(urth) Overthinking/Underthinking "The Fifth Head of Cerberus"

Gerry Quinn gerry at bindweed.com
Mon Aug 18 00:57:51 PDT 2014

On 17/08/2014 18:16, Marc Aramini wrote:
>  I understand why you won't accept them, but it would be impossible 
> for me to make those kind of connections to specific repetitive 
> descriptions (staff/stork/heron-like/leg injuries or paralyzation/abo 
> girl expressing chagrin over travelling far by foot) in an alien's leg 
> and a human's leg in, say, Rama II or any other book by Wolfe.  How 
> many cities do you know that are specifically identified by the parts 
> of a hand and just happen to have streets named after larva and cities 
> named after mimicry?  If you think that's random, cool.  I understand, 
> but I certainly couldn't make those kinds of extremely specific 
> associations in any other work.  Let's just agree to disagree

But are these associations really specific when you examine them? Seven 
Girls Waiting is reluctant to travel a long distance, but she has 
recently given birth and has been starving.  She goes anyway, and later 
follows Sandwalker down the river.  Her legs are fine. Phaedria 
explicitly has a broken ankle, and there are other girls whose 
play-acting is not restricted to playing cripples.  Aunt Jeannine has 
some unspecified disabiiity, for which she uses a high-tech solution 
which shocked No. 5 (so it cannot be commonplace).  There's nothing to 
suggest most women don't walk normally.  And Victor's mother, an abo, 
walked miles upstream to wash his clothes.  You notice women with some 
temporary or permanent issue and ignore all those who walk normally.  
And how much sense does the "womens legs" association make anyway?

Port-Mimizon has some letters in common with 'mimicry' - that doesn't 
mean it's named after it.  And where does mimicry come in anyway, if you 
are replacing mimicry with some kind of infection?

Parts of the geography of Sainte Croix are named after a hand (there are 
headlands referencing thumb and fingers).  But think about this: what 
does a hand signify but humans? - if it symbolises anything, it is the 
opposite of the symbolism you are loading onto it!  Veil told us the 
truth about Veil's Hypothesis.  It is only an excuse - there is no 
reason to hypothesise a takeover by alien monsters, because humans are 
monstrous enough.  If the hand shaped continent on Sainte Croix has any 
symbolism, this is the level it exists at.  It's not telling us a secret 
clue about maggots or some other SF element. The SF story exists on its 
own level, with its own level of clues, and the symbolism of The Hand 
exists at a different level.

I ask again, why does the officer nod when he compares the handwriting?  
Can you think of any conceivable reason Wolfe wrote that other than to 
make it clear to the reader that Victor started writing the journal at 
this point?

- Gerry Quinn

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