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Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2002 16:29:56 -0800
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) "Hour of Trust" itself

"Hour of Trust" is the short story in THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR DEATH AND OTHER
STORIES AND OTHER STORIES.  Spoilers to follow.

Adam Stephanides quoted Nutria and wrote:
>> Does he? In "Hour of Trust" (*Island of Dr. Death etc.*) Wolfe
>> himself joins a rebellion reciting the Lord's Prayer.
>It's not clear to me why you think the bald man reciting the Lord's Prayer
>is Wolfe, or even why you think Wolfe approves of the rebellion.  Among
>other things, the bald man is a suicide bomber, and while Wolfe as a
>Catholic might approve of rebellion under some circumstances, I doubt he
>could approve of suicide, which is definitely a sin.  Moreover, the
>recruiting centers for volunteers include not only Buddhist spiritual
>centers, which Wolfe might possibly be ecumenical enough to approve of, but
>a temple of Kali (166, Orb edition), which he almost certainly isn't.  And
>the government against which they're rebelling is portrayed as incompetent,
>but not tyrannical.
>It's a strange story anyway, and one which I think has been dismissed too
>readily (myself included).  I remembered it as just an anti-corporation
>tract, and it is that, but it may also be the Wolfe story which wears its
>modernist mannerisms most boldly on its sleeve, aside from jeux d'esprit
>like Parkroads.  (And I have to admit that it was only on this reading that
>I realized where the story was taking place.)

I'm not certain but I'm pretty sure that Kali worshipers do not have to be
thugees, nor are they more inclined toward suicide than Christians
(Buddhists are definitely different: in that case we have the spectacle of
Buddhist monks self-immolating in protest, captured on film, and I'm sure
that this real-life image is one of the driving forces of the story).

It =is= a strange story.  It starts out with the obsessive detail worthy of
REPORT ON PROBABILITY A, but then this gradually lets up and it becomes
more like a Brunner novel (THE JAGGED ORBIT and THE SHEEP LOOK UP, say).
(It is also similar in some ways to Wolfe's "The Haunted Boardinghouse" in
STRANGE TRAVELERS). The twisted way in which Peace (white flag, naked
civilian, etc.) is used to further War (the kamikaze hug of the Peace
people) is well done, and probably rises out of the reports of Vietcong
women and children doing similar things to US servicemen.  The sense of
"America goes it alone" (i.e., no payback for having helped Europe in two
world wars) is well done.  The corporate approach to warfare, while evoking
the chaos and "strange bedfellows" of 20th century civil wars, also is
probably related to the real-world corporate approach in Vietnam, a new
form which emphasized incremental quotas rather than military goals (this
gave rise to the whole "body count" thing, and was itself a greater or
lesser factor in the whole debacle).  The telescreens recapture the Vietnam
War brought nightly into American livingrooms, "in living color," etc.

All good and fine.

But then there is that ending.

Which is either "simple" ("she was a fembot all along!" )
and I don't get it, or it is ambiguous and I don't get it.

I mean this: I understand the image of the woman bursting into flames as he
touches her erogenous zones, since this was already established as the
kamikaze hug of the Peace woman.  But if that is truly the case, then I
have to wonder: why him, why now, why here?  She claims to have slept with
his boss--wouldn't the boss be a better target?  Then again, she says that
the boss is purposefully losing the war, that is, he is perhaps her puppet,
or at least not doing anything she doesn't want. (Or maybe she is lying
about one or more things [sleeping with boss/boss losing war on purpose] to
see his reaction.) Whereas our hero has the one iota of shame/fighting
spirit/refound nationalism or whatever it is, he has the one speck of it in
the whole congregation, so maybe that has to be eliminated pronto before he
"inherits the throne"?  What, is he going to "inherit the throne"?  No, he
is going to go out to all the expat watering holes in Lisbon, drum up a
Lincoln Brigade, and personally turn the tide of the war.

The telescreens pose an interpretive challenge, or so it seems to me.  They
are two way: viewer is being viewed, except in the case of tv-feed.  They
present "reality" in real time, yet they are also subject to hacking (the
kid in Philadelphia).  So for example we get the image of a severed head
held aloft on a spear, then we see it is the face of the General, and then
the General resumes talking in his office hundreds of miles away from the
fighting, and the hacker kid admits he did that fade for effect.

This fact, the blending of images, lends itself quite well to the end: it
is as if the hacker kid has cut into the signal we are watching (i.e., our
view from the two-way telescreen) and substituted the image of the kamikaze

(The Peace people seem to require the following conditions: a battle-front
where they can appear and cause confusion; soldiers to see them and react,
and die in favorable ratios [that is, better than one soldier for one Peace
person]; cameras to film the whole thing for viewers.

Clio's nova is private, unless one counts the screen; it isn't at a
battle-front; it isn't being filmed; she doesn't wave a flag.  Well sure,
she's a deep agent.)

But no, it is the simple answer.  Clio ("history") is tempting Peters,
testing him, just as she (presumably) tested his boss.  If he agrees with
the cues she is giving, then he can have her body (as the boss did), but if
he is infected with patriotism/whatever-you-wanna-call-it, then he gets the
flaming death (as does she).  And she, fembot-like, is always primed,
always ready to go off.  (Well, maybe not =always=, but certainly for a
party/historical event like this.)


Sirius Fiction
LEXICON URTHUS -- 68 copies remaining until OP!
booklets on Gene Wolfe, John Crowley


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