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From: "Tony Ellis" <tony.ellis@futurenet.co.uk>
Subject: (urth) Strange Travelers again. Sorry.
Date: Fri, 07 Apr 2000 16:31:09 +0100

Do I win a prize for being Last Person To Read Strange Travelers? My
copy arrived 2 days ago. Apologies for discussing stuff everyone else
got bored of months ago.

I've got as far as 1-2-3 For Me. I'd just like to say that I agree 101%
with William H. Ansley's view that this is a ghost story, pure and
simple. In particular it's an M.R. Jamesian ghost story, and I was a
little surprised to see no one else suggest this connection. For me
there's a definite sly wink in the direction of James's classic "Oh
Whistle, and I'll Come To You, My Lad!" Especially when you compare the
two titles: Wolfe's reads like a deliberately cheeky, modernistic
response to the Master. Why whistle, when you can tone-dial?

In Jame's story it's an ancient whistle that's dug up, and out of an old
Templar's chapel rather than a post-future city. Rather than numbers the
whistle has a Latin inscription, but blowing it summons a Something,
just as surely as dialing that old mobile phone does.

Now, before everyone jumps on me, I'm well aware that the old
artifact-that-summons-a-nasty plot has been used in a thousand ghost
stories other than James's, but I also think it's fair to say that this
is a device James pretty much made his own. More importantly, the Pusher
that the phone summons is absolutely an M.R. James ghost. One of the
more disturbing aspects of the old boy's stories is the sheer
unpleasantness of his ghosts. They're not ethereal, wispy things:
they're corporeal, skeletal, fleetingly glimpsed, and often hairy.
Horribly hairy.

Why did the mobile phone turn up in Jak's backpack when he thought he'd
got rid of it? Because that's what cursed items do, folks. It's in the

Various conspiracy theories involving bots and loss of cultural symbols
seem to have been spun out of this one, but I don't think this story has
particularly more to say about societal collapse than any other which
uses a Fallen Civilisation backdrop. Vanity of vanities, saith the
Preacher; vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit hath man of all
his labor wherein he laboreth under the sun? One generation goeth, and
another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.

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

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