(urth) May 2014 Wolfe interview in _Technology Review_

Gerry Quinn gerry at bindweed.com
Mon Jul 28 09:48:58 PDT 2014

On 28/07/2014 16:29, Marc Aramini wrote:

>  Of course he still hasn't said that pretty much everyone but
>cloned number 5 is an abo, ("someday they (the Abos who
>pretend to be humans) will want us (real humans to copy)"
>and that Marsch is a different kind of imitator, a shadow
>child infection via cat bite incarcerated by Abos who believe
>they are human, too. Ironically the interviewer fails to
>differentiate between shadow children and Abos, allowing
>Wolfe to answer the question fairly honestly if he ignores
>the VRT portion. (The useless hand of the Abos is port
>mimizon, with its fingers and thumb and no new buildings
>in 140 years.)
>So even straightforward Wolfe isn't really that straightforward.

The interview question specifically referred to VRT, and the failure to 
differentiate the Shadow Children from the Sainte Anne aborigines 
doesn't really make any difference that I can see.   I think you're 
stretching quite a bit here. There is no indication in the text of an 
infection process by which a human is taken over by an aborigine, and 
such a process contradicts the logic of the story in multiple ways, for 

- Marsch was bitten by a cat, who was not VRT.  But Marsch's later 
imitator, however he arose, was VRT, not the previous occupant of the 
cat or a 'child' of the previous occupant of the cat.  I do not assume 
more than that Marsch died somehow, but it's very likely that copying 
someone involves consuming them in some fashion, so I won't rule it out. 
(Who killed the cat?  I am inclined to suspect it was the first step in 
VRT's attempt to 'convince himself' he was human, by cutting himself off 
from his aboriginal origin.)

- If the imitation proceeds by way of infection, why would 
shape-changing ever be necessary or relevant?  The shape-changing 
ability of VRT's mother is referenced.  Most people can't do that.

- New Marsch has the characteristic green eyes of the aborigines.  In an 
almost clunky passage of the second book, it is drummed into us that for 
the Marshmen "green is the colour of eyes".  Most people don't.

As for "Veil's Hypothesis", a wholesale takeover of first one planet and 
then, presumably the other, during which period both planets are still 
receiving colonists from Earth, *while nobody notices* is simply not 
credible in terms of the storyline.  Nor is there any indication that 
humans have forgotten how to use tools.  The lack of new buildings in 
Port Mimizon is the result of depopulation. Veil's Hypothesis is as Veil 
said, a fifty pound hypothesis to explain man's inhumanity to man, a 
theme which was precisely the punchline to another story discussed 
recently: _Our Neighbour, By David Copperfield_.

To my mind, the history and origin of the human-mimicking abos is set 
out very clearly in the second book, which is presumably VRT's 
understanding of what happened, gleaned from the stories of his mother 
and perhaps other abo contacts.  If we are going to accuse him of 
inventing a fake history, we need not only a coherent alternative 
(peoples' mileage may vary on what is coherent) but a reason for him to 
do it.  It is certainly not an attempt to convince himself he is human.  
[As for him trying to convince himself he is human, so long as it is not 
accepted too literally, I would think that a natural interpretation for 
anyone reading VRT.]

So I don't think there is anything un-straighforward here.

Wolfe's style is allusive, he rarely gives specifics of distance or time 
by which a detective could hang him, the story resonates with tales of 
Earthly colonisation in which the abos and the colonisers are indeed one 
species.  It's easy to find seeming hints leading in all directions,   
But it can't be denied that in the second book, we are given a specific 
origin story, and any hypothesis has to make sense in terms of either 
accepting that story, or explaining why Marsch constructed such an 
elaborate lie.

I think one could make a better case that everyone is human, than that 
everyone is abo.

- Gerry Quinn
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