FIND in
<--prev V26 next-->

From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) Hollow men
Date: Sun, 2 May 1999 15:25:33 

There has been a good deal of discussion about this thread and whether is
it has any critical purpose or perhaps any purpose at all. I don't care
about that.

(Although I feel an almost irresistible urge to demand that Jonathan
Laidlaw apologize to me too, as the third and last of the "'realists'
attempting to
decide what kind of android Jonas was" that he objected to in his by now
infamous "thoughts on Nigel price's response" posting. Not that it offended
me, but I don't want to feel left out.)

One thing I would bet everyone agrees on, however, is that they are glad
this thread is over and done with. No such luck!

"Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net> wrote:

>    Okay, Tony Ellis and William Ansley, do not agree with me.

And you'll have to add David Duffy to the list, since he wrote:

>I think Jonas is made of
>highly advanced light materials, but is not hollow.  The Ship of UotNS is
>not the only vehicle that has ever undertaken star travel (we have the
>Whorl as one counterexample)

"Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net> continues:

>Fine. I have
>already cited the relevant textual quotes in my "Iron men" and "More on Iron
>Men" posts, so there is no point it doing it again. I think we can all agree
>that Jonas is/was an android that had been repaired with human parts? I hope
>so, because that's what the text says. The only real arguments seem to be
>    (A) Are Jonas's metal parts hollow?

Not really. The argument, as I understand it, is that you think Jonas was
originally an intelligent, powered, armored space suit (IPAS) android like
Sidero. If I say that Jonas was never able to contain and protect a human
being as Sidero (albeit unwilling) does Severian (I'll ask you to accept,
for the sake of argument, that Jonas would have agreed to do so) then it
doesn't matter if I say, "Well, Jonas could have had hollow parts, to save
weight perhaps." As long as I say Jonas was never an IPAS android, you will
say I'm wrong.

>    (B) Relative sizes.
>    (A) I have already given the citations from _Claw_ which suggest that
>there is something unusual about Jonas's lightness. Sidero is an android.
>Sidero is hollow. In chapter VIII of _Urth_ Sidero states how and why his
>kind came to exist; as protective hard coverings with superhuman attributes
>to be worn by the "mates". The mates come in all sizes, male and female. Sev
>mentions *several* difficulties fitting himself inside Sidero (chapter IX),
>but never mind that.

No, let's mind it. You have referred to these difficulties several times as
if they are telling evidence for your assertion, but you have left out an
important piece of information each time. Here are the relevant passages
(from the first two pages of Chapter IX, "The Empty Air"):

...I snatched off my cloak and rolled into Sidero's open body. I did not so
much as try to see what creature those wings bore until I had thrust my
head, with some pain, into his and could look out through his visor.


His chest had closed tightly, and I struggled to get my legs into his,
pushing with hands braced against the hollows of his shoulders. If I had
been able to take a moment more outside, I would have removed my boots;
then it would have been easy. As it was, I felt I had already fractured
both ankles.


My sound leg had at last straightened itself. My lame leg ought to have
been easier, because its muscles had shrunk; but I could not summon
strength enough to force it down.


I felt myself bent forward, as one sometimes is in wrestling; Sidero was
sitting up. He stood, and in standing shifted my position just enough for
my lame leg to straighten. It was easy then to thrust my left arm into his.
My right entered what had been his own right arm equally easily, but
emerged from the damaged brassard, protected only at the shoulder.

I count two difficulties, or three, if you count each of Severian's legs as
a separate difficulty. But he had trouble getting both his good and bad leg
into the legs of the Sidero suit for the same reason: he has his boots on!
Now I think it is pretty clear that the designers of an armored space suit
would not assume that the wearer would have boots on and would not make
allowances for the extra room boots would take up.

Severian does have difficulty fitting his head into Sidero's head shaped
cavity. I will speculate that this is because Sidero's head was designed to
open, just as his torso was, to allow a person to fit inside. But Sidero,
not intending to be worn by Severian, only opened up enough to let Severian
access his emergency repair controls. So Severian had to push his head
through the neck opening of the Sidero suit.

Finally, Severian is described as being able to fit both of his arms
completely and both of his legs partially inside Sidero's chest cavity. Now
that, to me, indicates a pretty darn large suit of armor.

>The real point is that *one size does not fit all*.

I won't deny you have a point here. It does seem likely that there would
have to be different sized IPAS's for different sized people. At least this
would have been true when the sailors were allowed to wear the IPAS's. But,
from Sidero's testimony, it seems as if the IPAS androids had not allowed
that to happen for a long, long time. Therefore, if new IPAS androids were
still being built and their specifications were controlled by the IPAS
androids themselves, there would be no reason for the new IPAS's to be
designed to fit a range of human sizes.

In fact (and here is a nice little present for you) if new IPAS androids,
designed and built by IPAS androids, are being made and there is no longer
any intention that human beings are going to use them as space suits, then
the internal cavity can be shrunk to a space too small for any human being
to fit in, leading to a hollow Jonas who is too small to be a usable suit
of armor. The cavity could be left out entirely, leading to a non-hollow
Jonas who is still, in a sense, the same kind of android as Sidero.

Perhaps we can live in peace and harmony after all <g>.

Of course there is no support in the text for this. If Sidero and the
others are IPAS androids built to human design which have become autonomous
after the fact, which seems more likely, then my argument above doesn't

>"slender" androids are mentioned (their names, very likely, are Hadid and
>Hierro, BTW). Now, given the fact that Sidero's kind have been in existence
>long enough to have evolved human-like intelligence,

You make it sound as if you are talking about biological evolution. That
isn't what is going on here. The IPAS is a piece of engineering. Each
subsequent model has had new features added, including artificial
intelligence. Depending on how long it took to develop, design and build
each generation of IPAS, it wouldn't necessarily take very long for the
intelligent form to emerge. Certainly, it would be a tiny fraction of the
time that biological evolution would take.*

(Actually my acronym doesn't work very well in the passage above. The
androids started out as mere space suits [S] or armored space suits [AS].
Then they became powered [PAS]. Finally the artificial intelligence
components were added to produce what I have been referring to as an IPAS.)

>it would be
>unreasonable, unnecessary, and without textual support to think that there
>was a second order of androids on the ship built any differently than what
>we are told by Sidero.

I just can't understand why you insist that there can only be one kind of
android on the ship. People build many, many different kinds of machines
all the time. Including machines that have similar external appearances but
very different internal mechanisms. Think of automobiles: internal
combustion engines vs. electric vs. fuel cell, etc. Wolfe, as an engineer,
must be especially aware of this fact. There would have to be unequivocal
textual support for your assertion of android singularity in the text
before I could accept it. And I just don't think it's there.

>Slender compared to what? The two are standing with
>Sidero "some distance apart from the rest of us". If Sidero is "massive",
>two beings of average size might well look "slender" in comparison. The two
>"slender" androids must be hollow, too. Sev saw only a small fraction of
>Tzad's ship. There is no reason to suppose that there are not other
>androids, in a variety of sizes, all over the ship.

I will admit that the passages in _Urth_ comparing Jonas and Sidero and
other, slender androids on the ship are ambiguous. They must be or this
whole debate wouldn't have started. I think that the interpretation that
Tony Ellis and I give them more reasonable than yours. You vehemently
disagree. But I think you should at least consider that our interpretation
is possible. And allow us to hold it without implying that we are
unreasonable people who manufacture unnecessary complications while we
ignore the text.

>    Jonas served on a space/time traveling ship. Sidero said: "There is only
>one ship, the captain says. All the ships we hail between the galaxies or
>the suns are this ship." Therefore, Jonas sailed on Tzad's ship. Jonas is an
>android. Therefore, Jonas was originally hollow, regardless of which size
>android he was.

I simply don't agree that Sidero has been given reliable information here
or perhaps he has not understood what he was told properly.

I don't expect to change your mind with anything I have said above, Roy. I
imagine that if we can agree to disagree, that will be the most I can hope
to accomplish. In another post you said:

>But I learned many years ago that
>religious arguments are fruitless. Believers believe because what they
>believe cannot be proven, else it would not be a matter of faith.

Perhaps this applies to nonreligious arguments as well. It seems to in this
case. So why did I bother adding another round to this debate if I think
it's fruitless? I have to support my faith, don't I?

William Ansley

*Biological evolution doesn't apply to these androids unless they can
reproduce themselves, have some kind of genetic material which can undergo
spontaneous mutation and their varying offspring are culled by natural
selection. I don't think there is enough support for any of this in the
text to make it reasonable to believe it is true.

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

<--prev V26 next-->