Tuesday, December 17, 2013



Your guide to Gene Wolfe's masterpiece The Land Across

12.16.13: I plan to add more to the existing entries, and add new entries below the Legion of Light. Eventually the plan is to be comprehensive. I am looking for advice from all quarters - I have only read the novel three times so far, so I have doubtless missed things, even obvious ones. Please help me by e-mailing me and I will credit you in the text here.

ALIZ: An agent working with Naala. Naala says operators work in pairs; Aliz is her partner. She is lauded for her service by the Leader, but she never receives a medal. She seems to have been watching Martya for quite some time.

MARTYA: Kleon's wife. They have an unhappy marriage. She cheats on him with Grafton. When Grafton is abducted, Martya goes searching for him and meets Russ Rathaus when the Unholy Way sends her with the witches' hand to kill Russ. They become lovers and she helps him hide from the Unholy Way. She is already being punished when the novel begins, probably for infidelity. She has the second sight - Volitain may have trained her in the arts.

VOLITAIN: Magician, ancestor of Eion Demarates. He is the man who has a computer, but hides it behind a half closed door. He is the descendant of Eion Demarates and an aristocratic family. He is an attorney, and minor royalty. Does he suggest renting the Willows to Grafton in order to protect him?

NAALA: A senior operator for JAKA. She gives Grafton a bugged watch so she can monitor what he does when she is not around. She lives on the first floor, and takes extraordinary precautions with regard to her security. She knows her apartment is bugged and takes great pains to hold conversations outside of it. Who does Naala fear? I am not sure, but the fact the she has no photos of herself or her family may indicate that she was an undercover agent for a long period, possibly recruited at a very young age. Her fears may date back to the time of the communists, when she would have been only a girl. She also has good reason to believe there is a mole in her agency.

BALDY: The director of JAKA. He is extremely intelligent, yet seems to be caught in an internecine struggle in which he claims victory at the end of the novel. Most governments manage two intelligence agencies at least, and Baldy appears to be working both alongside and against the regular police force of the country. He has a lot of confidence in Grafton and Naala.

KLEON: Martya's husband. He has fruit trees, a sign of good luck, but his neighbors steal the fruit and leave his nut trees. Both appear to be political signs, which indicates Kleon had communist sympathies which went out of fashion.

THE WILLOWS: The residence of Eion Demarates. The white witch was left to die behind a mirror in its walls. She may have been left behind by Eion, who was of the magi, to protect his home from intruders, even his relatives. Several people instruct Grafton to cut down the house's distinctive trees, but he never manages it.

HAIR: I believe he is something like the commissioner of police, but I don't know.

AEGIS: Butch's violent partner. He speaks no English but he does speak German.

THE WHITE WITCH: She manifests as an old, gnarled, sentient hand. She loathes Naala, probably because she harbors racist attitudes from centuries ago. She is buried in a waterproof jewelry box. Papa Zenon says he will bury her body above the ground in a suitcase, and later says he did that. She may have been a maid.

PAPA ZENON: Magos X. Martya explains that he is a spy for JAKA in the clergy. I believe her first inclination is correct, and we know that JAKA likes to set several different people on a case; Naala even admits this is a common, if messy strategy. He looks like a mouse.

MAGOS X: Magician, a major one. He shelters Russ Rathaus in his home. He ordered dolls from Russ. He speaks the same dialect as Naala. Magos X is not his real name. His animal is the lion, suggesting his double, and probably his alter ego: Papa Zenon. He was against the communists, and was probably an intellectual persecuted by them. He is most likely a Jew, he is only possibly an American. His reaction to Grafton precludes him being Papa Grafton I think.

DOUBLES: As in all Wolfe, doubles abound in The Land Across.

Leader/Grafton's father
Martya/The White Witch

GRAFTON: The protagonist of the novel. The question of why he travels to the land remains open. It is suggested that he knew of Russ Rathaus before he arrived in this place; possibly he knew of the Unholy Way as well. He becomes the agent of Dracula after meeting the vampyr in his castle. Vlad rewards him with a girl for his service. It's implied that he wants to get out of the U.S. by the end of the novel, indicating he may be in some danger there. He may be hypnotized several times in the novel, first to trust and obey the leader, secondly as a means of giving him second sight by Vlad.

EION DEMARATES: He left home after a quarrel with his father, and became a rich man. He hides his treasure in his house. It is gold. Grafton says he found the treasure in the chimney, but there is reason to doubt this statement.

VLAD THE IMPALER: Former ruler of the land, vampyr. He lives in his castle and is the source of magical power in the land. The wolves belong to him. He wishes the Unholy Way out of his land, probably because he disdains human worshipers. He rescues Russ from prison and frees Grafton in the process.

ROSALEE: Magician, Russ' young wife, and stepmother to Papa Iason. Russ says she is not very bright, but this is a cover. She was his accountant it seems, and maybe at one time was his secretary. She has learned something of magic from Russ, as when she hides as a mannequin in a nice woman's store. It is possible that she made Yelena resemble her through similar processes.

PAPA GRAFTON: We are told that Grafton's father worked for the State Department, but it seems likely that this is far from the whole story, and probably a cover. He is a magician himself, if his son got any talent from the father. I suspect he was Russ Rathaus' original partner in the Imprinting Doll business, and that he created the process responsible for the exportation of magic. It is probable that both men were working for the United States government in their endeavor, and Russ may have been sent in to clean up whatever mess the program caused in the land.

We don't know Grafton's father's current whereabouts, but I suspect he is in the novel somewhere, and Grafton just tells us he is dead so no one would go looking for him.

PAPA IASON: He is Russ Rathaus' son. He is a very ambivalent character. Grafton alludes to a messy past, and calls him a bad man trying to be a good one, then softens it with the idea we all are. His housekeeper may be his mother. He is biased against Volitain, probably because of some conflict between Volitain and Magos X, who is his friend given that the first person he turns to after receiving the hand is Papa Zenon. (Magicians' quarrels in Wolfe date back far indeed.) From all evidence is a very good priest.

THE UNDEAD DRAGON: Grafton says the leader of the Unholy Way is the archbishop. Others seem to confirm this view.

THE ARCHBISHOP: I certainly believe that Grafton himself killed the archbishop as Naala suggests (she is a very good detective). But the idea of the archbishop climbing the stairs for no reason makes little sense. He went up there to meet with someone, possibly a vampyr .

BUTCH BOBOKIS: The white witch's hand murders Butch because he is a spy for the Unholy Way. She casts it into Naala's apartment to inform them Butch was a traitor and there are spies within JAKA.

THE UNHOLY WAY: We know surprisingly little about the Unholy Way. They are described by their leader as Satanists. They do horrible things, murder and orgies, and they are probably vampyr worshippers.

THE LEGION OF LIGHT: The mysterious organization that abducts Grafton. He betrays them to JAKA by announcing his location on the air. They appear to be a dissident group with a pro-capitalist message. The leader of the Legion seems strangely perceptive.

Monday, May 16, 2011

An Evil Guest by Gene Wolfe, Explained


your guide to Gene Wolfe's An Evil Guest

as always, please help me out by posting in the comments and I'm more than glad to credit your wisdom

The distinctions we draw between past, present, and future are discriminations among illusions.

ALEXIS CABANA: The original star of The Red Spot as Jane Simmons, she reappears as a waitress after Cassie's magic fashions her out of existence. She formerly employed Margaret, although she never admits it, and Margaret tells us that Alexis owes her back wages, ones she'll likely never see.

ALCHEMY: Reis makes gold, a process he learned while he was ambassador to Woldercan. He stores it in little bars in the ocean. His divers dig some up when he needs it. The gold is radioactive. When Wallace Rosenquist meets Cassie in Takanga, he admits this. Gideon Chase covets this process, which apparently is not available to him despite his connection to Woldercan. Or perhaps he also wants to stop Reis on behalf of the Wolders, who do not want Reis using their process. Given that one crime Reis is accused of is blackmail, it would not surprise me if he truly cannot produce gold alchemically, but that the reality is he brings it back from Woldercan little by little.

ARTHUR THOMAS FRANKLIN: The ATF agency. They hire Cassie's second husband Scott to find her and threaten her into giving up Gideon Chase. They want him so that they can find William Reis.

BAT PEOPLE: A group of winged beings who present themselves at various points in the narrative. One is present during her transformation on the mountain. They first frighten Cassie when they appear outside her
window, but she mentally ensures she's unable to let them in. They consider Cassie their "cub", probably because they made her what she is. Gideon tells her that he could make her a star anywhere, but prefers to operate in a hospital, so to speak - in other words, where the bat people can be present without risking themselves. They visit her again in Tankaga, and then save her from her fate with the people
of Cthulhu.

I believe they are Wolders in a different form. Their goal is Gideon's goal: to make the half-Wolder the ambassador to Woldercan. Gideon tells us that Wolders "cannot transform as we do. Not at all." They simply hybridize with lower animals, in this case, bats.

BRACELETS: Cassie receives two, both from William Reis. They are also tracking devices. It is still unclear to me why Reis gives her the first bracelet, other than as a warning to Gideon Chase and a desire to destroy what he cannot possess. He gives her a diamond bracelet as well, which is put in the bank after Margaret is kidnapped by the FBI. When she returns to the U.S. after her time in Takanga, it is her only possession, and it makes her the wealthiest woman in the state. She uses the money to buy a hopper to travel to Woldercan.

BRIAN KEAN: An actor in The Red Spot, he plays Reverend Brownlea in Dating the Volcano God.

BRIAN PICKENS: A paralegal who lived above Cassie in her apartment building. He calls her after she sings with Margaret and tells her he'll never forget it. Diana Diamond says she killed him.

CARLOS: William Reis in disguise as his own chauffeur. He never appears in the same place as Reis, and he also has a different appearance when Cassie first sees him up close than he did when she sees him from her apartment window. There may also be a real Carlos, or perhaps it's only Reis. 

CASSIE CASEY: The protagonist and heroine of An Evil Guest. She is a middling actress who possesses glimpses of star potential. She agrees to help Gideon Chase for $100,000 by seducing William Reis. He puts a glamor on her which he is not invulnerable to, because it also works on him. He tells her that he loved her before the glamor. After she is altered on the mountain, she begins to change her reality, most noticeably in the changes to her apartment. She goes from a walkup to a doorman building and even ascends to a higher floor.

At first she is frightened of Reis, but she grows to love him. Chase suspects as much. At Reis' command, he brings her to Takanga. She kills King Kanoa, and the Wolders drop her on an island. She is rescued, perhaps by herself. She goes to Woldercan to find a way to go back in time to save Bill Reis.

DATING THE VOLCANO GOD: The musical Reis co-writes the book for and casts Cassie in it. He later tells Cassie had a co-writer who did the grunt work for him. Reis is himself the Volcano God, of course, and the play is a thinly veiled metaphor for the real story.

DIANA DIAMOND: An agent of the Storm King who tries to turn Cassie. Is she also Donny Duke? Dave Tallman suggests she is:

The case for Donny Duke's connection with the assassin is good:

1) "In real life Donny Duke was small and swishy..." p. 53. He is later described as "not a man."

2) The assassin is a "little bit of a thing." p. 256.

2) Duke plays an assassin in "Red Spot" p. 63.

3) The actor who played the King Kanoa character in "Dating the Volcano God" played a character who hired Duke as Cassie's assassin in "Red Spot".

3) He likes thick green drinks (63,64). The assassin has thick green spit (252).

4) The common initials equals common identity game: both are known by D.D.

On the other hand:

1) "Diana" she has never tried to "tread the boards" as an actor.

2) "Diana" says she didn't see Cassie's performance in which she danced a hornpipe in a scanty costume (250). Cassie's partner in that dance was Donny Duke (131). One of her fellow cult members did see that performance, and that could well be Duke.

The assassin could be lying, of course. The connecting clues are so good that I hate to give up the theory on her say-so alone. Duke's face had red pimples, and the assassin's was very white, but this could be the result of cultish transformations.

DOUBLES: Cover identities are used by Gideon Chase at various times. There are usually doubles in most of Wolfe's books, and here the doubles are really constituted by the roles the actors play. There are a few, though less than his usual amount:

William Reis/Wallace Rosenquist
Margaret Briggs/Mariah Brownlea
Gideon Chase/Gil Corby
Donny Duke/Diana Diamond
Tiny Penniman/King Kanoa

DR. SCHOONVELD: Reis' doctor on Takanga.

EBONY WHITE: India's assistant director. She is working for someone, and there are a number of possibilities. She's present in a lot of places she doesn't really have to be, and she sticks close to Cassie.

She refers to asking Reis a question for her job, which indicates the person she's working for isn't William Reis. She's been with the case before Reis took an interest in them, although he later hired India Dempster. However, her name implies moral ambiguity and it makes sense that Chase has someone on the set at all times, so I suspect he is her master. Chase also reports that she showed him the photo of himself as Gil Corby. Why else would she have done that if she did not trust him?

FBI: They abduct Margaret on Gideon Chase's say-so. They have hired Gideon Chase to get to William Reis. They claim he has committed extortion and blackmail, but they really desire him for the powers he obtained in Woldercan and they want to know more about his plan for world domination.

FLORENCE MCNAIR: An Australian tourist who is consumed by Cthulhu as a threat to Cassie.

GIDEON CHASE: The wizard, and second choice for the evil guest of the novel's title after Cthulhu. He is half-Wolder, or part-Wolder. He is also potentially a spy for Woldercan; it is certainly where he got some of his powers. His mission, as described in the first chapter of the book, is to put an end to Reis' plans of world domination. To get close to Reis, he glamors Cassie. Reis hires him to figure out how to get the Navy to attack the Storm King, explaining that he spends most of his time finding the right people for the job he wants done and letting them do their work. Chase tells him to put his gold in R'lyeh. As a reward for a job well done, he is appointed Ambassador to Woldercan.

His father received the news he had a son and the name of his child from Earth before Gideon was born. Gideon was still very young when the family was recalled to Earth. He is known to many people as a philosopher, whose moral credo consists of amorality. 

GREEN GODDESS: The dressing that Reis suggests Cassie will enjoy at Rusterman's. She is identified with the Green Goddess throughout. When Reis sees her in the car with Aaberg, she is wearing green.

HANGA: The Shark God. He has pointed teeth. He befriends Cassie on the beach at Salamanca House. He originally appeared in Gene Wolfe's story "The Tree Is My Hat", where he is the antagonist.

HAROLD KLAUSER: The former ambassador to Woldercan, and a friend of William Reis. Gideon Chase unnerved him as a child. In his only scene, he advises Cassie on how to behave once she reaches Woldercan. He warns her against venturing into the forests alone, or fishing and allowing the fish to live. This suggests that the Wolders, like Gideon himself, can assume many forms. In an old picture of him and Reis that Cassie sees, he is huge, 300 hundred pounds or more. When she visits him later, he has been ill and is a frail little thing. Like her, he may have lost his Wolder-glamor.

Klauser gives Cassie a gift of a photo of himself and William Reis. Since we know that photographs are used as tracking devices, it is likely that is the meaning of his sinister present. Reis makes a big deal out of the idea that Klauser won't be able to attend their wedding, and his plan in doing so was to get Cassie to visit Klauser should anything happen to him.

HERBIE: Cassie's first husband. He appears to have been rewarded by the events of the novel, since he has a position in the Department of Education and a friend in the state department by the time Cassie needs his help to reenter the country.  He is most probably someone else in the novel as well, most likely Gideon Chase, who suggests he has been in love with her for years. He may not be Chase by the time he helps Cassie; he could easily be Ian.

HIAPO: A Takangese who serves Cassie.

HOPPER: A traveling device. Powerful ones are expensive and can go to other planets through a series of hops. Zelda Youmans has a small pink one. Gideon Chase's black car/Batmobile is also a powerful hopper he received as payment for a job from a military contractor. Hoppers have to warp several times to travel off-planet, but while on Earth it is as easy to hop to Berlin as it is to Shanghai.

IAN: Cassie's building's handyman. An employee of Gideon Chase, unlikely to be Chase himself since Ian smuggles his master out of a box to elude detection at one point. 

INDIA DEMPSTER: The director of both plays in the novel. She openly works for Bill Reis, who discusses her recruitment. Her assistant director is Ebony White, who doesn't appear to working for Reis. She is a large woman and a lesbian.

IULANI: A maid wounded by a shot fired by Diana Diamond. 

JIMMY WARSHAWSKY: A stagehand who dies under mysterious circumstances. It is suggested that Reis is the one who murdered him, having frightened him terribly in trying to get Cassie to meet him in his limousine in an alley. It is also plausible that Cassie herself wished him out of existence, for he demonstrated the fear of William Reis that she held in her heart. Another possibility is that he is killed by Margaret Briggs. 

JOHN FERGUSON: A presidential attache who works with the FBI. He is very desirous of getting Gideon Chase to work with him, offering first $17 million and then $50 with strings according to Chase, both offers
he turned down. He is a fat man.

KING KANOA: An Oxford-educated representative of Reis on Takanga. After the destruction wrought by the Navy in their attack on R'lyeh, he and the rest of the islanders turn on Reis. Cassie kills him with her gun after Reis is sacrificed.

KU'ULANI: One of Cassie's Takangese maids. 

LARS AABERG: Reis' double agent in the police. He initially accompanies Cassie to meet Gideon Chase for the first time, allowing Reis to get his first glimpse of her through the car's vidscreen. He follows Cassie on Reis' direction. Later, he questions her about Margaret's abduction. His resemblance to Cassie's second husband Scott suggests there is at least the possibility that he is Reis himself.

MADAME PAVLATOS: Wolfe scholar Roy Lackey has theorized that Pavlatos is Cassie. She is potentially a clone of Cassie, suggested by the mirrors she possesses. She is Reis' previous wife, and possibly the mother of Rian Reis, which would explain how Sharon Bench knows Rian is brave and so much about what happened to the boy.

MARGARET BRIGGS: She is Cassie Casey, returned from Woldercan, where she has become a werewolf, presumably. She is gray with a colorless face. She bobs when she walks, which matches Gideon's description of how werewolves move. She reports Sharon Bench's name as "Shirley Ladydog" so she can avoid saying the word 'bitch.' She tries to kill Chase when he returns to his apartment building but catches a cleaver in the face for her troubles. Chase gets the FBI to arrest her.

As pointed out by Dave Tallman, when Cassie says,

"Have you ever wanted to help out somebody you loved, and known that the only thing you could do for him was some tiny stupid thing that was a lot of trouble? And done it anyway? Any of you?" (p. 112), we can now see a world of pain in the two-word sentence: "Margaret nodded."

But why exactly does she try to kill Gideon Chase? She does it after he glamors Cassie, so she supports that part of the plan, the part that will bring William Reis to her doorstep. Yet she tells Cassie she has been scared by Reis, which is a good explanation for why she gave the bracelet to him, and also true as far as Reis goes. She is potentially trying to eliminate him before Chase has the FBI abduct her, and before Chase has a chance to bring Cassie to Takanga. The idea that Margaret is Cassie is detailed at length here.

NELE: Manager of Salamance House.

NORMA PEIPER: Bill Reis' second wife, who went with him to Woldercan. She plays Jane Brownlea in Dating the Volcano God. She may have worked for the ATF and been betrayed by them, since we know that they use ex-husbands and wives in their plots. This explanation is proffered by Cassie's ex-husband Scott, and lacks some credibility. There are other reasons for someone to want Norma dead, given that she has also been to Woldercan. 

OKALANI: The Takangese who carries Cassie's parasol.

PAT GOMEZ: A private investigator who joined a Cthulhu cult in Oakland and disappeared. She was killed and resurrected by the Storm King, and Cassie finds her being treated by Reis' doctor in his palace. They touch hands, and her experience is transmitted to Cassie as vivid as a dream. She later accompanies Diana Diamond to bring Cassie to Reis' sacrifice.

PORTER "TINY" PENNIMAN: The actor who plays the chief in Dating the Volcano God. He is modeled after the actual chief of the Takangese, King Kanoa. Cassie tells him at the cast party that he always appeared sinister to her, onstage and off. Perhaps she has reshaped her reality in order that he appear not so sinister, a hint that she might also be managing a similar trick with the real King.

PRESIDENT: He believes that Reis is spying for Woldercan, which is likely wrong. He wants Chase to find up what Reis is up to and how he eludes law enforcement. He suspects Reis of blackmail, alchemy, and worse. The president does not want Chase to replace the current ambassador to Woldercan, he simply wants to send him there as a special representative as a reward, according to what Chase tells Cassie. To Gideon, this would be a failure. It is important the Chase have the power to negotiate with the Wolders, presumably so he can become a fully empowered double agent for the Wolders. 

RIAN REIS: Bill Reis' 16-year-old son by Norma. Something is wrong with him - it is said to be a defective heart valve, but it was not - and Gideon is brought in to fix him. We can reasonably assume that Gideon Chase was perhaps the cause of Rian Reis' ailment, but Reis later reports that he is a fine and a successful high school quarterback. Bill has seen all his games. It is likely he is someone else in the novel, but I have no idea who. If he was born on Woldercan, it is possible that his "defect" is related to his heritage in some way.

ROBERT CHASE: Gideon Chase's father. He gives his son the watch he never looks at. It is inscribed To RC from HLC. Klauser reports that Robert Chase has been dead for years, although he does not say exactly how long. We do not know how he died, but it is at least possible that Reis killed him. Klauser asks Cassie a strange question about Gideon's appointment as ambassador. He says, "Is this some kind of nepotism?" This suggests the possibility that Chase's father is still alive somehow, on Woldercan, and that his son wishes to return to him. From this, I suspect that Robert Chase became a Wolder on Woldercan.

RUSTERMAN'S: Reis' restaurant, under the nom de plume Wade Rusterman. "It's a chain now."

SHARON BENCH: A reporter for the Sun-Tribunal. She has connections to William Reis, but Gideon Chase claims he does not know her, and describes trying to track her down and finding the wrong Sharon. He certainly may be lying about this, since he also says he knows all the reporters on one of the smaller papers (presumably the Massachusetts paper near his university). She tells Cassie she has a source on the play. There are a variety of candidates for this informat, but the most likely is Reis himself. He may own the Sun-Tribunal.

SILENT WOMAN: An inn near Chase's mountain. A magical place featuring a waiter with pointed ears. Chase brings Cassie there on a date, but more seems to be going on than meets the eye. On the trip back, Cassie begins to openly distrust him for the first time.

STORM KING: Cthulhu. King Kanoa tells us "he dens in the tower from which he ruled before the first man walked." Gideon tells Reis to drop gold bars into his underwater city of R'lyeh, and when he does, the Navy attacks the city, causing a terrible storm.

TABBI MERCE: The actress who replaces Norma Peiper in Dating the Volcano God. She is also in The Hot Spot. It's possible that Norma Peiper is killed so that Tabbi can get closer to Cassie Casey, which might suggest she is an operative of the Storm King.

THE TREE IS MY HAT: Wolfe's short story set in the same universe, where Hanga is introduced.

VINCENT PALMA: The actor who plays the Volcano God. He appears to Cassie when she is stranded by the bat-Wolders on an island. He helps her build a fire that saves her life.

WALLACE ROSENQUIST: He is certainly William Reis, although it is possible he is also a temporal clone of William Reis. He is the public face of Reis who has set up a variety of businesses. He appears first at the cast part for The Red Spot, where he presents Cassie with a gold bracelet.

WEREWOLF: It is Gideon Chase who brings up the notion of werewolves. He explains that women can be them, and that they're humans. He hints to Cassie that Margaret is one. But who is the werewolf who kills Cassie's ex-husband Scott? Margaret is supposedly being held by the FBI, although by the end of the book she is free and walking around. It could certainly be her, but then why is a man handling her like a dog? Also, the wolf is described as massive. He is just another one of Reis' employee's, and not Margaret.

WILLIAM REIS: As Wolfe himself put it, "a villain who wants to rule the world." He can make himself invisible. He is also a shapeshifter, taking on the identity of a federal agent who presents himself as Agent Martin in order to find Gideon Chase. Reis was named ambassador to Woldercan during the previous administration. He got some of his powers on the planet, or at the very least it is where he learned alchemy, if he is capable of it at all.

WOLDERCAN: An alien planet, the only one humanity has discovered, although others have discovered them. It's hard to get tampons there. Worms are a vegetable. It is a dangerous place, as Klauser recommends Cassie take two hundreds rounds of ammunition and two firearms. In many ways, it is reminiscent of Faerie.

Gideon tells the president that he has heard they are behind us technologically, but ahead of us in other areas, like biology. Physicists on Woldercan could also possess different knowledge than those on Earth, Gideon explains, an oblique reference to time travel. Klauser tells Cassie that the laws of physics aren't the same there. Why does Cassie return to Woldercan? She wants to save Bill, but how does she hope to accomplish it? Wolfe scholar Dave Tallman has suggested three possible reasons:

But I wonder if she isn't going to Chase for some other reason.

There are three things he might do for her:

1) Help get her glamour back. She says that's one of the reasons she is going.

2) Help her travel in time, or get a message back in time, to save Bill's life.

3) Die, if she suspects Chase of having some hand in Bill's death.

Whatever motivation she has for going in the first place, once she gets there, she may conclude that killing Chase in the past would prevent Reis' death, which it likely would. 

WOLDERS: They look something like humans if you don't look too closely. They can hybridize with other life forms, even humans. They seduce human women.

ZELDA YOUMANS: Cassie's agent. She owns a pink hopper. She's unavailable to Cassie when she is in Takanga. What happened to her? She may have gotten wind of the trouble her client was involved in, and stayed away. Because Dating the Volcano God never hits Broadway, she is denied a substantial sum of money, however it is possible her association with Cassie led her to a different class of clientele.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gene Wolfe's Home Fires

Fought In A War

Sometimes people will stop me in a grocery store or in a park or when I'm high on ecstasy and they will ask me, "AC, who is the world's greatest living writer?" What other reason would I carry around a portable pedestal for than this exact situation? He lives in Barrington, Illinois and his name is Gene Wolfe. Wolfe grew up in Houston and served in the Korean War. He was an engineering prodigy who invented the process that makes Pringles, and he edited the journal Plant Engineering for over a decade. In the military he had been a cartographer, and his extraordinary grasp of how things are in relation to each other is always on full display in his fiction. What other fabulist would you want making up your stories than the one who knows where everything is?

His latest effort Home Fires explodes on the page. Almost all dialogue, the book is nearly high on speed. There isn't a single moment that Skip Grison isn't involved in some kind of action, usually uncovering deception in one form or another. He is a lawyer, the first lawyer protagonist that Wolfe has ever used in his long fiction. Like all Wolfe's heroes, he is just as much a priest or godfather than anything resembling the finest of legal minds. The fact that he was able to write this novel indicates Wolfe could easily be a Supreme Court justice (Scalia with a handlebar moustache?), his grasp of the law is that rigorous. As a legal thriller, Home Fires would be fantastic in paperback for airplanes.

Because his characters always lie so ruthlessly, Wolfe's writing has been called hard to follow. The masterwork that made his name was the first part of his first quadrilogy, The Shadow of the Torturer, but there is precious little in the way of the high technology inherent in the work of giants like Asimov or Heinlein. It is Wolfe's narrative techniques which are state-of-the-art, not his settings.

I can't even imagine what someone must have felt picking up The Shadow of the Torturer in some bookstore in 1980 and expecting the same old generic paperback fantasy to read on the toilet. The story of aging Earth's last ruler read like someone had watched Star Wars and thought of how much better the future could be instead of the past, with dead spaceships plunged into the ground and reinvented as prisons. The Book of the New Sun's main influence is Marcel Proust; some parts of it are even gentle jokes on In Search of Lost Time. The book is so deep that it demanded its own guide, penned by Michael Andre-Driussi, in which the elaborate chronologies and geographies of the novels are revealed to their fullest.

Wolfe approved Andre-Driussi's work; he seems to realize that his books should offer some guide to those who embark on them, like any worthwhile amusement park ride. The Book of the New Sun in four parts was followed by his landmark The Book of the Long Sun. With Severian's tale The Book of the New Sun he had stretched out time to its very limit. Long Sun tightened the action, sticking it on a generational spaceship running out of gas in the far part of the universe. His Calde Silk figure was modeled after G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories, and his admiration of Chesterton's devout belief in the presence of an all-knowing God is at its most entertaining in stories like "Bed and Breakfast", "Westwind" (his tribute to The Man Who Was Thursday) and "The Fifth Head of Cerebrus", a sister planets novella that some account as Gene's supreme masterpiece.

(When he was a young man, Wolfe corresponded with J.R.R. Tolkien. Where are these letters? Why haven't they been published by the highest possible authority - perhaps the government or Cory Doctorow?)


Last year's new novel The Sorcerer's House followed in the tradition of Wolfe's rewrites of themes taken up in the early 20th century work of Clark Ashton Smith and G.K. Chesterton that inspired him to write his first stories. Each time, in order to top himself, Wolfe rips all the naivete out of his work, making it that much more jaded and sinister. His concern in Home Fires is the meaning of war. It's not that Wolfe doesn't accept war – all his work seems thrust in the middle of a larger conflict the people in it can never quite fathom fully, whether it be Erebus and a mysterious undine in The Book of the New Sun, the espionage between our world and one where men die after they lose their virginities in There Are Doors, or the mysterious Os of Home Fires, who neither eat nor drink, but live among us.

Wolfe converted to Catholicism before he married his wife Rosemary. It is fun to analyze his books for various amounts of the faith that his characters truly show in God, which is the way believers judge a convert. After Wolfe underwent double-bypass surgery in April of last year, he put a literal God character in his new book, a man with a white beard and a long cane. Gene is always testing the unbeliever, seeing if the faith he embraces is a rewarding reality or a vicious lie. He regards this as the true test of the individual.

The premise of Home Fires is that Skip was dating Chelle when she decided to join the military. Due to the vagaries of space travel, she returns decades later having spent much of that time in coldsleep travel, where she did not age. She is so badly injured in combat that part of her is composed of someone else who died. Skip is now an older man and a partner in a law firm, and his "contracto" ("wife" and "husband" are terms relegated to history) is a vibrant young woman denied sex for biological decades. They "decide" to go on a cruise together; perhaps it is decided for them. Other events occur: picture Die Hard but with the world's greatest mystery lurking at the heart of it, and don't forget a cyborg, seven different types of handguns and rifles, mindwipe, and hard sex.

Wolfe at InConJunction IV, July 1984, photo by Michael Kube-McDowell

Skip tells us that he "kept the home fires burning" while Chelle was away, fighting the Os, an unimaginable alien enemy, off the planet Johanna. He feels, and he is right to feel this way, that she in her service made a sacrifice for him, and that he owes her something very specific. He dumps his secretary/girlfriend (usually called a Megan) and leaps to her aid out of a duty that is at once akin to love and other times resembles patriotism for a United States that does not exist in the future of Home Fires.

Some pine against interminable war, and they may be right to do so, but it is not as if there would be no fighting if our country abstained. We are in the middle of something that not even generals fully understand. Paul Ryan's budget didn't lower military spending even though we cannot afford it, or anything. Our financial situation as a country has never been more clear. But our spiritual condition: that is a different matter.

We eventually learn that Wolfe's soldier Chelle sets out for war because she does not really want to be a married accessory to a rich husband. She is attempting to avoid the very insignificance that so many of Wolfe's peers embrace, and so enters the military. The generation of authors who served in the armed forces because they had no other choice constituted the crucial heart of 20th century literature. Gene Wolfe and his protagonist took up a task that would knit Jonathan Franzen's balls to his asshole. Even if they are wrong to fight, we are nothing compared to them.

- Alex Carnevale

You can find the full post with more images here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Gene Wolfe

Four days ago Mr. Wolfe turned 80. Quite an impressive age to still be turning out fiction of the first order.

We've been slow with new content here at TBOGW, but we'll be back in business with my questionable at best interpretation of The Evil Guest soon enough.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Home Fires notes

It's pretty much outright said that Mr. Blue is an Os. He never eats or drinks. He makes the cryptic comment about destroying Earth when he talks to Skip on the ship the first time: "Suppose they could get control of all the rest by blowing up this one?" He kisses his "daughter" on the lips. His wife and daughter don't recognize him. Etc. Two things about his actions still puzzle me. The first is that I don't know if he was Charlie Blue during dinner with Chelle and Skip at the hotel before she left to join the military. Skip says he never takes off his sunglasses indoors or out in that chapter, which suggests it might be the Os, but I really have no idea.

Did Mr. Blue kill Zygmont because he was onto him? Was he also the shopkeeper who sold Vanessa her furniture?

The character of Trinity puzzles me. She makes contact with Chelle before Skip even arrives on the ship. She is strongly connected to the Black Mama character in the temple, and it makes sense that they are probably the same person. The fact that she pops up at the end is a strong sign of this. I believe she is an operative for the EU, positioned on the boat to both preserve Chelle's survival and possibly to extract sensitive information from her.

Who stabbed Vanessa after she left the restaurant? Skip thinks of several reasons it's not Rick Johnson, and though he later recants, I'm not sure I believe him. Other candidates for the stabber include Mick, Charles Blue himself (the person is described in a shapeshifting way), or Susan. She seems most likely to have entered the group last, and thus have to kill the oldest member (Vanessa). It seems more likely that Susan would believably fail at this than Rick.

What other point is there of having a cyborg other than that it is controlled by someone? The controller could be Charlie Blue, but he kills Rick and although it did prove his bonafides to Skip, the backstory about Rick and Charlie indicates they had just met. I think it's possible that he is Mick's cyborg. They did come together, and Mick is conspicuously absent until he pops up at dinner to say hi to Chelle.

I'm still not understanding the significance of the firing squad incident.

Skip tells us his reason for becoming a JAG and opting offworld, and it's not wholly unbelievable. As smart as he is, I don't think it's the real reason. He's going to be a colonel out there. What is his plan? The fact that Skip does not have a double indicates the spacefaring version of himself may be his own double. Then there was of course the man who moved out of the penthouse apartment in his own building. This may have been his true double.


Mick and Rick Johnson
Vanessa/Virginia Healy
Chelle/Jane Sims
Trinity/Black Mama
Charles Blue/shopkeeper
Captain Kain/Sir Able

There is also the chance that Skip and Don are the same person.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


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The Book of Silk:


The Book of Horn:


Note: this is an updated database. If you can fill in any of the blanks, post in the comments. The EoTLS is open to outside contributions, and will provide full credit for exceptional entries or additions to existing entries. Please post in the comments.

AANVAGEN: Wife of Beroep in Dorp. She and her husband have no children. She describes her dream to Silkhorn of two children in her living room who tell her to make Jahlee go away. 

ABANJA: The head of Siyuf's intelligence unit. She rides a horse. She probably was Doctor Crane's supervisor and gets respect from his peers as an enterprising commander in her own right. Her rank is Colonel. Later we learn that Abanja is the head of Sinew's village on Green, where she goes by the handle Maliki.

Addax. VBM

AER: A flier. Sciathan's lover. She dies during the war.

AFFITO: Inclito's coachman.

Ah Lah. RM (god)

Aloe. VBF

A-man. RM (human)

Aquifolia. VBF

Aquila. AM (eagle)

Arolla. VBF

Asphodella. VBF

Aster. VBF

ATTENO: A shopkeeper of Blanko. He is an early acolyte of the Incanto and Silkhorn sleeps in his shop and uses his paper.

AUK: Born in 304. The dimber cull who is possessed by Tartaros and Pas into helping Silk. He likes Silk and would probably have helped him anyway. He was a longtime patron of Orchid's where he met Orpine and Chenille.  He is five years older than Silk. In his afterword to The Book of Silk, Horn describes his disgust for Auk, and that only Silk, Chenille and Marble had good things to say about him.

AZIJIN: A sergeant in Dorp who helps Silkhorn.

AZOTH: An energy weapon, presumably from Urth. Sigana possesses two of them, one of which he gives to Hyacinth to give to Silk. Blood has more than one as well. Small enough to be hidden in the waistband of an augur's robe. Each azoth has a bloodstone that serves as its trigger.

BABBIE: The hus that accompanies Horn on his trip to Pajorocu. There is some indication that part of Horn goes into Babbie after his return from the Whorl. At the end of On Blue's Waters, Horn hears himself being called to the shore as Babbie.

BADOUR: The guard on Urth who leaves his post to bring Silkhorn and company in to see his officer. The reason for the original lack of an officer at the gate during the opening of the same scene in The Shadow of the Torturer.

BALETIGER: A predatory animal of Blue. It has soft feet with seven toes. Although large, the baletiger doesn't appear to be very fast. Silkhorn controls a baletiger while conducting the war against Soldo.

Babirousa. VBM

BALA: Sinew's wife on Green.

Bass. VBM

Bellflower. VBF

BEROEP: Aanvagen's husband. He is "portly." He is tormented with a dream of voices while Silkhorn stays in his house. He owns many boats, and other wealthy men of Viron want to bankrupt him to secure them.

BETEL: Sun Street sibyl who continued to live with the prosthetic parts from Moly.

BISON: Mint's second-in-command during the revolution. Loyal to the calde. Silk discerns he is a former thief from his description of a secret entrance into the Orilla. He marries Mint and becomes Calde himself after her.

Bittersweet. VBU

BLAZINGSTAR: A magnate of New Viron. The Book of Horn is written in the second year of his caldeship in New Viron.

BLOOD:  Born in 276. Maytera Rose's son. He is a criminal overlord who becomes wealthy working for the Ayuntamiento. He owns Orchid's. About 54 at the beginning of Nightside the Long Sun. He is gay, and his lover is Musk. He deals rust according to his mother. He tells Silk that if it weren't for Mucor, he would have been calde, which seems like a very strange assertion unless you can connect him to Tussah in some fashion. When he finds out that Maytera Marble killed Musk, he moves to kill her, but Silk kills him to save Maytera Marble's life.

BLUE: One of two planets in the Short Sun system. Blue is farther from the sun and has a more temperate climate. The two planets are separated by 100,000 miles.

BLUEBELL: A whore at Orchid's with blue eyes.

BLUEBILLY: A type of fish in blue's waters.

BOOK OF HORN: Also know as The Book of the Short Sun. Horn says he doesn't care what we call it as long as we read it. Michael Andre-Druissi has clarified when the majority of the book was written and by who in the following fashion:

BONGO: Gib's trained baboon. He brings him to be sacrificed, but Patera Jerboa thinks monkeys look like children.

BREAM: A Vironese man who sacrifices during Maytera Rose's funeral. 

Brocket. VBM

Bull. VBM

BUSTARD: Auk's older brother. He appears to have been a spy for Trivigaunte. He won the Molpe Cup in some fighting competition. There are intimations that Auk killed him, but he is long dead by the time of The Book of Silk.

CADDIS: the writer of the Chrasmologic Writings who lived over two centuries prior and witnessed the theophanies of Tartaros, Scylla, Echidna, and Pas, and coined the term "Holy Hues" in reference to the colorful swirl that signals the comings and goings of the gods in Sacred Windows. He may have been possessed by Pas at the time he penned the Writings. It is rumored that Caddis was one of the ideas for the author of The Book of Silk before Wolfe settled on Horn.

CALF: One of Horn's brothers. A shopkeeper of New Viron.

CASSAVA: The woman Mucor possessed at Maytera Rose's funeral. When Silk takes the needler away from her, Mucor says she wasn't really going to shoot him, but she could. Cassava rests in the augur's manteion and may be fed upon by Quetzal.

Cat. VBM

CATAMITUS: A minor male god.

Catamitus. DM

Cavy. VBM

CHAMOMILE: Swallow's female assistant.

CHARACTERS: You can find Sean Whalen's character list for The Book of Silk here.

CHENILLE: The biological daughter of Calde Tussah and a woman in his service. She is 20, busty and beautiful. She is a baby when Tussah is killed and she is hidden by her mother. She becomes a whore at Orchid's and is possessed by Kypris and Scylla. She has acne scars on her face and a wonderful figure. Tussah liked large women and Chenille's mother is described by Loris as a "virago." She stabs Orpine while possessed by Mucor. 

CHERVIL: Coypu's wife. She meets Silk in Limna.

Chiquito. AM (parrot)

CHRONOLOGY OF BOOKS: According to Nick Gevers, here is the chronological order of all the works in the Urth cycle:

"The Boy Who Hooked the Sun"
"The God and His Man"
"Empires of Foliage and Flower"
"The Night Chough"
"These Are The Jokes"
"The Map"
"The Cat"
"The Old Woman Whose Rolling Pin Is The Sun"

I'm not sure why "The Night Chough" can't have taken place before The Book of Silk.

Civet. VBM

CLIJFER: Captain Wijzer's wife, possibly an inhumi.

CORN: The sibyl who wakes Marble in the Whorl.

CORPO: The meetings where the men of Blanko discuss current events.

COYPU: The man Silk meets in Limna who tells him about suffering heatstroke and meeting Doctor Crane. Possibly an agent of Crane or Quetzal.

CRANE: Sigada as he is called in Trivigaunte. He became a spy in Viron for money. Born in 276 in Trivigaunte. He is killed by the portion of the chemical soldiers loyal to the Calde when they believe they are mounting a rescue operation outside of Limna. Silk suspects Crane is a spy after Crane tells him he is only the third person with blue eyes he has ever met. Silk explains that the ratio of blue-eyed to brown is about 1 in 20 in Viron, and less in other cities.

Crane carries a heart monitor. When he dies the Trivigaunti horde attacks Viron.

Crassula. VBF

CRICKET: Cowslip's son and Horn's nephew.

CUGINO: A woodcutter of Blanko who makes Incanto's staff.

DACE: The sailor whose boat Scylla commands to take Auk, Chenille and Incus to the tunnels of Limna. He is killed by Gelada in the tunnels after making friends with Auk.

DAHLIA. A bio student at the palaestra contemporary with Moly, who she resembles.

DECINA: Inclito's cook. She is afraid of Incanto.

Desmid. VBU

Dreoilin. MBF

EATING: The inhumi do not, which is one way of distinguishing them from humans. The fact that Silkhorn eats very little throughout The Book of Horn has been noticed by many observers. The most straightforward explanation is that now he is a Vanished Person and no longer requires as much, if any food. The other possible explanation for this note in the text is presented by Michael Straight: 

If Silk was used to fasting and eating very lightly all his life, then Horn/Silk would probably get sick if he tried to eat as much as Horn was used to eating.  Thus all the fuss about not eating -- Horn wants to eat, but knows he'll regret it if he does.

ECHIDNA: The wife of Pas. She conspired to kill him so he hid himself in Mainframe. Silk's instinct is to disobey her theophany. She is the mother of the gods and queen of the Whorl.

ECO: Mora's husband. He is a mercenary. Both he and Mora are imprisoned and after she is raped by their guards against his protests, they fall in love.

EFT: A cull.

ELAND: A convicted murderer sent to the pits, where he has a strong rapport with animals. He trains young gods. General Mint sees some good in him as they escape the tunnels. He is killed in the Calde's Palace by Hossaan, who mistakes him for Spider.

Elodia. VBF

ESCHAR: A magnate of New Viron.

ERMINE: The male owner of the largest home in Viron. It is a hotel and restaurant.

Erne. VBM

EVENSONG: A woman of Han who becomes concubine to Silkhorn and leaves him near Blanko.

FAVA: An inhumi who is Mora's friend and lives in Inclito's house. She feeds on Inclito's grandmother until Silkhorn tells her to stop. When her mind joins with Silkhorn's, astral travel is possible. She is the genetic production of Bean.

Feather. VBM

Feeler. VBM

FEIST: An officer in the rebel army.

FEMUR: Incus' older brother by seven years.


FULMAR: A member of Incus' circle of black mechanics. He hosts the gathering that Incus can't attend when Quetzal sends him to Limna. Incus describes him as a fool, which may be a clue that he is not all that he appears and some knowledge of the war situation is to be explained at the meeting of the black mechanics that evening. Fulmar is the man whose valet requests no compensation for his duties.

All material in The Encyclopedia of the Long Sun is copyrighted. Please do not reproduce without express written consent. The character format and list for the Book of Silk is by Sean Whalen.

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Monday, September 20, 2010


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The Encyclopedia of the Long Sun has character information and commentary for the following books by Gene Wolfe:

The Book of Silk:


The Book of Horn:


Note: this is an updated database. If you can fill in any of the blanks, post in the comments. If you create an entry worthy of the EoTL, we'll credit you with all the tidings of Pas. You can e-mail me at alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com.

GALAGO: One of the chems on the Ayuntamiento. Galago is a cousin of Councillor Loris and got on through nepotism, as Potto details to Mint in the opening chapter of Exodus of the Long Sun.

GALGLIARDO: An astronomer-scientist of Blanko. He may be someone else in the series hiding under an assumed identity in Soldo. 

GAUR: One of Urus' crew in the tunnels.

GAYFEATHER: A teen girl from Silk's palaestra.

Gecko. VBM

GELADA: A criminal sent to the pit. He kills Dace and eats his left arm. He is killed by Auk as retribution. Auk later explains to Chenille that he killed Gelada to win the good opinion of his fellow criminals. They'd never respect him otherwise.

GIB: A bouncer who fights for Silk's rebels. Auk saved his life.

GINGER. She gets her hand blown off.

GODLING: An aspect of Pas sent out in the Whorl. Pig is one. Silkhorn meets a big one outside of Blood's villa. According to Pig, the godlings are sent out by Pas to make people leave the Whorl.

Goldcrest. VBM

Goral. VBM

GRANDECITTA: A skyland city of the Whorl.

GREEN: One of two planets in the Short Sun Whorl. Green was the original planet of the Vanished People, where they were trees and vines. They are able to dream-travel to places they have already been. When the Vanished People began using inhumi to kill other Vanished People, they realized what they had created in the inhumi and abandoned Green and Blue rather than continue the practice. Green is the only place where it is warm enough for the inhumi to reproduce, according to Juganu.

Silkhorn becomes one of the Vanished People (and thus possibly part inhumi, since their previous form was influenced by the Vanished People). They later testify on his behalf at Silkhorn's trial in Dorp. There is much evidence of their intervention in Silkhorn's life, including his ability to move through any kind of brush, his ability to talk to animals, and the fact that he was able to transport himself from the lander on Green to Silk's body on the Whorl at all.

GRIAN: The flier who escaped the Trivigauntes by flying away. 

Grison. VBM

GUAN: A member of Spider's team of spies working for the Ayunamiento, he is found dead by General Mint, Spider and Remora in the tunnels.

GULO: The augur Quetzal sends to help Patera Silk. Despite spying on Silk for the chapter, Gulo is a devoted supporter of the Calde. He instructs some boys and himself chalks "Silk for Calde" on the walls of buildings. Later he leads massive crowds in prayer as Silk's acolyte.

GYRFALCON: A merchant of New Viron. He is deeply afraid of Horn's influence in the city and exiles him to find Pajarocu. He is an arms manufacturer, and may have supplied Marrow with his cache. He is killed at the wedding, which he attended directly on Silk's invitation, with a cadre of bodyguards. Silk was anticipating the attack and had Gyrfalcon there to defend his family.

HADALE: A major of Trivigaunte. She is General Saba's subordinate. She believes Saba has gone crazy and imprisons her after she flies the airship towards Mainframe.

HAMMERSTONE: A chemical soldier, father of Olivine. Hammerstone is found by Patera Incus dying in the tunnels. Incus tinkers with him illegally to turn his loyalty to Incus himself. He originally was in love with Moly, but after he was put in coldsleep, he went in a different direction. When the Trivigaunte airship attacks, he escapes the bonds of criminals from the Pit and wages war on their female troopers.

Hare. VBM

HARI MAU: The Gaonese chieftain who goes to the Whorl to find Silk and brings back Silkhorn on a lander.  He possibly regards Silk as a father figure and may even reverence him as a god. 

HART: A teen in Silk's palaestra. He is wounded in the fighting.

HIDE: Horn's son, twin to Hoof. Hide becomes a member of the force in Blanko, where Silkhorn convinces him through dream travel that he is in fact partly his father.

HIERAX: One of Pas' children, the evil god of death.

HOLLY: A teen in Silk's palaestra, included because she was Nettle's classmate.

HONEYSUCKLE: Mint's maid in the Calde's Palace.

HOOF: One of Horn's twins sons, the other being Hide. Author, in part, of The Book of Horn. They are identical twins.

HORN: Born in 317. The author of The Book of Silk and The Book of Horn. A part of him appears to move into Babbie after he takes possession of Silk's body on the Whorl. His corporeal body dies in the lander on Green.

HORN (Neighbor): One of the Vanished People who tells Horn that his own name is Horn. He is probably telling the truth and is Silkhorn.

HOSSAAN: Also known as Willet. At the beginning of Nightside the Long Sun, he is the second-in-command of Sigana in the Trivigaunte spy network. After Crane's death, he becomes the chief intelligence agent in Viron. He leads some female pterotroopers on a raid of the Viron government. Silk comments that all he had to do was wait outside for the troopers to arrive.

HUS: A boar-like creature of Blue. Robert Borski asked Wolfe the etymology of the word: Hus is a little embarrassing. It's an old word for house. (A hussy was a kept woman: a house woman, like a house dog, rather than a housewife--a woman who was shacking up.) When I started the book, I wanted to combine the house-pet idea with the wild-boar idea, and called Babbi a hushhog. I hadn't gotten very far before I realized that most readers would see the word as hush-og and my characters began referring to him as "hus." So I left it at that.

HYACINTH: The whore Silk falls in love with after falling into her bed in Blood's villa. She sends him a love note and they meet at Ermine's and make out. She is consistently identified with the mother.  Hyacinth dies in the Whorl and Silk's essence moves into Horn as he mourns her death.

Hyacinth is a Trivigaunte spy under the command of Sigada. Her father was also a spy, positioned as a clerk in the Juzgado. Instead of going on a lander, she remains in the whorl, probably because she hopes to reunite with the Trivigauntes. There is a significant school of thought that Hyacinth is a male changed by plastic surgery into a female. There is also a long argument about whether or not she is a chem.

Horn reveals in his afterword that she was a foul creature and that Silk's faith in her was entirely misplaced. And indeed, her tete-a-tete with General Saba in the Trivigaunte airship probably indicates both a past relationship and a loyalty to Trivigaunte that spans the entire Book of Silk.

HYRAX: One of Spider's associates in the intelligence network. He is killed in the fighting in the tunnels. Maytera Marble sheds light on the meaning of his name - it's given to children whose parents have died in childbirth.

INCANTO: The name by which Silkhorn goes while he's under the care of Inclito's family in Blanko. It's given to him by Inclito on their ride out to his estate in In Green's Jungles.

INCANTO (Inclito's brother) Died during infancy. Inclito's mother was barren, and this first child was an enchanted child, according to Robert Borski.

INCUS: An augur who is also a black mechanic. He is the pawn of Scylla. After the Whorl colonizes Blue, he becomes Prolocutor of Viron, as Hound tells Silkhorn in Return to the Whorl. Many critics believe Incus is a woman.

INHUMI: A species native to Green. The inhumi take their genetic material from other organisms and replicate their behavior as mirrors. As reflections of humanity, they kill because we kill each other.

This is clarified during a conversation between Jahlee, Hide and Silkhorn during In Green's Jungles:

"Sinew and Bala and all the other people on Green? Are the inhumi going to kill them all the way they did the Vanished People that were there?"

"No," I said.

"Are you sure?"

"As sure as I can be without actually knowing the answer, Hide. I can't possibly know-I'm sure you must realize that. You were asking my opinion, and my opinion is that they won't."

I found his next question startling, as I still do. It was, "Because of something we did?"

I said, "Of course not. Do you think that we can save an entire whorl, my son? Just you and I?"

"It isn't just us. There's Sinew and Bala and their children, and Maliki, and a lot of others."

"Ah! But that's a very different question. In that case, yes. Green will be saved because of things we've done and things we'll do. So will Blue. The Vanished People know it already, and I should have known it too when they asked my permission to revisit Blue. If the inhumi were to enslave humanity here, the Vanished People wouldn't want to come back; and if they were to exterminate it, no such permission would be needed."

Hide nodded, mostly I think to himself.

"You are always bored when your mother and I talk about the whorl that we left to come here-the Long Sun Whorl. So I'll try to make this as brief as I can. When we were on the lander, I thought as we all did that Pas had made a terrible mistake, that Green was a sort of death trap filled with inhumi."

"It is."

"No, it isn't. There are inhumi there, of course, and in large numbers. But not in overwhelming numbers. They prey upon the colonists-or try to – exactly as they prey upon us here."


"And they are killed in the attempt, not every time but quite often. Sinew and the colonists can kill them, you see, and frequently do. They lose nothing by it. The inhumi can kill them, too. I cleared a large sewer on Green once, Hide. It was choked with human bodies, several thousand I would say."

"That must have been horrible."

"It was. But, Hide, each of those bodies represented a slave or a potential slave, an inhuman who had bled to death instead of working and fighting for his masters. Sinew's victories leave him stronger, but the inhumi's leave them weaker."

Tonight Hide made the same argument to Jahlee, couching it in his own terms and presenting it much less concisely than I have given it here.

She shook her head. "We'll win. We're winning on both whorls already."


"Because you fight among yourselves far more than you fight us. Do you remember the question I asked your father when we came to the gate of Qarya?"

Hide shook his head.

"I asked what good the ditch and the wall of sticks were, when we inhumi can fly. He didn't answer me, because he knew the answer. Would you like to try?"

"I guess not."

"You sell your own kind to us for weapons and treasure," she told him almost apologetically, "and the more numerous you are, the crueler and more violent you are. Your cruelty and your violence strengthen us."

He stared at her, puzzled.

"Ask this man you call your father. He'll tell you."

I said, "He hasn't, and he won't."

She ignored it. "You took part in the war Soldo fought with Blanko. Who do you think won it?"

"Blanko," Hide said.

"You're wrong. We did."
IOLAR. The flier Musk attacks in the air. He drops into Lake Limna, where he is picked up by Councillor Lemur, who casts him back into the lake after Iolar refuses to admit the secret of the fliers' propulsion modules.

JAHLEE: The inhumi who is Krait's mother. She passes on his genetic material to her offspring. Jahlee feeds on Lizard Island more than once. She is dug up by Silkhorn in order to help the Gaonese side of the war.

JERBOA: An augur who took up his post in 271. His acolyte is Patera Shell. Pas put a part of himself in Jerboa before he died. When it is removed from Jerboa and reintegrated with Mainframe, Jerboa dies. Auk picks up his body and moves it.

JUGANO: An old inhumi that Silkhorn enslaves. He feeds off both Hoof and Silk. He provides the disturbing description of inhumi breeding in Return to the Whorl.

Kalan. VBM

KENBAAR: A lieutenant in the Army of Dorp.

Kerria. VBM

KINGCUP: The owner of a livery stable. Along with Newt for the Juzgado, she joins the Ayuntamiento as a representative of the people.

Kit. VBM

KUPUS: The leader of the mercenaries that Duko Rigoglio hires to fight for Soldo. Short, stout and brave. 

KYPRIS: Goddess of whores, she has conflict with Scylla. After possessing Chenille, she convinces Silk to carry out her plan. Like Pas, Kypris wants to bring the whorl to the Short Sun whorl while Echidna and Scylla wish to continue their god games.

LEMUR: Councillor of the Ayuntamiento until he is killed by Doctor Crane on his submarine. Distracted by the revelation that his corporeal body is dead, Lemur drops Crane's azoth. Lemur was the de facto leader of the Ayuntamiento.

At some point his corporeal body dies while being maintained by life support systems in the Ayuntamiento's hideout submarine in Lake Limna. While his chemical form is distracted by the revelation his biological body is dead, Crane kills him with the azoth he lent to Silk. At first the Ayuntamiento spreads the rumor that Loris is alive, and it is by making a simple deduction that Quetzal assumes Loris is dead. He may also have viewed the scene himself from the air.

LIANA: The woman who allows Silk past the front lines of the battlefield in Calde of the Long Sun. She is around 20.

LIJAM. The minister of war of Trivigaunte.

Lily. VBF

LIME: One of General Mint's commanders. She leads an army of women during the first charge on the Alembrara, a corps that is later turned into nurses.

Linsang. VBM

LION: One of Musk's lynxs.

LOACH: A resident of Viron who drives a wagon that carries the dead. He is a pallbearer at Orpine's funeral.

LORIS: A chemical member of the Ayuntamiento. He becomes the presiding officer after Lemur's death. Described as a handsome, elderly man. He dies after firing his needler at invading Trivigaunti troops. Silk comments that he probably wanted to go down like a fighting man. He seems to realize that he is in his corporal body now and his biological body is no more.

All material in The Encyclopedia of the Long Sun is copyrighted. Please do not reproduce without express written consent. The character format and list for the Book of Silk is by Sean Whalen.

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Friday, September 17, 2010


Someone said to me not long ago that they felt there was no book of man they could not fathom easily. There are a few things happening in Gene Wolfe's The Wizard Knight that put the lie to that.

The mystery of King Gilling's murder is a subject that will be of continuing interest to Wolfe scholars. In his immortal guide to Wolfe's book, Michael Andre-Driussi doesn't venture to tell us his own opinion. We can infer that he thinks it is more exciting to come to the conclusion on our own.

Mr. Andre-Driussi provides us with most of the textual evidence on this question, rather like a CSI technician passing along the clues. Wolfe's best detective, of course, was the narrator of "The Detective of Dreams." The double meaning of this story's title was that the title both referred to the narrator and to God himself, who was doing the dream-making. His second best detective is Mr. Blue of Pandora by Holly Hollander, and he too makes much of the mischief, both bad and good, in that novel.

The entity most interested in the answer to the question of who murdered King Gilling - and therefore the detective of The Wizard Knight - is Thiazi, one of the most enigmatic characters in the book. Thiazi appears to have changed from his native horrible giant state to a creature of different ideas, perhaps because of the love he naturally lost.

From what I've just said, it would be fruitless not to debate the question of whether Thiazi himself was the murderer. There are a few major points in his candidacy as the killer:

1) He suggests the same person attempted Gilling's murder during the melee, and then killed Gilling in the courtyard during the fighting at the gate to Utgard. This indicates his guilt, because if that is true, then he is the most likely candidate for the killer. As he notes, he was present at both incidents.

2) Able will not tell Thiazi who the killer is. Since Able is usually honest, especially when he is begged, this does not look very good for Thiazi. On the other hand, most of the other potential candidates also have reason to be protected by Able.

3) After Schildstarr ascends the throne, Thiazi is right by his side. Able explains this as a political calculation, but it is far from obvious. A strange comment by Able after seeing how the giants have rearranged their government is a muted tip-off that the intrigue in the castle is not all that it appears to the humans. There is even the implication that Able and Thiazi have essentially accomplished a coup, since it was impossible that Gilling would have allowed Idnn to leave Utgard.

4) Schildstarr appears to be a more powerful king than Gilling, and may even be controlling some of the giants he purports to fight for the king against. His sorties against Able's camp aside, he appears to be a better ruler and this would benefit Thiazi.

6) The fact that Thiazi is unable to find out who the killer is indicates the killer could conceivably be him.

But let us review the pertinent facts briefly once more.

Org kills six giants during the melee, but doesn't have a knife and didn't stab the King. He is capable of moving extremely quickly over short distances and could have turned off the lights before the incident, but it equally could have been Baki. A faux giantess appears  - this could be Baki, but we don't usually the see the Fire Aelf adjusting their size in that fashion. It is more likely Huld, who can assume any form.

Baki could have stabbed the King, and Andre-Driussi gives some weight to the idea that she's the one who did it. If she did, why did she wait so long to act before antagonizing Gilling again? Although Uri tries to pin the event on Baki (and she may be basing this on the fact Baki was involved in the stabbing), she has good reason to rival her sister. She also may honestly believe that Baki was the killer.

The manner of the attack during the melee on Gilling indicates the perpetrator as well. The person was either of a size to wield the stabbing implement, or wanted it to look as if they were. This points to Thiazi. Perhaps he intended to make it look as if Toug had done it.

Svon says that he would have done it, but he indicates he didn't. This would be a difficult task for him, because his right eye has already been swollen shut. He certainly didn't actually kill King Gilling later on - he was fighting giants at the time. The same is true of Garvaon. In the fighting, he may have thought that he had - he slew giants during that unfair battle. Thiazi even goes out of his way to praise the valor with which Garvaon and Svon fought.

There is also the issue of Thiazi's size. Able describes him as three times the size of Beel, but Beel is a tiny man. He's smaller than King Gilling, and that would be about the height of the stabbing in the lower back.

Then there is the question of who is giving Thiazi instructions. For that we turn to the Valfather, for he clearly has a dog in this fight besides Able. He has informants in Mythgarthr, and the fact that Thiazi possesses Able-like powers is an indication that he is one of them. Huld may be as well. They may even toss Gilling to his death together, seeing that it was the perfect time for the King to go away for good now that his kingdom was falling apart and so clearly needed new leadership.

What is the Valfather's motivation to strike against King Gilling? I believe it is to preserve Queen Idnn, who he regards also as his servant in Mythgarthr, and who is the namesake of the goddess.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


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The Encyclopedia of the Long Sun has character information and commentary for the following books by Gene Wolfe:

The Book of Silk: 


The Book of Horn: 


Note: this is an updated database. If you can fill in any of the blanks, post in the comments. If you create an entry worth of the EoTL, we'll credit you with all the tidings of Pas. You can e-mail me at alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com.
Macaque. VBM

MAGNESIA: Marble's original name when she was loaded onto the Whorl. See Marble.

MALIKI: Abanja's name in Qarya.

MALRUBIUS: Severian's first master in the guild of the torturers as a boy. Silkhorn later takes on his form as an eidolon to influence the events of The Book of the New Sun which follows after the The Book of Silk and The Book of Horn.

MAMELTA:  The sleeper who Mucor wakes. She is dying in her own coldsleep container when Silk saves her, having been woken in an airless environment. He frees her. They descend into one of the ships connected to the Whorl, where Silk views the universe outside it for the first time. She is killed by Scylla in Lake Limna.  Mamelta is commonly identified with Kypris, and some even believe she essentially was Kypris with changed memories. She is also linked to Hyacinth and to the mother figure that has a tremendous influence on Silk. His desire for Mamelta is akin more to a strange fascination. That is because she is "Ma" his mother born again.

MANDRILL: An associate of Gelada's. He left Viron for Palustria.

Maple. VBF

MARBLE: Born in 12 as Magnesia. Chemical woman who has been sibyl of the Sun Street manteion for over 300 years. She is one of Silk's closet confidantes. She leaves the whorl on the lander and ends up living on an island on Blue with Mucor. She is composed of many parts of her sister sibyls, and once she takes Maytera Rose's better parts, she becomes extremely fast, agile, and powerful.

Marl. VCM

MARROW: A grocer in Viron, he becomes one of the leaders of New Viron on Blue.  He appears to want to exile Horn because of the popularity he might command within New Viron. Silkhorn implies that he is killed by Gyrfalcon in a power struggle.

MARMOT: An unemployed cull who fights for General Mint.

MARZO: One of Duke Rigoglio's guards in Soldo.

Marten. VBM

Matar. TBF

MATTAK: Colonel Oosik's son. He is a member of the Guard loyal to the Ayuntamiento. He goes by Cornel Mattak.

Mear. MBM

MERL: A resident of Viron who runs into Hari Mau and his gang while they're looking for Silk. They have some kind of conflict, which Merl later relates to Silkhorn in Hound's shop.

MINT: Born in 296 in Viron. Sibyl of the Sun Street manteion. She is possessed and some part of Kypris remains in her. She leads the rebel army against the Ayuntamiento and is known as the Sword of Echnida. After the landers leave the Whorl, Mint becomes calde and survives an assassination attempt that puts her in a wheelchair.

MOCKORANGE: A sibyl from the old days who gave Mint her first instructions.

MOLPE: Daughter of Pas. The goddess of music. She is second born after Scylla. Scylla says of her, "Molpe took the arts, like you'd expect." She's described as having hair strewn across her face. She is the patroness of the second day of the week, Molpsday, and is identified with birds and butterflies. She has a strong association with Mucor, and is said to suffer from bouts of insanity.

MOLY: Molybdenum was a chemical maid in the Sun Street cenoby. She fell in love with Hammerstone but he went into cold sleep underground. When Maytera Rose became pregnant and Maytera Betel sick Moly was forced to volunteer her parts to Maytera Betel. It is likely her hand that remains a part of Maytera Marble, not Maytera Rose's. After Hammerstone returned from coldsleep, he didn't go looking for Moly. He may have gone to the Sun Street manteion and not found her. They are reunited and married in the Calde's Palace after Marble ends her time as a sibyl, but are separated after the journey to Blue.

MONEY: The citizens of the Whorl chop up cards that are used to power the landers. This creates cardbits. On Blue, some enterprising individual creates fake cards of a different color, silver or gold. In Green's Jungles finds Silkhorn musing about the problems of currency:

But what confusion! Much of it is in silver-of various grades and alloyed with a variety of other stuffs, generally nickel. Some of it is gold, more or less alloyed with copper and lead. It ranges in hardness from a buttery little ingot contributed by Cantoro (may the Outsider smile upon him, now and forever), to three broad disks as hard as flints.

Nor is that all. There are real cards, too, such as we used to use in the Whorl. How much silver is a card worth? How much gold? I have asked half a dozen merchants, bankers, and moneylenders thus far, and received a full dozen replies. That is scarcely to be wondered at, and not all the cards in circulation here are in serviceable condition. (To think that we used to chop them up into a hundred cardbits, never once considering that they could never be reassembled!)

Moorgrass. VBF

MORA: Inclito's daughter. She is captured and raped by the men of Soldo.  She and her father resemble Chenille and Calde Tussah. She knows that Fava is an inhumi but doesn't tell her father. Fava gets her to spy against Blanko. She steals Rimando's horse, but her and Eco fall in with mercenaries loyal to the Incanto. They shower them with gifts. Possibly an alternate future for Chenille as a distinguished woman of power.

MORAY: An augur killed by Eft. He was bringing the Pardon of Pas to the injured.  Silk discovers his body with his arms crosses over his torso.

MOTA: A follower of Hari Mau.

MOTHER: The god of the Vanished People possessed by Scylla.

MUCOR: Biological daughter of Blood, granddaughter to Maytera Rose. She takes care of the remnant of her grandmother left on Blue. Aids Horn and Silk, and Silkhorn. Born in 317. Almost everything she does for Silk is incredibly heroic but no one really notices. Silk seems to be her God. Silk meets her in her room in Blood's mansion. She later possesses a number of key figures in his life and usually is around to torment him. She wakes the sleeper Mamelta, and possesses Cassava at the funeral of Maytera Rose. Her paranormal powers can cross worlds, but it takes a heavy toll on her. 

MURTAGON: A famous artist. According to some, a woman.

MUSK: Blood's lover. He hates Silk and tries to kill him at Maytera's funeral, but is killed himself by Maytera Marble.

NABEANNTAN: The town that Pig says he comes from. A mountain town. No idea whether this is accurate or if it simply belies a larger truth.

NAT: A magnate of Dorp. He wants Beroep's boats. He sends troopers from Dorp to arrest Silkhorn. Beroep calls him a thief. Judge Hamer is his cousin.Windcloud calls him "fat." In the context of the trial, it is really strange how much we don't know about Nat. Sure, he accuses Silkhorn unjustly (says Silkhorn), but he never does anything directly to harm him and may be seeking the rightful return of his property.

NEIGHBORS: See Vanished People. The term neighbor itself has many connotations in Wolfe's oeuvre, most recently in The Sorcerer's House. It usually means faerie, but it also may connote a creature that resides entirely in a "neighbor"ing world of its own.

NETTLE: Horn's wife. Like Horn, she becomes a Vanished Person. Her presence on Lizard Island may in fact be her dream traveling from another location. In Silkhorn's final conversation with Patera Remora before he returns to the whorl, Remora asks him, "Who's Nettle?" This indicates that Nettle had not exactly been her vivacious self during their years on Blue and that she may even have been dead then.

What happened to Nettle is strongly hinted at by Silkhorn during this passage of In Green's Jungles:

Sinew had found an altar of the Vanished People in a wood, and had tried to persuade me to visit it without exposing himself to the humiliation of my refusal. Now I wonder what wonders I missed by my surly rejection of his implied invitation. Was it an altar like the one to which Oreb guided me today? If not, in what respects did it differ, and why? Did Sinew himself worship there? If he did, did he experience what I experienced today, or anything of the kind? Have you visited the place, Nettle? 

Yes. She did visit the altar, and that is where she likely made the same bargain Horn did with the Vanished People during his stay with He-Pen-Sheep.

NEWT: The representative from the Juzgado in the new Ayuntamiento. Possibly Hyacinth's father, possibly a Trivigaunte spy.

NINE: The nine gods are Pas, Echidna, Scylla, Kypris, Thelxiepeia, Molpe, Hierax, Phaea and Spighx.

NIZAM: The Trivigaunte flying trooper who brings Tick to the airship.

NOVELLA CITTA: A town on Blue.

Olive. PBF

OLIVINE: The daughter of Corporal Hammerstone and Maytera Marble. She meets Silkhorn in an abandoned house in Viron. She "haunts" the Calde's palace, bothering Mint and Bison.

ONORIFICA: Inclito's maid.

Oont. VBM

OOSIK: The commander of the bio guards of Viron. He first meets Silk after a member of the guard shoots Silk with a needler. He returns Silk's possessions to him, reveals his sympathy to Silk's cause and his moral ambiguity as to who prevails in the conflict. He also tells Silk that he's had sex with Hyacinth multiple times, but that he meant nothing to her. In return for his behavior, Silk keeps him in his position after the revolution. He appears to have extensive relationships with the Trivigauntes. Possibly he is being blackmailed with information from his consort Hyacinth.

ORCHID: The mistress of her eponymous whorehouse. Worked for Blood until he is killed by Silk. When she hears of Blood's death, she takes it pretty well so she probably didn't care much for him. She is described a large but not unappealing woman. She gives Silk 100 cards for an appropriate funeral for her daughter.

OREB: The night chough possessed by Scylla who follows Silk around and generally keeps him alive.

ORPINE: Orchid's daughter, killed by Mucor in Chenille's body. Orpine comes to Mucor's attention when Silk visits Orchid's. She may have threatened Mucor.

OUTSIDER: Silk's god, the one true God who Silk pledges himself to after abandoning the nine. He is commonly identified with the Christian God.

OXLIP: One of Horn's sisters.

PACA: A dead man in the tunnels below the Whorl. Possibly sent to the pit.

PAJAROCU: A phantom town on Blue's western continent.

PAREL: A servant girl of Dorp.

PAS: Typhon, ruler of Earth. He has he and his family deified and loads them onto the starcrosser Whorl. After his family decides to kill him, he hides himself by possessing various people in the Whorl, including Patera Jerboa. Silkhorn speculates Pas had a place for himself on Blue. This is likely Lizard Island.

Peeper. VBM

Petel. see Titi

PHAEA: Echidna's fourth child, "the goddess of food and healing." The Vironese thank her before they eat. Maytera Mint tells Auk to pray to her when he's hungry. It's unclear to what extent Phaea was involved in the destruction of Pas. She is described as "Fierce" Phaea and "fat" Phaea.

PIG: A godling Silkhorn meets in the Whorl. Pig is blind until Silkhorn takes him to the pole where he has his sight restored by a doctor. He tells Silkhorn he's never seen a lander, so we can infer that he spent his whole life on the Whorl. He may have never had eyes.

PIKE: Silk's first mentor at the Sun Street Manteion. When he dies, Silk becomes senior augur. Silk's later vision of Patera Pike is assumed to actually be Silkhorn.

Poppy. VBF

Pork. VBM

POTTO: The intelligence officer and member of Ayunamiento. Potto used blackmail to become a councillor. He is now a chem enacting out the life of a man in suspended animation.

QARYA: The village Sinew lives in on Green. It is surrounded by a wall of brick and earth and a small moat outside that.

QUADRIFONS: A minor god who is an aspect of the Outsider. God of passageways.

QUETZAL: The inhumi who impersonates the human prolocutor of Viron. It is difficult to say with any confidence what living person Quetzal stole his genetic material of. What is clear is that he enters the whorl from Green in the year 298. He impersonates a human augur and becomes Prolocutor the following year.

RAJAN: Silkhorn's name when he is directing the war against Han in Gaon.

Ratel. VBF

REMORA: The coadjutor of Viron at the beginning of Nightside the Long Sun. Scylla - through Oreb - influences Silk to not like Remora, who is something of a blowhard intellectual. Silk can't help liking Remora after he reads the letter Remora wrote asserting his authority as calde to the chapter. Although he struggles to make himself understood at times, Remore is actually one of the heroes of the series as well as an extremely intelligent, calculating and loyal man. Quetzal demotes him to augur of the Sun Street Manteion, making him Silk's replacement. Instead he becomes Prolocutor of New Viron.

RIGOGLIO: The duke who opposes Inclito and Blanko and is conquered by Silk. He dies during dream travel on Urth. He is a sleeper on the whorl who came over on one of the landers.

RINGS: Robert Borski has summarized the place of the rings Silkhorn receives in The Book of Horn thusly:

ROSE: The sibyl who was Blood's mother. She dies in her room in the Sun Street cenoby, where she is discovered by Marble in Lake of the Long Sun. She and her arm live on as part of Marble.

ROTI: A follower of Hari Mau.

All material in The Encyclopedia of the Long Sun is copyrighted. Please do not reproduce without express written consent. The character format and list for the Book of Silk is by Sean Whalen.

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