(urth) "been teaching literature for over 35 years"

Gerry Quinn gerry at bindweed.com
Sun Sep 8 06:19:36 PDT 2013

From: David Stockhoff

> Well, he might justifiably ask, if Wolfe intended plate tectonics
> to exist on Urth, how it makes the book better for Severian to
> tell us that it stopped.  To improve the dying-earth atmosphere?
> I'm intrigued by Jeff's idea:
> The slowing of geology processes and the refrigeration of the earth
>  in somewhat of a historical time scale was once the current scientific
> thought in the 19th century (Bellamy mentions it in LOOKING BACKWARD),
>  so the idea has a reason to be present and for the estimated time
> necessary to be reckoned past, however mistakenly by the characters.

Wasn't that prior to the discovery of radioactivity, though?  [The limited 
lifespan that the Sun would have if its energy output were based on chemical 
or gravitational processes was also considered a problem for evolutionary 
theory, which required a longer timescale.  But the Sun actually operates on 
nuclear fusion, and nuclear fission continues to heat the Earth internally.]

However I agree that Wolfe doesn't necessarily care where a scientific 
concept comes from.  And he leaves matters intentionally vague; his motto is 
that the reader should not be able to disprove the scientific possibililty 
of something (e.g. the gigantic godlings) as they do not have quite enough 
information to locate them in specific well-understood physical models.  I 
do not think he always succeeds perfectly in this endeavour, but he does 
pretty well, and the reader should not fret to much about seeming scientific 
contradictions (or worse, build complex metaphysical hypotheses based on 

One thing that strikes me is that the New Sun explicitly seems to restore 
the tectonic activity of Urth.  This is predicted in the play of Dr. Talos 
("continents will founder", etc.), and rendered explicitly in _Urth of the 
New Sun_.

It's hard to see scientifically how a white hole cancelling a black hole 
would do that - but seemingly it does.  If so, one might argue for the the 
theory that the black hole in the Sun somehow stopped plate tectonics. 
Perhaps what is in the Sun is not quite a black hole as we think of it. 
[For that matter, I think an actual black hole in the Sun would cause it to 
heat up - but even if I am correct, story clearly must trump science in this 

- Gerry Quinn

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