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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) Infrared, light and darkness
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 13:06:31 

Regarding the infrared star notion, Mark Millman wrote:
>Clever thought, mantis, but I can't swallow that idea.  Master Ash
>tells us that ice covers the entire globe in his time, which implies
>a cooling process.  Hallvard and Typhon confirm this.  If loss of
>plant life affected Urth's albedo so that more solar radiation were
>reflected, cooling might result, but a) such a change in albedo
>through loss of plant life seems unlikely, and b) even if there were
>some such change, so extreme an effect seems beyond the range
>of possibility.

Well now, I didn't mean to imply that there was no cooling going on at all!
Just trying to de-couple visible light from heating light; to allow a
habitable zone to exist where canonical astrophysics insists that it cannot
be naturally; to allow a black sky at noon, yet breath-enabling atmospheric
pressure (even in the mountains) and jungles of dying vegetation (dying
over a thousand years or more!  This ain't no Nuclear Winter/killer
meteor/sudden death scenario); etc.

But it is just another idle thought, over-reading a simple romantic
conceit, trying to envision how such a metaphor could be made concrete.

What Mark Millman wrote  about black holes leading to other universes (and
the strictly hypothetical "white hole") is clearly the theory used by Wolfe
in the early 80s for his muscularly retroscientification of a scenario
glimpsed by H.G. Wells in the 1890s, developed by Clark Ashton Smith, and
refined by Jack Vance.  So at this point, we should just use the theory of
the text as bolstered by the theory of its day.

The black hole in Abaddon (subspace) leads to a white hole in Briah (normal
space); the black hole in Briah leads to a white hole in Yesod (hyperspace).

On to creatures of light and darkness who feed upon stellar energies:

So much of thinking is by way of analogy.  When Severian is thrust out of
his claustrophobic nursery and into the larger world of the Commonwealth,
he is exposed as an innocent to modes and mores that shape and challenge
him (a boon for readers, since we get to learn about his society along with
him).  We have the sense that he is walking a path between good and evil;
that he could fall into evil at various steps along the way (e.g.,
executing Agia after the mine ambush would be a bad thing).

I don't think that the situation changes in URTH.  Severian has new powers,
but the stakes are higher and the dangers become more pronounced; he is
moving as an innocent in a new landscape of godlings.  This is not the sort
of scenario where the hero gets the halo and then all things come naturally
and easily, no more tears, "the power was within you all along," etc.
Rather, his life-giving miracles are met with cruelty (the Zama episode);
his suppressed anger raises a storm; etc.

Thus, by analogy: there is some sort of energy circuit that feeds demigods
and gods (for another Wolfe example: the way that the Earth Mother goddess
in the Soldier books comes to eat the blood of the human sacrifices--this
is the Blood Circuit, and it probably plays a much larger part throughout
Wolfe's work than we think at first).  We know from the text that Severian
is being powered by the white fountain (the Claw might be an independent
regulator or just a dummy light); it seems pretty clear that the light from
the white fountain can be blocked by Urth's mass (it needs a direct line of
sight), and in a pinch Severian can draw from a starship's battery, or even
somehow the energy of an earthquake (or was that the energy of sunlight on
the ground?).  In any event, Severian is something of an energy vampire.

So the analogy I promised: the great monsters are creatures similiar to
Severian (energy vampires), but they have fallen off the tightrope (or have
chosen to embrace the Entropy side).  Severian is always in danger of
turning into one like them; and even in the end, there is some question of
whether he really is any better (or even much different) than they are
(this is usually writ in shorthand as "Is he christ or antichrist?").

So I'm saying: No new technologies for the monsters, just analogy and
implication.  But granted: it is easier to envision an energy tap on a
white hole (from which energy is emerging) than one on a black hole (into
which energy is disappearing).

The mystery of the black hole in the Old Sun remains.  The mystery of
energy circuits for the great monsters is largely built of conjecture.


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

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