Jun 14

Random Thoughts on 67 - 68 - 69

16 comments

It took me a while to catch up, but was able to listen to this last series of podcasts (still partway through 70) while on long drives the last couple of days. I have to say, I am largely convinced by your reasoning that the Abos did not exist, that "A Story" was authored by VRT, that his claims of Abo life during his time with his mother were attempts by her to conceal the dangers and darkness of life by resort to fanciful tales, among other arguments. Some thoughts that occurred to me:

 

a) There was some discussion between the two of you whether the Dr. Marsch whom #5 initially meets is VRT or the real Dr. Marsch. My initial thoughts after first reading all 3 novellas is that on the first meeting, it is Dr. Marsch, gathering as much info on the Abos as he can and meeting Aunt Jeannine / Dr. Vail. He certainly seems to have a broader depth of knowledge (such as the unbound simulator information) than Marsch-impersonator VRT would be likely to have. On the second meeting, it is VRT. I think this is the reason #5 can confidently pronounce VRT to be (as they both believe) to be an Abo in the meeting just before the murder of Maitre. He realizes this is not the young man he met on the previous occasion, and presumes, based on the stories he has heard of Abo mimicry, that an Abo has taken his form.

 

In addition, the true Marsch suggests during their first meeting that #5 is a clone. VRT, in their second meeting, makes the same announcement, as he is unaware that Marsch has earlier made the same pronouncement. It is the last piece of information that convinces #5 that this Marsch is, he believes, an Abo imposter.

 

b) There is a lot of information from VRT's experiences on St, Croix that seems to be incorporated into "A Story" - I had thought earlier that the bureucratic secret police on St. Croix were Marshmen abos who had mimicked humans, based on the following reflection seen by VRT: "Mme. Duclose’s mirror was behind him, and I could see that his hair was cut short and that he Had a scarred head, as though he had been tortured or had had an operation on his brain or had fought with someone armed with some tearing weapon." I think now it is more likely that the bureaucrats who arrest and imprison him become the Marshmen of his story, which indicates that the date of composition is probably after his arrest, in prison. c) Certainly, the cat in the story reminds me of Poe's "The Black Cat", who bites its owner's hand as well ("One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer."). But the story that seemed to be the greatest influence on "VRT" was Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows" -the eerie tale of two men on a boat trip in a remote area who experience something difficult to describe - but the sense of something unknown and terrifying outside the tent runs through both stories. (And you should definitely review this story on your weird fiction podcast.) d) This was probably discussed sometime over the last year's podcasts, but the likely reason for the belief that the Abos took over the original French settlers is to justify the war against the French - if they are suspected of being aliens, or speaking animals, it justifies the horrors that were committed against them and the seizing of their land and property. This may have been a belief Aunt Jeanine promoted on behalf of the governmental elite, just as Maitre worked for them as an intelligence asset. e) I haven't listened to the section of podcast #70 that discusses religion within the story, but I would agree with the point upon which you touched - the Catholic response to the Nature vs. Nurture dilemma is that both Free Will and Grace are the two God-given gifts that enable us to rise above those two factors, and that in a world where those two gifts are apparently absent, you see the sort of societies that the novellas depict. I think the reason for the frequent references to the monotheistic conception of God in "A Story" is, again for VRT to throw shade on his father's claims about Abo culture, which is that they were polytheistic and believed in "gods". f) Two of the passages that discuss mimicry among the people presumed to be Abos are as follows: (Trenchard, discussing his wife): "But what my son says is true, she was a fine actress. We used to go about performing, she and I. You would not believe the things she could do! She could talk to a man, and he would believe her a girl, a virgin, hardly out of school. But then if she did not like him she would become an old woman—a matter of the voice, you understand, understand, and the muscles of the face, the way she walked and held her hands—(...) “When I married her, Doctor, she was a fine woman. (...). Then she was truly beautiful, magnificent.” (Kisses his fingers, releasing the oar with one hand) “That was not acting. But later when she slept, she could not conceal; every woman is her true age when she sleeps. " (And the military officer discussing Casilla) "“Maitre …” The officer looked up. Cassilla, yawning, stood at his elbow with, a tray, the slave behind her. “Coffee, Maitre,” she said. In the bright daylight he could see fine wrinkles near her eyes; the girl was aging. A pity. He took the cup she proffered, and as she poured, asked how old she was. “Twenty-one, Maitre.” The pot was one of the silver ones with Divisional, decorations, which meant the slave had insisted on it in the kitchen; otherwise they would have given him one of the plain ones from the junior officers’ tables. “You should take better care of yourself.”

 

On first reading, I had presumed these were clues that the surviving Abo women still maintained some abilities of mimicry and to alter their appearance. But on further reading, this seems like ahead-fake by Wolfe, and it seems to simply reflect that after a night of sex with an abusive, alcoholic, older husband/pimp, or after a night of forced sexual service to two military officers (before beginning a shift serving officers in the mess hall), a prostituted woman or a sex slave is likely to look tired and haggard. Once again, I really enjoy the podcasts!

 

 

Yes the argument they made in episode 70 is quite compelling regarding the existence of abos, and Veil's hypothesis interpreted as senseless violence doing by colonists, which can only be justified by interpreting it as we are not human at all but aliens, does make sense.

 

But still we have genetic memory of number five where he finds himself on a ship, and we have an alien in attic, where number 5, David & Phaedria try to attempt the robbery.

 

I loved the willows BTW, and I just read a week back, and it can be interpreted as the hallucinations those guys are having when they stranded on an lonely island.

I've encountered the idea that the multi-armed creature is an alien before, but I'm skeptical. I don't see any reason to believe that the creature is anything other than what Number 5 says it is -- a clone with a number of genetic and surgical modifications, made by Maitre himself.

Yes it can be definitely interpreted in that way, at the end of it I think you guys said it, that the puzzle written by Wolfe is so intricate that we could keep on arguing and counter arguing, without any conclusion.

 

But as you said that it's one of the interesting questions in book, but the main crux of the matter is how can we justify such senseless violence and such autocratic governments on Saint Croix, and people comes with defense mechanisms against such things, as you rightly pointed out Veil's Hypothesis could be that, also it's not just nature vs nurture but we have free will which makes us what we are, and VRT may overcome both the nature and nurture.

 

BTW I think you guys have outdone yourselves in ep-70 superb guys!!

Thanks so much! It was a very long ride, but we were so glad to have you along with us. And we're very excited for our return to short stories -- there's some really great stuff in this next batch.

 

And I think you (and Mick) are right to emphasize Free Will, and I wish we'd done more with it in these wrap-up episodes.

Wow, yes, I hadn't made the connection with "The Willows," but that's obviously there. We will get to that story on Elder Sign for sure, as it's one of my favorites. I love Blackwood's nature writing more than I can express in words.

 

This question of whether the real Dr. Marsch ever visited the Maison du Chien really interests me. I had dismissed the idea based on the interrogations, which seem to treat Dr. Marsch as if he's only just now come to Sainte Croix. But you make a compelling case, and certainly it seems that if V.R.T. knows about unbound simulators then Number 5 should, too.

 

Perhaps by now you've heard that we don't talk quite enough about religion in episode 70. I think your reading of the absence of priests is right, and perhaps we should think about the church as part of the nurture element -- there's a lot of ministering to hearts and minds (and souls) that is just absent in these societies, as far as we can see.

Jun 15Edited: Jun 15

Although on the issue of whether the first visit by Marsch to the Maisson was Marsch or VRT, I'll contradict my above argument and note that the timeline presented in "VRT" points towards the latter. The accompanying letter the officer reads at the end of the novella is noted to be over a year old at the time he reads it, and states that the prisoner (i.e., VRT) arrived on St. Croix on on April 2, approx. 3 years before the date at the end of the novella. It further notes that he was arrested on June 5 (so we know the date Maitre was killed) , the year after that. From the internal evidence in the first novella, in early April, #5 meets Phaedria in the park, has a discussion with Maitre about his interests, and is told to start working the door at the Maisson where he has the first contract with Marsch, all within what is apparently a few days.

In June of the same year #5, David and Phaedria and their friends begin the the play, which runs through summer, ending in Autumn of the same year.

Shortly thereafter, #5 experiences a gap in memory, and realized after the attempted burglary incident that it is now high Summer again - he has no memory of winter or spring, and it is now Summer of the following year - and just afterward, he begins his plan to murder Maitre and is arrested on June 5. I looked at the dates of April 2 and June 5 for any particular significance in the Roman calendar of feast days to the events, and saw that April 2 is the feast day of the Blessed Severian Baranyk, but that was instituted after the novella was written, by Pope John Paul II. June 5 is the feast day of St. Boniface, evangelist to the Germans, who has some connection to trees, having chopped down the Thunder Oak of Geismar, an enormous tree the German pagans used for human sacrifices to Thor, but that's about it. There are several pages the officer notes were cut out of the beginning of Marsch's diary, which could have discussed his meeting with Aunt Jeanine, which is not mentioned elsewhere in the diary, which the officer is admittedly skimming through. VRT's knowledge of such arcane topics as simulators and cloning could simply be the result of the library time he spent on St. Anne before traveling to St. Croix, under this reading.

 

Jun 15Edited: Jun 16

A few more random thoughts after completing podcast #70:

 

g) After all the discussion of Christ analogues in other works of Wolfe, it's kind of peculiar we don't see that here; although Sandwalker does seem in some ways to share some attributes of St. John the Baptist, at least in dietary choices. It's possible that VRT's imprisonment in the lowest depths of a hell-planet may represent the Harrowing of Hell and Christ's descent to free the captive souls after His crucifixion, but if so, VRT seems to have stalled out, like the stagnant society of St., Croix.

 

h) Along with the recommendations for further reading (both of which I'll check out), those who follow your podcast may wish to read Ray Bradbury's short story "The Third Expedition" from "The Martian Chronicles" (also published as "Mars is Heaven!"), which includes aliens who take the identities of human colonists before killing them. The short vignette "The Summer Night", also in "The Martian Chronicles", tells the story of Martians who begin telepathically picking up stray thoughts and cultural aspects of the human crew of the expedition that is heading to Mars, just as the Shadow Children seem to do. i) The most difficult aspects to reconcile in the story, for me are the very specific bits of information provided by #5 and David to Mr. Million - about Abo tools and culture, and the naming of fictitious and non-fictitious origins for the Shadow Children such as Poitecsme, Gondwanaland, and so forth. Perhaps the best explanation is that #5 and VRT simply share a kind of psychic oneness, just as Eastwind and Sandwalker do in VRT's story - and Eastwind is in some ways an analogue of #5 in the story, as both #5 and Eastwind share abusive father figures that conduct hideous experiments;. both #5 and VRT are under the control of men known as "Maitre" at various times; both are initiallly imprisoned for the murder of the same man, #5 is haunted by dreams of prison bar-like columns, like the trees on St. Anne, and the headstones that are like the ones underneath which VRT is imprisoned; a moribund ship is the dream-symbol of #5's stagnant genetic life under the Maitre's control, and VRT literally lives under a boat and the control of his father. And of course, the "V" of VRT not only stands for Victor, but the Roman numeral 5.

 

 

Those are an amazing couple of episodes, guys. (I haven't yet heard #70, so I'm responding here just to 68-69.) Here's my question: has anyone before you even examined in depth the idea that the abos were all a fiction or myth? My memory of the scholarship is not that fresh, but I don't recall that being mentioned either by Aramini or Borksi.

 

I say this because I, certainly, over two prior reading of the book, nor over this one, did not even really consider that possibility. I just thought that VRT was an abo because he had green eyes, right? And then thought about whether Veil's Hypothesis was true or not. It's an audacious readings, and for all that there are some problems with it — Mickjeo's point i above is one — I find it ultimately very convincing. (And you handled the issue of Wolfe's comment in the later interview masterfully, I think.)

 

I really hope that when you talk to Marc Aramini, you don't just get him to give his reading, but ask him to respond to yours. (I know that there is nothing that can be done about this — it's recorded, you either did or didn't! But I don't know so I can still hope.) If I am right in my recollection that he doesn't, in his reading, even discuss the possibility that the abos are just a myth, then it seems like a very fruitful issue to raise, and one that (after the strength of your reading) needs refuting before going on to assume the abos are real and base an interpretation around it.

 

All of which is to say: right or wrong — and I'm pretty convinced — I think your reading must now be addressed if any other reading is to be persuasive. It's quite an achievement.

 

I also thought that most of Mickjeo's points, especially B & F, were very good emendations to your reading. I can't quite believe that the real Marsch ever visited the Maison du chienne, though. I just don't see how it fits with the timeline established in the journal from VRT. Not to mention the evident expense of going back and forth thrice. I must admit I would (until a better theory is presented), lean away from all the various Watsonian readings, and adopt Glenn's Doyleist reading, and say that it's just an artifact of the way that Wolfe wrote the stories.

 

I can only offer one slight addition to this fabulous interpretation. It fits very well with the Shadow Children's being from Earth, but unsure whether they were there recently or from long before, and then, later, being confused about whether it was they or someone else who came from Earth. Obviously literally in the story the latter is about the changing psyche of the Old Wise One. But this also reflects VRT's own experience, where he begins to believe, perhaps, or at least tries to believe, that he's from Earth, but can't quite remember when, nor if it was even him or actually someone else.

PS: I am TOTALLY a Glenn leprechaun truther. It explains everything! And he came up with this weird reading to throw us off the scent, to make us feel like these myths are just silly, rather than the hidden horrible truth.

 

Or... maybe a leprechaun KILLED Glenn and TOOK HIS PLACE!!!

And I would have gotten away with it ... !

Jun 16

Henceforth, "Frug's Hypothesis".

I liked Brandon's solution to the problem of Poictesme (Mickjeco's point i), that Number 5 and V.R.T. aren't psychically linked but are simply two boys with similar interests and especially similar curiosities. Indeed, they share almost all the same attributes save for their class.

 

I've been finding something similar in my first real foray into Ray Bradbury: Something Wicked this Way Comes, which opens with a pair of boys having an adventure in a library ... and are basically the spitting image of David and Number 5. So, as Mickjeco points out, we could stand to read some more Ray Bradbury, who is a huge gap in my SF background. Fortunately (or just coincidentally) we're recording an episode on "The Veldt" tonight. Do you think that The Martian Chronicles would be suitable for treating like short stories we could cover as Patreon episodes? Or would we need to treat it as a novel?

 

Stephen, thank you for your generous praise. We loved reading this book and we've loved having these conversations on the forum, and we're delighted that you've also found some joy in it. As you'll find out next week, we didn't ask Marc to engage with our reading, and there are some technical reasons for that: we simply hadn't edited the episodes yet and couldn't get them to him. Although the conversation as it is is pretty awesome, it's a missed opportunity. It's something else to consider doing differently when we get to Peace, for sure. Of course, we're also hoping to have Marc back before then.

 

I should say, too, that since we're fresh off of LaffCon, I am once again thinking about the possibility of putting together a similar WolfeCon, and this would make for a fun session.

 

 

Re: Bradbury:

 

"The Veldt" is fabulous. I look forward to the episode.

 

The Martian Chronicles does not, really, need to be read as a novel; it's pretty loosely connected and not entirely consistent. A few of the shorter pieces were written just to be linkages between the stories, and those wouldn't make much sense on their own, but overall, yes, it's basically a short story collection.

 

I also highly recommend The Illustrated Man, the collection (or a collection) in which "The Veldt" appears.

 

All that said, a good friend of mine, the person who turned me on to Gene Wolfe, used to sell Wolfe by saying "Wolfe does to you as an adult what Ray Brandbury does to you as a kid." I really don't know how Bradbury will read coming in the opposite direction.

I'm loving Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is very much about being a middle-aged man thinking about the joys of boyhood. I think at the very least I'll read The Martian Chronicles before we do our next errors, corrections, and addenda episode.

Re: Marc & your interpretation: ah well. Too bad. I'm sure it's a great episode, and it'll be fun to roll the two readings around in my head and compare them. (And if I ever hit the lotto, I'm commissioning a special episode where the two readings go mano a mano, (Or is that libro a libro?))

 

But I think a WolfeCon is a fabulous idea. That would be a great session, of course, but dear lord would there be an amazing number of fabulous things to talk about! There would probably be a lot of interest from some big names in SF, too.

Jun 16

I would be totally down for a WolfeCon.

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. 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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