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Date: Wed, 22 May 2002 10:05:00 -0500
Subject: Re: (urth) TBOTSS and colonialism
From: Adam Stephanides 

on 5/21/02 2:51 AM, Andy Robertson at andywrobertson@clara.co.uk wrote:

(I'll refrain from comment upon hartshorn's excursus into real-world

> The astonishing thing to me, really, is that you should find Wolfe's
> writings on the subject of interspecies conflict odd.
> The inhumi are *not* another human race.
> Why the hell *should* an alien species like the inhumi be peacefully
> inclined towards humanity?
> Why should humanity not strive to exterminate its enemies?
> It is a completely real picture of the natural processes of evolutionary
> rivalry and conflict.

I don't deny that within the fictional situation that Wolfe has set up, the
colonists are justified in killing the inhumi.  But, as I said, Wolfe must
have had a reason for giving the inhumi such a large role, and presumably it
wasn't to tell us what humanity should do if it ever does come across a race
of shape-shifting alien vampires.  What Wolfe is essentially doing is
biologizing evil, which is a dangerous thing to do whatever one's conscious
intentions.  And depicting the relations between groups in terms of
"evolutionary rivalry and conflict" to the death is also dangerous, given
this century's history.

> Now let's really, really,  stir this one up.
> Inhumi = jews?

Actually, if the inhumi are indeed modelled upon any real-life group, my
guess would be the Palestinians, given Wolfe's post-9/11 remarks that the
U.S. should give Israel a free hand, and given the Exodus theme in TBOTLS.

And alga wrote:

> 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).
> 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.

Yes, I can see the resemblance of the inhumi to demons.  But they are also
an indigenous species on a colonized planet, whether Wolfe intended to write
a colonial novel or not (and I agree it doesn't read like one).  And again,
it seems quite dangerous to me to depict what is, in effect, a race as
compelled by its nature to be evil.

Once again, I am not claiming that Wolfe himself is racist, or intends to
promote racism, or that reading TBOTSS would make someone a racist.  But I
am saying that the philosophy Wolfe's portrayal of the inhumi seems intended
to convey is one that can easily, and has in the past, fostered racism,
whatever Wolfe's intentions.



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