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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/05/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 40, Whole Number 1748
Table of Contents
Correction to Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
April 11: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and "The Memory Clearing House" by Israel Zangwill http://bit.ly/ZeRLy4, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM; discussion after the film[This was mistakenly listed as April 4.]
A Bad Sign (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I see that next month will see the release of the next "Star Trek" film STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. Hot damn that's dramatic! INTO DARKNESS! That is pretty scary, isn't it?
Am I the only one who is getting a really bad vibe from this title? What a concept! The whole ship and crew are going into darkness. I guess that is pretty unusual, huh? The Enterprise is an interstellar craft, but I guess until now it has always gone into pretty well-lit interstellar space. I mean, cheese, it isn't like it is the first time. Why didn't they go all out and call it STAR TREK: OUT OF TOWN? [-mrl]
Classic Frank R. Paul Illustrations:
In the Huffington Post (of all places) is an article, with Illustrations, about Frank R. Paul:
Article on Alternate History:
Evelyn was interviewed for, and is quoted in, an article in "Motherboard" title "Did Steampunk Kill Alternate History?"
The article may be found at http://tinyurl.com/mtvoid-vice-ah. [-ecl]
Hugo Nominations (with comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
1343 valid nominating ballots (1329 electronic and 14 paper) were received and counted from the members of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3 and Loncon 3, the 2012-2014 World Science Fiction Conventions.
Because LoneStarCon 3 was able to tweet only one nominee per tweet, rumor has it that at some point they were cut off from tweeting because they exceed their daily limit.
Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant (her pen name) set a new record with five nominations in a single year. In the fiction categories, there were 11 female nominees and 7 male. (Last year it was 11 female and 10 male.) And for the second year in a row, one fiction category had no white males.
I would be curious to see the nomination numbers that resulted in one episode of "Game of Thrones" (Season 2) being nominated in the Short Form category, rather than the entire season in Long Form.
As usual, people are pointing out what they consider deficiencies in the Hugo nomination process. Cheryl Morgan is not happy with the "5% rule" (see http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/?p=16466). On his Facebook page, Gardner Dozois notes the passing of the generation of writers from the 1980s, with only Lois McMaster Bujold, Pat Cadigan, Nancy Kress, and Kim Stanley Robinson representing the "old" guard, and with the majority of nominees in most categories coming from online sources rather than print. And http://www.staffersbookreview.com/2013/04/can-we-stop-talking-about-the-hugos-now.html (unsigned) feels that the selections indicate a decline in the taste of the voters and a rise in enthusiastic niche fans (e.g., Mira Grant has a large following of voters among her readers while many "better" authors do not). And Jim Hines satirizes a lot of the complaints in http://www.jimchines.com/2013/03/grumbling-about-the-hugo-awards/.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will note that I had a very short item published in JOURNEY PLANET (#13), one of the fanzine nominees. [-ecl]
Sixties Spy Shows Adapted to the Screen (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Warner Brothers has announced that George Clooney is not going to be the title character of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. He has been replaced by Tom Cruise. I do not think the series needed to be another Tom Cruise vehicle. This brings up a raft of memories of 1960s spy TV.
Back when I was a teen--and here I will show my age--the James Bond films hit the entertainment sphere and were a great success. The TV networks always racing to be second at something wanted their own spy series. There were several to choose from over the years. The best were "The Avengers" and "Danger Man." The latter had a title that did not scream "spy stories" so after a season at the half-hour length, and when the producers took it to an hour-length, it underwent a name-change in the United States and became "Secret Agent". There were a number of attempts on the United States networks to retread their old shows and make then seem a little more James Bond like. The decent police detective show "Burke's Law" became "Amos Burke, Secret Agent" and promptly imploded.
But the American networks created three spy programs that at various times showed some intelligence or at least creativity. I have no figures, but my impression was that the most popular American spy series was "The Man from U.N.C.L.E". It did not provide much mental exercise, but it had a lot of the fun tropes of the James Bond films. It had gimmicky weapons and gadgets and a secret headquarters in Manhattan under a dry-cleaners. Somehow underneath street level they had built a large command complex with nobody getting wise that there was anything unusual underground. Much more intelligent was "Mission Impossible." This program had scripts that were puzzles. A team is given a mission to accomplish generally in an invented country. The individuals go around doing all sorts incomprehensible things. Then in the last five minutes they spring their plot and, as they say, the penny drops. The viewer spends that last five minutes saying "Oh, that is what THAT was all about." Somewhere in between in quality was "I Spy". This series produced by Sheldon Leonard, who was very familiar in films such as GUYS AND DOLLS, usually playing the role of a gangster and always with a New York accent. Years later I found out this comic actor had produced some of the best shows on television. One of which was "I Spy." What makes this series work is the relationship of primary characters Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott (play by Robert Culp and Bill Cosby). Some of the stories were good also, but the real attraction was the friendship of Robinson and Scott.
Anyway those were the big three American spy series. I have just recently heard that a film version of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Is being considered with Tom Cruise to play Napoleon Solo. Tom Cruise already has a spy series with MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and it looks like he wants to get his hands on another of the big three. Luckily a (reputedly terrible) film version of I SPY has been made and Cruise will not put his name on that one. I have always been a little irritated that Cruise or the people behind Cruise have their hands on the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE franchise since they have no intention of ever doing the sort of intelligent puzzle-story that made the original TV series good. With about a half-day of effort I think I could take a Cruise "Mission Impossible" script and turn it into a "Man from U.N.C.L.E." or "I Spy" script. You could not do that with the old TV scripts for these three series. The series had distinctly different styles. I think Cruise and company seem to just want to do their own thing and then put a respected label on it. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. would be just one more franchise to allow them to do it.
I am not a Tom Cruise fan, but I am also not one of the surprising number of people who hate Tom Cruise. However, I do not think he is an actor in the way that Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas, or James Stewart was in the 1950s. These days Cruise seems to play the same character all the time. At one time he played more complex characters, as he was in RAIN MAN. Cruise is taking mostly adventure roles these days and he is becoming the John Wayne of our generation. As for his playing in THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., I seriously doubt it will work as a "Man from U.N.C.L.E." story. As a spy film it probably will not be very different from Cruise's "Mission Impossible" films. Cruise just borrowed "Mission Impossible" films with little interest in what sort of story made that series what it was.
If Cruise were remaking, say, THE 39 STEPS he would have considerably more latitude in redefining the character. In some ways adapting a TV series is more difficult since viewers have seen the major characters already and in a TV adaptation the best the director can hope for is that the actors will do a reasonably good impression of original characters whom the audience already knows. That is a losing proposition. For the "Mission Impossible" films, Cruise side-stepped this problem by inventing a new character who was also in the Impossible Mission Force. That superficially removed the obligation to have the new films faithful to the spirit of the original TV production.
My suspicion is that besides having Cruise be a man from U.N.C.L.E. there may be a quick dialog reference to familiar characters Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, Cruise has no intention whatsoever of doing a "Man from U.N.C.L.E." story. [-mrl]
THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and THE HYDROGEN SONATA: A Meditation on the Transhuman Condition (television/book review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):
Some of you are probably wondering what THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, a CW "hot teenage" TV series about vampires has to do with THE HYDROGEN SONATA by Iain M. Banks. My thesis is that both are meditations on the transhuman condition. Of late, issues relating to genetic engineering, cyborgization, and so-called "mind drugs" have become more salient as these technologies evolve. The public debate on these topics is rather limited and chilly, with the high ramparts of society (the President's Bioethics Commission, for example) occupied (pre-Obama, anyway) by the forces of genetic ludditism, and with little serious discussion of these topics in the public space due to widespread and well-organized opposition.
Thus, aside from a few books and papers produced by a tiny minority of transhumanists, the real dialog is carried on in plain sight via the means of speculative fiction, otherwise called "SF." THE VAMPIRE DIARIES concerns a group of friends in Mystic Falls, a small New England town which for some reason is focus of vampiric activity. As it turns out, there is a lot more going on than mere vampirism, as we are gradually introduced to a whole mythology of vampires, witches, and were-wolves. However, I intend to focus mainly on the vampires of Mystic Falls and their "state," not on the rather complex and entertaining plot lines, not to mention the never ending soap opera of teen relationships fueled by supernatural danger and power.
Vampires in this world, are, as per the usual mythos, immortal blood drinkers who are unable to face sunlight or enter homes without being invited. The vampiric characters in VD get around the sunlight issue by wearing magical rings provided by witches allied to them (each faction of vampires has one or more witches friendly to them), so sunlight plays only a minor role in the stories. In many ways, the vampires in VD represent the transhuman condition, or at least one embodiment of it. Now that Elena Gilbert, the main character, has become a vampire, the focus of this season is the search for a magical cure for vampirism. This allows for plenty of discussion of the pros and cons of being a vampire, as well as the motivation each character had for becoming or staying a vampire.
These vampires were all turned to vampirism as young adults, so they are eternally beautiful and healthy. They need fear only a local herb called vervain, and the bite of a werewolf, which is always fatal. Their strength and speed are superhuman, and they can heal from any normal injury, although being burned or decapitated remains a terminal experience. Their hearing and senses are highly acute as well.
So far, we have encountered a number of the tropes of "superhumanity" as it might be genetically engineered. Immortality is high the on the ultimate goal list of any serious transhumanist, and immortality means little without eternal, robust health. Thus, the immunity to disease and injury the vampires of Mystic Falls display, coupled with their immortality and youthful beauty remain a long-sought and as yet unrealized human yearning. However, any real genetic superhuman would not be invincible or invulnerable. Rather like these vampires, however fast or strong they might be, however acute their hearing or vision, decapitation or a large bomb would surely be the end of a real genetic superhuman.
The vampires in VD can be divided into several groups based on feeding habits. There are those, who, like Stefan, who limit themselves to animal blood, or human blood from a blood bank. Others, like Damon, use their hypnotic powers to feed on occasion, but avoid killing anyone when doing so. Finally, some eat and kill without limit. Such questions would surely confront our genetic superhumans as well. Whatever they might be able to eat, there is always the temptation to over-indulge, something one suspects there is no genetic cure for.
The hypnotic powers of the vampires, which extend to both erasing/implanting memories and controlling the actions of others, are not that far removed from what a real hypnotist can do, not mention a super-intelligent genetically enhanced hypnotist along the lines of Patrick Jane in THE MENTALIST. Such powers are a long held wish fulfillment dream, but as is explored at length in VD, they can't bring real love, and ultimately are not a sold basis for resolving your problems. Since the vampires and many of the main characters are resistant to such hypnosis, it plays only a modest role in most of the events in Mystic Falls.
A more interesting power the vampires exhibit is the ability to turn off all normal emotions, including fear, love, doubt, and so on, and to live only as a vampiric predator. When not in this state, the vampires experience enhanced human emotions, and thus are sometimes driven to turn them off completely. Both the ability to more fully experience strong emotions, as well as to shut off completely our emotions when we don't want them, are long held components of the transhumanist dream. We need look no further than STAR TREK's Spock for an example of a character who can suppress human emotion in the interest of higher performance. Another example would be Vinge's use of the drug Focus, or Richard Morgan's Reaper drug. The current use of drugs like Adderall, which don't make you smarter, but certainly (for a while, and with some rather nasty side effects) do help you to like what you are doing better, and perhaps to become a better, happier, more energetic version of yourself, are another example of these desires.
It is easy to imagine a genetically engineered a "human" with complete control over their emotions, but, as the vampires of Mystic Falls could report, this change is unlikely to solve all our problems, and will almost certainly give rise to new ones, as the now emotionless Elena has discovered in recent episodes.
Some of the vampires in VD (Stefan and Damon) are old by human standards, and others (Klaus and Rebekah) are many centuries older than that. They all bear the burden of immortals in a mortal universe--they can form long-term relationships only among themselves. Some have sought solace in art, some in power, and some in blood, but the passage of time often is a heavy burden. The unspoken message of VD is clear, however. You are better off as a vampire, at least a vampire like Stefan or Damon with some level of self-control.
VD deserves credit for a balanced portrayal of vampirism. It's vampire heroes and heroines are neither gods nor monster, but a bit of both. Some might even find them human in their strivings to love and be loved, to find meaning and purpose in their immortal lives. At it's best VD operates as an extended meditation on the transhuman condition, with a focus on the every-day meaning of the transhuman condition rather than on the technology that might get us to that point. Vampirism is an apt metaphor for the transhuman condition in that although it has many benefits, it also has real drawbacks, much as for example, a cochlear implant might allow you to hear, but at the price of having a machine in your head, and forcing you to deal with upgrades and computer viruses that affect your hearing. We should expect as is the case with vampirism, whatever technology we may deploy to create the transhuman condition, be it drugs, cyborg devices, or genetic enhancements, there will be a shifting play of light and dark in our lives, with each gain coming at some cost, and with the fundamental broken nature of human life remaining much the same. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.
In THE HYDROGEN SONATA Banks provides a different take on the transhuman condition. Technically Banks writes "space opera" but rather like the best of Alastair Reynolds, he often transcends the genre. I've been a fan of his "Culture" tales for a long time, but recent entrants have seemed a bit padded and thin on the plot. THE HYDROGEN SONATA for the most part escapes this trap as it follows the adventures of Lieutenant Commander Vyr Cossont, a Gzilt, as she struggles to carry out a final mission before the Gzilt "sublime" to higher dimensional spaces. The Gzilt were part of the group of species that long ago formed the Culture, but for a mysterious reasons backed out at the last minute. Now, after thousands of years they have decided to "sublime," which seems to operate much like "ascending" in the Stargate TV series.
A faction of the Gzilt has embarked on a reign of terror to cover up the reason that the Gzilt never joined the culture, and to ensure that sublimation takes place on schedule. The Culture Minds get wind of what is happening, and use Cossont as a tool to figure out the heart of the mystery. Culture Minds are a form of superhumanity--AIs that occupy interstellar ships with whimsical names like "You call this clean?" and "Outstanding Contribution to the Historical Process." They can sublime, but have chosen not to, instead occupying their time with adventures such as those in THE HYDROGEN SONATA.
The scope of THE HYDROGEN SONATA as a meditation on superhumanity is vast. We are introduced to an immortal body changer, a Mind that returned from the sublime realm, a bizarre experiment in artistic surgery, various Gzilt in different stages of merger with machines, and the four-armed Cossont herself. As the plot roars toward an ultimately tragic confrontation between the Gzilt faction and the Culture Minds, Cossont struggles to master her "life task" before her sublimation--to play the Hydrogen Sonata on the Antagonistic Undecagonstring, something which requires four hands to accomplish.
I've always thought of the Culture as being a sort of parody of Western, and specifically American culture. In the Culture you are free to be decadent, to indulge any desire, as long as you don't hurt anyone. It is easy to view the Culture as weak, and this has led over the years to attacks by various enemies, all now exterminated. The Culture can seem decadent and self-indulgent, but once aroused, rather like the USA, it displays a ruthless efficiency in war that somehow always comes as a surprise to the opposition. The Culture Minds are somehow American--eccentric, whimsical, independent, bridling at authority, arrogant, and yet honorable, brave, clever, ruthless, dangerous, and self-sacrificing, all at the same time.
These characteristics are on full display as the Culture ship "Mistake Not ..." and Vyr Cossont engage in a desperate struggle with the best the Gzilt military has to offer, a battle that, rather like the current drone war, results in significant amounts of collateral damage and a confused ending that satisfies no one except the reader. THE HYDROGEN SONATA does not come to a Hollywood ending, as is often the case with Banks novels, but it is a realistic ending, and Vyr Cossont does complete the Hydrogen Sonata. As to her final fate, and that of the other Gzilt, you'll need to read THE HYDROGEN SONATA.
As always, I recommend THE VAMPIRE DIARIES and THE HYDROGEN SONATA to those who like this sort of thing. Both are definitely for older readers, and feature explicit violence and a certain amount of sex. [-dls]
Math Puzzles (letter of comment by David Leeper):
In response to Walter Meissner's comments on the math problems in the 03/29/13 issue of the MT VOID, David Leeper writes:
Thanks, Walter ... great solutions to those math problems! I'd never seen Foxtrot, and I thought the author might have accidentally concocted arcane-looking problems that were actually solvable analytically ... except maybe problem 3 as you point out. But it looks like they were actual homework or exam problems. They did look scary.
Now that I know you're out there(!), I'll check my work next time instead of stumbling through once. It looks like I made a lot of smack-myself-in-the-forehead errors. I've lost the scratch sheets I used, so I can't look for them, but your forensics look accurate. (Were you ever a math teacher?)
Working on the problems brought back memories of my old math classes (and lots of "Doh!" errors) from the 60's and 70's.
Maybe we can coax Mark into posting more problems for us like those in Foxtrot ... (?) [-dgl]
Gun Control (letter of comment by Jim Susky):
In response to Mark's comments on the Second Amendment in the 03/22/13 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:
Mark, I've read enough of your fanzine by now to know that you are thoughtful and a careful writer.
I'll offer a quick reply for now--a more thoughtful one later.
My operative conclusion to gun control is that with over 300-million firearms extant and a free society to be 100% (or 99.999%) free from gun violence is a fantasy. I just can't conceive of a desirable society (or a multiplicity of them--see below) in which the unlawful or the insane will respect gun restrictions. My imagination fails to describe a desirable society that can restrain those bad actors--the solution would be worse than the problem.
(Perhaps you can flesh one out?)
Further, some of those "insane" or unlawful ones might respect the possibility/probability that their attack might be credibly met with armed disapproval.
I'll add that, since the elementary-school shooting, I have run some (not "the") numbers.
In the United States the broad likelihood of being killed by lightning is roughly three times greater than being killed in a mass shooting.
(analysis attached [but we don't include large spreadsheets here])
Of course if you expand gun violence to include being killed by family, friend, associate, neighbor, citizen, the numbers change a lot.
I went through a similar, very brief thought process as you regarding armed guards--and consider deploying such to be undesirable in most instances.
Regarding the framers: I heard recently that the gun issue was addressed within the Federalist Papers. I confess I haven't sought out a copy of them.
"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." -Robert Heinlein
(I'll bet you know, better than I, where he wrote that)
Heinlein's aphorism deserves more than a digital aught/nought, right/wrong, "quite wrong"/quite right characterization.
If you hang a bad neighborhood, armed associates may well be none too polite--but perhaps more polite if they know you yourself are packing.
If you hang with my Texas-born, ex-sheriff friend, and know him well enough, you know he's armed at all times (and triply so when he comes to the "big city"--which you visited some time back)--and are not at all concerned--because you never knew a more polite, even-tempered, and entertaining fellow in your life. If you had to hang in a bad neighborhood he'd be a good escort.
Since you don't know him, you'd never have a clue that he's armed.
Bottom line--there are many societies--and more than fifty of them.
Finally, here's my observation about Alaska in general vis-a-vis arms:
"In Alaska, even Liberals think guns are cool."
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Next in the philosophy/literature course I described last week was Aeschylus's "Oresteia", a trilogy consisting of AGAMEMNON, THE LIBATION BEARERS, and THE EUMENIDES. Greek drama was written for competition in the form of a dramatic trilogy and a related satyr play (in this case, the lost PROTEUS), and the plays were normally performed only once. Yet the "Oresteia" was so popular that it was performed over and over.
Dreyfus spent a lot of time explaining why the "Oresteia" did not fit Aristotle's framework (or for many, definition) for tragedy. It is not about the fall of a hero with a tragic flaw. If it has a hero, that would be Orestes, and he does not fall.
The first play, AGAMEMNON, has very little action and consists mostly of speeches relating what has come before the play starts. In particular, we get a sketchy outline, more in references than in descriptions, of the beginnings of the Trojan War and Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia in order to get a favorable wind to carry the Argive fleet to Troy.
In AGAMEMNON, Agamemnon returns home, where his wife (Iphigenia's mother) Clytemnestra has taken up with Aegisthus (Agamemnon's cousin). When Agamemnon is in his bath, Clytemnestra kills him, claiming the reason was Iphigenia's sacrifice. (I would find this more convincing if she hadn't already taken Aegisthus as a husband.)
It is interesting to compare the stories of Iphigenia and Isaac. To get the frivolous similarities out of the way first, "Agamemnon" and "Abraham" both start with "A" and "Iphigenia" and "Isaac" both start with "I". (This is even more frivolous when one considers that the names are in two different alphabets and the comparison is being done in a third.)
In both cases, the father is told by (a) god to sacrifice his child. In the story of Abraham and Isaac, no reason is given--it is apparently just an arbitrary commend. In the story of Agamemnon and Iphigenia, Agamemnon's ships are stranded on an island with no way to get off, and Agamemnon is told by Artemis that if he sacrifices Iphigenia, they will get a favorable wind. With his men starving and his promise as king to come to Memelaeus's aid in jeopardy, Agamemnon at least has *some* reason for the sacrifice. A more modern interpretation is that if the king is willing to send the children of his people off to die in war, he must be willing to sacrifice his own as well. The modern explanation also emphasizes the purposeful nature of Iphigenia's sacrifice, as opposed to the arbitrary nature of Isaac's. Artemis stopping the sacrifice would have destroyed the message of Universal sacrifice." (In IPHIGENIA IN AULIS, Euripides wrote a variant of the legend in which this does happen. Artemis sends a mist and replaces Iphigenia with a hind at the last moment, carrying Iphigenia off to serve her in a distant land. It is considered a lesser play by many, including H. D. F. Kitto in his classic work, GREEK TRAGEDY, where he calls it "thoroughly second-rate.")
In THE LIBATION BEARERS, another of Agamemnon's daughters, Electra, is mourning her father and praying for someone to avenge his murder. Just then, Agamemnon's son, Orestes, returns from his long exile and, after a lot of speeches, confronts Clytemnestra and kills her. Before he kills her, she pleads with him, saying, "Oh take pity child, before this breast, where many a time, a drowsing baby, you would feed and with soft gums sucked in the milk that made you strong." (lines 896-898) Again, the conviction of these lines has been undercut by an earlier speech the Cilissa (Orestoes's childhood nurse: "I wore out my life for him. I took him from his mother, brought him up. There were times when he screamed at night and woke me from my rest; I had to do many hard tasks, and now useless; a bay is like a beast, it does not think but wants you to nurse it, do you not, the way it wants. For the child still in swaddling clothes cannot tell us if he is hungry or thirsty, if he needs to make water. Children's young insides are a law to themselves. I needed second sight for this, and many a time I think I missed, and had to wash the baby's clothes." (lines 750-759) This is much more naturalistic than anything else in the play, and hence much more convincing. Assuming it is not just a function of the translation, this is the beginning of naturalism in drama.
THE EUMENIDES is in many ways the most interesting of the three plays. It has the most "action," by which I do not mean car chases (or chariot chases), but dialogue rather than soliloquy and (for the first time in the trilogy) nothing taking place off-stage. (By tradition, all gruesome events take place off-stage, so we saw none of the previous murders.)
THE EUMENIDES is basically a courtroom drama, with the Furies charging Orestes with matricide and insisting on his death, and Apollo defending Orestes. One element of the defense was that Apollo had encouraged Orestes to do it. But Apollo had another argument that must seem peculiar to most people today. To the claim of the Furies ("He has spilled his mother's blood on the ground"), Apollo replies, "The mother is no parent of that which is called her child, but only nurse of the new-planted seed that grows. The parent is he who mounts. A stranger she preserves a stranger's seed, if no god interfere." (lines 658-661) This is apparently what the Greeks believed, and has on at least one occasion been used as the basis for an alternate history ("Seventy-Two Letters" by Ted Chiang).
Of course, the arguments of the Furies are also alien to us. When Orestes asks why the Furies did not hound Clytemnestra for killing Agamemnon the way they are hounding him, the Furies say that the person Clytemnestra killed was only a spouse and not a blood relative.
In terms of world-view (which is more the focus of this course), Dreyfus claims that the "Oresteia" represents a transition from the older gods and ways (the Furies and spirit of vengeance) to the newer gods (the Olympians and the rule of law and justice in a formal society). The problem with this theory, in my opinion, is that Homer barely talks about the Furies--and even Dreyfus admits this. It seems to me that if the Homeric era was all about the Furies rather than the Olympians, then THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY do not represent that very well at all. And if that is the case, then trying to use *them* to deduce the Homeric world-view is just wrong.
Dreyfus claims that the "Oresteia" makes a distinction between "father" and "king", in that Orestes killing Clytemnestra for killing his father would have been similar revenge of the Furies' sort (hence improper), but killing her for killing the king is demanded by justice. (The apparent claim that one does not need a trial for the latter is glossed over--I guess the argument is that there might be an excuse for killing an ordinary person, but not for killing the king.)
[to be continued]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Write something, even if it's just a suicide note. --Gore VidalTweet
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