(urth) fifth head owlet- wolf

Gerry Quinn gerry at bindweed.com
Thu Apr 11 11:25:39 PDT 2013

From: Lee Berman
> Marc Aramini:

> > And the narrative thrust of both mimicking aboriginal and possibly,
> > according to the interview, replacing empathic shadow child, would be to 
> > convince
> > others of their humanity in any way possible, including 
> > anthropomorphizing their
> > origin.  That is effective mimicry.

> Yes, I think this crystalizes Wolfe's intent for 5HoC, with the provision 
> that part
> anthropomorphizing their origin is truly forgetting their non-human 
> origin. Though,
> as Aunt Jeanine's lesson teaches us, the shapeshifter can evolve to 
> perfect mimickry
> with one limitation- their evolution requires they must retain their 
> shapeshifting
> ability. (they can't remove it and give it to a salt goose, heh).

Well, I still see a problem with this.  Perhaps the expression 'false 
positive' is not greatly suited to literary criticism, but we can come up 
with measures based on the net contribution of a given interpretation to the 
complexity and coherence of a work.  Does the interpretation make it a good 

Consider the theory that 'A Story' is an anthropomorphisation of the origin 
of abos whose origin is really quite different.  Since we apparently cannot 
really decide from the clues within whether the creatures are really more 
like trees or maggots, it cannot be said to work particularly well in terms 
of telling us about their lifecycle.  It does add a new storyline, in which 
VRT constructs this artificial tale, presumably for his own benefit, as we 
never hear of him attempting to publish it.  But look how much it subtracts! 
The second third of 5HOC becomes largely meaningless, a fairy tale spun 
simply for the purpose of lying - with, if we are lucky, a few clues hidden 
in repeated motifs.  But even these clues are obviously not telling us very 
much that is specific.

I believe we agreed some time ago that Wolfe is a modernist, but not a 
postmodernist.  Would he have any interest in producing such an extreme 
metafictional confection?  I do not believe so.  And even if 5HOC had been 
written by John Barth, I would still interpret it the same way.  The secret 
history outlined in the second book is just more complex, consistent and 
complete than the 'fake story' interpretation.

Indeed, if I were to treat 'A Story' as fake, I would sooner go all the way 
and toss out the abos altogether!  Perhaps the whole abo origin story is the 
concoction of a troubled, partially disabled human boy with an outcast for a 
father and a whore for a mother.   Abos exist in 5HOC only as myths related 
to a probably extinct and possibly non-existent native species.  That 
actually works better for me than the meta-SF alternative.  But, as I said 
before, I don't believe this either.  5HOC is an SF story and should be 
interpreted in SF terms.  And 'A Story' works in SF terms, with an alien 
world and a mystery solved, better than it works in any other terms.

- Gerry Quinn

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