Pet peeve time

And now we take a moment to note seemingly minor things that piss us off. Let me start with the single thing that annoys me most about the medieval fantasy genre, if you set aside Tolkien’s British Empire-era manichean racial determinism*: just about every fantasy series seems trapped in a 13th-century time warp where nothing new gets invented after the crossbow. In fact both cannons and crossbow showed up in Europe in the 14th century. If there was a time in history when people pecked at each other with crossbows but never heard of shooting things from a metal tube with fire, it lasted about twenty years.

Tolkien at least addressed this plot device of his. He had one guy named Saruman take charge of basically all of modernization, inventing gunpowder and the petard bomb while laying down the first draft of the industrial age. Saruman was bad and his people were evil (and dark and ugly) so the good people killed him and planted grass over his dirty industrial business and went back to a Fourth Age of wiping their ass with pine cones. While G.R.R. Martin brilliantly subverted Tolkien’s dichotomized racial moralizing, he just takes it for granted that you can have a thousand years go by without any meaningful advances in science or engineering.

Ok, so Tolkien clearly framed his story the way he did because he liked gardens and thought the industrial age smelled bad and ground people into cogs. And yes, it did that. You could also make the reasonable point that a wizard who shoots fireballs has less cachet when you could bring artillery.

Jalopnik proposed an idea that I kind of like: basically, maybe the presence of magic makes people stupid. Look at it this way. When a wood elf can tweak the laws of nature by twitching her ears, Gregor Mendel would feel silly to spend decades to tease out the laws of heredity in peas when a wood elf could walk by and throw his Punnett squares to hell.

Speaking as a scientist I sometimes stand in awe of the people who made those early leaps of logic. That business was almost impossibly hard, and it would not take much to discourage someone. Let’s also stipulate that these fantasy planets never had a carboniferous geologic period. In that case the most energy-dense fuel source is wood. I could easily imagine a world like that reaching the medieval era, maybe, and then then just waxing and waning around it indefinitely.

That sounds crazy of course, but we might not even have to imagine it! Let’s say that some event sets back our global civilization even a little. It doesn’t need to be a great war, just anything that disrupts the complex international traffic of fuel, machines and food. There are way too many people in most places for locovorism. By the time we reach locally sustainable population levels it stands to reason that most places will have landed somewhere between the medieval era and the stone age. Of course lot of our old stuff will still be around, and people who still know how to use it would be practicing something like magic. Also like magic, odds are small that many of those would understand it. Fossil fuels will still be where we left them but they might seem hard to get for people whose idea of deep-sea drilling is a raft and a long clam rake.

So there you have a practical way to get to a fantasy scenario complete with crazy magic, mutants, irradiated no-go zones and a medievalish technology level that never ends. And you wonder why people worry about disruptive problems like global warming.

(*) Short version: dark and/or ugly means evil.

***Update***

Speaking of pet peeves, someone on another blog mentioned developing the F-35 to replace our A-10 for ground support. As readers might guess I had an opinion, and since you read this blog you get to hear it.

…because we want to spend ten times as much money on a less capable close support aircraft? The A-10 is dirt cheap. It can fly with half a wing shot off. All of its major systems are redundant. Teenagers can fix it. Its main gun makes tankers shit their pants. For a plane whose main job puts it in range of small arms fire, crossbows, flamethrowers and thrown rocks, it helps that the pilot sits in a titanium bathtub.

I hate that the Air Force keeps trying to replace the A-10 with something sexier. This stupid air jock culture is exactly why they should just fold the AF back into the Army where it came from. Ground support isn’t sexy. To do it well you need something slow, simple and very reliable which can take a lot of hits without blowing up and doesn’t cost too much to replace if it does. Instead of some ludicrously expensive A-10 replacement, what we need is more A-10s.

/rant off.






274 replies
  1. 1
    Steve M. says:

    Let me start with the single thing that annoys me most about the medieval fantasy genre

    Let me start with the single thing that annoys me most about the medieval fantasy genre: everything.

  2. 2
    Poopyman says:

    Petard bomb? I thought it was a Bangalor Torpedo, but maybe I’m misremembering the application. I never watched the movies, because the story is a 40-some year old memory at this point, and wishes to remain undisturbed.

    I digress. It’s hard to get a thousand-plus page epic if your hero has AAA that take down all of the Nazgul.

  3. 3
    drkrick says:

    Nerd alert and all, but the good people didn’t kill Saruman. His henchman Grima Wormtongue killed him and the good people killed Wormtongue.

  4. 4
    Cassidy says:

    Magic replaces science. When magic is controlle by a small few and the perception is that only they can practice it, then their is no innovation. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eberron

  5. 5
    maya says:

    “Pet peeve time”? OK, I thought this was another Tunch thread. My bad. Say, did anyone hear the one about Benghazi ?

  6. 6
    BAY says:

    My pet peeve is how explosive and disruptive it is to extrapolate this point to the world and not just fiction.

  7. 7
    Enceladus says:

    I hope you’re all aware of Kirill Yeskov’s retelling of LOTR from the perspective of those defeated dark-skinned industrialists. It’s great stuff.

    Note the link to the free ebook at the bottom of this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer.

  8. 8
    jl says:

    Pet peeves at the BJ blog. Wow, this will be an epic thread.

    Probably really just test for the new site spiritual rebirth to see how it will handle comment threads that go into K territory.

    Pet peeves are a pet peeve of min. I hate pet peeves.

  9. 9
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The Star Wars universe has this problem, too. Their technology has basically been frozen for at least a thousand years at a certain high-tech level and they never move beyond it..which seems, um, ridiculous. Technological innovations, particularly in warfare, tend to breed more innovations, as counters to the current innovation. This is one reason why I consider Star Wars to basically be fantasy with a SF veneer.

  10. 10
    greennotGreen says:

    Large parts of Africa and the Americas were home to peoples still in the stone or bronze age millennia after the rest of the world. Technological development is apparently not inevitable.

    Also, magic might be nothing more than a different kind of technology, one that we may be woefully ignorant of.

  11. 11
    hildebrand says:

    The best subversion of this is an old Doctor Who episode during the Key to Time series – The Androids of Tara. Essentially a medieval England type planet, with fully operational computers and androids – the twist was that only the ‘peasants’ had the skills necessary to run the technology, as such skill was seen to be beneath the aristocracy. They still fought with swords, but the swords had electrical current running through them.

  12. 12
    NonyNony says:

    Let me start with the single thing that annoys me most about the medieval fantasy genre, if you set aside Tolkien’s British Empire-era manichean racial determinism*: just about every fantasy series seems trapped in a 13th-century time warp where nothing new gets invented after the crossbow.

    Ah yes. I actually know the answer to this one: Because Gary Gygax. The biggest influence on budding fantasy writers is, of course, Tolkein. But the second biggest influence on the “medieval fantasy” genre for writers who were born in the mid-60s and after is Gary Gygax’s bookshelf full of fantasy novels and medieval reference books and the wargaming/role-playing game he derived from them. Either directly or indirectly through other authors influenced by that bookshelf.

    It’s all really amusing when you think about it. It’s reached the point where there’s little medieval fantasy written after 1980 where I can’t see the D&D wires holding it up (Game of Thrones is no different in that regard for me, unfortunately).

  13. 13
    MikeJ says:

    The cited article also goes on about Harry Potter.

    Who would want a car when middle school kids can fly? If you’re in a hurry you can use floo powder or even just blink your eyes and be there?

  14. 14
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    “While G.R.R. Martin brilliantly subverted Tolkien’s dichotomized racial moralizing, he just takes it for granted that you can have a thousand years go by without any meaningful advances in science or engineering.”

    Well, wasn’t that pretty much the case for Ancient Egypt from the fifth Dynasty to the Hellenic period? Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Egyptians were as baffled as to how the Old Kingdom built the pyramids as we are. Similarly, China and Japan had long periods of technological statis, albeit in somewhat enforced isolation from the rest of the world.

    This innovation thing is a recent invention. The one thing that does make technological stasis less plausible in GRRM’s world is that they have a community of scholars (the Citadel), who presumably share knowledge. (China didn’t have universities until the late nineteenth century.)

  15. 15
    maya says:

    Peeve would be an excellent name for a pet.

  16. 16
    Comrade Mary says:

    While G.R.R. Martin brilliantly subverted Tolkien’s dichotomized racial moralizing, he just takes it for granted that you can have a thousand years go by without any meaningful advances in science or engineering.

    Yeah, I haven’t finished the series yet, but once I got far enough into the story to understand that the society really is that old, that really leapt out at me. Given that he used to write hard SF, it seems like an odd stance to take, unless there’s some explanation in the books that will be published some time in the next few decades. Or it’s another blind spot the man has, like his fascination with the movement of Dany’s breasts under her vest.

    Or yeah, there was enough magic leaking in the background throughout the centuries without dragons to make everyone stupid. This also explains why Jon Snow knows nothing.

    I am waiting for Littlefinger to be hoist on his own Petyr. Also.

  17. 17
    Redshirt says:

    To be fair, they have been long periods of history where technology didn’t change much. A warrior in 800BCE fought pretty much the same way with the same tools as a warrior in 200CE.

    It’s only in the last 200 years or so we’ve become conditioned to expect technology to be a on a non-stop progress train.

    Also, Free the Orcs!

  18. 18
    Rex Everything says:

    “Of course lot of our old stuff will still be around, and people who still know how to use it would be practicing something like magic, especially considering the very small chance that they also understand it.”

    That’s exactly how Tolkien conceived most of the magic in his books; he explicitly stated that it was a matter of what we’d call Technology. It’s pretty obvious that the vestiges of Numenorean magic, i.e. the palantiri, were the still-operable remnants of forgotten technological know-how: the cellphones of a non–mass-producing society, in a way.

    (BTW, since you’re pinning the whole European tradition of “dark = evil” on JRRT, you might as well claim he invented the pronouns “thee” and “thou” out of thin air as one of his linguistic effects; it’s about as credible.)

  19. 19
    jl says:

    @maya: Would be a good name for a cat breed.

  20. 20
    Poopyman says:

    @greennotGreen: Clarke’s Third Law.

    ETA: OK, not really the point you were making, other than that has typically been the less-advanced culture’s assessment when meeting “modern” culture.

  21. 21
    Librarian says:

    My solution since I was a kid has been to completely avoid fiction and just read medieval (among other periods) history. Whatever fantasy that Tolkien and everybody else could come up with, it could not even begin to compare with what actually happened. Problem solved.

  22. 22
  23. 23
    MikeJ says:

    @jl:

    Pet peeves are a pet peeve of min. I hate pet peeves.

    If you do have a pet peeve, please have it spayed or neutered.

  24. 24
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    My peeve is when people take entertainment far too seriously.

  25. 25

    Tolkien’s villains in LOTR have no dimension they are 100% evil. I find that boring.

  26. 26
    Hunter Gathers says:

    Ahh, the existential questions.
    Why would a Time Lord would willingly spend so much time time in England when he has all of time and space to explore?
    Why does a French starship captain from the 24th century speak with a Shakespearean accent?
    How does Paddy’s Pub stay open when it has no patrons?
    What happened to Chuck Cunningham?
    and lastly
    Why doesn’t Ross, the largest Friend, not simply eat the others?

  27. 27
    gene108 says:

    In all honesty, most medieval themed fantasy/sword and sorcery stories have some explanation for why technology hasn’t progressed.

    Whether it’s some sort of natural cataclysm or great wars that wipe out whatever civilization existed in the past and society keeps rebuilding.

    D&D really didn’t have a good explanation, other than Eberron, there’s really not been a sand box that’s tried to address.

    On the flip side, so many of the leaps in technology seem to be driven by a handful of people/societies that without certain resources and social constructs coming into existence, we may never have had the ground work for truly advanced technology to come into being.

    The technological advancement between different parts of the world today can give an idea of where things can be on the scale of advanced to backwards, if the right social and economic conditions don’t converge.

  28. 28
    Tim F. says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: There is (should be) no question that Star Trek is scifi and Star Wars is fantasy. This is another reason why Lucas can blow me: he did not understand his own genre. Did Tolkien explain magic in scientific terms? No. Some people could wave staffs and make poop smell good. If Lucas had understood that, and wrote a comprehensible plot with a clear protagonist and had his characters make non-idiotic decisions and maybe had a little less trouble getting his lazy ass out of the director’s chair and out from under the colossal weight of his own ego, then maybe the new trilogy would have been ok.

  29. 29
    Rex Everything says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Really, Gollum is 100% evil?

  30. 30
    Fair Economist says:

    Actually the crossbow was used in the battle of Hastings and there are drawings of crossbowish weapons back to Roman times. In China the crossbow goes back to before the First Emperor. So there was a long time, in both cultures, where crossbows were used but cannons weren’t.

    The association between medieval tech and fantasy is just our culture. Fantasy in modern settings has become quite popular lately (Anne Rice, Harry Potter, Twilight). The one thing about the medieval setting is that it’s the one well-known historical period where the societal structure was fairly stable for a long time. In a lot of fantasy worlds the back-story requires a long period of relative stability so it’s not totally surprising people use the best-known (to Westerners) stable period.

  31. 31
    Keith says:

    So your problem with fantasy fiction is that it isn’t realistic enough?

  32. 32
    Katharsis says:

    It’s more about theme/nostalgia than logic. Think about people’s fondness for Hollywood’s Big-Speech-That-Solves-Everything. Simpler times and all that.

    The key word here is fantasy. We could find logical failures in ph0rn as well, but we understand what is really going on don’t we.

  33. 33
    ericblair says:

    I think if you toss magic and technology into a movie you’ll just overwhelm the audience with the complicated implications and they’ll have no clue what’s going on. If you stick things in a Tolkeinish middle age elf-and-dwarf-and-dragons-and-fireballs environment everybody catches on pretty quickly and you can move right into the violence and (maybe) sex.

    As pointed out by every ranting scifi nerd, spacefaring technology makes people stupid, too: “why didn’t they just repolarize the transporter like they did in Episode 2-12 and take care of the whole problem in two minutes?” Because that would either blow up most of the plots, make writers think too hard when they could be drinking, or make the whole story way too difficult to understand for the average Redbull-addled viewer.

    If you put an average modern thriller or even rom-com in front of a 1920s audience, they’d be completely lost. The technological changes, accompanying social changes, and all the implications that we’ve internalized would make every scene require half an hour of explanation to an early audience. Same deal with imaginary worlds.

  34. 34

    @Rex Everything: I was thinking about Sauron. OK Gollum is not 100% evil but I did find the trilogy rather simplistic and overly long. YMMV.

  35. 35

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    . Their technology has basically been frozen for at least a thousand years at a certain high-tech level

    And their high-tech is often stupidly applied. For example: walking war machines make little sense when anti-gravity tech clearly exists…

  36. 36
    Tim F. says:

    @Rex Everything: Gollum is a character. In a sense he is one of three, the other two being Sam and Frodo. And you could argue about Frodo. Just about everyone else has their destiny and good-evil alignment printed on their foreheads.

  37. 37
    NonyNony says:

    @ericblair:

    I think if you toss magic and technology into a movie you’ll just overwhelm the audience with the complicated implications and they’ll have no clue what’s going on

    What? You aren’t seriously saying that audiences would get confused by a “Three Musketeers”-style setting that also had wizards in it, are you? I’m fairly certain audiences would “get” that the guys have pistols and the wizard is throwing fireballs.

  38. 38
    Woodrow/asim Jarvis Hill says:

    Hmmm. I’m not sure I buy all of that. And it’s annoying because your basic premise is one I very much feel myself, around reading the bog-standard fantasy worlds. As someone who’s very cool on Tolkien, I find the endless derivations disinteresting, and as someone who’s in the SCA, I struggled a lot (and still do!) with that people who carry a deep fascination for a alt. view of European history in that time period.

    However: on this very Earth today, technology varies immensely, and did even moreso before communications and cultural interchange impacted the average researcher. There might be a Law of Human Culture that says that reaching Level y means you’ll get to x+1 or y+2 in y time, but Psychohistory hasn’t been codified yet and I suspect that such efforts are pissing in the wind today. So I’m always wary of the idealization of the March of Technology as an unalloyed prerequisite of an advanced civilization, or even an interesting one. And I say this as someone who’s an ardent technophile.

    For me, moreover, I think of magic as making tech “unnecessary”, and that would likely mean the people who would do research into new tech would, instead, research magical techniques. Same brains, different foci. And, depending on your rules of magic (is it broadly-available, a “birthright” thing, takes intensive study, etc.), that might lead to a very different culture than the modern West, one that could even emulate the stereotypical “fantasy” cultures. Much of the issue isn’t that they emulate, it’s that they do so without thought into how magic would impact, over time.

  39. 39
    srv says:

    Well, what about the Organians in the Star Trek universe?

  40. 40
    dslak says:

    I had assumed that technology was set back in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series by the long periods of winter, because most of their effort was devoted to surviving that period. The series starts at the end of a summer period, but the fact that the Starks live in a castle engineered to pipe steaming water throughout the walls says a bit about their technological focus.

  41. 41
    Gaffa says:

    Actually Martin’s Westeros is a post-mini-apocalypse setting; both the Valyrian Empire of old and even the legendary old Westerosi were capable of engineering feats that the modern characters can’t even imagine how to begin to construct (obvious example: the Wall).

    As for the Citadels’ maesters, the later books hint pretty strongly that they’re playing their own meta-game against the magic in the setting, being responsible for both killing magic with reason and keeping the technological progress of Westeros progressing at a standard they’re comfortable with.

  42. 42
    MikeJ says:

    @gene108:

    In all honesty, most medieval themed fantasy/sword and sorcery stories have some explanation for why technology hasn’t progressed.

    Everyone is arguing that technology hasn’t progressed. What if it has, but we’re simply viewing the story at one particular place? There’s nothing stopping the Hobbits from fracking in the Shire, and in a couple of hundred years they probably will be.

  43. 43
    Violet says:

    Pet peeve: people that text in theaters or at the movies.

  44. 44
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Tim F.:

    Did Tolkien explain magic in scientific terms? No.

    Ah, you’re referring to the midiclorian idiocy. The attempt to explain The Force in scientific terms. Yes, even with Liam Neeson doing the explaining, it sucks, blows, and bites, and undermines the entire mystic unexplainable quality of The Force, which should be, to quote Gideroy Lockhart “Just like magic!”

  45. 45
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    “Actually the crossbow was used in the battle of Hastings and there are drawings of crossbowish weapons back to Roman times.”

    IIRC the Roman scorpion (arbalest) used torsion in ropes or the elasticity of wood rather than spring steel.

    Harry Harrison wrote an interesting set of alt-history novels set in the Viking culture (“Hammer and Cross”) where the discover of spring steel is a big inflection point.

  46. 46
    beltane says:

    It’s funny, but I’m an amateur medievalist and I have absolutely no interest in reading Tolkein or “medieval” fantasy fiction in general. I will gladly read The Divine Comedy in the original 13th century Tuscan but won’t touch LOTR with a ten foot pole.

  47. 47
    ruemara says:

    I’ve been working, on and off, on a fantasy story that focuses on technology and the why it gets lost. It’s set in Ethiopia and the Mediterranean with some travel into the UK. I think we’re painting advancement with a brush made at this time. We have a lot of tech that helps make more tech. If you have to start over from scratch, you’re not going to advance that far each time.

  48. 48
    Rex Everything says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Come on, it’s really a stretch to call Sauron a character.

  49. 49
    medrawt says:

    My biggest pet peeve about medieval fantasy is the way people use Tolkien as a shorthand for the things they dislike about the tropes of the genre at large, regardless of whether they accurately describe Tolkien himself, or are more accurately leveled at the post-LOTR/D&D avalanche of Elfstones in the Dragon’s Maw of Dwarfbane’s Runic Sword doorstoppers.

    Certainly there are things that are wrong and troubling about Tolkien’s politics, and which inform LOTR, but they’re pretty much what you’d expect from nostalgic conservative Britishers born in the late 19th century. The conflation of Tolkien’s treatment of the Easterlings and Southrons (troubling, basically racist) indeed reflects a kind of “bloodline is destiny” attitude underlying the books. The treatment of the orcs is something entirely else, and conflating the two is just a failure to take Tolkien’s premises seriously. Also, wizards shooting fireballs are not a significant feature of Tolkien’s specific world. Tolkien certainly seems to have been an anti-technological crank, but the whole sweep of his storytelling is specifically bound to an age of the world that is supposed (sometimes he was quite explicit about this, sometimes not) to precede this one, and the transition from several thousand years of anachronistic pre-historic late-Iron Age technology to the age of recorded history is explicitly tied to the departure of the elves and the withdrawal of magic from the land.

  50. 50

    @Rex Everything: He is ever present like the devil in Christian imagery. There is no LOTR without him.

  51. 51
    raven says:

    My pet peeve is two stupid ass threads in the last three.

  52. 52
    Rex Everything says:

    @Tim F.: That’s true. I don’t think it’s a meaningful criticism of LOTR at all, though.

  53. 53
    Hobbes says:

    It seems obvious that any world with magic able to move things at a distance would make Newtonian physics difficult to codify, let along Einstein’s work, as without our knowledge of a world without magic there may be no way to determine the rules that apply without magic. We’d have sciences that looked like alchemy, phrenology, astrology… — worthless for thousands of years.

  54. 54
    Redshirt says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: To a degree you have a point, but Melkor starts off as the right hand man of God (like Satan), and proceeds to Fall through his own hubris. Eventually he becomes pure evil, but he didn’t start out that way. Read The Silmarillion for a more nuanced look at “pure evil”.

    Sauron was just Melkor’s lackey.

  55. 55
    J says:

    @Keith: Precisely! The feature of fantasy fiction that Tim F says he doesn’t like is, I’d have thought, a defining or constitutive characteristic of the genre. Wishing the worlds depicted by Tolkien, Le Guin, Martin Peake and others were undergoing constant technological innovation is like saying one would like horror stories if they weren’t so scary.

  56. 56
    Djur says:

    What you’re describing is Vance’s Dying Earth. Fantasy has actually been to the “lost tech as magic” well many times.

  57. 57
    Rex Everything says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Right. There is no LOTR without him; there is no LOTR without the ever-present Middle Earth; there is no LOTR without the ever-present Sun and Moon; there is no LOTR without the ever-present forces of good and evil warring in microcosm and macrocosm. None of these are characters, however.

  58. 58
    stratplayer says:

    I second your peevishness and I would add to the list of irritants the space opera genre, in which civilizations of astounding technical achievement nevertheless remain stuck in bizarrely medieval social and political orders. That and spacecraft that fly aerodynamically in a vacuum.

  59. 59

    @Redshirt: To me LOTR feels like Christian dogma as interpreted by a Brit of a certain class and era, dressed as fantasy.

  60. 60
    dslak says:

    @Hobbes: Right. Science had trouble progressing in the Medieval period because no one wanted to claim that there were scientific laws, as that would imply that God could not change the behavior of physical objects on a whim. If not just God, but individuals could change their behavior, well . . .

  61. 61
    gene108 says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Ancient Jedi/Sith Force weapons were about as or more destructive than the Death Star. They didn’t need technology, when they had Force based weapons that could do damage.

    I think that’s one reason you didn’t have a Death Star 4,000 years ago, because Exar Kun and his acolytes were sending star clusters into super novas with their Sith powers.

  62. 62
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    Malthus shall have his day, like it or not.

  63. 63

    @Rex Everything: You said it yourself, the main antagonist is not even a character, boring.

  64. 64
    Suffern ACE says:

    @MikeJ: Yeah. But what I think Tom is talking about is more along the lines of “Why do the damn wizards continue to live in that school without the benefits of centralized heating.” At least Harry wore glasses instead of just magically giving himself 20/20 vision.

  65. 65
    Chris Andersen says:

    Fantasy exists in mythological realms and such realms are relatively timeless. About the only change they acknowledge is a “Fall” from a more golden age in which even more magic existed and everyone was happy tra-la-la-la except for that one guy who couldn’t get a date for the Valinor ball and decided to go all Carrie on their assess (how’s that for mixing genres!)

    That being said, I think there is a lot of room for good stories in a genre which could be classified as “scientific fantasy”. Indeed, I can think of one or two stories that are just like that (Canticle for Liebowitz for example).

  66. 66
    Cassidy says:

    @raven: Lawn. Get off it.

  67. 67
    Scott P. says:

    “Tolkien’s British Empire-era manichean racial determinism*:”

    Tolkien was writing epic. Non-humans having deterministic characteristics is a feature of epic. Centaurs are prone to anger and drunkenness, Giants are evil and prone to smash things up, dwarves are clever and not to be trusted, etc. Heck, even humans living a long way off have deterministic characteristics — see the Laestrygonians and the Amazons, just to name two.

    And the stories that Tolkien based his elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. on predate the British Empire by a thousand years.

  68. 68
    Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony says:

    The Death Star was new technology.

  69. 69
    cleek says:

    G.R.R. Martin brilliantly subverted Tolkien’s dichotomized racial moralizing

    just you wait.

    in another 20 years, we’ll start to see the unmistakable stamp of the early 21stC on Martin’s stories; and in 100 years, people will look back on Martin’s stories and pooh-pooh him for doing X,Y,Z because that’s not how good people think in 2113!

  70. 70
    Cassidy says:

    G. R. R. martin is a hack.

  71. 71
    Chris Andersen says:

    BTW, if you want a fantasy story that actually acknowledges technological advances than I’d recommend the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. It has all the magic, but it also talks about the changes brought about by the introduction of things like gunpowder and wireless technology (where “wireless” is really just a bunch of towers with guys standing in them with manual signals passing on packets of messages to each other.

  72. 72
    Redshirt says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: There’s a strong Christian element to all Tolkien’s writing, no doubt. He was a devout Catholic himself. That said, he intentionally used as many Nordic and English myths as possible as foundation material, and by definition this material is not Christian influenced.

  73. 73
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    @medrawt:

    My biggest pet peeve about medieval fantasy is the way people use Tolkien as a shorthand for the things they dislike about the tropes of the genre at large

    It is interesting to go back and read Lord Dunsany and see what fantasy was like before Tolkien..

    However, the beefs that Tim F. has with fantasy pre-date Tolkien, as the sword-and-sorcery genre was around before Tolkien became popularized e.g. R.E. Howard, Vance, Pratt, Lieber, Poul Anderson.

  74. 74
    ericblair says:

    @NonyNony:

    I’m fairly certain audiences would “get” that the guys have pistols and the wizard is throwing fireballs.

    If you kept them separate like that they would. If you start combining the two now you’re going to have to start explaining everything. In the Potterverse, where there’s modern tech, they’re basically separated like this except for the odd flying vehicle. Vampires, pretty much same way. Figuring out how you’d “realistically” incorporate magic with technology: would we have computers, or trapped demons, to do our work, or demons controlled by or controlling circuitry, or what? How about ubiquitous communications with teleportation? Transportation? Lots of interesting stuff, but a lot of complicated backstory.

  75. 75
    gene108 says:

    @MikeJ:

    There’s nothing stopping the Hobbits from fracking in the Shire, and in a couple of hundred years they probably will be.

    I believe Tolkien implies that when he ushers in the Fourth Age of the world, where Man will be supreme and the elves fade to the deep woods, becoming a rustic folk of legend or go to the West and the dwarves dwindle in number, in the deep places of the world.

  76. 76

    @Redshirt: True, it was mystical Christianity. But the morality behind the series, its concept of good and evil was definitely Christian.

  77. 77
    Scott S. says:

    Ehh, that’s the problem with just about any sort of genre escapist entertainment. It breaks the rules of reality because reality sucks, and everyone wants to get away from it. So sword-and-sorcery fantasy features magic but no gunpowder, comics feature powered armor but no accompanying ramp up in everyday technology, horror features cell phones that go out every time the vampires attack…

  78. 78
    Scott P. says:

    It’s funny, but I’m an amateur medievalist and I have absolutely no interest in reading Tolkein or “medieval” fantasy fiction in general. I will gladly read The Divine Comedy in the original 13th century Tuscan but won’t touch LOTR with a ten foot pole.

    Are you aware that Tolkien was one of the most accomplished scholars of Anglo-Saxon literature of his day? His work is still respected by medievalists. And his fantasy novels don’t represent some side-hobby of his, they were intimately informed by his wide-ranging knowledge of medieval literature.

  79. 79
    raven says:

    @Cassidy: Want fantasy? Drop some purple double dome.

  80. 80
    dopealope says:

    @Djur:

    Not to mention Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun …

  81. 81
    gene108 says:

    @Scott P.:

    And the stories that Tolkien based his elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. on predate the British Empire by a thousand years.

    All the humans, who sided with Sauron were blackity-blackity-black or brown Arab-esque peoples.

    All the humans, who opposed Sauron were northern European in appearance.

  82. 82
    jl says:

    Not a pet peeve, since I hate them, and think they all should be neutered or spayed, but voter suppression is a ‘habitual concern’ of mine:

    TPMDC
    Ohio Republicans Push Law To Penalize Colleges For Helping Students Vote
    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.....s-vote.php

    The article doesn’t have many details on how it would be implemented, but the basic idea is that any public university in Ohio that provides any documentation to out-of-state students that would allow them to provide proper ID to vote in Ohio would have to give those (or all?) out-of-state students in-state tuition.

    The GOP has just lost it. Since their goofy outreach program has started it’s like they are doing a round robin of alienating or insulting every demographic they need to win elections in the future.

    One week its Hispanics, next week its Asians, next week its women. I guess this is alienate young voters week. Every week is alienate African-American voter week. And if you listen carefully, every week is alienate the Jews week too.

    Idiots. And this is seriously depraved idea, but maybe that goes without saying these days.

  83. 83
    Rex Everything says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Oy! I don’t find it boring at all. The finale of LOTR, Frodo & Sam (and a third will be joining them) in Mt Doom, is about the best ending anywhere. It’s one of the tensest and most rewarding, and definitely the most memorable, in fantasy. Sauron is an un-characterized force; he’s much more potent that way, working within Frodo’s will…

    I realized sorta recently that I can’t even remember the finale to The Well at the World’s End, and can barely remember The Worm Ouroborus, let alone lesser fare (and all fantasy is lesser fare). If you find LOTR boring I don’t know what you need. Sex intrigues in disguise, maybe?

  84. 84
    Hebisner says:

    Although it is problematic in other ways, Robert Jordan wrote a popular fantasy series that seemed to address this issue head on. His Wheel of Time series is set in a world where the lack of technology development is a result of a terrible conflict where the “magic” ran amok among the male half of its practitioners, resulting in a society rending apocalypse and forcing human society to struggle with minimal technology for an extended period. Repeated offensives by the bad guys in Wheel of Time caused regression in technology that sets the stage for the protagonists of the story.

  85. 85
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Certified Mutant Enemy:

    The problem is Lucas and his entire “gee, whiz, let’s put on an SFX show” mentality. The ILM folks come up with some great test footage, and Lucas is entranced and wants to put it in the movies, whether it makes sense or not. Hence Imperial Walkers,supposedly because they’re so terrifying, and their armor is too strong for blasters EXCEPT after you’ve tripped them and somehow that makes the armor less strong and you can blow them up!

  86. 86
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Speaking as a scientist I sometimes stand in awe of the people who made those early leaps of logic. That business was almost impossibly hard, and it would not take much to discourage someone.

    Well, as you know, there were a great many leaps of logic that people made at the time, and an incredibly small minority of them turned out to be useful instead of useless or deadly. (And the ones that weren’t useful would often be propagated anyway with lack of replication taken as dim understanding of esoteric processes.)

    A proper amount of discouragement over something that doesn’t work is more rare than you might assume in a non-scientific world. Just look at the great number of people who do the same wrong thing over and over.

  87. 87
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    @Hobbes:

    It seems obvious that any world with magic able to move things at a distance would make Newtonian physics difficult to codify, let along Einstein’s work, as without our knowledge of a world without magic there may be no way to determine the rules that apply without magic. We’d have sciences that looked like alchemy, phrenology, astrology… — worthless for thousands of years.

    If a world did have magic and one’s will could affect natural laws, it’d be pretty useless to have sciences that didn’t take that into account.

    Chris Andersen says:

    Fantasy exists in mythological realms and such realms are relatively timeless.

    Reminds me of the Joseph-Campbell influenced Runequest RPG setting of Glorantha where mythic archeotypes were the basis of magic, and the Bad Guys (or, morally ambivalent guys) could screw with their enemies’ magic by changing said enemies’ cultural myths. In that universe, anthropology, comparative religion, and method acting were the equivalent of nuclear physics in our world.

  88. 88

    Tim F.,

    What you’ve just described has already been written….”The Change” series by S.M. Stirling. The first book, “Dies the Fire” posits that some mysterious event* occurs and all of a sudden explosions are no longer possible, as if combustion just doesn’t work all that well any more. Sure, they can have fires but even those don’t burn as well as they used to. So no guns, no cannons, no cars, no machines, nothing modern. And what happens is, well, exactly as you surmise. Eventually, the author does get into exploring magic–how it is perceived as magic even if it may not really be magic and then into what seems to be real magic. I think when he gets really deep into the magic is where the series actually loses interest for me, but it’s a heck of a read getting to that point. It’s an absolutely fabulous example of thought experiment and world building. I highly recommend at least the first three books.

    http://www.amazon.com/Change-S.....EPY0U9RA8W

    *a government experiment gone wrong? aliens? I have yet to figure out the cause but haven’t finished all the books either

  89. 89
    Ed says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Yes! It drives me crazy that Luke uses the same droid that his father built–when he was a kid!! It’s as if Wozniak’s son picked up the first Apple at flea market and was able to use it to run his accounting business. Or something.

  90. 90
    gene108 says:

    @medrawt:

    Tolkien certainly seems to have been an anti-technological crank

    I wonder how much of that is influenced by his experiences in the First World War and his worry about his kids in the Second World War, when he was actually writing the LOTR.

    What little I’ve read about Tolkien’s biography is the 1st and 2nd World Wars did play a role in his writing the LOTR.

  91. 91

    @Rex Everything: No I need strong characters and plot twists that don’t defy all logic, I also like strong female characters. I am glad you enjoyed LOTR. Different strokes for different folks. My first exposure to LOTR was not as a child or a teen but in my late twenties, perhaps it would have been more magical if I had discovered it as a teen. Who knows.

  92. 92
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @srv:

    Or the entire Q continuum, for that matter?

  93. 93
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    One of my pet peeves is when people who try to use a completely unrealistic fantasy novel with two-dimensional characters as a template for real life. Atlas Shrugged comes to mind.

  94. 94
    JustMe says:

    I’ve read some sci-fi where magic exists alongside modern technology, and it is unbearably twee.

  95. 95
    Redshirt says:

    As for magic mixing with technology, or the oft mentioned “sufficiently advanced technology will seem to be magic”, look no further than the recent Iron Man movies. The Iron Man technology is magic. But without wizards.

  96. 96
    Barney says:

    So, it looks like we’ve got about 300 years between the introduction of the hand-held crossbow to European warfare (Battle of Hastings, 1066), and the introduction of hand-held firearms: http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi625.htm
    Plus larger crossbows from over 1000 years before that. Miniaturising a weapon is far less of a leap than the entirely new technology of gunpowder, so it’s not at all unreasonable to imagine a long period with crossbows but no firearms.

  97. 97

    Imagine if Tolkein’s universe had persisted to the modern day- the few remaining elves would be employed as 10,000 year old supermodels, the dwarves would be accountants and bankers. Hobbits would make great astronauts. The wars between Ents and redneck hunters would be epic. Tom Bombadil would still be annoying.

    Pet peeve- the neighbors’ daughter apparently has nothing to do at home so she hangs out until 7:30 pm every day with our son, who lately is getting bored with her knocking on our door every day. I’ve met her father once and her mother has never talked to me or any of our other neighbors. The daughter’s a nice girl, but she doesn’t take a hint and I have to practically push her out the door when it’s time to go home. I mean, I don’t really mind being the neighborhood babysitter, but at least stop by and introduce yourself first.

  98. 98
    Redshirt says:

    @gene108: WW1 influenced him greatly. To wit: Mordor = the trench battlefields of France.

  99. 99
    catclub says:

    @Hobbes: ” We’d have sciences that looked like alchemy, phrenology, astrology… — worthless for thousands of years.”

    Is this a cynical argument that we have lived in a world of magic?

  100. 100
    medrawt says:

    @gene108: Sure. Somewhere, responding to the idea that LOTR (begun before WW2) was an allegory for WW2, he wrote (along with rejecting allegory in general) that WW1 had been quite horrible enough to inspire whatever dread of warfare and technology he had, and includes the statement that “by 1918, all but one of my close friends were dead.”

  101. 101
    Violet says:

    @SatanicPanic: With summer coming you might want to nip that in the bud. Maybe the next time she shows up, tell her it isn’t a good time for her to come visit and then accompany her back to her parents’ house and explain to them that they need to let you know first before she shows up because you’ll have a busy summer and can’t always have her around, etc.

  102. 102
    catclub says:

    @SatanicPanic: The lesson from game theory on this is: respond on the first day, not after you have stewed and gotten angry after weeks of it.

    (In game theory prisoner’s dilemma, if you are cheated against, you retaliate once, immediately.)

  103. 103
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    You said it yourself, the main antagonist is not even a character, boring.

    Yeah, but the core of the novel isn’t the big ass struggle of good and evil: it’s the struggle between good and evil within Frodo and Gollum. Frodo’s not a hero because he drags his ass to Mount Doom; he’s a hero because he didn’t slaughter Gollum (or let him be slaughtered).
    If Frodo hadn’t had pity on Gollum, the quest would have failed, no matter how pure of heart Frodo was: the evil was too great for one person to resist.
    Gandalf’s greatest contribution to the quest isn’t facing down Balrogs or defending Minas Tirith: it’s the lecture on mercy he gives Frodo in Moria. That’s why the LoTR is a more subtle and strongly Christian (and Catholic) novel than C.S. Lewis’ work.

  104. 104
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    Do not get me started on that. Please. Do not.

  105. 105
    Rex Everything says:

    @gene108: I don’t think that’s even accurate—there were the “Black Numenoreans,” so called because they practiced “black arts” but were not of a different race (hence, no less Nordic) than the other Numenoreans.

    The Nazgul were definitely Northern kings, who definitely (duh) sided with Sauron; JRRT makes numerous references to Northern allegiances with Sauron in the past, e.g. the realm of Angmar. Morgoth’s original stronghold was in the North.

    I also think a lot of the racial stuff is a misunderstanding that comes from the Anglo tradition of referring to dark-haired Anglos as “black.”

  106. 106
    Zifnab says:

    @gene108:

    All the humans, who opposed Sauron were northern European in appearance.

    The dwarves were unseasonably tan. It’s also worth noting that many of Sauron’s minions were either elf-gone-evil goblins (which were more flabby and corrupt than of-a-particular-race), Minas Tirith defectors, or Persian Army style slave-soldiers. Sauron himself was well known for his silver tongue, and had lily white elves at each other’s throats a thousand years earlier. Hell, anyone that read the Silmarillion is well acquainted with Tolkein’s view of the “White Man’s Burden” and the hubristic fall to which it inevitably results.

  107. 107
    liberal says:

    Pet peeves?

    My pet peeve is the scores of people here on BJ who don’t know a damn thing about economics.

    I’ll pick on Roger Moore, since he’s otherwise one of the smarter commenters here:

    IOW, most of the value of the land comes from the legal rights and practical ability to develop there, not to the intrinsic value of the land, and Ricardo’s theory applies only to that small intrinsic value, not to the monetary value of the legal rights associated with the land.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Where did you get the notion that Ricardo’s theory applies only to the “intrinsic” value of the land? What is the instrinsic value, anyway?

  108. 108
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony: The Storm Troopers were also a major innovation, both in terms of genetic technology and government organization. Thanks, Yoda for brining them into the borders of the Republic. Hows that change working out for yah?

  109. 109
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Sometimes I just gotta throw a stinkbomb.

  110. 110
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Barney:

    Consider that our friends in the Vatican considered the crossbow to be a weapon of Satan, too. This did not stop feudal lords from using it, particularly when it was quite effective against mounted knights in plate armor. Really pissed off the French, it did, when the silly English used it (and the longbow) to utterly kick their asses at various 100 Years War engagements.

  111. 111
    Rex Everything says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: You like strong female characters, eh? Hey, do me a favor: find me a fantasy novel, published in the 1950s or earlier, with a stronger female character than Eowyn.

    I can wait.

  112. 112
    Barney says:

    @gene108: And from industrialisation before WW1. As a young boy, living near Birmingham, he saw the city expand, and steam-driven industry engulfed things like the watermill near him that had been the most ‘industrial’ thing he knew.

    WW1 did affect him a lot – he fought, and a lot of his friends were killed. The corpses from the battle, preserved in the marsh (I can’t remember the proper name now, only the ‘Ngaio Marsh’ from Bored of the Rings) come from the trench scenes he saw.

  113. 113
    vagabundoloco says:

    1. It’s imaginary play pretend. It’s no less imaginary play pretend than the sci-fi genre where all those people who worship at the altar of Progress, the idea of limitless better living through chemistry and endless technological advancement can indulge in their techno-fetishist dreams to their hearts’ content.

    2. As much as sci-fi is about techno-fetishism, fantasy is about techno-phobia and nostalgia for a world where technology doesn’t dominate life. The beginning of the need for the fantasy genre begins with the industrial revolution. Many people find more charm and romance in a world that isn’t a reductionistic, utilitarian, impersonal machine run by mad scientists, industrial tycoons, and rude mechanicals.

    3 . The dystopian, post-apocalyptic future genre is it’s own thing. It has it’s own, different kind of appeal. Regular fantasy is more about your more optimistic, noble, and hopeful dramatic possibilities with happy endings. The post-apocalyptic is more about your pessimistic, ignoble, “gritty,” hopeless, tragic, existential drama full of unhappy endings.

  114. 114
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @liberal:

    “Value” is the most flexible concept in the world, because everyone views things from an individual perspective.

  115. 115
    smintheus says:

    Crossbows were in use in Europe already in classical Greece. Romans used them extensively too, as did Europeans throughout the medieval period. Where in the world did the idea come from that they arrived in Europe only in the 14th century?

  116. 116
    ericblair says:

    @medrawt:

    Somewhere, responding to the idea that LOTR (begun before WW2) was an allegory for WW2, he wrote (along with rejecting allegory in general) that WW1 had been quite horrible enough to inspire whatever dread of warfare and technology he had

    He also had to swear up and down that the One Ring didn’t represent the atom bomb.

  117. 117
    liberal says:

    Here’s commenter I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet

    All land isn’t equally fungible, and most renters these days aren’t renting the use of the land, they’re renting the house/apartment on the land.

    First, nowhere does Ricardo assume all land is equally fungible—in fact, it’s a central assumption of the theory that it’s not all equal.

    Second, of course renters are renting the use of the land. What do you think the house/apartment building sits on? Why do you think an apartment in Manhatten is much more expensive to rent than an apartment in Peoria?

  118. 118
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @liberal: Are you wanting to start a list of pet peeves about dragging economics into a fantasy argument?

  119. 119

    Given that Saruman represents man’s greed, lust for power, and domination of others and the environment for his own purposes and use, I’m not sure equating him with industrialization and modern industry is a bad thing at all.

    Not that we all need to go live in trees, farm, and sing songs all day, but I’d rather see if we could find a way to have industry and modernization that also has a respect for the small folks in this world and the green things.

  120. 120
    Zifnab says:

    @Rex Everything: The sisters from CS Lewis’s Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe were pretty tough. I don’t know where they stand relative to Eowyn, as I haven’t read either book in a while. But they were definitely more than window dressing.

    Unfortunately, Lewis decided to punish Susan for being strong by the time Last Battle got published, but in the earlier books she was definitely a strong female character.

  121. 121
    Violet says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Something is only worth what someone will pay for it. If you need to sell something and the people willing and available to buy it will only pay $1, then it’s worth $1, even if at some other time, with other buyers you could get $100.

    You can hold onto the item and wait and hope the $100 buyers will show up or the market will change, both of which might happen. But at the point in time that you need to sell it, it’s only worth what you can get.

  122. 122

    @Violet: @catclub: Yeah, I’m going to have to do that. It’s not even that I mind have kids around but her parents give her rules like “you can’t go inside other people’s apartments”- GREAT! You kids should play outside! But lately she’s like “I can, but the door has to stay open” and I’m like “It’s my door, go outside!” Grrrrrr.

  123. 123
    liberal says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:
    My particular point is that the reference to intrinsic value is meaningless.

    My general point is that the comment is entirely wrong. The thing that gives urban parcels their market value is precisely development rights. And the claim that Ricardo’s theory doesn’t apply to that situation is completely wrong.

  124. 124
    Chet says:

    I think the mistake here is the same mistake my players are making when they try to do something stupid like the “infinite peasant cannon” or whatever.

    These aren’t physics-based universes. They’re semantic universes. When fire burns wood, it’s not because of a chemical reaction that converts lignin and cellulose into carbon dioxide – it’s because that’s the definition of “fire”: it consumes wood and produced heat and light. When acid dissolves metal and burns flesh without heat, it’s not because of redox chemistry or the denaturing of proteins in response to low pH – it’s because that’s what “acid” means.

    Conversely I hate when settings treat our universe as not being physics-based. That TV show Revolution consistently drives me crazy with its depiction of a (hilariously paradoxical) world where metal can rust but computers don’t work, and a steam engine will run but a diesel engine won’t, despite both being equally independent of electricity.

  125. 125
    Seanly says:

    I like fantasy literature, play AD&D (first edition or go home, baby!) and am also an engineer. The issues you bring up have come to mind for me. Part of it is that in suspending disbelief we dispense with many of the questions such as how do the carniverous monsters eat enough to be numerous but there are unprotected hamlets of farmers. AD&D worlds are teeming with dangerous wizards & monsters of evil intent – how can any society exist.

    If we apply much of our understanding of physics, economics, etc. etc. to fantasy or sci-fi worlds, then many of the standard devices fall apart. Technology may be stagnant for long periods but eventually it would progress. I think the steampunk subgenre is in part an answer to your question.

    In addition to your pet peeve, an even bigger one of mine is in sci-fi novels/movies where cloning is done, The Fox show Space: Above & Beyond had clones as commonplace but second class citizens. There are now 7 billion people on our planet – why would clones become commonplace? If someone with no ethics needed a quickly reproducing workforce or military force couldn’t they just use children & young adults from disadvantaged areas (like Somalia or the SE USA)? Mankind has no problem breeding. Same with the whole Clone Wars premise in Star Wars – why grow an army when there are probably plenty of citizens to be paid or conscripted into military service? The only cloning related story I like is the campy STNG episode where a planet of sex adverse & dying out clones gets the infusion of randy Irish Travelers.

  126. 126
    PeakVT says:

    @stratplayer: I think having a medieval social structure is just a convenient way to write the teeming hordes out of the script/book. Democracy tends to be diffuse, slow, and indecisive. Entertainment needs clear central characters and (when appropriate) decisive action.

  127. 127

    @Herbal Infusion Bagger:

    The one thing that does make technological stasis less plausible in GRRM’s world is that they have a community of scholars (the Citadel), who presumably share knowledge.

    Yes, this is true but the way in which the maesters jealously guard that knowledge and don’t release it to non-Citadel members would greatly hinder societal development. Seems like their miserliness has held everyone back. Also, their level of knowledge seems to be no better than what we had during the Rennaissance period. I was going to say Medieval but they have “milk of the poppy”, which I’m not sure they had during the European Medieval period (notice I said European, Asian medical advancement being on a different timetable).

    Another point related to Tolkien and English determinism….I read and post over at winteriscoming.net and have been engaged in a debate with several people who are characterizing Daenerys as engaging in “American Interventionism” and “paternalistic interventionism”, ala GWB and the neocons. For some reason, I was offended by the idea….not sure why yet. I guess I didn’t like our modern political paradigm to be applied to the one hour a week of escape from reality that I allow myself. Now when Dany attacks Yunkai all I will be able to think about it how she doesn’t have a “follow up” plan for dealing with the power vacuum resulting from her destruction of the slavers and how to deal with 200,000 needy former slaves. Sigh…..

  128. 128
    Zifnab says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Calories have a fairly uniform value. If I was to build an economic measurement system from the ground up, I think I’d start with calories. From calories, you can cover the basics – food, clothing, and shelter (the first giving you calories and the other two helping you preserve them) – and then treating technological innovation from there as a method of finding, gaining, and using said calories more efficiently.

  129. 129
    Violet says:

    @SatanicPanic: How old is the girl? Seems kind of crazy that the parents have dumped their young child on someone that one of the parents has only met once.

  130. 130
    dance around in your bones says:

    NOT a pet peeve:

    ♫ Rotating tags are back, rotating tags are back! ♫

    eta: or sub-headers or whatever you call them O_o

  131. 131
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @ericblair:

    The desire to see a direct analogy between LOTR and 20th Century events is a strong one, and one I personally reject. Take the stories for what they are, and don’t try to assume they’re allegory.

  132. 132
    liberal says:

    @Violet:
    I’m not aware of the precise details, but there’s a long intellectual history behind the distinction behind price and value. One of the most important aspects of which is the incorrectness of the labor theory of value.

  133. 133
    liberal says:

    @Zifnab:
    While not entirely useless, calories say nothing about why a Rembrandt sells for so much money.

  134. 134
    Mnemosyne says:

    @ericblair:

    If you put an average modern thriller or even rom-com in front of a 1920s audience, they’d be completely lost. The technological changes, accompanying social changes, and all the implications that we’ve internalized would make every scene require half an hour of explanation to an early audience.

    Heck, the changes in film language alone would confuse the hell out of them. People complain about old films being “slow,” but if you actually watch them, they do a lot more explaining of who’s where at any particular time than we do today. “That must be Jimmy at the door now!”

    I dislike Godard and his films, but he really was instrumental in rethinking the language of film and figuring out how to shortcut in ways that still allowed the audience to understand what was going on.

    Though, also, to be fair, we’ve lost a lot of the shorthand that people of that time would have instantly understood. A kimono laying on a chair means nothing to us, but to that audience it signaled that the woman in question was a prostitute. Symbols change, and later cultures don’t always remember what the previous symbols meant.

  135. 135
  136. 136
    Violet says:

    @liberal: Oh, absolutely. Like, your family has value, but there isn’t a price associated with that. And even a family heirloom, say, which is just an object to someone else and worth maybe nothing in price, has a high value to you.

    But ultimately, if you have something like a house or a piece of art and you think it’s worth X, you will only know if you are right if you try to sell it. Just sitting there it’s not really worth that.

  137. 137
    Zifnab says:

    @Seanly:

    Same with the whole Clone Wars premise in Star Wars – why grow an army when there are probably plenty of citizens to be paid or conscripted into military service?

    The scary thing about clones isn’t so much the idea of “Rapidly reproducing homogeneous humanoids”, its the assumption that said Clone Army is functionally mind-controlled by the cloner. Yeah, there are plenty of citizens in the galaxy. No, they aren’t all going to turn their weapons on the nearest Jedi, the moment a Sith Lord whispers “Order 66”.

  138. 138
    gene108 says:

    @Rex Everything:

    In the LOTR, when the Witch King dies and his lieutenant empties the armies Sauron amassed into the Battle of the Pellennor (sp?) Fields, the descriptions of every human fighting for Sauron is either a black or brown man.

    I was referring specifically to the LOTR.

    Tolkien has woven a theme of great civilizations becoming proud and falling/failing throughout Middle Earth, whether it’s the Elves or Numenor and the loss of what has fallen does creep into the LOTR a bit.

  139. 139

    @Rex Everything: Ok I get it that you love LOTR, why do you insist that I love it too. My experience with LOTR didn’t live up to the hype that’s all.

  140. 140
    Zifnab says:

    @liberal: Well, it wouldn’t if you had to choose between the painting or hot meals for a month. Reimbrants hold high value only among individual for whom all lower needs have been exhaustively met. If you’ve got a billion calorie surplus, you can afford to spend a million of them on a painting without fear of starvation.

  141. 141
    Mnemosyne says:

    @liberal:

    The thing that gives urban parcels their market value is precisely development rights. And the claim that Ricardo’s theory doesn’t apply to that situation is completely wrong.

    Then we’re back to my original question: please describe a real-life situation that you know of where an urban parcel with no development on it is rented to someone else and therefore would fit your claim that the landlord can’t possibly raise the rent on it if s/he gets a property tax increase.

  142. 142
    liberal says:

    @Violet:
    Yes, there are lots of examples.

    Another one is water vs gold. Both are useful. Water is much, much cheaper than gold. But you can live without gold; you can’t live without water. In that case, my impression is that the reason is that things tend to be sold “on margin”. If there was real scarcity in water, so scarce that most people had none to drink, it would presumably be more expensive than gold.

  143. 143
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Seanly:

    Well, the justification for clones (bear with me, this is a Lucas invention) is that they’re better at warfare than droids, and only slightly more expensive in terms of time and resource expenditure. Also, too, they’re fail-safe programmable, which the usual result of unskilled labor producing babies is not. Thus you have “Order 66” to take out the Jedi commanders of the Clones at some moment of Darth Sidious’ choosing.

  144. 144
    WereBear says:

    I can’t believe we are having this discussion without bringing up THE VERY TIME WE LIVE IN. Where screeching religious cranks and lunatic billionaires are determined to throw us back to an era of pre-Enlightenment.

    I’m not exaggerating… they proclaim that is their purpose.

  145. 145
    Drezter says:

    There is such a fantasy series described at the end of the article…. Sword of Shanara by Terry Brooks

  146. 146
    liberal says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    I can’t answer the question because it’s incoherent. Your postings in the other thread show you can’t even understand the simple fact that when you rent an apartment or house, you’re implicitly renting not just the structure, but the land the structure is placed on, and importantly the value of the location of the land.

    Why do you think people in the real estate biz say “location, location, location”?

    ETA: you wrote,

    It seems to depend on a weird situation where one person owns the land and a different person owns the capital property (house or whatever) that sits on that land.

    Which is completely false.

  147. 147
    Violet says:

    @WereBear: Is that a pet peeve?

  148. 148
    liberal says:

    Here’s Wikipedia, BTW, on the law of rent:

    Being a political economist, Ricardo was not simply referring to land in terms of soil. He was primarily interested in the economic rent and locational value associated with private appropriation of any natural factor of production. The law of rent applies equally well to urban land and rural land, as it is a fundamental principle of economics.

  149. 149
    Aet says:

    The idea I always assumed wasn’t that ‘magic makes people stupid’, but that ‘magic attracts people smart’, at least in terms of things like industrial arts.

    It’s hard to dedicate decades to your life to a profession with relatively little payback when alternatives are lucrative. Someone who can raise the dead and heal the sick after a few years of study is going to trump someone who needs to spend decades learning how to do far less through messy, dangerous, and imperfect surgery. That constant pressure means that the institutions behind science don’t exist. The places of higher learning are going to be dedicate to that same arcane study, because that’s where the payoff is.

  150. 150
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @WereBear:

    Pre-Enlightenment? Hell, that loonytunes Bachmann bint says the Renaissance was a mistake.

  151. 151

    @Rex Everything: Why restrict yourself to fantasy? Novels with strong female protagonists before 1950s I give you two, Jane Eyre and almost anything by Jane Austen.
    What role does Eowyn have in LOTR, I have already forgotten. Her character is not as pivotal to the story as Frodo, Gollum or even Sam.

  152. 152
    Alex S. says:

    I think there is a technical term for it – fantasy stories are always told from a perspective of a decaying world, the golden age lies in the past. In LOTR there was Numenor and there was the age of elves before that, and Morgoth was more powerful than Sauron, and the Elves were more perfect than humans. The great and wise and powerful disappears. And in Game of Thrones (I only read the first two books), there used to be dragons, then they got weaker and smaller and then they died. People were inexplicably able to build the Wall and Dragonstone. But after that, everything stays the same. The alchemists guild of King’s Landing is just a curiosity. The last Targaryen king still used them, but now they are on the verge of being forgotten. Star Wars as well, there was the Old Republic and then it fell apart. Even the Sith Lords used to be stronger than they are now (the one that defeated death).
    In the Dune universe there was an age of the machines, but people destroyed them 10000 years ago because the machines were too perfect or something like that. Then humans built a new civilization on the power of the mind (and a deus ex machina in the form of spice). Then Leto II halts all additional technological progress for thousands of years, so that humans have the urge to escape this supression. And in the end (of Herbert’s story) there are almost no further technological developments and the only progress is through genetic mutation, and that is several thousands of years after the first book.
    Also, I was really annoyed when Star Trek: Enterprise was revealed to be about the early space age. I would have loved another step into the future, a next next generation. I didn’t watch Enterprise much.

  153. 153
    Mnemosyne says:

    @liberal:

    Your postings in the other thread show you can’t even understand the simple fact that when you rent an apartment or house, you’re implicitly renting not just the structure, but the land the structure is placed on, and importantly the value of the location of the land.

    No, I understand that, but you kept saying that you were talking about land that did not include “capital improvements” like buildings so therefore the examples that people kept pointing out of landlords raising rent in response to property tax increases were invalid.

    I think you need to work on your points a little more, because you keep shifting them in response to questions from other people. You are saying that Ricardo’s argument is that landlords cannot raise rent in response to increased property taxes. We pointed out that in the real world, they do. So what exactly is your claim here?

  154. 154
    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    My pet peeve is when able-bodied people take the elevator down one level when there are stairs right next to the elevator banks.

  155. 155
    Gian says:

    @gene108:

    You forgot the not intended to be a factual statement tag.
    Or were the numenor ancestors of Gondor dark and their descendants light?

  156. 156
    mainmati says:

    Arthur C. Clarke said it most pithily: “Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet.”

  157. 157
    cyntax says:

    Instead of some ludicrously expensive A-10 replacement, what we need is more A-10s.

    As an Army vet, whenever I get the chance to bitch at AF types about this, I beat the opportunity into the ground with abandon and invective. Lot’s and lot’s of invective.

  158. 158
    Mnemosyne says:

    @liberal:

    And here’s a quote from further on in that same article:

    Ricardo noticed that the bargaining power of laborers can never dip below the produce obtainable on the best available rent-free land, because whenever rent leaves them with less than they could get on that free land, they can simply move to the new location. The produce obtainable on the best available rent-free land is known as the margin of production. Since landlords have a monopoly over a given location, the only limiting factor for rent is the margin of production. Thus, rent is a differential between the productive capacity of the land and the margin of production.

    Note that Ricardo’s original formulation assumes that the best quality farm land would be the first to be cultivated, and that goods are sold in a competitive, single price market.

    Ricardo’s theory applies to farm land and the economic gain you can get from farm land. He says nothing about renting housing or renting commercial space as it exists today. As I had suspected, he was writing in reaction to the Inclosure Acts that closed off previously public land and forced people to pay rent in order to farm it.

    So, again, my question to you remains: how does Ricardo’s “law” apply to someone renting an apartment to live in rather than to someone renting a piece of land to farm on?

  159. 159

    @Violet: I think she’s 8. We live in university family housing so kids pretty much run without much supervision, which is cool. We have a son and the upstairs neighbors have kids, so we end up with tons of kids stopping by, but we know everyone’s parents, and that makes it a little easier to deal with their kids. The upstairs neighbors were telling me how they’re sitting down for dinner and the neighbor girls says “my mom said I could eat with you”. I don’t know if she’s making that up or not, but that’s a bit much.

  160. 160
    liberal says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    No, I understand that, but you kept saying that you were talking about land that did not include “capital improvements” like buildings so therefore the examples that people kept pointing out of landlords raising rent in response to property tax increases were invalid.

    I’m talking about land value apart from improvements, and I don’t think I said otherwise. You can decompose a piece of real estate into the land and the improvements. Much land value in an advanced technological economy is “site value”—location. That value exists apart from the structure. Just because they sit together doesn’t mean the land doesn’t have separate value. In fact, a really old building in a valuable location might sit on a parcel of land that’s worth almost as much as it is with the building included.

  161. 161
    Zifnab says:

    @Aet:

    The idea I always assumed wasn’t that ‘magic makes people stupid’, but that ‘magic attracts people smart’, at least in terms of things like industrial arts.

    In his early career, Isaac Newton dabbled in all sorts of occult practices. When none of them worked, he abandoned them in favor of the more-functional physics and math models of the universe.

    What happened if Isaac Newton had successfully summoned a demon from a chalk pentagram on his office-room floor? Assuming he didn’t get his throat ripped out, that is… Would he have gone on to work for the Royal Mint and make a name for himself stopping counterfeiters? Would he have submitted all those physics papers to the Royal Society? Would he have developed Calculus?

    Or would he have gone full-bore on his early-life obsessions regarding End Of The World prophecies and run off to become a crime-fighting spell-slinging cleric? Or would he have run off into the hills of England and founded Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? :-p

    If fantasy writers hasn’t already written a story about this alternative universe, they should.

  162. 162
    pharniel says:

    @NonyNony:

    Way late to the party but…

    Greyhawk (and Blackmoor, and Forgotten Realms) are actually Post Apocolyptic settings.
    In the case of Greyhawk (And FR) multiple advanced empires have sprung up only to be blown away – in Greyhawk the original loss was the ‘Twin Catastrophes’ where two civilizations used magical WMDs on each other.

    There’s a Dragon article where it shows Greyhawk in 100 years – you have magical air support, weapons that throw rocks by teleporting the rock into space near the sun, letting it generate a relativistic speed and then teleporting it back to the barrel to be guided by the user.

    FR is the same way – only it’s more explicit that at certain points people (Read: Sun Elves) have a choice and consistently make terrible ones resulting in society being set back yet again.

    Part of the original reason there were magical items lying around all over the place but PCs couldn’t make them is because they were trinkets of the prior civilizations of which yours was but a pale imitation of.

    At some point modern fantasy sort of lost this plot; that combined with the trope about people not being able to understand just how long 100 (let alone 1,000 or 10,000) years is causes this sort of staticness.

    Hell the Vampire setting seems out of date after a mere 20, let alone Mage: the Ascension or Werewolf.

  163. 163

    Same with the whole Clone Wars premise in Star Wars – why grow an army when there are probably plenty of citizens to be paid or conscripted into military service?

    There are some good reasons to go with clones.

    There’s the mental conditioning to always follow orders that was mentioned.

    But also their entire purpose is war. That is their reason for existing. They have no families other than the other clones they’ve been raised with so their espirit de corps is high and they don’t have any ambition other than fulfilling their mission objective and keeping their buddies alive to do it, if possible.

    They’re disposable. No one’s going to miss them if they die and they can be easily replaced with another clone that has the exact same training and skills.

    They are essentially drones. Which means they make it far easier to convince the public to support a war, because it won’t require any sacrifice on their part.

  164. 164
    catclub says:

    @Aet: “It’s hard to dedicate decades to your life to a profession with relatively little payback when alternatives are lucrative.”

    Ever met a musician? Or painter? Or writer?
    There are clearly different types of payback and lucrative.

  165. 165
    sherparick says:

    I would say one of the fantasy elements is the fantasy of arrested technological process. (And in the real world of 13th-15th century European dynastic war, from which so much of GoT is drawn from, there was accelerating technical competition in war making, especially with the introduction of cannon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hawkwood (I put in the reference to Hawkwood because I think the character Bronn is modeled on him). There are many things that bug me about the world of GoT (seasons longer than years, then if so, how do you determine a year, e.g. GoT orbital time around its Sun? One could argue that GRRM’s biggest mistake is I setting the children’s age to low and not showing how much time passes in his novels. It breeds a sense for stagnation starting in SoS, which grows worse in FfC and DwD). I enjoy the characterizations and the way the characters grow, change, and reveal themselves. That made the books worth reading and the series worth watching.

  166. 166
    MikeJ says:

    Pet peeve: unnecessarily escaped strings, like in the rotating taglines.

    And we\’re all out of bubblegum.

    I think you need to throw an extra unescape in there.

  167. 167
    WereBear says:

    @Violet: Yes, it Annoys Me Very Much.

    But fantasy is specifically a pre-Industrial genre; that is the point. It can go back to the Bronze Age and beyond, whether or not there are shamans and they actually do anything, but once you steam-punk it, that’s science fiction.

    It may be annoying; but that’s the constraints of the genre. One can do tech and magic; but it takes a Terry Pratchett to do it right.

  168. 168
    catclub says:

    @cyntax: I figure the reason is that someone important lost the drawings, and does not want to admit it. ;)

  169. 169
    Mnemosyne says:

    @liberal:

    Much land value in an advanced technological economy is “site value”—location. That value exists apart from the structure. Just because they sit together doesn’t mean the land doesn’t have separate value.

    Yes, that’s pretty basic. But you’re still not explaining how it is that the landlord of a vacant piece of urban land who is (for the sake of argument) renting it to another person is economically unable to raise the rent in response to a tax increase on that land (again, as I said before, barring a contract or lease being in place).

    Ricardo’s theories work great for a primarily agrarian society that recently had a bunch of previously public land closed off and put onto a rental basis, but I honestly don’t see how they apply to modern urban environments. I mean, yes, more people prefer to live in Southern California than North Dakota and will pay more in order to do so, so land costs more in Los Angeles than it does in Fargo. Um, duh? I really don’t see the horrific economic injustice in that.

  170. 170
    ericblair says:

    @liberal:

    Your postings in the other thread show you can’t even understand the simple fact that when you rent an apartment or house, you’re implicitly renting not just the structure, but the land the structure is placed on, and importantly the value of the location of the land.

    I think the problem is that there’s a whole lot of explanation missing about the supply/demand curve. We’ve got a vertical supply curve for land in general (which I’m thinking is more properly “land subject to Land Value Tax and appropriate for the consumer’s use”) and demand curve for land in general, which is really a whole lot of different demand curves for residential rental, industrial production, commercial, and so on. It’s hard to see the “demand for land in general” implied here, and if we could get that explained that would help. I can see where Land Value Tax leads to more efficient use of resources, but it’s hard to see how the tax falls directly on landowners and over what timeframe we’re talking about.

  171. 171
    Violet says:

    @SatanicPanic: I think the key is to balance compassion for the girl with your requirements for the parents. If they just let her run around and don’t pay much attention to her, that sucks for the girl. Hopefully you can work it out.

  172. 172
    gene108 says:

    @Gian:

    You forgot the not intended to be a factual statement tag.
    Or were the numenor ancestors of Gondor dark and their descendants light?

    Which ancestors of Gondor? The men of Numenor, who the rulers of Gondor are descended from were not swarthy Southern European types.

    The natives of Gondor were probably closer to Greeks/Italians/Slavs in appearance. There was, after thousands of years of cohabitation, intermingling between the high men of Numenor and the lesser men native to the area.

    That’s why Boromir is “dark”, while Faramir is “light” and the blood of old Numenor runs truer in Faramir and Denethor (who is also tall and “light”).

    Also, too go back an re-read the battle of the pellennor fields. Tolkien describes the black foot soldiers of Sauron as similar to trolls.

    So on the one side you have Mediterranean types native to Gondor, who are heroes, while the African Americans /Africans fight for Sauron and are described as similar to trolls.

    I “fail” to see any racial preference there.

  173. 173
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    But also their entire purpose is war. That is their reason for existing. They have no families other than the other clones they’ve been raised with so their espirit de corps is high and they don’t have any ambition other than fulfilling their mission objective and keeping their buddies alive to do it, if possible.

    They’re disposable. No one’s going to miss them if they die and they can be easily replaced with another clone that has the exact same training and skills.

    Your two paragraphs contradict each other in a very interesting way. If the clones are so closely bonded to each other and don’t have contact with a normal society, wouldn’t the odds be high that they would eventually turn against their masters despite their conditioning if they get thrown into a war that’s too wasteful? No one is going to miss a dead clone … except the clone-brothers he’s been raised with since birth.

    Now that’s the sci-fi movie I’d like to see.

  174. 174

    My pet peeve pedestrians who cross without looking, just step in front of your car, taking it for granted that you will stop in time even when road conditions are awful because of the weather.

  175. 175
    gene108 says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Some Jedi generals being more compassionate than others try to mitigate the clones wanting to mutiny, though it sometimes* happened, if the body count was too high.

    *This assumes the Clone Wars cartoons on Cartoon Network are canon for the Star Wars universe.

  176. 176
    cyntax says:

    @catclub:
    Ah, I hadn’t thought of that. You may be right.

  177. 177

    @Mnemosyne: Possibly, but they know their purpose. It is what brings them fulfillment. So while they are bonded to one another and will do their best to keep their comrades alive, their very nature makes their lives transitory and they are conditioned to accept that to fulfill their purpose.

    And yes, when young Dread first heard of the Clone Wars, he assumed the very scenario you envisioned with armies of clones rebelling against a society that had effectively enslaved them and treated them as disposable resources to be used up and discarded without a thought by their ‘betters’.

    He had no idea what horrors George Lucas really had in mind.

  178. 178
    WereBear says:

    @gene108: I always felt the “clone” aspect was used to explain how they were so robotic; they did not save each other, for instance, and were not very bright. And, well-known bad shots.

  179. 179
    MikeJ says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: If you can’t stop you’re driving too fast. Peds have right of way.

  180. 180

    @Violet: Yeah, she’s a nice kid, I don’t think her parents are crackheads or anything, I just think they’re being rude.

  181. 181
    Holden Pattern says:

    Jalopnik proposed an idea that I kind of like: basically, maybe the presence of magic makes people stupid. Look at it this way. When a wood elf can tweak the laws of nature by twitching her ears, Gregor Mendel would feel silly to spend decades to tease out the laws of heredity in peas when a wood elf could walk by and throw his Punnett squares to hell.

    David Brin explores this idea in an interesting way in The Practice Effect.

  182. 182
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    So while they are bonded to one another and will do their best to keep their comrades alive, their very nature makes their lives transitory and they are conditioned to accept that to fulfill their purpose.

    That’s what the Tyrell Corporation thought about replicants. Whoops.

    IOW, I’m saying that we’re right and Lucas was wrong. :-)

  183. 183
    NickT says:

    @Herbal Infusion Bagger:

    And, for that matter, you don’t see a lot of innovation technologically after around 100 AD in the Roman Empire. A lot of what Tim F is saying here is simplistic at best.

  184. 184
    Xantar says:

    I don’t consider myself a gun nut in the least (bladed weaponry is more my thing), but the GAU-8 on an A-10 is a thing of beauty. Its recoil force is about 45 kiloNewtons which means if you mounted it on a person, you could achieve liftoff. Ok it would be a very stupid, inefficient way to achieve liftoff, but my inner 12 year old is still giggling at the idea of gatling gun powered flight.

  185. 185
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Oh, and as an Army vet, I can only say “amen” to your A-10 rant.

    Much of the Air Force’s general officer ranks need to be shot at dawn.

  186. 186
    Reba says:

    Well, since you start with the premise that what you’re reading is a medieval fantasy genre, then it stands to reason that the social systems and weaponry would reflect that era. Technology developed at different paces in our world based on lots of factors. There are still pockets of low-tech civilization, sometimes by choice, but often due to lack of access to resources. So maybe Middle Earth just didn’t have the right chemicals to produce big explosions. Then again, there’s a heck of a lot of destructive power in a trebuchet, so maybe they figured if it was good enough to wreck Gondor, why bother looking for something better?

    There is plenty of urban fantasy that has both technology and magic. The entire steampunk genre explores what happens when you have technological advances alongside and/or influenced by magic. Maybe you just don’t like the medieval fantasy genre, which is fine. I don’t much care for it either. But there is an enormous swath of the fantasy genre that is not Tolkeinesque.

  187. 187

    @MikeJ: I do stop for them, I just wish they watched where they were going while crossing the road.

  188. 188

    @Xantar:

    Its recoil force is about 45 kiloNewtons which means if you mounted it on a person, you could achieve liftoff. Ok it would be a very stupid, inefficient way to achieve liftoff, but my inner 12 year old is still giggling at the idea of gatling gun powered flight.

    I’m pretty sure that was the primary superpower of most comic book characters in the 90’s.

  189. 189
    Reba says:

    @What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?: Hi. I look perfectly able-bodied, but I have a serious SI joint issue. You can’t see it when I walk or swim or workout, and I don’t talk about it, because my chronic pain is boring, even to me. My doctor and physical therapist have forbidden me to take the stairs because of the ungodly stress that puts on my SI joint. So I take the elevator one damned floor. Just thought you should know that not all disabilities are visible. Maybe if more people understood that you can’t tell what is going on with a person just by looking at them, I’d stop getting dirty looks for doing what the medical professionals ordered.

  190. 190
    Seanly says:

    Another point about fantasy & sci-fi – good sci-fi examines the human condition in different conditions than our current one. It can allow us to examine our prejudices sometimes in a ham-fisted way like the white-black vs black-white aliens in Star Trek or subtly. The fantastic setting is merely a device – many of the better sci-fi movies of the 50’s & early 60’s can be seen to use the sci-fi setting to examine morals & issues they couldn’t have examined in a contemperary setting.

    @Comrade Dread:
    Valid points (some of which I overlooked in Star Wars because I hate that premise of cheap, easy clones being more cost effective than existing populations). However, if there are whole planets (or here on Earth whole regions) filled with disenfranchised populations, why bother brewing more people? Just take what you want. So some don’t fight or resist your mind control – fine, blow ’em away as an example to the others. In this day & age, if I were an evil supervillian, I wouldn’t breed an army of clones – I’d just take tens of thousands of people from terrible places and turn them into my army to be slaughtered by GI Joe or James Bond.

    I know I’m supposed to suspend disbelief and allow the creator certain devices (like faster than light travel or ducking a laser beam or dragons & fireballs), but things stil have to make sense within the premise. For me, the whole clone thing (especially in a near-future Earth) is one I can’t swallow.

    I read some of the Game of Thrones – petered out in the 3rd book… My first thought there was that the world had either a long elliptical orbit or was actually a moon of another planet. But it seemed that after introducing the issues with coming (or was it retreating?) ice age, the huge wall and dark forces on the other side got lost with the political machinations.

  191. 191
    gene108 says:

    @WereBear:

    Clone Troopers were crack shots. Stormtroopers not so hot, towards the end of the Rebellion.

    One explanation I heard was as casualties mounted*, they had to speed up the cloning process to get replacements, so the new Stormtroopers weren’t programmed as well to fight as the older Clone Troopers and older Stormtroopers.

    *From what I’ve read, I think the standard compliment of crew – bridge crew, stormtroopers, TIE figher pilots etc. – for an Imperial Class Stardestroyer was around 36,000 to 46,000 total. The Death Star must’ve had many more people on it. So one Stardestroyer goes down, that’s a lot of people to replace. The Empire didn’t really plan for heavy losses, when fighting the Rebels.

  192. 192
    Zifnab25 says:

    @pharniel:

    Hell the Vampire setting seems out of date after a mere 20, let alone Mage: the Ascension or Werewolf.

    They’ve actually overhauled those settings a number of times. In fact, there’s an ongoing project right now (Vamp20 / Werewolf20 / Mage20 / etc) where they’re reprinting the core rule books in celebration of each game’s 20th birthday.

    Mage, in particular, likes to have fun with the whole “Where are we on the technological spectrum now?” game, with many of its Traditions each serving as throw-backs (or in the case of the VAs – leaps ahead) to incrementally previous bygone eras.

  193. 193
    Mnemosyne says:

    @liberal:

    Also, I think you’re seriously missing the forest for the trees when you apply your argument to land values. Today’s rentiers are squatting not on arable farmland that they can demand rents for, but on things like cellular networks or bank accounts that people have to pay fees in order to use without the rentier having to do any improvements or offer any additional services.

    Ricardo’s concepts don’t apply to land or land use anymore, but they may apply to other things. By focusing on land ownership, you make me wonder how you picture being able to buy a house in your ideal world. Is all land free and public and people can build whatever they want on it? Is there any ability to build equity in your capital investment if the underlying land is public?

  194. 194
    liberal says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Ricardo’s theory applies to farm land and the economic gain you can get from farm land.

    Flat out wrong. It also applies to urban land.

  195. 195
    Chris says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The movies are supposed to be coming after the galaxy’s been at peace with no major wars for the last 2,000 years (hence no standing army for the Republic). Once the Clone Wars and then the rebellion come along, the pressures of war force technological advances pretty quickly, ultimately culminating in the Death Star. (It’s also how you go from pretty, artsy-looking ships like those the Naboo use, to utilitarian-looking ones like they have in the original movies).

    @Comrade Dread:

    Yeah, as I understand it, the point was to grow soldiers that were somewhere between droids and regular sentient beings, so that you could “program” them to always be loyal to you, but still have the advantages of adaptability and quick thinking that living beings have but droids don’t.

    (Turns out the programming doesn’t really work – as it turns out in the series and a couple books, there are clones who desert, don’t follow orders, etc, it’s just not as common).

  196. 196
    Mnemosyne says:

    @liberal:

    Flat out wrong. It also applies to urban land.

    Give some examples, because the article you linked to only used agrarian examples.

  197. 197
    Cappadonna says:

    I’m a big fan of ‘urban fantasy’ like the Dresden files and the Iron Druid series (great cheap way to waste a weekend) so I’ll bite at this one.

    Modern so-called ‘Urban fantasy’ addresses the lack of modern tech usage in a few ways. In the Dresden-verse, wizards don’t use modern technologies because modern tech and magic don’t mix. Basically, around powerful wizards, cell phones die, computer start to spark and plane controls go out of whack. Most wizards can’t drive cars that were produced after 1940.

    Hence the reason why they all teleport through the Fairy World to get across the world instead of using planes and cars and Harry Dresden doesn’t know how to use the internet).

    In the Iron Druid Chronicles – technology for the most part grounds magic because of the presence of iron and synthetics. Since most or all magic in the series is some form of earth magic or fairy magic (which is ferro-phobic, to put it mildly) and fueled by human belief most magical creatures don’t use guns or cars because it would either kill them or make them weak.

    Great break of nerdy instead of just squawking about politics.

  198. 198
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    More talk about A-10s, less talk about Hobbits and shit, please and thank you.

  199. 199

    @Seanly:

    However, if there are whole planets (or here on Earth whole regions) filled with disenfranchised populations, why bother brewing more people? Just take what you want. So some don’t fight or resist your mind control – fine, blow ‘em away as an example to the others.

    Great. Now you’ve just orphaned someone and inspired a plucky, upstart teenager to become the hero who will destroy your evil empire. :)

  200. 200
  201. 201
    Chris says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:

    Speaking as someone who loves both, I’d be happy to get another thread strictly for the A-10 and that sort of shit. Hint hint, front pagers, pretty plz?

  202. 202
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Yeah, Smeagol’s not a sympathetic character at all. Pure evil. Pure. “I just love the evil, but why’d they have to make it so puuuuuurrrre! “

  203. 203

    @Chris: Since we’re on the subject of droids, one of my biggest pet peeves about Star Wars is C3PO’s programmer’s apparent disregard for the 3 laws of Robotics. A robot that cowardly is a danger to its owners.

  204. 204
    StringOnAStick says:

    @catclub: Hey catclub, can you give me a book title that expands on game theory as a method of better living? Seriously; stewing is my worst habit and I could use another approach on why not to, how to deal with conflict better, etc.

  205. 205

    @SatanicPanic: He was built by a 8 year-old.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    Thanks, George Lucas.

  206. 206
    cyntax says:

    @Chris:

    We could combine the two by imagining how the Battle of the Pelennor Fields would have gone if the Nazgul could have been bothered to do a little CAS.

    Not that I’m saying all AF generals are Nazgul sympathizers. I’m just sayin…

  207. 207
    Sayne says:

    @Xantar: 45 Kilonewtons Holy shitbuckets! That definitely brings out the inner 12-year old.

  208. 208
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @AA+ Bonds: What, you mean voting Republican/Conservative?

  209. 209
    Chris says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Word.

    I tend to think big sci-fi franchises like this need an “ideas guy” like Lucas who comes up with the basic concept… and then steps back and lets other people develop it. See the Star Wars prequels, where Lucas micromanaged every last aspect, versus Empire Strikes Back. See Star Trek TNG, where Roddenberry had the most influence over the first two seasons and where most seem to agree that it got way better after he was gone (to say nothing of DS9). And even Stargate, I’ll take the TV show over Emmerich’s movie any day, even though the one wouldn’t have existed without the other.

  210. 210
    Chris says:

    @cyntax:

    How about them eagles? The ultimate deux ex machina of that universe…

    Also, I rented and watched the last Terminator movie with Christian Bale back when it came out, fully expecting it to suck, simply to watch the scenes with the A-10s facing off against HKs. Disappointingly short.

  211. 211
    SadOldGuy says:

    Wow. 209 comments and so far no one has mentioned the Megaten series of novels and videogames from the Atlus company. Technology allowing the summoning of ancient demons.

  212. 212
    jon says:

    Faramir’s talk about the other races after the Oliphaunt ambush and Theoden’s strategic change of heart regarding the Woses* are two of the hopeful moments where Tolkien seems to understand his whiteness is starting to get to the point where Dear Readers may make judgments, but then it’s back to Great White Hopes and Good English Pluck to save the day (and Middle Earth.)

    *a disappointing thing removed from the films

  213. 213
    jon says:

    And let’s just get rid of the Air Force altogether. It’s not even in the Constitution!

  214. 214
  215. 215
    Cheap Jim says:

    Alongside the development of weapons like crossbows or cannon, are the attitudes of those who use them. I recently read Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, where she explains that the bow companies used to great effect against the French at Crecy were available to the French, but they chose to ignore them, or to use them as auxiliaries. If your attitude is that a real fighter is a noble on horseback, you aren’t going to go to the trouble of training up peasants to fight with bows. Not to mention how much harder it makes putting down the next peasant uprising.

  216. 216
    Tim F. says:

    @cyntax: My books are a little rusty, but in the movie the Nazgul only did CAS at Pelenor fields. Their main purpose, like the A-10, was to 1) kill and demoralize infantry/cavalry, and 2) take out anti-siege weapons. Neutralizing Gandalf was no doubt an important job but it only took one of them a few minutes to do it.

  217. 217
    JoyfulA says:

    I had a great reply, but Steve M. said it in the first comment.

    Same goes for “science” fiction.

  218. 218
    Redshirt says:

    Wow, buncha nerds here. I love it!

    The bigger point about the Clone wars was the dehumanization of it, with Palpatine pulling the strings on all sides. You’ve got the Republic who loves peace so much they don’t have armies, so the Chancellor’s like, “Oh look, an army of clones!” Who’s going to complain? Fighting against an army of droids – again, who’s going to complain. And so the conditions are set for overthrowing the Republic, in the name of “safety”.

    It’s not mentioned much, but the Star Wars prequels were pretty good commentary on the Bush era.

    As for Tolkien, hell yeah he was racist, and focused almost exclusively on male characters. But that was the time. You can’t hold that against a writer.

  219. 219
    Jeff says:

    It’s funny that you should write about this now, because I’ve spent a decent chunk of the past 4-5 months building a pseudo-fantasy setting that tackles just this issue… the basic conceit is that spacecraft from several alien races crashed on an isolated and fairly barren (but earth-range) planet (due to shooting at each-other) and after they realized that rescue wasn’t going to happen (long range communication with their respective governments being effectively impossible for a variety of reasons I won’t get into), they managed to set aside their differences and pool their remaining resources long enough to start the process of bootstrapping an ecosystem that would be inhabitable before their survival gear wore out a few generations down the line.

    By the time we enter the scene (thousands of years later), we find a world (that has long since mythified and otherwise largely forgotten its origins) largely stuck at 13-14th century tech due to their lack of fossil fuels, and a lack of scientific exploration in certain directions due to the availability of magic, which is basically people learning to manipulate in limited ways the blood nanites that they inherited from their ancestors and the leftover terraforming nanites floating around in the environment.

    Not only does this close off the impetus for certain lines of fundamental research (the blood nanites have basically taken care of the need for antibiotics, for example), but since the key to using “magic” is basically mental focus, and nobody actually knows what they’re doing, any magical discipline that evokes strong mental focus will work as well as anything else. So – years of intense study of the art of magic in the university? Good. Years of silent meditation on top of a mountain? Good. Years of ritual and prayer as a devoted monk or priest? Good.

    Thus, one of the major advantages of the scientific approach (eg. that it produces actual useful results) has been largely neutralized in the near term, and the long term process of developing an understanding of the world that could eventually produce results beyond what “magic” is capable of is going very very slowly…

  220. 220
    Gian says:

    @gene108:
    I see the over arching theme as corruption. The ring corrupts isildur. Sauron corrupted the numenorean king atpharazon… and the ring corrupts boromir and the former hobbit smeagol. Morgoth corrupted the elves to make orcs. Saruman corrupted men to make the uruk hai
    I don’t see a monopoly on corruption for the darker hued.
    To flip the argument though. I think there might be an argument about the lack of darker good characters. (Though frodo’s lines about seeming foul and feeling fair about strider would be used for a counter)
    People will see what is in any book differently than each other depending on what they themselves have experienced and bring to it.

  221. 221
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    It’s funny, but I’m an amateur medievalist and I have absolutely no interest in reading Tolkein or “medieval” fantasy fiction in general. I will gladly read The Divine Comedy in the original 13th century Tuscan but won’t touch LOTR with a ten foot pole.

    Here we have it, the Balloon Juice Pseuds Corner entry for the day.

  222. 222

    @Redshirt:

    As for Tolkien, hell yeah he was racist, and focused almost exclusively on male characters. But that was the time. You can’t hold that against a writer.

    I don’t hold it against him, I just don’t think the books are all that, they just didn’t appeal to me that much.

  223. 223
    Redshirt says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: No problem with me – we’ve all got opinions. But it’s true. There’s cartoonish racist stereotypes in all Tolkien’s work. And there are very few women characters. I could see why it would bother some.

  224. 224
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Xantar:

    means if you mounted it on a person, you could achieve liftoff.

    xkcd treated this with machine guns in Machine Gun Jetpack. The article mentions the A-10 gun as well.

  225. 225
    tomolitics says:

    Good for you for bringing up the A-10, Tim. The proposal to phase it out and the “logic” behind it have always driven me crazy. The AF has been trying to kill it for years because…they want to do close air support of ground troops with fighter jets. WTF? Shows that they could actually give a shit about the soldiers on the ground when the choice is between their well-being and an expensive new toy that grabs mission authority back from the Army. Assholes.

  226. 226
    tomolitics says:

    And a nice little blog post on the Army’s dashed hopes of having their own A-10 force:
    http://chockblock.wordpress.co.....-the-army/

  227. 227
    Chris says:

    @Redshirt:

    The jabs at Bush in ROTS (“if you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy”) were anything but subtle, but the part I liked was the portrayal of the Republic as a weak-ass government under which corporate power is allowed to run amok to the point of total breakdown in law and order (kind of America today taken to its logical extreme). In Lucas’ hands the prequels were fairly shitty, but the basic concept of how the Republic fell apart was something I liked quite a bit. Some of the authors go into it more in depth.

  228. 228
    Redshirt says:

    @Chris: I’ve been saying this for a decade now and I still mean it: The story behind the prequels was fantastic. The execution of that story was anything but. There were some great moments, but lots of bad ones too (I don’t like sand).

    I wasn’t even referring to the “You’re either with me or against me” line, which was ham handed. I mean the entire prequel story. It features a cunning mastermind who manipulates a corrupt government (and much of the corruption is his doing) in order to create a war, a crisis, and then uses ever more Emergency Powers to quell that crisis. The “Terror Wars” of the 2000’s played out just like this.

    Which is even cooler, of course, because TPM came out in 1999 and was written years before that, so Lucas had a good amount of luck/foresight in crafting that foundation to the story.

    Remember that scene in TPM where Amidala is in Palpatine’s office, and he’s listing all the reasons why the government’s not going to help Naboo? That reads to me exactly like our recent Congress.

  229. 229
    cyntax says:

    @Tim F.:

    You’re right I suppose. But bagging on AF brass is just too hard to resist.

    And I think if it wasn’t for the Witch King, Gandalf was doing a good job of controlling the air space above the battlefield relative to the other Nazgul.

  230. 230
    Americandian says:

    @NonyNony:

    This is very, very true, probably because most contemporary fantasy writers have at least tried playing D&D, if not outright embraced it. Throwing together a D&D campaign, updated to the Victorian Era, it became clear that magic has created a natural stalemate/plateau in D&D’s macro arms race. Reasonably-priced combat magic (for sovereigns who would be doing most of the R&D) is cheaper than expensive early experiments with cannon. Meanwhile, universal access to English-type longbows, heavy European crossbows (and Chinese-style repeating crossbows!) and Turkic composite bows provide cheap and powerful missile weapons for armies, with much better range and reliability than early muskets. Spending the resources and money on developing the very first expensive and unreliable cannons or muskets would be an invitation to get fireballed into the ground by the neighbors.

    A world where magic-users throw fire around, and turn rogues invisible for sabotage missions, is one where a powder magazine of gunpowder is much, much more of a liability than an asset.

    Finally, most of the pool of RL scientists would have become mages or clerics in such a world. Newton, Copernicus et. al. would still be famous academics, just for their research into arcane magic, not real-life scientific principles. Edicts condemning research as heretical would be much more likely to stick in a world where angels, demons and devils could be summoned to enforce the rules, and when the cleric giving the edict can summon down actual divine fire on the heads of offenders.

  231. 231
    NobodySpecial says:

    The Navy got smart and started using A-10’s because they are awesome at killing smaller ships.

    The Air Force is nothing more than a bunch of wannabe knights who think jousting at 80k is efficient. Which means that they’re dumber than dirt.

  232. 232
    Rex Everything says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Nah, I don’t care whether you like it. I just get tired of people who don’t like it trying to leverage their dislike into some kind of judgment from on high, or saying LOTR is particularly sexist, racist, or xenophobic without regard for when & where it was written.

  233. 233
    Chris says:

    @Redshirt:

    Remember that scene in TPM where Amidala is in Palpatine’s office, and he’s listing all the reasons why the government’s not going to help Naboo? That reads to me exactly like our recent Congress.

    By sheer coincidence, I just reread “Cloak of Deception” (the tie-in to The Phantom Menace set right before it) this past week, and thought the exact same thing, especially as it ends with the Chancellor under investigation for a trumped up scandal (something Palpatine mentions in the movie).

    The really sad part? In order to frame the Chancellor, Palpatine has to have a ton of money stolen, and then deposited into what appears to be the Chancellor’s account. Poor guy – why couldn’t he live in a place with Fox News? He wouldn’t have had to go to any of that trouble, all he’d have to do is get enough talking heads to start screaming corruption. Why would you need to plant evidence?

    Agree too that the basic concept is fantastic, which is why, as you see, I continue to read prequel books. (The Clone Wars animated cartoons, also, isn’t half bad – better than the movies at least, though yes, that IS a low bar).

  234. 234
    Rex Everything says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: PUH LEAZE. Your examples completely prove my point. Austin’s women and Jane Eyre were great characters but we both know Eowyn would whup their asses outside the drawing room. There just aren’t many novels (there are a few more poems & a plays) about mortal women adventuring off into the big bad world, sword in hand, from before the 20th Century. You’re asking something from JRRT that practically NO ONE ELSE was doing.

  235. 235
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @srv:

    Well, what about the Organians in the Star Trek universe?

    Fucking Organians, the ultimate passive-aggressive assholes. All the Federation and the Klingons want to do is get their war on, and those fucking medieval peasant busybodies put the kibosh on the party by making all weapons extra-fucking-hot. Like, everywhere. Then they piss off in a flash of light leaving Kirk and Kor staring at each other like dingos in heat and Spock nerdgasming at the thought of something smarter than him.

    “Energy beings” have become my second-least-favorite sci-fi trope after time travel. How does a being of “pure energy; pure thought” keep itself intact? What keeps it from dissipating into the environment?

  236. 236
    Redshirt says:

    @Chris: I loved “Cloak of Deception”. I’ll read it again soon. I think you’ve mentioned this before too, but the novelization of “Revenge of the Sith” is about a million times better than the movie, and lends a ton of credence to the idea that the story behind these movies was great, it was Lucas’s production that made them inferior.

    He’s a great idea guy, not such a great practical, day to day guy. Too bad his ego got the better of him.

    Have you read the Mace Windu novel “Shatterpoint”? Another great prequel story.

    I love The Clone Wars cartoon as well. It’s fantastic.

  237. 237
    cyntax says:

    @Chris:

    Brrrrrrrrrrwwwwwnnnnt…

    Sorry was Christian Bale saying something? I could’t hear over the awesomeness of that GAU-8.

    And yeah the eagles, suddenly you can get a medevac in LOTR.

  238. 238
    Redshirt says:

    @cyntax: Stupid eagles. They play a similar role in one of The Silmarillion’s best stories – The Fall of Gondolin.

    Can be bothered, but not very much/very often. They’re teaching Eagles!

    Also, the giant eagles are really angels too, like Gandalf.

  239. 239
    TG Chicago says:

    Let’s say that some event sets back our global civilization even a little. It doesn’t need to be a great war, just anything that disrupts the complex international traffic of fuel, machines and food. There are way too many people in most places for locovorism. By the time we reach locally sustainable population levels it stands to reason that most places will have landed somewhere between the medieval era and the stone age. Of course lot of our old stuff will still be around, and people who still know how to use it would be practicing something like magic. Also like magic, odds are small that many of those would understand it. Fossil fuels will still be where we left them but they might seem hard to get for people whose idea of deep-sea drilling is a raft and a long clam rake.

    So there you have a practical way to get to a fantasy scenario complete with crazy magic, mutants, irradiated no-go zones and a medievalish technology level that never ends.

    Sounds like you just invented the RPG Gamma World.

  240. 240
    ljdramone says:

    @tomolitics: The AF has been trying to kill it for years because…they want to do close air support of ground troops with fighter jets. WTF?

    Clearly groundpounders like you don’t understand how the Air Force thinks. When they’re not busy doing more important things like single-handedly winning wars with strategic bombing, the Air Force is perfectly happy to bomb stuff that’s making your lives difficult.

    Thing is, the A-10 is not nearly zoomy enough. Fighter pilots don’t want to fly something as ugly and slow as an A-10. Real airplanes have pointy noses, afterburners, and can pull 9 Gs and fly faster than Mach 1.

    Seriously, though, I wonder how long A-10s would have survived in the environment they were originally intended to fight in. The Soviets really liked surface-to-air missiles, and had lots of them.

    Could be that the A-10’s famous “titanium bathtub” would have just let the pilot survive long enough to eject.

  241. 241

    @Redshirt: Palpatine was great.

    But Kid Anakin needs to go. There really was no reason not to start with Anakin as an adult and as Obi-Wan’s apprentice in Episode 1. The friendship between the two of them is the most important part of the story and what gives Anakin’s fall extra emotional weight. But the friendship was mostly non-existent over the first two movies.

    And Anakin’s fall itself was pretty lightswitched. It should have been more about the Jedi and his loss of faith in them. Instead he seems to go from “Palpatine is evil, we have to stop him!” to “Woo-hoo! Let’s kill us some kids!” in the span of 5 minutes.

    Gah. Talking about this is bringing back the nerd rage.

    Let’s hope the Disney Evil Empire does a better job with the next trilogy.

    Seriously, at no point does it occur to Anakin to tell his wife, “Hey, I’m getting visions of you in a lot of pain during childbirth, maybe we should schedule some additional appointments with your OB-Gyn and discuss a C-section?”

  242. 242
    Nied says:

    Ugh. The old “the F-35 can’t fly low and slow like the A-10” argument. The problem is that the A-10 doesn’t fly low and slow like the A-10 anymore. It circles around at 10,000ft plinking targets the FAC-A points out with smart bombs and occasionally dipping it’s nose to strafe from a safe distance. Now that we’ve upgraded all of them they’re just a truck for JDAMS and SDBs just like all the rest of our planes up to the B-52. It’s got that awesome gun on it, but it’s not the 80’s any more and it isn’t going to be facing down thousands of Soviet tanks pouring through the Fulda Gap, and for the targets it is facing that gun is over kill several times over (hell the 25mm on the F-35 is too for that matter). Sure the F-35 is complex but again so is the A-10 now, the whole C upgrade kinda threw the whole dirt simple thing out the window in favor of letting it do the kind of mission it’s actually flying now. The only big advantage it has over fast jets like the F-16 is payload, but the F-35 can actually carry 2,000 lbs more than an A-10.

    So yeah the F-35 can’t fly the mission the A-10 was designed to fly, but it can excel at the mission the A-10 is actually flying (and swing over to the mission the F-16 is actually flying as well if need be).

  243. 243
    Chris says:

    @Redshirt:

    Yep. Confirms what I said about science fiction universes needing an ideas guy who comes up with the basic concept, but then steps back and lets other people hammer out the details.

    “Shatterpoint” was very good. Found out that it was based partly on “Apocalypse Now,” and while I’ve never seen that movie, Shatterpoint did have that ugly, black-and-gray morality feel that’s associated with the Vietnam War. Also loved Nick Rostu’s little speech about the reason the authorities on his planet sided with the Separatists was because they promised to respect its “planetary rights – and the only right the authorities care about is the right to kill all of us!” Insert “states’ rights,” “property rights” and every other transparent argument of that nature whose real point was to fuck over the disenfranchised…

  244. 244
    Chris says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    And Anakin’s fall itself was pretty lightswitched. It should have been more about the Jedi and his loss of faith in them. Instead he seems to go from “Palpatine is evil, we have to stop him!” to “Woo-hoo! Let’s kill us some kids!” in the span of 5 minutes.

    I also wish they’d tossed out the love story altogether, though I suppose other people could have written it better. But his backstory, growing up on a fringe planet that the Republic doesn’t bother to police anymore, pretty much gives you all the reasons right there for why he’d run to a strong police state like the Empire, without that not-so-well-put-together plotline about being afraid of losing Padme.

    Also, while I agree generally about the whole nine year old kid thing, I found Hayden Christensen even more painful to watch than Jake Lloyd.

  245. 245
    eddie blake says:

    that’s tsr games ‘gamma worlds’, btw..

  246. 246
    Davebo says:

    @NobodySpecial: The Navy is using the A-10? I’d need some supporting evidence of that.

  247. 247
    Whiskeyjack says:

    @Tim F.

    Read Steven Erikson’s Malazan books. There’s plenty of gunpowder and it’s referenced multiple times that tech is stagnant because people are too reliant on sorcery. Plus that shit is EPIC. Ten ~1000 page books that are bar none the best recent fantasy other than maybe Martin.

  248. 248
    Xenos says:

    @stratplayer:

    I second your peevishness and I would add to the list of irritants the space opera genre, in which civilizations of astounding technical achievement nevertheless remain stuck in bizarrely medieval social and political orders.

    While this sort of space opera gives a lot of scope for the sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy for the reader of having an advanced society that still operates in a romantic manner, there is something of a rational basis for this. These neo-feudalistic systems are well designed for rapidly settling and developing unimproved frontiers into a low-level but stable agrarian societies, and for expanding networks of long distance trade in raw materials and luxury/prestige goods used to assert status and power at the peripheries.

    In short, what looks at first like an anachronistic bit of romance can also be read as a Wallersteinian account of the proto-capitalist system driving colonialism.

  249. 249
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Chris:

    I still think that the romance plot would have worked better as a triangle, with both Obi-Wan and Anakin in love with Padme with the antagonism between the two men leading to her death. (Now that I think about it, I think that’s the plot of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” — sorry to spoil a five-year-old internet sensation for everyone.) That would help explain why Obi-Wan feels compelled to move to a backwater planet to keep an eye on Luke — he can’t get over his guilt for how he ruined all three of their lives.

    But that would require George Lucas to have an adult understanding of human relationships, and even Spielberg is better at them than Lucas is. (Don’t believe me? Watch Catch Me If You Can.)

    Though I will say, I was pretty impressed that Lucas has managed to score a woman who’s apparently both hot and really smart, so good for him. (Though, being a straight woman, I’m not always an accurate judge of what dudes think is “hot,” so YMMV.)

  250. 250
    Davebo says:

    @Nied:

    I’d have to disagree. Given today’s situation (easily disposed of AA threats) it does exactly what you want. It can do it a 400′ or even higher. Should we eliminate the AC-130 for the same reasons?

  251. 251

    @Chris: Oh, I’d recast.

    But I think having a love story could work, but again, you’re cutting it way short by making one of your partners in that love story by 8 years old for the entirety of the first movie.

    Also, I’m not sure when it became a rule that Love Stories can’t be fun and must contain soul-crushing amounts of seriousness. People in love have fun together. They’re happy. They trust each other enough to be themselves with one another. They have in-jokes. It’s not all mooney eyes and pining and (dear flipping Buddha) angst.

  252. 252
    Davebo says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    If I were a billionaire and found her I’d be all in. Heck, even if not a billionaire. Luckily I just celebrated my 23rd wedding anniversary. Now all should praise me!

  253. 253
    cyntax says:

    @Redshirt:

    Ha! So they are the AF of LOTR.

    ETA: At least in terms of availability. Who knows what to make of the angel/Aesir thing Tolkien had going, not trying to draw any parallels there.

  254. 254
    Nied says:

    @Davebo:

    I’d have to disagree. Given today’s situation (easily disposed of AA threats) it does exactly what you want. It can do it a 400′ or even higher. Should we eliminate the AC-130 for the same reasons?

    The AF is looking at replacing the AC-130 with something else. Probably a combo of drones and smaller transports that can fling small smart missiles from high altitudes or, if they can make it work, high powered lasers (one of the concepts I’ve seen even involves replacing the lift fan on an F-35B with a laser gun). And the type of threats that keep even the A-10 up high aren’t easy to eliminate. A heavy machine gun guided by eye or a hand held SAM aren’t easy things to get rid of.

  255. 255
    Xenos says:

    @Mnemosyne: As a straight middle-aged guy now married 20 years, I would say she is quite lovely. She is obviously very happy, and very much in love. Women do not get more beautiful than that.

  256. 256
    ArchRylen says:

    I suspect one reason a lot of writes use a vaguely medieval setting is they don’t need to build any new furniture. They reference castles, armored knights, the feudal system, and we are ready to go. Then they can spend their time laying out their magic system and whatever political intrigues make things interesting.

    I read Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon recently. It draws heavily from mythology of the same period, but is fresh because it references a different culture.

  257. 257
    gene108 says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I think the problem with the prequels is TPM was basically the beginning of the CGI-death-of-story-telling in movies and this has spilled over into many other films.

    Instead of a few scenes that went on for minutes at a time, where people interacted with each other, with intermittent bits of action thrown in, TPM had scenes of people just doing enough to set up the CGI Action.

    The beginning with Obi Wan and Quigong Jin waiting to be received by the Trade Federation on their diplomatic mission was just to set up a light saber fight with droids.

    There were crappy movies made before CGI, but there really does seem to be a CGI derived/relied on formula to films, where action scenes are substitutes for the plot. I think Iron Man 3 fits this mold, where the story could’ve been so much better, but everything really seemed to be a set up for CGI Action scenes.

  258. 258
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    @Cappadonna:

    “I’m a big fan of ‘urban fantasy’ like the Dresden files and the Iron Druid series (great cheap way to waste a weekend) so I’ll bite at this one.”

    I’ll give a shout-out for Charlie Stross’ “Laundry” novels, about a programmer press-ganged into the British Secret Service trying to prevent inadventent use of higher mathematics causing Yog-Sothoth to appear. Great humorous mix of spy novel/horror/fantasy, with The Office-type bureaucracy and infighting on top.

  259. 259
    Herbal Infusion Bagger says:

    @Whiskeyjack:

    Read Steven Erikson’s Malazan books.

    I just could not get into Erikson. Stylistically, I didn’t like them, and the plots were too convoluted, an somehow the Black-Company grunt-type viewpoint he tried for didn’t mesh with the High-Magic being thrown around. Maybe I’ll try again, because it was a well-imagined world.

    The first Black Company trilogy by Cook, though, is great.

    For other guys ripping the piss out of fantasy cliches, try Michael Swanwick or Joe Abercrombie. If you don’t read the end of Abercrombie’s “Before They Are Hanged” and laugh out loud at the undermining of the Gandalf archetype, there’s no hope for you.

  260. 260
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gene108:

    There are directors who can use CGI well, and those who can’t. I usually can’t stand Seth MacFarlane but I ended up really enjoying Ted because, as a director, MacFarlane understood that Ted was an animated character, not just a CGI effect.

    It’s (relatively) easy to put in CGI backgrounds. It’s really, really hard to make CGI characters look believable and move/act in a plausible way.

    But, frankly, it’s always like that when moviemakers get a brand-new toy. You really need a great director (possibly an animation director) who can rein in the CGI so it’s used to move the story forward rather than using it to show how you can make things blow up cool.

  261. 261
    Chris says:

    @gene108:

    Well, I wasn’t alive back then, but wasn’t a huge part of the original Star Wars phenomenon simply the special effects, as well? Not CGI, but same basic principle. The difference, as has already been said, is that back then it was used as part of a fairly good story, whereas the prequels did a little more ball-dropping there.

  262. 262
    RSA says:

    @Cappadonna:

    I’m a big fan of ‘urban fantasy’ like the Dresden files and the Iron Druid series (great cheap way to waste a weekend) so I’ll bite at this one.

    I’ll put in good words for Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series and Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series. Carey handles potential conflicts between magic and science in a reasonably clever way–zombies and ghosts and demons such have begun to appear only in the last ten or twenty years (the demons have been around forever, thought that’s glossed over), and scientists are still trying to figure it all out. Connolly takes a slightly different approach in the semi-Lovecraftian universe he’s created. Most of what he describes as magic could with a little bit of handwaving be very advanced technology. I like both of these series; they’re well-written for the genre.

  263. 263
    gene108 says:

    @Chris:

    Yes. The original trilogy was big on fx but CGI has taken FX being the basis of a story to another level.

  264. 264
    Whiskeyjack says:

    @Herbal Infusion Bagger:

    Erikson can be a chore to get into, for sure, especially since he has no interest in exposition. As he says, “what’s a few million words between friends?” But once it clicks, it clicks. By the third book, the series is hard to put down. The world he creates is excellent, full of gods, aliens, shapeshifters, ancient monsters, vicious magic and wonderful violence.

    Abercrombie and Cook are both fantastic, no argument there.

  265. 265

    @Seanly: Clones would be automatically healthy-the clones that were’nt up to snuff would be done away with before they came to viability.

    Yes, you can get a lot of underprivileged people to work in your army, but people randomly bred come with a lot of variation in skill and even health. Sorting out those folks takes a lot of time. They can be vulnerable to other influences-take mercenaries who work for pay only. You can be outbid, or outinfluenced.

    Your own clone army can be bred to specific requirements and trained from birth in the skills that you need for your army. They can be ready at maturation, and the only influences are from you and those who you have as trainers and tenders.

  266. 266
    pharniel says:

    Someone posts BMX Bandit/Angel Summoner and yet no LFQW? OI!

  267. 267
    Redshirt says:

    @gene108: Ironman 3 was a fantastic movie, and I’m prepared to argue this strenuously. What didn’t you like about it?

  268. 268
    PIGL says:

    @Rex Everything: also, Galadriel. If the entire ouevre (LOTR, Hobbit, Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales) she is probably among the five most powerful individuals in the entire history of creation, barring actual demigods.

  269. 269
    TG Chicago says:

    @ericblair:

    @NonyNony:

    I’m fairly certain audiences would “get” that the guys have pistols and the wizard is throwing fireballs.

    If you kept them separate like that they would. If you start combining the two now you’re going to have to start explaining everything.

    Star Wars has technology combined with magic (The Force). People seem to have gotten it.

  270. 270
    Ridge says:

    This may be the last post to this thread and no one will read it, but here goes.

    The book series, Game of Thrones is boring as hell. I skipped one whole volume and didn’t miss a beat. Once I realized that, I gave up.

    The idea of magic stopping technical innovation has been well explored, including reintroducing it to defeat a “magically armed” foe. most recently and well done by Jim Butcher in his “Codex Alera” series.

    If you want a real flavor of 1300-1400 life and warfare, see the books by Bernard Cornwell. The Grail Quest Series and a novel about Azincourt tell about sieges, disease, feudal law, etc… Especially about the use and fear of the English Long bow. Nothing like a rain of thousands of arrows which could pierce armor to ruin your day. Then when the arrows run out, pick up a poleaxe to bash in the helmet of a knight. If he is’nt dead then, the ones behind you will raise his vizor and stab him in the eye with daggers.

    Fun times.

    And no fuckin elves. no magic to save your ass. No dragons to whisk you off …. Just blood, sweat and death.

    There was a reason Edward, “The Black Prince of Wales” caused lords and local rulers to shit themselves when they heard he was in the neighborhood. And it wasn’t because he liked black armor.

    Anyway, that is my rant.

    R

  271. 271
    BethanyAnne says:

    @Enceladus: Somehow I missed this – and so far it’s awesome. Thanks for the link!

  272. 272
    Dream On says:

    The natives of Gondor were probably closer to Greeks/Italians/Slavs in appearance. There was, after thousands of years of cohabitation, intermingling between the high men of Numenor and the lesser men native to the area.

    “Nerds man! You guys are hangin’ with nerds! Hey McFly! Shoe’s untied…”

    Seriously, though, a good thoughtful thread.

    from a non-nerd, of course.

  273. 273
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Great post, Tim F. Been a busy day for me but I wanted you to know I appreciated it. You should unretire.

  274. 274
    DavidTC says:

    Let me start with the single thing that annoys me most about the medieval fantasy genre, if you set aside Tolkien’s British Empire-era manichean racial determinism*: just about every fantasy series seems trapped in a 13th-century time warp where nothing new gets invented after the crossbow.

    …just about every fantasy series…like Buffy? Supernatural? Warehouse 13? Dead Like Me? Grimm? Lost? And that’s just recent TV series.

    Oh, you mean every _medieval_ fantasy is…set…in..medieval times? Uh, yeah. They sorta have to be, don’t they?

    And for the record, while ‘medieval stasis’ is a real trope, it’s not a very common one, and more often subverted than real.

    To use The Game of Thrones as an example. In that universe, history is very mythologized, and society’s not as old as claimed. It went from warlords to castles and kings over a period of a few thousand years, which is, uh, _correct_. Also, while you claim that Martin just takes stagnation ‘for granted’, he’s actually mentioned that there’s an actual plot reason that technology is stagnant, he just hasn’t revealed it yet.

    In fact, you’re actually more likely to find _pretend_ ‘medieval stasis’ than real. Where some sort of outside entire purposefully regresses society to that and holds it there. (Often such things are considered technically sci-fi.) It’s so uncommon that there literally is not a real TV or movie example on tvtropes, and all fantasy worlds except Lord of the Rings and Narnia have to justify it somehow.

    ‘All fantasy is medieval’ is one of those complaints that is made form a great distance by people who do not actually know anything about fantasy. Most fantasy is not. And just because some fantasy _is_ medieval-ish doesn’t mean technology never advances there. (‘All medieval fantasy is medieval’, OTOH, sounds like a complaint made by someone who doesn’t understand tautologies.)

    If you don’t _like_ medieval fantasy, might I suggest reading contemporary fantasy?

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