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From: William Ansley <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: (whorl) Blue beasts from the stars?
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 23:05:00 

Although the "spider hypothesis" is tempting as a reason for the 
octopedalian nature of Bluvian life, here is another possible source. 
The passage below is from a book that Gene Wolfe may well have read 
as a youth or young man. It is by one of the "big three*" of fifties 
SF. I am sure some of you will recognize it or at least will realize 
you have read it before when you see the title of the book below. It 
is presented in the text as a quotation from a journal, hence the 
quotes within the block quote:

"This planet is a fair imitation of good old Terra, which is a relief 
after the last three, since we can hit dirt without suiting up. But 
evolution must have been playing double-or-nothing here, instead of 
the four-limbed arrangement considered stylish at home practically 
everything here has at least eight legs . . . 'mice' that look like 
centipedes, rabbitlike creatures with six short legs and one pair of 
tremendous jumping legs, all sorts up to things as big as giraffes. 

There is a race of intelligent beings on the planet referred to above 
with a highly advanced technology, more than two eyes and limited 
shapeshifting ability.

The book is _The Star Beast_ by Robert A. Heinlein, copyright 1954. 
Unfortunately, the eight-legged intelligent race in this book (the 
Hroshii) are about as large as a rhinoceros and look like a cross 
between a rhino and a triceratops. They also have two arms, in 
addition to the eight legs, although they don't grow their arms until 
relatively late in life, so they are not really a good fit for the 
Neighbors at all.

But, I still have to wonder if the eight-legged fauna on Blue isn't 
at least in very small part a nod to this book, which I am not 
ashamed to admit I remember very fondly from my youth. I suppose this 
really is just another of my attempts to guess what Gene Wolfe read 
in his formative years, aside from the Oz books.

William Ansley

*For those who wish to know, the "big three" of 1950s SF that I am 
thinking of are Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.

*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/
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