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

Eric Bourland eb at hwaet.com
Mon Mar 19 12:17:27 PDT 2018

Dear Robert,

Thank you for these interesting thoughts.

Speaking only for myself, it's not my business if Cassie is pregnant, or 
not. And, her weight is not my business.

Her body, her rules.

If I were to observe her, measure her, judge her, then I'm just an 
insecure, little man. Measuring and judging is what humans do to farm 
animals. So I look her in the face and I don't judge her. Even just 
reading her as a character in a fine, lovely story, I still do that -- 
I'm looking her in the face.

If Cassie were pregnant and felt I needed to know about it, then she 
(Wolfe) would tell me. For this reader, the story works just fine 
whether she is pregnant or not.

When Cassie worries about her weight, she is responding to unrealistic 
and damaging demands of a patriarchal society that seeks to force her to 
adopt a prescribed appearance, and submit to measuring and judgment -- 
or face penalties of every kind, up to and including death.

This is one component (of countless components) of rape culture.

I quite imagine Mr. Wolfe was well aware of this when he wrote the 
character of Cassie. I hope he was. I think he's a percipient, 
sagacious, and essentially kind man, though I have not met him except 
through thousands of pages of his stories that I have read over and over 
through many years.

Please consider something, if you would. I wonder if applying such a 
close study to Cassie's weight, and to the possibility of her pregnancy, 
forces Cassie to become an object that we observe and judge. Myself, I 
refuse to do this to Cassie or to any woman.

What would you say to Cassie if you were seated across from her in 
Walker's? I'd buy her a drink and talk about show biz and the weather on 

 >>>however much I'd like it to be so

I also wonder if this is a dangerous position for any scholar. =)

Yours with respect,


On 3/19/2018 11:55 AM, Robert Pirkola wrote:
> Eric:  Point taken on Wolfe putting himself into the characters.  I certainly don't dispute that he does so and it can be quite fun and interesting (see, e.g., "Houston, 1943").  My tendency is to think GW is having a  laugh at one level, but providing something deeper for the novel as well, doing double duty.  Certainly, not everything he writes needs such depth, however much I'd like it to be so.  I have done a good deal of looking on that Jack Pot thing and have not uncovered  anything, and I've tried to visit all the old watering holes.  I did ask a few of those questions of you to see if you had come up with any good explanations that may have eluded others as it seemed you have given AEG a good bit of time and thought, and praise  you for that.  I think that CC is eating so darn much because she's pregnant and despite everyone's protestations to the contrary, objectively she's not as slender as most everyone insists.  Margaret seems to know her true proportions.  A portion of my write-up might help explain where I am coming from:
> The Biblical story told in the Book of Revelation 12 about the woman and the dragon shares much with the latter narrative of An Evil Guest.  James B. Jordan, a Gene Wolfe scholar steeped in a deep knowledge of Christianity, has discussed the details from a theological perspective.  See Urth List, “AEG: More Theology”, James B. Jordan, October 28, 2008.  The text of Revelation 12 practically speaks for itself when read in combination with Chapter 24 of An Evil Guest, but it also provides several subtle confirmations of things only hinted at.  For one, Revelation 12:2 reveals that the woman clothed with the sun “being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.”  Cassie is fat throughout the book and getting fatter.  Is she being fattened up for sacrifice?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  While she has the glamour, she doesn’t realize (and since everyone is affected, no one else can either [India Dempster thinks that CC weighs just over 100 lbs., pg. 135.]) that she is steadily putting on weight.  She eats terribly fattening foods.  Even when she vows to change her eating habits and stop drinking, she very quickly reverts.  She also talks about fattening up on hotel food and she continues eating decadently in Takanga.  She is described as having a tiny little waist, pg. 106.  This appears to be part of her transformation, pg. 106.  However, she is measured by Margaret and has a 37 3/8” waist, pg. 107.  This is XL/XXL in Women’s sizing charts.  http://www.tactics.com/info/womens-sizing-charts.  Margaret tells CC that her skirt is too big, but CC puts it on without allowing Margaret to adjust its size as she offered to do, pg. 108.  CC thinks herself fat, pg. 108.  “If I get any fatter that grass skirt’s going to slide down to my knees.”, pg. 135.  This is an odd statement.  What does it mean?  If you have an extremely large belly then you might have to wear a really large grass skirt.  If it were to slip past the large belly, nothing would hinder its sliding to your knees after.  She “struggled into her wool coat”, pg. 216.  She says “I’m too fat” for a bikini, pg. 220.  She admits that she likes to eat “much too much”, pg. 225.  On Takanga, she is eating and eating, chugging piña coladas, pg. 228.  She thinks she will be too fat when she gets back from Takanga to fit into her costumes, pg. 228.  She has been “fattening on hotel food”, pg. 244.  She is said to be fatter than she is beautiful and kind, pg. 244.  Diana Diamond calls her plump, pg. 279.  Before her island ordeal, women thought she was fat, pg. 300.
> She is, of course, pregnant.  But pregnant with whose baby?  And what happens to the child?  One can hardly talk about the idea that CC may be pregnant without bringing up her mysterious statement:  “The devil’s son is born tonight.”  (pg. 281).  Note that when CC says it, it is not night, nor is it night when the sacrifice occurs.  So what is she talking about?  The “Midnite Movies” DVD cover for the film of The Dunwich Horror (1970) bears the words “the devil’s spawn”.  See also, “The Dunwich Horror”, The Thing On the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories, pp. 211, 245.  “some day yew folks’ll hear a child o’ Lavinny’s a-callin’ its father’s name on the top o’ Sentinel Hill!”  After having watched the movie, however, no similar line is spoken.   Even so, I don’t think it is just a coincidence that these connections can be made.  There are resonances between “The Dunwich Horror” and Revelation 12 as well.
> Revelation 12:5 “she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and [to] his throne.”  Wilbur Whateley is himself a man child, growing at faster than normal rates after being born, eventually reaching nearly 9 feet tall at the age of fifteen.  [The Thing on the Doorstep, “The Dunwich Horror”, pg. 223].  The man child of An Evil Guest could be a reference to Gideon himself or to Rian Reis.  Both seem to age too quickly for the timeline information we are given.
> Marc:  I have finished the Latro books.  Nearly a year ago now.  I guess I can join the chorus of pining for further installments.
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Eric Bourland
eb at hwaet.com

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