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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) Ziggurat "Maximum Delusion mode"
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 14:19:50 


I don't sense much difference between the Kessel (was it?) reading and the
Swanwick reading I was talking about: both use "Maximum Delusion" mode.
That is, all the skiffy stuff is just delusion on the part of Emory.
Ziggurat, laser weapon, all that stuff is just not real.

IIRC, the Swanwick model was saying that Emory killed the coyote, not by
some passive way, but by Emory pulling the trigger of the rifle that put
the lead bullet into the coyote and made him dead.

Likewise, the murder of the son.  Quite active.  "While Emory was
=sleeping=," indeed.

As for "why don't we see it?"  Well, look, I don't want to argue too
strenuously for a theory that isn't mine, but the same questions were once
applied to NULL-A: "When does hero Gilbert urinate or defecate?  Throughout
the whole novel we never see it happen."  To which van Vogt replied:
"Between chapters." <g> I think it is strongly in the suit of Maximum
Delusion to suppose that Emory is largely unaware of what he is doing: part
of the nature of the horror; you know, like how when Oedipus killed that
old guy at the crossroads.  Furthermore, I think one of the original hooks
for Maximum Delusion was Emory's muted response to finding his dead son:
there seemed to be something more happening here, something odd, something
in a blindspot, something other than "men have no feelings, even for their
own children."

I'm not sure where this "daughters from the future" angle crept in--in "Max
Del" mode it is, of course, delusion: the "alien female from the ziggurat"
is really and actually the very same girl from Emory's shattered family.

It ain't my theory.  I'd read the story and liked it as a cold horror
story.  I hadn't formed much of an opinion other than that.  I think the
Maximum Delusion mode makes the story much closer to Wolfe's "Redbeard"
than, say, "Try and Kill It" (which TZ has certain obvious similarities
to).  It seems like a "male Medea" kind of thing.

Re: the strategy of "hunt the wolf," please, let us make a distinction
between the animal and a specific man.  Neil Gaiman saw the alzabo as a
wolf, and further developed the concept: the alzabo is a "gene" wolf.  I
won't belabor the difference.

Identifying Emory as a Wolfe-stand-in (because he is an old white guy
engineer, and because he says Uncle Wolfey sorts of things) is probably the
first stage of the process for most of the readers who were/are outraged
about the story.  Crafty Gene seems to slap certain readers in the face
with this particular red herring, a herring that looks like a John Norman
interview (where JN spouts all sorts of chauvinistic "Gor" things as being
true on Earth) folded into a "barely disguised fiction"; here is the
smoking gun, for readers primed or looking for such readings.  And then the
herring, focus of hypnotic attention, is tossed into the hedge of
Chase-Your-Tail, while the story itself dodges away.

Thus, the wife is evil for having done all this bad stuff (in a passive
way--that is, she sets things into motion, like Pandora or the Evil Queen);
and brave, heartful engineer (actively) tries hard to save all the pieces,
making a few (passive) mistakes; all as mysterious external forces
(actively) pick them off one by one.

And this is, as a matter of fact, the way that it was when Swanwick
presented by stages the thing I'm calling "Maximum Delusion": one or three
male persons were going on about the ugly portrayal of adult womyn in "The
Ziggurat," buttressed with examples from "The Cat" and even, what
synchronicity! "The Haunted Boardinghouse."  Round and round and round they
went!  Then along came Swanwick and here was something different to think
about, a reading that somehow managed to derail the train before the tigers
turned into butter.


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

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