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Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 12:20:53 -0600
Subject: Re: (urth) In Glory Like Their Star (SPOILERS) F&SF Mag story
From: Adam Stephanides 

I know this is old news by now, but I was waiting until I could check the
magazine (F & SF, Oct/Nov 2001) out of my library to write; and then I was
waiting until Ranjit re-established the list to post.  In any case, this is
another good but enigmatic story by Wolfe.  I don't understand the
narrator's thought processes at all; perhaps that was Wolfe's intention?

I agree with Nutria that the "natives'" approach to the aliens represents
pagan ritual, but I'd go further.  Ancient mystery cults promised those who
were initiated immortality after death, and the narrator promises the man
who helps him immortality.  The initiation ceremonies took place in a temple
or cave, like the interior of the ship where the narrator tries to fulfill
his promise.  The narrator tells all this to the natives; he believes he has
succeeded in explaining that he failed, but he's probably wrong (despite
what he thinks, he comprehends the natives no better than they do him).  I
think what we see in this story is the birth of a mystery religion.

But then there are those strange echoes of Christianity.  Christ (in
Christian doctrine) sacrificed himself knowingly, while the man sacrifices
himself unknowingly.  Christ rose on the third day, while the narrator tries
for three days to give the man immortality and then kills him.  Unlike
Joshua, though, I see these echoes as parodic.  (Or perhaps it's a
cautionary tale: if you follow a false god, you get incinerated.)

And why did the narrator kill the man?  Was it out of mercy, since the man
has killed his beast and can't enter the narrator's ship, and so is doomed
to die of thirst in the desert?  But the narrator gives no explanation.

Another peculiar thing is the narrator's reference to two subspecies, one
larger and without tails, and "the little ones with tails."  My first
thought was that the "lesser" subspecies were some sort of domestic animal,
but it's hard to see how the narrator would think that any such animal is of
the same species as humans (he's aware that the man's beast is a beast, and
not of the man's species).  The other possibility that occurred to me was
that the "lesser" subspecies is women, but of course women don't have tails.
This makes me wonder if the story really takes place on Earth (the
narrator's reference to Earth could be a translation of whatever the
"natives" call their planet).

on 8/31/01 7:28 PM, Endy9 at endymion91@home.com wrote:

> 2.  What is the deal about the earth not being a sphere because the desert
> is a flat spot where gravity works differently?  Is the desert the
> mysterious hidden "Eden" man is still searching for?  Something on a
> different plane where gravity, time, etc. work differently that the alien
> could see but man can't?

This is the narrator's misapprehension.  He thinks that in the desert "the
horizon is larger than a place of this size can produce," and deduces that
the desert is geometrically flat; that is not following the earth's
curvature, but a plane intersecting the earth's sphere.  If this were the
case, then the desert's edges would be further from the center of the earth
than the desert's center, so walking away from the center would be like
walking uphill (though I doubt that the effect would actually be
perceptible; certainly not at the center itslef).

> 3.  Why does the narrator talk of traveling "alone" but make many references
> to "others" who aren't earth dwellers from what I can tell?

He came to the solar system with the "others," but travelled alone with his
scout to the earth's surface.  After finding his scout again he returned to
his ship, and then he and the others landed and met the natives.

> 4.  Sol died?

No; if Sol had actually died "in glory," that could only mean it had gone
nova, in which case there could be no life on earth.  When the narrator says
"died swiftly and in glory like their star," it is the star, not the death
of the star, which is "in glory."

> The sentence about the earth man stopping his
> beast and causing it to lie down on the desert sand for some reason made me
> think it could be a camel in the past or a hovercar in the future.

Since the narrator goes on to talk about him and the native eating the
beast, presumably it's not a hovercar.

Joshua wrote:

> Everything but the desert appeared to vanish as the narrator approached. On
> one level, this merely implies that the narrator's journey took a long time.
> On another level, it might mean that material things *effectively*
> disappeared for the narrator.

Surely this just refers to mirages?


Questions or problems: write ranjit@urth.net

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