(urth) Severians Later Appearance (Spoilers)

James Wynn crushtv at gmail.com
Mon Jan 18 23:20:38 PST 2010

> Not to bring up the old "authorial fallacy" here, but if he wrote
>the books in such a way that they support the "male chem/once
>male" possibility in a way that doesn't contradict it and in fact
>makes it a compelling possibility, it doesn't matter what he said
>after the fact.

Yeah, but (for me) puzzling over Wolfe's stories is interesting because I 
believe there is a "right" answer. I don't think it matters to the basic 
plot of the story whether Hyacinth is a male chem or not (my old theory, not 
yours). Nor whether Incus is a woman or Tussah and Horn are a clones of 
Typhon.  These details only matter because we think they mattered to the 
author. When I decided that I would never be able to prove important details 
about An Evil Guest to *my own* satisfaction, I lost interesting in trying 
to find the answers. But I still like the universe Wolfe imagined.

However, I suppose it is cheating to for Josh to declare the "transgendered" 
theory is dead because of a reaction that he *inferred* from Wolfe's 
response. Especially since his reaction was to *my* theory about Hy being a 
male chem (my attempt to pull all of --what I understood to be-- the loose 
threads together into one neat little explanation). I mean, the problem as I 
see it is that Josh doesn't need to counter with any evidence. He just says, 
"I heard Wolfe say something indeterminant and I divined this and that."

It reminds me of *some* of the resistance I faced on this list when I 
posited the "male chem" theory. One person said that Wolfe would never have 
a "moral exemplar" character involved in a homosexual relationship...even 
though a relationship with a transgendered male chem would not be homosexual 
or heterosexual since their sexes are strictly formal (or at least I thought 
so at the time). Nor would a man having sex with a "female" robot be any 
more or less perverse than doing it with a so-called "male" robot. And Wolfe 
did have a character have sex with a robot in "Counting Cats In Zanzibar". 
Anyway, it's frustrating to face that kind of resistance. At least, Josh's 
response was better than that. He made a serious attempt to check it out.

Still, "Hy is a transgendered male chem" is a pretty wild theory. But I 
didn't walked away from it because of Josh's report.  I continued to roll it 
around in my mind with other theories for a long time like Captain Queeg and 
his ball bearings (it was fun) until I decided I had latched onto one that 
was solid enough to make all the others irrelevant.  The thing is, I know 
that Gene misdirects about his stories all the time. He seems to enjoy 
dropping hints that don't mean what we often think they do. I remember when 
Marc Aramini reported that Wolfe had told him [in response to his "Blue 
Ushas" theory] "No, Urth is Green!". Then a short time later, Wolfe 
reportedly just sighed and said "I should just keep my mouth shut". Some 
people still like the Blue Ushas theory, even though Marc (last I heard) had 
discarded it because of what Wolfe told him. I don't think Urth is Green nor 
that the Short Sun is Sol even though I toyed for a good while after that 
with Blue being Verthandi (I even scoured a map of Mars looking for a 
mountain range that might qualify as Lizard Island).

> I mean,
> any book that requires the author to explain it or to
>verify things beyond the covers of the book seems
>like a failed book.

I would be the one most likely to agree with this in most cases, yet I don't 
in the case of Wolfe's novels. For example, consider Auk kidnapping 
Hyacinth. There's no way we would know emphatically why he had done that and 
why he let her go if Wolfe had not explained it. I had four or five possible 
explanations in mind for Tussah's prediction "The son not of my body shall 
be Calde after me." But it took an answer to a question posed to Wolfe for 
me to settle on one. Still, I find this 7 volume novel to be one of Wolfe's 
most satisfying.  If Wolfe had not confirmed that Dorcas was Severian's 
grandmother, it would still be a highly controversial theory. Does that make 
The Book of the New Sun a failed work?

And in many cases the questions thought to be unresolvable merely haven't 
been considered with enough intensity. Many people seem to find the basic 
plot of "Peace" (How did everyone die? What's the deal with the guy slamming 
oranges against the big metal doors? etc?) to be inscrutable. But it was 
clear to me, the first time I read it--after I thought about it a few days.


The Absolute Lord of Unpopular Theories 

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