yotg discussion

Tanaqui tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie
Mon Jan 15 23:19:34 EST 2001


Philip:
 
[Chinese New Year] 
+ Year of the snake, I seem to recall.  Seems rather appropriate for you,
+ Tanaqui ;-) ;-) ;-)

I'm a Monkey, dear. Does it show terribly?

I think there is no resolution to this argument: I think magic is the primary
and fundamental meta-skill in these books, and you do not. Furthermore, most
of DWJ's books give magic as a central theme to be explored, and do not promote
a scientific approach to it, as far as I am concerned (with my adherence to
repeatable results as part of science... people translocate with differing
degrees of skill and some cannot do it at all... and Blade himself learns that
it's at variance with maps but not quantifiably orthogonal or tangential).

+ People with magic talent can achieve quite a lot with the approaches you
+ suggest.  There is nothing to say that such people are in a majority.  Are
+ you denying tertiary education to the greater part of the populace simply
+ because they lack one talent?

Me? This seems even more ad hominem than my invoking the Author as part of the
book's composition. The answer is "no"... I'd love for there to be plenty of
books and tertiary education, but that does not happen. There is one Uni and
it teaches magic. Diana Wynne Jones has said in various books that mental magic
is quintessential. You were complaining that the Language Issue is not dealt
with in the book - well, the Education Issue is likewise missing.

Now, I *did* argue that since one can do most-anything with magic, then that
skill is a pretty important and widely applicable one... and I would still
claim that it is *the* meta-skill for Derk's world. I am not sure that anyone
in that world has no magic. If there are such people, it does not make them
less worthy fictional beings, but it does mean they're sidelined in a Fantasy
Land story. Callette is seen as a maker/engineer but where *does* she get that
barrel of blood? There's nothing to say that one has to use the abilities that
are pretty universal, especially if you have a particular skill, which is thus
more special.

There is nothing to say that everyone has magic, but there are no non-magical
beings indicated, and there is the mana-rock making magic ambient.

Nor should it matter whether one's place of learning is called a College or a
University. If you have Bard-skills and learn at the Bardic College, how are
you suffering from oppression? yes, I mentioned Literature... as a personal,
creative topic. I'm not sure it would be taught at the Bardic College, which
seems much more of an oral-tradition place at the moment. Music, History, Song
- I would think. And, yes, you can move Literature in under Song, but it's
blurring our-world catagories.

Your cited meta-skills, likewise, could exist in Derk's world, but there is
little evidence that they do. "artistic technique" is something that Callette
(and, I would argue, Derk) learn by practice, not by lessoning. The experiments
we see do not adhere to scientific method, but are more heftily informed by
intuition and even pop-psychology than our actual science.

+ Which reminds me.  Philosophy presumably exists as a discipline, or Polycant
+ wouldn't have titled his book "The Philosophy of Magic"

er. Possibly. We don't see any evidence of the existence of the discipline: it
might be a word originated and used only by Policant (like Shakspir, he seems
the sort).
 
+ If you are saying that _scholarship_ in Derk's world has concentrated on
+ magic to the exclusion of other sciences, yes it has, and I don't think that
+ this is realistic - this is exactly what I'm complaining about!  Why can't
+ you study literature, for example.

Ah, OK. There's no reason why you shouldn't... except that the world has been
farmed for magic, not stuff that Mr Chesney's world doesn't need to import.

Here I come to meet your argument: maybe there were once other Universities and
a host of Colleges, but Mr Chesney ensured that their funding was immediately
curtailed and turned the only one he saw as special into his training college.
Magic Envy! Bards and soldiers similarly needed a bit of practical training in
order to serve the theme-park.

+ If you are saying that the principles by which the _world_ actually operates
+ are magical to the extent that other sciences are useless,

Not useless. You can achieve the same effects with magic, if you just want to
Do Stuff, or combine physical skills with magery to great and wonderful effect.
The power-objects of _Crown of Dalemark_ reflected smith-talent as well as
magical gift, and the cwidder likewise was a union of magic and instrument-
making. Maybe Derk's world will move towards such creation now its magics
aren't just employed as stage-tricks for tourists.

I like the idea of helical argument. After all, Philip has forced me to think
about issues that didn't occur to me as I read the book. And, yes, I was
justifying. ooh, but I am so an idealist! Just one with different ideals (as
might be expected).

+ On this particular point, Universities don't need to be plural.  My complaint
+ about Derk's world was that the university is TOO differentiated!  It is not
+ universal enough for a single university set-up.  (I.e. it is differentiated,
+ but the complementary institutions seem to be absent)

Fair enough. The University did not try to be all things to all people, but
served Mr Chesney. Once freed, it could have degenerated into a mass of
Corkoran-projects, with all the tutors trying to secure the resources.
 
+ magic is NOT the only meta-skill applicable to Derk's world.  It is even
+ _recognised_ as not the only branch of learning, as witness the specialist
+ Bardic and Medical colleges.

er, which employ magic, right? Round and round... these ould be branched-off
practical applications.
 
I think by expanding the definition of science to include the personal effect
within the experiment, you are moving away from what I would recognise as
science. Is cold fusion real even though people can't replicate P&F's results?
What about parapsychology?
 
+ Do you think that the things I am complaining about, in the uni. set-up are
+ at the most fundamental level a disagreeable feature of the fantasy world?

Quite possibly. I really am not as easy with these books, because they have
embedded assumptions that DWJ has explicitly mocked in the Tough Guide, and
then incorporated in her writing.

Still, if everyone has magic, then it makes sense to have an institution which
will help to guide that skill... and it would deserve the "uni" prefix.

+ (To which I would add that not only were we left with the assumption that the
+ "on-stage folks" as you call them would be left to sort things out, Anscher
+ actually gave them the _task_ of sorting things out!)

That's where I got the assumption: but in _YotG_, we don't see it happening!
Where are those transport vehicles from the God? Did he send Policant?
 
+ Again, I misunderstood you.  I don't like the phrase "people who matter"
+ because it can be interpreted at the world level as well as the book level.
+ But I take back my disapproval anyway.

Sweet. Perhaps I should say "player character" in future? - that leaves no
implication that I'm talking about our consensus reality as well as a book's.
It implies the bounded, constructed mini-universe.

There is no proveable magic in our world, after all. Even if you are a mighty
mage, able to call fire from the heavens, it will be erased by our rationalist
tides... consigned to forteana or forgotten/explained.

Tanaqui
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