Thursday, April 30, 2015

Who invented Wotto metal: Otto Wotto or Joe Spade?

"Then the great inventor Otto Wotto invented Wotto metal. With wotto metal used as the matrix of a computer, any circuit or any million circuits could go anywhere desired. The circuits would create their own pathways, strings of single molecules; and they would uncreate them again when there was no data crying to be transported over those particular paths. Wotto Metal pretty much took the lid off of what computers could do. They could do just about anything."
-Serpent's Egg

"I'm Joe Spade--about as intellectual a guy as you'll find all day. I invented Wotto and Voxo and a bunch of other stuff that nobody can get along without anymore."
"I compute it and build it at the same time--out of Wotto-metal naturally."
"And that bushy-tailed machine just sparkled--like everything does that is made out of Wotto-metal."
-"Hog-Belly Honey"

"What we eat out of your ships and your stores are the most nourishing and sophisticated things you have brought, wotto metal, data gelatin, electronic reta, codified memories and processes."
-"Thieving Bear Planet"

A few possible answers to the question of who invented Wotto metal....

1) Joe Spade is lying. Otto Wotto invented Wotto metal.

2) Joe Spade is telling the truth. All that he claims is that he invented "Wotto" which could be taken to mean that he invented Otto Wotto who went on to invent Wotto metal. Thus, the two accounts are reconciled.

3) Both Otto Wotto and Joe Spade worked collaborated on the invention of Wotto metal.

4) There is no such thing as Wotto metal. No one invented it.

5) I like saying Wotto.


  1. The realist in me says that in "Hog Belly Honey," Joe Spade invented Wotto Metal, while in Serpent's Egg, Otto Wotto (or Daniel's Scottish cousin, O'o Wo'o) invented it, and that Lafferty cared much less about consistency than about the sound of his language.

    The rabid Lafferty fan in me (roughly 99.718%) says that you are very right, "Wotto" is fun to say--"Wo'o" slightly more so.

  2. A couple other possibilities, since I think Lafferty *does* care very much about consistency, though not perhaps in the sense that most writers would mean it:

    1) Lafferty is making fun of pulp SF, where substances like wotto metal get "invented" all the time, in all sorts of different circumstances, to fill whatever technological gaps the story has.

    2) Otto Wotto is Joe Spade, and vice versa, in different recensions or crosscuts of the multiplicity of worlds.

  3. Kevin, there were many giggles yesterday as I attempted to say "Wo'o" in front of my family.

    Drew, yes, both are very good suggestions. Thank you!

    It'd be interesting to know if there are any other Wotto mentions in any of the other novels. For completeness' sake, here's the other mention of Wotto metal from Serpent's Egg (actually the more memorable quote and the one that flashed in my mind as I read "Hog-Belly" yesterday).


    "I am not a little tin girl. I am, about 88 percent of me, a little wotto metal girl. But I bet an ignorant midas like yourself doesn't even know what wotto metal is."
    "How do you think I got to be a midas, you clanking urchin? the great inventor of wotto metal, Otto Wotto himself, was my maternal grandfather. I tell you that the wotto metal mine, if I may call it that, has paid out better than all the gold mines in the last thousand years."

  4. Chasing down another of Lafferty's pulp sf inventions, there are off-hand mentions of Voxo in "Maybe Jones and the City" and "Pleasures and Palaces" and my favorite one, from "Royal Licorice":

    "Flambeau La Flesche the zoom-zoom girl had zoomed to the top of everything with electronic swiftness. She was on Live; she was on 2-D, 3-D, and 4-D (you have to be smarter than hell to even know how to watch 4-; only Mensa members are allowed to apply for tickets to see it); she was on Voxo; she was in five simultaneous musical comedies; she was on Vodvil and Sound in the Round; she was in the Old Time Electric Theatre; and she was big in Metranome. Already she looked like a shoo-in to take the Nobel Prize in the Centerfold Division. Few were the media in which she had not quickly become outstanding."

  5. Such a cool concatenation of connections!

    I immediately thought of the multiple worlds/narrations explanation that Drew mentions. Especially having recently read Dan Knight's essay on the multiple endings of the Argo Cycle in Feast of Laughter 2.

  6. Daniel, I hereby accuse you of being a leaping lover of alliteration.