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Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 13:59:36 -0800
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: Re: (urth) DOORS: The hive-like society

BTW I took a look at the Captain Billy's Whiz Bang ref, Adam.  Pretty neat

Adam Stephanides wrote:
>Actually, I hadn't been thinking of the bill's title at all.  But now that
>you mention it, I think that the reading you attribute to me fits better
>than the one you prefer.  Of course, bills here frequently have anodyne
>titles which don't reflect their contents, let alone the motives behind them
>(USA Patriot Act, anyone?); presumably it's the same in Otherworld.

Yes.  In my defense I would say that we are now arguing over what the bill
claims to be about versus what it is really about.  We can agree that it
claims to be about "preserving families," but I still hold out the notion
that the real reason is something else ("extending the franchise" was the
example I gave).  And I'm not talking about "unanticipated consequences."
For an example from our world we might look at Prohibition and say that, as
madcap as it was, still it was a high ideal and/or an atonement for the
wild booze years before it, yet at root (how to explain?) it seems like an
expression of the Puritan roots that preceded the founding of the nation.
(The "unanticipated consequence," of course, was the unprecedented rise of
organized crime.  How this could have been unanticipated remains a mystery,
except for the strange blinders that always adorn rose-colored glasses.)

Adam quoted me and wrote:
>> But I see no evidence of a welfare system at all in TAD.
>While it may not be mentioned explicitly, I think it's safe to say that one
>exists.  Firstly, in matters not gender- or reproduction-related, Otherworld
>society seems similar to America in the late 1940s or early 1950s.  We had a
>welfare system then, though much less extensive than the Great Society, so
>it's reasonable to suppose that Otherworld does.  Secondly, Green thinks at
>one point that a society dominated by women would care more about children
>than ours does.  Though realistically there's no reason why Green should be
>in a position to know (he seems to observe very little that's not related to
>his quest for Lara), I get the feeling we're supposed to regard his
>ruminations on Otherworld as reliable.  So if postwar America and Otherworld
>differ in this regard, I'd expect the difference to be in Otherworld's
>favor.  Third, and most importantly, the practical aspect: a woman living on
>her own, raising twenty-five children, could not possibly support herself
>unaided (unless she were rich).

First point, right, but add they still have slavery, =mostly= in the South.
That should shake up the picture pretty nicely!

I am willing to concede on some points: I, too, saw Lara's "3 to 36" number
of babies, and have readjusted my sense (50 babies is thus far above
normal); likewise the shortage of young men -- there are too few young men
to fight in wars, iirc a comment Gene Wolfe made about the Otherworld in
one or more interviews.  We see this in the lack of a War Between the
States.  (It also fits in with the idea that the ancient matriarchal
utopias were all predicated on slavery.)

So in Otherworld most men die between the age of 14 and 21, let's say.  Any
man who survives beyond these years is either asexual or possesses an iron
will or is simply too frightened.  And the breeding population isn't a
minority, it is just that the men are winnowed out so early that adult men
are a numerical minority.

OTOH, I guess I should outline my other unsupported notions about family
structure and political structure in Otherworld.  I figured that power
collected in families, whether they be blue bloods in New England or
Faulknerian dynasties in the South.  When every mother is a widow, there
are no "single moms" is how I would put it -- new mothers would naturally
have a place already waiting for them at their own mothers's house.
Mothers would have power, but grandmothers would have more, and great
grandmothers -- whew!

As for Congress, I vaguely thought that the Senate would be something more
like a House of Mothers (or Grandmothers?) and the House of Representatives
would be the more plebian (maybe even have male politicians).  So the
passage of the bill through both would represent a surge from lower to

We do not see any of this in the text: we see no grandmothers, we see no
congressional politicians (I don't think), we don't see any dynastic
houses.  What we see are the "little people" at the bottom struggling to
get up, just like the characters in FREE LIVE FREE.  So granted, in these
circumstances we might expect to see "single moms," mothers who are not an
appendage of a larger household, but I do not think that we do.

>> I sense that you still cannot
>> see the rather desperate pre-mothers: Gloria Brooks (maybe), the ice queen
>> (definitely), and even Fanny.
>I don't recall Gloria, but my impression is that the ice queen is too young
>to be really desperate.  I'd attribute her sudden violence to a combination
>of her great triumph of attracting a man to her float being suddenly
>snatched away, combined with Green's unfavorably comparing her to the
>goddess (as she must think as she undoubtedly thinks, not realizing that for
>Green Lara is a flesh-and-blood woman).  And Fanny is happy to give up the
>putative advantages of motherhood in favor of being able to "do it over and
>over" with Green (309).  Which is not to say that women in Otherworld don't
>strongly desire to be mothers, as I said.

I dunno.  The thing about Fanny is, she is so ambitious to climb up the
socioeconomic ladder.  As a police officer, Green could lead her to a
promotion, or even a double-promotion, iirc her spoken fantasy on the
subject.  The motherhood element does not seem to be for Fanny an
"either/or" thing, that is, it does not seem to be a choice of career or
motherhood . . . it seems like an "and" thing: that motherhood will lead to
promotion, either directly or as another element.

The thing about Gloria is that, if allegations are true, she has
rape/murdered a patient in a mental ward.  Far more predatory and serious
than the gay proposition in the Earth mental ward.

The ice queen, ah.  My view of her is changing . . . today I see her, and
all the doll-attackers as following a model of the goddess which just
happens to be wrong, according to the goddess herself.  That is to say: the
ice queen is enacting the behavior of Cybele, and the stained glass that
Roy was bugged by (sorry Roy, the short answer was "Love-goddess-with-spear
is far more ancient than Greek myths -- it is more like Ishtar and those
other fierce Middle Eastern goddesses of Love & War") is an example of the
wrong model being enshrined.  Because Cybele loved Attis and became
insanely jealous when he fell in love with a mortal princess, so she caused
his insanity, which made him cut himself: but in TAD Lara says this was all
a mistake and misunderstood, which I take to mean that Lara is more like
Aphrodite, and the Otherworld church is focused on Cybele.

With this in mind, obviously a rival (the doll or the "other goddess" who
stands behind her) makes the Cybele-devotee go into a berserker rage: the
devotee re-enacts the whole thing.

Still, a main point about the ice queen: she represents a socially
sanctioned non-marriage approach to the reproductive situation.  But talk
about random selection!

>And what precisely is North's crime?  His rap sheet says he was "Arrested
>8/8/68 ngri." (128), but I don't know what that means.

Our mutual friend Google tells me that it means "Not Guilty by Reason of

As for North's secret societies, "Iron Boot" reminds me of Jack London's
THE IRON HEEL, a rather prophetic vision of fascism.

>> Green
>> saying "I'm not gay" to the antique-collecting woman (233).  (I could have
>> sworn Green said it another time earlier on in Otherworld, but I can't find
>> it now.)
>You're right; to North, in fact. (39)

Thanks, Adam!  Yikes, for a guy who hasn't reread the book, you've got an
unbelievable grip on it -- did you index it during your first read? 

>Did Bailey die immediately?  The only two references I found to him don't
>say anything about his dying.

Right, I'll grant you that.  Then again, I don't see anybody making any
moves to say goodbye to Al, shake his hand -- their sense of him seems to
be very past tense.

>Uh huh.  (Fanny's excitement at the prospect of being able to "do it over
>and over," mentioned above, fits with this picture.)

I dunno.  Fanny's excitement is very odd to me . . . it marks her, somehow,
but as what?  A visitor, maybe.  Or an Aphrodite devotee in a world of
Cybele worshipers.  (Ooops, these two options aren't that different.)

It is one of those weird little shifts, like when Green says that E-women
at singles bars and company picnics were just like O-women -- after babies,
not after Love.

In a sense she is playing it perfectly: she will be his Aphrodite.
(Aphrodite likes to do it over and over; Aphrodite doesn't much like having
babies, which is what those earth mothers like Cybele do.)  Unfortunately,
Green does not love Fanny, so for him it just signals another loveless
coupling, the type he has been rejecting all through the book.



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