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Progress and Social Evolution
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 6:01 pm    Post subject: Progress and Social Evolution Reply with quote

Does anyone else have a problem with the people of the Land seeming to not progress one iota over 6000 or 7000 years that are referenced in the 3 Chrons? They devolved after Kevin's Act, but now its actually been about 10000 years, Mithl Stonedown is still the thriving metropolis it always was. I imagine it to look something like Bedrock, but in 10000 years, at least Bedrock changed somewhat. When Linden referred to the Dirt as smog, I thought "Wow, this will be interesting. The Land with Earthpowered cars". Nope. They went a little more backward. No population growth, no technological growth. Retrograde magical growth and seemingly retrograde spiritual growth. It seems people of the Land either sit and bask in the beauty of all around them while Foul plots or they dispair at how terrible everything is while Foul plots.

Now, I am not saying that technology is necessarily good, but stripped of Earthpower, you would think in 3000 years medical technology would have increased. Or house building technology, or something!

I want Linden go see a psychic in the local strip mall. Get her to channel TC to find out where Foul is. Get the GPS coordinates. Go to the local University where a new linear accelerator creates the first manmade white gold. Go to the local foundry where she has the White Gold molded into a bullet...hops on a jet, flies to Mount Thunder, and puts a 45 caliber white gold bullet right in the center of Lord Foul's big ugly noggin'! Not really. Just wondering why they haven't changed somewhat in the intervening years and if that ends up being part of their undoing.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It doesn't bother me at all.

The "technology", other than what was needed for raw survival, was wiped out with the Ritual of Desecration.

It evolved somewhat after the First Chrons, as evidenced by the mixing of wood and stone -- but was basicly wiped out again by the rise of the Sunbane. Again, only things needed for raw survival were kept.

Everything that people learned to deal with the Sunbane was wiped out again when the Sunbane ended.

And don't even get me started on the Masters. Razz

How far along would our world's technology would be if everyone had to start again from scratch every three thousand years or so?

You also have to think that human beings were here for tens of thousands of years before we developed an industrial culture -- and we didn't have to start over again and again, either. Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And even in our wourld, only certain cultures have created very much in the way of technological advances; the people of the Americas, Australia, and much of southern Africa for whatever reason didn't develop advanced technology anything like that seen elsowhere. Much is a matter of culture. For instance, in Europe people were fighting continually for hundreds of years, and needed to figure out more efficient ways to wage war, and so put a great deal of time and energy into better materials, mass production techniques, etc. Other than the three wars with Foul, is there any evidence of similar needs on the pert of the Landspeople? The Industrial Revolution was practically unique in human so far as I know, and was spawned by a particular set of cultural, social, and physical factors, accompanied by remarcable people, all of which apperently have no parrallels in the Land. There is no true need for advances for the people's physical well being, and in the past Earthpower has been the study of those who would have been inventors, explorers, and scientists in our world. And then along come the Masters, and their rule...


I must admit, however, that Kevens Dirt did make me think that there was some sort of industrial revolution going on as well.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Donaldson answered this very question in an interview. In his opinion, in a land where magic was possible, in a purely economic sense, there was no need for industrial development.

I would disagree with him. I would see the development of industry as an essential expression of disenfranchised non-magic users struggling to find an alternative to the ruling magisterocracy (wow, that was a clumsy neologism).
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 4:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That would depend on the situation. If the Haruchai were different people, I could see them "mechanizing" the Land so that Earthpower was no longer needed. But the Haruchai are who they are, and I simply can't imagine them ushering the Land into an Industrial Age.

But in general, I agree with Donaldson. If magic fills the majority of a society's needs, then there is no impetus to look elsewhere. Remember, necessity is the mother of invention. If there is no need, there will be no creation.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, but my point is that there would be a need... ambitious people who couldn't use magic for some reason - no aptitude, no 'permission' etc would turn to other ways to exert their influence... and one of those other ways might be 'mechanical'. I can think of quite a few novels based on this premise now that I think about it - I think there may be even a hint of this kind of thing in Mordant's need.
Still, the Haruchai issue is a valid one...
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lauralin's post is spot on. The indigenous people of Australia (known outside of local political correctness as Aborigines), remained largely unchanged for over 50,000 years. During this time they did not even develop the wheel, mainly because they did not need it! They lived harmoniously with nature and got along with what nature provided.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wonder if they had hurtloam?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, there is a problem with this. The facile explanations – Donaldson’s and others – don’t allow for the fact that The Land has undergone a series of wrenching macro changes several times since Covenant’s first visit. You had the rise of the Sunbane and its dominance, the Clave, the Sunbane’s cure, and eventually the Masters and the Falls. But these undoubtedly large changes don’t seem to have enough of an effect on the everyday life of Mithil Stonedown.

The comparisons to the real world on this thread all lack analogies to the earthshaking events of the first two chronicles and the millennia following each. They depend on outside events not rocking the boat to explain lack of change, whereas the whole point is that in The Land the boat has in fact capsized several times – but you’d never know it if you just dropped into Mithil Stonedown every couple thousand years.

The “magic obviates the need for scientific progress” explanation can explain some things. It certainly helps explain any lack of change in, say, the 500 year period preceding LFB, which we know to have (understandably) been pretty stable. From the time The Land was repopulated centuries after the Desecration to Covenant’s first arrival, things were very stable. No one’s objecting to that.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The comparisons to the real world on this thread all lack analogies to the earthshaking events of the first two chronicles and the millennia following each. They depend on outside events not rocking the boat to explain lack of change

Our real world had its share of massive calamities too, notably some wrenching climate changes, and the like. But many regions of our world remained quite “unprogressive” despite it all.
And one additional factor too in the Land: there appears to be a lack of natural resources of the sort an industrial society would require. The only source of metals appears to be Mt. Thunder which was under the control of the Cavewights and Ur-viles and now whatever “beings of earthpower” (the fire lions?) are ravagaing its slopes. For a real world comparison consider the Polynesians, a very clever people, who never got beyond the most basic stages of civilization (rather like the Land) because they had no metal ore sources.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Our real world had its share of massive calamities too, notably some wrenching climate changes, and the like. But many regions of our world remained quite “unprogressive” despite it all.


No part of the world which has experienced large-scale changes as sweeping as the Sunbane, the Clave, the curing of the Sunbane, whatever new order Sunder tried to sweep in, and the rise of the Masters, has remained as fundamentally unchanged as Mithil Stonedown has for 7,000 years.

None of these things were far-off events. They affected the most secluded villages as well as Revelstone.

The part I find least convincing is the lack of outside contamination. As the analogizers know, we don’t in fact find today’s Australia or the like to at all resemble its distant past – because even when people don’t change themselves, they eventually find change brought to them from the outside.

It’s as if The Land were enclosed in a glass bubble. We saw in Bhrathrair harbor a polyglot scene of commerce and cultural interchange. Clearly there are people on that Earth besides Giants who need more than their home village can supply. Why is The Land’s history of visitation since Berek one only of periodic visits by the Haruchai and Giants, and the exile and return of the Ramen?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a magical, fictional place and it dosen't have to 'make sense' . SRD said the Land is only found if you go looking for it, like OZ or Shangrila (sp?). There is no reason for industry or progress. You can't compare it to our world because it's not. It's magic Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What about the tens of thousands of years where the indiginous peoples of Australia and southern Africa existed without outside visitation and influence? Smile

And the culture of Mithil Stonedown did change immensely between the first and second chronicles (we haven't seen enough of the daily lives of the people in the third chrons yet to be able to say that, but it certasinly seems to hold true under the Masters).

Yeah, the town is still there, and the people (isolated out at the edge of the inhabited part of the Land) are still racially the same. But the culture underwent immense changes.

Think of Liand, and what his impoverished culture is like compared to Sunder. Now think of Sunder, and compare what he lived like to what the Stonedowners lived like in the First Chrons. You will see some pretty big differences there.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
What about the tens of thousands of years where the indiginous peoples of Australia and southern Africa existed without outside visitation and influence?

How was that possible? Because nobody anywhere had the technology or seamanship to visit those regions regularly. We know that's not the case in the Earth of The Land.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But we have had ships that can regularly tackle trans-oceanic voyages for a few hundred years out of the tens of thousands of years we have been here. Why should the earth of the Land have such ships when for the greater part of our history we have not?

Well, actually, they do. The Giants have been coming regularly to the Land since the events of the end of the Second Chrons. But there is this little matter of the Masters, isn't there? Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can certainly buy the notion that the Land hasn't industrialized and I think SRD's answer works as far as that is concerned. But in terms of social evolution, the issue is much larger than that. The fact is, SRD is not that interested in this issue.

I see very little real change in the people of the Land between sets of Chronicles. The changes that take place over time fall under categories that are, given the length of that time and complexity of the books, very simple: the Sunbane happened; or, the Masters took over. The details provided are pretty scarce. True, you get some significant parts of the narrative spent on what life is actually like under the Sunbane, but next to nothing about how the Lords failed over time between the First and Second Chronicles. And going from the Second to the Last Chronicles -- so far, truly next to nothing. Most of the stuff that is really important to the story is the moral change and how it’s developed: the Masters’ lack of trust and avoidance of failure and shame; the Ramen distrust of the Haruchai; the ordinary people...well, I hope they get more of a workout. I realize Anele's blindness sort of represents and symbolizes them, but, the story is very thin on the in-and-outs of the history.

As fans, we are often given to feeling that the Land is such a real place, but I think that is mostly because the dramatic and moral issues of TC and Linden interact so vividly with the setting. Indeed, they are custom-made for each other. The thousands of years that pass between sets of books just set the stage for our main characters to have precisely what they need to interact with their current moral delimmas. And the moral issues are a huge majority of what the books concentrate on. Very repetitively, I might add. Sometimes I want to tell Donaldson, "I get it! I get it!"

I would not have said this upon reading these books (as I did) as a teenager, but SRD's world does not live and breathe that well. I have no sense of what goes on in Mithil Stonedown every time we leave there. It's almost like a stage that empties out when TC and / or Linden walks out. And, of course, there's not a single Stonedown or Woodhelvin mentioned that doesn't play directly into the story. Now, I realize world-building is not a matter of overwhelming the reader with details. You have to sketch things, imply deftly that these people or those have a whole life of their own. But I, personally, like to see more of it.

I wrote a long piece with some of these points in it to react to the "Is Runes Flawed?" thread. But first of all, that thread became very messy. And I thought, What good is it telling people who like SRD about the fact that he doesn't appeal to me as much as he used to? So I didn't post it. But then this thread came up, touching on the main point of what I wanted to say (social evolution), so I’m saying it.

I hope you all don't find this too negative. I still look forward to reading the rest of the books. And my direct answer to the question of "Is Runes Flawed?" was “Not at all.” I don't feel like SRD is going astray from the previous Chronicles with the story whatsoever (as some people in that other thread seemed to think.) He knows exactly what he's doing and is doing it very well. But it is the same old Donaldson, his priorities haven’t changed. Since discovering his site and the Watch – and especially since reading his essay about fantasy literature – I’ve been surprised to find that I view fantasy literature very differently than he does. I offered to discuss the definition of fantasy literature with him in the GI and he politely declined, saying it was good for people to view things differently. A very fair answer. But I think if you look at the essay, you’ll see why it is that the notion of social evolution is just not important to him.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree. It is like an empty stage once the protagonists leave. However, from readings of interviews with SRD, I am not surprised, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, SRD has mentioned several times that he 'sees' with his words. Until he writes it down, it does not exists. So he can't tell you what's going on in Mithil Stonedown after the protagonists leave because he simply doesn't know or care himself. And he is not concerned either. Why? To the second point -
SRD has stated time and again that he is a very 'efficient' writer. He's quite proud of the fact that he puts in nothing he does not need to drive his story. While this is all nice and good, it does provide for a little emptiness in the worlds he creates outside the immediate concerns of his protagonists.
This might have some bearing on the original poster's issue.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is precisely because SRD does not strive to be a world-builder. What is important in his work are the characters and their interactions. If the character is not going to see or know about something, it is not important to their (psychological) journey.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2004 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But we have had ships that can regularly tackle trans-oceanic voyages for a few hundred years out of the tens of thousands of years we have been here. Why should the earth of the Land have such ships when for the greater part of our history we have not?

There's no reason to think that they should except that we know they did. It's not just Giants in Bhrathrair harbor.

Zenslinger, Murrin, Condign, and Jerico all point out essentially that expecting the Land to be as fully realized as the real world just doesn’t make sense. It’s a stage set, and naturally if you start peeling away the scenery, you have no one to blame but yourself if you catch a glimpse of the props.

I do feel that SRD only went through the motions very half-heartedly this time, and that’s why I agreed with the original post.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2004 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thaale wrote:


Zenslinger, Murrin, Condign, and Jerico all point out essentially that expecting the Land to be as fully realized as the real world just doesn’t make sense. It’s a stage set, and naturally if you start peeling away the scenery, you have no one to blame but yourself if you catch a glimpse of the props.


Sure, but I don't have this experience with Jeff Vandermeer or even China Mieville. But, then again, they're different writers with different priorities.
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