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Subject: (urth) The Blushas Challenge: Round Two
Date: Mon, 2 Dec 2002 10:08:30 -0700
From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 

I wrote:

> I offer extra credit if it does not include any lame=20
> invocations of relativity. ("Oh, see, well, 1000 years have=20
> passed for the cargo of the Starcrosser, so they project to=20
> 1000 years after when the Duko left...")

And several people responded, beginning with Jeff Veyera:

> I thought that Pas/Typhon's daughter Scylla had possessed=20
> Oreb at that point.  They went back to Urth as she had been=20
> born there.

That explains _where_, but not _when_ -- if Scylla-in-Oreb=20
"guided" the Narrator and company back to Urth then, just=20
like the Duko, one would expect her to "lead" them back to
the Time of the Tyrant.

Nice try, though.

The ever-fertile mind of Marc Aramini came up with two theories
-- which, to his credit, he describes as "absurd," and even
points out one flaw (not the biggest) in his first:

> Here is one: that Severian is actually going back with them=20
> to be placed in the tomb he will one day lie in - part of=20
> Scylla is Severian, who is ACTUALLY the dark spot floating
> next to the boat in both worlds (as the Vanished Person=20
> Swimmer who comes up on Horn's boat)- and perhaps he is=20
> folded into himself in the past of Urth and this explains why
> Severian always had some presentiment of his future from the
> very beginning. Of course, this only accouts for Severian's
> presence on Blue in the last two visits to Urth, not in the
> first case with Rigolio.  Or perhaps when he goes back he
> joins up with Scylla to rest inside Oreb.  But it does account
> for his statement that he will end up in that tomb, which we
> have never seen actuated.

The biggest flaw, it seems to me, lies in that this "explanation"
works only if we accept that Scylla (or, rather, Li'l Scylla-in-
Oreb) carries a "piece" of Severian, thus invoking an additional,=20
even more dubious and hypothetical construct, to provide=20
"evidence" for the one my challenge calls into question.

> The other is that Severian is a vortex of time - a=20
> vivimancer, who attracts anyone with the ability to cross
> time (like the green man or Ossipago, et al.)

This strikes me as the best of the explanations offered.
It even has (I think) surface plausibility -- Severian=20
does appear to have a remarkable knack for running into
timewalkers, whom, I think, we must regard as a relatively
small population.=20

On the other hand, if we take into account that the Hieros=20
(and others) manipulate many-to-most of the significant=20
events of Severian's life up to (at least) the time he=20
summons the New Sun, then neither coincidence nor Severian
as vivimancer seem necessary to explain _that_. Furthermore,
Wolfe describes a vivimancer as a dead person who calls
the living to him -- and I don't think we can reasonably=20
call Severian "dead" at the time of the Narrator's visits ...

> Or the affinity between Malrubius and Silk could serve as=20
> that anchor. =20

I guess we can consider this a third, bonus, theory from=20
Marc, though it falls prey to the same flaw I shall invoke
in a moment against this one, from Don Doggett...

> ... If the person in the pit who=20
> revives Horn is Severian as a Vanished Person then there was=20
> a comingling of the two. Whether you accept that it was=20
> Severian or not, at least grant me that there was a mingling=20
> of "whatevers".=20

(Umm ... on what ground should we grant this?)

> Therefore the narrator is also part Severian=20
> in addition to being part Silk and part Horn, and could thus=20
> travel to Severian's time. =20

Now, wait a minute.

First, you have made a huge leap here. Even if I accepted
outright that the person who revives the Narrator is (for
some meaning of "is") Severian, that does not automatically
make the Narrator part-Severian, any more than it does,
say, Miles-Jonas.

But second, and this seems to me the greater flaw, and the
one I mentioned above: it invokes the Blushas theory to=20
support itself in a rather painfully circular manner. That
is: the Narrator's party can travel to Urth of Severian's=20
time _because_ the Narrator contains some bits of Severian.=20
The Narrator contains bits of Severian _because_ Blue =3D
Ushas ... but that very hypothesis required us to raise
the question of astral time-travel in the first place. If
we leave out the Blushas theory, then we can simply assume
that all the astral travel sections in tBotSS take place at
the "same" time (ignoring, again, relativistic quibbles
about simultaneity) as the place travelled from. Rigoglio
(and, possibly, Scylla-in-Oreb) help the Narrator to astrally
travel to the place they come from, but not the time they
come from -- Severian's late childhood and the foreground=20
action of Short Sun take place at, more or less, the same=20

* * * * *

Summary as of Round One:

I grant that the Blushas theory, with these time-travel=20
workarounds, has a certain degree of self-consistence, as far=20
as it goes, but I could begin by hypothesizing that Silk "is"=20
really Santa Claus, and then explain everything that seems=20
difficult away by invoking Santa magic -- after all, Santa,=20
as we all know, has mickle powers.=20

While I appreciate Don's suggestion that Wolfe might have
built a deliberate ambiguity into the text, it seems to me
that the Blue =3D Ushas "reading" introduces all sorts of=20
problems and complexities which simply disappear if we=20
accept the more straightforward idea that the Bleen system
lies a few dozen lightyears (or however far the Whorl might
reasonably travel in 1000/300 years) away from the Urth
system. The question of why the Narrator's party would
astrally travel to Urth at a time when none of them had
been there seems to me to stand as emblematic and typical,
but hardly exhaustive, of these problems.=20

If the proponents of the Blushas theory cannot, then,
produce an answer to this question which neither invokes
the Blushas theory to explain itself in circular manner,=20
nor invokes additional tortured hypotheses to support the
principal unproven -- in other words, if they cannot
simplify the otherwise-unnecessary complexities which the
theory imposes upon any understanding of the events of the
story -- then I think we have to regard the theory as
deeply flawed.



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