Magic in the Dark Lord (moderate spoilers)

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Tue Aug 26 12:16:13 EDT 2003


Jenne:

> > Okay. But then why can't the whole thing be done that way? Why do the
tours
> > need to lay waste real countryside and destroy real cities? Why do
armies of
> > real people need to be mustered so that they can be really killed? It's
made
> > quite clear that all this is ruining the DL world, so why don't the
magic
> > users who live there take the obvious alternative measures?
>
> Well, first of all, there is the issue with the scope of magic. It's
> alluded to that Derk, Mara and their children have extremely strong
> magic-- and in the sequel, it's made perfectly plain that Derk's family is
> immensely stronger than most modern magic users in this world.

That's not the impression one gets in DL itself, though, and it ought surely
to stand up on its own terms. Quite apart from Querida and non-human beings
such as dragons, who are even more powerful, I don't remember any suggestion
that Derk and his children were much more powerful than other wizards,
though they certainly display more talent than other people (such as
Querida) expect.

> Then there is the problem of control. Again it's alluded to but not
> specified-- the more illusions one is trying to control doing different
> things, the more difficult it gets.

Perhaps - but with so many magic users on hand, with organization (and a
University to coordinate things) I can't help feeling a lot more could have
been achieved in this line than it ever seems to occur to anyone to try.

> In addition, many or most of the wizards are elsewhere much of the time,
> as it is obvious that Mr. Chesney wants the groups to travel a lot, and
> each group has to have one wizard. Distance wizardry is clearly not a
> strong point in this magical setup.

At the risk of sounding like Bishop Berkeley, what matters is not whether
the tourists actually do travel, but whether they think they have, and that
kind of false memory is clearly within the power of an enchantress like
Mara. Need distance be a big issue?

>
> > One explanation might be that Mr Chesney insists on having the 'real
> > thing' - but actually he doesn't. On the one occasion he is consulted
about
> > it (when Derk proposes to 'ruin' his home village by illusion) it's
clear
> > he's not bothered: 'Settle it how you want' is his response.
>
> However, that may be his attitude toward petty details but not major ones.

Perhaps, but the pragmatic Mr Chesney doesn't really give any hint of that.

> One of the purposes accomplished by the whole thing is the disposal of
> prisoners from Mr. Chesney's world and of 'expendables'. With no real
> danger, that can't happen.

Still pragmatic - all that is required for the prisoners and expendables is
to run them through with a sword the moment they step through the portal
into the DL world.

> > The other obvious explanation is that there are limitations on what the
> > magic users of this world can achieve using illusion - but if so, they
> > aren't really explained, I think. Every time something goes wrong with
the
> > tours, it seems all to easy to have someone come and bodge it.
>
> I'm not sure what 'bodge' means, but I've always thought it meant
> 'jury-rigged'. It doesn't work properly and won't hold up, but it diverts
> the immediate problem.

That's my understanding too: all I meant was that this is the context in
which such solutions are applied in DL -Derk & Co tend to bring in magic
users to produce an illusion only when something fails to work in reality.
But if they set about it more systematically, they might come up with
something better than a jury-rig.

All this is in spirit of devil's advocate, of course - but when the whole
book is in part a parody of badly-imagined fantasy worlds, the world of DL
needs to be able stand up even to pernickety questioning!

Charlie


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