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From: David_Lebling@avid.com
Subject: (urth) The Two Severians, a Second Look, with mantic asides.
Date: Fri, 1 May 98 17:05:10 

Back in January we got ourselves into some serious knots over the
question of how many Severians there were, and which did what, and to
whom.  This went on for several weeks (you could look it up).

I was looking at this today and chanced upon a remark of mantis's that
wasn't elaborated on:

"Of course you don't have to believe me, but if the first Severian
=didn't= bring the New Sun, then what is powering the Claw ... ?"

I didn't have an answer to that one at the time, but I'd like to propose

I think that Severian gets his power from the White Fountain throughout
his career.  He has that power because he ultimately succeeded in
creating it, but of course it was created in his own past as it needed
the intervening time to traverse the distance to the Old Sun and
incidentally power the Claw so Severian could work his miracles and
bring the White Fountain in the first (last?) place.  Following so far?

A simple additional comment would be that this is commonly how time
travel paradoxes work in SF.  A more interesting overlay is that this
has the property of adding the ideas of predestination (which mantis
mentions) and free will to the mixture.  That is, in some sense Severian
is predestined to bring the New Sun because (a) he prophesied it in his
incarnation as the Conciliator, (b) he already succeeded in bringing it
as it's there powering the Claw.  But, in another view, free will enters
in because he might still perform actions that would make the New Sun
not come, which is why we can see time travellers from the two alternate
futures meet him.  (Again, this is another common way of looking at time
travel paradoxes.  I recall in [maybe?] Poul Anderson's Time Patrol
stories, a case where the bad guys did somethat that wiped out the
future in which the Time Patrol existed, but the the change propagated
through time slowly enough that the good guys still had time to fix it
before they were paradoxed out of existence.  This is not unlike
mantis's "probability futures.")  I think Ash comes from a future in
which only the first Severian, who I argue didn't bring the New Sun,
existed.  That future, in the tangled web of Severian's worldlines, is
still possible when Severian meets him at the Last House, but becomes
impossible in the meeting's denouement, and Ash fades away.

There are several instances in the five books where future actions
create effects in the past which then go on to create the actions which
created them in the present.  (The whole story of Gunny / Burgundofara
is one of these.)  mantis brings up different "probability futures," and
it's really all pretty quantum mechanical, dead cats and all.  This view
presupposes a particular idea of how time travel works (e.g., no _Worlds
of the Imperium_, no many-worlds, branching time-lines).  It's more like
the way precognition worked in Dick's _The World Jones Made_, with
future events becoming more certain as you approach them.

Looking back at the archives is fun.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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