Whitehall’s Liability Insurance

29 May

I wasn’t planning any expository posts for Infinite Regress yet, but one of the early reviews raised the issue of liability insurance for Whitehall School <grin>.

The short answer is that there’s no such thing.

The long answer is a little more complicated.

The Allied Lands have a greater understanding of the truth that ‘shit happens’ than the Western World. Life is not a bed of roses, they believe; one is born into danger and never leaves it until one dies. From the merest slave to the highest nobility, they all know that death can come at any moment, that the wheel of fortune may roll over and crush them at any moment. Something modern medicine would laugh off, in our world, would be fatal to them. Even the most powerful magicians know are unable to safeguard themselves completely.

Our world has adopted a ‘compensation culture’ that is steadily stripping the joy from life. We believe that all possibilities can be accounted for – and, when something goes wrong, someone is at fault, someone can be made to pay. A person who suffers a relatively minor injury (or the relatives of someone who winds up dead) can, with the help of an unscrupulous lawyer, wind up independently wealthy for life. On one hand, this leads to schools banning childish games like tag; on the other, this leads to a reluctance to admit responsibility for anyone (or even that mistakes were made) for fear of being made to pay for it.

This is stupid because there is no way you can remove the risk from life. There’s no way you can educate everyone about every risk, no way you can allow for natural human stupidity and rebelliousness, no way you can cover for every possible accident. A person may do everything right and still wind up dead or injured. And sometimes there’s no one who can be fairly – justly – blamed.

Whitehall is, to some extent, a military academy in the middle of a war zone. And the subject it teaches is immensely dangerous – Emily came close to killing someone after a few short weeks of training. The staff and students accept that things can go badly wrong, that students can and do get hurt; the school is not going to be shut down because of a handful of deaths or injuries. Their perspective on such events has more in common with the schools of 1900 than it does with 2016. And parents, recognising this too, have never withdrawn their children in vast numbers from the school.

That’s not to say that there won’t be questions asked if a student – or several students – wind up dead. There would be an inquiry. Truth spells would be used to make sure the facts – all of the facts – were gathered. But there would be no punishment for honest mistakes – or random accidents. If a student decided to defy instructions and wound up dead, no one would demand his tutor’s head on a platter. Even the youngest students at Whitehall are of an age, in the Allied Lands, where they are expected to be responsible for themselves.

Whitehall did suffer from reduced enrolment in the wake of Shadye’s attack on the school and the Mimic’s rampage. No one would have cared – much – if Shadye had marched his army up to the gates of Whitehall, but a near-successful attack on the school concentrated a few minds. At the same time, like I said, risk is part of life. And the important detail, as far as many parents were concerned, was that the school survived and Shadye died.

And no one in the school – at least, no one still living – can reasonably (by their standards) be blamed for the problems it faced.

19 Responses to “Whitehall’s Liability Insurance”

  1. Anarchymedes May 29, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    ‘One of the early reviews raised the issue of liability insurance for Whitehall School.’
    Seriously? No kidding? The next thing I know, someone will offer a discounted vehicle insurance to the current Millenium Falcon’s owners. That reminds me of two things: first, of the best definition of the difference between creativity and mental illness (a creative person simply builds castles in the sky, whereas a mentally ill one actually moves in and starts living there); and second, how I always used to say to some fellow Matrix fans who were seriously worried about computers taking over that computers will never become smarter than humans – unless humans become more stupid than computers.

  2. Gazza May 29, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    Yes I must admit I did go look and see the review. I personal don’t agree with most of what was wrote. One point that I do fully agree on was raised. I also cant wait for the next book =)

    • Bret Wallach May 29, 2016 at 6:36 pm #

      While I gave the book 5-stars I do relate to what that reviewer wrote. I also missed the politics of Zangaria and the effects of Emily’s technological introductions. I didn’t love the fact that a 1,000 year old institution is nearly destroyed for the third time in 5 years implying an extreme lack of robustness. And while the basis for Emily’s insecurity and her unwillingness to leave “home” (Whitehall) are very clear and well written throughout the series, I did find it uncomfortable that Emily takes being treated very poorly instead of giving them the finger and finding some place else to complete her education or move on to something else.

      But, you can’t have everything and I personally thought that the new things in this new arc more than balanced those other things: the new headmaster, the crazy and obsessed history prof, the new perspectives on magic, Emily’s incremental growth, the time loop, etc.

      So while I’m more than happy being launched into this new arc, I can see why some readers might be disappointed by certain elements.

      • Jacqueline Harris May 29, 2016 at 10:27 pm #

        My opinion on the politics in Zangria and along with the full effect off them is that we need the time in between. The first time we visited Zangria and the second time (not counting short trips and the fair) was about 3 years or so. I think things are still hitting the boiling point if you think about it the french revolution spanned around 10 years with spots of relative stability and then outbreaks of violence. I think the time between is important especially since Emily has decided to step back after conflict with the king.

        As for why Emily isn’t leaving even though the tutors sometime treat her like crap I understand too. It’s not just because it’s her first home it’s almost a pride thing Emily was pushed around by master Grey Emily fought to stay in this school. She is not going to let some new Master Gordian run her away with her tail between her legs. That’s what he wants. Her staying is like her standing up for herself for once. It’s a good development. Besides she only has 2 years left.


        We don’t even know how long she will stay in the past or if she will be returned to the future right when she left or a couple of months or even years later. She could very well spend her last couple of years in the past and come back just when the allied lands is falling apart and they need the necromancers bane which might be fun.

        She might get to apprentice with Lord Whitehall avoid the current politics and just focus on gaining the knowledge she needs to be bad a. Plus how will her and calab be when she returns? Emily might meet some nice guy in the past. The past also was more restrictive to women sorcerers I think Emily will have to handle even more douche bags which can only help her latter on. I am so looking forward to the next book.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 29, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

        ::Checks Spoiler Collar::

        There are hints about “when she returns” and “how she returns”.

        Just think about a disappearing statue, who lured Emily to the nexus chamber, and who pushed Emily into the nexus point. 👿

      • bretwallach May 30, 2016 at 6:18 am #

        She stays in the past long enough to pick up a scar but not so long as to have aged noticeably (the statue’s described as an identical twin except for the scar). I’m guessing she arrives back at the present by being in sorta suspended animation as a statue for all those years with a spell on the statue such that the when the other Emily touches her she reanimates, disappears, hides the books, and pushes her other self back into the past.

        Anyway, 20ish year old women change (age) extremely rapidly (I have 20 year old daughter) so Emily’s animated time in the past is measured in months, not years.

  3. philippeo May 29, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

    a bit unrealistic attitude from parent of killed and injured students, i suspect a lot of duel in history would happen because parent challenging teacher.

    • chrishanger June 2, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

      The point is – the Nameless World is a medieval world. Death is all around them. Infant mortality, by our standards, is terrifyingly high. They don’t – they can’t – seek to swaddle everyone in cotton wool.


  4. Gazza May 29, 2016 at 11:27 pm #


    I agree with Jacqueline and her reasons. Emily has stated more then once that she does not and did not want and feels that she is not ready to run if ever the lands that were forced onto her. Unless something major changes Emily will not be going back.

    I am not a big fan of time travel. Done right it can be good, done wrong, well the whole grandfather grandson thing. One thing i will say is that Chris has give a hint on how Emily will get back and the time line that she will return. How long Emily will stay in the past is hard to guess. Emily’s magic is very strong and this will allow her to age a lot slower then normal. A few of the things that have happened to her are also hinted at.

    Jacqueline also pointed out something that I feel will add a whole new story line to what Chris can write about. If Emily does apprentice with Lord Whitehall, and her knowledge of science just how powerful can she become.

    • Jacqueline Harris May 30, 2016 at 8:56 am #

      SPOILER FOR INFINITE REGRESS just some theories

      Good points you all have made about the statute and her possible age when she returns. I think she could stay a year possible two without any noticeable differences. Freida’s history lesson on Whitehall had some interesting hints. She has to at least stay long enough to have a big influence. She might meet another love interest as was hinted by the demon prophesy. As for who pushed her into the nexus. I just reread the first book and I noticed right after she killed shade she see’s two people one a monk I think one of those history monks and a tall boy with dark hair. Could there be some kind of guardian of the nexus?

      • Gazza May 30, 2016 at 10:59 am #

        lol Got sidetracked need to get back to reading book one. Then on to the rest.

  5. david May 30, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    I loved the book after a long wait it was a very satisfying although i dare some things were a bit in clear to me
    1) when emily is pushed into the nexux point how did it not kill her and was she telaported back in time to when lord whitehall and his commune were taming the nexux point considering the next book is titled “past tense” i assume you have implemented time travel into the story

    2) who pushed her out of her connection to the nexux point/shoved her into it later whilst staring at her with “red eyes”? I assume you are reffering to the mystery man from “a school of hard knocks” as well as Nanettes now current master

    3) the statue of emily i dont understand how it is relavent unless there is a whole time travel plot where when emily helps lord whitehall and his commune they build that statue of her and she finds it later ????

    4) the spider like creatures again how are they relavent will we find out in the next book? Why where they crawling all over her

    Would love if you could clear away my confusion and i hope you write the next book fast because you left us all on one hell of a cliff hanger

    • PuffinMuffin June 2, 2016 at 12:23 am #

      I was wondering about three things. 1) the shadows moving around. 2) the bit when she was being poked and prodded in the dark & 3) the alien face mentioned. All very odd.

      As for time travel into the past, yes, it can work if the actions taken can be fitted in to the known situation in the future. Certain Star Trek time travel episodes worked well in this respect. But, I hope this doesn’t turn into “The Terminator.”

      It does seem a shame that Shadye is no more: he was quite fun really. Perhaps we should start an online petition to bring him back?

    • chrishanger June 2, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

      Most of those questions will be answered in 10.


  6. G May 31, 2016 at 2:28 am #

    Whichever way the author takes the series, Emily should develop some new friends and relationships which show more of her personal side in at least a few chapters…shouldn’t some powerful sorcerers from outside the school be approaching her around now???

    • chrishanger May 31, 2016 at 10:50 pm #

      They probably will in 6th year. Recruitment is offically discouraged until then.


  7. G June 5, 2016 at 5:07 am #

    Have you ever considered a novella (short story) 5-10 chapters about what is happening in Zangaria during Infinite Regress?? You could probably write it in a week and sell it for $2.50–High profit per hour!! Jade and Alassa would be central characters…

  8. William Ameling June 14, 2016 at 3:26 am #

    Reading the end of IR it is pretty clear that it is Emily herself from the past who is controlling her body and taking her to the Nexus point and it has to Emily from the past who shoves her into the Nexus when she starts to break free of the control. It is quite possible that she got the scar while she was going through the Nexus or when she landed on the stone. I do wonder how much she will learn in the past before she returns as well as what was in the books from the past. Apparently, I am not only one wondering if Lord Whitehall will come forward as well, and take over as Grand Master of the school. I think that might be just what the Allied Lands need to get somewhere in fighting the necromancers. I also think that the period of separation from Caleb will help her resolve her feelings about him and their courtship (positively I hope/expect). I hadn’t thought of the idea of an apprenticeship with Lord Whitehall but it makes a lot of sense, but I expect it to happen in the present and not in the past. It is also possible that a message from the past might be why Void knew about the need to rescue Emily from Shadye at the beginning of this series, rather than being her father which I had wondered about; unless a message from the past MADE him visit Earth and be her father in the first place. Either way would add another layer to the Infinite Regression. I do find myself wondering more about the comment from the dragon after he brought her to the school.

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