Once again—and even more strongly, this time, than with "House of Ancestors", which I liked but didn't love—I liked this story a *lot* more than either of you. I think it worked and it cohered. Now, I'm acutely conscious that, unlike both of you, I am *not* a veteran; maybe my lack of experience made the whole thing work better for me. Still, I liked it, and I thought I'd explain briefly why. (FWIW, in the introduction to the UK edition of BEST OF GENE WOLFE (which was reprinted in the New York Review of Science Fiction), Kim Stanley Robinson takes up Wolfe's challenge (in the story note to "A Cabin on the Coast") and lists half a dozen stories he thinks could go into a second best-of volume; he lists this one (and, by the by, "The Changeling", too.)
I should say that my reading is, more or less, the same as Marc Aramini's, but I didn't read his until after I had both read the story and heard your podcast, and had myself come up with something similar (in broad outline; not all the details). But on the podcast you sort of buried the lead about Aramini's analysis. He does say that, symbolically, 2910 is both human & HORAR; but he comes down where I do (and where you two don't): that he is, physically, a HORAR.
First, Glenn (I think it was) said the epilogue made it clear that 2910 was really a human. I disagree. I think that was, in fact, *more* propaganda. The public would be distressed to think of the HORARs as human — that is to say, as possessing humanity worth caring about. To admit that these articles were written by one (even by one programmed to believe he/it was human) would shake their faith in the HORARs as machines. So they lied and told the public what they told him: he was a journalist.
Why is 2910 then writing stories at all, if they are afraid of overly-humanizing the HORARs? Because he was supposed to only do it a little, get the folks interested, keep the budget up, keep up support for the war. The way that people now write breathless articles about how neat drones are. Not to get you to actually *sympathize* with them.
What about all the evidence he was human? I think that that's all explained by what Brenner says: he was programed to think he was. Thus he had flashbacks (important for the deception, of himself & the reader). And these caused the alterations of his programming, so he could believe in religion & kill Brenner. (The importance of the thing about the eyes on stalks is, I think, that variations from the basic model go astray. 2910 has gone astray: become *too* human.)
But in being human, he sees the others humanity which is there too. They're his friends.
Aramini plays up the Pinocchio reference, which definitely fits this. I haven't worked it all out in my head, but I think the religious imagery works too. Aaramini sees 2910's dual nature, HORAR/human, as akin to Christ's as human & divine; I think in fact 2910 is something of a Christ figure — dying for the sins of humanity, in this case, the sin of dehumanization. (Done, ironically, by both the Enemy—who, if they were smart, would have tried to propagandize the HORARs, but forgot they were able to be changed (perhaps)— and the folks at home,
I have to admit I saw this story neither about propaganda, nor about what happens when soldiers go home. (I presume the HORARs are scrapped, and that what 2910 thinks is that he'll be evac-ed out, ie to a bigger repair shop to be scrounged for parts, when his (he thinks) humanity will be discovered.) I think it's another one of Wolfe's stories about human is as human thinks: that the presence of feelings and thoughts and a *soul* makes a human. And about the dehumanization of war, using the HORARs as an extreme example.
What about the title? The point is that everyone is blind to the obvious pun. They think they're only reading about the HORARS of war; but in fact they, and we, are reading about the horrors of war.
Let me close by saying I would never have thought this through without your fabulous podcast making the other case. I'm sad to be caught up — I want more!! Many thanks for all your continued work.