I kid, I kid. Still I utterly loved that story, and I loved that you read it online. It's really quite an amazing set of connections (RUR sounds like it fits terrifyingly well too). A superb bit of literary sleuthing & sharing, there.
The thing that most surprised me in the episode was your surprise at the colonial violence. Glenn correctly points out a few of the historical precedents, but you both seemed surprised to find it portrayed in the future, in space, explaining it as due to the cold war. I guess I find it all=but inevitable, should people ever actually colonize other planets. (Incidentally, you mentioned Vietnam as a parallel to the first French & then English colonialism; it's worth bearing in mind that the Vietnam war was still going on as this novel was written — it came out in 1972 & the last American troops came home in 1973. It would have been a very live example for Wolfe at that time.)
You correctly point out that the theme of bodies, of the physicality of minds, is a theme of all these stories, and raise Mr. Milton as an example. But in a different way the clones are examples, too. Marsch speaks as if Number 5 and his father are the same person. That is both a recognition of the role of the body in the mind (what they have in common is the physicality of their DNA & the body it produces), but also a denial of it (they are, after all, in separate bodies). So it ties in with the "copying" too. To ask how physical a mind is is to ask whether minds can be copied. (Also relevant to the abos, of course.)
Why is the story written as it is? You mention some good reasons, although I would stress the "it's damn fun" even more than you did. But here are two other reasons. First, it allows for partial documents: the army officer is constantly picking up & putting down things at random, reading a bit, starting in the middle, etc, in a way that would be artificial and strained if it were just the documents given. Second, it draws (even more) attention to the fact that all we have so far are documents: one a memoir by Number 5, one "A Story" by John V. Marsch. In fact, the only "objective" (if they are that) facts in the entire book are the bits about the army officer!
In cataloging the 'objective' evidence for the Shadow Children — apart from "A Story" and the rumors — and list as one piece the stone tools in a museum on St. Croix. It only at that moment occurred to me what an odd piece of evidence that is. After all, as you yourselves noted in this episode, the inability of the Abos to use tools is referenced regularly, and is one of their defining characteristics. Whence the stone tools, then? They presumably were either made by Shadow Children, or other humans. It's a puzzle. And I wonder what light it casts on Veil's Hypothesis?
You mentioned that wonderful throwaway that "those paleolithic, Caucasoid Pygmies who came to be called the Good People (and who survived, as was eventually shown, in Scandanavia and Eire until the last years of the eighteenth century)". But it made me wonder if those weren't perhaps the origin of the Shadow Children. After all, since it looks like it was the French arriving at the end of "A Story", maybe there was a third wave? Maybe the Good People vanished in the 18th century because they somehow found a way to travel in space? (It would fit the "here for a long time" reading, of course.)
A few quick notes:
• You mentioned the sentence it appears in, but didn't mention one of my favorite Wolfe phrases ever: "Gutenberg courage". God that's perfect!
• Have you yet thought about Le Guin's story "Nine Lives" as a possible influence on Fifth Head — or, perhaps, a story he's reacting against? Mostly the first novella, as Le Guin's story is about clones. It came out in 1968, and was nominated for a Nebula award, so presumably Wolfe would have known it. Just a stray thought.
• I found it ironic that Glenn got the Ides of March wrong on air (even while recognizing that such slips are easy to make & inevitable in podcasts), not because he's a historian and probably knows it better than I, but because it's precisely the one everyone gets right usually, due to Shakespeare. Usually people erroneously think that, because of Julius Caesar, the Ideas is always the 15th, not realizing that 8 months of the year it's the 13th. But I've never heard the opposite before!
• Glenn: "I want someone to make me a play tower." Someone did! His name is Gene Wolfe. He made you a lot of them, actually.