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From: "mournings glory" 
Subject: (urth) Castaway
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 23:46:36 +0000

Hello all.

Delurking just long enough to post my own deranged thoughts about Wolfe's 

Is it just me or was anyone else bothered that the only named characters in 
the story have decidedly non-futuristic names? There are Yarmouths and 
Oberts in my local phone directory (well, actually Oberst, but close 
enough), and yet we're meant to believe that the story takes place in the 
far future, when the sun is dying. Surely, Wolfe, whose naming conventions 
are usually brilliant, could have come up with less modern-sounding names.

Atrothers, on the other hand, seems pure Wolfean. I'm speculating that it 
derives from the Latin "atrox" (horrible, abominable, fierce, savage, 
unrelenting; "atrox" also being closely related etymologically to "ater," 
dead black, malevolent). "Others," of course, means, well, others, 
presumably here aliens or non-natives; but notice how Wolfe uses the word 
the lone time it's mentioned: "We got hit by the Atrothers." For some 
reason, when I first read this, my mind flashed back to the anthrax attacks 
that took place shortly after 9/11--probably because "horrible black 
creatures" connotes for me the anthrax bacillus, and the similarities of 
atrox/anthrax. And then I began to wonder: could "Castaway" actually be Gene 
Wolfe's fictionalizied account of an immune system response to 
viral/bacterial/"alien" invasion? Sort of the sfnal version of "Osmosis 

Consider the following bits of evidence:

"The sun was red and real close, but there didn't seem to be a lot if heat 
in it" This could be the heart, either no longer beating or severely 
compromised because of toxins in the bloodstream. Blood also orbits the 

The years-being-shorter-now may refer to cells that are still attempting to 
thrive in an essentially dying or dead body. (I assume that bone marrow 
produces blood cells for at least some while after death--probably until the 
temperature cools or circulatory stagnation. And "years" of course is a 
relative term--the life/reproductive cycle of a cell, therefore allowing the 
woman to be "millions and millions of years old".)

Given Wolfe's religious views, the "woman" discussed by the castaway (who's 
also very definitely "sick") may well represent the soul, who is able to 
communicate with her would-be rescuer various, if obviously more corporal, 
joys: the descant of birds, autumn's foliage, etc., etc.

Everything in the ship is white, signifying the leucocytes of the immune 
response, which seem "to just suck the color out of everything *except* 
blood." The castaway, since he retains color, may be a red blood cell or 
something equivalent to a platelet, or enzymatic thrombin.

And lastly, the "things inside her, eating the corpse" are lysosomes--which 
eventually digest all dead cells.

All right, it's a goofy idea, but I thought I'd toss it out anyway.

(My vironese nickname and its abbreviation may well make me both fem and 
chem. Daresay, I've been called worse.)


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