(urth) An Evil Guest: gold hunting

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Wed Jan 6 05:39:37 PST 2010

On Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 9:46 PM, James Wynn <crushtv at gmail.com> wrote:

> When I spoke with Gene about it in Atlanta, he confirmed that it is the same
> island.

OK then.

> Baden's whole assignment is screwy for all the reasons you give and more.
> But it no more works as a charity operation than anything else. He is given
> no mission to speak of at all. He's given no funds to disburse nor people to
> manage. And no information beforehand about what he will experience there.
> All he is told is that he must go there alone. We find out why that is
> within hours of his family arriving. But we don't know *why* anyone who
> comes with Baden is automatically an offering to the aliens (and --it is
> clear-- that is Hanga's understanding). The only thing that seems likely is
> that Baden is sent there because he is considered expendable: a broken tool.
> That, and he's in no position to turn down the assignment. And not all CIA
> agents have 007 skills many of them are merely bureaucrats with a knack for
> languages and some prior experience abroad. It makes sense that The Agency
> is the CIA, but it is not necessary.

But we're not given any feeling like 'go there, stay, and shut up'. We
really are given the feeling of a not-so-efficient aid agency
pensioning off a worker in a cheap island paradise until he finally
kicks the bucket:

   "It's a remote Pacific island chain." She cleared her throat and
seemed to have swallowed a bone. "It's not going to be like Africa,
Bad. You'll be on your own out there."
   Me: "I thought you were going to fire me."
   P.D.: "No, no! We wouldn't do that."
   "Permanent sick leave."
   "No, no, no! But, Bad." She leaned across her desk and for a minute
I was afraid she was going to squeeze my hand. "This will be rough.
I'm not going to try to fool you."

Note that Baden's room is essentially free, his board minimal, and he
otherwise isn't a drain on the agency; probably one or two hospital
stays in the US would exceed the cost of sending and supporting Baden
there. Retirees go to tropical 3rd World countries for reasons beyond
the weather, y'know.

> I didn't say he was a *spy* for the government. He's sent there as a
> government's representative of some sort at a post that is hardly a plum
> offering for anyone who understands its purpose. The government is posting
> him there for reasons unstated but evidently important. The only official
> role I know of that doesn't require the assignee to know anything or do
> anything is hostage or sacrifice. And he wasn't sacrificed.

But hostage or sacrifice don't make sense to me. As you say, the
latter doesn't occur, and the 'sacrifice' of his family could be down
to Hanga's xenophobia or protecting his blood-brother (nobody else
seems to have remarked that Baden's wife has come apparently with the
intention of lassoing him - perhaps due to getting pregnant - and
bringing him back to civilization, and thus away from Hanga and the
And if hostage, hostage against what?

>> (Also note the utter lack of Squiddies in "The Tree is my Hat".
>> Cthulhu should be perfectly active at this point;
> Well, the only reason Cassie encounters Squiddies is because of her
> association with Reis (or Chase or the bat-people or because she's a 'star',
> who knows?). Hanga is the only alien we know of who seeks human company for
> pleasure.

That's true, but remember that Hanga grows in power. He is first a
small dwarf. Only later is he a gigantic flying man-eating shark. And
he's a dwarf *before* the ceremony. And the chief's palace ceremony
binds him.

In all of this, the space is open for there to be Cthulhu: it could be
Cthulhu powering the chief (much like Kanoa is a cultist). While Hanga
is weak, there could be hints of Cthulhu as the islanders' main
propiative. When Rob is discussing the origins, he could throw in
allusions to Cthulhu - why South America*, then?

The simplest explanation is that Cthulhu is never mentioned or hinted
at because he isn't in this story's world; since AEG clearly tells us
that Cthulhu is there, has been there for millenia, and will be there
for a while (presumably), the simplest way to reconcile the 2 is to
assume Wolfe is simply retconning The Tree Is My Hat into the later
AEG universe. It's not unsurprising to me that a 1999 short story
would not have the same fully fleshed out universe

* I've changed my mind; Rob's description of pyramids & human
sacrifice is clearly an allusion to Mesoamerica. Antarctica only works
if you insist on seeing The Tree Is My Hat in the Cthulhu mythos and
then because the Antarctic cities are the only possibility.

>> 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.
> Do you mean about healing Rian? Isn't that assuming a bit? (We think) we
> know that Chase worked for Pavlatos. But we don't know Ries had any
> involvement at all.

IIRC, doesn't Reis specifically say he hired Chase a few years ago and
ever since Chase has been greedy and sought to extort more money out
of him? I don't see any reason to disbelieve him. And if Chase
executed a job for Reis, that's a good reason for Reis to want to make
him an ally, otherwise he would just be going on reputation.

> Whether you explain it via cloning or temporal plotting
> or whatever, they are the same person (in a sense) but different people
> inhabiting different space...one whom Cassie loves and aids and the other
> whom she loathes and undermines. The Garsegc/Setr parallel is key to
> understanding what I mean.
> That cave scene is a classic Wolfean climax dutifully repeated in Peace,
> BoTNS, Long Sun, Soldier of the Mist, There Are Doors, and The Knight (I
> haven't read Pirate Freedom yet). As such, the protagonist has to take up a
> hidden weapon in an enclosed space and kill or overthrow the antagonist with
> it in the cave. Wolfe has identified the antagonist as Ries. That is the
> whole foundation of my belief that Kanoa is Ries. If you don't see the
> parallel, I don't expect you to see the necessity of Kanoa being Ries. Take
> it for what it is. Ignore it if you don't see the parallel. I certainly
> can't prove it otherwise.
> J.

I never understood Wizard-Knight, so I didn't see that as much of a
parallel. Cassie's pistol, silver-tipped though its bullets be, isn't
much of a Terminus Est. And where's the sacrifice of Reis in Peace or
TBOTNS? A lover killing the sacrificer of the loved doesn't match up


More information about the Urth mailing list