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From: William Ansley <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) godlings
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 00:27:05 

I have been thinking about the godlings for a while, but I can't say 
I have really gotten anywhere. The large one that Horn|Silk 
encounters is described as having bestial pointed ears, cavernous 
nostrils, a huge mouth and relatively small eyes. To me this sounds 
like a fairy-tale ogre. If I look up ogre on a web dictionary


I see the following etymology:

Etymology: French, probably ultimately from Latin Orcus, god of the underworld

This doesn't seem to get me anywhere except to provide a tiny bit of 
tenuous support for Robert Borski's "Pig is a vehicle for Tartaros" 

Oh, well.

I am not at all sure we can definitely say Pig is a bio and not a 
chem. Chems are designed to look as much like bios as possible. For 

At 5:16 PM -0700 4/19/01, maa32 wrote:
>Maytera Marble's rusings indicate that she was once covered in
>flesh (this occurs even before she takes Rose's parts).

I don't think this is quite correct. Chems seem to have a skin of 
flesh-like plastic when new. This has worn off of Maytera Marble 
during her long lifetime. The prosthetic hands Marble took from 
Maytera Rose look like an old lady's hands. But they cannot be 
covered in flesh since, if I recall correctly, Marble reaches into a 
sacrificial fire at some point during the Long Sun series (during an 
Epiphany of Echidna, I think) and her hands (which are Rose's old 
prosthetic hands at this point) are not harmed.

I assume that new chems must have artificial fingernails and hair if 
the illusion is to be complete, so Pig would have those if he was a 
chem. The fact that Silk|Horn's eye is transplanted into Pig really 
proves nothing; Wolfe treats chem parts and prosthetic parts for bios 
as interchangeable in the Long and Short Sun series [1]. This should 
mean that bio parts could serve as prosthetic parts for chems.

One thing I really disagree with is that, if the godlings are chems, 
they have anything to do with the super-taluses described in Long 
Sun. (Sorry, alga.)

Taluses were built with cargo technology [2], they were basically 
tanks with arms. They incorporated an AI chip "brain" that could not 
be built with cargo technology. There is no evidence that cargo 
technology could build chems. Even though the fact that godlings were 
really, really big might make them easier to build in some ways, the 
fact that they were capable of bipedal locomotion puts them beyond 
the reach of cargo technology. The taluses didn't have legs at all, 
they had treads. Even today we can barely build a robot that can 
"walk like a man." [3]

It seems to make more sense to me that all godlings are bios, even 
the big ones. This explains the different godling sizes naturally: 
they grow. If all godlings are chems, then they (probably) cannot 
grow and are constructed in various sizes for mysterious reasons.

Godlings certainly could be meant as vehicles for the gods of 
mainframe, but why would they wait to use them until they got to a 
planet. Even if that was Pas's plan, the rest of his family wasn't 
following it. Can you see Echina or Scylla passing up the chance to 
don the body of a gaint and terrorize people, if either of them could?

On the other hand, if the godlings are meant to act as an additional 
spur to drive people off of the Whorl, they don't seem to be 
necessary and they certainly don't seem more effective than the 
droughts and darkness already are.

William Ansley

[1] I still think this is a weak point in the books, although some 
have defended it. I certainly suppose that might be possible to make 
robots out of parts that could all serve as replacements for various 
human organs, but I am sure that the cost of designing and building 
such robots would be astronomical compared to the cost of building 
robots that were made of parts that did not all have to be compatible 
with human biology. I assume Wolfe did this to achieve an effect. It 
leads to a blurring of boundaries (how human are these chems, do they 
have souls?) and SF reversals (Jonas replacing his mechanical parts 
with biological tissue in the New Sun books, Marble taking parts from 
the dead Rose). Wolfe has a similar confusion in New Sun; among his 
characters, he has sailors that don't distinguish between sea-going 
and space-going ships.

[2] The level of technology possessed by the passengers on the Whorl, 
as opposed to the level of technology possessed by the builders of 
the Whorl or even it's crew.

[3] You may well say I am arguing as if I still consider the Sun 
books to be SF, although I said that I had abandoned that belief in 
an earlier message. That's not exactly what I said but I will admit I 
took a somewhat disingenuous position to make the rhetorical point 
that I had problems with RttW that went far beyond its hard-SF 

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