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From: tony.ellis@futurenet.co.uk (Tony Ellis)
Subject: (urth) Re: If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras
Date: Mon, 08 Jun 1998 08:45:13 +0100

It may be just me, but do I detect a teensy note of irony here? <g>

> Millions of years ago, pre-Flintstones spacecraft traveled to Sainte Anne...
> Meanwhile, back here on Earth, as hundreds of thousands of lifeforms
> thrived, then died off (hello dinosaurs, hello neanderthals, hello dodo),
> Homo sapiens pangalacticus re-evolved the necessary skills to make the
> transit back across the leagues of space to Sainte Anne, where the natives
> have never changed over a similar span of millennia, and a single solitary
> viable hybrid is produced between Annese and human.
> ...Logic rules, Mr. Ellis.

If you find this too fantastic blame GW, not me, Robert. Because however
illogical, the Gondwanaland theory is raised too many times for us to
just look the other way and pretend it isn't there. Care to count along
with me?

In Fifth Head, young Gene suggests it during lessons with Mr Million.
Ok, he's just a kid trying to be clever. Forget it. I mean it's not as
if Gene Wolfe ever hides the truth in plain view or anything, is it? 

In "A Story", it is the Old Wise One who says "It is possible that our
home was named Atlantis or Mu, Gondwanaland, Africa, Poictesme, or The
Country of Friends". Coincidence, right? That's why there's a subtheme
running the whole length of the novella about how the shape-changing
indigenous Annese were once visited by a race of space-going humans. (Oh
yes, and their home world had a yellow sun.)

Finally, in "VRT" it is Dr Marsch who muses that "there remain a great
many reports of a native race so similar to human beings that they might
almost have been the descendants of an earlier wave of colonization."

"What I tell you three times is true."

If it's the lack of human evolution on St Anne that bothers you, there
are several answers. For starters, "Gondwonaland" may be intended more
as a name to conjure with than a fixed reference. The Old Wise One also
mentions Africa, which may imply a migration only after the continents
broke up. Atlantis, if we're to believe Plato, sank a mere 11,000 years

On top of this, we _do_ see some signs of evolution. That knack of
mimicry came from somewhere, and the dreams of the Free People imply a
nascent telepathic ability, too. (Presumably the ability to use tools
wasn't de-evolved overnight, either.)

Not least of all, a lack of change is very much in keeping with the
peculiarly timeless, dreaming character of The Back of Beyond that Wolfe
conveys. Like the Australian subcontinent it so closely resembles, St
Anne seems to be a world that exists outside of the normal flow of time.

> This is much easier to accept and scientifically valid that the notion the
> parents of Victor Roy Trenchard are simply both abos.

There is nothing "simple" about your notion that Victor's parents are
both abos! It is precisely the fact that it requires so much shoring-up
and rewriting of the texts that makes me mistrust it. (And how
"scientifically valid" is the idea of grafting human limbs onto 100%
alien tissue?)

Tony Ellis (who thinks that if he has to suspend his disbelief in God to
accept the logic underpinning The Book of the New Sun, everyone else can
accept a trifling prehistoric migration or two.)

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

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