Jan 5

Is David the real author of "A Story" by John V. Marsch?


Edited: Jan 5

I thought about this while driving around today. The middle novella is presented in situ, with no reference to its origin in either the preceding or following novellas. The prisoner in "V.R.T." makes reference to his intent to write a novel ("I was thinking of doing a novel, a great many books have been written in prisons—and it would only confuse my case. I will destroy the pages at the first opportunity") but that could be a Wolfeian head-fake. The best evidence this theory might be true relates to the unanswered question of just how David knew the details of Abo culture in his discussion with Number 5 and Mr. Million - the shell-flails, the use of roots to poison the water, etc. - would be easily explained if David included these ideas in a novella he wrote as an adult.


David is the most likely character to have literary ambitions - he is well-read in literature from an early age. The story could in some respects be a retelling of the events of "The Fifth Head" from David's perspective. We aren't told how David reacted to the homicide of Maitre, but as we know he lost any inheritance ("...the court—so I was told much later—could find no proof that David was indeed my father’s son, and made my aunt his heir") and had sought "the political power that money could buy". We can guess that he might have been a little peeved at Number 5's homicidal actions. If this theory is true, it could be that Sandwalker is meant to represent the more athletic David, and the more bookish Number 5 is represented by Eastwind. Eastwind does kill (along with Number 5) his father figure Lastvoice, who like Maitre is a kind of mad-scientist (dissecting women and all), but also (by order of the two-person theological elite of which Eastwind is the junior associate) Eastwind's biological father Bloodyfinger - we are told by the Old Wise One that Sandwalker bears a considerable resemblance to Bloodyfinger (who also provided extra food to the young Sandwalker) - and since they are twins, of course he would be the father of Eastwind as well. Both Maitre and Lastvoice seek knowledge of why things are not going they way they should.


The Old Wise One could well be an analogue for Mr. Million, in this retelling of events. I'm always suspicious of conspicuously unnamed characters in a story by Gene Wolfe, and of characters who drop quietly out of the narrative. The unnamed secret police officer examining the file relating to the prisoner in "V.R.T." could well be David, who we are told went to the capital (of St. Croix) after Number 5's imprisonment. The officer seems to be in the capital while he is examining the file, and could eventually have access to the novel the prisoner plans to write, which could be tweaked to include elements of David's family history.


Why would the story be falsely attributed to John V. Marsch by David?


I don't know, at this point, or if this idea holds water. Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated.



I love it. Even as we've already recorded all our episodes on the novel, I remain bothered by the author of "A Story"'s knowledge about that conversation in the Port-Mimizon library. This solves that problem, though, as you point out, it does raise the problem of why David would ascribe the authorship to John V. Marsch. But we will eventually learn that Dr. Marsch was well known among the intellectual elite of at least Port-Mimizon, and so it may be beneficial to David to use his name rather than his own (which is no doubt notorious because of the murder).


I don't like your assertion that the officer in V.R.T.'s frame narrative is David, but only because I want David to have escaped his family and become "good." But we do know that he is ambitious, and this officer is likewise ambitious and also extremely clever and clearly headed for a position of power, so I think it could work. It would also make for an interesting comment on the last line of the first novella and on the theme of nature vs. nurture. If this is David, then he is succeeding at exactly what Maitre has been trying to do.

Maybe the reason David couldn't publish under his own name is that the Secret Police have a pre-publication review policy.

@mickjeco Haha, indeed. Now I wonder if the whole story isn't actually just a coded message to David's allies in some sort of political resistance. Sure it seems like great literature, but it's really just timetables of arms shipments.

Mar 10Edited: Mar 10

I am wondering the same thing after reading Part-III of V.R.T. because the kind of wannabe nature Marsch has, it just seems unlikely to me that the kind of research which A Story requires could be done by him, because he just doesn't have a clue of how to go about it in an analytical way.


While both the sons which Maitre has nurtured have been given the specific kind of training, do this kind of research, now we know that number #5 was obsessed with dissections, while David was more inclined towards philosophy and sociology, which is exactly what A Story is about.


Also V.R.T. refers to Tempus just as The River, and does not attach any such significance to it, which Marsch seems to be giving, I think the Tempus is what the french people named the river, and this particular reference of the river being very important has been present in A Story, so maybe it got picked by the researcher who wrote it.


But there such less information given to us regarding what happened to David after Maitre was murdered, also Part-III gives us the exact timeline, where we have Marsch getting arrested on Port Mimizon at the time of Maitre's killing. If only we could get some hint regarding A Story's timeline in the final novella.


Also another puzzle for me is why did Marsch first land up on Saint Anne, and then visit doctor Aubrey Veil in Port Mimizon, was it due to the fact that his efforts to find in his own words any Annese have proved futile, and he is just trying to get some clue from Aunt Geniene.


Because normally I think what a newbie researcher would have done is visit so called experts in the field, to get some information about how they carried their research in the field to come with a theory such as veil Hypothesis, and would have chosen the same track to shed some new light on research regarding Abos, but what Marsch is doing is simply puzzling to me.

The question of why he would go to St. Anne first is easily explained by the cost of international travel. Too pricey to hit St. Croix first. It's not like going to France before heading over to England.

Mar 10Edited: Mar 10

I think that maybe one of the big keys to the mysteries of this trio of novellas is the climax of the first novella, when "John Marsch" (who is presumably a shape-shifted VRT, at least half-abo), #5, and the Maitre are all in the room together...and then, after a huge ellipsis, #5 tells us he was sent to prison for the murder - and in the third novella, we are told Marsch/VRT is arrested in his boarding house for the same crime. Marsch/VRT is silent about what happened in Maitre's office.


“I’ve never accepted Veil’s Hypothesis. I called on everyone here who had published anything in my field. Really, I don’t have time to listen to this.”


“You are an abo and not from Earth.”


And in a short time my father and I were alone.



#5 later tells us that he did, in fact, murder the Maitre. But was Marsch/VRT (who it is implied, may have already murdered the real Marsch) present when the murder took place? How did #5, with very little data, intuit that Marsch/VRT was an abo? Was he simply exploring possibilities, as he was taught to do by Mr. Million? Did he make a provocative statement (which by happenstance was correct) to make Marsch/VRT leave, so #5 could commit the murder? How did Marsch/VRT react to being exposed as an Abo? Did he simply leave? Would he have considered the exposure as a danger to his safety? Did Marsch/VRT assist in the murder, or help #5 attempt to dispose of the body before his departure for the boarding house, in return for #5's silence about his Abo identity? Disposal by dissection seems like a likely M.O. for #5. If #5 was disposed towards trying to obtain a lesser sentence, exposing Marsch/VRT as an abo living on St, Croix would have been a big bargaining chip. Did he reveal that in the post-arrest interrogation, and is that why Marsch was actually arrested? There does not seem to be any urgency or awareness that the prisoner (presumably Marsch/VRT) is an Abo in the investigation taking place in the third novella, though. If the secret police are Abo Marshmen themselves, as I think is strongly hinted with the mirror scene, this might not be a surprise to them, though. How did the police become aware that Maitre had been murdered? It seems unlikely that Mr. Maitre would tell them, David was already part of a plan to do so, Aunt Jeaninne might have but rarely came in his chambers. Marsch did not seem to do so. One of the prostitutes might, and some could have been informants for the police, but it seems less likely. Possibly the Maitre's valet? For a while, I played around with the hypothesis that, as happened in each of the other novellas, there was an identity switch, possibly through a bite (Sandwalker becomes Eastwind, VRT becomes John Marsch) and that Marsch/VRT assumed the identity of #5 and he was sent to prison as #5 and #5 was sent to prison as Marsch - but I don't think that makes sense. In the same way the bite of the Shadowchild Wolfe in "A Story" causes some kind of identity switch between Sandwalker and Eastwind, it seems plausible that the bite of the cat who has been stalking Marsch and VRT (is the cat a Shadowchild?) may be what transformed Marsch into...a Marsch/VRT/Shadowchild hybrid? It's hard to say.




I have also been puzzled by how and when the police became aware of the murder of Maitre. If we can believe the account in V.R.T., they've become aware of it almost immediately -- even before Dr. Marsch gets home from his visit to the brothel. But we will get some more information about this at the end of V.R.T.

Mar 10Edited: Mar 10

I think as we go on reading the novella, I hope it becomes clear that why Marsch has been arrested, because I too thought on the first read that Marsch was an probable suspect in Maitre's murder, but the kind of policing we see on St Croix is a joke, so I don't think that can be a probable reason.


But I think we are on right track when we are questioning who the real author of A Story is, what about Ar Aubrey Veil, because not only has she published a known paper on abos, it is quite possible she hands some papers as evidence to Marsch which proves her theory, and may be Marsch published it afterwards attaching his name to it. Also it is these papers which made him so confident of securing a good position with perks with university in St Croix.

Mar 10Edited: Mar 10

@Sumant Natkar Wow, Jeannie/Aubrey Veil as the author should be really obvious but I never thought of that. She appears to have a lot of knowledge on the Abos. One could even argue that David and #5 could have made their statements about Abo life to her. Interesting... Mr. Million, who was privy to David and #5's conjectures about Abo culture, could also be the author...

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Mar 12Edited: Mar 12

It's worthwhile, I think, to look at the zeitgeist at the time that Wolfe was writing a particular story. About 4 years before the "Fifth Head" novellas were written, there was a great deal of attention paid in the media to a book containing a first person account by a young UCLA anthropologist who claimed to have travelled alone to a foreign land, and had drug-fueled mystical experiences under the tutelage of a native shaman. The anthropologist, Carlos Castaneda, became wildly popular and the first and other books in the series were huge bestsellers. The experiences were probably a strong influence on the Jedi training scenes in Star Wars, according to some sources. But even by the time Wolfe was writing "Fifth Head", scholars familiar with the region of Mexico and the Yaqui tribal culture where Castaneda claimed to have his adventures were casting doubt on the veracity of his books. They are now widely considered by scholars to have been complete fiction. It's at least possible that if Wolfe intended (the real) John Marsch as the author of "A Story", it could have been intended as a knock on Castaneda's books. It's worth thinking about, anyway. It doesn't read much like a legitimate scholarly paper, but more like the kind of folkloric account Castaneda created, to try to create some popular culture and academic notoriety.

Oh! I wish we'd been armed with this insight when we recorded our wrap-up episodes! There's a lot of charlatanry about Dr. Marsch, for sure.

Mar 12

On the other hand, one of the issues that seems to lessen the likelihood that Marsch- the real Marsch - created this story out of whole cloth is that Sandwalker seems unlikely to be the sort of protagonist he would create. Sandwalker is the closest we see to a traditional hero in all 3 novellas - he is brave, courteous (even to the Shadowchildren) moral (by the standards of his culture and religious faith), protective of others, thoughtful and inquisitive - he is essentially a chivalric knight on a quest, as you've pointed out on the podcast. His story follows a traditional hero's quest narrative flow. He is gentle and kind towards young women, and protective of his mother. Marsch, whether the real Marsch, VRT having shape-shifted into Marsch, a Shadowchild-possessed-via-cat-bite-Marsch, or a Cat-Shadowchild-created-Marsch/VRT-hybrid (none of which I rule out), is anything but that kind of protagonist, especially in his attitudes to women, which are creepy and manipulative. If this story was narrated by VRT as an example of traditional lore, and transcribed by Marsch while still on St, Anne, it would make more sense, and would be likely to be among the documents the secret police officer is examining.

I just don't see how it could be Marsch writing the story. We see in VRT him learning the details that are in the story; and then, too soon afterwards, we see (or at least so we are interpreting the story, I think correctly) him killed and replaced by VRT. When would he have done it? To make him the author you have to throw out too much of VRT.

Jun 16

Yeah, I agree, Stephen. I threw out the above idea while spitballing possible scenarios, but I think VRT is the actual author and it was composed (and seized by the authorities) while he was in prison.

Mar 12

I'm sure you guys will discuss the figure of the stalking cat on St. Anne more in following podcasts, and whether it could be a Shadowchild or Abo in disguise, but it just occurred to me that we are told in a brief mention that the bureaucracy on St. Croix actually has bureaucrats who are cat inspectors. If the bureaucrats are (in whole or in part) the descendants of the Marshmen Abo culture, and are concerned that Hill People could attempt to infiltrate their society in the form of cats, this would make a kind of sense.

Brandon got rather obsessed with this cat, so you can definitely expect more on this topic.

Mar 19Edited: Mar 19

I don't think I've ever read and re-read a novel so much in my life. It seems almost infinitely rich. My best guess in the end is that there is a switch in Maitre's lab between the consciousnesses of John Marsch (who has already melded with the half Abo, half-human Victor) and Number 5, in what sounds like a set-up by Maitre, possibly as an attempted end-run around the insoluble problem of his clonal line's genetic stagnation. This seems to be managed by the kind of saliva-based biochemical melding action we are told happened when Wolf the Shadowchild bit Sandwalker - and we do see an unnamed demimondaine kiss - "swap spit," as we used to say as horny teens - John Marsch, who is probably a Marsch/Victor hybrid due to a cat bite. before departing, with "the sound of a switch," as #5 helpfully informs us. #5 and Marsch/Victor then share a psychic oneness, which explains why "A Story", (presumably written later in the St. Croix prison) includes details #5 knows - the incidents from dreams, the discussions he had as a child about Abo culture, the comments The Old Wise One says about Poictesme and Gonawanda,. It also explains how #5 suddenly knows Marsch is an Abo, or at least "half-abo", which he is, whether through the possibly half-human Victor or through a meld of the two personalities. What happens in the ellipsis? Does Marsch/Victor and #5 join in killing Maitre, as Sandwalker and Eastwind join in killing Lastvoice? After they go their separate ways, they each go to prison - is #5 now the dominant personality in the body of the prisoner whose case is being examined by the secret police officer Maitre in "V.R.T.", and is Marsch /Victor the dominant personality in the body of #5 in the prison camp in the end of the first novella? If this is true, Maitre's attempt to introduce a new kind of outcrossing into the stagnant clonal line ironically ends in stagnation, with the Marsch/Victor/#5 hybrid at the end of the first novella beginning the same cycle of running the bordello on a corrupt, stagnant backwater planet, and beginning what is apparently a new clonal experiment; and the #5/Marsch/Victor once again under the control of another Maitre as he was as a child, doomed to live out his remaining existence in a prison cell. Also possible: Maitre survives as part of this meld after his physical death. This all would explain who the 5 heads of Cerberus are - a meld, or a pair of melds, of the half-Abo Victor, a Shadowchild's drug-infused sputum and consciousness, the Terran anthropologist John Marsch, the clone Number 5. and Maitre, his clonal father - now doubled into two bodies like the persistent pattern of doubling throughout the novellas, each resident in his own particular Hell. It also explains the final line of the first novella - "Someday they'll want us" - the hope, probably in vain. that the new meld of stagnant consciousnesses will change anything.

Reminds me of a movie I watched long time back, where that person has seven split personalities, and the movie completely takes place in his head, and the personalities go on murdering one another, until only one of them remains as a dominant character.

What movie is this? I'm asking for a friend. The friend is Brandon, who loves this type of movie.

I think the book ending give us a definite answer that the author of A Story is definitely VRT, but I still think he does not have the adequate knowledge or the actual experience, to right such a detail story.


He would have probably written it with collaboration with Aunt Jeanine.

I read "A Story" as a fantasy and therefore not requiring any knowledge. What knowledge do you think that he needed from Aunt Jeanine or another person?

I think your interpretation to read it as a fantasy is correct, but there are some very minute details in A Story, which describes the religion of two species, thrown into the mix are also shadow children.


Although VRT does provide us an outline as to how A Story was shaped up, but I don’t think he has content to write this story.


Also all his experiences related to abos was when his mother was present with him, and he completely fails to find any abo species when he stays in back of beyond for a long time, he does not have any technique to find them.


Especially significant to me is no mention of sleeping places which we get a mention of time and again in A Story.


He met Aunt Genie multiple times, and they interviewed some of her girls, so it can be concurred that she too was doing some sort of experiments, and considering that Veils Hypothesis is considered as agreed theory in this planet system, she must have done solid research more than VRT to come up with it.


Aunt Gene can’t publish her research as it may harm her brothers position in the echelons of government, so why not help an abo hybrid who has genuine concerns regarding abo culture to publish something important regarding abo culture.

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  • Damn that was a good story. I last read it in the 1970’s before I went to medical school (I am now an internist and geriatrician). It didn’t make much of an impression on me then, but it sure does now! I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but am looking forward to doing so. I will share my thoughts about the medical aspects of the story. There are some spoilers, so read the story first. Medical schools are adding close reading of literature and patient narratives to their curricula. (1) This would be an excellent source for that. I’ll show how that might be done. Page numbers are from the 1st Orb edition of The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories. Page 80 - ‘a stubble of brown hair threatened to erase the marks of the sutures; with dilated eyes…he paused’ The boy has had head trauma and/or brain surgery. A drug or toxin is likely responsible for both eyes being dilated. A unilateral dilated eye would indicate acute brain damage. Page 86 - ‘his head swaying from side to side as he walked, like the sensor of a mine detector.’ He probably has a visual field defect, possibly related to the brain surgery/trauma. Page 86 - “I set fires to things.” Could the surgery have been a lobotomy to control his behavior? Page 88 - “and cut all the way through my corpus callosum.” Nick’s brain surgery was a corpus callosotomy. (2) This surgery is usually done in patients with difficult to control seizures. The main side effect is problems with speech and alien hand syndrome—control of the non-dominant hand. (3) Nowadays, newer medications and other neurosurgical procedures have mostly supplanted callosotomy. Page 88 - “I only see what is on the right of what I’m looking at, and the other side…only the left.” This is known as a hemianopsia (4) and is a result of the callosotomy. The ‘I’ is the speaking half of Nick—the left side of his brain -or- “left-brain Nick.” Page 89 - “He had uncontrollable seizures.” “Did you?” the girl asked. “I had visions.” We find out the reason for Nick’s callosotomy. He had visual auras before the seizures when he would “see things.” Nick seemed to enjoy these auras and was probably upset when they ended. Page 91 - “there’s something you ought to know about Diane, she gets confused sometimes, we’ve had her to doctors, she’s been in the hospital…try not to get her excited.” Diane has some major Issues. The most likely conditions to cause a 19 year old to be hospitalized would be major depression, a debilitating anxiety disorder like OCD, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Although Diane is skinny, anorexia nervosa is unlikely because the treatment certainly wouldn’t be stranding her on an island with no food! Page 92 - Diane said, “I feel better when it rains.” “That should help you to understand yourself.” Is Dr. Island using cognitive behavioral therapy? (5) Although this is a rather expensive way of doing it! Page 94-95 - “Sickness is…relative” “Diane was not functioning…you were not functioning either.” This is a major motif of the story; illness, specifically mental illness, is defined by society. In our society, a schizophrenic person may take a night job at the post office working alone, then go home to their one bedroom apartment and pull the shades to keep out the world. They would watch TV, eat dinner, go to sleep. They are content and even happy with this routine. They are contributing to society. Are they mentally ill? Page 96 - “We have treatment for disturbed persons…but we have no treatment for disturbing persons.” “Disturbing persons” - people with personality disorders? The best you can do is place limits on people with personality disorders and teach their families/friends how to cope with them. If they become unmanageable, societies tend to place them in prison. Could Dr. Island be a prison? Page 97 - ‘He noticed…that she was looking at him oddly, then realized that his left hand had risen to touch her right breast.’ Alien Hand Syndrome! (3) “Right-brain Nick” is acting inappropriately. Page 98 - “They kept me locked up because I kept burning stuff…I bite people.” Again, “right-brain Nick” is causing all these problems. Page 98 - “Then they stuck me full of Tranquil-C.” That is why Nick’s eyes were dilated. Page 98 - “I still think you’re angry somewhere, deep down.” Taking away Nick’s auras (visions) could be the root of his anger. Perhaps the visions occurred in “right-brain Nick” and that’s why he burns things? Or is "right-brain Nick" just frustrated at his lack of control? Page 101 - “My knees are rough…when I came here they were still smooth…I used to put a certain lotion on them. Because my Dad would feel them…Mum wouldn’t say anything but she would be cross after.” I don’t know Diane’s diagnosis yet, but we have a good idea what may have caused her decompensation. Page 104 - ‘There was no reply. The girl sat staring at the ground in front of her…she did not move when he touched her. “She’s catatonic isn’t she,” he said. “Catatonic schizophrenia.” We now know Diane’s problem; she has schizophrenia. Catatonia is no longer consider a subtype of schizophrenia and is more a part of the symptomatology. (6) Schizophrenia affects young adults and is a chronic condition. Some do well, but many others have major disabilities and suffer from problems with functioning and socializing. It seems that Diane is quite disabled and has a poor prognosis. It is possible that her decompensation was caused by an abusive father. Page 104 - ‘The doctor had been a therapy robot, but a human doctor gave more status. Robots’ patients sat in doorless booths…and talked to something that appeared to be a small, friendly, food freezer.’ I have never heard of Amana being involved in cognitive behavioral therapy. Page 104 - “What is the cause? I mean for her?” “I don’t know.” “And what’s the treatment?” “You are seeing it.” “Will it help her?” “Probably not.” With all their space bending technology, it seems that the prognosis for schizophrenia hasn’t changed much in the Wolfe-ian future. Page 113 - “Your record shows no auditory hallucinations, but haven’t you ever known someone who had them?” “I knew a girl once…she twisted noises.” Auditory hallucinations are very common in schizophrenia. Ambient background noises are screened out by the normal brain. People with schizophrenia are unable to ignore them and experience the noise as voices saying bad things to/about them. The voices could also be internally produced by the brain.(7) Page 115 - “Let Ignacio tell you a story…” After unpacking Ignacio’s tale, it seems that he is a feral child. Unlike other feral children, he was taught language and self-care skills. His only lack was human contact and learning how to interact with others. Feral children have a lot of problems becoming socialized and integrating back into society. They usually aren’t homicidal. (8) Perhaps being a “high-tech” feral made him violent to others. Page 119 - “Did I tell you about the bird, Nicholas?” She had been not-listening again. “What bird?” “I have a bird. Inside…She sits in here. She has tangled a nest in my entrails, where she sits and tears at my breath with her beak. I look healthy to you, don’t I? But inside I’m hollow and rotten and turning brown, dirt and old feathers, oozing away. Her beak will break through soon.” Okaaay, as Nick would say. This dispels any doubts that Diane has schizophrenia. She has a somatic delusion, which, while not as common as paranoid delusions, are frequent in schizophrenia. “Usually the false belief is that the body is somehow diseased, abnormal or changed.” (9) Page 119 - “I have been trying to drink water to drown (the bird.) I think I have swallowed so much, I couldn’t stand up if I tried…” Diane has psychogenic polydipsia, which is common in schizophrenia. They can drink gallons every day—so much so that they disrupt their electrolyte balance and develop very low serum sodium levels. (10) Page 125 - “About 100 years ago, Dr. Harlow experimented with monkey’s who had been raised in complete isolation.” Harry Harlow is a real person who did indeed perform these experiments as Dr. Island has carefully outlined. Harlow was a Professor of Psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. (11) Many of those experiments are now considered an unethical treatment of animals. I suspect that the inspiration for The Island of Dr. Death came about when Wolfe read about Harlow’s research. You might consider Dr. Death to be a 2150 version of Harlow. ================Major Spoilers================== Page 129 - “Nicholas, you are upset now because Diane is dead—” “But you could have saved her!” “—but by dying she made someone else—someone very important—well. Her prognosis was bad; she really only wanted death, and this is the death I chose for her.” This is the death I chose for her. Those words are the core of the story; did Dr. Island have the right to sacrifice an individual for the greater good? In medical ethics, this encapsulates the conflict and tension between the ethical models of deontology and utilitarianism. (12) It seems that Dr. Island is a firm believer in the later. This is why The Death of Dr. Island would be a great source for a close reading of literature. It is a natural jumping-off-point for a spirited discussion of medical ethics. Page 130 - “Nicholas, who was the right side of your body, the left side of your brain, I have forced into catatonia.” Dr Island has essentially killed “left-brain Nick,” the person who has been our view point for the entire story. This is the death Dr. Island has chosen for Nick. Did he have the right to do so? REFERENCES 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4721945/ 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_callosotomy 3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_hand_syndrome 4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemianopsia 5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy 6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia 7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory_hallucination 8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child 9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delusion 10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_polydipsia 11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Harlow 12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4778182/
  • My wife and I listened to this episode on the long drive back from a music festival this weekend. The podcast caused great discussion in the car, making the miles go that much faster. Jessica thinks that Wolfe didn't have the new messiah being born to one of Zozz's people because it would have overly complicated and lengthened the story. I agree. It got me to thinking about what Wolfe's inspiration might have been. Then I remembered that National Lampoon had an infamous cover of an alien crucifixion done by Frank Frazetta. The question is, when did it appear? A little research showed that it it was probably on the streets in May 1972. La Befana appeared in the January 1973 issue of Galaxy; probably too soon after the Nat Lamp issue for it to have been an inspiration--unless Frazetta let Wolfe see it before publication. Nah. Here is the National Lampoon cover.
  • Hello, from indecisively sunny Tasmania! This is my first post, so I'd just like to say first and foremost that I am really enjoying the Wolfe podcast, which I started listening to after The Fifth Head of Cerberus enraptured me (It's quickly become one of my favourite books), and which I'm now darting in and out of as I read his Book of Days . Anywho, I can't fully recall the episodes on 'A Story by John V. Marsch', so forgive me if you mentioned it and this is a redundant post. But I was just paging through Jack Vance's Dying Earth , which is a known inspiration for BotNS, and noticed that in the chapter on 'Mazirian the Magician' the title character spends some time trifling with 'Thrang the Ghoul-Bear', and it struck me as intensely likely that this inspired the creature in the aforementioned novella, not just for the name but a particular sentence within the passage he appears. The passage reads thusly, though of course this spoils the Ghoul-Bear in that story, not that he plays a large role: "Thrang's lair was an alcove in the rock, where a fetid pile of grass and skins served him for a couch. He had built a rude pen to cage three women, these wearing many bruises on their bodies and the effects of much horror on their faces. Thrang had taken them from the tribe that dwelt in silk-hung barges along the lake-shore . Now they watched as he struggled to subdue the woman he had just captured. His round gray man's face was contorted and he tore away her jerkin with his human hands. But she held away the great sweating body with an amazing dexterity. Mazirian's eyes narrowed. Magic, Magic! So he stood watching, considering how to destroy Thrang with no harm to the woman. But she spied him over Thrang's shoulder. "See," she panted, "Mazirian as come to kill you." Thrang twisted about. He saw Marizian and came charging on all fours, venting roars of wild passion. Mazirian later wondered if the ghoul had cast some sort of spell, for a strange paralysis strove to bind his brain. Perhaps the spell lay in the sight of Thrang's raging gray-white face, the great arms thrust out to grasp. Mazirian shook off the spell, if such it were, and uttered a spell of his own, and all the valley was lit by streaming darts of fire, lashing in from all directions to split Thrang's blundering body in a thousand places. This was the Excellent Prismatic Spray-many-colored stabbing lines. Thrang was dead almost at once, purple blood flowing from countless holes where the radiant rain had pierced him." I personally think Thrang comfortably shares the same attributes as Wolfe's Ghoul-Bear: huge, thick-limbed, and stinking (sweat rarely smells pleasant). Maybe I'm reading too deeply, but a tribe that dwells in silk-hung barges along a lake shore sounds at least superficially similar to the Marshmen. Further, the specific lake they dwell next to is called 'Sanra Water, the Lake of Dreams', which you could perhaps posit has something in common with the plan to kill Sandwalker and have his soul flow into the sea and out to the stars. I'm no literary buff, but I think there's enough textual evidence to cite a clear connection between the two, especially as Jack Vance so influenced Wolfe's later work. In any event it made me feel very big-brained.

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