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From: adam louis stephanides <astephan@students.uiuc.edu>
Subject: (urth) New Sun miscellany
Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 20:54:13 

A few days ago I finished rereading BotNS and UotNS and skimming through
the archive's posts on the books.  (Whew!)  I've already posted a few of
my thoughts.  I have some more questions and comments on various topics,
which I'll gather up here.

1)  I haven't seen the map in Plan[e]t Engineering, but I've read the
discussion in the archive and accepted that the Commonwealth was South
America, and thought I had a fairly good grasp of the topography.  But
then I came across this sentence in Citadel, ch. V: "I did have the
impression (though I could not be sure it was correct) that it [Ascia] was
a single land mass, and not a chain of islands like our south..."  Where 
does this fit in with what else we know about the Commonwealth's
geography?  Of course, maybe Severian just means that the south _contains_
a chain of islands; but that's not what he says.

2) After Little Severian dies, Severian is thinking about how that whole
family is now dead, and tells us: "I knew then, on the arm of that giant
figure, the ambition to conquer time..." (III, ch. 24)  And as the New
Sun, he does conquer time.  Of course, before he actually becomes the New
Sun he doesn't realize time travel is part of the package, but even the
"bringing the New Sun" he expects to be doing would be "conquering time"
in a sense, since it's reversing the effects of entropy.  We know that the
Hierodules are shaping Severian to maximize the probability that he will
aspire to and succeed in bringing/being the New Sun; this raises the grim
possibility that they somehow brought about Little Severian's death to
help motivate Severian.

3) A few months ago, there was a discussion as to why Thecla's personality
was so well preserved within Severian.  Me and someone else both thought
we there was a passage saying it was because the Claw brought her to life
within him, but couldn't remember where it was.  I found it: it's in the
conversation between Severian and the postulant Ava in IV, ch. 10.  It's
Ava who puts forward this theory, so it's not as authoritative as if it
had been the old Autarch or the Hierodules, but Severian is convinced by
it (his words at the altar, IV Ch. 14).

4) Does it strike anyone else that Severian's behavior at the start of
Urth is just a tad irresponsible?  He is (or so he believes) soon to
undergo a trial which will have the most momentous consequences for Urth,
as well as for himself.  You would think he would be devoting himself to
planning his strategy at the trial and figuring out what his predecessor
had done wrong.  Instead he first wastes what must be days recopying the
manuscript of (our) BotNS (how long would that take, anyway?) so that
people in other universes will know of his exploits.  (Not even Typhon was
so vainglorious.)  Then, apparently out of sheer boyish exuberance, he
tries to jump to the top of the mast and nearly gets himself killed.
To be sure, he may have spent a lot of time pondering his strategy for the
trial that he doesn't tell us about, but from his performance at the
"trial" it doesn't look like it: all he can think of to do is to
unconsciously parrot the old Autarch's speech, which a little thought
would indicate is not necessarily the best move.  Of course, his "trial"
turns out to be a put-up job, so his dereliction doesn't matter.  And he
does have his guardian angel looking out for him, though I don't know
whether even Tzadkiel could have done anything about his being lost in
space (even the eidelon trick wouldn't work, with no dead brain to draw
memories from).

5) My final question is one that probably only Wolfe can answer, though
the answer may be in some interview.  We know that _Urth of the New Sun_
was not part of Wolfe's original intention, but was written as a
compromise with his editor.  And _Urth_ makes explicit a number of matters
highly relevant to BotNS, but which are much more obscure there, and would
often probably have gone unsuspected without _Urth_.  My question is
twofold: In doing the final revisions of BotNS, did Wolfe have the
eventual existence of _Urth_ in mind?  In other words, would these matters
that are made explicit in _Urth_ have been equally explicit in BotNS, had
Wolfe gained his first preference and not written _Urth_?  And to what
extent can we assume that Wolfe's vision of the New Sun universe is the
same in _Urth_ as it was in BotNS?

As usual, comments are actively solicited.


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

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