(urth) The Most Beautiful Woman on the World
davetallman at msn.com
Sat Jun 21 05:34:04 PDT 2008
Here is my take on the story "The Most Beautiful Woman on the World"
from "Endangered Species."
The setting seems to be a Mars terraforming mission. A rift and a
connected valley have been filled with an Earth-like atmosphere and a
colony has been established there. More changes are expected: "Do you
think they'll ever really make it rain?"
Three men are in a shack with the wind howling outside, telling stories
by candlelight. They are Garcia, Hoong, and Davis. Garcia starts a story
with "Let me tell you of a man I knew once," but it's immediately
apparent it's about himself.
Davis has a story that must be pulled out through questions and
deductions. It's very odd that the others know that he's in trouble
("I'm surprised she doesn't try to help you now...") without knowing any
of these details. Are Hoong and Garcia just humoring a madman, trying to
draw out something he only imagined?
Davis seems to have cut off his own hand when he thought he was cutting
off Sigrid's. /"Everything they saw was mine, and there wasn't a mark on
her."/ He struck the table with "his fist."
After Davis tells his story, there is a sudden change of subject back to
Garcia's story of Catalina and the stallion Estampido. "The silence
thickened until it seemed to fill the dark corners of the shack...
Garcia shook himself as though wakening from an evil dream."
Garcia resumes his story as if Davis had never spoken. This
conversational reset is as strange as the one in "The Packerhaus
Method," and I think it has a similar reason: the loss of memories.
The key is back where Davis describes what Sigrid said about her
husband. "She said he acted, too, as if he hadn't told her about his
dreams at all; now he told her again, beginning back when he was a kid."
The leaper seems to have the power to alter memories as well as to make
dreams real. When the group starts to get too close to the truth their
memories are reset. This has probably happened more than once. Davis
asks "Did I tell you?"
Garcia's story itself is suspect. His supposed background as a
misogynist Mexican horse rancher doesn't fit with his current life as an
intelligent scientist on a Mars terraforming mission. I think it may be
drawn from his own fantasies and "macho" cultural memories, just as the
geologist's were. Hoong may be headed down that path as well, since he
starts writing his name with Chinese characters. They will be of no help
to Davis or themselves.
The shack itself is probably not real. The leaper can make illusions
that appear solid if they are believed in enough. These three men have
been drawn into a private hell, like the three people in "No Exit."
More information about the Urth