(urth) An Evil Guest: gold hunting

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 5 17:00:30 PST 2010

On Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 1:17 PM, James Wynn <crushtv at gmail.com> wrote:

> I thought the point was that the US government wanted his *method* of
> producing gold. For all the reasons you named, it would be a valuable
> technology.

I thought that too, but that suggests a different sequence, in which
the president offers to legalize it and split the proceeds with Reis.
Given all the uses of gold transmutation and general atomic
transmutation, even if Reis got 1% of the profits, he still would be
fantastically more wealthy than he is synthesizing a small brick every
month or two for the occasional order.

Kanoa says that no more than 5 or 7 bricks are together at any time.
We are not talking about an operation on a large-scale here. It almost
sounds as if Reis personally oversees each brick. I can't come up with
any figures of public gold sales, profit sharing, and Reis's current
gold sales which are both plausible and which make Reis better off
keeping the secret. Public sale involves such gargantuan figures.

The only way it works is if the deal offers Reis nothing, and we don't
get that kind of extortionate tyrannical feel from the president. And
it still doesn't explain the evil personal nature of their war on

>> Here's another question: why do they consider Reis so very very evil?
> Now that's a good question. Hearing Wolfe talk about Ries you can tell he's
> very please with him, and pleased with him *as a villain*. He said that a
> really good villain needs to be almost a hero but falls short. I'm sure
> Wolfe knows more about Ries' agenda than is in the text but I don't. From
> what I read, I can't see too much either heroic or villainous about him. He
> just wants to be the next Storm King. But Earth already has a Storm King and
> has for a million years, so I don't see that it is that *bad* or good. Just
> more of the same.

Reis is a far superior Storm King.

He's human, for one.

>> Why does Reis need to resort to
>> rather intricate shenanigans to get the USN to depth-bomb Cthulhu
>> without realizing whom it is fighting?

One of my previous theories was the the President & John were
Squiddies and that they considered Reis evil because he opposed
Cthulhu. However, those 2 do not fit the cultist psychological profile
and though it explained why Reis had to trick the Navy into it, it
couldn't explain why the Navy was hunting Reis's gold or why it had
authorization to depth-bomb at all.

> Based on "The Tree Is My Hat", I think the US government *must* know that
> the Storm King is there.

Fortunately for me, there's a copy of that story online in 2 Google
Books and http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Innocents-Aboard/Gene-Wolfe/e/9780765307903#CHP

Having read it and a bit of the list discussion, even assuming that it
is the same exact universe and not an early draft as it were or a
relation like BOTNS and "A Solar Labyrinth", I'm not sure we can infer

Baden is the member of an agency, but aside from calling it 'the
Agency', we aren't given any reason to identify it with the
intelligence community. Baden has no particular fighting or computer
or jungle expertise, or evinces any kind of special skills one might
expect of an overseas operative. Further, his previous assignment was
Uganda, which back then was a humanitarian interest - not a national
security concern in the least. And note his equipment:
"31 Jan. Setting up my new Mac. Who would think this place would have
phones? But there are wires to Kololahi, and a dish. I can chat with
people all over the world, for which the agency pays. (Talk about
soft!) Nothing like this in Africa. Just the radio, and good luck with

If he were CIA, would he just have a crappy radio? If he were using
milspec government equipment, why can he talk all around the world? If
the military-industrial establishment were probing the islands, why
zero mention of reports back? Why a female boss, and one so concerned
she'll squeeze his hand?

It all makes sense if it were a government charity thingy, though.

(Also note the utter lack of Squiddies in "The Tree is my Hat".
Cthulhu should be perfectly active at this point; it feels like the
1990s, after all, and so Reis still hasn't battled the cultists. In
AEG, even when Hanga was puissant, there were still plenty of cultists
around, so why would it be any different in the '90s?)

Even if Baden reported to an intelligence agency, and they believed
him completely (yeah right), that still wouldn't point to Cthulhu in
the sea, but towards a Mountains of Madness scenario, or just Hanga

>> Another point: keep in mind that even if they found Reis's postulated
>> master-stash, they can't expect more than millions or low billions
>> from it,
> Yeah, I'm not sure about this one. Unless they think he has trillions in
> gold.

And if they want his process, why bother hunting small amounts of
gold? They know he isn't going to be there in the stash, after all,
since he's such a globe-trotter.

>> They expected to find Cthulhu by finding Reis's gold not because they
>> thought Cthulhu was manufacturing it - they knew Reis was
>> manufacturing it - but they thought Reis was storing it there. And
>> they thought Reis could store it there because he had an arrangement
>> with Cthulhu: he was a cultist.
> In The Tree Is My Hat the protagonist is a kind of ambassador or hostage
> sent by the US government. They know the Storm King is there.

How did you get that?

>> Perhaps Chase is #2 on the list! Using
>> him against Reis would be delicious irony, and explains the government
>> reaction to Chase's refusal/escape.
> I thought of that, but if Chase is in league with Ries, why does he need the
> pictures of him? He suspects the photos are bugged but rather than just
> throw them away, he makes copies first.

Well, remember, I suggested they are rivals in the cult. Cults often
run on a cellular structure. Chase may know full well of Reis but
never have met him or seen photos of him. (Many billionaires are
extremely reclusive. Have you ever seen any photos of the 6 or 7
Waltons who control >$80 billion?) So the photos would be valuable.

Note also that Chase supposedly worked for Reis once, which is a
relationship one would expect to obviate the need for photos to a
degree much more than merely being in the same cult.

> I believe that *somehow* King Kanoa is one of the Rieses. I can't prove it
> though.
> There is an extra Reis running around and it is fixating that he goes by two
> identities and Cassie treats those identities almost separately.
> This reminds me of Garsegc/Setr in The Wizard Knight.
> J.

Mm. How do you explain the mass discrepancy? We're told King Kanoa is
absolutely massive; Reis is big & powerful, but not that much.


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