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From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) Star Trek & Alien Stones
Date: Wed, 1 Jul 1998 15:09:55 

Have any Star Trek friends you'd like to introduce to Gene Wolfe? How about
giving them "Alien Stones" to read? I see it basically as Gene Wolfe's take
on the original tv series.

The Gladiator is the Enterprise, Captain Daw is Captain Kirk, and
cyberneticist Polk is Dr. McCoy. In Gene's universe, however (Gene Wolfe,
not Gene Roddenberry), there is no Mr. Spock, but there is a Mr.
Youngmeadow (he's known by no other name) and he's the direct antithesis of
Spock. Spock--a devil figure if I ever saw one, what with those pointed
ears and Vulcan heritage--is as coldly logical and unemotional as a
machine. Youngmeadow, on the other hand, is an empath, a lover of all
cultures and peoples. He's also has the blond good looks of an angel (cf.
Spock's dark saturninity), and his name 'young + meadow' recalls the
verdure of the primordial Garden--as opposed to the fiery connotations of
Vulcan. He is our link back to Eden and symbolizes the concept of
agape--selfless and self-giving love, according to the Bible--and in the
end he sacrifices himself for the betterment of mankind. He's also
resurrected like Christ, further extending the agape link.

Also present on this voyage of the Gladiator/Enterprise is Youngmeadow's
wife. She too is an empath, and named Helen she's as beautiful and
desirable as the legendary Helen of Troy, whose face launched a 1000 ships.
All the men aboard the Gladiator are in love with her ("Everyone,
notoriously, fell in love with empaths"), including Daw. This love is what
the Bible refers to as eros, however, or sexual love, and is obviously less
pure than the agape of both Helen and her husband. Helen also brings to
mind the endless succession of women James Kirk woos and beds in space.

Then there's the giant alien ship discovered by the Gladiator. (Anybody
remember "The Corbomite <sp?> Maneuver" from the first incarnation of Star
Trek? "Alien Stones" parallels it in many respects.) Daw, the Youngmeadows
and various other crewmembers undertake an exploration of it (in part their
journey through the ship's interior will resemble FANTASTIC VOYAGE), and
what they eventually decide is that the entire ship may be a single giant
artificial intelligence (though it obviously was built by six-fingered
humanoids, if we're to accept the base 12 and symbology of the ship's
mathematical system). This recalls what Wad, Daw's synthetic  alter-ego,
has mentioned earlier: "Mankind has reached the stage where he evolves
through his machine." What Wad fails to add, however, is: "And as he does
so he himself becomes more machinelike." 

I believe this moving away from the organic--from the stones of the world
to the abstract, whether it's the Wad pc-generated simulation or binary
notation--symbolizes for Wolfe a retreat from the Edenic past, where we
were closer to God. Witness Daw's magnetic copies of the New and Old
Testaments; they're absent in Wad's simulation (although Wad does have the
potential for empathy/agape, according to Helen Youngmeadow). Daw also
avoids the use of sucking furniture to moor him while he sleeps; he's
perfectly content to depend on the atavistic myoclonic response we
inherited from our apelike ancestors (i.e., our arms will grip a tree limb
tighter if we sense we're falling, even in sleep). As Helen mentions
earlier, in regards to what the aliens may have left behind, what betrays
the heart are the things you take with you that are unnecessary. Daw could
use the sucking furniture, but chooses not to. He is at heart content with
what God has given him evolutionarily. Another example of this moving away
from God via machines: the space suits' survival programs, which tend to a
person's every metabolic need, even after death, when the flora in our
intestines become the dominant organisms--another example of false or base
immortality. In many respects as well the giant alien craft is little more
than an asteroid sized version of one of these spacesuits. 

And yet for all its Godless parameters Daw stills likes the alien
ship--this embodies the last Biblical concept of love Wolfe has yet to to
bring in: philos, or brotherly love, and perhaps it is the most important
of the three for a starship captain to have. Daw also understands the
difference between eros and agape, and tries to moderate his approach to
Helen Youngmeadow's desirability (recall as well the quote from the New
Testament he cites about marriage in heaven).  He is "Alien Stones" only
complete human being, although the Youngmeadows are almost there. And while
the rest of humanity may elect to forsake its bond with God by entering
into congress with soulless machines, he will not. 

As for the non-simulated Captain who taught Daw everything he knows, and
who Daw describes as "A real captain...[and]... a crusty bastard [who]
generally knew what he was doing"?

I submit he's an older, wiser James T. Kirk.

scolex/Robert Borski


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

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