(urth) An Evil Guest: gold hunting

James Wynn crushtv at gmail.com
Wed Jan 6 08:27:15 PST 2010

> 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:

Neither. Baden is given idea that he is being sent on a particularly 
unpleasant assignment. An assignment he would only take because the other 
choice is firing. The tone of his boss while giving him the assignment is 
pity. And I don't mean pity because he's an alcoholic or had a breakdown, 
whatever it was. I'm mean pity because he's being given the assignment and 
she knows he'll take it.

> 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.

But he's almost certainly not of retirement age, and even Baden thought the 
most reasonable course for dealing with him was termination. Assigning him 
to the island means they still have to pay his salary. Even charity aid 
workers don't live on adjusted per diem. They get full yearly salaries. 
Probably with a bonus for out-of-country service. The idea that an NGO would 
or could maroon an employee to a remote island to avoid medical expenses 
strikes me itself as a plot for a speculative fiction story. So I would have 
expected some exposition to justify it.

> 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
> island).

He's told that he is to be on the island alone, and within a couple hours of 
his family arriving on the island, Hanga singles out Baden's wife as a 
future meal. It's hard to ignore the coincidence.

And Baden is hardly being lassoed by his wife.  There really nothing in the 
story to imply that Baden is a great catch. He doesn't see it that way. The 
picture we get from Baden is that his wife is a forgiving person who is 
staying with him *in spite* of their history.
As you pointed out, Baden was told that he was to be stationed at the island 
*totally on his own*. If he's being retired, there's no point in that. It's 
presented to him as a tough, perhaps hazardous assignment. That's hardly a 
way to sell a plan to "pension him off". If the island was such a cheap 
alternative to paying medical expenses, why would he be the only one the 
Agency would station there? He can't be the only employee who has ever had 
chronic medical expenses. If The Agency had even pro forma duties there, why 
isn't Baden at least going through the motions of doing them, or mentioning 

And why would his family want to take him back to civilization when that 
would mean he would have to quit his job? That is, if the job benefits with 
the Agency were so ideal.

> And if hostage, hostage against what?

That's the million dollar question. What exactly is the Agency getting out 
of Baden being there? What are the rules that require he be there alone on 
the island? The Tree Is My Hat and An Evil Guest are both interesting 
introductions to this world. I wish Wolfe had deigned to actually explain 

> The simplest explanation is that Cthulhu is never mentioned or hinted
> at because he isn't in [TTIMH]'s world [snip]
>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

Sure. But when he retconned the story he had already established that The 
Agency had a direct presence on the island relating to the aliens there. 
Maybe he had the Storm King in mind, and maybe he didn't.  But if he added 
the Storm King later, then he added Him off an island where he had 
established a bizarre *official* relationship between the aliens and 
humanity. So it's unlikely that The Agency doesn't know about the Storm King 
when we are introduced to him in AEG.

> 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.

I forgot he said he'd hired him at that dinner with Cassie. There's no more 
reason to believe Reis more than Chase. Cassie doesn't take his words at 
face-value or she would have abandoned Chase. But you're right. It does make 
one wonder why he kept those pictures. It's entirely possible that while 
Reis ended up paying for Chase's services, the two never met. Which 
definitely would suggest that Reis is not above *shading* a story.  I do 
agree that Chase is a prostitute who will do anything for money (ala Sherry 
Gold and Hyacinth).

> where's the sacrifice of Reis in Peace or
> TBOTNS? [snip]
>A lover killing the sacrificer of the loved
>doesn't match up

I don't expect you to be persuaded but:
Peace: While digging in a pit for the treasure, Weer's shovel it's a rock 
and gives off a spark. Lois thinks it's the treasure and pulls her little 
(hidden) pistol. The next thing we learn from Weer is that Lois has left 
town. Do you believe that? I don't. He buried her in that pit.
TBOTNS: Severian takes Dr. Talos's sword from him (til now concealed in his 
cane) and strides into Baldander's ruined tower to kill him. But the 
antagonist is only over thrown.
Cassie shooting Kanoa matches up perfectly with these and other instances IF 
you re-assess Kanoa as a more important figure than is immediately apparent. 
Otherwise, the scene has all the elements of the others but is carried out 


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