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Date: Sun, 24 Nov 2002 22:02:57 -0800
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) Free Live Free (2002 round table here/now) SPOILERS

Well I've just reread FLF for the first time.

I did like it better than the last time.  The screwball comedy reminds me
now of old films I've seen since the first read: movies like "Bringing Up
Baby" and "Philadelphia Story."  And yes, "It's A Wonderful Life."

I tried looking back through the archives to see what has been written
about FLF, but most of what I saw was mentioning FLF in passing.  There was
one observation about the "alloying" nature of characters folded back into
themselves, and that seems quite relevant.  I did not exhaustively read all
the messages -- what I did look at was exhausting enough.

Adam Stephanides, several years ago, posted a few questions and it doesn't
seem as if they were ever answered around here.  I don't even recall what
they all were, but one had to do with appearance of Free/disappearance of
Whitten, and I'll address that shortly.

First, the ending.  Big Ozzie and Little Ozzie are walking through the
January 1983 alleyway behind the partially demolished house.  They pick
their way through the debris -- through the window they can see the ruin,
but they open the door and enter a non-ruinous version of the kitchen, in
which stand an alloyed (or improved) versions of Candy and Stubbs.  Ozzie
thinks about how Free had said he'd hidden the gizmo in a wall: the sly
part seems to be that a doorway is in a wall, and in this case the door
from Jan 1983 back porch leads to Summer (what year in past) kitchen.  In
mirror-fashion, the door from Jan 1983 kitchen leads to Summer (what year
in past) back porch.

The back door is really two one-way time doors.

My question is what year is that Summer kitchen located in?  It might be
1982, which would then allow for Barnes, Stubbs, Garth, and the witch to be
"alloyed," or folded into their previous selves.  If it were 1882, long
before their natural life time, or even 1942, it does not seem like this
would be the case.

If it is 1982, then the events of the novel amount to a timeline that has
been imploded and which only exists as a commonly shared dream among the
now-improved four characters.  Plus Little Ozzie.

But this doesn't explain why Free says he is too old to use it.  Then
again, he has advance knowledge of when he will be murdered and he isn't
one to interrupt the flow, so that by itself can answer a lot of questions.

Next: High Country.  The wooden Laputa flying fort, served by one B-17.
Established in 1942, still there but seemingly abandoned in 1982.  It
carries the gizmo (the "big" gizmo?) which allows time-travel to 1952:
Whitten walks through the door, ends up on High Country (1952), gets
information on fission, which he takes back to 1942 . . . or no, wait, the
big gizmo must take all of High Country with it, and the B-17, too?
Because the B-17 and its crew are from the 1940s.

As to Free/Whitten.  Actually, Adam, this part is very much like John
Crowley's "Great Work of Time" (1989) -- well no, not this part exactly,
but the whole "crisis at time patrol: an insider is starting to mess things
up--oops, that person is my future self!" thing.  Which may be an
off-the-shelf trope for "time travel organization" type of stories, I'm not
sure.  (And no, I would certainly not guess that John Crowley had read
FLF--I would bet money against it.)

Anway, getting back to it: in FLF it is simply not possible to "talk to
yourself" because when the more advanced version of a person appears in the
local timestream, the other version implodes and folds into the intruder.
We might think of this as a "conservation of soul" or something like that!

So the first and clearest case we have: Whitten goes from 1942 to 1952,
gets the info, and returns, but on his return he arrives three months
before he left, and his May 1942 version seems to have imploded and folded
into his August 1942.  He then goes along with repeating history for three
months until he goes up to High Country (again), then does not go into time
travel but goes to Washington to give the info he had gotten months before.

Things are different in the "eclipses" of the 1980s: for one, neither
"Buck" nor "Free" are native to the 1980s, so it isn't as clear-cut a case
as "older Whitten displaces/absorbs younger Whitten."  But that might still
be what happens (even though it doesn't seem like it).

Time for a timeline (based on the US timeline but scrambled into Free's
linearity point of view):

1889 -- Samuel Benjamin Whitten born.

1917 -- (age 28) Whitten in US Army, volunteers for pilot training.

1918 -- (age 29) Whitten in France, March to Nov (war ends).

1924 -- (age 35) daughter "Kip" Whitten born in Manila.

1937 -- (age 48) Brig. Gen. S. B. "Buck" Whitten retires.

1942 -- (age 53) July: Whitten joins OSS.
                 Aug 18: Whitten goes to High Country, travels to 1952.
1952 -- (age 53) Whitten gets fission info, returns to 1942.
1942 -- (age 53) May 30: returns from time travel, lands at Langley Field;
                        his May self has imploded/folded.
                 June 2: from Langley Field to Buffalo.
                 July (again): Whitten joins OSS.
                 August 18 (again): But rather than time travel again, he
                        reports at Washington with the info he got on the
                        trip before.
                 August 20: second time travel (into future) with team this
                        time, carrying disassembled gizmo.  To 1982?

1982 -- (age 53) Nov 5: B-17 spotted marks arrival of Whitten and team.

1983 -- (age 53?) Jan 14: disappearance of Whitten when Free returns.
                 Jan 16: Free's ad.
                 Jan 17: The four move in.
                 Jan 18: The novel begins.
                 Jan 19: Kip takes Free prisoner.
                 Jan 21: Kip kills Free, Whitten reappears.
                 Jan 22: Before dawn, Whitten disappears again; High Country
                         interview of Whitten/Free (age 60 - 70) who has
                         experienced years since he saw them take off hours
                 Jan 24: Man in duffle coat deserts.

1803 -- (age 60) Ben Free joins Lewis & Clark expedition.

1807-18 (age 64-75) Free visits the house using the portable gizmo to leave the
                    frontier and backdoor gizmo to return to the frontier.

1819 -- (age 76)  Free leaves the frontier for good . . . using the portable
                   gizmo in a cave in Kentucky (?), he returns to the house.
                   Then he retreives the portable gizmo on foot (in the "house
                   timeframe"), and hides it in the wall of the house.

1983 -- (age 76+) Jan 14: Free visits 1983 house, Whitten disappears.
                 Jan 16: Free's ad.
                 Jan 17: The four move in.
                 Jan 18: The novel begins.
                 Jan 19: Kip takes Free prisoner.
                 Jan 21: Kip kills Free (Whitten reappears).

==End Timeline==

So . . . what happens when Free is killed in 1983?  Does he go to heaven or
some other sort of afterlife? Does he fold into the Free/Whitten version
that the four talk to on High Country?  Or does Free actually morph into
the house, just as he seemed to be telling the witch that he would -- and
how he did that telekinesis with the roof shingle to impress her?

That is to say: does Free (age 76+) become the house that the four rebuilt
people live in?  One of the unexpected Oz echoes here: there is the wizard
of Oz, who is named Oz, and there is the country of Oz, which is called Oz.
(Naturally Oz has four kingdoms, which links up with the four dwellers, but
that is another detail.)

What years are the timeframe for the house?  Seems to me that Free would
know/guess that there were certain safe zones he could visit without
causing disruptive implosions . . . say the years 1953 to 1981.  And then
the fuzziness of the gizmo catches up and he overshoots into 1983 (rather
like the three month miss on the first trip).  General Whitten disappears
and all hell breaks loose.

That is enough for one post.  Help me out, Roy!



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