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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) Tidbits of all sorts
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 1999 13:42:48 

Welcome aboard, Shannon Wilde!

New Wolfe story: "The Tree Is My Hat" is a new Wolfe story in the just
released horror anthology _999_.  Set on an island in the South Pacific, in
the modern moment.  Those of you in the Chicago area missed your chance to
meet Wolfe at the Stars Our Destination bookstore, where Wolfe was signing
_999_ (and other books as well) on 9/9/99.

LEXICON URTHUS sighting in UK: spotted on the shelf in the Manchester
bookstore called Waterstone's.  And this is not the first time, either--two
or perhaps three times.  The mildly curious and the simply fanatical are
encouraged to make pilgrimage, look the book over, heft it, thumb through
it, glance at the pictures of exposed bosoms, put it back, and then
personally thank the booksellers for ordering it, and displaying it on
their shelf--shake hands all around, shed a few tears of pride (in
Waterstone's) and joy (of things Wolfean).

eccentric WATCHMEN spoilers to follow <!avert thine eyes!>

It has been more than ten years since I read WATCHMEN.  My memory of the
details is largely eroded, but that doesn't matter--I still have my
opinion.  In a nutshell, I thought it started out great, had a fair middle,
and a weak end.

To my mind there are two pillars to WATCHMEN: the obvious one is a
parody/scathing satire/savage deconstruction of the entire comicbook hero
mode (probably another brainchild engendered by Orwell's notion that
comicbook heroes were "fascistic," and how could commie-book heroes or
supersocialist heroes be constructed to counter the posterboys of
fascism?); and the way this is all accomplished is through a worldview
which is starkly Gnostic, in the noir downbeat school of Gnosticism <g>.

In this Gnosticism: there is a True God who is utterly absent from the
world, and unreachable in this life; Earth is Hell, more or less; the
Demiurge is a Pretender God, a yucky creature who created humankind and
Earth and rules over both of them and pretends to be the True God.  So in
vanilla Christian terms, the True God is God and the Demiurge is Satan,
roughly, and with a lot of heretical spin.

So in WATCHMEN we have a universe where "superheroes" helped win WWII, and
shape the post-war world; but it becomes clear that these people are
twisted individuals, megalomaniacs--thus, the world is not as shiny and
bright as a comicbook world, it is dark and twisted (and there cannot be a
"happy comicbook ending" where "good triumphs over evil" or "justice
prevails" or any of the other traditional comicbook conclusions).  There
=is= a real superman, Manhattan, but he grows bored with the world and
leaves for Mars, where he can contemplate his navel (thus he is a stand-in
for the True God).  Obviously the villain of the piece is a fellow who
stands in for the Pretender God, and he even has a chateau in Antarctica, a
handy literary location for Hell (aside from Superman refs for the
comicbook crowd).

Perhaps because the text/images so effectively destroy the authority of the
superhero mode, I felt that WATCHMEN was hoisted by its own petard: since
we don't believe in superheroes anymore, why believe that WWIII is =really=
imminent?  Why believe that this psionic monster bomb plot will =really=
succeed in averting WWIII?  And why believe for a moment, in this "real
world" mode, that the ends justify the means?

The psionic monster bomb plot was so lame that I couldn't buy it as real
(my disbelief, in part conditioned by the text itself, would not
disengage), nor could I appreciate it as parody.  It seemed like suddenly
the text wanted to have some of the aegis, the aura it had been trashing:
as if BORED OF THE RINGS suddenly tried to play it straight as LORD OF THE
RINGS, by way of "the Big Lie."

So in the end, the satire devolves into nihilism, and <exageration to make
a  point here> it seems like a good text for a Gnostic-brand
mass-murder/suicide cult: because the world is hell; because the ends
justify the means, we can kill some innocent people to possibly avert
megadeath (Tokyo train gas attack); etc.  (And no, Lawrence Durrell aside,
not all Gnostic cults are suicide cults.)

To contrast Severian with WATCHMEN's Pretender God: Severian is a pawn who
makes it to the other end of the board and is reborn as a more powerful
piece; the Demiurge is game designer and game player.

(I liked MIRACLE MAN better.)


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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