Hooked Up, Feet Up…

Lake Union is best viewed by house boat.

thinking about use and abuse.  I should mention that this post got real nerdy, real fast.  Forewarned is forearmed.

The fantasy genre trades on creating easily digestible allegories for political and societal problems and then addressing them.  That, and mother fucking magic.  And while literary critics may discuss the contrast of idyllic rural existence versus the dehumanizing effects of industrialization, readers tend to remember the time that Draco cast the roofieus charm on Harry.  Seriously, what is with these guys?  The point is that the escapist appeal of magic tends to be the larger draw.  Which is fine, a good story should be enjoyable on a lot of different levels.  If the creative possibilities of magic are the teaspoon of sugar that makes the social discussion medicine go down than so much the better.

What’s interesting to look at regarding the depictions of magic in most literature and other mediums (ahem, D&D) is that they are relatively limited.  This should not be construed as an indictment of the authors, but rather simply an artifact of trying to imagine the practical applications of a limitless force.  It might help to think of a modern parallel:  Software.  To anyone who writes code, or is familiar with technology news, people are constantly using, abusing,  misconstruing and expanding the use of software.  Technologies hook up new things in new ways with new services and possibilities offered every day.  Now, try to map some of this discovery and advancement back to magic.  Creative, inventive uses of magic would emerge at a rate limited only by the accessibility of the medium.  The more people that can cast magic, the more ideas get tested and the more discoveries are made.

Let’s take for instance, the ability to communicate magically.  Quite a few novels and mediums describe magical communication, and traditionally it is limited in some scope.  You can only send 25 words, or the recipient must be able to see the same sun as the sender.  Occasionally creative people will find ways around this (the recipient and the sender both have a painting of a sun for instance) for story purposes, but rarely a complete co-opting of the limit.  Let’s look at how similar problems were dealt with in software.  First thing, the 25 word limit roughly corresponds with the limitation of low bit rate communication in the olden days (9600 baud modems, god yes).  The improvement that people came up with was encoding.  Heck, zipping a file is just a form of encoding that specifically focused on human language.  Words would be replaced with letters to save space, so “The cat” might be replaced with ‘a’.  So, “The cat is hungry.  Please feed the cat.” becomes “a is hungry.  Please feed a.” saving 12 letters.  I have a feeling that a similar sort of encoding would be in use magically.  As for the sender/recipient limit, I would imagine some sort of negotiated protocol.  Perhaps wizards buy a book of sun pictures and negotiate with a third party to agree on which picture  the sender and recipient shouldl look at, then they can communicate.  That’s somewhat analogous to port negotiations for software communications today.

It would be interesting to see where this would go.  If magic has always existed, are people just fantastically advanced in these worlds?  It would be like the Information Revolution occurred in 30,000 BC.  If all the progress in scientific and technological advancement began 32,000 years earlier, where would we be now?  Well, in a fantasy novel that society would have been wiped out by their own hubris 10,000 years ago.  Now, the ruins of their greatest city have been discovered and a race to make it there has begun.  Who will control this unlimited power and what of the force that wiped out the Ancients?  You get the idea though, barring a necessary plot hook or mcguffin these cultures would be incredibly advanced.

That said, unemployed mages would be required to answer questions regarding COM interface pointers in order to get a job at MagecroSoft.  So, I guess that’s a wash?

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About schion65

Is as dangerously dashing as he is handsome.
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6 Responses to Hooked Up, Feet Up…

  1. Kevin Brennan says:

    Isn’t part of that akin to the plot of Final Fantasy 6, where magic ruined the world then people started to work to get it back?

    Also, magic I think is seen as a static object, where the rules are strict, and innovation doesn’t exist. Which is strange because you bring up good points involving that much like we found ways to ‘increase’ our strength using pulleys or increase our volume using cones.

  2. schion65 says:

    Oh, there’s plenty of magic overuse examples. Usually when someone is trying to make a point about resource conservation. 🙂

    Simple machines like pulleys and levers and the like are good examples too. I guess I just focused on the communication aspects of magic and the similarities to software. There are no doubt a great deal of other innovations that could’ve taken place as well.

    I will say that one of the things about the static rules is that both encoding and communication negotiation work with the rules. You just change what you send, or the setup to sending.

  3. Bluscious says:

    And you’re only touching on the organic advance of technology. What about power creep?

    Oh who am I kidding? That was yet another example of me fruitlessly trying to sound like I understand what you are talking about. I’ll go back to contemplating my navel…

    • schion65 says:

      I have seen that navel, it warrants contemplation. In all seriousness, in D&D the power creep does cause some issues. It would be pretty scary if people born more recently had more power because a god was trying to keep it interesting.

      How goes your tour of the most fantastic places this world has to offer? Oh, and your pictures continue to both delight and enrage. It’s a bit disconcerting, those two emotions. Sorta like drinking an entire cup of hot chocolate only to find the barista mashed her gum down on the bottom of the mug.

  4. Megs says:

    You officially have way too much time on your hands Brennan.

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