(urth) An Evil Guest: tone, and clones

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 4 05:52:38 PST 2010

On Mon, Jan 4, 2010 at 4:16 AM, James Wynn <crushtv at gmail.com> wrote:
>> That there are so many explanations, each equally bad and
>> consistent, bothers me a lot. But enough about clones!
> Or time travel or both.
> At Dragon*Con, Wolfe said,
> "Cassie loved Bill Reis and at the end of the novel she goes to Woldercon to
> look for him."
> After a re-read, I'm convinced that Pavlatos is Casey years later. Sharon
> Bench described the boy Chase healed and his mother as "a little piece of a
> man she loved and lost." It is entirely reasonable to conclude, based on
> that, that Rian is the result of Casey's trip to Woldercon, and the meaning
> of Wolfe's summation.

I'll take it by 'Casey' you mean 'Cassie'. I had the same thought too
(not sure whether I glanced over some Urth emails that primed me to
it), but I ultimately rejected it.

Why? Because Cassie describes Pavlatos as a faded 'beauty', saying she
has dull brunette hair, yes? So the hair and thinness fit. But
Pavlatos is an old woman when Cassie meets her. How does Cassie know
she 'was' a beauty? Because of the many portraits of her in Pavlatos's

Now, if Pavlatos == future Cassie, then those pictures would have to
be of star-powered Cassie. Surely faded Cassie could still remember
what she looked like? Even a little piece like 'flaming red hair'
would trigger recognition, much less the whole enchilada.

Yes, star-powered Cassie doesn't look much like her previous self, but
Cassie has still seen and recognized previously a picture of her
star-powered self. So:
1. if the portraits are of her old not-so-starry self, she would
recognize them instantly
2. if they are of her old starry self, she would take some more time
to recognize them but certainly not weeks
3. if they were of her present self, she'd definitely have recognized
them (as upset about and focused upon her faded looks as she is)
4. if they were of future Madam Pavlatos, Cassie would not have
described them as being of a beauty.

Thus, I conclude Pavlatos /= Cassie.

We could try to get around this. Perhaps Cassie is simply inferring
that 'Madam Pavlatos is so vain, and has such fine clothes and makeup,
and carries herself in such a way, and has high cheekbones, and in our
unmentioned conversations claims to have been a beauty, so I will
assume she was a beauty.' But there are other problems with Pavlatos
== Cassie.

Pavlatos is really rich - far richer than Cassie's bracelet could have
made her. Rich on a Reis or Chase scale, at the very least. But how
would future Cassie have gotten such a fortune? Cassie may have been
Reis's 'common law' wife, but she wisely makes no effort to contact
Rian Reis or claim any inheritance, so her fortune could not have
stemmed from Reis's in the present, and if she goes to Woldercon,
somehow finds Bill Reis there, legally and incontrovertibly marries
him, the Earth inheritance would still have passed to Rian.

We could get around this too - the inheritance was undone, Rian
secretly set aside a fraction for her return, Cassie-Pavlatos learned
alchemy on Woldercon and made her fortune thusly, etc. But like the
execution theories and the 'beauty' issue, the explanations are ad hoc
and unsupported by anything I can remember.


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