From: "Roy C. Lackey"
Subject: Re: (urth) PEACE: the office of Dr. Van Ness (again!) Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2002 22:52:04 -0600 mantis wrote: >For the purposes of debate, there must be two conflicting points of view. >Roy has volunteered to champion the view that Weer's situation is >nearly-solipsistic, and the ghosts he sees are puppets of his psyche: Dr. >Van Ness, as the ghost who most interacts with Weer, is by this action the >most complete puppet of all. My senility is getting worse; I don't remember volunteering for anything! However, if I've been dragooned . . . >I am putting forth the option of 0% puppetry and 0% solipsism. The trade >off is 100% time travel. (And unlike Billy Pilgrim of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, >Weer's travel is =not= paradox free.) Halfheartedly I parry: didn't Wolfe write somewhere that PEACE was originally published as a "mainstream" novel; that it was not labeled (or marketed) as "fantasy", as is the case with my Berkley paperback? Is time travel allowed in mainstream fiction? >In the past we have looked at the clear evidence of "bad splices," where >time-frames have been patched one on top of the other. This is part of >what makes the Dr. V thread difficult to trace, because Weer has visited >this one doctor for 30 years, from a period when he was a skinny loser to >when he was a fat king of the town. If Weer only had yearly physical >exams, that would be 30 visits to pick and choose from for the splicing. I know I've gone over this before, so I'll give just the broad view. Those "bad splices" you mention are, for me, what most clearly demonstrates that Weer is *not* time traveling. He's dead. Whether his existence in the frametale is purgatorial, hellish, cyclical, or whatever; *it's all in his head*, and he is not entirely sane. He is powerless to alter his "reality", wherever he is. (If people could get out of hell, or limbo, or even purgatory just because they didn't like it, the vacancy rate would be quite high. And he doesn't *like* being where he's at.) He is unable to change the past. If he could change *his* past, that would necessarily change the pasts of everyone he interacted with after he made the change(s), causing an exponential ripple effect in the lives of everyone in the world. Whether Wolfe intended Weer's situation to be remediable or not, I don't know, but Weer can't change it by an act of will alone. Perhaps Wolfe's religious views allow Weer an eventual out, but in the short term all he can do is think, to remember, and to rail against his fate. Weer's memories are, by and large, not happy ones. Those he chooses to "write" down get altered in the process of remembering. When he gets in his head the notion of his dead-man stroke, and seeks medical advice for it down the corridors of time from equally dead doctors, it's all imagination. His existence is defined by his memories--that's all he has to work with. He is free to reconstitute his memories any way he wants to, and he's only giving us a small part of them. When he draws on the memory of a visit to Dr. V as the stage setting for his inquiry about his stroke, and remembers a time when he was in a waiting room full of people, he, childlike, wants to see the doctor right *now*. When the nurse points out that he must wait his turn, he just moves ahead to another memory of when he had already been admitted to the doctor. The "stroke" he complains of in the frametale is imaginary (even if based on a real one he had when he was alive), because he's dead. The spiritual dissatisfaction he feels with his current state of being manifests itself--in his mind--as a stroke. He wants relief, so he turns to a dead doctor he has known to find it, which, of course, doesn't work. When his frametale-self interacts with Dr. V (or Lois, or Sherry), so that the doctor responds with comments that were never made when both were alive (and which *couldn't* have been made in real life, like those to Dr. Black), Weer is playing mind games with himself, revisiting memories like someone daydreaming; variations on a theme, with what-ifs and might-have-beens. I don't necessarily believe all this, but it is one solipsistic take on Weer's situation. >In this way, we see that "the madman is right," in the sense that Weer of >2274 invaded the Weers of 1953, 1963, and 1973 and spoke the truth (as much >as he understood it in a vague post-1974 sort of way) about his situation >(which amounts to "last man on Earth" stuff). Hence the paradox: does Weer >recall the mental breakdown he had at Dr. Van Ness's office in 1963, or did >it not happen until he did it as a ghost, overriding the Weer of 1963 to >speak out (in a way that Scrooge and Billy Pilgrim cannot)? *If* Weer were able to travel in time, then I would choose the second option. -Roy --