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From: "Alice K. Turner" 
Subject: Re: (urth) TBOTSS and colonialism
Date: Tue, 21 May 2002 05:12:55 -0400

Adam wrote:

> David Duffy's recent reference to TBOTSS in connection with 5HC made me
> realize that TBOTSS is, among other things, about colonization, though I
> haven't really thought of it that way.  But when I look at the book in
> terms, what I see is disturbing, at least to me.
> Unlike the colonists of 5HC, the colonists on Blue aren't displacing
> anybody, since the Neighbors have left and the inhumi live on Green.
> Rather, it is the inhumi who savagely and without provocation assault the
> colonists, killing and enslaving them.  Silkhorn's attempt to treat the
> inhumi as human beings, rather than automatically killing them as is the
> colonists' usual practice, ends in complete failure.  Jahlee, whom he
> with the most kindness, treacherously tries to murder Nettle; and Juganu,
> another inhumu whom Silkhorn had treated as human, repays him by attacking
> his son's wedding.  (Though Silkhorn had goaded Juganu into attacking him,
> that Juganu would kill hundreds of innocents to hit back at Silkhorn
> indicates his savagery.)  To top it off, we learn that the inhumi don't
> souls of their own, just souls they've stolen from humans, so it is
> presumably alright to exterminate them or reduce them to animality.  In
> short, the portrayal of the inhumi seems nothing less than an apologia for
> genocide.  I would like to think that Wolfe actually hopes for peaceful
> relations between the humans and inhumi, but imo the books don't support
> this reading.
> Don't get me wrong: I'm not asserting that Wolfe is a racist in real life,
> or that he supports the mistreatment, much less genocide, of any actual
> group.  (Though his post-9/11 statements do give me pause.)  But the
> must play such a large role for a reason; and, Wolfe being Wolfe, it
> presumably isn't just to give Horn monsters to fight.  If, as I think, the
> purpose of the inhumi being there isn't to teach us tolerance, what is
> Wolfe's purpose?

You mustn't forget that the inhumi are demons, quite explicitly. This is on
my mind because I've just been reading a book called -Demon Lovers- about
the accusations of sex with devils during the Renaissance witchhunts. So you
can't simply look at it as a colonial novel (I have a weakness for colonial
novels, btw). There's the whole Catholic mythology about spirits. That is
why I have made rather a point of reminding you all that Wolfe has
emphasized the resemblance of the inhumi (unhumans) to demons and the
Neighbors to cherubim. And also emphasized man's inhumanity to man in the
way that the colonists behave to each other--wretchedly, generally. It is a
didactic novel, to be sure, and very broadly sketched. I was offended by
Wolfe's treatment of Jahlee on first reading (and the crude melodrama of the
writing) but in the strict Catholic reading you can't get away from the fact
that a demon is a demon and will revert to type. (Origen, who took the
thoughtful and humane position that all of God's creatures could eventually
be saved, was anathematized over and over again as a heretic.) The inhumi
yearn to be human (that's what Origen said too) but they cannot become human
except in illusion in this book, no matter how kindly they are treated. So
your final question is answered by Wolfe's irony. Through Horn's (and
Wolfe's) relations with Fava, Krait and Jahlee (by far my favorite
characters in the book) we grow affectionate toward them. But they cannot
help their natures, as the scorpion said to the frog as both were dying.



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