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    Chapterhouse goes all 1984

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    Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby pcqypcqy » 09 Sep 2017 16:57

    What's with the sudden introduction of the insane level of surveillance the BG perform on each other?

    Not even a hint of it in Heretics.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby pcqypcqy » 11 Sep 2017 20:18

    I noticed the letter he wrote about the death of his wife at the end was dated 1984, and the book was published in 1985, so presumably he did a lot of writing in the year 1984. Perhaps he just included it as a little joke?
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby georgiedenbro » 12 Sep 2017 13:30

    We had never before been given a direct glimpse of the inner workings of a typical BG society, no less Chapterhouse. What Frank describes is the opposite of 1984, which is Orwell's version of a dystopia where all humans are enslaved by a corrupt system. At Chapterhouse the surveillance in place is specifically designed to prevent corruption; it's a way to ensure that the leader of the BG doesn't become a tyrant, go off-course in her leadership, and always remains effective. It's the literal realization of what we call transparency, where there is no secret, behind-closed-doors meetings where the people are cut off from their leader and the leader can do whatever the heck she wants. If this seems arduous for the Mother Superior that should add to Frank's stress on the fact that being a true leader isn't a fun job but is an exercise in self-sacrifice for the community. Orwell's world was the opposite, where members of the community are sacrificed for the sake of some Party.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby pcqypcqy » 12 Sep 2017 21:38

    georgiedenbro wrote:We had never before been given a direct glimpse of the inner workings of a typical BG society, no less Chapterhouse. What Frank describes is the opposite of 1984, which is Orwell's version of a dystopia where all humans are enslaved by a corrupt system. At Chapterhouse the surveillance in place is specifically designed to prevent corruption; it's a way to ensure that the leader of the BG doesn't become a tyrant, go off-course in her leadership, and always remains effective. It's the literal realization of what we call transparency, where there is no secret, behind-closed-doors meetings where the people are cut off from their leader and the leader can do whatever the heck she wants. If this seems arduous for the Mother Superior that should add to Frank's stress on the fact that being a true leader isn't a fun job but is an exercise in self-sacrifice for the community. Orwell's world was the opposite, where members of the community are sacrificed for the sake of some Party.


    It's susceptible to misuse though.

    Also, we get a fair glimpse of BG society in Heretics, and there's no mention whatsoever.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby georgiedenbro » 13 Sep 2017 09:43

    pcqypcqy wrote:It's susceptible to misuse though.


    What kind of misuse?
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby pcqypcqy » 13 Sep 2017 19:20

    The same misuse we see governments use today.

    Granted, RM's would detect this in a second. But the potential is there.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby Freakzilla » 14 Sep 2017 06:36

    We only get to see the inner workings of Chapterhouse in CH:D, if I remember correctly, that's after Odrade takes over. Maybe they're specifically watching HER due to her special abilities. Complete other memories, prescience in detecting threats to the sisterhood, Atreides blood.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby georgiedenbro » 14 Sep 2017 10:36

    Freakzilla wrote:We only get to see the inner workings of Chapterhouse in CH:D, if I remember correctly, that's after Odrade takes over. Maybe they're specifically watching HER due to her special abilities. Complete other memories, prescience in detecting threats to the sisterhood, Atreides blood.


    I sort of feel like it's implied this is just their way, and that Frank just wasn't focusing on this previously because it wasn't strictly relevant to the story. One thing I like about his books is that they're lean; they don't include details that would be really cool to know but don't tell the exact story he needs to tell. He isn't writing fanboy fic, he's telling a focused story. The lack of inclusion of something in a previous book doesn't imply to me at all that it wasn't present.

    pcqypcqy wrote:The same misuse we see governments use today.


    I had sort of wanted you to be more specific than that. I'm actually not sure what misuse you think the BG system might fall prey to. If you think it has a flaw, what's the flaw?
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby georgiedenbro » 14 Sep 2017 10:37

    Freakzilla wrote:We only get to see the inner workings of Chapterhouse in CH:D, if I remember correctly, that's after Odrade takes over. Maybe they're specifically watching HER due to her special abilities. Complete other memories, prescience in detecting threats to the sisterhood, Atreides blood.


    I feel like it's implied this has been their way for longer than just this book, and that Frank just wasn't focusing on this previously because it wasn't strictly relevant to the story. One thing I like about his books is that they're lean; they don't include details that would be really cool to know but don't tell the exact story he needs to tell. He isn't writing fanboy fic, he's telling a focused story. The lack of inclusion of something in a previous book doesn't imply to me at all that it wasn't present.

    pcqypcqy wrote:The same misuse we see governments use today.


    I had sort of wanted you to be more specific than that. I'm actually not sure what misuse you think the BG system might fall prey to. If you think it has a flaw, what's the flaw?
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby Omphalos » 18 Sep 2017 15:10

    Chapterhouse (and I presume you mean Heretics too) is lean?

    First time to hear that.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby georgiedenbro » 18 Sep 2017 15:20

    Omphalos wrote:Chapterhouse (and I presume you mean Heretics too) is lean?

    First time to hear that.


    I actually do think so, although not to the extent of Dune and Messiah. But compared to most other fiction - yeah. But I wasn't exactly thinking in terms of how tightly edited and plotted they are, and more in terms of what sorts of things Frank decides to include or not. Many authors who have neat ideas will include them just because they actually had ideas in the first place. Often a sci-fi author will include details about the world, the tech, etc. as a sort of fan service for sci-fi geeks who like tech details or world-building. J.M. Straczinski. when planning his Babylong 5 series, was very open about writing a sci-fi show for sci-fi nerds like himself, and deliberately made schematics and included details that would only be of interest to those kinds of people. That's awesome, but I feel like FH doesn't put in anything other than what is strictly necessary to tell the story. No fan service (arguably other than including Duncan again at all), no tech details, no character scenes 'just cause they're awesome'. Contrast with the hacks, where their entire MO was to include nothing but things like this. So that's pretty much what I meant by 'lean'. Nothing included except the meat. That doesn't mean they're flawless, or that it's necessarily the best cut of meat (to keep the metaphor), but he still serves it up without the fat and trimmings. I do happen to think Heretics and Chapterhouse hold up compared to Children and GEoD, although I wouldn't really be prepared to rate them in order.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby Omphalos » 18 Sep 2017 15:43

    Dude, Herbert put plenty of stuff in that didn't matter. Does it matter that the bene gesserits greatest desire is to become fertilizer? No. One example, I know. But it ain't the only one.

    But honestly, if that's he way that you view it, more power to you. I am not being dismissive. But I cannot think of one legitimate SF critic, including both Herbert's old editor, Hartwell, and his most astute critic, Damon Knight, who has ever said anything but the exact opposite; That they are bloated talkers. "Bloviating" may even have passed Knight's lips. Geez, I think that Miller, O'Reilly and even McNelly may have even expressed the same opinion at different times.

    If the Dune series had started with either of those two books, it would been over before it started. I am sure lots of people would have claimed to read them, but few would ever do it. They'd be the SF equivalent of Finnegan's Wake, or Proust.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby georgiedenbro » 19 Sep 2017 09:49

    I guess I have some faith that if there's a part that seems to be less important that I must be missing something. There are passages even in Dune that seemed initially to me to just be cool stuff and that I later realized were important plot points. You can look at the banquet in Dune and suggest that it's a neat scene but maybe could have been cut. It takes knowing the book really well to realize what it's supposed to be. Similarly, I think that Heretics and Chapterhouse are 'weird' compared to the first three books, and even GEoD is weird in some senses too. Maybe if I scrutinized them extremely carefully on a re-read I'd decide I agree with you, but maybe other than McNelly I wouldn't take the opinion of the others as gospel since I think the books take a lot of study before they can be properly understood, and most critics aren't going to read a book multiple times before reviewing it. An editor is a bit different, but even then their specialty isn't necessarily in understanding the meta-story of a sci-fi novel. I guess on my next re-read I'll keep this in mind and maybe I'll come back with a different answer.

    For now, though, I believe that the BG farming motif, just as an example, is a critical plot point, since it relates directly to both genetic farming/weeding as well as to the farming imagery given to us of M&D in Chapterhouse. It's clue into what they're up to, at least as far as the reader can tell up to that point. So even a seemingly innocuous mention of fertilizer would have to be seen in that context. I'm actually not sure what quote you have in mind, but I bet I could find a reason why it's important if I knew which passage it was. I dunno, I think he has reasons for including all of the things he did. It doesn't mean his reasons were perfect or that there was no better way of doing it, but to me it means that he intended the material to all be relevant, regardless of how successful he was in the attempt. I guess I see a difference between allowing fat to remain in a story versus trying to trim it maximally but not entirely succeeding. I do think he included only relevant things in the last two books, but I'm open to being convinced otherwise. I'm not saying you're wrong, just saying what I observe.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby Freakzilla » 19 Sep 2017 12:13

    I agree with Georgie.

    In the scene where the RM was buried in the orchard the intent was to impress on Scytale that the RMs didn't require funerals because they lived on in the memories of their sisters.

    I think most things that people might think are fluff actually have some bearing on the scene.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby georgiedenbro » 19 Sep 2017 12:56

    Freakzilla wrote:In the scene where the RM was buried in the orchard the intent was to impress on Scytale that the RMs didn't require funerals because they lived on in the memories of their sisters.


    Oh, yes, that's the passage. I think it's about more than just reminding him about how the sisters live on in Other Memory, but about pointing out something to him about Tleilaxu practices. He might be prone to think that he's still 'himself' after awakening serial memories after dying and having a ghola be reborn, but I think he's learning here that "he" continues in the same way that the BG continue, even though from his perspective it looks different that a Sister dies and isn't replaced by an identical-looking person. And there's even the notion here of the fact that the BG are farmers at heart, and if anything it's a noble end for one's person to make things grow. There's a metaphor here, where one's contribution oughtn't end with death but can lay the groundwork for things in the future. Not only does a dead sister continue to contribute with her body past death by fertilizing the soil, but more broadly her presence in Other Memory materially increases the wealth of the BG by her addition. I think there's a message here that while Scytale probably sees 'fertilizer' as meaning 'being reduced to mere shit', which seems like an insult. But the proper way to see fertilizer is as making it possible for things to grow. That's supposed to be the whole BG mission, isn't it?

    The planting aspect intersects with this point about sewing seeds for the future, in that it's a literal farming process in weeding bloodlines in addition to the metaphorical farming process of trying to improve conditions in general by adding nutrients into the ecosystem. There's even a funny throwback here, thematically, to Dr. Kynes, where he thought he, personally, could transform a planet from a safe vantage point, looking on as the changes happened. He learned in the end that you don't change a system without it changing you, and that the only way to affect a system is by becoming part of it. That's the BG message here, that transformation isn't something done remotely, but involves you 'planting yourself' right into the middle of it.

    Thanks for bringing up this passage, Omph, I hadn't given it serious enough thought before. I enjoyed the Reading Groups for that type of close thinking but I wasn't able to keep up the effort for more than a few books.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby pcqypcqy » 21 Sep 2017 17:34

    I agree as well. It may appear fluff, but there's at least some context for it and some point to it.

    Even if it is purely fluff, it doesn't detract that much and I think we can forgive him given that his wife died. He was probably feeling a bit wistful and thinking about death.

    On the example given, I think a key point was how young ghola teg realised that the BG were farmers. Odrade seemed quite happy about that. A minor plot point, but could well have been going somewhere as georgie has suggested.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby Freakzilla » 22 Sep 2017 07:26

    pcqypcqy wrote:...and I think we can forgive him given that his wife died. He was probably feeling a bit wistful and thinking about death.


    And sex. A LOT.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby Omphalos » 22 Sep 2017 09:36

    Freakzilla wrote:
    pcqypcqy wrote:...and I think we can forgive him given that his wife died. He was probably feeling a bit wistful and thinking about death.


    And sex. A LOT.


    That is another thing. Probably the thing that has always bothered me about those books. It's almost like a pattern with aging male SF writers. the older they get the more their series-work turns into sexual wish-fulfillment vehicles. Go through these pages and time and again you will see folks, even here, agreeing with that thought. And we aren't the only ones that think that.

    Georgie: Miller and O'Reilly wrote books of criticism specifically on Herbert. And dismiss Knight if you wish, but I'd recommend getting a book or two of his criticism. His eye is very sharp. All SF criticism stems from his work, and he knew Herbert.

    And, this is just my opinion. Why on earth would I ever try to convince you otherwise? That's not my purpose, and frankly I would not want to take that opinion from you, if its even possible.
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    Re: Chapterhouse goes all 1984

    Postby georgiedenbro » 25 Sep 2017 09:32

    Omphalos wrote:Georgie: Miller and O'Reilly wrote books of criticism specifically on Herbert. And dismiss Knight if you wish, but I'd recommend getting a book or two of his criticism. His eye is very sharp. All SF criticism stems from his work, and he knew Herbert.

    And, this is just my opinion. Why on earth would I ever try to convince you otherwise? That's not my purpose, and frankly I would not want to take that opinion from you, if its even possible.


    One day I'll hopefully have time to read some of that. I'll keep it in mind for sure. The book I'm on now has been taking me months, and my life hasn't been that conducive to spending much time reading lately...
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