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From: m.driussi@genie.geis.com
Subject: (urth) PEACE/NYRSF, Sev7
Date: Sat,  2 May 98 15:45:00 GMT

William Ansley,

"The New York Review of Science Fiction" ran a detailed timeline
(by William Schuyler, Jr.) along with Damien Broderick's PEACE piece
a while back (IIRC).  Check their backlist for this and other PEACE
articles (I think one or two issues before the timeline one they ran
an article by Schuyler).


More responses for you: right, the Urth timeline situation is less
like Laumer's WORLDS OF THE IMPERIUM (where every parallel universe
has equal validity/reality) or Moorcock's multiverse (ditto) than
it is like Zelazny's Amber set-up: Amber is the real reality, Courts
of Chaos is its antithesis, and all the realities between these two
poles are just shadows.

While the Urth situation is more like Amber, it isn't a tight fit.
Yet we do have glimpses of "shadow" timelines: the adventures of Sev1
who did the quest without any special help or hinderence exists as a
shadow timeline riding in the future (oh, maybe ten years?) from the
subjective lifetime experienced by Sev2 in TBOTNS (again, maybe this
defines the Real Present?); the reigns of Vodalus and Baldanders on
the Phoenix Throne (note that just as O, B, and F are backtracking
Sev1's rise to the throne through time, helping here and there, they
are doing exactly the same with Baldanders; i.e., Baldanders and
Severian are two horses in the same race, and O, B, and F are betting
upon the winner that results in the win that they like best); the
shadow realities of Ushas and Ragnarok.

This "effect of the future upon the present," while a paradoxical
mirroring of the effect of the past upon the present, is a point that
Wolfe brings up about the Urth Cycle in the text itself as well as in
many interviews and articles.  Time and again he says that Earth may
have received wonders from Urth; not in the sense that Urth is located
in our past, thus restoring the "natural" cause/effect sense of "the
past shaping the present," but in this paradoxical sense of seemingly
going against the timeflow.  (The shadow of Baldanders has caused Mary
Shelley to write FRANKENSTEIN rather than Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN
inspiring/causing Baldanders to recreate himself as a giant monster;

Here, to put it in another way, prosaic and mundane: let's say that
what Wolfe is talking about, the future altering the present, is
really just this--people get the future they have in mind, the goal
they are working toward.  Just to crank this idea up and give enough
contrast to make it clear, I'll cast it into a starkly religious mode
that Wolfe never uses: If people have God in hearts and mind,
then they are heading towards the future of rebirth by the timeline
warping behavior they exhibit; If people do not have God in hearts
and mind, then they are heading towards the future of final death via
the timeline shifting behavior they exhibit (killing Dodos, raping
the Earth, etc.).

Okay, enough of that.

Now then, what are the qualities that makes Sev1 the keyman for the
doomsday device?  Thinking in mundane skiffy stuff, here, like THE
ANDROMEDA STRAIN.  The guy with the key for the End of the World has
to be: unmarried, no children, firm in resolve to push the button if
he receives the order.  No spouse, no kids--that's so that keyman
doesn't get all weepy and hesitant at the end.  "Firm in resolve" so
that keyman doesn't suddenly find a distracting religion or
philosophy on the way to the keyhole.

Right.  So here we have Sev1, a slightly special torturer.  Okay, so
he has no spouse, no kids, no family of elders; he is firm in resolve
and is indifferent to suffering, death, torture.

Sev2 is tested.  He is given a wife with a father-in-law and a son.
He allows the woman and man to be killed.  He grows fond of the son;
the son is killed.  He is offered the Urth; he refuses.  His firmness
of resolve softens to the point that he breaks with the guild.

Seems to me that the point is: there is precious little difference
between Sev1 (that is to say, an untested-by-trial Sev2) and
Baldanders for the role of keyman, except for the fact that
Baldanders wouldn't do it at all (wouldn't leave the throne, get on
the ship, go to Yesod, take the test, etc.).  If that is the only
difference, then the one who will go (Sev1) must then be optimized in
his own past.


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

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