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From: m.driussi@genie.com
Subject: (urth) Artifacts of the Dogs?
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 97 19:12:00 GMT

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

Reply:  Item #9051512 from URTH@LISTS.BEST.COM@INET02#

Gene Wolfe may have put inventive thought into these uninvented stone
age tools, but due to the narrative structure of the story we have
precious few clues to go on to determine their "real science"
origins.  The same sort of "retrovention" is at work in TBOTNS, and
since Severian has a basic training in Science, we can (for example)
recognize the factual basis for the natrium slug gun used at Lake Diuturna
and we sense that the ubiquitous pyrotechnic polearms are supertech
refinements of "Greek fire" chemical weaponry developed in the middle
ages.  (Laser pistols being such a sfnal off-the-shelf item, we don't
even worry about the hows and whys of the power source, etc.)  The fallen
state of Science is a similar element to both TS and TBOTNS.

Wand of the Mink.  Alga and I came up with two possibilities: poison
or electricity.  If poison, this is hardly an innovation for stone
age technology, since stone age peoples routinely use poisons.
Unless the wand somehow generates the poison itself, i.e., it doesn't
require recoating--shades of the living tools in Harry Harrison's
WEST OF EDEN novel, we can imagine the poison glands of a fugu
grafted onto a stick.  Just be sure to feed it so it doesn't die off!

Electricity is tricky.  Amber, well known to stone age folk, can generate
a bit of electricity, but hardly enough for cattleprod effects.
Lodestones as natural magnets, hmmm.  Capacitators (to hold a big
charge built by trickle feeding and release it all at once); lead and acid
based batteries (to hold a charge and release it slowly); electro-magnetic
generators (to turn magnetism into electricity and electricity into
magnetism); etc., all in a compact baton.  Since elaborate designs
have evolved showing how the ark of the covenant is/was a surface to orbit
radio set, then we can suppose that Wolfe has done a similar von Danekin
engineering stunt.  (Two lodestones, some amber, two copper
wires--now =that= sounds like a real whirlygig!)

But yeah, that's about all one can say on the subject, isn't it?
There just isn't enough text and speculation quickly runs rampant.


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