that the purpose of Severian writing the book is some kind of political tract or apologia or even that Severian intends it to be required reading in the Commonwealth despite his stated intention to stash it in Ultan's library, like why else would he expect anyone would read it and not pay attention?

Chichevache
Feb 16, 2010

One of the funniest posters in GIP.

Just not intentionally.


my bony fealty posted:

Yeah I think that's the only interpretation that makes sense, there's too much discrepancy with Severian's age, Triskele, and Merryn being there and I don't think Wolfe would have made that mistake - very convenient to have an explanation of universal cycles that repeat with differences sometimes minor and sometimes major. There also seems to be some suggestion that the universe of New Sun is one where Christ the savior was never sent by God, whereas in Long Sun there's an explicit reference to Allah which implies it's maybe closer to our own, if not the same. But that then opens how Green could be Urth, if Urth wasn't submerged into Ushas in the Long Sun cycle... who knows!

anyhow here's some Wolfe ephemera I got my hands on, the handout from his funeral





I love that particular quote because it's about a third of the way through Citadel so it's like, of course I like stories Severian, I've been reading this one for like a thousand pages you dummy, why would be this far into it if I don't like stories? Which! lends credence to the idea that the purpose of Severian writing the book is some kind of political tract or apologia or even that Severian intends it to be required reading in the Commonwealth despite his stated intention to stash it in Ultan's library, like why else would he expect anyone would read it and not pay attention?

That's beautiful. Thank you for finding it and sharing it with us.

Lester Shy
May 1, 2002

Goodness no, now that wouldn't do at all!


I read BOTNS about two years ago and was simultaneously entranced and mystified by it. I finally got my hands on a copy of Urth, but I realized I barely remember anything that happened in the previous four books. Should I reread BOTNS before starting Urth? I've heard that Urth clarifies a lot of stuff that happened in the first books

Ornamented Death
Jan 25, 2006

Pew pew!



Lester Shy posted:

Should I reread BOTNS

The answer is yes, regardless of context.

MeatwadIsGod
Sep 30, 2004

Behold! It is I! I bestow upon you...my dirty dipey!


Ornamented Death posted:

The answer is yes, regardless of context.

Yeah, you want it fresh in your mind going into Urth anyway. A lot gets recontextualized.

my bony fealty
Oct 1, 2008










Definitely reread, theres callbacks to all sorts of stuff that you'll want to have fresh. Urth is a very weird book!

been listening to the ReReading Wolfe podcast episodes on the first Severian and oooh boy its a big recontextualization that explains a whole lot. just like Wolfe to put whats going on behind the scenes in plain sight at the very end of the book!

Sekenr
Dec 12, 2013






Well, I'm gonna say this. I still feel that Jack Vance, the inventor of dying earth was better at this if not so profound. Secondly, Gene Wolfe is just so wordy, goes on and on. I quite enjoyed new sun for it's dream like feeling, but now I am struggling through Green's Jungles and its not good by intention. Whenever something interesting is about to happen, nope I will talk about something else.

Pistol_Pete
Sep 15, 2007

I disagree! Only 2 Princesses have died. That is one of the smallest number of dead Princesses you can have.

Oven Wrangler

Yep, Wolfe loved his 'dramatic omissions' (if that's the right phrase, I just made it up).

" The ravine ended in a wall of rock. The rustles in the undergrowth behind me had ceased and now the creature that had made them quickly stood up, as a human might (although there was little enough of the human about it) and turned its eyeless gaze towards me."

<chapter ends>

<new chapter>

"The following week, I was strolling down Main Street when I recognised Doctor Wilhelm approaching. He greeted me civily enough and immediately launched into one of his characteristic monologues, although as he continued, I perceived something rather curious..."


So often in Wolfe's books, you'll get 'protagonist in peril! whoops! timeskip!'

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Glad work stuff is blowin' up 'cause otherwise I wouldn't've known that today is 2020-06-30.

Gonna have to hunt down a book store which has a copy of Interlibrary Loan.

E: Should've planned a bit better. The local Barnes and Noble only had one copy, reserved for someone else, and when I asked if Half Price Books had a copy of Interlibrary Loan by Gene Wolfe I got back a very suspicious:

"Gene Wolfe has a new book?"

Hammer Bro. fucked around with this message at 21:20 on Jun 30, 2020

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


Thinking about "V.R.T." and how much I liked the device of the officer rummaging through Marsch's personal effects. Are there any other books that tread in similar territory?

Safety Biscuits
Oct 21, 2010



I found a small joke in Peace. Remember Dr Van Ness? The pet repair centre in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has the same name.

FPyat posted:

Thinking about "V.R.T." and how much I liked the device of the officer rummaging through Marsch's personal effects. Are there any other books that tread in similar territory?

If you like that, you'll love Pale Fire.

Sekenr
Dec 12, 2013






Pistol_Pete posted:

Yep, Wolfe loved his 'dramatic omissions' (if that's the right phrase, I just made it up).

" The ravine ended in a wall of rock. The rustles in the undergrowth behind me had ceased and now the creature that had made them quickly stood up, as a human might (although there was little enough of the human about it) and turned its eyeless gaze towards me."

<chapter ends>

<new chapter>

"The following week, I was strolling down Main Street when I recognised Doctor Wilhelm approaching. He greeted me civily enough and immediately launched into one of his characteristic monologues, although as he continued, I perceived something rather curious..."


So often in Wolfe's books, you'll get 'protagonist in peril! whoops! timeskip!'

I am in the middle of Return to the Whorl and came to post how much I'm sick of it.

Dearest Nettle, I finally came to the conclusion that there is an extremely important thing that I failed to tell you which makes me a bad person and now that I am finally 100% double ready to share let me first describe unrelated happenstance what happened to me on Green/Blue/Long sun whorl/a dream I had (maybe ).

Dialogues are also loving infuriating.

Mailman: A letter to Horn!
Horn: I am Horn if it can be said with any kind of certainty and you are certainly welcome to pass on your message to me, unless you do not wish to do so, thus compelling you against your will would be unethical, thus I will never do it, although I can, but won't.
Mailman: *gasps* *whimpers* *pisses himself from shock*

redreader
Nov 2, 2009

I am the coolest person ever with my pirate chalice. Seriously.



Dinosaur Gum

Short sun is my favorite Gene Wolfe series by a long way. Don't read Gene Wolfe if you can't handle not getting exactly what you want.

Azram Legion
Jan 23, 2005

Drunken Poet Glory

Gene Wolfe works are purposefully polysemous and aesthetically challenging. Complaining about them being like that seems weird to me - almost all the rest of sci fi fantasy is the opposite. It is okay to not like Wolfe for whatever reason. I don't get why people feel the need to press through and complain about their suffering: You don't like having to interpret and develop theories without certainty? Read some of the excellent stuff by other authors that isn't like that!

Sekenr
Dec 12, 2013






I like Wolfe which doesn't mean that every word he wrote is great. The further the series goes, the worse in my view hes prose becomes, like he is paid by the word. Happenings are unnecessarily encrypted like it became a habit rather than adding aesthetical or plain enjoyment value, dialogues unnecessarily wordy and coy.

To quote one of the characters "I think we should be open and honest for a change." Very needed reply which happens exactly once in 3 books full of quite burdensome exchange of words, everyone agrees to just speak their mind which leads to only 5 more pages of dialogue on my kindle.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




I just read "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" for the first time and I liked it.

FPyat
Jan 17, 2020


I'm finding myself having a much easier time reading Citadel of the Autarch than with the two middle books. The people Severian talks with are less cryptic and inscrutable.

Neurosis
Jun 10, 2003


Fallen Rib

my bony fealty posted:

Definitely reread, theres callbacks to all sorts of stuff that you'll want to have fresh. Urth is a very weird book!

been listening to the ReReading Wolfe podcast episodes on the first Severian and oooh boy its a big recontextualization that explains a whole lot. just like Wolfe to put whats going on behind the scenes in plain sight at the very end of the book!

Re putting things in plain sight at the very end of the book - sometimes he does something cute where a character will say something that's literally true but a reader is likely to take it as the speaker using an idiom or speaking metaphorically. I remember it happening more than once at pretty significant points but for the life of me can't recall any other examples than the bit where he's talking about the shoulder of the mountain which is actually referring to the shoulder of the guy the mountain is carved into the shape of.

Also, for people not entirely happy with how wordy the Short Sun is - allow me to give a strong recommendation for The Wizard Knight, which I think is a bit underappreciated or perhaps it's better to say overshadowed. People speak much more plainly in those books - the narrator especially, since he doesn't have as much of a formal education as Severian or Silk. There are still puzzles to figure out and some interesting setting details buried in there (I love the setting generally, which a spin on Norse mythology in a world that's maybe around the beginning of what was for us the high middle ages), but it doesn't read nearly as cryptically.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Honestly you won't be too far off if you assume that all of Wolfe's characters are speaking 100% literally. The way it usually plays out is:
  • Character speaks in metaphor.
  • Combined with details not revealed until later, what they said was literally true as well.
  • By correlating the events with some arbitrary outside text which has one or two parallels too concrete for coincidence, the theme of the external text reinforces the theme of Wolfe's scene/book and suddenly we're back to metaphor.
That's one of the reasons there are still so many active communities surrounding Wolfe's work -- there are so many payoffs which feel both intentional and cohesive and no single person still among the living will spot all of them.

Neurosis
Jun 10, 2003


Fallen Rib

Hammer Bro. posted:

Honestly you won't be too far off if you assume that all of Wolfe's characters are speaking 100% literally. The way it usually plays out is:
  • Character speaks in metaphor.
  • Combined with details not revealed until later, what they said was literally true as well.
  • By correlating the events with some arbitrary outside text which has one or two parallels too concrete for coincidence, the theme of the external text reinforces the theme of Wolfe's scene/book and suddenly we're back to metaphor.
That's one of the reasons there are still so many active communities surrounding Wolfe's work -- there are so many payoffs which feel both intentional and cohesive and no single person still among the living will spot all of them.

Broadly right, I think. Wolfe's stories suggest he didn't care for the Death of the Author style approach to interpretation, and some of his writing is an explicit rejection of that. Most of his works had 'correct' interpretations combining things explicitly in the text, background cultural stuff, occasionally knowledge of the author himself (although this was in the nature of 'helpful to know' rather than 'you must know this to understand what's going on'), and sometimes some very specific historical knowledge. There's a story he wrote which could only be 'solved'' by knowing about some very obscure fact about an area in the 1950s, and his story Trip, Trap which really exemplify this.

andrew smash
Jun 26, 2006

smooth soul

CommonShore posted:

I just read "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" for the first time and I liked it.

Honestly on reflection and after spending almost two decades now reading his work I think Fifth Head is my favorite.

anilEhilated
Feb 17, 2014

But I say fuck the rain.



Grimey Drawer

andrew smash posted:

Honestly on reflection and after spending almost two decades now reading his work I think Fifth Head is my favorite.
I'd say it's the quintessential Wolfe - it's got all the parts of his trademark style but it's all compressed into a fairly friendly size (unlike the Solar Cycle). It's also the one I usually recommend people start with.

pugnax
Oct 10, 2012

Specialization is for insects.


I really liked Interlibrary Loan and have no idea what the hell happened or who it happened to or if any of happened in the first place.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




andrew smash posted:

Honestly on reflection and after spending almost two decades now reading his work I think Fifth Head is my favorite.

Now when I posted I had just read the eponymous story, but I think I like the last one in the collection (I'm tired can't remember the title - "JWB"?) best of all/

DickParasite
Dec 2, 2004




Slippery Tilde

Can someone remind me what word Wolfe uses to describe a priest who reads prophecy in lighting?

Action Jacktion
Jun 3, 2003


DickParasite posted:

Can someone remind me what word Wolfe uses to describe a priest who reads prophecy in lighting?

Fulgurator. Itís a real word going back to Roman times.

DickParasite
Dec 2, 2004




Slippery Tilde

Action Jacktion posted:

Fulgurator. It’s a real word going back to Roman times.

I knew it was a real word I just couldn't remember it for the life of me. Thanks!

Your Gay Uncle
Feb 16, 2012
EXCUSE ME WHILE I HELP DOZENS OF MEXICANS FUNNEL HOT TAR UP MY MOTHERS ASS WITH A TRAFFIC CONE

I just picked up a " Best of Gene Wolfe" short story compilation, which has a short story called " Fifth Head of Cerberus". I've also seen "Fifth Head of Cerberus" referred to as a novel. Is the short story I read a sequel or coda? It was about a clone who lived in a whorehouse on some distant planet and he kills his father


I still think "When I Was Ming the Merciless" is his best short story. Or at least my favorite.

The Vosgian Beast
Aug 13, 2011

Business is slow

Your Gay Uncle posted:

I just picked up a " Best of Gene Wolfe" short story compilation, which has a short story called " Fifth Head of Cerberus". I've also seen "Fifth Head of Cerberus" referred to as a novel. Is the short story I read a sequel or coda? It was about a clone who lived in a whorehouse on some distant planet and he kills his father


I still think "When I Was Ming the Merciless" is his best short story. Or at least my favorite.

The Fifth Head of Cerberus the book is a series of three interconnected short stories. The one that gets put in anthologies is the first story of three.

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Ben Nerevarine
Apr 14, 2006

That Old Ash Magic


Your Gay Uncle posted:

I just picked up a " Best of Gene Wolfe" short story compilation, which has a short story called " Fifth Head of Cerberus". I've also seen "Fifth Head of Cerberus" referred to as a novel. Is the short story I read a sequel or coda? It was about a clone who lived in a whorehouse on some distant planet and he kills his father


I still think "When I Was Ming the Merciless" is his best short story. Or at least my favorite.

The standalone "novel" The Fifth Head of Cerberus is a collection of a three novellas, the first of which is the story you describe. The second and third are separate stories but deal with the same setting, themes, and some minor references to one another.

e:f;b

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