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From: David_Lebling@avid.com
Subject: (whorl) Timeline << with New Sun, Urth of the New Sun spoilers >>
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 97 10:38:43 

[Posted from Whorl, the mailing list for Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun]

<< New Sun, Urth of the New Sun Spoilers ahead >>

I'd like to raise an issue that has actually troubled me ever since _The
Urth of the New Sun_ was published, which is the timing of Typhon's

It seems pretty clear from _Urth_ that Typhon reigned in
"near-historical" times vis a vis Severian.  I believe mantis has pegged
it as about 1000 years pre-Severian.  (I'm not sure of the source for
this number, but from _some_ internal evidence it feels right).

However, and this is a problem with _Urth_ that I've raised before,
there just doesn't seem to be enough time between this theory of
Typhon's regnal dates and Severian's reign.  For example, we are shown
the construction of Typhon's mountain statue, and it is explicitly
stated that it's the first one -- the rest of the range is uncarved.
There just doesn't seem to be enough tech and enough time to carve the
Andes even if every autarch wants this form of immortality. There is
also a strong implication in _New Sun_ that Typhon rules many planets
(he offers Urth to Severian), and presumably has a reasonably expedient
way to travel between them.  It seems unlikely from his description that
he uses a ship like _Tzadkiel_.

In _The Book of the New Sun_, Typhon expounds at length about his
rationale for getting his head transplanted onto Piaton's body.  It
isn't stated explicitly but seems pretty clear that he is an old man
when this operation is performed.  (Am I correct that one of Pas's heads
is referred to as "old" in _Long Sun_?)  He also tells Severian that
this is new technology, developed at his command for the specific
purpose of prolonging his life.

This is all well and good, if a little troubling.  However, it gets much
worse in _Long Sun_.

First, there is the problem of Pas's sprats.  The oldest appears to have
been about twenty or so when stored in Mainframe. This isn't too bad. 
We can assume he sired them (and they are all Echidna's -- this is
explicit) before his transplant, or even assume that a technology that
can transplant a head can handle a few testicles with no trouble.

Second, we are told that Pas built his empire in his own lifetime,
"sweeping across the whorl [meaning Urth]."  This doesn't leave much
room for the interstellar empire implied in _New Sun_.

Third, the Urth of 1000 years pre-Severian just doesn't have the
technology to build the _Whorl_.  Even if it did, the population
wouldn't be as technically sophisticated as the _Whorl_'s sleepers.
Contrast Mamelta's technical saavy with that of the young Burgundofara
of _Urth_. (Typhon/Pas seems to be quite the patron of science --
transplants, control of robots and people through computer monitors,
people sleeping for hundreds of years, genetically engineered supermen
and women, etc.)  Note also that in _New Sun_ Typhon seems to have
taluses but no chems -- obviously chems exist even in Severian's time,
but they seem more common on _Long Sun_'s Short Sun Whorl than in
Typhon's Urth.

Fourth, the society and technology of the _Whorl_ (as exemplified by
Viron) seems to me more like it would fit into a timeframe less than
1000 years from _now_, not approximately 100,000 years from now. 
Present-day languages are still known (though this could be a literary
device).  Computers still use cards and apparently vacuum tube displays
(possibly another device, to be fair).  The religion is a trumpery
paganism overlaid on Christianity and parodying it in a way that
indicates that Catholicism at least is well-remembered in Pas's time.
This is not the case in _New Sun_, by the way; while there are Christian
and even Catholic survivals in Severian's time, they are only fragments,
and the Conciliator appears to be a "new dispensation."

It would be easy to dismiss these problems by saying "Wolfe messed up."
Maybe he did, but I'd be interested in knowing if anyone else has a
solution or interpretation that makes more sense.


Questions or problems to whorl-owner@lists.best.com

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