(urth) May 2014 Wolfe interview in _Technology Review_

Marc Aramini marcaramini at gmail.com
Mon Jul 28 11:33:07 PDT 2014

The tree reaching out for him - sorry for several typos below.
On Monday, July 28, 2014, Marc Aramini <marcaramini at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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
> <javascript:_e(%7B%7D,'cvml','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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