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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) The Secret: Equine Overkill
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 22:26:37 

on 4/24/01 9:57 PM, Michael Straight at straight@email.unc.edu wrote:

> On Tue, 24 Apr 2001, Adam Stephanides wrote:
>> 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).
> That doesn't seem like it would merit a flat, "Yes."  I'd expect more of
> a, "well, in theory, if I could get everyone else to cooperate, we could
> destroy them."  But when she says "You could destroy them," Horn answers,
> Yes."

I think that under the circumstances, with Horn believing himself under
imminent threat of death, he might not be so precise.  But I'll grant that
this is the passage which is the most problematic for my reading.

>> 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?
> But two sentences later, Horn explicitly denies that this is the Secret!
> You may answer that the Secret is the details of the inhumi lifecycle and
> how caring for each other would prevent inhumi from having intelligent
> offspring


> but if that's all there is, then Horn's broken his oath.  If I
> promise not to tell anyone that flipping this switch will kill you because
> it turns off your respirator, and then tell people who want to kill you
> that flipping the switch will kill you, I can hardly protest that I've
> kept your secret because I didn't mention the respirator.

Horn has a legalistic attitude towards his oath: he hints broadly at the
Secret, both in his conversation with Hide and in his manuscript.  And the
respirator analogy doesn't apply: Horn doesn't believe the secret can be
used by the colonists, and in any case Horn saying "if you love each other
enough you will destroy the inhumi, but I can't tell you why" would be
unlikely to persuade anybody to change their behavior.

> The colonists learning to love and care for each other would be an
> amazing, wonderful thing; it would so transform society that any effect it
> would have on the inhumi problem would seem like a minor side-effect.  I
> can't fathom Horn (or Wolfe) thinking of it as a means to some other end,
> much less as a weapon.  It's like trying to develop automobiles because
> horseshoes are so expensive (even that analogy is far too weak).

To repeat my earlier statement, it is the inhumi, not Horn, who think of the
Secret as a weapon; Horn just passes along their view.  Horn never tries to
tell people "love one another so that you can destroy the inhumi."  In his
conversation with Evensong, it is Evensong who brings up the Secret and its
use against the inhumi; elsewhere, when he talks about applying the Secret
against the inhumi, it's always in the context of explaining how he can
control the inhumi through fear of the Secret, or why the inhumi want to
kill him.

And, going back to my earlier post on the Secret, "loving each other" and
"solving the inhumi problem" aren't opposed to each other as concepts.
Essentially, the inhumi are the dark side of humanity; so eliminating this
dark side and eliminating the inhumi threat are symbolically the same thing.


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