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From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: (urth) Cues (not again!) and yaups
Date: Thu, 9 Jul 1998 23:56:41 

I don't agree much with Robert Borski's potty theory about "Cues", except
in one or two minor respects. I do think it is partly a potshot Gene Wolfe
is taking at people who (over)analyze his work and come up with results he
doesn't like.

I also agree that, whoever or whatever the not-so-young (really) man
represents, Wolfe has it in for him in a big way. (I will venture to
suggest a term here which may be of modest use to Wolfe scholars. The nsyr
man is a *yaup* - Yet Another Unnamed Protagonist.)

For one thing, Wolfe suggests the nsyr man is stupid. He knowledge about
infinity is implied to be parroting without any real comprehension. And he
accepts the bowling ball's (rather silly) paradox about sensory cues
without question when it seems to me that it is very easily refuted.

First of all (if we restrict ourselves to the five usual senses and leave
out ESP), no sensory cues of any kind but visual can possibly reach us from
outside the earth's atmosphere. And we don't have the visual acuity to see
the stars as anything but points of light. So we are basically limited to
the sun, moon and stars, which most of the time we ignore except as light
sources as far as sensory cues beyond the earth's atmosphere go.

[This "cues paradox" (CP) reminds me of another, less trivial, paradox I
have come across somewhere. The paradox is: If the universe is infinite,
why isn't the night sky a blaze of light? It follows the same structure as
the CP. If the universe is infinite, there are an infinite number of stars.
If there are an infinite number of stars, then if any fraction of their
light falls on the earth, the earth must receive an infinite amount of
starlight. I am not sure what the correct refutation of this paradox is
(its answer was left open when I read about it). I imagine that it has to
do with the fact that the farther away a star is, the less of its light
reaches the earth. An infinite series of diminishing values need not have
an infinite sum.]

I think it is generally agreed, however, that just within our local field
of sight (hearing, smell, taste, touch) we are usually presented with a
potentially overwhelming mass of sensory cues. If we couldn't sift through
these to pick out the important ones (in any given context), we couldn't
function. (IIRC, certain forms of schizophrenia and autism have been
theorized to be caused by just this sort of inability to select the proper
sensory cues out of the vast number confronting us.)

So the whole "infinite universe" part of the CP explanation is unnecessary.
I propose it is a joke on the part of the bowling ball.

While I agree with people who said (long ago) that this story seems to have
some aspects of a deal with the devil tale and alga, who said the setting
could easily be a sf convention, I think that primarily the story is a joke
by Wolfe aimed at people who fail to see when he is joking in his writing.
I think Wolfe has a very peculiar sense of humor and is joking more often
he is generally given credit for. In the introduction to _Castle of Days_
Wolfe is describing the stories contained in that collection:

Several are humorous, and I have been told often enough that I have a sense
of humor that makes strong men faint and women reach for weapons; I should
have known better than to include those, but now it is too late.

As far as the deal-with-the-devil aspect of "Cues" goes, the bowling ball
says, "... and from that time forward we guarantee that where others see
duty or ugliness or pathos or even beauty, you will see only humor."

I think we would all hesitate to make such a deal and it even seems likely
that the nsyr man's humor must fail at some level or perhaps completely,
with these limitations. But then again, some people think _Ace Ventura:
Private Eye_ is the highest pinnacle humor can reach.

I also wonder if it would be so bad to be the nsyr man after the deal goes
fully into effect. It might be like living in a P. G. Wodehouse novel. Of
course you would have to be Bertie Wooster, or one of the even dimmer

Finally, I think there is an alien invasion aspect to "Cues" at the end. (I
forget is anyone else suggested this.) The last thing said in the story (by
a bowling ball) is "I beg [I am sure bed is a typo] your pardon. We give no
quarter." Does anyone else remember a Clifford D. Simak novel about
shapeshifting aliens who invade earth that look like bowling balls in their
"normal" shape? I think it was _They Walk Like Men_, but I haven't been
able to verify this.

Congratulations if you made it through this whole posting.

William Ansley

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

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