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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) The Secret: Equine Overkill
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 19:57:10 

on 4/24/01 10:51 AM, Michael Straight at straight@email.unc.edu wrote:

> His conversation with his Gaonese concubine sounds like he really thinks
> there's a possibility the inhumi could be harmed by what he knows.

There is a passage which seems to suggest this:

Evensong whispered, "You know their secret.  You could destroy them."
  "Yes.  I couldn't kill them here and now, if that's what you mean;
but I know how they might be returned to the mere vermin that they once
were" (OBW [hb], 372).

But the context is that Horn and Evensong are being pursued by the inhumi.
Given Horn's other statements on the topic, most probably Horn means only
that he knows the theoretical means by which the inhumi could be "devolved,"
and this is why the inhumi want to kill him (regardless of whether or not he
himself believes this means practical).

> [1] Sort of an exaggeration here, although I think it's much more likely
> the colonists could genetically engineer thick skin for themselves than it
> is that they could all live by the Golden Rule.

And just three pages later, Horn says "If only we cared about each other
sufficiently.  If only all of us loved all the others enough, they would go
back to that [being unintelligent animals]."  Do you seriously maintain that
Horn is talking about two different things in these two passages?  That he
knows two separate ways to devolve the inhumi, one morally corrupting and
the other requiring a too-great moral elevation?

There is another passage in IGJ which contradicts your view.  When Horn is
talking to Hide, he tells him that Krait "told me something in confidence
that they [the inhumi] believe might harm them greatly if it became widely
known.  I would probably violate my oath if I agreed; but I doubt that it--"
(351)  Though Wolfe lets Oreb interrupt here, Horn says explicitly that he
would violate his oath if he thought that publicizing the Secret would harm
the inhumi--not that he would violate it if publicizing the Secret would
harm the inhumi without corrupting the colonists.

In any case, your argument that because Horn calls the Secret a weapon, he
must think it is usable, misreads the text.  What Horn says is "It is a
great secret, truly.  If you will, it is a great and terrible weapon.  That
is how the inhumi see it, and I will not call them wrong.  But it is a
weapon too heavy for our hands." (IGJ, 125)  In other words, he's saying not
that the Secret is a weapon, but that _if_ it's a weapon, it's one too heavy
to be used.


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