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From: Matthew Malthouse <matthew.malthouse@guardian.co.uk>
Subject: Re: (urth) Iron men
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 12:02:49 +0100

"Roy C. Lackey" wrote:
>     In URTH Sidero tells Sev how his (Sidero's) kind came to be. They
> started out as glorified spacesuits for the sailors, becoming, as more
> gadgetry and circuits were added, self-aware entities capable of independent
> action. They are hollow because they were originally designed to house human
> sailors. Because they are hollow they are lightweight. Sev calls them
> androids and realizes that that is what Jonas had once been (chapter VIII).
> When he carried Jonas from the Antechamber he was surprised at how
> lightweight he was and speculated that it was due to his metal parts being
> made of some lightweight alloy. Wrong. He was lightweight because the metal
> parts were hollow, and the metal parts were made of iron, if not literally
> at least metaphorically.
>     In Greek mythology Sidero was female, not male. 

Perhaps my mind is too deep in the gutter but my first thought on
reading that was maybe the symbolism of Sev entering a Sidero/Suit that
had female characteristics would have been just too much.

Even as it is, Sev's use of Sidero is very much a violation.

> Sidero has two separate
> meanings. One is "starry", the other is a prefix meaning "iron". Sidero
> mentions two others of his kind, Hadid and Hierro. Al Hadid, also called
> "Iron", is the title of the 57th Surah of the KORAN. Hierro is Spanish for
> "iron".

So we have three men of iron - is there any reference to alternative
names for, or used by Jonas? I can't recall.

If one accepts that the simplest solution suffices then Jonas and Sidero
can be taken to be entities of the same kind - ex-space armour. But the
contrast between Sidero's strenght and Jonas' weakness is marked. That
weaknes I'd ascribe to the failing of the human parts Jonas used to
repair himself which leads me to wonder how such a repair could have
been effected on a hollow body.

Um, hollow men. Is there an allegory there? Sidero's lack of empathy and
Jonas' apparent surprise at a developing emotional need (Jollenta)
suggest to me that constructs might be missing some vital ingredient for
"humanity" (being more that just self-awareness) that Jonas was able to
absorb through long exposure to and mimicry of human behaviour which
Sidero, being in command, has had neither opportunity nor need to

Of the several types of beings - hierodules, Baldanders, the ape
guardians of the Saltus treasure cave, Ascians: all seem to display some
empathy, or at least emotion driven reaction. There does however seem to
be gradation. Ascians live in a constructed society and emotive
reactions are, if not supressed then subsumed by the limitations of
their constructed language. It's suggested that the ape guardians are
constructed for their purpose and the emotions displayed are limited to
anger, fear and adoration of the claw. The heirodules are unequivocally
constructs and it seems to me that their ability to sympathise with
humanity is something that they have to consciously cultivate. Siderao
is perhaps the most "mechanical" of the constructed but self-aware
entities that we see and for him there is almost no display of emotion
except loyalty to the ship and captain which could be explained as being
programmed in in the first place.

If there is a hierarchy of construction/humanity one would expect
Severian and Everyman to be at the apex. Yet his obvious failings make
this unlikely. Too often he does not understand others motivaions in his
first travels although he does markedly better in his third pilgramge
after returning from space (counting the voyage on Tad's ship as No 2).
Which brings us back to the question of just how is Sev qualified for
his task. And a subsidiary: is he changed by his Journey? Does his
connection to the new sun give him insights that were denied to him
before? It seems to me that this is the case.


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

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