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From: "Alice Turner" <akt@attglobal.net>
Subject: (urth) Ziggurat confusion
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 17:38:08 

Mantis and Alex, please help out a confused citizen. (Yes, there are spoilers, but I'm not going to leave any space.)


> Point one: Where does Gene Wolfe's sympathy lie in the story?  Swanwick
> says to use the standard "find the wolf" trick.  The wolf in this story is
> the coyote.  Who killed the coyote?  Emory did.

How do we know that, and why would he do such a thing?
> Point b: Who killed the son?  Emory did.

How do we know that, and ditto?

> Question Marquess: Why does the final scene seem like incest?  Because it
> is incest--the "alien" is one of his daughters.  The allegations of incest
> for the divorce were probably a lie, but as is so often the case in Wolfe
> fiction, the lie has a terrible way of coming true in the end.

But this is dreadful. It means that he also shot his wife and other daughter, and that there were no alien women at all, and that the gun and the ax were never stolen. How do you know this? I would certainly not have guessed this.

> All together, iirc, this paints a feral picture of Emory: destroying his
> better self the coyote, killing the rival his son, and marrying his own
> daughter to "start over, doing it right this time."  Not unlike Baldanders,
> in cutting himself off from the outside world (and/or God) in order to
> persue megalomania; or the pirate scientist of 5HC; but in detail more like
> several heroic Greek horrors all at once.

It seems too melodramatic to me; why do you (or Swanwick) reject the science-fictional story in favor of a homicidal maniac interpretation?

Now Alex:

> Hmmm...  Yeah, I caught the Tamar reference--I hadn't thought of the
> daughter-of-the-future possibility--but this is a clone of a step-daughter if
> so, which IMO makes Emory considerably less responsible for incest than, say,
> Severian.  I simply don't think the story presents things so as to suggest
> that the incest (with the daughters) is real.

Me neither. Besides, Tamar was a daughter-in-law, and it was her own idea. Though I suppose pun could be intended.
> Yes, Emory kills the coyote--but acknowledges his own guilt, if you look
> closely.  Certainly he's a <vastly> more ambiguously bad figure than
> Baldanders (not that Wolfe doesn't give even Baldanders his devil's due).

Does he admit it? Where...and why? He *likes* the coyote.

> It seems to me that Emory IS quite Weer-ish:  they share a kind of curiosity
> that can lead them into error/disaster, yet also seems to serve as a redeeming
> element (consider a Weer who DIDN'T hunt for the treasure with Lois, or an
> Emory who said "hell, I'm not going back to my cabin with those crazies, let's
> find a motel, son").  Both have a kind of wisdom that they often seem unable
> to apply to themselves (note Weer's comment re: testifying about the abuse
> to the "good twin"--his reference here to God makes me have trouble seeing
> Emory as a cut-off-from-creation figure like Baldanders).  Emory's certainly
> flawed, and his curiosity gets his son murdered, but he also seems to me to
> have a considerable amount of author sympathy (in this sense I disagree with
> Gardner Dozois' comments in the intro to whichever Year's Best SF he didn't
> print "The Ziggurat" in as well as with Swanwick--Wolfe hardly ever portrays
> a protagonist without massive, potentially deadly, flaws--but Emory has as
> much underlying author sympathy with him as, say, Number 5 or Weer, I think).
> In fact, I think one thing this story does is set up a situation where it
> seems to be a possibility of a "lone man defending his cabin against invaders"
> and then turns it inside-out--neither the man nor the invaders are purely
> evil or wrong--both are trapped by misunderstanding and human nature--but the
> end indicates that even in these cirumstances, after blood and pain, there may
> be a possibility for something else, even if that's ambiguous, too.

Gosh, this is certainly the way I read it too. I mean, look at those details of making the bunk bed for Jan, of planning how the girls can sleep, of the "girls" and "boys" demarcations, they don't seem like the set-up for a bloodbath, and I completely believed in his fatherly feeling for the girls. Falsely accusing a man of inappropriate behavior is one of the deadliest and most unfair weapons a woman can aim; it's what made Sue Miller's THE GOOD MOTHER such a frightening work of realism.  I didn't even think he killed the coyote, and I still don't get that. Can someone help me out?


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

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