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From: William Ansley <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) TBOTSS as fantasy
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 00:23:40 

At 10:46 AM -0600 2/18/01, Adam Stephanides wrote:
>on 2/14/01 6:08 AM, William Ansley at wansley@warwick.net wrote:
>>  I was also bothered by the impossibly large size of the (big)
>>  godling. Wolfe should make up his mind, is he writing science fiction
>>  or isn't he?
>I think he isn't, actually.  I think RTTW, and TBOTSS as a whole, are more
>fantasy than science fiction.
>Allan Lloyd already pointed out other fantasy-like aspects of the books: the
>Neighbors, who are more like helpful elves than sfnal aliens, have
>unexplained powers, and can be called up by a magic ring; and the astral
>travel, which can be FTL.  To which I would add the long-distance of Horn's
>spirit into Silk, without the rationalizations supplied in TBOTLS for
>possession via windows; and the inhumi's absorption of human's intelligence
>by drinking their blood.


>In other words, having written two series which were science fiction with a
>fantasy-like veneer, Wolfe has followed them up with a third series of
>fantasy with a science fiction veneer.

But they're all the same series! I assume you mean that NS/UNS* and 
LS are the SF disguised as fantasy and SS is the fantasy disguised as 

No one forced Wolfe to write LS as a series loosely (and, before SS, 
uncertainly) linked to NS and UNS. Likewise, he did not have to write 
SS, as a direct continuation of LS and a series that also makes the 
link between LS/SS and NS/UNS all but certain. Wolfe choose to do so 
however. If he also choose to make the LS (and NS/UNS) SF and SS 
fantasy, I think he is being terribly unfair to his readers.

I am certainly not alone in reading SS as SF. All the arguments and 
discussions about the orbital mechanics of the Blue/Green system 
become meaningless if SS is fantasy. Robert Borski's reason's for 
saying he thinks the inhumi are lying when they say they can travel 
through space from Green to Blue and back are moot. The inhumi can 
fly through the vacuum just as easily as H. P. Lovecraft's beasties 
if SS is a fantasy.

Why does Wolfe bother to put in so many SFnal details, if we are 
supposed to read SS as a fantasy, To pick just one specific example, 
in OBW on pp. 52 - 53, Horn and Sinew are discussing weapons.

[Sinew: ] In that book you and Mother wrote, you have one of the 
soldiers tell somebody his slugs are made of some stuff I never heard 

[Horn: ] Yes, depleted uranium.

Why does Wolfe bother with this passage, if all he wants to do is 
apply a veneer of SF to the book? Why wasn't the stuff Sinew never 
heard of pixie dust or duralloy or neutronium?

I can't say you are not right, because I don't know what was going on 
in Wolfe's mind, But, if you are right, I think Wolfe did a grave 
disservice to his readers and has made it impossible to seriously 
consider NS/UNS/LS/SS as a cohesive whole, which is surely what he 
wants; else why did he link the books so strongly?

William Ansley

* NS  = TBotNS = The Book of the New Sun (series)
   UNS = UotNS  = Urth of the New Sun (novel)
   LS  = TBotLS = The Book of the Long Sun (series)
   SS  = TBotSS = The Book of the Short Sun (series)

*This is WHORL, for discussion of Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun.
*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.moonmilk.com/whorl/
*To leave the list, send "unsubscribe" to whorl-request@lists.best.com
*If it's Wolfe but not Long Sun, please use the URTH list: urth@lists.best.com

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