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From: "Mark Millman"<Mark_Millman@hmco.com>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Talus derivation
Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 12:15:40 

On Friday 22 May 1998, Rich Browne wrote:

> Did Incus (?) and his ilk graft artifical intelligence
> unto bulldozer-taluses, or construct them de novo?
> Afterall, the yellow talus doesn't appear other than
> in paintings of Pas creating the Whorl, and there
> isn't any new construction going on, nor any clearing
> of the debris around Lake Limna. What became
> of the yellow taluses?

About the word:  "talus" is also both what should be the Latin spelling of
the Greek "Talos" (and, with the Spanish terms and formal Church hierarchy
of BotLS, Latin as a source of words, rather than the Greek of BotNS, seems
likely), and the term for the human ankle-bone.

I can see a couple of possibilities for the origin of the Whorl's taluses.
Perhaps some bulldozers were left in the Whorl in case they should be
needed.  They may have been either dumb machines comparable to the ones we
have now, or they may have been self-supervising robots that could be given
instructions and left to do the work on their own.  In the former case, the
bulldozers may have been converted for other uses and, by analogy with the
chems, at that time given minds of their own.  In the latter case, repairs
or refurbishment may have given the Whorl's artisans the opportunity to add
a "human face" to the taluses that they worked on, to make it easier to
communicate with them, to make them more intimidating, or simply because it
was deemed more fitting (in an abstract esthetic way).  After a while, the
yellow paint would undoubtedly have become worn and been replaced or
polished away.  Alternatively, the builders of the original talus may have
seen the pictures of Typhon's bulldozers (though all the machines
themselves had been removed before the Whorl's voyage began) and copied the
design to make use of the caterpillar treads (which seem, as I recall, to
be unique to taluses in BotLS).  In the latter case, there would be no need
for the bulldozers to have been known as taluses; the name could have been
applied to them in recognition of the similarity after it had become common
for the guards.  The fact that the taluses run on fish-oil seems to suggest
that this is the more likely path; though we don't know what powers such
devices as Blood's floater, it seems that little or no provision was made
for combustible fuels (unless you want to take the fish themselves as
having been placed in the Whorl as a source of oil, in addition to food,
environmental maintenance, etc.; this would suggest that other cities, more
distant from large bodies of water, might grow crops from which fuel oils
could be pressed).  (By the way, the fish-oil means that taluses are very
likely computers that run on internal-combustion engines!  Undoubtedly the
engines are merely used to charge batteries, but I like the steampunk
possibilities inherent in the idea of an electromechanical computer running
on an oil-burning engine.  It accords well with the influences of Dickens
and Chesterton, and with the canting speech, too.)  Of course, the (non-IC)
engines of any converted bulldozers could have been cannibalized for
high-status items such as floaters, too.

But ultimately, I don't think we have enough information to answer the
question.  Pity, that.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.moonmilk.com/whorl/

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