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From: "Roy C. Lackey" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Liev's Postpostulate
Date: Tue, 21 May 2002 00:48:50 -0500

Adam Stephanides quoted:

>on 5/10/02 3:31 PM, Tony Ellis at LittleSense@necronomicon.co.uk wrote:
>> If Victor thinks he is descended from French settlers gone native, why,
>> he thinks no one is reading what he writes any more, does he cite Dollo's
>> Law as the reason for his bad penmanship?

Adam then wrote:
>I never bought the theory that Dollo's Law is a coded reference to either
>the abo's shapeshifting or the prehistoric colonists' evolution.  As Jerry
>Friedman suggested, he only means to say that having learned to write
>holding the pen the wrong way, he now cannot write holding it the right

What Jerry wrote was:
>Indeed, Victor could be telling us the story of his own writing
>career: for some reason he lost the opportunity to write the normal
>way, and once he learned to hold the pen the wrong way, he could
>never regain the normal function.

Victor never "lost the opportunity to write the normal way"; he had the
opportunity and was even punished for not doing it the normal way. He didn't
do it the normal way because he _couldn't_. The "normal way" of writing
involves using the opposable thumb to grip, support, and guide the pencil.
Without an opposable thumb, it is impossible to control the pencil while
attempting to write in the normal way, resulting in "weak and wiggling
lines", and that only by moving the pencil using the whole arm, rather than
the muscles of the hand. The best way that Victor found to hold the pencil
was to clamp it between his second and third fingers "with my thumb quite
free to do whatever it wishes".

Wolfe doesn't make many things any clearer than that. Victor is well aware
that it is his inability to control his thumb as a human does that is the
cause of his poor penmanship. It is also why Dollo's Law was cited
immediately after relating his writing woes. Dollo's Law does not address
recalcitrance or bad habits; it addresses lost function and the inability to
regain it. The Annese, though otherwise quite human, somehow lost the normal
human usage of their thumbs. It's that simple.

The story of the cat bite affecting his ability to write well is just a
piss-poor excuse for a scholar from Earth not being able to write worth a
damn; Victor needed some excuse for his poor handwriting once he assumed
Marsch's identity. The real cause is the same as for all the other lack of
manual dexterity attributed to the Annese--their thumbs are all but useless.



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