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From: "Daniel Fusch" <dfusch@hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) Technology as Magic and Metaphor (long)
Date: Tue, 02 Nov 1999 11:29:18 PST


Instead, the idea that they are simultaneously
>scientifically explainable events and spiritual metaphors with real power 
>creates a sense of destiny and religious meaning in our physical universe. 
>In TBOTNS every action, object, and interaction reveals some significant 
>truth about the Increate.  Sev's discovery of a thorn on a (Pacific!) 
>which is at once biological matter, a relic of real physical power, and a 
>revelation of the divine nature of physical existence, is an example of 

Precisely. There is a technological level, a metaphorical level, a 
mythological level, and a spiritual level to all these things. I think what 
whoever-started-this was trying to point out was that the symbolic level of 
analysis is more important (or higher, to use a Miltonic concept) than the 
scientific level or analysis. In other words, it is more important that the 
reader understand what Typhon is doing on a symbolic level than it is for 
the reader to understand the anatomical knowledge that went into putting 
Typhon together.

I also agree that there is no "magic" in Severian's world, as that term is 
usually understood. On the other hand, I don't think that we can gain much 
by a technological discussion of the possibilities and probabilities 
involved in sewing Typhon together, in creating Father Inire's mirrors, or 
in producing a white fountain. If we focus too closely on a literal and 
scientific reading of Wolfe's work, we risk missing or overlooking the 
point. If Wolfe had meant for The Book of the New Sun to be a treatise on 
physics, he would have made Severian a physicist.

I think that we need to accept the following suppositions when approaching 
The Book of the New Sun:

A) On the literal level, Urth is governed my a future technology that is 
really a medley of a dozen or so past technologies. We cannot really get an 
intellectual grasp on how all this technology works, because Severian isn't 
able or isn't interested in telling us.

B) While it is scientifically possible to create a Typhon, the probability 
of the matter is really irrelevant; the significance of the Typhon episode 
lies in the metaphorical and mythological meanings of the text. The same 
goes for Baldanders, etc. The Book of the New Sun is science fiction, yes, 
but it is also mythopoeic.

So, while it may be interesting to those engineers among us to discuss the 
inner workings of the Autarch's flier, we should be aware that such 
discussions can only take us so far.


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