(urth) Palgrave History of Science Fiction (Eric Bourland)

Robert Pirkola rpirkola at hotmail.com
Fri Mar 16 13:20:19 PDT 2018

On March 7, 2018 Eric Bourland wrote:

> I respect how she managed herself in every jackpot she got thrown into.

It struck me that you used the word "jackpot" here.  There is a bit in the book that has always given me the fuddles:  "That girl wouldn't have unlocked the door for Jacob, Jack Pot, and Joan of Arc".  AEG, pg. 29.  Who is "Jack Pot" as used here?

>Chase is Wolfe . . . it took me a while to understand this. I think
>after I did understand, Chase made more sense to me. He's slightly
>sinister and we never really know about him. But also a magic man, and
>omnicompetent, but with those gifts comes uncertainty of intent.

I think that identifying GC as GW is interesting to think about but leaves me cold in the final analysis.  What can this do for the book?  Does it make it an exercise in elaborate meta-fiction?  That GC is the "author" of the book and thus capable of writing in any changes he wants without explanation?  If true, he can, with a stab of the keyboard, make ho-hum CC into a star!  He can turn Alexis from the star of The Red Spot into a waitress within a few pages!  He can deus ex any machina he wants (and perhaps every inexplicable part of the book is made explicable by this omnipotent ability of the character as author).  It can explain why GC is the only character other than CC who the third-person narrator reports on without CC being present (the opening chapter at the White House and the scene where GC is shot).  But if the explanation behind AEG's most inscrutable head pounders is simply GC is magic because an author is magic and he's Gene Wolfe, you see? so PRESTO!, then count me out.  I'm not suggesting that this is necessarily your thesis, but I would be interested in hearing your take on why it is important to identify GC and GW outside of a "hey isn't that clever, Gene Wolfe put some of himself into Gideon Chase!"  It is such a confounding book, any toe-hold can be a fun way to re-read the book, and maybe if you did so with this in mind, some interesting stuff would pop out.

>Wolfe adores Cassie, just as Gideon Chase adores Cassie. And I think he
>respects her. Both fellows respect her.
>"Like eat?"
>"Much too much," Cassie told her darkly.
>That statement arrived at just the right time, later in the story. Given
>earlier, it's gratuitous.

Yeah, it's a neat little statement.  But why?  Just because it's funny?  What would have been gratuitous about its use earlier?  Why does a person with a supposedly killer body and magically enhanced sex-appeal admit that she likes to eat much too much?  In fact, she does eat much too much throughout the book.  Why?

>She loved her king (Reis, whose name is king, and whose meaning in the
>story is king) with a love much more profound than her love for Chase.
>Yet she flies to meet Chase in the end, on Woldercan. I think she
>expended her beauty in order to obtain a craft that will convey her to
>Chase . . . and out of the story. She fought her way out, with great
>sacrifice and peril, but fair and square.
>I like to think about the things that Cassie wished for; what she
>actually got; what she got free of or escaped from; and what she was
>traveling to meet in the end.

Her fighting her way out of the story, out of the time loop that is a closed novel, to be with GC/GW on Woldercan is also appealing.  Is this book really that "meta"?  See my comments above on the ultra-meta approach and ditto them here.

>William Reis is the name of a character in another Wolfe story, I forget
>which one.

Why, that would be 1987's "The Other Dead Man".
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