How does someone get a link to the Orb

Tue Jun 24 20:50:26 PDT 2003

On Tue, 24 Jun 2003 Gaertk at aol.com wrote:

> Philip Hart <philiph at SLAC.Stanford.EDU> writes:
> > On Sun, 22 Jun 2003 Gaertk at aol.com wrote:
> >
> >> Philip Hart <philiph at SLAC.Stanford.EDU> writes:
> >>
> >>> You've snipped the gist of my argument, which is that
> >>> you've conflated "being chosen by the Orb" and "being
> >>> Emperor".  You were arguing about the former and here
> >>> argue about the latter.
> >>
> >> Sorry, I didn't read that part very closely.
> >>
> > ... I was referring to the end of
> > Chapter 34, where (as I quoted earlier) Adron says that his
> > anti-Emperor pro-Adron spell is fighting itself, leading to
> > a core dump of power.
> All this is based on the words of someone Paarfi couldn't
> interview, who didn't have the means or time to analyse the
> situation, and who already convinced himself the Cycle had
> turned (which Paarfi himself doesn't agree with).

We don't know much about who Paarfi has interviewed, but he claims to have
read notes or correspondence from the principals and to have gotten
information from Sethra.  Tazendra, Pel, Aerich, and Khaavren were present
at the decreation, and if you don't trust the former two to quote Adron
correctly, surely the latter two are fair witnesses.  You have no basis
that I can see for sneering at Adron's ability to assess the situation -
he was one of the leading sorcerers at the time and considered worthy of
fathering a god's child, so I'd tend to cut him some slack - and I don't
see him having a big incentive to lie at this point (about to die,
possibly about to destroy the world).

I don't much care what Paarfi thinks about the state of the Cycle - as far
as I know, we don't know that the Cycle didn't have a brief hiccough, move
forward, then correct Itself - perhaps there was a brief period when It
wasn't pointing at either House.

> > A bit earlier, we see the Orb turn grey in mourning for
> > Tortaalik while "it interrogated the Cycle and searched, in
> > its own way, for the new Emperor."
> The first part of that quote sounds like evidence against
> your "local choice" theory.  Or do you think the Orb, with
> the memories of all the Emperors, needs to ask someone else
> which House follows Phoenix?

Perhaps you know more about object oriented programming than I do, but I
can imagine that the concept of information hiding might apply here.  It
is certainly my experience that it's dangerous to have parallel info in
multiple places.  It might well be considered good programming procedure
for the Orb to have to quiz the Cycle to find who's next in line.  Maybe
there's precedence beyond regime change - the Heirs, like the Lord of the
Pepperfields, have special privileges.  Maybe this text is evidence that
the Cycle had in some sense changed.  Maybe the Cycle didn't change but
the Orb looked for a new Emperor and chose one though it shouldn't have.
Maybe it can happen that the Emperor dies in office but a new Emperor is
chosen from his House because the Cycle didn't change - perhaps a new
Consul is elected - so the Orb asks the Cycle who's up next not by default
but by design.

> > We then see it turn white.  Sethra immediately realizes
> > Adron is about to go boom - "she had but seconds to act".
> > So we have the Orb ask its boss what comes after Phoenix,
> > we see it find Adron, then we see it run into a null
> > pointer - or anyway this is the simplest way to read the
> > evidence.
> Isn't it simpler to say that Adron's spell got out of control
> due to key wizards having been assassinated earlier (see
> Aliera's explanation in _Jhereg_), and possibly complicated
> by a sudden lack of resistence from the Emperor?

I think _Jhereg_ is not exactly canon - Vlad says some funny stuff about
reviving beheaded people, for example - and Aliera's account seems both
muddled and likely to be biased.  I think there is evidence that there
were powerful Dragon wizards around at the time - Barrit comes to mind, as
does Sethra the Younger.  I think that Adron was an idiot if his spell
wasn't prepared for the Emperor to suddenly give up, and presumably
Sethra and Aliera were idiots as well, having inspected the spell.  I
think it's simplest to take Adron at his (to my mind, plausible) word
until we hear otherwise from a higher authority.

> [Orb vs Wheel - who's in charge?]
> > In _Taltos_ Vlad reports in Chapter 16 that "Everyone I've
> > asked insists that this thing _is_ the Cycle in every
> > meaningful way, not merely its physical representation."
> This is right after he first meets M, A, and S and before
> he's comfortable asking them questions.  He doesn't have
> good sources of info for this sort of thing at this point in
> time.

At the end of _Taltos_ Vlad has seen Morrolan "a couple of times", often
enough to say "whenever he asks [about the blood]", so it's likely that
"everyone" includes M..  At the end of the novel V., M., and A. have
recounted their tale to Sethra - I can well imagine him saying, "Is that
just a fancy stone wheel?" at the relevant point.  I can also imagine him
going to ask the balding librarian in the Lyorn library about this, or his
old history tutor, or whatever.  I agree that this evidence would be
stronger if given later, but I hope Vlad wouldn't report conclusions based
on the opinions of some guys in a tavern.

Anyway, if you insist, look at Chapter 18 of _TPotD_, where Paarfi has
Barlen say, "The Cycle is never broken.  Only the Empire is shattered, but
the Cycle which was its foundation cannot be broken, for it is part of the
fundamental nature of the universe."  Ok, Paarfi may be full of crap, and
all the stuff in this chapter showing the Cycle as running things while
the Orb is a programmable object may be dreamgrass-induced, but again the
simplest reading of the available evidence makes the Cycle the boss.

> > In _TPotD_ there is no sense at the grand conclave that the
> > supposed destruction of the Orb has anything to do with
> > the Cycle.
> Was that the first or second time we see the gods in that book?

Sorry, I was referring to the meeting of Houses in Chapter 14 - and I
should note that Kana at least doesn't seem to care much for the Cycle.

> > The Orb, an artifact built by human hands, is to my mind
> > obviously not capable of performing the God-like function
> > of the Cycle, arranging for the myriad coincidences needed
> > to force a complex society through its odd dance over and
> > over.  Nobody fantasizes about twisting the Orb around to
> > point to the next House; nobody studies Cycle construction.
> So a great big wheel, sitting in a place even the gods don't
> really understand the nature of, is more knowledgeable about
> the state of the Empire than the artifact constantly floating
> around the head of state, which also controls all sorcery
> (and is somewhat involved in psychic communication), and has
> the memories of all the previous rulers?

Yes, that seems to be SKZB's crazy idea - he must have a thing for
"great big wheel[s]" despite the obvious superiority of little bitty
hunks of stone, or some odd view of the possibility of client/server

> It is clear (see page 362 mmpb) that the Cycle turns *before*
> the Orb changes hands, it just isn't provable until then.

Can't locate this in the hardback, but I imagine this is the case for some
transitions (which are presumably peaceful, most Emperors presumably being
better than Tortaalik), depending on how good the Emperor is at judging
it's time to go - but not relevant to the situation in question -
actually I'll reserve comment until I know what I'm commenting on.

On this question, I refer people who like to be confused to Newcomb's
Paradox, which is a little hard to explain in this margin.