(urth) This week in Google alerts

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Wed Nov 2 16:27:44 PDT 2011

On 11/2/2011 6:09 PM, Andrew Mason wrote:
> David Stockhoff wrote:
>> The 20,000-year figure is from Wolfe.
> Do you know where, precisely?

No, but it's been quoted here---from an interview, I think.
>   I always thought it was way too low. Still, I don't buy hundreds of millions either. Alternative
> theories are available.
> One thing that causes problems for 20,000 years is that the
> Conciliator is said at one point to have lived 30,000 years ago. I'm
> not sure if that's an estimate of Typhon's time - in which case it is
> certainly retconned later - or whether it means that this was the date
> of the first in a series of figures who have contributed to the image
> of the Conciliator - possibly Jesus or his equivalent. But in any case
> it would seem to put Severian more than 20,000 years from now.
> As you point out, the apparent inconsitency between the seemingly
> enormous physical distance of our time from Severian's, and the
> lesser, though still great, cultural distance, can be overcome by
> reference to the computers restoring memories to humans - indeed it
> seems quite plausible that that story was inserted precisely to
> overcome this problem, which implies Wolfe was thinking in terms of an
> enormous distance at that point.

It does ... but it would work as well (or better) for 20,000 as for 
20-200 million.
> It's well-known that there seems to be some wobbling on Typhon's date.
> Also, _Long Sun_ reads as if it is a lot closer to our time than _New
> Sun_. Again, we can explain this by reference to the computers
> restoring memories, together with the possibility that Typhon is
> engaging in a deliberate historical reconstruction to some degree. But
> _Long Sun_ was originally planned independently of _New Sun_; can it
> be that Wolfe initially did think of it as closer to our time, and
> later, when he decided to integrate it with _New Sun_, had difficulty
> finding a date which fitted both?

I always felt the two stories did not quite fit, even though they 
intertwine. One element I initially thought DID fit was the appearance 
of the inhumi as an explanation for Sev's monstrous "space butterfly." I 
read Long Sun before I read UotNS, and had no idea about Tzadkiel, so I 
was utterly convinced of this identification. When I had to give it up, 
they went back to being more like two different stories jammed together. 
Short Sun seems to have been in part an attempt to bridge that gap. It 
would certainly account for some of the inconsistencies and fudging.

The Old Sun presents a similar problem, as has been said. My initial 
belief was that Urth was an incredibly old Earth---on the order of a 
billion years---and the sun was dying of old age. Then the black hole is 
mentioned, which casts doubt on at least the necessity of so high an 
estimate. Other evidence conspires to bring it down further.

I wonder if Wolfe initially wanted to go high and long and then found 
that he had trouble accounting for Urth's history. I have no trouble 
imagining a hundred galactic civilizations (but 100 x 10,000 years = 
only 1,000,000!) rising and falling before the world ends, but that 
might have made his sub-story a very busy one.

And no language could survive that long in ANY form unless the computers 
ran Earth very well and peacefully during that span.

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