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Date: Fri, 24 May 2002 09:30:19 -0500
Subject: Re: (urth) TBOTSS and colonialism
From: Adam Stephanides 

on 5/22/02 12:30 PM, Andy Robertson at andywrobertson@clara.co.uk wrote:

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Adam Stephanides" 
>> And depicting the relations between groups in terms of
>> "evolutionary rivalry and conflict" to the death is also dangerous, given
>> this century's history.
> A good writer writes about reality, not avoiding what is "dangerous".

To be sure.  I don't regard that view of relations between groups to be
"reality," though.

>> 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.
> I doubt it, given the m.o. of the Inhumi.    They are not a race of peasants
> being displaced, but rather a race of cunning psychic manipulators and
> predators.

But according to some historians (e. g. Joan Peters), the Palestinians were
not displaced peasants, but migrants attracted to a virtually empty land by
the Zionists' enterprise, who later falsely claimed to have lived there for
centuries in order to discredit Israel.  I do not endorse this account (but
I don't think this list is the place to discuss it).

> I do not of course imagine Wolfe has any thought of drawing an analogy with
> real-life jews, but it does seem to me that there is something of the
> *legendary* picture of the Jew in the inhumi.   Shylock.  Wormtongue.  The
> evil counciler.

I don't see much of the evil councillor about the inhumi.  Horn is the only
human ruler we see who tolerates them, and he doesn't take counsel from
them.  As for the other resemblances between the inhumi and the anti-Semitic
picture of Jews, I think they're byproducts of the fact that the inhumi are

> If the ihnumi were just human beings in drag, neither the attempt nor its
> failure would have any special meaning at all.
> Surely, surely, you must see this?

Surely, surely, I don't.  In fact, to me the opposite seems truer to me.  If
the inhumi are not intended to have anything to do with humans (not
literally, of course, but metaphorically) -- if the point is just that some
hypothetical alien species, or demons, are unredeemable -- then that whole
aspect of the book becomes just an abstract theological exercise.

On reconsideration, though, I think I oversimplified what Wolfe was doing
with the inhumi.  The inhumi aren't evil by nature; they aren't anything by
nature except animals.  They are cruel to humans only because humans are
cruel to each other, as Silkhorn says explicitly more than once.  Certainly
their betrayals of Horn reflect Horn's own behavior.  Horn betrayed Nettle
by sleeping with Jahlee; Jahlee tried to kill Nettle to possess Horn.  As
for Juganu, Horn treated him like a thing in trying to goad him to murder
him; Juganu can be seen as, consciously or not, repaying this contempt.

So the inhumi aren't unredeemable because evil is in their genes.  They're
unredeemable because, in a sense, there's nothing to redeem.  They have no
souls of their own, just souls they've stolen from humans.  If they were
ever converted to being good, they would cease to prey on humans, and in a
generation they would be reduced to animals again.

Likewise, I'd also question the identification of inhumi with demons.  The
inhumi aren't fallen angels but fallen beasts, so to speak.  The original
"sin" is not theirs, but that of the Neighbors in travelling to Green and
enslaving them.

I still think the book has a message of "fight rather than accomodate."  But
it's not pro-colonialism.  Rather, it depicts colonization as destructive to
the colonizer as well as the colonized.



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