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From: David_Lebling@avid.com
Subject: (whorl) Mysteries of Whorlography; "Starcrosser's Landfall"
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 97 11:10:58 

[Posted from WHORL, the mailing list for Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun]

*** Talon's questions, and some attempts at answers:

"Why is Viron colder than Triviguante?" (IV, 79)

Viron is colder than Triviguante for two reasons. One is that Lake Limna
is cold and exerts a lake effect on the surrounding territory. (People
who try to swim in Limna get out pretty quickly, we are told). The lake
is "artificially" cold: lakes make a good way to radiate heat from the
interior of the whorl if you put a good radiator on the exterior. The
second explanation is that by manipulating the sun and the shade (not to
mention the air-conditioning tunnels), the scientists at Mainframe can
produce climates and seasons to order. They can make the shade cover
more of the sun or reduce the sun's output to produce colder weather, or
make the shade's opacity or the sun's output change during the diurnal
cycle to produce climates. Triviguante is south of Viron, which means it
gets full sun at a different time of day. (Recall that places at the
same latitude are in the same "time zone" on the whorl). To make
Triviguante warmer, you just make aperture of the shade wider when it's
toward Triv, or make the shade a tad more transparent when the shade
faces Triv at night. Also, Triv is in a desert, which might affect its

"How to mountains cast shadows if the sun is directly overhead?" (I, 91)

The shadows aren't etched in stone, as someone suggested. They probably
move a little as the part of the sun obscured by the shade changes
during the day. Obviously, if the aperture through which the sun shines
is directly overhead, they don't cast shadows. However, at other times
of day there would be shadows, albeit unusual, nearly immobile, and
small from our short sun point of view.

"How does seeing the lake let Chenille know she is getting closer?" (II,

We know that Lake Limna is south of Viron, and Blood can see it "like a
mirror" from his mansion. My guess is that between Viron and Limna is a
relatively built-up and wooded area. When you are in this area you can't
see the lake, but as you get closer you get out of the obscuring
buildings and trees and can see it again.  (This is an unsatisfying
explanation, I admit).

"What is meant by the term 'horizon'?" (II, 255)

Maybe the horizon is the opposite of our usage: the line beyond which
distant objects rise above "level ground" and are visible?  Isn't Silk
referring to distant cities that are also in the dark when Viron is in
the dark in this passage? These would be cities somewhat north or south
of Viron, but not so far north or south as to be in the sun. Cities
directly east or west would be invisible at all times.

*** I'll add some more of my own, with commentary:

"How big is the Whorl?" "What is its shape?"

It's at least 200 leagues (how big is a league?) east-west (lengthwise),
and probably much more (Iolar remarks on a weather front 200 leagues
away just before he is attacked by the eagle). It takes the airship a
couple of days to get from Viron to Mainframe. At five miles per hour (a
conservative estimate, as the wind aids them for part of the trip) you
could go over 250 miles in two days.

As for its diameter, we have only indirect evidence. When people look at
the skylands they can see cities, and at night you can see the lights of
cities that are also in the dark. We can see details of the terrain
(moutains, valleys, etc.) When the airship is over towns we can see the
individual houses, so it's not more than a few miles up -- at the
typical 5 miles that airliners fly, houses aren't visible to the level
of detail given (houses shaped like Pas or thatched with straw, for
example).  Horn remarks that it's like looking at the skylands, and Silk
says they are much farther away, but the fact that Horn can guess this
indicates the diameter can't be huge. My intuitive feel is that the
diameter is relatively small (20 miles or less), but I have no direct
evidence. I think 100 miles is probably the largest that makes sense.

My guess is about 500 to 1000 miles long by 10 to 20 miles radius.

This would make it more cucumber-shaped than potato-shaped, to recall a
previous debate.

"How does the sun work?" "How thick is the sun?"

Are we dealing with a giant fluorescent light, or is it much thicker, or
thinner, or what?  What is it made of?  I think it's a magnetic or other
containment with fusing hydrogen plasma inside. Sciathan's remarks about
how it has to start at full power suggest this; you must get the plasma
and the containment up to speed before you can fine-tune it.

"How does the shade work?"

I think the shade is not a physical object (like the _Ringworld_ shadow
squares). I think it is a "field" of some sort that masks the sunlight.
I think the opacity and size of the field can be manipulated by the
scientists at Mainframe.

"Is it ever dark on the Whorl?"

No. The amount of light reflected from the skylands would make it at
least somewhat light at all times. This leaves unexplained how Mucor's
room can be so dark, as it has a window. Maybe the window is some opaque
material rather than glass? I would guess that shutters to close at
shadelow might be rather common on the whorl.

"If Triviguante is south of Viron, why can't we see it from Viron, and
watch the approach of the Vironese army directly?"

Silk laments that they didn't ask someone to signal from the airship
during the wait for the army. Couldn't someone in a high spot in Viron
just look?

"In what direction does the whorl rotate?" "How fast?"

We should be able to figure this one out from the behavior of the
floaters.  As I recall, it's north that's the "smash into the ground"
direction, so that would imply north-to-south rotation. We can work that
out once we know the diameter of the whorl, assuming the gravity is 1G.

"In what direction does the shade rotate?"

I.e., Triviguante is south of Viron. Where does shadeup occur first,
Viron or Triviguante?

*** _Starcrosser's Landfall_ was the "Ace double" title of the _Long
Sun_ series. I can't help but wonder, given that title and the
whorlography of the whorl, if Wolfe ever played _Starcross_?  (Oddly
enough, this thought only just occurred to me).


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