(urth) Ship Volant

brunians at brunians.org brunians at brunians.org
Wed Feb 18 08:43:01 PST 2009

People have been talking seriously about sail powered spaceships for decades.


> jwilson at io.com wrote:
>> in the web references I saw, the Heraldric(?) uses of the term indicates
>> flying, and usually shows wings. and then with the description of the
>> coin
>> "flying ship" it would seem to indicate, at a glance, that this ship is
>> in flight, in both bas-relief images, blazon and coin.  hmm.  How the
>> heck
>> can one make a ship look like it's flying without wings?  confounding!
> There are several deliberate ambiguities here.
> First in heraldry a navire volant is a ship under full sail, those sails
> bellied by the wind.  So the description of the coin and other instances
> can be read in an entirely conventional manner if you just have that small
> bit of knowledge.
> Second Severian throughout the narrative makes little distinction between
> a ship of the conventional water going type and a ship of space such as
> the craft that hovers above Baldander's tower.  So here too is an
> interpretation of "flying ship" that might not really surprise the reader.
> Third - and this is something that is perhaps not made really explicit
> until Urth I think although either Hethor or Jonas allude to them - space,
> time and universe spanning ships, maybe only one ship, such as that on
> which Severian travels really do have keels, masts, sails and all the
> other appurtenances of an ocean going vessel.  So a ship flying through
> the air or space with the mirror sails of high technology
> (indistinguishable from magic as AC Clarke's famous aphorism has it) is
> quite conceivable.
> I'm curious to know why these successive constructions are presented and
> my guess is that at least one reason (not to say there aren't several
> others intended concurrently) is to ease the reader into the suspension of
> disbelief that allows Tadzekiel's ship to literally sail through space and
> time.
> Matthew
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