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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: (urth) Westwind (Spoilers)
Date: Fri, 25 Jul 1997 14:10:37 

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

Since the whorl list has been fairly quiet, I decided I could subscribe to
the urth list without drowning, and thought I'd say "Hi" with some
comments about the short story "Westwind."  Spoilers Ho! Fore! 

I can't remember which anthology I read this in, but I read Wolfe's
introduction first (where he makes a few comments about each of the
stories) trusting him not to spoil any of the stories, but I think he
truly ruined this one for me.   

The story is wonderfully ambiguous about whether the ruler (I forget what
he's called in the story) is a benevolent God-like figure who loves and
secretly carries on a personal relationship with all his subjects (or at
least all of the "good" ones), or a dictator using computer technology and
trickery as a form of social control (convincing subjects who live in
poverty - in contrast to the beauty seen when he addresses them all on the
big screen - that they have an exclusive, secret relationship with the
ruler so that they won't want to oppose him).

I've wondered if the story isn't something of a Rorschach test revealing
the readers own predispositions, whether people who do not believe in a
benevolent God are more likely to interpret the story as sinister (or
maybe most sf readers would interpret it as sinister since the "benevolent
ruler turns out to be nasty dictator" is such a common idea in sf). 

Anyone want to chime in on how you interpreted the story and whether you
think that reveals anything about yourself?  I'll never know what my
initial reaction would have been because in the introduction, Wolfe says
that the story is about God and so I interpreted it in a positive light
and didn't notice the possible sinister aspects until later.

But there's more to discuss here than first reactions.  Can the story be
read in a positive light?  Even if he hasn't outright lied to people, the
leader seems to have mislead many of them (all of them?) into thinking
they are each the only Westwind.  Is everyone Westwind or just those who
voiced support for the leader?  (Do you get to be Westwind because you
support him, or do you support him because you're Westwind?)  Can the
leader be human or must he either be a multi-tasking computer or divine
(I'm thinking of the fact that he seems able to talk to all the Westwinds
at the same time)? 


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