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Date: Wed, 1 May 2002 15:20:56 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jerry Friedman 
Subject: Re: (urth) Re: What abos?

--- Tony Ellis  wrote:
> Jerry Friedman wrote (of the non-existence of the abos):
> >> Actually, you remember wrong. He remembers his grandfather as "'a
> most
> >> honest old man. He would not tell lies to anyone, you understand.'"
> But
> >> perhaps he is delusional, like Victor. Or stupid, like Doctor Marsch.
> Or
> >> lied to, like Madame Blount. :-)
> >
> >Or senile. Or the younger Culot could be lying. Or just mistaken.
> None of which is supported by the text. And none of which disproves the
> existence of the abos,

Well, of course not.  I also can't disprove the existence of the 
ahool, a Javanese bat with a nearly twelve-foot wingspan that you
can read about on a few Web sites.  In fact, it could exist.  But
in the absence of stuffed ahools in natural-history museums, or at
least a few photos, I'm not going to believe in them on the
strength of an explorer's saying he saw one and reports that the
local people believe in them.

> until you also invent similar extra-textual reasons
> why every other piece of evidence is wrong. Robert Culot was senile
> _and_
> Victor is delusional _and_ Doctor Marsch is stupid _and_ Madame Blount
> was lied to, and so on and on.

I don't see any "and so on", except the widespread belief in the
abos, which I've already mentioned.  (Though if you're convinced that
the cat is the same being as Victor's girlfriend, that pretty much
settles it, I guess.)

There's an extra-textual *fact* that the kind of testimony Marsch
gets from Mrs. Blount and especially Robert Culot is unreliable.  A
visit to  will show you lots of
examples.  The evidence for Sasquatch or UFO abductions is surely
better than the evidence in 5HC for the abos.  Culot's contribution
is hearsay, not admissible in court, of no value for science.  It
probably does have some evidential value in fiction, but we have to
weigh it against other evidence.  See below.

> >By the way, you were the one who said the real Dr. Marsch was stupid
> >for not recognizing Victor's clumsiness as a sign that he was an abo.
> By the way, I didn't. I said he was arrogant, and that his failing to
> make
> the connection was "typical both of
> the way Wolfe encodes true information, and of his penchant for poking
> fun
> at academics." You can be unimaginative without being stupid.

Sorry.  I didn't say he was stupid either; I said he found what he
expected to find, an error that highly intelligent people have made.

[Big snip--I'll try to address Victor's clumsiness in another post.]

> On the existence of the abos:
> >You have to invent some really enormous excuses.
> No, you just have to read the text:
> >There should be roomsful of videotapes of the abos' quaint
> >ceremonies. There should be treaties.
> We are told, more than once, of "the destruction of the records of the
> first
> French landing parties by the war."

I meant the evidence on Earth.  Unless the starcrossers made one-way
trips, they would have brought back videotapes or films, remains, and
whatever else they could get their hands on.  What else did they have
to bring back?

Also, if you accept Mrs. Blount's statement, there was contact with
the abos after the war and no reason for any records of that to be

> >There should be chiefs or supposed chiefs being briefly
> >lionized in the capitals of Earth. There should have been a large
> >reward for abo remains, so Mrs. Blount's father wouldn't have dreamed
> >of just leaving them for the wild animals.
> You seem to be crediting these colonists from a future, overcrowed, and
> very
> distant Earth with a degree of philanthropy and compassion entirely
> absent
> from the picture Wolfe paints -- which is based very obviously on the
> treatment of the Australian and Tasmanian aborigines by early Western
> settlers.

No, I'm crediting them with the same degree of curiosity, interest
in science, and greed that Europeans had at the time of the
colonization of the Americas and Australia.  (I certainly didn't mean
to imply that the treaties would be kept!)

Columbus brought back six Indians on his first voyage, of whom four
died before reaching Spain
.  There was
at least American Indian (ObWolfe: Squanto) in Britain before the
_Mayflower_ sailed.  I had remarkable difficulty finding similar
information about Australia.  The best I've got is from a strikingly
racist lecture by Thomas Huxley in 1862, that is, 84 years after
the first European settlement.  By that time Huxley could say,
"...in the College of Surgeons there are a number of skulls of
Southern Australians..."
.  (Earlier
pages at that site contain interesting information on his difficulties
in getting photographs of aborigines.)

We know that anthropology is going strong enough on Earth to pay
for Dr. Marsch's expedition, and we know there are the resources and
interest to come up with _A Field Guide to the Animals of Sainte
Anne_.  I'd expect that if the Annese could be captured or killed,
living individuals or remains would have been brought to Earth.  The
case is even stronger for videotapes, rawhide or vegetable-fiber
nets, and whatever else might have been available.  The absence of
these would be unprecedented and strikes me as strong evidence
against the abos' existence.  The possibility of mistakes or
dishonesty on the part of a few individuals has more than ample
precedent, and so their statements strike me as weaker evidence.
Remember the Loch Ness monster!

Wolfe could easily provide us with certain evidence of the abos if
he wanted to.  Just as an example, when Marsch meets Trenchard, he
could note, "This old faker's face had none of the characteristics of
the Annese skulls in Paris, and his voice didn't resemble the
recordings."  I feel sure that Wolfe wanted the matter to be open
to doubt.

> R.T.: ".but would they be wise to show themselves? Once all this world
> of
> Sainte Anne was theirs. A farmer thinks: "Suppose they are men like me
> after
> all? That Dupont, he is a clever lawyer. What if they engage him, eh?"
> .What
> do you think the farmer does then if he sees an abo on his land, Doctor?
> Will he tell anyone? Or will he shoot?"

R.T. is a con man trying to keep a potential source of money from
getting skeptical.  Furthermore, Mrs. Blount's story (if you believe
her) states that in her case the abos did show themselves, though as
Trenchard suggests they were unwise to do so.  In the same way Dr.
Hagsmith's story of the massacre (if you believe it) has the abos
unable to avoid Earth people.  Is it possible to come up with any
account of the abos (or more than one) in which you decide what to
accept and what to reject, and end up with something that doesn't
contradict itself?

Jerry Friedman

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