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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) "1-2-3 For Me" as crypto-Urth story
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 13:33:47 

Talarican wrote:
>Did anyone else get the impression Jak's story in "One-Two-Three For Me"
>could have taken place on the world which would become Urth, during the
>forgotten millenia of the decline of the great stellar empire, chiliads
>before Severian's time?
>To begin with, it's apparent that Jak's world is dominated by thinking
>engines, and that these have an attitude, as that crack by his 'bot about
>the numbered cell phone buttons illustrates.
>Clearly, their milieu is in a serious state of decline. Earth is now an
>archaeological site for bored students. To quote Cyriaca (Sword, VI) "But
>though the empire dissolved, the worlds were a long time dying...nor could
>they build more cities, because the cities that remained were nearly empty".
>While she doesn't state that old Earth's own urban civilization suffered
>such extreme decadence the population committed suicide, it can't be ruled
>out either.
>In both stories, there seems to be a strong element of selfishness and
>self-absorption on the part of the humans. Why didn't Jak call or check on
>JoAnn after the weird little visitor vanished? (for that matter, why didn't
>her 'bot take some sort of protective action?(waves claws and turns
>side-to-side shouting "Danger! Danger! Run, JoAnn! Highly toxic alkaloid
>detected!" <g>)).
>What is Jak's real problem at the time he tells that story and gets angry
>with the youngers over their stick trick? He's not afraid the "pusher" will
>return. It's pretty clear the world on which Jak told his story wasn't
>Earth, and the "pusher" clearly wouldn't force the drug on him in any case.
>He's not merely grieving for JoAnn, although she didn't consciously mean to
>commit suicide, and Jak didn't consciously know the danger at the time. He's
>suffering a guilty conscience now because of his failure to exercise caution
>in an unfamiliar situation, resulting in JoAnn's death, due to his own
>Even if "One-Two-Three" isn't a New Sun story, I think we can still agree
>that its extinct peoples of Earth have much in common with the inhabitants
>of the nearly forgotten decadent stellar empire ages before Urth. And that
>enigmatic story title suggests selfishness.

My impression: I had thoughts along the same lines.  It is much more
satisfying to think of this story as something like what you are saying,
rather than taking it as a "Planet of the Apes"-style, straight "realistic"
archaeological finding story.  In "Planet of the Apes" they find a "doll"
that really is a doll, and it says "Mommy" or whatever, and that pretty
much shatters the world--revealing that the planet itself is dear old

If we read "1-2-3" in this vein, it seems weak: a cell phone, buried in
some tell mound, still works?  (I think I saw some comment about this
either here first or here, reported from elsewhere.)  The drug connection
still delivers the heroin, crack-cocaine, name-your-demon-powder?

Now see, if it were not something that looked to us like a cell phone,
things might be different.  Say it were a metallic conch shell, covered
with intricate runes and redolent with the odor of burnt asparagus; say
that it summoned a swarm of flying beetles, who delivered a pair of eye
glasses that had rose-colored lenses.  Then it might seem less a "just say
no" story, and more a fairy-tale type story about the perils of mucking

Or if it were the Rod of the Cumaean.  Or some other artifact seen through
the filter of Severian's sense.

I agree that the robots are in charge, and this does seem like something we
see hinted of in posthistorical time.  And because the dingus seems more
like a cell phone than it seems like a horn of demon summoning, there is a
feeling that it is closer to our time than anything in Severian's narrative
(with the possible exception of the Apu-Punchau gig <g>).

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

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