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Date: Sun, 28 Jul 2002 20:15:55 -0700
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) Those Orwellian Ascians

I believe it was blattid who fairly recently complained that he did not
grok how or why some people keep saying that the Ascians are "Orwellian"
with their Correct Thought when it is clearly and only Mao's little red

Right. Not to take away anything from the Mao's little red book angle at
all, because it is there.

OTOH, to the best of my knowledge, even at the height of the personality
cult the Chinese did not make a practice of speaking exclusively in quotes
from the little red book.  So the historical context of the little red book
does not contain the aspect of Approved Texts/Correct Thought.

Orwell's novel, NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, has "Newspeak," which is a
state-created lexicon of ever simplified words, standardized grammer, etc.,
that was expected to replace English by 2050.  IIRC, Symes boasts that the
Party will eliminate the orgasm, because once the word is vaporized, it
will no longer exist (the Party gains tremendous strength from sublimated
sexual drives among the members -- so the Party has made great progress in
eliminating the physical sensation that the word referrs to).  IIRC,
"Ingsoc," the philosophy/mindset of citizens, is engendered by Newspeak;
"Oldthink" is all that pre-revolutionary stuff (Capitalism, etc.); not to
mention "thoughtcrime."  And then there is the Thought Police (emphasis on
"thought" to show linkage to philosophy of Ingsoc in this case).

So it seems to me that "Correct Thought," while sounding nicely Maoist,
actually leads to a rich association with Orwell's novel:  Insoc = Correct
Thought; Newspeak (in 2050) = Approved Texts; etc.

I think that the "mirror" is being held up, not to Mao's China, but to
Orwell's Oceania.  By having the Ascians saddled with a form of Newspeak,
Gene Wolfe is able to show that even then they are capable of telling
stories and other frivolities -- thus the Party has not in fact "vaporized
the orgasm," as it were: the human spirit finds ways around it.  (Not that
this is necessarily a direct criticism of Orwell by Wolfe: Orwell, after
all, does not say the Party is able to do this thing, only that it is a

I hope this answers the complaint.



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