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From: "Nigel Price" 
Subject: RE: (urth) New Wolfe online
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 00:54:35 -0000

Blattid wrote...

>>There's a new (posted yesterday) Wolfe story,
>>"Castaway," on scifi.com:
>>No spoilers...

You're right, it is a good story, but there are - inevitably - still things
that I'm not sure about. Is it OK if I go ahead and ask a question, provided
I write...

	S P O I L E R

...in nice big letters?

OK, here goes.

Don't read this if you're liable to spoil your enjoyment of a good story!

When the narrator asks the castaway...

>>I said about the woman that had been dirtside
>>with him, was she still alive when we took him
>>off, because he'd said how sick she was, and I
>>thought he wouldn't go off and leave her.

...I'm assuming that the woman is the tutelary spirit of the planet, the
genius loci, and that there's at least a possibility that the planet may be
Earth. The woman is sick because the planet is blighted and decayed, and now
mostly frozen, although once it bore abundant life (birds, trees).

The fact that the day is shorter by half an hour than it once was
indicates - what? That the planet's rotation has speeded up? What's the
significance of that?

Anyway, the castaway's answer to the question about whether the woman was
alive when he left is as follows....

>>"She was and she wasn't," he said. "There were
>>things inside her, eating the corpse. Does that
>>count?" I said no, of course not, for it to count
>>they would have to have been part of her. "They
>>were," he said, and that was the real end of it.
>>Only he turned to go, and I wanted to walk with
>>him at least ‘til he got to the lock. Which I did.
>>And talking to himself I heard him say, "She had
>>been so beautiful. Just so damned beautiful."

So: what are "things inside her, eating the corpse"? Worms eat corpses, but
what eats a planet, literally or metaphorically? And what does it mean that
the things were "part of her"?

Are we to read that the things inside the planet are humans in underground
shelters, having killed off the planet by waging nuclear war which
precipitated a nuclear winter? The humans are part of the ecosystem or
"Gaia" model and therefore "part of" the woman?

Or am I being too literal? Is it just that the planet is decayed because its
erstwhile inhabitants "fell" and therefore ensured that their whole
environment was "damned"? The woman was, after all, specifically described
as "damned beautiful"? The planet might therefore be considered to contain
the seeds of her own destruction or some such?

I'm still not sure and would value suggestions!



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