(urth) May 2014 Wolfe interview in _Technology Review_

Marc Aramini marcaramini at gmail.com
Mon Jul 28 11:31:49 PDT 2014

The questioner Pontin conflates VRT with a shadow child in the question
erroneously.   VRT is "variance reduction techniques", an engineering term
for approximation.  When Ultan's library publishes my forty page paper it
will address all that stuff you bring up,  Gerry.  Unless you want me to
send you a copy off list.  At the end of a story both Sandwalker and the
human landers are switched, Eastwind by a bite echoed in the cat bite at
which point he kills his brother (and later Trenchard claims to be
descended from the east wind) and the landers suddenly slaughter when
"they" don't know what open hands mean - though it is the aborigines who
shouldn't know what open hands mean- humans do. That weird pronoun shift
indicates "they" have already empathized with the landers And switched
perspectives with them, though poorly. Later it is called ill fated and in
the section of VRT it is assumed that eastwind survives that encounter.

If victor takes the place if Marsch, then victor's death scene and the tree
teaching out for him as he falls is an outright lie.  Why didn't he want to
go see his parents?

On Monday, July 28, 2014, Gerry Quinn <gerry at bindweed.com> wrote:

> 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 example:
> - 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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