(urth) Like a good Neighbor

Lee Berman severiansola at hotmail.com
Fri Nov 25 06:18:56 PST 2011

>>Muscles cannot work without water-filled cells and those cannot exist in the void.

>David Stockhoff: This is the main difficulty, I agree. I don't see how it could be 
>accomplished without just ignoring the problem.


Right. Another thing those adamant about inhumi really flying through space ignore is 

that Wolfe casts doubt on the reality of this not only through the physical impossibility

but also because text itself raises the possiblity it is a lie. Why would Wolfe do

this if inhumi space flying was simply a super-neato science thingie we are supposed

to find wonder and amazement in. Wolfe puts super-neato stuff in his stories here and

there like amazing ray guns in BotNS or a Mainframe full of gods. But we are not called

to question whether these really exist or not. 


>You also make a good pint when you refer to "the great secret of the 
>inhumi." If they have a secret, that implies some degree of concerted 
>action. But the existence of another secret beyond the secret we know is 
>unproven. I have the same intuition you do, however---that there is 
>something else they hide. Maybe that they can be burned as lianas


Yes I agree. Their liana phase may be part of the secret also. The secret must involve

species preservation or it wouldn't be such an important secret. How does revealing 

"you are what you eat" threaten the inhumi in any way? Cutting off inhumi space travel

and revealing the vine-aspect of their existence both provide a mortal threat to the

continued existence and spread of their race.


Skepticism based on the question of how the inhumi share their great secret is not relevant.

They have a great secret. The same question could be asked if the secret was "you are what

you eat". Maybe some inhumi know the secret and some don't. Doesn't matter. The question is

WHAT is the great secret?


>>The inhumi need this secret to be well-kept or they will lose the vital element of deceit 

>>they need to get onto spaceships.


>David: Agreed. But what did they do before the Whorl came? Did they never go to Blue?


I assume they only went to blue after Neighbors flew to Green and became corrupted by the

parasites. Then the corrupted Neigbors were willing to decimate their own home planet and



There is a connecting theme here to other Wolfe books. In 5HoC, we are presented with the 

principle than an imitative species will lie and deceive even itself to maintain the illusion

of the imitation. In UotNS, Zak runs away from Severian when he recognizes that the little guy

who helped him is the animal he previously encounted. Severian accepts the running away noting

that such a defense mechanism must be part of the deepest instinct of such a species.


Interestingly, WOlfe's principle that a vile, imitative species can, if given the right source

material, become gods is duplicated in the finale of Frank Herbert's Dune series.


Anyway, to sum up, I see this as a choice between a simple, cool but unexplained scientific

improbability and a socio-political-religious commentary about instinctive liars and imitators

which extends across numerous WOlfe stories.  I guess we can have both, but the Short Sun series 

becomes significantly thinner if we don't catch the second possibility. 		 	   		  

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