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From: "Tony Ellis" <tellis@futurenet.co.uk>
Subject: (urth) Genetics & Spatial Dyslexia
Date: 9 Feb 1998 14:54:25 +0100

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

 Genetics & Spatial Dyslexia

Re South America
I find such a dramatically changed S. America hard to reconcile
with some of the other details we're given, which suggest a generally
untraumatised continent. In particular there is the Stone Town, which has
apparently survived from our own early history. I do seem to recall a
passage to the effect that Apu-punchau's power may have kept his
house intact , however.

David Lebling:
>Also, someone asked about the name Legion. It's biblical, isn't it?
>From the story of Jesus casting the demons from a man into a herd
>of swine.

Yup, Mark Ch.5 V.9: "Call me Legion, for we are many." One of the
Bible's more disturbing passages. 

Raster wrote:
>David_Lebling@avid.com goes for the Gould:
>>On the question of whether evolution stops when civilization is
>>achieved; I doubt it. If you buy into "puntuated equilibrium," you will
>>see that species go through long periods with nothing much happening,
>>then a rapid burst of evolution, and so on.
>Punctuated Equilibrium, as I understand it, requires that a small subset
>of a larger population be reproductively isolated...

Precisely. Our sprawling Urthian society effectively precludes
Punctuated Equilibrium. You may or may not be born with, say, 
superior athletic ability as a result of a "rapid burst of evolution",
but that genetic contribution will always be lost in the ocean of 
more mediocre genes (such as my own) a few generations down the line.
In the isolated communities Raster describes, however, that ocean is
a mere pool, and with no one caring for the slow and the weak the
genetically advantaged are very big fish in it. It's all a question of 
lebensraum - Mien Gott, I mean living space, living space.

Re The Rats in the Walls: 
I have always taken "crude writing" to be a metaphor for rat-shit.
It's very much the kind of punning, yet thought-provoking imagery
that appeals to both Wolfe and Severian.  

Re Severian's spacial dyslexia
>Severian may well be spacially dyslexic. Take another look at
>the Typhon sequence.  Severian, looking out the left eye of 
>west-facing Mount Typhon, sees a battle ... to the northeast?

Severian sees a lot things he couldn't possibly see from that vantage
point. "'No mountain is so high... a man could never see as far as I 
do now.'" Severian is looking out of mighty Typhon's eye, and can see
whatever Typhon wants him to see.

>Another supporting detail:  how many times is Severian given precise
>directions to reach some place, but gets lost anyhow? 

Severian explains this phenomenon quite simply, saying of his
perfect memory when he gets lost on the ship "...it did me no more
good than when I had tried to follow the directions of that lochage of 
the peltasts whom I met upon the bridge of Gyoll. No doubt Idas had
assumed I knew more of the ship than I did, and that I would not 
count doors and look for turnings with exactness." (TUOTNS IV)

And don't forget the time Severian brilliantly deduces the location
of Terminus Est from a very partial exploration of the Hypogeum
Apotropaic. That doesn't sound like a man with spacial dyslexia to me.

Christopher R. Culver:
>There has been recent talk of the part of the BotNS concerning =
>though many have wondered where it is. I have found in in _Shadow_, the
>chapter called "Baldanders" or the one right after it, paragraph 14.

At last! Thank you, Christopher. (Trust me to be out by twenty-odd 
chapters and three volumes...)

Tim Powers: an imaginative and highly enjoyable fantasist. Like Wolfe
he's extremely generous with his imagination: where other writers
build a whole novel (or series of novels) around just one "clever" idea,
Wolfe and Powers pull them out of your pocket like conjuror's scarves
(now where have I heard that before?) in an endless, colourful
stream. I recommend all the titles David recommends.

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