I raised my hand and she added quickly, "There are people here to protect me. All I have to do is scream. You may hit me once, but you won't hit me twice." "No," I told her. "Yes there are. Three men." "There is no one. This whole floor is empty and cold - don't you think I've noticed how quiet it is? Roche and his girl stayed below, and perhaps got a better room there because he paid. The woman we saw at the top of the stair was leaving and wanted to speak to you first. Look." I took her by the waist and lifted her into the air. "Scream. No one will come." She was silent. I dropped her on the bed, and after a moment sat down beside her. "You are angry because I'm not Thecla. But I would have been Thecla for you. I will be still." She slipped the strange coat from my shoulders and let it fall. "You're very strong." "No I'm not." I knew that some of the boys who were afraid of me were already stronger than I. "Very strong. Aren't you strong enough to master reality, even for a little while?" "What do you mean?" "Weak people believe what is forced on them. Strong people what they wish to believe, forcing that to be real. What is the Autarch but a man who believes himself Autarch and makes others believe by the strength of it?" "You are not the Chatelaine Thecla," I told her. "But don't you see, neither is she. The Chatelaine Thecla, whom I doubt you've ever laid eyes on - No, I see I'm wrong. Have you been to the House Absolute?" Her hands, small and warm, were on my own right hand, pressing. I shook my head. "Sometimes clients say they have. I always find pleasure in hearing them." "Have they been? Really?" She shrugged. "I was saying that the Chatelaine Thecla is not the Chatelaine Thecla. Not the Chatelaine Thecla of your mind, which is the only Chatelaine Thecla you care about. Neither am I. What, then, is the difference between us?" "None, I suppose." While I was undressing I said, "Nevertheless, we all seek to discover what is real. Why is it? Perhaps we are drawn to the theocenter. That's what the hierophants say, that only that is true." She kissed my thighs, knowing she had won. "Are you really ready to find it? You must be clothed in favor, remember. Otherwise you will be given over to the torturers. You wouldn't like that." "No," I said, and took her head between my hands.Everyone in Wolfe's universe is a philosopher, it seems. Of course, if this girl is really a courtesan and not just a poor girl prostituting herself, it's more likely that she's educated in a wide range of subjects. Nothing like a discussion about the nature of truth and a double entendre about the theocenter as foreforeplay. "Weak people believe what is forced on them. Strong people what they wish to believe, forcing that to be real." That's a strong statement. The girl seems to be making it an argument about self-confidence and its ability to make others confident in you. I don't like it, because I think its end result is more often close-mindedness and delusion than simple self-confidence. You need moderation there, because what would happen to the Autarch if he believed no one was plotting against him? He wouldn't be Autarch for long. The power of positive thinking only gets you so far before you have to deal with reality again. "I was saying that the Chatelaine Thecla is not the Chatelaine Thecla. Not the Chatelaine Thecla of your mind, which is the only Chatelaine Thecla you care about. Neither am I. What, then, is the difference between us?" Her earlier argument about self-confidence is now an argument that one's beliefs matter more than reality? This is solipsistic in the extreme. We all have a mental picture of a person, but it's at least partially based on observation. People who embellish their internal pictures too much are asking for trouble when reality sets back in. It's interesting that both the torturers and the prostitutes use the word "clients."
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Here is one of the weirdest conversations I've read. The conversation, characters, and setting are all normal for an sf novel, but the combination is very strange:
Posted by Leif on Thursday, October 01, 2009