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From: Dan Parmenter <dan@lec.com>
Subject: (urth) An introduction and a question
Date: Tue, 3 Mar 1998 15:51:28 

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


My name is Dan Parmenter and I have just joined the URTH list.  I was
never on the WHORL list, mostly because I haven't read EXODUS yet and
I wanted to keep my mind free of spoilers.  I've been a Wolfe fan
since I read BOTNS for the first time in 1984.  That same year I met
Wolfe at Boskone, a New England SF convention.  I've since read the
series two more times and have read FIFTH HEAD, 3/4 of LONG SUN and
numerous short stories and essays.  I fully intend to read all of his
other novels, though I would prefer to squeeze BOTNS just a little
dryer before moving on.  For the record, I'm involved in the machine
translation field.  We produce software to translate from one language
to another and I do dictionary and grammar development, which has
always struck me as a somewhat Wolfeian profession (not one he would
have, but one that he might describe in a story).

I have a few questions and one comment.  I've looked over most of the
archives and while some of these questions have been addressed, I
think there may be more to say on certain topics.

Severian's Memory: Somehow in the course of reading the series I
became convinced that the method of Severian's time-travel is based on
his "perfect" memory.  I can't recall a specific statement of this,
other than the hierodules commenting that it was important.  He often
refers to getting lost in his own memories.  If what he says is true
and the unfolding of memory is tantamount to re-experiencing certain
events, it's not much of a stretch to imagine that this could
potentially lead to branching.  Not necessarily significant branching
of the sort that would lead to either the new sun or the "entropy"
future, but minor branching within those two possibilities/parallel
universes.  At a certain point, perhaps the alternate timelines simply
reconverge, and nobody really notices any minor differences.  I'm
thinking here of the cases where Severian's memory is inconsistent.  I
can only call to mind the "manskin" to "leather" bag transition
offhand, but there are others.  Perhaps this is simply too obvious to
merit any serious discussion, but I find it interesting.  It's always
seemed to me that the question of how many times Severian dies is an
open one.  At the end of UotNS he seems to try to kill himself every
couple of pages!

One of my favorite parts of BOTNS is the story about Master Ash.  I
often find myself reading that chapter as almost a separate story, a
story about a soldier's attempts to rescue a man who doesn't want to
be rescued and his reasons.  While the character and the incidents are
quite integral to Severian's story, it's always struck me that the
story could easily stand on it's own.  It's one of the saddest
chapters and the image of a house whose stories represent different
epochs is a strong one.


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