1973 - The Deathbird

The SPIDER Symposion: in-depth discussion of specific Ellison stories and works.

Moderators: Moderator, Jan, Duane

sjarrett
Posts: 113
Joined: Tue May 27, 2003 8:43 pm
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Contact:

Postby sjarrett » Thu Jan 13, 2005 1:31 pm

David Loftus wrote: (What's the "ology" word I'm looking for -- concerned with endings. . . ?)


Teleology. Yes! That's the idea I was groping for: a teleological midrash! An interesting place for fantasy fiction to go, to say the least.

Steve J.

Steven Dooner
Posts: 32
Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2005 4:05 pm
Location: Weymouth, Massachusetts

Postby Steven Dooner » Thu Jan 13, 2005 1:45 pm

Speaking of teleology:

It's interesting that at the "last judgement" that we have in "Deathbird," man passes final judgement on god, instead of the other way around.

By the way, Stack is not the only one with the wisdom of compassion because Nathan Stack must contain all of humanity within him (with the possible exception of Lillith). Many ancient texts say that Adamah was supposed to have all of his descendants within him. In Hindu myth, there was a primal Purusa (person) who contained all the gods and all the people with himself as well.

User avatar
Barney Dannelke
Posts: 894
Joined: Sun Jan 09, 2005 10:16 pm
Location: Allentown, PA.
Contact:

Postby Barney Dannelke » Thu Jan 13, 2005 2:07 pm

Which, if we buy into that, and I do, reminds us of the Trent character from DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND and his caretaking of the fate of humanity. And while Trent's ending may be more hopeful, his wait is going to be just as mind numbingly long.

This is not to say that DEATHBIRD is similar. I think THE DEATHBIRD is much more a "digging something big out of the sand" kind of accomplishment than DEMON, but these two characters have their similarities.

I'm going to pay Harlan a backhanded compliment now. Harlan is always saying he tries to never write the same story twice and I think that's a mighty high bar to set. I'm not sure he does throw himself over that bar each time BUT what I think he has done over the course of 50 years is ring so many changes on basic themes and offer these cautionary tales in such a wide variety of styles that one doesn't notice the similarities until the second or third pass. And to do that is a helluva thing.

- Barney

sjarrett
Posts: 113
Joined: Tue May 27, 2003 8:43 pm
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Contact:

Postby sjarrett » Thu Jan 13, 2005 2:09 pm

Steven Dooner wrote:By the way, Stack is not the only one with the wisdom of compassion because Nathan Stack must contain all of humanity within him


Which further reinforces my sense that there is a linkage between Stack and the character of Trent in "Demon With a Glass Hand," since Trent ultimately learns that he really does have all of humanity within himself in a very literal sense.

Steve J.

sjarrett
Posts: 113
Joined: Tue May 27, 2003 8:43 pm
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Contact:

Postby sjarrett » Thu Jan 13, 2005 2:14 pm

Oops. Barney was posting while I was writing. Didn't mean to echo the same thought. But Barney, I do agree that the two stories are substantially different. It's just the similarities between the main characters that interests me.

Steve J.

User avatar
Jon Stover
Banned
Posts: 149
Joined: Tue May 27, 2003 8:52 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada
Contact:

Postby Jon Stover » Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:14 am

Hey, lads and lasses, I'm hampered like Eric by not having access to "the Deathbird," and thus can't remember if this is actually referenced in the story and thus not part of the name-worrying. Dira means 'house' or 'home' or 'dwelling place' in Hebrew, and seems to figure in a lot of writings on how one prepares for death (when used in religious writings metaphorically as an individual's soul-site for accepting G-d) in some of the rabbianical readings I ended up stumbling upon while I was looking at the eytomology.

Cheers, Jon

Eric Martin
Banned
Posts: 546
Joined: Wed May 28, 2003 12:10 pm

Postby Eric Martin » Fri Jan 14, 2005 7:54 am

I did get Deathbird...I bought the story collection from Fictionwise. But I'm just auditing this discussion!

User avatar
David Loftus
Posts: 3182
Joined: Fri Aug 20, 2004 2:15 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon
Contact:

Postby David Loftus » Fri Jan 14, 2005 10:41 am

Teleology wasn't the word I was thinking of, sj, although it's an interesting one. I'm used to seeing it used in slightly pejorative terms -- "that's a teleological argument," meaning little more than "you're offering circular reasoning."

No, the word that was creeping just out of the reach of my consciousness was a little longer and I think starts with an "e"; I managed to pull epistemological out of memory, but that's not it, either. Damn. . . .
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

User avatar
Jim Davis
Posts: 496
Joined: Fri May 23, 2003 9:27 am

Postby Jim Davis » Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:03 am

The word you're thinking of is eschatology, David.

A modern eschatological midrash with Gnostic overtones. Damn, that's "The Deathbird," all right! (Great discussion, by the way. I've been sick this week, so I'm a little late to the party, but I plan to hit the books for the next story . . .)

sjarrett
Posts: 113
Joined: Tue May 27, 2003 8:43 pm
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Contact:

Postby sjarrett » Fri Jan 14, 2005 12:21 pm

David Loftus wrote:I'm used to seeing it used in slightly pejorative terms -- "that's a teleological argument," meaning little more than "you're offering circular reasoning."


Actually, David, I think the word for that would be "tautological." I feel an Abbott and Costello routine coming on. Not to mention a headache.

Steve J.

User avatar
David Loftus
Posts: 3182
Joined: Fri Aug 20, 2004 2:15 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon
Contact:

Postby David Loftus » Fri Jan 14, 2005 1:15 pm

Eschatological! That was it. Thanks, Jim.

Maybe what we're wrestling with here is thought-ological, eh, sj?

Rob Ewen
Posts: 22
Joined: Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:10 am
Location: Harrow, UK

Postby Rob Ewen » Sat Jan 15, 2005 6:04 am

My two cents.....

The story is divided up into 26 sections of differing lengths. I've always perceived it as consisting of 12 inhalations and 12 exhalations - the final erratic breaths taken by a dying person (or planet). And the final one - THIS IS FOR MARK TWAIN - is capitalised, a visual 'shout', a demonstration of the narrator raging, raging against the dying of the light.

At least, that's how it's always appeared to me - style contributing to theme.

(Aside - I re-read the version of the story in my 1977 UK Pan copy of DEATHBIRD STORIES - and the typographical errors hit you in the face. 'The Thief Bagdad' and 'armpoule' spring immediately to mind. Made me feel quite 'sic'. No wonder Harlan insists on personal proof-reading these days.)

Thanks
Rob

Rob Ewen
Posts: 22
Joined: Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:10 am
Location: Harrow, UK

Postby Rob Ewen » Sat Jan 15, 2005 5:18 pm

Or even 13 inhalations and 13 exhalations.....maths, don't fail me now.... :D

Thanks
Rob

User avatar
Ezra Lb.
Posts: 4547
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 8:02 am
Location: Washington, DC

Snake is always with us

Postby Ezra Lb. » Tue Jan 18, 2005 8:41 am

For HE (after the manner of Italo Calvino)


Consider Italopolis. A city built of mud brick, with the roof of each house painted ochre, tiled in fish scale patterns. On the walls of each house the traveler sees painted large green snakes, always in profile, each with one yellow eye.
Now when the traveler's feet are tired from wandering, and he takes refuge in a cool shaded café, he reflects on a curious bit of lore told by the waiter who served him the strong black tea famous in the region. There are no snakes in this land, have never been in the recorded history of this city that has notated its lineage for twice a thousand years.
Perhaps it is a dim memory of a lost age before this land dried into a hard stony desert, soil packed tight. Perhaps. But the traveler imagines it as a dream of the future, when the rains return, and the mud brick is washed into ochre pools that ebb and flow. This bright fleeting impertinence of man will be washed away and the snakes will return and perhaps they too will dream of a dim lost age when the luminous gods looked out with yellow eyes on a lost city of mud brick.

User avatar
Jan
Posts: 1817
Joined: Thu Aug 19, 2004 2:25 pm
Location: Köln

Postby Jan » Wed Feb 02, 2005 10:40 am

Here's an eagerly anticipated update on my thinking process. The spark is either courage, or it's deliberately open to interpretation. The reason I'm not sure which is that there would be more people with courage than just him, wouldn't there? Perhaps he has even more of it than others, enough to handle the mad one.
(I still think it's important what the spark is, and I believe someone said it must be something like courage, and I said no way. I can't live with that anymore.)


Return to “Literary Symposium”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests