Two words about two letters etc. (small PotD Spoiler)

Tue Jan 14 14:42:48 PST 2003

>From: Philip Hart <philiph at SLAC.Stanford.EDU>
>To: Andrew Lias <anrwlias at hotmail.com>
>CC: dragaera at dragaera.info
>Subject: RE: Two words about two letters etc. (small PotD Spoiler)
>Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 14:19:21 -0800 (PST)
> > >3) I think my Teckla army with gatling guns vs Easterners point has 
> > >unchallenged.
> >
> > Actually, I had already raised a challenge before you brought the point 
> > -- we have reason to believe that the Dragaeran nobility would *not* 
> > wanted to give peasants such weaponry.  This was, after all, the reason 
> > the Japanese decided to eliminate the manufacture of guns from their own
> > culture.
>In the thread above, when you made this point I argued that the Japan
>analogy fails on your other argument - remote-control detonation.

Actually, you are confusing me with another (and I don't blame you, given 
how many have weighed in).  My only suggestion was that *some* sort of 
sorcerous counter-measure was developed.  I was very careful to leave the 
exact nature of the counter-measure unspecified.

In my opinion, people have been far too quick to jump in with the conclusion 
that sorcery was used to detonate the gunpowder.  I don't think that that 
needs to necessarily be the case.  Magic is both versatile and strange.  
There are many different ways that I can think of for firearms to be 
rendered moot, from having a spell that supresses the gunpowder, to spells 
that effect the accuracy of firearms, to spells that alter the psychology of 
the participants so that they would avoid using firearms, to spells that 
would put upper boundaries on missile velocities, and so forth.  More 
importantly, I am fully aware that there must be many, many possibilities 
that I have not considered.

All I know, for certain, is that we have the empirical fact that firearms do 
not exist in current Dragaeran culture.  Given their military usefulness and 
given that Dragons, if no one else, would certainly embrace them if they 
were practical on the battlefield, I think that the simplest explaination is 
that they are *not* practical on the battlefield, for some reason.  I would 
contend that sorcery is the most obvious reason that they wouldn't be 
practical, without bothering to speculate on the specific sorcerous impact 
(which I think is wise since we really know next to nothing about how magic 
actually works in their world and what it's advantages and limitations 
really are).  I have yet to see any arguments which would dissuade me from 
making this speculation nor, certainly, any alternative arguments which I 
consider to be more plausible.

I have, to myself, wondered if the Cycle itself might prevent the emergence 
of any technologies which could destabalize Dragaeran society, but I don't 
think that the Cycle works by immaculate fiat but, rather, by more subtle 
manipulations (e.g., inspiring a wizard who is trying to counter firearms on 
the battlefield).

>Also remember that the nobility is diverse - I could imagine the Jhereg
>emperor telling all Teckla it's their right to have and bear arms and then 
>selling them Saturday Night Specials.

You're assuming a level of technological development, or interest, that 
would move firearms beyond mere battlefield utility.  If firearms never got 
beyond the basic muzzle-loaders that would, all too frequently, blow up in 
the user's hand, before their effectiveness was negated, why would anyone 
bother developing a technology that had "failed" any further, especially 
when the Jhereg would have more than enough well-developed illicit 
technologies (both in terms of street weaponry and sorceries) to deal in?  
If there is one thing I don't see the Jhereg doing, it's a lot of millitary 
R&D. [1]

>Or almost any emperor issuing
>Teckla rifles to beat back an Eastern invasion.

On the one hand, you speculate that the East regularly gets rolled over and 
crushed by superior Dragaeran sorcery, in order to have its own technologies 
reset, and, on the other, you imply that the East is such a grim threat that 
Dragaeran emporers would introduce socially destabilizing technologies in 
the hands of Teckla to fight them off.

You will pardon me if I find that the two arguments seem be incompatible 
with one another.

My own take is that the Dragaeran Empire is not, in fact, threatend by the 
East in any serious way, but that the amount of effort to fully conquer it 
exceeds the level of commitment (in resources, or otherwise) that would be 
needed to, indeed, stage a full conquest (in the same manner that Rome never 
fully conquered Britain, barbarians though they were).

-- Andrew Lias

[1] I would also suspect, although this is more of a hunch, that they would 
also be interested in keeping themselves beyond the wrath of the Tekla.  I 
suspect that the Jhereg may realize that quality firearms, even if 
available, would tend to equalize their relationship with their customers in 
a way that they would find unacceptable.

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