(urth) fifth head owlet- wolf

Lee Berman severiansola at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 10 09:31:00 PDT 2013

>Gerry Quinn: Can somebody explain why Wolfe would have written a story and embedded 
>randomly within it a bunch of highly obscure cryptic clues about how a race 
>of apparently humanoid aliens are somehow really trees, or maggots, or 
>whatever?  Especially when he actually *tells* us the secret history of 
>their origin as part of the storyline?

This is such a polite and well-worded question, I certainly want to take a shot at 

First, Marc's explanation about Wolfe being a cryptic writer is a good one. We have 
three tools for understanding the world, 1. what we see/perceive, 2. what we are told
by others,  and 3. our own internal intuitive leaps which sometimes transcend what our 
senses tell us to bring us a higher truth. (of course they often mislead us also).

Many people find pleasure in the process of an intuitive leap of faith and when they
find an author like Gene Wolfe who seems to invite and even require such leaps, of course 
such leaps will seem like the "better" answer than the alternate concrete answer which, as 
Gerry notes, Wolfe literally "tells us".

But "many" is not "all". There are some people who do not like intuitive leaps of faith. In 
fact, often such people devote their lives to opposing and questioning such leaps. This serves 
a very vital function in society, since there are so many false, erroneous and even harmful 
leaps of faith that certain people make. I think Gerry may be one of those who instinctively 
oppose leaps of faith, and as I've always said, I consider him a very valuable part of
this community and the world in general. Roy used to serve a similar function here.

In this 5HoC case, Gerry's pragmatic answer, the SF trope about humans crash landing
on a planet is the story we are first told and thus is the most appealing to him. I assume 
additional vague evidence such as Shadow Children originating beneath tree roots is considered
irrelevant or even deliberately misleading fluff to be ignored.

I find it interesting that in another example, Gerry prefers the more fantastical answer
to the hidden, mundane practical answer. I'm speaking of whether the Inhumi can fly in the
void between planets. For Gerry, that is the story we are "told" and other evidence is thus to
be dismissed. He prefers the cool story about Inhumi space flight and it is easy to see why.

For me, the intuitive leap to be made comes from the fact that we never see Inhumi do anything 
close to flying through space and the physical impossibility of the task (including achieving
escape velocity). What we do know is that Inhumi are inherently liars. When we know that 
inhumi have travelled through space, it is always through deception, disguise and hitching a ride
on spacecraft. It is a boring answer, but for me, being intuitive, it works better.

So, again, Wolfe provides us with two answers. On spelled out and the other only achievable
through an intuitive leap connecting various bits of seemingly unrelated data. The answer
each person chooses has more to do with their own personality and preferences than anything
objectively found in Wolfe's work. And there is definite value to be found in both approaches. 		 	   		  

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