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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) GWOT <> LB
Date: Tue, 2 May 2000 09:48:24 

Away for three days and I've fallen far behind!

Adam's Questions
>1. What is the function of the opening section, about Caspar Last?  I
>can actually think of several possible functions: it provides a glimpse
>of our world; it's a prelude to the "original sin" of the Otherhood; it
>shows the difficulty of changing the past in a purposeful way; it lures
>the reader into thinking GWoT will be a typical changing-the-past
>story.  But none of these justify, for me, the size and prominent
>position of this section.

Those are good functions.  I'd also add the "red herring" of technical
details (like the severe mass restriction, which on first reading seem to
make later Otherhood operations impossible, but no, they've developed an
advanced technique which remains vague).  But for me, the most important
function is to begin the big American/British dichotomy: Caspar Last is
American (though you probably wouldn't know it until somebody mentions it
later), and Denys is British.

>2. When the old Denys is telling the young Denys (of our world) his
>story, after describing how he failed to kill Rhodes, he says "'I am
>satisfied in my own mind...that it cannot be possible to meet oneself on
>a trip into the past or future; that is a lie, invented by the Otherhood
>to forestall its own extinction, which was however inevitable."
>(131-32).  Why does Denys think propagating the "lie" that one can meet
>oneself would forestall the Otherhood's extinction?  Why does he think
>the Otherhood's extinction inevitable?  And why does the old Denys not
>believe his older self dissuaded him from killing Rhodes, when he has
>the evidence that that is what happened?  Does he just not want to admit
>that his current plight is the result of a considered decision on his
>part, rather than an impulsive act?

Okay, it gets complicated: I'm not sure what you are saying, so I'll
outline my understanding of the situation.  In the text our world seems to
be what the Otherhood calls "Original Situation"; the world the Otherhood
is making I call "CC" (for the "Cape-to-Cairo" railroad which figures so
strongly); the world at the end of the text is neither OS nor CC, but a
third situation I dub "C2."

So I take your opening statement as meaning: "When Denys CC (86 years old)
is telling Denys C2 (23 years old) in the C2 world, after describing how he
failed to kill Rhodes in CC/C2 1893, he says . . . "

On to the paradox itself.  I hope it resolves cleanly as I've laid it out
above: one cannot "meet oneself" because of one or more of the following:
one's age difference means that an older version is a different self than a
younger version (standard truism about age); the usual time-travel history
eraser thing (meddling with your past self alters both); the
multiple-timeline model (such monkeying around causes new worlds to emerge:
OS became CC, CC became C2; each version of Denys is different enough to be
outside of "self").

Then again, the text facts remain (if Denys CC [86 yo] isn't lying): the
actual agent of change in CC 1893 (which caused the birth of C2) was a
phantom lion (which suggests to me that the fairies of CC 2015 did it).
This being the case, then it does support the claim that one cannot meet
oneself, not because of any reasons I listed above, but just because that
is a fact: like a law of physics.

As to why the Otherhood would want agents to believe that one could meet
oneself, I'm not sure.  To keep them focused on the big goal (creation of
CC world); to keep time travel minimal and by design; etc.  It seems that
they wouldn't have blown it if they had followed their own rules and had
not allowed Denys CC (33 years old) to go from CC 1993 to CC 2015, where he
saw the results of the CC worldbuilding project and grew sick of it.  Which
began the unravelling.

Onward: next stop, "why I think GWOT is the opposite of LB."

LB is a union of Anglo-American fairytale stuff, elements which are quite
different yet brought together into a seamless whole.  A bit ambiguous at
the end, but overall a glorious celebration of Fantasy.  Ambiguity leaves
room for hope and happiness.

GWOT uses science fiction to separate America and Great Britain into two
hostile camps.  The reader is urged to choose between one or the other,
with constant goading towards the British side (third paragraph: "in an
American sort of voice (for we are all Americans now, aren't we?)"; a few
pages later, "The hotel in the capital was as he expected, shoddy-American
and intermittently refrigerated" [I wonder how "American" that use of
"refrigerated"?).  As the plot thickens, to the "American" side is added,
on top of Coca-colonization, Big Macs, and all that, a heaping of Nazi
Germany and the Jewish Holocaust--now which side is the reader going to

Well ha-ha, which ever side you choose, you lose!  No ambiguity there.

Often enough in time travel stories there is the "que sera sera" sort of
moral: Lincoln/JFK must be assassinated, otherwise things will somehow get
worse; likewise Hitler cannot be assassinated; Captain Kirk must persuade
Dr. McCoy to let the foxy socialist babe die in the 20th century so that
the Federation can exist in the future; etc.  But as perhaps the only
original thing GWOT brings to the rich subgenre, the ending is anything but
Doris Day (or Once a Day, or Daily Alice): on first glance, it is "damned
if you do, damned if you don't."

But no, it is actually even worse than that!  See, in LB, Smoky has ideas,
but does nothing (he is passive), and that seems sad; in GWOT, Denys tries
very hard, suffers, and changes worlds (he is active), and it is worse.  So
a thread which I think runs through much of JC's work: the only thing worse
than doing nothing (bad, sad) is doing something (very bad, very sad).
Which is like a negative-version of the Tao, or something.

Anyway, GWOT uses sf to destroy fantasy (especially LB), implicate the
authors/readers of fantasy (basically worse than Hitler, all of 'em), and
destroy sf itself.  LB is a wedding of opposites; GWOT is a war, a civil
war, and a few genocides.

Finally!  Reading GWOT outside of the context of NOVELTY might be as
slippery/skewed as reading "`A Story' by John V. Marsch" outside of 5HC.
(Or maybe not.)


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

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