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From: CoxRathvon@AOL.COM
Subject: (whorl) Mind stuff
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 1997 15:30:36 

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

I continue to reflect on the various kinds of intelligence Wolfe has created
in the Whorl.  Many of them are too elusive for firm definitions.  (How
definable is our own intelligence?)  But here are some attempts at

1. Human.  Example: Horn.  We can assume, I think, that the "bio"  Horn
experiences his world much as we do ours.  He's a schoolboy who idolizes his
teacher, has adventures, falls in love, writes a book, toots his own horn a
little, and cares for his family.

2. Embryonically enhanced humans.  Examples: Mucor, Silk.  There's no reason
to think that Silk's extra gifts are less remarkable than Mucor's.  Of course
we don't know he has these gifts until the story has progressed a bit.  My
first inkling came when he dueled expertly with Xiphias without any prior
training; but of course his tale-starting "enlightenment" might have been a
mental gift burgeoning. I assume there are very few of these enhanced people
in the Whorl, as the trove of frozen embryos seems to have been breached only
in Tussah's time.

3. God-enhanced humans.  Examples: Auk, Jerboa, Mint.  Who knows what effect
it has on people when these computerized blasts from the "gods" get into
them?  The recipients are rewarded with gifts, but there may be weird
downsides to the experience.

4. Animals.  Example: Oreb.  Although the Whorl seems to contain many of our
familiar "dumb beasts," it also contains a few oddly intelligent ones.  Oreb
is much smarter than even Silk supposes.  He not only uses language but
invents it; lacking the vocabulary word for "tent," he says to Silk something
like: "Quick house.  House now!"  And of course, he alone in the story sees
Quetzal not in terms of the Prolocutor's words or deeds, but in terms of his
essential self--a "bad thing."  Which brings us to:

5. Inhumi.  Example: Quetzal.  Their true nature?  Unknown.

6. Chems.  Example: Hammerstone.  They seem to have an almost fully human set
of thoughts and feelings, though they are variable and adjustable.  Do they
love and laugh as humans do?  What about less complex machines?   How
sentient is a talus?  All of this is gray area to me.

7. Electronic entities.  Examples: Kyrpis, the screen monitors.  These are
totally beyond my ken.  What are they?  

   What else could we mention, folks?  Sleepers?  I think they are
essentially normal humans who have had instructions (for technology,
management, etc.) programmed into their skulls.  I suppose I should have
mentioned that if the gods can affect humans, then humans affect the gods
when "bits" of their "selves" (this is slippery stuff) are exchanged.  But I
don't know what to make of such hybrids.

   As you could say that "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" is in part a variation
played on the theme of Self, then the Long Sun story is likewise a variation
played on the theme of Mind.  Pardon the capitals.  I know I'm groping, but
one of the essential mysteries of the story is whether the Outsider is as
real as Silk believes, and whether, therefore, there is a divine purpose to
all the human chaos and suffering.  If the Outsider is real, then the cosmos
has a divine Mind, an infinite intelligence we cannot fathom.  Silk and Horn
confront this  mystery of faith and existence just as we do.  In the end, I
appreciate Wolfe's careful decision not to preach or even allegorize.  He
leaves alternate explanations--plenty of them!  They baffle us, but that's...

--Henry Rathvon

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

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