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James Wynn
Jul 20, 2021
In Gene Wolfe
I hate to sound cocky (*sound* cocky that is) but I am not at all surprised by the river flowing West because this story, like The Fifth Head of Cerberus (generally) and The Book of the New Sun (very much) is a new myth -- based on the cosmic heavens and the precession of the equinox. Wolfe was inspired to follow this schema through most of his career based on the admonitions and theory-spinning of the book "Hamlet's Mill" (the only 20th century literature cited from - quoted directly, in fact). But perhaps others as well. The Cassionsville is located in the night sky and the river is the Milky Way, which flows from east to west each night. The significant event of a Hamlet's Mill "true myth" is the precession of the equinox at the moment the expected stars do not rise up on their assigned date. Mythologically speaking then those stars (gods or heroes) have descended to the underworld, or beneath the waters, or been burned up in fire, or retreated beneath the hills. When that happens the solar ecliptic is described as shifting cataclysmically -- tower falls or shifts, a giant topples, the sky (Ouanos) is untethered from the Earth, or starry eyed Argo's throat is cut - his head shifting, OR a tree falls. Or a stack of orange drink boxes topple. "It is not the history of technology; it is, if anything, science fiction that can bring in the adventures of the future. Science fiction, when it is good, is a wholly valid attempt at restoring a mythical element, with its adventures and tragedies, its meditations'" on man's errors and man's fate." "Hamlet's Mill," History, Myth and Reality
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James Wynn
May 29, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
Thanks. Just some thoughts and questions. 1. Glen started by arguing (reasonably, I thought, but, for me, based on a different interpretation) that "A Story" was written after John V Marsch's release -- due to the overlaps between "A Story" and tFHoC. But by the end, you both seem to have rejected that reading for the opinion it was written in prison. Can you walk that conclusion again? 2. No abos? I don't agree but I appreciate ya'll going to such lengths to defend the hot take. I found that portion enjoyable in that it reminded me of the experts within Wolfe's stories that are there to offer a naturalistic explanation of some event that ignores the bigger picture (like Dr Marsch failing to recognize abos when they are all around him). "There's a column here that is designed to carry a lot of weight but it disappears into the darkness above us. There is therefore no evidence of any substantial structures above. The column is probably ornamental." I think Wolfe's argument (and CS Lewis's and Chesterton's) would be that the column is evidence in itself. In fact, that sort of architecture is what Wolfe's plotting is all about. 3. Regarding "Scandinavian pygmies", Wolfe was a happy consumer of popular speculative science. Stories about pre-columbian Egyptian/Phoenician/Greek discoveries of South America or ancient, lost high tech would have appealed to him without significant skepticism. I would not doubt there was a heterodox anthropological paper from the 60s or 50s arguing for the existence of diminutive Scandinavian tribes existing into the 19th century. This sort of "lore" (unsourced but widely credited and undisputed) was common in the Time Before the Internet. All that to say that "Skraeling" does mean "little man" -- or at least, so some have said. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/skraeling
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James Wynn
May 08, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
However, I was still irked. So I wrote this: https://thevheadofcerberus.blogspot.com/2019/05/a-story-by-james-v-wynn.html
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James Wynn
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