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From: "Mark Millman"<Mark_Millman@hmco.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) The Cat
Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 14:54:17 

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

On Wednesday 15 April 1998 at 20:07:00 mantis (m.driussi@genie.geis.com)

> In turn, this relates (or so it seems to me) to how
> we comprehend "The Tale of the Student and His
> Son"--since here is a case of a magician forming
> a hero out of concentrated thought.  Eidolon,
> aquastor, homunculus?
> . . .
> (Then again, I was shocked to discover that
> aquastors and eidolons are "real ghosts" rather
> than technological ghost-like things. Blind-sided
> again!)

I just re-read BotNS (in preparation for the lamentably lost Disclave
discussion) and I've come to think that there is no difference (_pace_
mantis) between eidolons and aquastors.  Well, that's not precisely true,
so allow me to qualify:  the physical manifestations that Severian sees,
and for that matter, that Gunnie and Apheta see, are produced by the
identical machine in an identical fashion from identical materials.  (The
aquastor Malrubius speaks of this machine, if you'll recall, when Severian
is returned to the seaside below Gyoll in _Citadel_, saying it has a range
of only a few thousand years.)  The distinction between a common eidolon
and the aquastors, I think, is that the aquastors are given a special
office (cf. mantis' earlier post linking "aquastor" to Latin _quaesitor_
and the position it indicates) and, almost certainly, special programming
and knowledge in addition to that which comes automatically as a result of
Severian's memories of their models.  Notice that the letter stolen from
Severian on the ship Tzadkiel was given to him by "the aquastors for
Urth"--that "for" is significant.  It suggests that their post is an
appointed one.  While it might equally well be argued that they are the
aquastors for Urth because they were created as specialized, single-purpose
instruments for the job, the fact that Wolfe describes their dissolution in
terms almost identical to those he uses for the disappearance of the
eidolons after the fight in the Hall of Justice on Yesod, and the time that
he has Severian refer to Malrubius and Triskele as eidolons (I'm sorry; the
book's not with me, so I can't provide a page reference, but I'm pretty
sure it's in _Urth_) impose the view that any modifications they may have
undergone are minor compared to their similarities with other eidolons.

This in turn resolves the question of whether, when Severian is resurrected
on the ship Tzadkiel, he is brought back as an eidolon or as an aquastor.
They're the same thing, so the significant differences between his
resurrection and the creation of the other eidolons are simply that he is
not allowed to disperse, thus giving him time to anchor himself in the
world by breathing, eating, etc., and that he is made not from a single
person's recollection of him, but from the totality of his own memories of
himself, since his brain is available for complete download.  (This last
point, by the way, echoes something that Wolfe says in "The Other Dead
Man".  In that story, the protagonist observes that Hap, after his revival
by the medical unit, seems to be more like the computer's idea of what Hap
should be, rather than what the man himself, his friend, was like.  Later,
after the protagonist's own revival, he notices that he seems to behave in
some cases almost without volition--I submit it's because those particular
acts were conditioned by the computer's expectations of him, rather than by
his own "natural" impulses to action.)

The visions and dreams that Severian has, in which he sees Malrubius and
Triskele, are perhaps responsible for clouding the issue of the distinction
between eidolons and aquastors.  I see those episodes as being analogous to
communications from Erebus or Abaia, sendings from minds (or mechanical
equivalents, as on the Whorl, though this is not necessarily the case;
possibly Tzadkiel's mind approaches the power of the others' minds, though
he is doubtless more discreet in its use) vastly more powerful than human
ones that have little or no objectively verifiable manifestation in the
material world.  The eidolons are, of course, fully material while being
maintained, and can leave footprints in the sand and cuts and bruises on
Severian and Gunnie.

Thus, mantis, your answer is "eidolon".  But, like Severian, this eidolon
has the opportunity to cement his place in the world by breathing and

Mark Millman

A post script:  I'd like to address the nature of homunculi too, but I
don't think that Wolfe tells us enough about them for me to do so; I'll
therefore restrict myself to a few comments.  All of Baldanders' work that
we hear about is performed on human victims, and I believe the suggestion
is that he is rooted in a scientific materialism, indicating that Talos is
probably built from parts (though not necessarily ones stolen from living
creatures; perhaps he's a pre-fabricated servant) and then animated.
Wolfe's descriptions of his face, like that of a stuffed fox, and the
immobility of his features that forces him to use the attitude of his head
and the placement of the shadows on his face to convey emotion and other
non-verbal cues, tend to support this interpretation, as does his scant


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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