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Date: Sat, 9 Feb 2002 11:07:09 -0800
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: Re: (urth)  "Hour of Trust"  and rape

Hartshorn quoted me and wrote:
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Michael Andre-Driussi" 
>> It is a tactic to push the soldiers to commit more atrocities (killing
>> white-flag waving civilians, even naked civilians), which will further
>> erode civilian support for the government and boost support for the
>While you are right, I think you are looking at the etherial symbolism and
>missing the earthy basics of his story.
>What are wars fought for?
>Wars are fought by men, to obtain power over the bodies of women and their
>sexual/reproductive potential.   Ultimately.
>The text focuses on the **women** rebels who take the suicide/flameout route
>because these are the people who are effectively, devastatingly, negating
>this, the most basic of male human motivations.
>And symbolically proving to the troops who attack them that, even if they
>win, they will lose.
>Notice, the "government" people are at the top of the male power hierarchy.
>They have women on tap.  But in the same way that the grunts are not going
>to be able to rape any women even if they win, the executives and
>politicians will not acually improve their Broad Reproductive Success by
>fucking the models/prostituites.   They have in fact been out-evolved by the
>women, who get more from the transaction than their male "exploiters".
>The whole government side is sterile, an evolutionary dead end.
>The trope of the rape of defeated women in war occurs elsewhere in Wolfe.
>Mora's rape in IGJ, and "When I was Ming The Merciless", are two examples
>that come immediately to mind.

Well, yes. There is truth to what you are saying.  However, the imp in me
is reminded of similar things done comically--was it in ZORBA THE GREEK
that the woman determined that the way to world peace was for all the wives
of the military men to refuse to have sex with their husbands if they
engaged in war?

I don't think "Hour of Trust" is a "war of the sexes" story in the company
of such Wolfe works as "In Looking-Glass Castle" and "The Ziggurat."  I
think it is about History, and historical turning points: we are witnessing
a near-future turning point, chaotic and confusing for the people in it,
yet clearly a moment that decides the shape of the future. (Again, it is a
lot like "The Haunted Boardinghouse.") There are suicide squads, just like
the kamikaze pilots of World War Two, but the point is not that they are
all women, the point is that they are kamikaze.  The fact that some of them
are women is an added tinge of horror (as well as necessary foreshadowing
for the story's end).

The story is about the fall of (corporate) empire and the triumph of
"barbarism and religion."  Wolfe is obviously well-aware of the birth of
Christianity under similar circumstances--he includes the bald Christian
guy among the three Peace people, clearly re-creating an "early martyr
slain by Roman soldiers" sort of scene.  (And there does seem to be a new
cult/religion among the civilian population and the rebels, though how
coherent it is remains unclear,likewise how central it is to the rebels.)

Allow me to back up a moment and retrofit context to my original post:

War is an institution. Slavery was/is an institution.  These institutions
grew out of, evolved from, situations that were, according to some, worse.
(Clearly an "anti-Golden Age" stance.) For example, I've seen it said that
Slavery was the merciful alternative to Genocide (active/passive).
Likewise War, by its very nature, stayed clear of certain behavior like
Genocide and Scorched Earth campaigns--not that they never happened, just
that they were recognized as large scale atrocities. War in the Modern Age
is built upon this and more: hence the attempted genocide by the Nazis is a
shocking descent of a highly civilized nation into pre-civilized barbarism
in a very short time span.

So War is a game with rules, as ridiculous and sad as that is.  War is an
institution, and over time institutions change (sometimes for the better,
sometimes for the worse: Slavery in the US was worse than slavery in
ancient Greece, for example)--they can even be done away with (Slavery
abolished in Russian Empire, British Empire, and the US, despite the fact
that Industrialization seems to =strengthen= the need for Slavery).  But
imho the flaming kamikaze hug is not a step towards evolving out of War,
rather it is several steps backwards, forcing devolutionary behavior.
Turning Modern War into something more like the take-no-prisoners,
continental scorched-earth campaigns of the Mongols.

Scorched earth (killing peasants, destroying farming networks) worked
rather well for the Mongols--it took centuries if not a chiliad for parts
of Asia to recover, and that was what the Mongols wanted: to preserve their
nomadic "cowboy" ways against the encroaching fixed-place-dwellers.
Scorched earth worked poorly for Hannibal--if he had managed to win against
Rome, perhaps it would have been seen as the necessary evil.  But since he
didn't, it justified the later annihilation of Carthage.  (Hannibal's
tactic probably also paved the way for Rome's shift from a Republic to a


Sirius Fiction
booklets on Gene Wolfe, John Crowley


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