(urth) "been teaching literature for over 35 years" - reliable knowledge

Sergei SOLOVIEV soloviev at irit.fr
Sun Sep 8 14:09:54 PDT 2013

The idea seems interesting, though to me the "thing" reminded (when I 
was reading) rather Balrog of Tolkien -

Another remark - I think that essential achievement of GW is creation of 
the atmosphere of
"medieval" world in BOTNs, when there is very little reliable 
information (remember
Severian's thoughts after his visit to sorcerer's willage about 
transmission of information
about "magics"). If we compare it with our Middle Ages, since Antiquity 
there where
scholars and educated people who knew that Earth is round, not flat, by 
the way,
most of Roman Church hierarchy knew it, but people still believed in the 
flat Earth -


Marc Aramini wrote:
> there is that "thing" sleeping in the mine with the ape men, that 
> Severian says he might "now" know what it is - related to tectonic 
> movement?  What is down there?  Does a throwaway detail like that 
> resonate with something else in the text?
> *From:* David Stockhoff <dstockhoff at verizon.net>
> *To:* Jerry Friedman <jerry_friedman at yahoo.com>; The Urth Mailing List 
> <urth at lists.urth.net>
> *Sent:* Sunday, September 8, 2013 5:41 AM
> *Subject:* Re: (urth) "been teaching literature for over 35 years"
> On 9/8/2013 12:25 AM, Jerry Friedman wrote:
>> 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.
> We've seen plenty of evidence that Wolfe gleaned gems from the 
> historical trash heap of incorrect comprehensions of the physical 
> universe in writing BNS. In fact, one could take it a step further and 
> say that his universe is entirely created from such pulpy cliches---
> by which I mean to make a direct literary connection, because the pulp 
> SF Wolfe admires, from Cthulhu to, I don't know, maybe Flash Gordon 
> and beyond, consists almost entirely of disproven scientific 
> assumptions. Look at how the surface environment of Venus has been 
> (mis)conceived throughout the history of SF.
> ---knowing full well that they do not fit well together. Two other 
> well-known cases of this are Severian's comments about geological 
> strata and the various genetic theories of 5HC, which Lee has 
> identified as BNS's thematic precursor. Would this not, in Wolfe's 
> thinking, parallel all the valid but imperfect understandings of the 
> *nonphysical *universe? It's all the same, on other words---the 
> science we believe today will be the superstition of tomorrow.
> So yes, it makes the book better.
> Also, "death" is perhaps a relative term on a geologic time scale. In 
> our time, small volcanic islands are created before our eyes. In 
> Severian's, this may no longer occur, but the plates could experience 
> settling for quite some time after the primary tectonic activity has 
> either ceased or simply decreased enough that most people assume Urth 
> is dead, because all the volcanoes are. Thus the earthquakes in 
> Typhon's time.
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