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Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2002 09:02:20 -0600
Subject: Re: (urth) "Hour of Trust" itself
From: Adam Stephanides 

on 1/31/02 6:29 PM, Michael Andre-Driussi at mantis@siriusfiction.com wrote:

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

That wasn't what I meant to imply (I actually hadn't been thinking about
thuggee at all).  But Kali is a goddess of death, and I don't know why Wolfe
would drop in a reference to Kali in this context if he didn't want to
discredit the rebels.

> It =is= a strange story.  It starts out with the obsessive detail worthy of

I had been thinking Robbe-Grillet (which was a main influence on REPORT, if
I'm not mistaken).

> The sense of
> "America goes it alone" (i.e., no payback for having helped Europe in two
> world wars) is well done.

My impression was that Wolfe thought the Europeans were just being smart:
the "government" forces clearly can't win, so it makes no sense to throw
good money after bad.

> 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).

Virdon even refers to Vietnam when justifying the government's approach to
the war. (152)

> 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.

I'd interpret the final paragraphs to mean that they make love first, and
only after Peters' post-coital conversation does she go up.

>  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.

Referring to her statement "'That's why Lowell is losing his war.'"? (164)
But in context, this just means that the war is being lost; and I don't see
anything else implying that Lowell is purposefully losing.

> (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.

I don't know why she picked him as a target either.  My guess would be
simply that he's one of the few competent people working for the
anti-rebellion forces, and therefore worth eliminating.  You'd think,
though, that having a spy working for one of the enemy leaders would be
worth more than eliminating one subordinate, especially one who hasn't done
anything amazing yet.  Or maybe she's not working for the rebellion at all,
and commits murder/suicide on her own, for whatever reason.

Symbolically, though, it make more sense to me.  Clio is history, as you
point out (good call; I hadn't noticed that), and she stopped sleeping with
Lou about six weeks ago (165), signaling that history has withdrawn its
favor from the "government" cause.  In signaling his intention to try and
turn things around, Peters is attempting to stand in the path of history,
and people who do that get steamrollered by history, if you'll forgive the
mixed metaphor.  (This doesn't explain why history should commit suicide,

> 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).

I wonder if there's an ironic allusion to 1984 here; ironic, since here the
telescreens signify not the government's omnipresence but its incompetence.

> (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.

Realistically, it seems like a poor tactic.  All the soldiers have to do is
shoot anybody approaching their lines who doesn't stop when ordered to.  And
in any case, the bombers only get a favorable ratio if the soldiers are
stupid, like the ones who tried to rape the girl.  Its value, if any, seems
to be primarily symbolic: "Look how dedicated we are."



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