Teckla, etc

Michael S. Schiffer mss2 at attbi.com
Fri Jun 7 15:09:18 PDT 2002

At 02:32 PM 6/7/2002 -0700, Gregory Rapawy wrote:
> >...
>Many historical and current cultures and regimes have
>made and now make extravagant claims about how their
>particular structure is (1) an inevitable consequence
>of physical reality or other natural law; (2) too
>well-entrenched ever to be shaken; (3) supported by
>overwhelming  force too great to exist.  At any given
>point in time these claims may appear from an internal
>(or even a contemporaneous external) perspective to be
>true, and then may either suddenly or gradually come
>to be not true.
>Vlad's perception of the Empire as something too big
>to fight realistically, rather than as merely a very
>big thing that would be difficult and dangerous to
>fight, could be explained by (1) his desire (having a
>comfortable position in the system) not to fight it;
>(2) his reliance on sources of information friendly to
>the established order of things (Aliera, Morrolan,
>Verra, the Jhereg, maybe Sethra -- her allegiances are
>complicated, though); (3) his temperament (Virt's
>comment in _Dragon_ that Vlad is a tactician and not a
>strategist, or Sethra's in _Issola_ that Vlad really
>isn't comfortable with root causes, which two
>observations come to a similar thing).

He's also been to the Paths of the Dead, met the gods, and seen the Cycle 
in person.  He knows that the Empire has supernatural underpinnings, 
regardless of how well he judges the strength of those underpinnings.

This is an empire that's tens of thousands of years old.  Even if it's 
possible to destroy it by revolution, the *first* thing you need to do is 
figure out how your revolution will differ from the Teckla revolts that 
fail 94.11% of the time, and for that matter how it will differ from the 
revolts that succeed at the right point of the Cycle (which, after all, 
gets you a temporary Teckla Republic, not the overthrow of the Cycle).

I don't say that Cawti is wrong to lend herself to a goal like that.  But 
she was the second or third-best assassin in the Empire once upon a 
time.  She didn't get that way by lending herself to stupid plans, let 
alone by failing to plan at all.  Maybe Vlad's reporting of her 
conversation was unfair or incomplete, but as given they even seem to be 
taking any of the above into account.  As far as they seemed to be 
assuming, the Empire had lasted millennium upon millennium because no large 
group of Teckla ever figured out how to revolt before.

>It might be, of course, that the author does view the
>Cycle as a simple and unalterable physical reality, as
>Vlad almost describes it in _Taltos_ (though even Vlad
>says that a sufficiently strong person could move the
>Cycle -- and that raises the question: what kind of
>strength, and how much of it?).

I would guess that it's possible to move or destroy the Cycle.  It was 
possible to create it, after all.  But in both cases, I would expect that 
it would require both mundane and magical power.  The Empire was 
established by both, after all-- by warfare and by the manipulation of raw 
chaos into sorcerous power.  Why would Cawti believe it could be destroyed 
by only one of those?  She's seen the power of the people, and therefore 
ignores everything else she's ever learned about the world?  If she were 
trying to assassinate someone, and knew that there had been 283 previous 
failed attempts, wouldn't she at least try to find out what had happened 
and avoid the same pitfalls?  Yet there's no sense that she can articulate 
why this Teckla revolt is different from any other.  (At least, when Vlad 
tries to poke around that part of the problem, she shuts him down, IIRC.)

She needs more than justice on her side.  The Teckla have been victims of 
injustice for longer than our subspecies has been unambiguously 
around.  She (and her allies) need a plan for facing a powerful state 
backed by sorcery, the gods, and a few other mysterious supernatural 
forces. A state  which, moreover, has endured (with one short Interregnum) 
for an order of magnitude or three longer than every state in our own world 
put together.  For that, they need more than the conviction of their 
rightness backed by civil disobedience and popular revolt (or even whatever 
quarter-million-year-old copy of Lenin or Mao's Greatest Hits Paresh dug up).