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From: Peter Westlake <peter@harlequin.co.uk>
Subject: Re: (urth) New Sun miscellany
Date: Thu, 18 Jun 1998 11:20:27 +0100

Adam said:

>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).

I'm half a book behind Adam, and I spotted that too. Didn't someone
on this or the Whorl list say that birds in Wolfe always tell the
truth - and does "Ava" count? :-)

There's also a bit somewhere (books at home, sorry) where it is
made fairly clear that the Autarch's "spirit" is alive in the
same way as Thecla, almost certainly because of the improved
method of transfer, using living brain cells. And in UtoNS
there's reference to the Autarch talking to Severian before
they all merged into a single(ish) personality.

>4) Does it strike anyone else that Severian's behavior at the start of
>Urth is just a tad irresponsible?

I get the impression he expects to have a very long voyage, so a
few days don't matter. Climbing the mast *is* rather silly, though
I can see how he might get carried away once he was out there.

>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.

I hadn't heard that. What happened?

>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?

You took the words right out of my mouth! It seems to me that any
puzzles in BotNS ought to have answers in BotNS, subject only to
modification by things we find out later in UotNS. For instance,
at the end of BotNS, we discover that the Severian who would have
existed if the Hierodules had not intervened (and who did exist in
an "earlier" time-track) travelled the corridors, spending some
time as Apu-Punchau, eventually leaving the stone town for the
last time and some time later dying and being buried in the
mausoleum. In UotNS it turns out to be more complicated than that
(right? I haven't re-read that far yet), but still consistent with
the earlier book. This is an instance of what might be called the
Reichenbach principle - exploitation of our lack of omniscience
about what "really" happens in the world of the story. I think
we should answer questions about BotNS first with reference to
that book alone - as we would have had to for several years in
real time - and then apply the extra knowledge from UotNS. If the
answers come out differently, that in itself is interesting.

Christopher said:
>It is certain there are some things in the BotNS that would make no sense and
>have no observable purpose if Wolfe didn't already have some elements of UotNS
>planned. The first thing that springs to mind is the winged Tzadkiel in the
>Autarch's book.

Granted we don't find out who that is, but do we really need to for BotNS?
There are plenty of references to amchaspands and things outside time to
give some clue as to what *kind* of thing Severian might be seeing. He
gets a glimpse of a higher reality; it's one of those passages that give
the impression that the author knows more about the world of the book than
he is telling. It's one of the things the best authors can do, and
contributes strongly to our belief in the world of the story.

While we're being miscellaneous, some older threads about things
that I hadn't re-read at the time:

Jonas and Miles: Severian isn't the only one who sees Jonas in Miles.
The Pelerine who sees Thecla in Severian comments that Miles is "like
that too". Jonas really is there somehow. How he gets there, and what
happens to his previous body, is another question!

Armigers: somewhere in the archives is a comment to the effect that
armigers are people who are allowed to bear arms, like Samurai. In
fact, the kind of arms "armiger" refers to are coats of arms, like
the rose/ship/fountain in the mausoleum. My apologies to those of
you who knew this perfectly well already!

Hildegrin: I get the idea about S and A-P "merging", I think,
especially after reading "Twin Mounds". William asked why one
Hildegrin appeared to be struggling with something invisible;
could it be that Severian is really seeing one Hildegrin, but
with two pairs of eyes? As Apu-Punchau, he sees Hildegrin trying
to capture him; as Severian, he sees H but can't see A-P. Not
being able to see people who aren't quite in your own time is
common to this and "Twin Mounds", though I would never have
worked it out for myself. I'm still not entirely clear on this
episode, in fact. Why was it fatal to Hildegrin?
Would someone like to explain it all to me slowly?
Bears are not universally intelligent, remember. [*] 

Narrative reticence: I subscribe to the "remembering to put
in details only when they become relevant" theory, mostly,
with some clear-cut cases of "torment the reader". Severian
not saying why he was leaving Thrax is a prime example.
The disturbance at the gate of Nessus, where we only learn
bit by bit that someone had tried to take a wagon along the
road and been caught, is another.

Final Ignorant Question: what is Texas A & M, please?

Spectacled Bear.

[*] For the Whorl list, I adopted the name Spectacled Bear because
(a) they are the only bear that lives in South America (and who
would have thought reading Gene Wolfe would give new insight into
the work of Michael Bond?!) and (b) I heard someone describing on
the radio her research work with spectacled bears, in which a male
bear was given a pole with which to knock down fruit that had been
placed high up out of his reach. Instead he held it upright and tried
to climb it, giving me a perfect analogy and excuse for unsupported
conjecture. The research concluded that "bears are not universally

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

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