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From: Alex David Groce <Alex_Groce@gs246.sp.cs.cmu.edu>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Black Hole (New/Short/etc) Sun, etc.
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 1999 19:05:44 

Various random points:

(1)  On the Black Hole engulfing history--it seems to me that the problem with
Asimov's Foundation/Robot mess was that it completely undermined the original
series--Asimov was going for the ultimate "scientific" approach to society,
planning that really works.  And the first three Foundation books were clever
plays on how sharp Hari Seldon's plan was and how it works even when it looks
like its failing, etc.  Then the tie-in books worked on showing how Seldon's
plan only worked because of psionic New Age dictators in the 2nd foundation who
turned out to be (behind curtain #3) the puppets of All-Powerful Mind-Reading
Robot Daneel.  In other words, the Decline and Fall (with science saving the
day via REAL social science) becomes a fantasy of history with Secret Masters
behind Secret Masters.  The thematic nicety of the first series is ruined.

Wolfe, on the other hand, seems to me to (despite learning some things, one
would guess, about writing and the world) fit together thematically from his
earliest great works to his latest--in the sense that he, like Bach, revisits 
his central themes and elaborates on them without undermining earlier works--
it seems to me this unity of vision is a large part of what makes Wolfe not
just a good writer but a genuine artistic genius on the order of a Proust or
Eliot (there's another side, talent, which is why even though Lovecraft has
the repeated elaboration of constant, even obsessive themes, he's enjoyable
but still a bit of a hack).  Typhon having started the Whorl on its journey
in no way undermines what we understand about Typhon, but enlarges our vision
of the products of his megalomania (and makes it more complex by reminding us
that a monster might have a "family" that's a mix of decency and even worse
monstrosity).  The Christic aspects of Silk do not undermine similar aspects
in Severian--they are different visions of human servants of the 
Increate/Outsider/God.  That the central figure of NEW SUN is to be somehow
worked into Short Sun doesn't suggest to me that Severian is likely to be
cheaply used to "tie things together"--rather that, while NEW SUN
(and LONG SUN) are complete and beautiful in themselves, they are also, after
this, to be the equivalent of the individual fugues in "The Art of the Fugue"--
made part of a whole, and thus capable of enriching each other immensely.

I also suspect that Wolfe will approach it in such a way as to make SHORT SUN
comprehensible, if somewhat less so than the other two stories, on its own,
without resorting (as Asimov did) to ill-disguised info-dumps.

(2)  If the Whorl has been traveling for 1000 years, then it might somehow
have been turned around.  However, the Neighbors (ah, yes, Nutria--they "drove"
the inhumi off with goodness--seems so clear once you see it) are an odd
result for post New-Sun.  Even though I offered it earlier, I'll be surprised
if Blue = Urth (or Green = Moon).  Anyway, does anyone say "Green is massively
smaller than Blue?"

(3)  Typhon's culture paordies (whether translated or not) aren't just Evil
Overlord fun--Typhon's a fairly practical evil overlord (and, although wicked
as the day is long, not, to all apperances, one with an unusually large 
appetite for sadism as opposed to megalomania).  If you want to prevent cargo
from uniting, it's hard to find a better model from Urth(Earth) than low
technology cultures with very different religions and customs and systems of
government (or high technology ones, for that matter, but the way we got that
high technology has had the effect of lessening some of those differences--for
good and ill).  And, since Typhon probably hasn't the time to make up a lot
of cultures (or the inclination) he just grabs some handy ones and miniaturizes
them.  Instant Babel effect!  Given Typhon's global dominion, he can even grab
people from relevant groups to avoid wasting time with genetic tinkering, and
just brainwash them into forgetting their old homes.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32
Alex David Groce (agroce+@cs.cmu.edu)
Ph.D. Student, Carnegie Mellon University - Computer Science Department
8112 Wean Hall (412)-268-3066

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