Derk as Mad Scientist / Chrestomanci as Parasite (was: Buffy)

Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk
Tue May 21 09:16:40 EDT 2002





Not being a Buffy fan, I almost skipped Michelle's message.  Glad I didn't!

> thinking about 'with power comes responsibility', Derk is an interesting
> case study.  Is it right for Derk to create all these weird hybrid
> animals, just because he can?  or is he a bit of a mad scientist?

I think Derk _is_ a bit of a mad scientist.  I don't have much of a problem with
his simple genetic modifications - the sheep, the geese, and so on - but some of
the other animals give me major problems.

Take the carrier pigeons, for example.  These are intelligent beings.  But it
seems the only life open to them is to work for Derk's Pigeon Post (and get shot
at by Dick Dastardly?).  I can't help thinking if it is right to creaste a being
with intelligence but no free will, which is what Derk seems to have done here.
To some extent his flying horses have a similar problem, but I get the
impression that they are no less free than any other horse - they could if they
chose run off and live in the wild.  The horses are probably less intelligent
than the pigeons, too, being less autonomous in their jobs.

> And does anyone else have a problem with the social setup in the
> Chrestomanci books?  If you are a powerful enchanter why do you
> need servants...

Not really.  What's wrong with servants?  Quite a good job creation scheme, one
way or another...

Whatever Chrestomanci's powers, he has to be able to move in social circles
where servants are the norm.  Hence he needs servants.  In his world, there's
nothing "wrong" about being a domestic servant.  Lots of people might even
choose it as a career.

In our own world, class consciousness and egalitarian sentiment mean that very
few people choose domestic service as a career, simply because by taking a
domestic job you imply that your employer is your social superior.  OTOH have a
look at Jack Vance's "Big Planet" for an interesting solution to the question of
servants and class differences.  (Basically one community has everybody working
part-time as a servant for someone else.  No class differences - you may be
employing someone at your party one night, and then working for them at theirs
the next)

[Minor spoiler]

Also, Gabriel de Witt employed a number of promising enchanters on his domestic
staff, simply to have an opportunity to train them.  Christopher Chant seems to
have continued this scheme and made it official - many of the staff who appear
to the casual visitor to be servants are actually top magicians with government
jobs in Chrestomanci's department.

This is an interesting piece of misdirection.  Ordinary people have little idea
who Chrestomanci is - Cat didn't even know he was an enchanter.  The rebel magic
users knew who Chrestomanci was, but didn't realise how many of his staff were
also magicians, on whom he could draw in an emergency.

Finally, I suppose, there is a certain conservatism in Chrestomanci Castle.
Just as they don't think of using anything other than silver cutlery at dinner
until Janet suggests it, they probably wouldn't think of using magic "as a home
help" (Mark mentally criticising Gladys) when every big house has an army of
servants to run it.  In fact, _not_ employing servants at a place like
Chrestomanci Castle would probably look very strange in that world (and spoil
the misdirection).

Philip.







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