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Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2002 15:04:40 -0500
From: William Ansley 
Subject: Re: (urth) The leatherskin

At 01:27 PM 11/16/2002 -0800, Don Doggett  wrote:

>One of (imho) Wolfe's first tricks in SS to give us the impression of Blue
>as an alien world is his introduction of the leatherskin, a terrible
>creature with three (gasp!) jaws.  It is the only really alien creature in
>the book (even the neighbors are four limbed humanoids).  Or is it?  Here's
>a more mundane (sort of) explanation:  The leatherskin is a sort of evolved
>shark. Yes, a shark.  Its three jaws are really three rows of teeth.  To
>someone like Horn, or Silk, who has probably never had any previous
>experience with salt water creatures, these rows could very well appear to
>be three jaws.  Sort of the way people with no experience with horseback
>riding might have seen the first horsemen as centaurs.  Sharks also have
>extremely rough skin.  Just a thought (a scary thought - a shark that can
>climb into your boat.  Ugh.)


I don't agree that Horn mistook three rows of teeth for three jaws. Horn 
says that the jaws clashed shut like "the slamming of double doors." [p. 61 
of the hardcover edition of OBW]. I don't see how this can be interpreted 
to mean anything other than two separate, hinged jaws closing against a 
third fixed one.

In any case, a shark with at least *six* limbs [1] is as alien to Earthly 
evolution as one with three jaws, in my somewhat informed opinion (I was a 
genetics major in a previous life).

William Ansley

[1] Way back on October 18, 1999 I argued that the leatherskin has twelve 
legs and no one has bothered arguing with my conclusions yet.

What I said then:

>The leatherskin, one of the largest I have ever seen, stood with six
>massive legs and half its weight on the starboard gunwale, over which
>silver water cascaded. [OBW (hc), p. 62]
>If this creature has only six legs and all of them are on the starboard
>gunwale (rather a tricky balancing act in the first place), then how can
>the gunwale be only bearing half its weight?


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