Dec 21, 2018

My observations regarding abos


I just went through your two podcasts regarding 'A Story' by John V Marsch, and let me first start by saying their were some fantastic observations in podcast. Especially the second podcast where you went through the evolving religious divide on Saint Anne.


I generally communicate with you guys through twitter, but this my time my observations have become so long, that I have decided to write a post about it on the forum.


Following are some of my observations


1. Sand walker confuses the gift of priest and the dreams that as Eastwind, the priest’s gift is interesting because not only can sand walker who has lived all his life in hills can swim as good as an otter, but he can also remember the safe places of the otter, he can also catch fish and duck as an otter does.


This transformation is really fascinating, but the question which I have is, can Sandwalker now can absorb memories of a dead creature, or was this for one time only ?


2. Are the marsh men hunting shadow children? and was this the significant event which last voice discussed with Eastwind?


I think this is definitely the event which Lastvoice was talking to Eastwind about, where in they capture Sandwalker.


3. Sand walker when he says he can melt into the ground and make this sleeping place, and next time when he says that he slept at a place where few shrubs can grow, is clearly referring to he camouflaging himself against the ground so that he can’t be discovered, so basically a sleeping place can mean a place where the hilly men have such a huge camouflage going that it can’t be discovered by anyone. Also the marsh men have to form a circle while finding sand walker such a complete transformation or camouflage, sand walker is capable of.


Although this was the first question which you guys discussed in the podcast, but I think something is definitely going on regarding how the hill men are able to vanish in places which can be easily be found by someone.


4. The shifting stars the marsh men observed in their rivers are they spaceships which are coming to Saint Anne?

5. Sand walker also feels an contemptuous presence above the clouds, is he sensing the aliens on space ships?


I am interpreting this as aliens observing the species on Saint Anne, and preparing to land on Saint Anne. Also it can mean that there exists two completely different spiritual realms on hills and in marsh.


6. Also the marsh men seemed to be reading the stars to find a fate of their own, so they seemed a bit advanced as an society, but sandwalker’s society seemed to be treating the human body as existence of god, so he accuses of east wind of defiling it by killing flying feet.


I interpreted the accusation of Sandwalker as Eastwind violated god's own creation by killing flying feet for selfish purposes, but this open for interpretation.


7. When east wind says to sand walker that they both are same, makes me remember Maitre and the discussion number five have with Dr Marsch.


Is this our link to first story, and is this what Maitre and his subsequent generations trying to reproduce ?. But Maitre has some selfish motive behind it, and here these two brothers have a spiritual connection with each other, which can be produced artificially ?


8. I think the basic difference between the marsh men and the hill men is that, the hill men think that god is within us and can be found in nature, and maybe that’s why they revere trees which is a sort of oasis for them in high place, and the marsh men are trying to find god in sky, so they give a great importance to the stars and sky walking.

9. Everything in nature is made up of five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. Knowledge of the five elements allows the yogi to understand the laws of nature and to use yoga to attain greater health, power, knowledge, wisdom and happiness. This arises out of deep intuition of how the universe operates.

10. I think the abos especially the hill men are on the right path regarding the concept of god, because they operate with harmony in nature and the shadow children actually can teach them how to manipulate these elements and transcend to higher level of consciousness. The marsh people are going in exactly opposite direction by doing things forcibly like castrations of their star walkers, then drowning people to get more knowledge or eating the flesh of shadow children or hill people.


I think Marsch is trying to show us the evolution of religion on Saint Anne, but what is his purpose until now I am not quite sure about it.



Dec 22, 2018

Welcome to the forum! As always, you make some awesome observations.


1. I think this was a one-time-only deal, but I'll keep the rest of my thoughts for revelations in the wrap-up episodes.


2. Right, the significant event is the capture of Sandwalker, but I think that the action Lastvoice and Eastwind discuss is the capture of Sandwalker's family, who now are bait for Sandwalker to walk into their trap. It's the exact plot of The Empire Strikes Back in which Skywalker has the exact same vision while he is training with a magical priest in a cave.


3. Brandon has a LOT of thoughts about sleeping places, and other readers also have suggested that there is something physiological happening at the sleeping places -- perhaps the Hill People need to derive nutrients from lying in certain types of soil.


6. I agree that Sandwalker is angry about the murder and that this, too, is probably a violation of God's ideal in some way. God was the king who enforced peace on Sainte Anne, after all.


7. Yes, exactly. The twins here, like the clones in the first novella, point to the question of the role of nature and nurture in shaping our personalities. We're going to have a lot to say about this in our final wrap-up of the whole novel.


9. I'm interested in the addition of "space" here. What is meant by that? How does it differ from air? And can this be related back to the notion of "shaking extension"?


10. I agree that the Marshmen seem to be doing things wrong. They are heretics, at least from the perspective of the protagonist, and so we might also see that other choices they are making are heretical. And some of these choices are the first steps toward building civilization, which is at complete odds with the God's original intention for humans as we're told in Genesis.

Dec 23, 2018



The container for everything. It is pure possibility and potential.  It feels like stillness, freedom, and awareness.  Space is both a cause and the result of a blissful yoga practice (and life).  It supports and fuels transformation by providing a place for the magic to happen.  Creating space requires discipline, but experiencing it is pure freedom.


Creating space in your yoga is a matter of... Being present and aware of what you're holding in, up or onto – whether it is a thought, an emotion, or any form of tension -- and allowing yourself to let it go.




Movement, expansion and lightness.  The breath in and out of the body, the opening and contraction of the muscles and the mind.  The element of air gives us rhythm, grace, mobility and a sensation of mental and physical openness.  Air fuels the body and stokes the fire of inspiration.

Infusing air into your yoga comes from... An awareness of the breath.  Pranayama or breath control  is a great way to open and tap into the subtle channels of the body -- clearing the way for ideas, inspiration, energy and love to flow.  As you move through life and your practice, notice how the breath feeds the body and mind.  Breathe into the expansion and contraction of the muscles, joints, and connective and supportive tissues to create the sensation of lightness and openness.


I just got this from searching the difference between Space & Air for a yogi, but according to Hindu mythology these five elements have a very big importance in our life. Most of Hindu traditions involve worshiping these five elements in one form or another.



Dec 23, 2018

@Sumant Natkar Thank you for pointing this out and for explaining it. I have no training in anything beyond the Mediterranean and I find this super interesting. Space sounds exactly like what Wolfe is thinking about when he is writing about "shaking extension." Brandon has a lot to say about extension in one of our two (!) wrap-up episodes for this novel, and I'll look forward to more of your insights in a few weeks.

New Posts
  • 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. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.
  • 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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