yotg discussion (spoilers)

Tanaqui tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie
Tue Jan 2 23:41:02 EST 2001

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time again to pick over details with Philip Belben:
+ I think the underlying assumption that <you go to the magical school/
+ university and they don't teach anything but magic> stood out for me 

I can't think what other universities might be expected. Magic is the meta-
skill which encompasses 'most anything, just as an abstraction of the 
scientific method would equip people to accomplish stuff in biology or bio-
chemistry or chemistry or metallurgy or materials sciences (those headers are
all Oxford Uni courses, and each one blends into the ones next to it). And
university education is, after all, about Abstraction rather than Skills,
which is what used to separate Universites and Polytechnics (of course, elitism
came into play because concrete stuff is insufficiently valued).

Callette can make things without needing a degree. Derk has come rather to
despise the University which can't Educate ("e ducare" - to lead out) and its
student-loan liens, since Querida chose to regard the griffins as objects more
than people. Of course, Derk himself has an element of "let's tinker with this
neat thing" objectification in his thinking, but he also seems to be a pretty
considerate agonising human being who considers social impact, too. His
internal dialogues with the Mara-in-his-head were rather familiar.

+ Fine, as far as it goes.  But I still don't like the deus ex machina
+ presentation.  In fact I don't much like deus ex machina endings in any
+ circumstances.  I agree that something is needed to sweep away the old order
+ - this is something the students spend most of the book discovering; 

Well, um. What is needed is a righting of the world after Mr Chesney has been
allowed to remove its essence. The New Math, sorry, New Magic, has been shown
to be seriously wanting in inherent merit: it was used to prop up the theme
park and became a sort of magickal business school, turning out middle managers
and training the workforce. I agree that Policant's books are shown to be
sufficient in inspirational merit that he himself is unnecessary, but I don't
think that revivifying him is naughty on DWJ/the gods' part: they want someone
who will help the world flesh out again, and won't do it by making the theme
park over into their own version. Querida has been rather falling down on the
job - by wandering off and doing her Anti-Witch-of-the-Waste duty rather than
her Uni duty, she has been prettifying rather than getting at fundamentals in 
the way Scales and Policant can manage, and the gods presumably set up the 
circumstances of Policant being in stasis against future need (given the way 
the One plots, this is spot-on). She was rather forcefully reminded that
griffins are Not Nice to Own, as well. So, now we have more statues |-)

He didn't have to return in person, but I can see why he does. His books are so
helpful to those who defy Authority and read them, that his being in Authority
and asking provoking questions are useful to the meeker types, who are still
redeemable. DWJ and the gods like to use what is to hand, rather than drafting
from scratch! It is *neat*, and besides magic and creativity being in the same
Venn space (not you, Ven, the diagram-maker), implicit structuralism is rather
required. After all, the University exists to promote structured learning:
the Blades and Kits are lucky to have Scales instead, and I can certainly see
Elda the good learner (as _Dark Lord_ stipulates) getting rather a lot from
Flury, Policant - and even from having had awful exemplary teachers.

+ For example, Flury is an excellent teacher.  

but would he be equal to being Chancellor quite yet? It's rather nice not to
have to be in Authority, but have a chance to read and talk. Policant has done
it already, and can hack it, so it's not too cruel to use him.

+ without a deus ex machina to do it for you.  About the only thing Policant is
+ needed for is to demote Querida to vice chancellor :-)

That's deus ex machina for you. Accepting that there are gods, and that the
Higher Powers/Upper Room lot are actually beneficent, leads one to believe
that it is for the best. It's the eternal dilemma of Authority: sometimes it
is OK, often it is horrid.

And Corcoran and Querida try very hard, but the former is unable to see beyond
his own field: it is impossible to collaborate with him. One has to foist his
own goal on him as a lousy gift, or let him mess it up in his own way. (BTW,
I think the over-neat jinx resolution was forced by the rather urgent 
circumstances. DWJ doesn't want to sell her travel jinx, even the Proper Way,
because she still hasn't finished with its implications and isn't sure that
Efficient Travel matters sufficiently - but if she were running out of air,
she might be persuaded! These teenagers are pretty damn sure that they have
Will to be directed, not vague wishing that things might be otherwise).

Agonising. Querida has the right impulses (good on her reflexes with the
atavistic griffins), but when she tries long-term strategic planning, she tends
to be a bit off-beam. Now, Policant - who besides being a historical figure
has had a chance to observe the University for an unnatural span - will 
doubtless be better in that regard. Especially as we *know* he didn't become
a didact.

Anscher is not responding to prayer here - we have a different deus ex machina.
I can't see why you prefer the first one, rather than accepting the ongoing
commitment of the People Who Matter to doing what is necessary to regrow the
biodiversity of their world.

+ slightly less ex machina (he is responding to prayer).  On the other hand, 
+ since at the end of DL the gods stepped in, I would have expected to see them 
+ at work more in YotG, but they seem to have retired to the background again.

They are being less obvious. Godly appearances do seem to be pretty much once-
in-a-lifetime specials. They do seem pretty reserved: I would want my gods to
be a little more pro-active if a Chesney came along. Perhaps they reflect their
people, who allowed themselves to yield up their self-determination once.

+ all, I don't like the deus ex machina; I also think that ending things too
+ quickly is one of DWJ's weaknesses (someone mentioned this in connection with
+ Ogre Downstairs; Power of Three suffers similarly).

mm. I rather like it when the final pieces of the ethical/story puzzle start
to make sense. I find it so hard to point at definitive DWJ stances (she's
so magnificently subversive and prone to moving on in a debate faster than
my brain can scamper) that it's nice to see that there is obvious structure
before one has had a chance to process all the stuff tugging at previous
threads, or lying about until months later the brain says "hang on! Twit! You
missed this completely!". DWJ has so many insides.

I have so many outsides now; everything I touch raises ghosts
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