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From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) Peace of Cat
Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 01:20:29 

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

Tony Ellis said:


This is the other side of the story we hear about in Conciliator, when Jonas
and Severian have been put into the antechamber. As you say, the scandal
was engineered by the spiteful Chatelaine Leocadia.


Thank you very much for your analysis. This has decided me; it is time to
read TBotNS again.

Wolfe's seeming expectation that we have read and remembered perfectly
everything else he has written, so that we will be able to recognize and
understand the most oblique references to events in his other works tends
to annoy me at times. But, I can't say I wasn't warned in this case. "The
Cat" starts out, (the beginning of the second paragraph) "As all who know
the ways of our House Absolute (and I may say here that I neither hope nor
wish for other readers) ..."

One may excuse Wolfe (and I am well aware that he needs no excuse from me)
by saying that his stories hold up by themselves and the references to
other of his works are a reward for careful readers. This is certainly
true, but Wolfe seems to have mastered writing a set of related pieces that
complement each other so well that their whole is very much greater than
the sum of their parts better than any other writer I can think of. (In
fact, does anyone else know of *any* other writer who does this?) It seems
a shame then that these stories or novellas are first published separately.
_The Fifth Head of Cerberus_ is a perfect example of this at its best. The
novellas all work separately quite well but together they form a most
remarkable work.

Wolfe has done this kind of thing less successfully, however. Sometimes the
separate pieces don't hold up as well apart. I am thinking here of the four
short stories in _Endangered Species_: "The Dark of the June", "The Death
of Hyle", "From the Notebook of Dr. Stein" and "Thag". When I came across
"The Death of Hyle" by itself (probably in _Continuum 2_) I felt it was
missing something. And so it was. After reading all four together, I found
that I enjoyed them, as a group, a great deal. (By the way, does anyone
know who or what Hyle is?)

I think Wolfe has done at least one other set of linked short stories like
this. I remember reading a story called "The Friendship Light" in F&SF
quite a while ago. My memory of it is rather vague by now but I do recall
that the narrator put up a gas lantern outside his house (he called it a
friendship light) and by making the flame flicker at a certain frequency
attracted a large flying thing that killed someone. I am not sure, but I
think that God's fingers were mentioned, which would link this story to the
two mentioned last November in this list ("Try and Kill It" and "Counting
Cats in Zanzibar") by Joshua A. Solomon, which he said definitely mentioned
God's fingers. I don't remember reading either of those, so I don't know if
they were linked in any other way. The main reason I think "The Friendship
Light" is part of a set is that it also seemed to be missing something.

Well, if I am right, I certainly hope that this set of stories will be in
Wolfe's next anthology. And I hope he will have one out soon. It's been
nearly ten years since _Endangered Species_.

William Ansley

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

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