(urth) Urth Digest, Vol 63, Issue 5

adamattman adamattman at gmail.com
Tue Nov 10 14:23:56 PST 2009

that's plausible.

and it reminds me of this: (taken from: 

Q: What is the difference between science fiction and fantasy?

GW: Plausibility, really. Science fiction is what you can make people 
believe; fantasy is what people have to suspend disbelief for. Many 
physicists believe that there will never be a faster-than-light drive -- 
it's impossible. But you can make people believe in one, since they 
don't know much physics. And there are some physicists who believe it is 
possible. If you talk about somebody genetically engineering unicorns, 
it's probably fantasy, because people don't believe in it. But it's so 
close that you can almost touch it; we're almost at the point where we 
can make a unicorn.

So it's all a matter of plausibility. Do people think, "The future might 
be like this?" If so, it's science fiction. If they think, "This could 
never happen," that's fantasy.


I was fortunate enough to read TFHoC first, as far as novels. I started 
noticing Wolfe as a writer of short stories.

I sympathize with the complaint that the narrative of TWK is harder to 
follow. The universe in which it occurs is at least as complex as 
TBotNS's, having several levels as well as time "travel." Not many smart 
and literate humans would be up to the task of coherently telling such a 
story. And on top of all that, Abel seems to be from the "real" world, 
which is of uncertain relation to the several otherworlds.

I think the illusion of "reality" is much better sustained in the Sun 
and Whorl. That is to say, (1) it's more science fiction than fantasy 
and (2) it seems to take place in "our" universe, so at least my 
expectations were higher in terms of coherence. I approached those texts 
thinking, "Make me believe!" With TWK, I simply thought, "Wizards! 
Knights! Giants! Oh my!"

Reading TWK, I spent the first book wondering whether elves, dwarves, 
and orcs were going to show up---how far was Wolfe going to take this 
Mabinogion or Morte d'Arthur? Another way to put it is that basic 
relationships (such as geographical or temporal) seem less important, 
more flexible than in Sun and Whorl. And Abel doesn't try very hard to 
help us.


Message: 3
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 2009 20:18:59 -0600
From: "James Wynn" <crushtv at gmail.com>
To: "The Urth Mailing List" <urth at lists.urth.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) Wizard-Knight sucks, or,    is there any scholarly
    research on it?
Message-ID: <0BBF4DDCD1B34379934AD0C15DE19953 at eMachinePC>
Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed; charset="iso-8859-1";

> > Maybe Abel really is dumb and illiterate, but it was  sometimes 
> difficult > to follow the narrative because Abel is a bad  storyteller.

Well, honestly, the part about being a bad story-teller is true of 
Severian, as well (to the extent that it IS true). The Book of the New 
Sun was the first Wolfe story I'd read. I told the guy who recommended 
it that I thought Wolfe was a great creator of worlds but only a so-so 
writer. Then I read The Fifth Head of Cerberus and decided that --based 
on the two novels-- he was the best science fiction writer I'd ever 
read. But the "weaknesses" in the story-telling in TWK (if they are 
weaknesses) are the same as those in TBotNS.



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