(urth) Seawrack and the Mother

Lee Berman severiansola at hotmail.com
Mon Oct 1 11:34:32 PDT 2012

>David Stockhoff: I'm skeptical that this was observed much before the modern era.

I don't know. But I'll play Wolfe's advocate for a minute, as he is known in interviews
to praise the intelligence and wisdom of ancient scholars and denounce our assumptions
of their ignorance.

If the ancients were all so anthropocentric we'd expect all creation myths to start with
a first man and first woman. But so many religions find the need to add in an impossibly
large, asexual creator being such as Chaos or Brahma or Jehovah in place before the 
first couple. Why? Is such a gigantic being so different than modern scientists' 
"primordial soup"?  Is it possible (says Gene Wolfe?) that the ancients had a better grip 
on creation than we give them credit for?

>Certainly sex allows faster evolution by increasing the rate of combinations...

Agreed. Even among the most highly evolved (i.e. specialized) invertebrates, like insects,
assigned gender and sexual reproduction have become locked in.

>...which is directly relevant to the theme of incrementally evolving moral progress

I'll argue that evolution of morality in a species is a product of intelligence (choice-
making ability) and social living more than sex, per se.

>It also is related to "mortality," from which humans famously suffer but gods and others do not

One of Tolkein's more brilliant conclusions I think, vis-a-vis the lives of elves vs. Men.

>Internal skeletons might indeed be useless in a very large sea creature. But then, sponges 
>don't get that big either.

There is an engineering aspect to zoology which I find interesting (though I am not much of
an engineer myself). For example, internal skeletons allow for greater body size than exoskeletons.
And there are physical limits to that. But elephants can grow bigger than beetles.

The real issue regarding body size is surface area/volume ratio. It not only affects gravitational
support but circulation. A creature the size of a mountain or island, even supported by water, could 
not efficiently absorb and distribute oxygen and nutrients to all parts of its body, not to mention 
eliminate the waste products generated by such a great mass of flesh.

When I was a kid, the largest organisms on earth were said to be the blue whale and the sequoia tree.
Now, they say the largest is a monoclonal fungal mass in Oregon which occupies 4 square miles 
(10 sq. km) of land. Some distort the definition of "organism" so far as to say the largest one is the 
Great Barrier Reef. Either way I think it illustrates that extremely large size requires being stretched
and spread out and convoluted enough to allow for proper circulation.

I don't know if Wolfe was thinking of it in the 70's but I think we can scientifically rule out Abaia 
(and the Mother) being giant ocean floor to surface lumps of protoplasm. A huge flat being, flowing or 
floating, as David notes, through the water would be more biologically feasible.

I am thinking of the story of Semele, Dionysus' mother, who demanded to see the full person of Zeus in
all his "glory". She was destroyed by it. I wonder if that "glory" was actually disgust in finding out
she had mated with a gigantic fungal mass or a miles-long flatworm.

There is also the fantastical incident where Severian sees Tzadkiel in his full glory in the Autarch's
mirror book.  Winged, human-shaped, big as an island and floating in outer space. Not very realistic.
Perhaps Severian's mind (or Tzadkiel) edited the real image for our consumption. 		 	   		  

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