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From: "Tony Ellis" 
Subject: Re: (urth) 5HC: Shadow Children in the Lupiverse?
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002 18:21:08 +0100

Dan'l wrote:
>> > Possible explanations exfoliate: It's _fairly_ clear, though,
>> > that the Shadow children are the first, French, colonists.
>> They can't be. 'A Story' ends with the arrival of the French colonists.
>Why, yes; so it does (or seems to -- certainly, it ends with the arrival
>of _some_ colonists). But how much of 'A Story' should we take literally?

Personally I feel all of 'A Story' should be taken literally, but that's a
whole debate in itself! I think there's enough material in 'V.R.T' to argue
that the Shadow Children can't be the French Colonists.

For one thing, the timescale is just too short. St Anne has only been
colonised for a couple of hundred years, and most sightings took place in
the first of those. I don't think we're expected to believe that French
colonists devolved into the gnarled, pygmy race we know as Shadow Children
in such a short space of time.

Trenchard tells Marsch that when the boats of the first starcrosser came
ashore, they found a man floating on his face, "beaten until dead with
scourges of little shells tied together" - just the way 'A Story' tells it.
We have no reason to think he's lying. Victor, who functions throughout the
novella as a touchstone to the validity of his father's stories, doesn't
demur. It could be argued that Victor has woven this detail into an
otherwise entirely fictitious narrative, but that feels a little
bloody-minded to me. Especially as this is not the only time that Wolfe goes
out of his way to show that parts of 'A Story' are externally verifiable.

>> "Now I am half a man, and know that we were always here..."
>So why does Victor tell us this? What is -his- reason? What does
>he hope to gain?

Personally, I have never felt that Victor had any sort of hidden agenda for
writing 'A Story'. Making him the author always seemed to me to be simply a
framing device, of which Wolfe is inordinately fond. Like Latro's scrolls,
or Cutthroat's recording gadget, or making Horn the author of the Book of
the Long Sun.  But if you want a reason, how about this:

Victor is an anthropologist. Yes, he's a half-Annese impostor, but he's
still an anthropologist by both nature and profession. He has inherited
Marsch's great, unfinished work on the nature of the Annese, and with the
lore and stories passed onto him by his Annese mother he is in a unique
position to continue it. He also has an awful lot of spare time to fill. I
think 'A Story' is meant to be his informed musing about what the Annese
were like and where they came from, written to please himself. I also think
we're supposed to believe he got it right.

>> Heh. I've been saying this for years: the abos are -not- shapeshifters.
>> There's not a scrap of evidence to suggest that they are,
>Here I must disagree. The direct evidence is the ability of Victor's
>mother to become young or old at will.

Looking more or less haggard is not, by my definition, shapeshifting.
Trenchard, who has witnessed this ability firsthand, does not even believe
it is in any way superhuman: "A matter of the voice, you understand, and the
muscles of the face." There's a hint that there may be more to it than that
in the way Victor interjects "Everything!" at this point, and I've suggested
before now that it could be partially telepathic. But it's not the
transformation of a human being into a "household utensil" as Dr Hagsmith
puts it.


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