(urth) Urth before Earth

Jeff Wilson jwilson at io.com
Thu Jul 20 00:21:44 PDT 2006

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes wrote:

> On 7/18/06, b sharp <bsharporflat at hotmail.com> wrote:
>>When I first read Shadow of the Torturer back in the 80's, like
>>many I first thought it was set in our past.  Later with references
>>to anti-gravity, interstellar travel, polychrome sand and endless
>>depths of archaeology it was clear the story was set far in our
>>future. But why change the spelling of our planet to Urth?
> To indicate that it is not our Earth. You're right there. However,
> what appears* to be the case is that it is "our Earth" in a previous
> cycle of the Universe, but in the far future (in that cycle) by
> That is,
> Urth at the time of Severian is a billion years or so older than
> Earth at the time of Gene Wolfe. (There is argument about this,
> and some have claimed as little as a thousand years, which I
> find quite implausible.)
> ----------
> * Where "appears" is roughly equivalent to "Wolfe has said
>    as much."

IIRC, he says it takes place "perhaps a million years" in the future, 
but the "perhaps" releases him from any responsibility of accuracy. The 
Stone Town certainly would not last a million years. Meanwhile, some 
constellations from our time remain recognizeable in the sky, 
restricting the time frame to within a few dozen millenia or so.

> Earth is definitely in Urth's future. The unique event called
> the Incarnation happens in the Earth-cycle, and has not yet
> happened in the Urth-cycle.

I don't think that is supportable; IIRC, the Pelerines retain the cross 
in their iconography, the Brown Book contains both a distorted account 
of the US Civil War battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac and an 
adaptation of Kipling. The picture gallery contains a photograph of the 
very Catholic Buzz Aldrin, taker of the first Communion on another world.

It's also possible that GW changed his mind since publication. "G.W." in 
SHADOW's back matter writes as if not only is Urth the same as Earth, 
but that several buildings today are still standing in that era.

Jeff Wilson - jwilson at io.com
< http://www.io.com/~jwilson >

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