A fabulous discussion of a genuinely fabulous story (and yes, it is great to be back at what feels like Full Wolfe, again). In particularly I really appreciated the insights you brought from your own military experience (speaking as someone who has none).
This discussion did reinforce for me the idea of returning to some of these episodes. You both threw out so many great thoughts — about the mice, about conditioning, about whether this was all an experiment (a dramatic thought that would upend much of the tale), about the watch — but it wasn't put all together. I feel like if we all sat down for a few more hours we could actually hammer it out. — Probably impossible: I know. Still.
I want to introduce a reading that I am not myself entirely convinced by, but that really occurred to me as I read the story and even as I listened to you two discuss it (it also indulges my tendency for interpreting a story as relating to the political and specific context it was written in, in a way that perhaps shouldn't be indulged). So let us say that I throw it out only to allow others to refute it. But I read the story as Wolfe's rage against the anti-war protestors of the Vietnam era, specifically against "conscientious objectors", here represented as the techs. Their portrayal seemed to me to be something close to a negative stereotype: they think they're better than the marksmen, because they're nonviolent, but actually they are both cowards (running in battle) and really more violent than the marksmen, and in fact attack them (which I read as sort of an exaggerated version of the rhetorical attacks that returning Vietnam soldiers got). That the techs support — and are dependent upon — the same colonial effort that the marksmen are, they're just cowardly, self-righteous and thuggish, all at the same time. Obviously a lot of the story is written out of Wolfe's specific experience (i.e. Korea), but it seems reasonable to think that the Vietnam war, which was still ongoing when this story was written, was in his mind too.
Incidentally, one of you (sorry I forget who) said that the U.S. hides its wars. This is certainly been true in the time since, well, this story was written; but when this story was written, at the tail end of Vietnam, it hardly was the case. (Korea, to be sure, was said to have been "forgotten"; but hardly hid during it.)
Other questions: what is up with the political situation? More needs to be done with that. At first blush it seems like Wolfe is sympathetic to the old woman — that the occupation is not a good thing — but her rather blatant racism makes me wonder. Is it simply that both sides are rotten? The part with the old woman can too easily disappear in the analysis, but I don't think it should.
And what about the UN? It can't be a mistake that in our world UN peacekeepers wear blue helmets; that the techs wear blue; that the story was called "The Blue Mouse"; and that U. S. troops were officially under a UN aegis in the Korean War.
Anyway, some scattered thoughts. Thanks again for yours (which are, doubtless, far better than mine). See you in the Slaves of Silver section...
PS: I seem to have fallen behind — your next podcast has been five days up. Uh, oops? Sorry?