(urth) Thea's Identity

David Stockhoff dstockhoff at verizon.net
Thu Apr 18 10:46:28 PDT 2013

On 4/18/2013 12:43 PM, Thomas Bitterman wrote:
> On Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 6:04 PM, David Stockhoff 
> <dstockhoff at verizon.net <mailto:dstockhoff at verizon.net>> wrote:
>     So the House Absolute would correspond to 666 Saltimbanque in that
>     (1) it is sustained through cloning (2) it represents a dying
>     ruling lineage (3) it will never come back. Inire would correspond
>     to (can't remember her name---the matriarch[?] of the house).
>     It uses cloning and the seraglio to preserve itself as well as to
>     keep the gene (hah!) pool from getting too small, much as we might
>     rescue a nearly extinct species of big mammal. And you're right
>     that we should carefully account for where the Servants come from,
>     because they are the source of the next Autarch. If all clones are
>     servants, the best servants are clones. The selfish gene doesn't
>     entirely leave the picture, and in fact given the vast time scale
>     stays well in the center.
>     Thanks Thomas. I like it.
> As another bonus, the Autarch is the "self-ruled", or, more 
> colloquially, "the boss of himself".  Who actually does what the 
> Autarch tells them?  The servants of the House Absolute, and the army. 
>  If both the servants and the soldiers are (pretty much) clones, then 
> he is literally just the boss of himself.  It's the type of joke that 
> feels unfunny in just the right way for Wolfe to have made it.

Awesome. And he is the comptroller of his own hive DNA, thus his body 
and his mind, both splintered/divided/multiple. Yes, a perfectly Wolfean 

>     But is there a passage indicating the servants are derived from
>     royals?
> This would be the sort of thing that would be kept under the tightest 
> wraps to avoid questions about the succession.

Yes. But there's no hint of it in the text as a separate point? It seems 
likely that the Servants would themselves interbreed and repopulate the 
House and have done so since forever, so by this point they are almost 
royalty themselves, in a sense.

> A tougher question is: if cloning technology exists, what is gained by 
> castrating the previous Autarch?  The stated reason is to remove any 
> doubts about who will get the throne next - an offspring might contend 
> with Severian.  But, given cloning (or sperm banks, even) castration 
> would seem to be ineffective.  In any case, if the next Autarch is 
> always a servant, why worry about an Autarch's natural-born son 
> (unless they become servants) - they don't seem to be eligible?

Aside from the unpleasantness on a personal level, and the symbolic 
"god-king" level, I think the stated reason makes sense and supports the 
whole scheme. But I agree that it fails to quite add up.

It doesn't hurt the autarch's chances of passing on his throne mentally 
(i.e., by the knife and vial [what a great name for a pub!]), and it 
doesn't hurt his chances of passing it on both mentally and physically 
(i.e., by giving a relative/clone/offspring the knife and vial). It 
doesn't seem to punish him further or take him or his heirs out of the 
succession (depending on your definition of "heir"---see below).

However, I suspect that the autarch is under strict control in some ways 
we don't know about; in fact, it seems that every autarch must have been 
"unmanned" or else never tried the test, so Appian's castration might 
not be an anomaly but part of the system. Are they not allowed to breed? 
*Severian himself did not.* He also probably did not avail himself of 
the harem since he had a queen, but who knows. (Here it would be nice to 
know more about his wife and why he chose her.) If all autarchs are 
functionally/procreatively infertile, the genetic stream is controlled 
entirely by cloning.

If it is intended to remove direct descendents from either rebelling or 
properly becoming the next autarch, it only does so going forward unless 
/all /offspring are prevented, past and future. I agree that cloning 
seems to make direct descent irrelevant---but I suspect that the common 
people don't know about cloning and would not accept it as a source of 
an heir. In other words, I'm proposing two ways of gaining the 
throne---by amassing popular support in the old-fashioned way via a 
paternal claim to the throne and by controlling the House and Citadel. 
The first is a threat to the second /but /could replace it if the second 
fails and so cannot be dispensed with entirely. The old system has to be 
allowed to exist but not interfere. So there's that.

If we assume that no offspring could do the deed with the knife due to 
an inability to obey, maybe the picture changes. But still I'd think no 
autarch would want a child.

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